Today’s issue of the Culpeper Star-Exponent contains an article about the purchase contract to save Fleetwood Hill that I discussed here yesterday. That article contains a statement by Tony Troilo that I find really perplexing: “[Troilo] credited Brandy Station Foundation President Joe McKinney as being instrumental to the sale. ‘He kept the CWPT in the mix,’ Troilo said.”
Those of us who make up the board in exile of the Brandy Station Foundation have been in constant communication with Bud Hall about this. And Bud has been in constant communication with the Civil War Trust about this, and NOBODY has said a word about either the BSF or Useless Joe McKinney and his Board of Appeasers doing anything whatsoever about this. Indeed, this happened in spite of Useless Joe and his useless gang, not because of anything that they did. Indeed, when you do nothing, it’s hard to claim credit for doing something.
And so, I ask: What did you do, Useless Joe? What role did you play in preserving Fleetwood Hill? Pray tell. We would all like to know.
For the record, I would like nothing more than to be proved wrong, and if Useless Joe and the Board of Appeasers demonstrate to me that I am wrong, then I will gladly apologize. However, knowing what I know about this situation, I am not the least bit concerned about having to do so….
UPDATE, DECEMBER 24, 2012: As of today, there has not been even so much as a mention of the contract for the preservation of Fleetwood Hill on the Brandy Station Foundation’s website. This is, perhaps, the single most important land preservation deal yet signed, and certainly is the key acquisition of the Brandy Station battlefield. One would think that the BSF, allegedly the steward of the battlefield, would say something about such a critical transaction, but there is nary a word. This is yet more evidence of the fact that this organization is NOT interested in battlefield preservation. Either lead, follow, or step aside, Useless Joe and the Board of Appeasers.
Civil War Trust Announces Preservation Opportunity at Fleetwood Hill on Brandy Station Battlefield
NEW OPPORTUNITY EMERGES JUST AS ORGANIZATION ANNOUNCES SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF CAMPAIGN TO PRESERVE 964 HISTORIC ACRES AT NEARBY KELLY’S FORD
(Culpeper, Va.) – The Civil War Trust, America’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, today announced the that it has secured a contract with a Culpeper County landowner to acquire 61 acres of core battlefield land at Fleetwood Hill on the Brandy Station Battlefield. This is the first step in what is anticipated to be a national fundraising campaign to ultimately preserve this site and open it to the public. This opportunity comes just a few months before 150th anniversary commemoration of the battle, fought on June 9, 1863.
“The Civil War Trust is pleased to confirm that we have reached an agreement with a local landowner to place under contract his 61-acre property on Fleetwood Hill,” noted Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer in a statement released earlier today. “Protection of this property at the epicenter of the Brandy Station battlefield has been a goal of the preservation community for more than three decades.”
Although pleased with the agreement, Lighthizer cautioned that “several steps remain before the transaction is completed and the property can be considered preserved — chief among them raising the $3.6 million necessary to formally purchase the land.” He noted the Civil War Trust’s intention “to launch a national fundraising campaign next year with the aim of raising the money in time for the 150th anniversary of the battle in June 2013. Further details of this exciting opportunity — including mechanisms for public involvement and donations — will be announced in the new year, once additional groundwork for the project is laid.
Brandy Station, with nearly 20,000 troopers in blue and gray engaged in the struggle, was the largest cavalry battle ever fought on American soil. More than 1,000 men became casualties as a result of the battle. Although a Confederate victory, Brandy Station is often referred to as the battle where the Union cavalry came into its own after years of being dominated by Southern horse soldiers. The epicenter of fighting at Brandy Station took place on the slopes of Fleetwood Hill, described by historian Clark B. “Bud” Hall, as “without question the most fought over, camped upon and marched over real estate in the entire United States.”
“I truly believe that this acquisition, if successful, will be the most important battlefield preservation achievement not just at Brandy Station, but in all of Virginia’s Piedmont, a region that was of immense military and strategic significance during the Civil War,” remarked Hall. “Although it most closely associated with the climactic fighting of June 9, 1863, there were, in fact, 21 separate military actions on Fleetwood Hill during the Civil War—far more than any other battle venue in this country.”
The Civil War Trust has long been committed to ensuring the protection and appreciation of the battlefields in Culpeper County, Virginia. To date, we have helped protect nearly 1,800 acres at Brandy Station — more land than at any other individual battlefield in the nation
In the 1990s, Brandy Station was also the scene of a high-profile preservation battle. At one point, 1,500 acres of the battlefield were rezoned to allow for light industrial development. Later, a 515-acre Formula One auto racetrack was proposed for the site. However, due to the persistence of preservationists throughout the country, plans to develop the battlefield were thwarted. Today, the Civil War Trust owns 878 acres of the Brandy Station Battlefield that are open to the public; interpretation of the site includes educational signage, walking trails and a driving tour.
The Civil War Trust has been also been actively involved in preserving land at other battlefields in Culpeper County. This summer, on its 150th anniversary, the Trust announced an effort to preserve an additional 10 acres on the Cedar Mountain Battlefield. More recently, the Trust completed a national fundraising campaign to place a perpetual conservation easement on 964 acres at Kelly’s Ford, site of the war’s first large-scale cavalry engagement. These transactions were made possible through the generosity of Trust members and the financial support of matching grants from the American Battlefield Protection Program, administered by the National Park Service, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Learn more about the Battle of Brandy Station at www.civilwar.org/brandystation.
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 34,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, and nearly 3,000 on important Culpeper County battlefields like Brandy Station, Cedar Mountain, and Kelly’s Ford. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the sesquicentennial.
I congratulate Tony Troilo for doing the right thing. And I congratulate the good folks at the Civil War Trust for their diligence and dedication to making this happen. But most of all, I congratulate Clark B. “Bud” Hall for making this happen. This–the capstone of Bud’s preservation career–would not have happened without his zealous advocacy, leadership of the “board in exile” of the Brandy Station Foundation, and for his dogged perseverance with the Trust to ensure that this deal got done.
We’re only part of the way there, though.
The heavy lifting must now be done. We have $3.6 million to raise. Every one of you who regularly reads this blog and has asked me what you could do to help–the time is now for you to open your checkbook and help us to raise the money. This opportunity will never come around again, and we must do all we can to make this happen now. Please contribute whatever you can to help to save the single most fought over piece of ground on the North American continent. Beside being fought over in four major engagements, this parcel also housed Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s headquarters, Army of the Potomac, for the army’s winter encampment in 1863-1864. You would be hard-pressed to identify a more important parcel of unprotected ground anywhere in this great land of ours, and I encourage each and every one of you to do what you can to help.
And think how much fun it will be to see that hideous McMansion come down when the time comes!
After all of the horror of the events in Connecticut last week, I thought it might be fun to lighten things up a bit.
With thanks to my friend Dan Mallock, the party responsible for this idea, we’re going to discuss the ugliest/worst Civil War monuments in America. Specifically, I want everyone to chime in and let me know which you think is the ugliest/worst Civil War monument that you’ve ever seen. I will gladly post photos if anyone wants me to do so. Just send them along.
Dan, on the other hand, believes that the James Longstreet carousel horse monument wins the prize. It’s definitely my second choice, and it’s really pretty horrific too. From my perspective, however, it cannot hold a candle to just how horrendous that Forrest action figure is.
So, those are the first two entries in the competition. What do the rest of you think?
One of the things that I have always loved about this blog is that it gives me a venue to try out some ideas/theories here before doing anything further with them. If people laugh, then that’s the end of it. However, if people say, “hey, there’s something to that”, then it’s worth taking it a step further. This post is one of those experiments. Let’s see how it goes.
By way of introduction, back in October, I was the keynote speaker at Ohio Day at Antietam. I did a talk on the role played by Ohio troops in the Battle of Antietam. In the process of researching it, I realized that there is no book on the subject to be found anywhere other than the book published by the Ohio Monuments Commission pertaining to the monuments to Ohio troops erected at Antietam, so I decided to do a book on the subject. My project actually covers Ohio troops in the entire 1862 Maryland Campaign, meaning that it covers the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam, and the Ohio troops (three regiments and two brigade commanders) involved in the Harpers Ferry debacle. There are four parts to the book: the units and the roles they played, the roles played by the two future presidents of the United States (Hayes and McKinley), profiles of other prominent Ohio officers (including Ohio-born Confederate Brig. Gen. Roswell S. Ripley) in the campaign, including profiles of the regimental commanders (two of whom were killed in the fighting on the Otto Farm or at Burnside’s Bridge), and finally, the three Medal of Honor recipients from Ohio. The book will be titled Buckeyes Forward: Ohio Troops in the 1862 Maryland Campaign. It will feature lots of maps and photos and should appeal to the general public, which is the intended audience.
One of the prominent commanders profiled is George B. McClellan. While a native Philadelphian, Little Mac was living in Cincinnati when war came, and his initial commission as an officer during the Civil War was by Ohio Gov. William Dennison, who placed him in command of all of Ohio’s troops. McClellan’s initial campaigns in West Virginia primarily involved Ohio troops, so it’s a legitimate connection. McClellan is, of course, a terribly controversial fellow. Stephen Sears has made a career of vilifying McClellan, to the point of being unfair about it. Ethan Rafuse has written a very balanced and fair study of McClellan’s role in the Civil War that I believe is probably the definitive word on the subject.
As I was assessing Little Mac’s career with the Army of the Potomac, I was suddenly struck by its similarities to the career of Douglas MacArthur. Specifically, I was struck by the problems that both generals had with their commanders in chief, which problems led to the ends of both of their careers commanding troops in the field. Let’s explore those parallels a bit.
George B. McClellan was a Democrat who believed that the Civil War was primarily about preserving the Union, and not about abolishing slavery. He did not believe in total war, and tended to be cautious and conservative. He served under an administration of the other party, meaning that many of his political beliefs were squarely at odds with those of the Commander-in-Chief. There is no doubt that McClellan disdained Lincoln, and made a poor decision by snubbing the President of the United States in November 1861 by making Lincoln wait for half an hour when Lincoln called upon him. Their relationship only went downhill from there. McClellan’s letters to his wife Ellen, which were not intended to be read by the public, were extremely insulting of Lincoln, calling him a baboon and other such unflattering names. The posthumous publication of these letters has undoubtedly tainted the perceptions of McClellan of many modern historians, which is unfortunate.
In a draft of his memoirs, McClellan made the following statement, which does not appear in the final version of the book, which perhaps describes his military career better than any other statement I have yet read: “It has always been my opinion that the true course in conducting military operations, is to make no movement until the preparations are as complete as circumstances permit, & never to fight a battle without some definite object worth the probable loss.”
Sears, who is not only Little Mac’s harshest critic but also the leader of the anti-McClellan movement, says of him:
There is indeed ample evidence that the terrible stresses of commanding men in battle, especially the beloved men of his beloved Army of the Potomac, left his moral courage in tatters. Under the pressure of his ultimate soldier’s responsibility, the will to command deserted him. Glendale and Malvern Hill found him at the peak of his anguish during the Seven Days, and he fled those fields to escape the responsibility. At Antietam, where there was nowhere for him to flee to, he fell into a paralysis of indecision. Seen from a longer perspective, General McClellan could be both comfortable and successful performing as executive officer, and also, if somewhat less successfully, as grand strategist; as battlefield commander, however, he was simply in the wrong profession.
At the same time, when asked who was his ablest foe during the Civil War, Robert E. Lee declared, “McClellan, by all odds!” Certainly, Lee’s opinion counts. McClellan had some real talents. He was an outstanding organization and trainer of men; the Army of the Potomac as we know it is largely the result of his efforts. He was an outstanding strategist and an able tactician. He had a really rare gift for motivating men and for earning their love and trust; just the rumor that he was returning to take command of the Army of the Potomac in the days just before the Battle of Gettysburg had a genuinely electric impact on the men in the ranks, who loved him dearly.
However, there can be little doubt or dispute that the following statements are true:
McClellan was a child of privilege who achieved great accomplishments at a precocious age; he became general-in-chief of the Union armies at the age of just 36. He had an oversized ego that seems to have gotten in the way of his making good decisions for his career path. He graduated at the top of his West Point class and had the support of high-ranking officers (such as Winfield Scott) who helped advance his career path. He was a Democrat whose personal political beliefs and philosophies were at odds with those of the Republican President. He disagreed with Lincoln’s decision to issue the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the wake of McClellan’s close victory at Antietam, and McClellan did not keep his displeasure with this political decision to himself. Indeed, there were times where McClellan was plainly insubordinate of Lincoln. His refusal to comply with the orders of the Commander in Chief led directly to his dismissal as commander of the Army of the Potomac on November 7, 1862. He never led troops in the field again, and he ran for President on a peace platform that was diametrically opposed to the policies of the Lincoln Administration.
The parallels with MacArthur’s life and career in numerous ways are striking.
Douglas MacArthur was also a child of privilege. His mother came from a prominent Virginia family, and his father was a Medal of Honor recipient who achieved the rank of lieutenant general in the United States Army (in fact, Arthur MacArthur and Douglas MacArthur are one of only two father-son combinations to be awarded the Medal of Honor). MacArthur graduated first in his class at West Point, and was fortunate to be appointed to serve on his father’s staff early in his career. He performed outstanding service in World War I, and received rapid promotions as a result. In 1925, at the very young age of 44, he became the Army’s youngest major general, and eventually became its youngest chief of staff.
During World War II, MacArthur became Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in the Pacific Theater of Operations, and is one of only a handful of men to wear the five stars of a General of the Armies. He developed the strategy that won the war in the Pacific and deserves recognition for being an able strategist. He eventually became the military governor of Japan after the end of World War II and is rightfully credited as one of the architects of the robust parliamentary democracy that succeeded the militaristic imperial regime that brought about World War II.
When war broke out on the Korean Peninsula, MacArthur was the first commander of the U.N. troops sent there, and his refusal to obey the orders of President Harry S. Truman led to his being relieved of command and ordered to return home to the United States. MacArthur never commanded troops in the field again. He was given the honor of addressing Congress, and gave a legendary speech that included the oft-quoted line, “I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away. And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good Bye.” MacArthur, a conservative Republican, toyed with running for President, but ultimately decided not to do so, clearing the way for the nomination of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served two terms as President of the United States.
Let’s recap: MacArthur was a child of privilege who accomplished great things at a young age, including becoming chief of staff of the Army. He had an immense ego that was often the subject of jokes and disdain, and which got in the way of his military career. He graduated at the top of his West Point class, and had the support of high ranking officers in important positions that allowed his career to thrive early on. He was a conservative Republican whose political views ran counter to those of Democratic President Harry S. Truman that brought him into open conflict with the commander-in-chief of the United States. His refusal to obey a direct order of that commander-in-chief led to his relief from command of the armies, and he never commanded troops in the field again. He toyed with running for President on a platform that would have been diametrically opposed to many of the policies of the Truman Administration.
Like McClellan, MacArthur is not remembered as a great battlefield commander. Instead, his defeat in the Philippines in the early days of World War II is, perhaps, the most crushing defeat ever suffered by the United States of America. The fact that the most renowned biography of him is titled American Caesar speaks volumes for the nature of his personality and of his legacy. Like McClellan, MacArthur is not fondly remembered or considered to be one of the greats of American military history.
I wonder what you all think of this comparison. I just found the similarities and parallels striking. Please feel free to weigh in.
For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, this Saturday, December 1, 2012, Michael Aubrecht and I will be signing copies of our book, You Stink! Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players at the Heinz History Center’s annual book fair for books related to topics pertinent to Pittsburgh, Books in the ‘Burgh. We will be signing there from 10:00-3:00. Please come by and say hello if you can!
It never ceases to surprise me how many stones remain unturned with respect to the Civil War. There is still plenty of untapped primary source material out there.
I’m working on the role played by Ohio troops in the 1862 Maryland Campaign, so I availed myself of the collections at the Ohio Historical Society today. In the course of doing so, I found something really remarkable in one of the boxes that I reviewed. There’s a collection of materials pertaining to the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry of the 12th and 20th Corps, and found a complete unpublished manuscript of a regimental history of the 66th Ohio by a fellow named Eugene Powell. There are 11 complete chapters that cover nearly the entire career of the 66th Ohio. I ordered a copy of the Antietam chapter today for my project.
Here is the description of this manuscript from the finding aid for the regiment:
The Powell manuscript consists of eleven chapters describing the actions of the 66th O.V.I. in various battles. The chapters were numbered during processing and are arranged in their apparent order. It is uncertain if the entire manuscript is included in this collection. Chapters 1-3 are entitled Preparing for the Conflict, Campaign in Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley, respectively. Chapters 4-6 are labeled New Market, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria [Port Republic]; Pope’s Campaign, August 1862; and Antietam and McClellan’s Campaign in Maryland. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 are entitled Burnsides and Hooker, Dumfries and Chancellorsville; Gettysburg; and Campaign on the Rappahannock, New York City, and Governor’s Island, respectively. Chapters 10 and 11 are called Campaign in Tennessee and On to Atlanta!
The only thing missing is a description of the 66th Ohio’s role in Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign of 1865 and a description of its participation in the grand review of Sherman’s army that took place in May 1865, and the disbanding of the regiment at the end of the war; a subsequent author could easily fill that gap. Given that there is no contemporary published regimental history of the 66th Ohio save concise ones in compilations such as Whitelaw Reid’s Ohio in the War (although there is a recent one by a modern historian), the publication of this manuscript would be a welcome addition to the existing body of knowledge about the 66th Ohio.
I also reviewed the John T. Booth Papers today. Booth was a member of the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and he was bound and determined to document the service of his unit. He kept an incredibly detailed diary, and also engaged in extensive correspondence after the war regarding the history and service of the 36th Ohio. The 36th is another unit with no published regimental history, and there is plenty of fodder here for one to cobble one together, should one be so inclined.
As another example, I have long known of the existence of the Thomas Church Haskell Smith Papers at the Ohio Historical Society. Smith was one of John Pope’s staff officers, and spent much of his post-war life gathering material to write a book defending Pope’s conduct of the Battle of Second Bull Run, and, in particular, Pope’s bringing court-martial charges against Maj. Gen. Fitz-John Porter. The collection contains Smith’s correspondence with participants in the battle, which is invaluable, but it also contains Smith’s unpublished manuscript, which is complete. I’ve reviewed the collection, including parts of the manuscript, and its publication would be a substantial addition to the body of knowledge regarding the Second Bull Run Campaign, even if it does attempt to defend the indefensible.
My point in all of this is that these are only three of the many collections at the Ohio Historical Society. How many more of these treasures are there out there in other historical societies that are waiting for someone to come along and utilize them? These are important sources, and it’s a shame that they continue to languish underutilized by modern historians. If someone is looking for a good project, I commend them to you. The regimental history of the 66th Ohio and the T.C.H. Smith manuscript would both be excellent projects for a Ph.D. dissertation or other similar ambitious undertaking.
Thank you to reader Jeff Anderson, of Rockton, Illinois, for bringing this good news to my attention.
Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth, who only got to wear his general’s star for five days before the ego of Judson Kilpatrick sent Farnsworth to his death needlessly at Gettysburg, was taken to his home town of Rockton for burial. Apparently, the large monument over his grave has fallen into some degree of disrepair over the years, but I’m pleased to report that that is no longer the case. From Tuesday’s edition of the Rockford Register Star newspaper:
Rockton cemetery project brings Civil War history into the light
By Greg Stanley
Posted Nov 20, 2012 @ 12:00 AM
ROCKTON — Rockton Township officials have refurbished a little local history in Year 3 of a cemetery restoration project.
The township has set aside $10,000 each year to restore and clean headstones in the oldest part of the cemetery, which dates to the 1800s.
“We’re trying to do more Civil War markers this time around,” cemetery sexton Jerri Noller says.
The most prominent headstone restored this year belongs to Elon J. Farnsworth, a brigadier general for the Union who became something of a celebrity in his death.
Farnsworth was a rising star when he was made general at 25 years old (along with a 24-year-old George Armstrong Custer) on June 29, 1863 — two days before the battle of Gettysburg. He was killed four days later, on the final day of the battle, in what many historians have described as a reckless blunder of the vain and philandering Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick ordered Farnsworth to lead a doomed charge against a Confederate stronghold of little strategic importance to the battle, according to historian Edwin B. Coddington’s well-regarded 1968 tome, “The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command.”
“Although Farnsworth protested it was suicide, Kilpatrick insisted that he should charge with half his brigade,” Coddington writes. Farnsworth “put on a brilliant display of courage and horsemanship, but the attack ended in a fiasco.”
It became known as “Farnsworth’s Charge” and led to 101 casualties, according to one historian’s report for the National Park Service.
Farnsworth was born and raised in Michigan, but his body was brought back to Rockton Township to be buried next to his mother and father.
Greg Stanley: 815-987-1369; email@example.com; @greggstanley
On this Thanksgiving Day, I find it difficult to say how gratified I am to hear that this largely forgotten hero of the Battle of Gettysburg is being remembered by his home town. So far as I can tell, in all my years of researching the Civil War, I have never been able to identify another general officer who was killed in action while leading an attack BEHIND enemy lines, as Farnsworth was. His valor was wasted by the ambitions of Judson Kilpatrick, but that valor is nevertheless still worthy of commemoration, and I tip my cap to the township for being willing to spend the money to see that his grave is not forgotten.
And on this Thanksgiving Day, I wish each and every one of you a joyous day with family and friends. Enjoy your day, the good food, and the comradeship, but at the same time, let’s not lose sight of the purpose of the day: be thankful for the blessings that you have. And I am thankful for all of you.
Apparently, Georges Santayana was correct when he wrote “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Thousands of whiny morons, unhappy that more than 50% of Americans voted to re-elect Barack Obama as president, are now filing secession petitions. Like a bunch of whiny children who didn’t get their way, these imbeciles are now threatening to take their toys and go home. WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!
From today’s edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Disgruntled voters petition White House for their states to secede from the Union
Edward Colimore, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 6:16 AM
The petitions on the White House website won’t be granted. They’re the aftereffects of a heated presidential election season, folks simply blowing off steam, historians and scholars say.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans unhappy with the result of last week’s voting have signed petitions on behalf of at least 35 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
What do they want?
For the Obama administration to “peacefully grant” the states permission to “withdraw from the United States of America” and create new governments.
“We did fight a Civil War over this issue,” said Perry Dane, a professor at the Rutgers School of Law in Camden who clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court. “The White House will respond and will say as considerately as it can that secession is off the table.
“You win some, you lose some,” he said.
The petitions, located on the White House’s “We the People” website (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov), are “very likely an expression of alienation and frustration,” said Randall Miller, a professor of history at St. Joseph’s University. “People question the legitimacy of the election and it’s their way of saying, ‘I’m taking myself out of this.’ ”
By late Tuesday, a total of more than 13,000 people had signed two petitions seeking nation status for Pennsylvania, where Obama defeated Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by a 52-47 percentage ratio. For the more Democratic-leaning New Jersey, nearly 11,000 had signed a similar petition. At least 5,400 others had signed one for Delaware, where Obama also was the victor. The number of signatures had doubled, even tripled, since the beginning of the week.
Texas and Louisiana – where Romney won – had about 82,000 and 30,000 signatures, respectively. Petitions that attract 25,000 signatures in 30 days will receive a “response” from the White House, the website says.
On the flip side, there are petitions on the White House site that call for the Obama administration to deport or exile everyone who has signed a secession petition.
One asks the administration to permit the left-leaning city of Austin to secede from Texas but remain part of the United States.
“The Internet allows you to find like-minded people. And in this faceless anonymity, you can egg each other on,” said Andrew Shankman, an associate professor of history at Rutgers-Camden. “It doesn’t take much to sign a petition.”
The secession petitions are “not a serious political proposal,” he said. “This is the last expression of rage because [the petitioners] didn’t get what they wanted on Election Day. They’re sounding off.”
The “We the People” website allows citizens to create and sign petitions. They provide first names but not the last, just initials.
Many – like one created by Karen G. of Hazleton, Pa., and another by Joe. R. of Sewell – quote from the Declaration of Independence: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands . . . ”
Others, such as a petition seeking Oregon’s secession, take another tack: “The people of Oregon would like the chance to vote on leaving the Union immediately. The Federal Government has imposed policies on Oregon that are not in Oregon’s best interests, and we as citizens would respectively [sic] and peaceably separate ourselves from a tyrannical Government. . . . ”
The White House lacks constitutional authority to let states secede, but that hasn’t stopped disgruntled voters.
The issue of secession was not confined to the Civil War. New Jersey grappled with it about 40 years ago, when the southern part of the state attempted to split from the north.
“There was a big movement, with petitions drawn,” said Paul Schopp, a historian who lives in Riverton. “The south was upset that most of the tax dollars were going to the north.”
The postelection petitions are “an effort by average citizens to exercise their constitutional rights,” he said. “It’s a peaceful form of redress.”
Other countries have faced similar issues. A referendum will be held in 2014 to determine whether the people of Scotland wish to withdraw from the United Kingdom, Dane said. Quebec has occasionally sought to secede from Canada and the country’s Supreme Court has said that’s not out of the question.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who often has expressed frustration with the federal government, did not endorse the secession petitions and has said he did not want the Lone Star State to break away.
“The Civil War showed once and for all and forever that secession is illegal,” said Andy Waskie, a Temple University professor, historian, and author. “The combat, effusion of blood, and sacrifice ended that question.”
Citizens “have to seek other means of redressing their grievances,” he said. “The Union is permanent.”
Obviously, these self-centered whiners have lost sight of the fact that the last time someone tried to secede, 600,000 Americans died. These whiners don’t like President Obama or his policies, so they want to secede. They’re just not willing to accept the idea that a majority of U.S. citizens voted for the man and that their guy lost. WAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!
This issue was resolved in Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869), wherein the United States Supreme Court determined that there is no right of secession and that the Union is forever. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, writing for the Court, observed:
The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to ‘be perpetual.’ And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained ‘to form a more perfect Union.’ It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not.
When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.
Considered therefore as transactions under the Constitution, the ordinance of secession, adopted by the convention and ratified by a majority of the citizens of Texas, and all the acts of her legislature intended to give effect to that ordinance, were absolutely null. They were utterly without operation in law. The obligations of the State, as a member of the Union, and of every citizen of the State, as a citizen of the United States, remained perfect and unimpaired. It certainly follows that the State did not cease to be a State, nor her citizens to be citizens of the Union. If this were otherwise, the State must have become foreign, and her citizens foreigners. The war must have ceased to be a war for the suppression of rebellion, and must have become a war for conquest and subjugation.
Resolving the issue once and for all, the Supreme Court held:
It is not necessary to attempt any exact definitions within which the acts of such a State government must be treated as valid or invalid. It may be said, perhaps with sufficient accuracy, that acts necessary to peace and good order among citizens, such for example, as acts sanctioning and protecting marriage and the domestic relations, governing the course of descents, regulating the conveyance and transfer of property, real and personal, and providing remedies for injuries to person and estate, and other similar acts, which would be valid if emanating from a lawful government must be regarded in general as valid when proceeding from an actual, though unlawful, government, and that acts in furtherance or support of rebellion against the United States, or intended to defeat the just rights of citizens, and other acts of like nature, must, in general, be regarded as invalid and void.
And that, as they say, is that. There is no right of secession. These whiners need to just suck it up and move on. The country survived George W. Bush’s eight years. It will also survive Barack Obama’s. Get over it. Shut up and quit whining.
Many of you have been on this journey with me since its beginning in 2005. I have often said how important this blog is to me and how much I cherish my interactions with you here. I try to keep things on-topic most of the time, but those of you have been with me for a long time know that writing—and this blog—are often my personal therapy. In the end, I am a writer. It’s what I am, and it’s who I am. Often, my writing feels like it’s the one and only thing that is completely my own. That means that sometimes I deviate from that which is on topic for this blog because I have the need to talk about what’s going on in my life. I apologize for that, but it really does help me, and I appreciate your perpetual patience with that.
Earlier this year, I did just that, discussing the ordeal that Susan and I faced with the ultimate decline of my parents’ health. That was, without doubt, the most stressful and most horrendous time of my life. As an only child, I was backed into a corner and forced to make the sorts of decisions that nobody ever wants to make, especially where one’s parents are involved. Although it was deeply personal, all of you did so much to help to ease the blow and to help me feel a little bit better about the awfulness of it all. And for that, I am and will be eternally grateful.
Part of that terrible journey has now reached its inevitable end, and I am writing this just to try to comprehend it and to try to process the unthinkable. As is my wont, I will share it with you, my extended family.
On Sunday, I flew out to Los Angeles to try a case. It’s been a while since I’ve done so, and I faced a real challenge. I am the sixth lawyer on this case, and the first three screwed it up royally, perhaps even irretrievably. I am left to try to fix the mess, even though it may be too screwed up to fix. I spent the day yesterday preparing a witness for his testimony and defending a last minute deposition of a critical witness. I did some legal research for a pretrial motion that I intended to make, watched the Eagles lose on Monday night football, and then I turned out the light and tried to get some rest before what promised to be a long and tiring day (trial work is exhausting—you have to pay very close attention to every single word being said, and being “on” for hours at a time is very mentally tiring).
When I go to California and it’s usually only for a few days, and I do my level best to keep myself on east coast time, as it makes the jet lag on the return trip a lot easier to take. That meant that I woke up at 4:30 this morning with a real sense of unease, that something was wrong. Realizing that while my body’s internal clock was telling me that it was my normal time to wake up, I rolled back over and slept for another hour. I got up at 5:30, went through my normal morning routine, and put on my navy blue suit. I had just finished tying my tie when my cell phone rang. Knowing it was 6:00 in the morning in L.A., I knew it had to be someone back east calling. I picked up the phone, saw the number of the nursing station at the nursing home where my parents now live, and gulped, knowing that this was not going to be good news.
The nurse—a kind soul—told me that my father had vomited during the night, and that when they tried to rouse him this morning, he was completely non-responsive. She indicated that the staff physician wanted to have him transported to the hospital to determine what was wrong, which I authorized. I explained my circumstances, and asked her to deal with Susan, as I figured I would not be able to take a call in court. I then proceeded to finish my trial preparation and make the long trek into downtown L.A. for the court appearance. My co-counsel and I got there with an hour to spare, so we went to the courthouse cafeteria for something to drink and so I could put some cases he had printed out for me into my trial notebook.
I had no sooner finished doing that when the phone rang. This time it was Susan, calling to tell me that my father had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage, that there was nothing that could be done, and that he would not survive 24 more hours. Stunned, I asked her to set the wheels in motion to handle funeral arrangements, etc., that I would have to rely upon her since I was tied up and unavailable. My wife is a rock. She is probably the strongest person I know, and she is at her very best in a crisis. With that, and to my eternal gratitude, she took charge.
Now numb and desperately trying to process what I had just heard, I told my co-counsel that if there was any way that I could get there to say goodbye, I wanted to do so. He understood—Jim is a kind and very decent man for whom I have nothing but the utmost admiration and fondness—so we went and sought out opposing counsel. She nodded understanding, but would not agree to a continuance—something for which I can never forgive her—and said she would leave it to the court. Fortunately, the judge showed some compassion and granted my request for a continuance for one week.
I then fielded the call nobody should ever have to take. It was the doctor from the ER at the hospital, telling me that there was nothing that could be done, and did I want any heroic measures taken. I said no, make him comfortable, give him some dignity, and just let him slip away. And with that, it was done. I stood on the street in Los Angeles across from the courthouse, weeping. Poor Jim—he didn’t know what to say or do, so he just stood there, with his hand on my shoulder, not saying a word. It was what I needed at that moment—just a decent, compassionate human being letting me know that I wasn’t alone, and for that I will always be grateful.
I went back to the hotel, quickly changed into more comfortable clothing, stuffed my other belongings into my carry-on, and called my very few relatives to tell them the bad news. And then it was time to commence a race that I cannot win: the race with the grim reaper.
Jim drove me to LAX, and $700 later, I am writing this on a plane to Philadelphia. Susan is driving there, and will pick me up at the airport. There is no Internet access on this flight, and I have no way of knowing whether I will get there in time to say goodbye to him. I just won’t know until I land.
As we flew east, I got to witness one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. As I watched it, all I could think was that God had given me a gift: a final beautiful sunset for my dad. Perhaps it was his spirit leaving—I just don’t know. As I sat there with tears running down my face, I was immensely grateful for this fleeting gift of nature’s beauty.
I don’t know precisely what awaits me when I land in Philadelphia, but it’s only a question of when and not if. I will have to tell my mother that her husband of 54+ years is gone. I will then have to explain to her why the medical providers do not think that she is capable of attending his funeral, prospects that chill me to the very fiber of my being. And now, at the age of 51, I face life without my dad. I knew that this day would come sooner than later; when I saw him for his birthday in August I had a very strong feeling that it would be his last. I have viewed the last five+ years since his first stroke as borrowed time, and I am grateful for every minute of that borrowed time. And now that borrowed time has run out, as it inevitably must for each and every one of us.
My dad was my first and best friend. Some of my earliest, happiest memories are of watching ball games with him, and he was always my favorite golfing buddy. I will miss his easy, mischievous grin and his big, outgoing salesman’s personality that I could never match. I will miss his ability to find fun in almost any situation. I will miss him terribly for the rest of my days, and I can only hope that he is proud of the man that I have grown into.
UPDATE: I am now on the ground in Philadelphia, awaiting Susan’s arrival. There was an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that held her up. My father is still alive. I have a hunch that he’s waiting for me to get there, which I desperately want to do.
ADDITIONAL UPDATE: He’s gone. I did not get there in time. Joseph Wittenberg, August 10, 1920-November 7, 2012. I will miss him for the rest of my days.
Sam Hood is a graduate of Kentucky Military Institute, Marshall University (bachelor of arts, 1976), and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. A collateral descendent of General John Bell Hood, Sam is a retired industrial construction company owner, past member of the Board of Directors of the Blue Gray Education Society of Chatham, Virginia, and is a past president of the Board of Directors of Confederate Memorial Hall Museum in New Orleans. Sam resides in his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with his wife of thirty-five years, Martha, and is the proud father of two sons: Derek Hood of Lexington, Kentucky, and Taylor Hood of Barboursville, West Virginia.
Question: I understand that you are related to General Hood. How are you related to him?
I am a second cousin. I descend directly from his grandfather Lucas Hood, who was my great x 5 grandfather.
Question: When was this set of papers of General Hood’s discovered?
Well actually, they weren’t so much “discovered” as “realized.” I was invited to the home of a direct descendent in June to look through what was thought to be just boxes of routine family papers and memorabilia that had been passed down and accumulated through the decades. The descendent knew I was finishing my book and thought that maybe…just maybe…there might be something in the boxes that I could use in my manuscript.
Question: What did you do when you discovered the collection?
I was utterly stunned. The family had set me up in a vacant bedroom of their home to use as an office, and brought out 3 or 4 bankers boxes, and invited me to call for them if I needed any assistance.
Question: What was your reaction when you learned of the existence of this collection of papers?
After a few minutes with the collection, my priorities immediately changed. When I saw the incredible historical importance of many of the documents my top priority changed from seeking interesting information to helping them identify and secure the documents, which was done. The task actually took two trips of 3 days each, with my wife Martha accompanying me and assisting me on the second trip. The valuable papers were identified, placed in acid-proof folders, and physically removed to the owners’ bank safety deposit box. I made photocopies of everything to take home, where I began the process of transcribing the letters. It wasn’t until then that I started finding the historically important content of the letters.
Question: Without being too specific, as I know that you want to maintain some semblance of confidentiality regarding the specific contents, can you give our readers an idea of what’s in the collection?
Approximately 80 letters to Hood by high and lower ranked Civil War characters, Union and Confederate, wartime and postwar. Correspondents include Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, SD Lee, Braxton Bragg, James Seddon, AP Stewart, WH Jackson, SG French, William Bate, Henry Clayton, FA Shoup, Mrs Leonidas Polk, William M Polk, WS Featherston, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, David S Terry, Matthew C Butler, GW Smith, PGT Beauregard, Louis T Wigfall, George Thomas, WT Sherman, and numerous lower ranked officers, mostly members of commanders’ staffs. There are 61 postwar letters from Hood to his wife Anna, and 35 from Anna to him as he traveled in his insurance business. Also included are Dr John T Darby’s two highly detailed medical reports of Hood’s Gettysburg and Chickamauga wounds, and the daily log of Hood’s treatment and recovery from the day of his leg amputation until November 24 in Richmond. The collection also includes Hood’s Orders and Dispatches log and 4 volumes of Telegram logs for his entire tenure as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Additionally, Hood’s first and second lieutenant’s commission certificates from the US Army are in the collection, along with 4 remarkable documents: his original commission certificates for his ranks of brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, and full general in the Confederate Army. There are also numerous photographs and other ephemera of Hood, his children, and his grandchildren.
Question: In your opinion, what is the significance of this collection?
You should probably ask credentialed scholars this question, but I can’t imagine a discovery of Civil War documents being more profound than these.
Question: In your opinion, how does the unearthing of this collection change or impact the impression that the public has of John Bell Hood and his legacy to the American Civil War?
There are a few specific items that are quite profound. Letters from three separate officers identify Hood’s subordinate who was responsible for the Confederate failure at Spring Hill. A senior commander explains Patrick Cleburne’s behavior before and during the Battle of Franklin–characterized in modern Civil War scholarship as being peculiar–and it had absolutely nothing to do with General Hood. In one letter SD Lee makes some very serious charges against William Bate at the Battle of Franklin.
A letter sheds new light on the nature and intent of Hood’s correspondence with Richmond authorities in the spring of 1864, characterized by Hood’s critics as “poison pen” letters intended to undermine Joseph Johnston. Several letters back up claims that Hood made in his memoirs concerning controversies with Johnston, including the Cassville Affair, and Johnston’s heavy losses during the Atlanta Campaign, mostly due to desertions.
Dr Darby’s medical reports are fascinating, and include detailed daily records of the medications prescribed to Hood.
There is much more important historical information, although not so controversial.
Question: What are your intentions for the collection?
I have none. The owners, who insist on complete anonymity at this time, intend to retain all the original documents as treasured family artifacts. However, copies of all the documents will be released to a yet-to-be-determined public repository at some time in the future. I have begun work on an annotated book of the papers, which I hope to complete by next spring for publication next fall (2013.) Since the papers will be cited, copies will have to be made public at that time if not sooner.
Question: Have you used these newly-discovered documents in your forthcoming book, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General?
Yes. I was able to transcribe many, but not all of the letters, and none of the orders and dispatches or telegram logs. I was able to include much of the important information in my forthcoming book, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General (Savas Beatie Publishing, Spring 2013.) (It was originally to be titled History versus John Bell Hood but the publisher felt the new information justified the new title.)
Question: What would you like for the readers to know about your book?
Thanks for asking this question, Eric. Even without the newfound information I have always felt that available historical records disprove many of the outlandish charges that have been made against JB Hood in modern Civil War literature. Authors like Wiley Sword have cherry picked the records, filtering out of their books all evidence and testimony that doesn’t paint Hood as an incompetent scoundrel. My book reveals to readers, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.” Also, the paraphrasing used by critical authors is often remarkably misleading, and in many cases the exaggeration and hyperbole completely distorts the accurate context. My book is 100,000 words of examples of concealment of historical evidence and distortions, but it could have been 200,000 words long.
The newfound information just reinforces what the available historical records reveal about JB Hood had authors not had an agenda.
Eric: Thanks to Sam Hood for granting me this interview, and thanks to Sam for sharing this vital information with me.
My opinion is that this is, perhaps, THE most important find in my lifetime. This treasure trove of letters has the potential to dramatically change how history perceives John Bell Hood, and it certainly will help to change how history remembers Hood. This is certainly an exciting find, and I’m pleased that Sam chose to share these insights with me.