brandyThe current issue of Civil War News has an article about the Civil War Trust’s efforts to raise the money to purchase Fleetwood Hill. Disregard the astonishingly pathetic, lame excuse by Useless Joe McKinney as to why the BSF did nothing about the Lake Troilo episode (nice try, Useless Joe, but it does nothing to lend any credibility to your claims to support preservation), and you’ve got a nice overview of the situation here:

CW Trust Contracts For 61 Brandy Station Acres; Must Raise $3.6 Million
By Scott C. Boyd
(February/March 2013 Civil War News)

BRANDY STATION, Va. – The Civil War Trust announced Dec. 20 it has a contract to buy 61 acres on historic Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station for $3.6 million. The Trust has until June 7 to raise the money and close the sale, two days before the battle’s sesquicentennial.

The land at the crest of the southern end of Fleetwood Hill is the “crown jewel” of the Brandy Station battlefield, according to battle historian and Brandy Station Foundation co-founder Clark B. “Bud” Hall. It includes the site of Confederate commanding general J.E.B. Stuart’s headquarters for the battle.

“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,” said Trust President James Lighthizer in announcing the contract.

The Trust owns 878 acres of the Brandy Station Battlefield that are open to the public with signage, walking trails and a driving tour.

Unlike most Trust land purchases, this recent one became public before the Trust board had officially voted to approve the deal.

“Typically we wait until the board approves a transaction,” said Trust Director of Policy and Communications Jim Campi. “However, the news of it being under contract was leaked to the Culpeper paper, so it came out sooner than anticipated.”

Campi said the Trust’s board will make a formal decision on the purchase at its March meeting.

The Trust hopes to raise the money through $1.6 million in government grants and $2 million from private donors, according to Campi. “We need everybody involved with this deal. It’s a big number in a tight economy,” he said.

The government grants will likely be a combination of federal money from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program and funds from Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources, Campi said.

“The key is to raise $2 million in private sector money,” he said. “Bud Hall has taken the lead in helping us identify big donors to help us get to that $2 million goal.”

Campi said, “We are concerned about the big amount of money that needs to be raised in a short amount of time.”

While being confident that Trust members “are going to step up like they always have,” he said the Trust hopes a broader group will get involved as well.

“Any help we can get from the Civil War community would be appreciated,” Campi said.

“It’s a steep uphill climb to get that $3.6 million by the sesquicentennial anniversary. We’re committed to doing our best to get there.”

The Trust plans a Fleetwood Hill Appeal mass mailing in February or March to initiate the public fundraising campaign.

Background

The Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, was the largest cavalry battle in the Civil War with 18,456 cavalry from both sides and an additional 3,000 Union infantry engaged. It was the opening phase of the Gettysburg Campaign, taking place just three weeks before the battle. In late July Confederates retreating from Gettysburg camped at Brandy Station.

“Fleetwood Hill is without question the most fought over, camped upon and marched over real estate in the entire United States,” Hall wrote in a monograph describing the Battle of Brandy Station and Fleetwood Hill’s role in the Union Army winter encampment of 1863-1864. The army left on May 4 for the Overland Campaign.

Hall said the hill was of strategic importance because artillery placed there controlled five important road junctions that converged in Brandy Station village three quarters of a mile away. And the Orange and Alexandria Railroad passed the southern base of the hill.

“Although it is 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,” Hall wrote.

Joseph Anthony “Tony” Troilo Jr., who has contracted to sell the 61 acres, said the land has been in his family for 40-45 years.

Preservationists last considered buying the property in 2002, but were unsuccessful. Hall, who participated in those negotiations with Lighthizer, said Troilo asked $4.9 million, which “far exceeded our ability to acquire it, at the time.”

In the spring of 2011, Troilo dammed the perennial stream, Flat Run, without a federal permit, to create a pond on his property (see July 2011, January 2012 CWN).

Hall notified the Army Corps of Engineers about this violation of the Clean Water Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Subsequently Troilo agreed to remove the dam and restore the land and stream to their previous condition.

The Brandy Station Foundation’s (BSF) lack of action created a backlash against the BSF by some in the preservation community.

BSF President Joseph W. McKinney recently said the foundation did not want an adversarial relationship with Troilo for strategic reasons.

“We wanted to maintain good relations. The main thing I wanted to ensure was that if they came to a decision to sell, that they would be amenable to selling to preservationists,” he said.

The current deal began when Troilo and his wife put the property up for sale in late November 2011.

The controversy earlier that year over the pond was a factor in Troilo’s decision to sell. Troilo said, “No doubt, I’m sure it had some significance.”

McKinney said he was the first person Troilo told about selling and he notified the Civil War Trust.

The 2012 negotiation of the sales contract was conducted by Trust officials and Troilo.

A new appraisal, upon which the current deal was based, set the value of the 61 acres, including two houses, a pool, tennis court and other outbuildings, at $3.55 million. The Trust offered Troilo $3.6 million, which he accepted.

“It really makes sense for the Civil War Trust and Brandy Station Foundation to own that property because of the significance of the battle,” he said.

“That would put all the pieces of the puzzle together, and they would actually own what they tried to fight for 150 years ago.”

Said Hall about the pending purchase, “I could not possibly be more excited.”

Donations to the Fleetwood Hill Appeal and information about the battlefield can be found at the Trust’s website:

www.civilwar.org/battlefields/brandystation/brandy-station-2013/

The photo shows BSF founder (but banned from membership by Useless Joe and the Board of Appeasers) Bud Hall, standing on the opposite side of what would have been Lake Troilo (Flat Run runs through the low ground at the base of Fleetwood Hill), pointing up at Tony Troilo’s McMansion, which is where Jeb Stuart’s headquarters was on June 9, 1863. Again, I give Tony Troilo a great deal of credit for doing the right thing and for agreeing to sell Fleetwood Hill to the Civil War Trust.

You can donate here.

Continue reading

The Friends of the Bentonville Battlefield are putting on what promises to be an excellent seminar on September 14-15, 2013. The focus of the program is the Civil War in North Carolina in 1865, and it promises to be a first-rate offering. Saturday’s program will be in Smithfield, and then there will be a battlefield tour led by Mark Bradley and Ed Bearss on Sunday. I’m honored to be on the program with the finest scholars of the 1865 Carolinas Campaign working today.

Here’s the program for Saturday:

Bentonville Battlefield’s NC 1865 Civil War Symposium Agenda
Saturday : September 14, 2013
8:00 am to 8:45 am Welcome and Refreshments. Paul A. Johnston Auditorium at Johnston Community College.
8:45 am to 9:45 am Robert M. “Bert” Dunkerly. The Confederate surrender in North Carolina.
10:00 am to 11:00 am Colonel (Ret.) Wade Sokolosky. The Battles of Wyse Fork and Averasboro
11:15 am to 12:15 pm Dr. Chris E. Fonvielle. The Wilmington Campaign.
12:15 pm to 1:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm to 2:00 pm Eric Wittenberg. Cavalry during the Carolinas Campaign.
2:15 pm to 3:15 pm Dr. Mark L. Bradley. The Battle of Bentonville.
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm Keynote speaker: Edwin C. “Ed” Bearss.

The program benefits the Bentonville battlefield, and will be a terrific event. See you there!

Continue reading

Protecting the Flanks CatalogThe new edition of Protecting the Flank is at the printer! That means that in about a month, we will have books.

I’m really excited about the new edition. The original edition was always one of my favorites, but it was a bit muddled in places, and the spacing of the book always bugged me. Further, new material surfaced after it was published in 2002.

And then we have a cretin who posted a negative review of the first edition of the book because the first edition failed to address Carhart’s festering pile of turds. Given that the book was published two years before Carhart’s, that would have been a really neat trick to have addressed a theory that had not yet been articulated, but this moron, not to be deterred, nevertheless found fault with my book even though he had never read it. Nifty, eh?

Well, the good news is that the new edition not only deals with the festering pile of turds, it blows his nonsensical theory right out of the water. The new edition includes a lengthy discussion of it, as well as a second new appendix that answers the question of which Confederate battery fired the four shots that were fired at the outset of the battle. There is an additional map. There are a number of new illustrations, and there is a fair amount of new material in the book, including new primary source material that nobody else has ever used in an account of the fighting on East Cavalry Field.

For those interested in purchasing a signed copy, please contact me, and we will get it done.

And thank you to all for your patience while this new edition made its way through the labyrinthine publishing process.

Continue reading

bob-kirby-and-craig-bashein_420A couple of years ago, a prominent lawyer from Cleveland named Craig Bashein hired me to lead a personal tour for him and a friend, mostly of sites associated with the retreat from Gettysburg and the Wagon Train of Wounded. We had two very good days together, and I got to know Craig a little bit as a result. During our time together, Craig told me a little bit about the incredible collection of Civil War artifacts that he had accumulated over the years. From what he was telling me, it sounded like he had accumulated quite an impressive stash of artifacts.

Today, it was announced that Craig has donated some of that very impressive collection of artifacts to the museum at the Gettysburg National Military Park. From today’s edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Gettysburg gets gift of rare documents
January 27, 2013 12:07 am

By Tom Barnes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In late June 1863, Confederate Gen. Jubal Early didn’t just ride into Gettysburg to be part of a famous battle. His initial goal in coming north into Pennsylvania was to get local towns to provide food, boots, bullets and other supplies for his war-weary troops.

So the subordinate of Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote to the Gettysburg leaders, “making demands of the town prior to the battle,” say Gettysburg National Military Park officials.

That “demand letter,” which is of immense interest to historians and Civil War buffs, will be on display later this year at the National Military Park, along with dozens of other rare historical documents and records being donated by Craig Bashein, a lawyer and Civil War artifact collector from Cleveland.

He praised the National Park Service for doing “a tremendous job of safeguarding and preserving many of our nation’s most treasured artifacts surrounding the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg.” He said the dozens of drawings and documents he is donating will let people further study and appreciate this important event in our history.

He also called on other collectors to donate their historic and treasured pieces from the Civil War to the national park’s museum.

A few of Mr. Bashein’s donations — some personal possessions of Union Gen. Alexander S. Webb, who took part in repulsing Pickett’s Charge — will be displayed in an exhibit called “Treasures of the Civil War,” which will open June 16. Dozens of displays and re-enactments are set for late June and early July at the military park, to mark the 150th anniversary of the famous Gettysburg battle, fought July 1-3, 1863.

But most of the hundreds of items from Mr. Bashein will have to be slowly studied by military park historians and won’t become available to researchers or the public until sometime later this year, say park service officials.

The Bashein wartime notes, artifacts, records and 64 unpublished sketchbooks “will offer enormous new opportunities to examine the Battle of Gettysburg and other Civil War battles that occurred from 1862 to 1865,” the park service said in a statement.

Many of the materials were created by Emmor Bradley Cope, an engineer for the Union’s Army of the Potomac, as a way “to understand the topography, obstacles and the nature of the towns and countryside where these battles were occurring.” Many of the maps were made by Cope while riding the battlefields on horseback and were ordered by Gen. George Meade, the commanding Union general during the battle.

“Since Gettysburg’s museum exhibits cover all the years of the Civil War,” from 1861-65, the artifacts from Mr. Bashein “will be invaluable in helping us tell the full story of the war, as well as providing unpublished resource materials that will benefit all those who study Gettysburg and the Civil War,” said Bob Kirby, superintendent of the military park.

Many of the personal items are from Webb, who was given the Medal of Honor for gallantry for his actions when Confederate Gen. George Pickett unsuccessfully led his troops against Union forces on July 3, the final day of the battle.

The Webb items include his pistol, a soldier’s hat, field binoculars and a medal from Gen. Meade for meritorious service.

Other donated items, which will go on display later this year, include:

• A map of the Gettysburg battlefield, done by Capt. J.D. Briscoe, an aide to Union Gen. David Birney. It has hand-drawn notes of where troops were positioned. The map was used by Birney during testimony about the battle to a Congressional committee in the spring of 1864.

“This map is believed to be one of the first battlefield maps of Gettysburg ever prepared,” the park service said in a statement.

• The archives of David Kendlehart, a Gettysburg burgess, made during the battle, which include the “demand letter” from Early.

• Leather gloves worn by Philip Sheridan, a Union cavalry general.

• An engraved silver pocket watch given to Union Gen. Henry Halleck by his staff officers.

Tom Barnes: Hickeybarnes@yahoo.com.
First Published January 27, 2013 12:00 am

That’s GNMP Superintendent Bob Kirby on the left in the photograph, and Craig on the right. The 64 sketchbooks mentioned in the article are on the table in front of Messrs. Kirby and Bashein.

Kudos to Craig for ensuring that his incredible collection is not only preserved, but that it will also be made available to the public (and especially those items that will be made available to researchers). Well done, sir!

Continue reading

YSfpPic>You Stink! Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players is a Homerun!

Written By Michael Aubrecht and Eric Wittenberg. Published by Kent State University Press (Black Squirrel Books)

2012-2013 Amazon Best-Seller: Listed in Top 100 ‘Baseball’ and Top 10 ‘Baseball Statistics’ categories. Now available in both Paperback Edition and improved Kindle Edition

There are countless volumes celebrating the best teams in professional baseball. Unfortunately, winning represents only one side of the game. For every champion’s record-setting season, there has been an equally memorable story of defeat. These teams and their shameful contributions to America’s national pastime have been a neglected topic in the annals of baseball history. Until now. You Stink! includes franchise origins, detailed stats, player profiles, photos, and more, as well as a collection of long-format essays in a “Hall of Shame” that recognizes some of the worst moments ever witnessed on a ball field.

For more information, visit the You Stink! Blog or You Stink! Facebook page.

Authors are now booking signings and speaking engagements for 2013. Please contact me via this blog if you are interested.

Here’s what some readers have said about You Stink!

“For baseball fans who love to devour any words about the game, ‘You Stink!’ is like a disease — you know the ‘achievements’ are awful, but you keep coming back for more.” – Bob D’Angelo, The Sports Bookie, Tampa Bay Online

“It’s a funny book, but with serious overtones. Whether you’re a baseball fan, or don’t know anything about baseball, this is a great book.” – Greg Rasheed, KGNU Radio, Denver, CO

“Wittenberg and Aubrecht humorously profile, in total, 15 terrible baseball teams of truly historic proportions…Nifty black-and-white photos and pages of stats will lighten the perspective of Cleveland sports fans. (Grade: A-)” – William Kist, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Continue reading

11 Jan 2013, by

Bibliographies

Time for a good rant. I haven’t had one in a long while.

I was recently asked to write a review of this book for the next issue of Civil War Times magazine. I have lots of serious problems with this book–the author did virtually no research before writing it, and it is also horribly deficient in maps–but it also features my pet peeve about books.

When a new Civil War book is published, the first thing that I do is to look at the bibliography, as doing so tells me what sources were consulted by the author in writing the work. More importantly, a review of the bibliography shows me how deeply the author has delved into the primary sources, and in particular, into manuscript sources. If a review of the bibliography does not demonstrate a deep job of researching the primary sources by the author, I will not purchase the book, on the theory that it adds nothing. I simply cannot take a book that does include a bibliography seriously.

My pet peeve is when there is no bibliography at all. The book I just reviewed has no bibliography, and Carhart’s festering pile of turds does not have one either. The failure to include a bibliography permits a lazy, or worse, intellectually dishonest (see Carhart), author to hide his or her lack of research. The failure to include a bibliography permits the author to avoid being held accountable for his or her poor work and lack of substantive research. In the case of Carhart’s book, the failure to include a bibliography permits Carhart to hide the fact that he simply manufactured “facts” when there were none in the historical record to support his preposterous theory. With respect to the book that I just reviewed, the lack of a bibliography hides the incredibly shallow scope of the author’s research. The endnotes indicate that he used primarily secondary sources, a few commonly available published primary sources, and a handful of materials readily available on the World Wide Web. There is not a single reference to the Official Records, there is not a single reference to any manuscript sources not available on line, there is not a single reference to newspaper materials, and there are no references to any primary source research of any significance. That bibliography would, undoubtedly, have been embarrassingly short, which is probably the reason why it was not included.

I view the failure to include a bibliography in a book to be at best lazy and at worst the perpetration of intellectual fraud. And I categorically refuse to buy any book that does not include one because I don’t believe that any such book has anything whatsoever to add to the body of knowledge. If I buy the book, that sends a message that it’s okay to publish such works, and I never, ever want to do anything that could even remotely be construed as promoting the publication of such works.

Personally, I WANT the reader to see how much work went into researching and writing one of my books. I WANT the reader to see just how much effort goes into one of these projects before I ever set pen to paper. I am proud of it. Evidently, these other authors are not, which I cannot begin to comprehend.

I had included some discussion of this issue in my review, but there was not sufficient room for all of it, and most of my ranting about the lack of a bibliography had to be edited out. Instead, I figured I would share that rant with you here.

What do all of you think about books that lack bibliographies? Please share your thoughts with me here.

Continue reading

In: Rants | Tags:

10 Jan 2013, by

Good riddance!

cyclorama-building-fall-2010Here’s some more good news on the “goodbye to ugly buildings on historical ground” front….

The National Park Service is finally able to tear down the hideous Cyclorama building at Gettysburg, which was constructed in a place that never should have been chosen for it, the site of Ziegler’s Grove, in the Pickett’s Charge portion of the battlefield. The family of the architect of the hideous thing protested and dragged the National Park Service through years of needless litigation while the building continued to deteriorate. It’s finally time to be done with it.

From WITF today:

National Park Service to demolish Gettysburg Cyclorama building
Written by Craig Layne, Morning Edition Host/Reporter | Jan 10, 2013 12:21 PM

(Gettysburg) — The National Park Service has chosen to demolish an architecturally significant building on the Gettysburg battlefield.

The Cyclorama building was designed by famed architect Richard Neutra and once housed a 360-degree painting of Pickett’s Charge.

The structure, which closed in 2005, has been the center of a struggle between the park service and modern architecture experts for more than a dozen years.

In an August interview with witf, NPS spokeswoman Katie Lawhon says tearing down the building would allow the agency to restore Cemetery Ridge to the way it would have looked during the three-day Civil War clash in July 1863.

“There were actually some monuments associated with soldiers from the Union Army that had to be moved when they built the building,” Lawhon says. “So, the first thing we would do is put the monuments back where the veterans had originally placed them.”

The park service reviewed the environmental impact of destroying the building before making its decision.

The agency says demolition could begin later this winter.

The Cyclorama painting is now on display at the Gettysburg National Military Park’s visitors’ center.

The National Park Service provided this background information on the building:

Gettysburg National Military Park – Cyclorama Building Background

In 1999, the National Park Service (NPS) approved a General Management Plan for Gettysburg National Military Park (NMP) that addressed demolition of the Cyclorama building as part of a long-term plan to rehabilitate the North Cemetery Ridge to its historic 1863 battle and 1864-1938 commemorative-era appearance.

The 1962 Cyclorama building, designed by noted architect Richard Neutra, was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The adverse effect of demolishing the building was addressed in a 1999 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the NPS, the State Historic Preservation Officer and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. All mitigation in the MOA has been completed.

In 2006, the NPS was sued by the Recent Past Preservation Network and two individuals challenging the government’s compliance with both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in making the decision to demolish the Cyclorama building. The U.S. District Court found that the NPS had complied with NHPA but not NEPA and directed the NPS to undertake a “site-specific environmental analysis on the demolition of the Cyclorama Center” and to consider “non-demolition alternatives” to its demolition before “any implementing action is taken on the Center.”

Accordingly, the NPS initiated an environmental assessment (EA).

The Environmental Assessment planning process – The park prepared the EA with assistance from the regional office and with input from the Northeast Regional Solicitor’s Office and the WASO Environmental Quality Division. The EA evaluated three alternatives: the NPS preferred alternative to demolish the building; another action alternative to allow a third-party to relocate the building outside park boundaries; and the no action alternative to mothball the building in place.

The EA was released for a 30-day public review and comment period that ended on September 21, 2012. Over 1,600 pieces of correspondence were received on the EA. The majority of commenters supported demolition of the building in order to rehabilitate the battle and commemorative landscapes. All substantive comments have been addressed in consultation with the regional office and the Northeast Regional Solicitor’s Office.

No changes to the NPS preferred alternative were warranted as a result of public comment.

Next Steps – Gettysburg Foundation has funds for the demolition of the building and for most of the rehabilitation of Ziegler’s Grove. The first steps in the project will be several weeks of asbestos remediation.

Once the building is demolished, the battle and commemorative-era landscapes will be rehabilitated according to the treatment recommendations contained in the 2004 cultural landscape report (CLR) for the North Cemetery Ridge area which include returning monuments to their historic locations, rebuilding commemorative pedestrian pathways and rebuilding historic fences.

Good riddance.

Next up, the horrendous McMansion on Fleetwood Hill……

Continue reading

At the request of the Civil War Trust, I’ve written an article on the fighting for Fleetwood Hill that occurred on June 9, 1863. That article was posted today, and can be found here. I appreciate all of your help and support for our efforts to preserve THE most fought-over piece of ground on the North American continent.

You can donate here.

Continue reading

The Brandy Station Foundation has finally issued a statement about the purchase contract for Fleetwood Hill:

MAJOR NEWS: CIVIL WAR TRUST TO BUY FLEETWOOD HILL

It is my pleasure to inform you that on December 19, the Civil War Trust and Mr. Joseph A. Troilo, Jr., reached agreement for the Trust to purchase Tony Troilo’s fifty-seven acre property at the southern end of Fleetwood Hill. A link to an article from the December 21 edition of the Culpeper Star-Exponent is:

http://www.dailyprogress.com/starexponent/news/local_news/article_8eb4f41c-4af0-11e2-a40e-001a4bcf6878.html.

This agreement is the culmination of more than twenty years preservation efforts in Culpeper County. However, major work remains: now the Trust must raise $3.6 million to pay for the property. We encourage you to support the Trust with your generous donations. Also, as you know, we are holding a ball at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford on the evening of March 16, 2013, to commemorate the Battle of Kelly’s Ford. We will donate one-half of the proceeds from the ball to the Trust. So, come to the ball, have a good time, and help pay for Fleetwood Hill.

Joseph McKinney

President, Brandy Station Foundation

Let’s not break our arms patting ourselves on the back, shall we?

Let’s remember that this is the same organization that stood by and did NOTHING when Troilo started digging his recreational lake, even though McKinney had advance knowledge that he was going to do so. Let’s remember that this is the same organization that issued a statement saying that it’s okay if a local landowner wants to dig up the battlefield for his or her own purposes. And most importantly, this is the same organization that sat on its hands and did NOTHING for months while this critical parcel of land was listed for sale with a realtor. It did NOTHING to arrange for the land to be appraised, and it did NOTHING to negotiate a deal with the Civil War Trust.

In short, the BSF has once again proved the truth of what I’ve been saying here all along: the current, incompetent leadership of the BSF is not interested in battlefield preservation, and its incompetent leadership has rendered the organization entirely irrelevant.

So, while I applaud Useless Joe McKinney and the Board of Appeasers for getting on the train once it had already left the station, the fact that it wasn’t the original passenger on the train is what I find terribly troubling. You should too.

Continue reading

Grant's_horsesThis past spring, I was asked to write a short article (about 1000 words) on horses in the Civil War for The History Channel Magazine. I had less than a week to do so, but I got it done. It was supposed to appear in the January/February 2013 issue, but there has been a regime change at the magazine, and the new editorial staff decided not to use any of the articles that it had in the hopper, including my article. Lest it go to waste, I’ve decided to run it here. Enjoy.

The photo is of U.S. Grant’s three horses, Egypt (on the left), Cincinnati (in the center) and Jeff Davis (on the right), taken at Cold Harbor, Virginia in the spring of 1864.

THE LOYAL STEEDS: HORSES IN THE CIVIL WAR
By: Eric J. Wittenberg

During the era of the Civil War, 1861-1865, there were no internal combustion engines fueled by gasoline, so there were only three ways to transport men, equipment and supplies: by boat, by train, or by horse. Horses were the primary means for logistics. Horses were used by artillery, by cavalry, by infantry, and by teamsters to move men and equipment. When the Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861, there were approximately 3.4 million horses in the Northern states, and 1.7 million in the Confederate states. The border states of Missouri and Kentucky had an additional 800,000 horses. During the Civil War, the Union used over 825,000 horses for the purposes described above.

More than 1,000,000 horses and mules were killed during the Civil War. In the early days of the conflict, more horses than men were killed. Just at the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg alone, the number of horses killed was about 1,500—881 horses and mules for the Union, and 619 for the Confederacy. The toll taken on these loyal animals—upon which both sides relied heavily—was staggering, and is all too often overlooked.

Napoleon once wrote, quite correctly, that “an army moves on its stomach,” meaning that logistics are the key to the success of an army in the field. The great Union general, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, understood this well, prompting him to write, “Every opportunity at a halt during a march should be taken advantage of to cut grass, wheat, or oats and extraordinary care be taken of the horses upon which everything depends.”

The artillery relied heavily on horses, which were the primary means of moving heavy cannons from place to place. In so-called “mounted artillery”, which typically served with the infantry, the men who served those cannons either walked or rode on the caissons or limber chests, while horses and mules pulled the guns. The horses involved were usually big draft animals that were capable of bearing heavy weights. Maj. Gen. John Gibbon, who wrote the standard treatise for artillerists in the Civil War, The Artillerist’s Manual, described the ideal artillery horse:

The horse for artillery service should be from fifteen to sixteen hands high … should stand erect on his legs, be strongly built, but free in his movements; his shoulders should be large enough to give support to the collar but not too heavy; his body full, but not too long; the sides well rounded; the limbs solid with rather strong shanks, and the feet in good condition. To these qualities he should unite, as much as possible, the qualities of the saddle horse; should trot and gallop easily, have even gaits and not be skittish.

When artillery served with cavalry, it was called horse artillery, and each man had his own horse, so that the artillery could keep pace with fast-moving cavalry.

Draft animals also served to move the army’s vast wagon trains of supplies. Typically six horses or mules drew each wagon, which could be full of supplies, personal baggage, or medical supplies. Draft animals and mules also pulled ambulances, which carried wounded men from battlefields. As just one example, after the Battle of Gettysburg, a seventeen-mile long wagon train of wounded men was needed to remove the most seriously injured Confederate soldiers from the battlefield. But for the horses and mules that made it possible, these men probably would not have made it back to safety.

The most obvious use of horses in the Civil War was to carry cavalry. Cavalry featured mounted men who used their horses to move from place to place, and who could fight either mounted or dismounted. A cavalryman and his horse became a team, and men often developed deep bonds with their horses. Those horses often faced stern tasks.

Capt. George Baylor of the 12th Virginia Cavalry left this description of that close bond:

The cavalryman and his horse got very close to each other, not only physically, but also heart to heart. They ate together, slept together, marched, fought and often died together. While the rider slept, the horse cropped the grass around him and got as close up to his rider’s body as he could get. The loyal steed pushed the trooper’s head gently aside with his nose to get at the grass beneath it. By the thousands, men reposed in fields fast asleep from arduous campaigns with their horses quietly grazing beside them, and nary a cavalier was trod upon or injured by his steed.

They were so faithful and unfaltering. When the bugle sounded, they were always ready to respond, for they knew all the bugle calls. If it were saddle up, or the feed, or the water call, they were as ready to answer one as the other. And they were so noble and so brave in battle. They seemed to love the sound of the guns. The cavalryman might lie low on the neck of his horse as the missiles of death hissed about him. But the horse never flinched, except when struck.

Lo! As we should, we build monuments for our dead soldiers, for those we know, and for the unknown dead. So with the ultimate sacrifice of our lamented fallen honored upon their noble deaths, is it not also just that we recall their valiant steeds? What would you think of a monument some day, somewhere in Virginia, in honor of Lee’s noble horses?

Without the horse, there could be no cavalryman.

The lore of the Civil War is replete with famous horses. Confederate commander Gen. Robert E. Lee had his beloved Traveler. Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had his Little Sorrel. Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, who made a legendary 22-mile dash from Winchester to the battlefield at Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, rode his warhorse Rienzi. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had his Cincinnati. Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest had his King Philip, and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, the victor at Gettysburg, had his Old Baldy. These famous mounts carried their masters into battle and into legend.

In some ways, the horses that suffered and died during the Civil War were more important than the men who rode them. The Union certainly could not have prevailed in the Civil War without the horses that it relied upon so heavily.

horsestatjAs a student of cavalry operations, I’ve come to understand that a cavalryman is effectively two indivisible parts: man and horse. As stated above, without the horse, there could be no cavalryman. In many instances, the loyal horses did their duty until the could do more, collapsed and died. And for the cavalryman, it was akin to losing his best friend. The photo is of the cavalry horse monument in Middleburg, Virginia. It depicts a played out horse, weary and worn to a nub, still doing his duty.

It’s easy to forget about the sacrifices of the loyal steeds during the Civil War, and I hope that this brief article helps people to remember those sacrifices.

Continue reading

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