December, 2006

31 Dec 2006, by

Happy New Year!

Susan joins me in wishing each of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2007. Let’s hope that it’s a better year than 2006.

2007 brings us one year closer to being rid of Skippy Bush, and hopefully, the troops will be coming home in 2007. They never had any business being in Iraq, and it’s time to bring them home.


Scridb filter

Continue reading

This is another in my series of periodic profiles of forgotten cavalrymen.

Only one officer of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry achieved the rank of brevet brigadier general during the Civil War. Twenty-three-year-old Charles Lewis Leiper was the regiment’s final colonel.

Leiper signed up in the fall of 1862 when Companies L and M of the Lancers were recruited. He had no formal military training, and joined as a lieutenant. He quickly distinguished himself with his courage and his leadership. Leiper, now a captain, was badly wounded during the charge for the Confederate horse artillery at St. James Church during the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863 when he was slashed over the head by a Southern saber. “He fought like a Turk with pistol and sabre, and was surrounded and disarmed, but still stuck to his horse and striking with his fists finally broke away and escaped,” praised his commanding officer, Maj. Henry C. Whelan.

Fighting at Brandy Station once again on August 1, 1863, Leiper led another heroic saber charge. “I remember seeing Leiper lead a sabre charge at Culpeper on the 1st of August 1863 which was one of the most gallant I ever saw,” observed Capt. William M. Graham, commander of the battery of Union horse artillery attached to the Reserve Brigade.

The 6th Pennsylvania suffered terrible losses at the battle of Todd’s Tavern on May 7, 1864. At the end of the day, Leiper, the most senior unwounded officer in the regiment, ended up in command as a captain. He remained in command for a couple of weeks until Maj. James H. Starr returned to duty from a terrible wound. He then suffered another serious wound in the Battle of Yellow Tavern, four days later. Capt. Charles L. Leiper was badly wounded in the right foot “while with his usual intrepidity he was leading his regiment into action,” reported Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt, leaving Capt. J. Hinckley Clark of Company M in command of the regiment.

When Leiper returned to duty that fall, he received a promotion to major. Within days, he was in command of the regiment, and held that command for the rest of the war. In the winter of 1865, he was promoted to colonel, only the second colonel the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry ever had. In that capacity, he led his troopers in their final actions, at Dinwiddie Court House and Five Forks on March 31 and April 1, 1865.

Leiper received a brevet to brigadier general in recognition of his services during the war, the only member of the Lancers to achieve this distinction.

Charles L. Leiper’s military career ended with his discharge in 1865. Leiper was just twenty-two years old. He became a successful manufacturer of textiles and owned his own business. He was active in various veterans’ associations, including the Grand Army of the Republic and MOLLUS. He served as the president of the Rush’s Lancers alumni association for many years, and was also very active in various civic associations in and around Philadelphia.

Leiper died on May 14, 1899, and was buried at Middletown Presbyterian Churchyard, in Delaware County. Many of his former comrades in arms attended his funeral. His active and honorary pallbearers were all former members of the Lancers, including Charles E. Cadwalader, M.D., Frank Dorsey, William W. Frazier, Frank Furness, Michael Golden, William J. Roney, W. W. Sweisfort, George Sykes, William Treas, William P. C. Treichel, John Wagner, and William Redwood Wright,. Furness designed a handsome granite monument to mark the grave.

The monument contains the following inscription: “1861-1865—Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry Lancers. In memory of Brevet Brigadier General Charles L. Leiper, Colonel Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry. Erected by surviving members of the regiment, May 1900.” It was one of Furness’ finest works. More than two thousand people attended the dedication of the monument, including most of the surviving members of the regiment.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

John F. Kennedy was president of the United States when I was born in March 1961.  I was 2 1/2 when JFK was assassinated, and I have no memories of him at all, other than a very vague recollection of seeing his body being carried on a horse-drawn caisson on his way to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.  I was 7 when Lyndon Johnson left office.  I have some memories of LBJ, most notably his big ears and Texas drawl.  Most of those memories are associated with the space program; like most kids who grew up in the 1960’s, I was fascinated by the space program.

I have lots of memories of Nixon.  I remember the telephone call to the Apollo 11 astronauts.  I particularly remember the trip to China and the meetings with Chou en-Lai and Mao Tse Tung.  I remember the trip to Moscow and the meeting with Brezhnev.  And I remember Watergate. 

I was 13 years old on the night of August 9, 1974.  I had been following the development of the Watergate scandal with as much interest as a 13-year-old could muster, but I was always keenly aware of the importance of history.  I knew that something important–something unprecedented–was going to happen that warm summer night, and I remember sitting on the living room floor with my battery-operated cassette tape recorder, tape recording Richard M. Nixon’s resignation speech.  The next day–my father’s 54th birthday–I watched his farewell speech to his staff, and then watched him climb aboard Marine 1 to fly away. 

I then watched as Vice President Ford swore the oath of office and became the 38th President of the United States.  And I heard him declare, “Our long national nightmare is over.”  I was fifteen, not quite sixteen, when Jerry Ford left the White House 893 days after swearing that oath. 

Gerald R. Ford was a decent, honest man who stood at the threshold of history that day, the star player in the country’s greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War.  He had never sought the office he took, and he was keenly aware of the fact that he had not been elected to it.  After the secrecy and corruption of the Nixon Administration, he was a breath of fresh air.  When he left office, he had restored faith in the presidency and in our constitution. 

Many believe he lost his re-election bid due to the controversial pardon he gave Richard Nixon.  But history has proven that Jerry Ford was right: the prosecution of the ex-president would have prevented the wounds from healing and would have perpetuated the harm done by Nixon.  What Ford did–and he understood that it would be controversial–was an act of conscience and an act of courage, and he was right.  In 1997, he was awarded a Profiles in Courage Award for his act, a recognition of how right he was.

My antipathy for Skippy Bush is well-known and need not be repeated here.  I normally wouldn’t agree with him even if he said today was Tuesday.  However, today, he got it right, and I wholeheartedly agree with him.  Ford, said Bush, was a “man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts” and helped restore faith in the presidency after the Watergate scandal.

“On Aug. 9, 1974, he stepped into the presidency without ever having sought the office,” Bush said. “He assumed power in a period of great division and turmoil. For a nation that needed healing and for an office that needed a calm and steady hand, Gerald Ford came along when we needed him most.”  Bush correctly said that Ford “reflected the best in America’s character,” and then concluded, quite correctly, “Our 38th president will always have a special place in our nation’s history.”

I doubt that Gerald Ford will be remembered as a great president.  As Brian Dirck correctly notes, he deserves better than to be lumped in with the Chester A. Arthurs and Martin Van Burens of history.  We’ve had much worse presidents than Jerry Ford, not the least of whom is the present occupant of the White House.  At the end of the day, Gerald Ford was an honest, open, humble public servant who restored the nation’s faith in its government at a moment of unparalleled constitutional crisis.  He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, and while he may not have been a great president, he was, in the end, a great man.  And that’s not such a bad legacy to leave behind.

Rest in peace, Mr. President.  You’ve earned it, and the love and respect of your fellow countrymen.


Scridb filter

Continue reading

After a brief stint as a lieutenant in the Austrian 10th Hussars, Louis Edward Nolan was commissioned a cornet in the King’s 15th Hussars, and later purchased his lieutenancy in 1841. He eventually became his regimental riding master and purchased his captaincy in 1850. He spent the next several years studying cavalry tactics and logistics throughout Europe, and wrote two important and well-regarded treatises–one on remounts for the cavalry, and the other a study of cavalry tactics and history. The second book was published in 1853.

Captain Nolan carried the fateful order from Lord Raglan to Lord Lucan to charge a battery of artillery at the Battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War in 1854. That set into motion a series of events that led to a monumental error being committed and the wrong battery being charged by the Light Brigade. Nolan was killed during the charge, and is one of the scapegoats for the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Westholme Publishing has just brought out a brand new edition of Nolan’s 1853 classic Cavalry: Its History and Tactics. The book has an excellent and informative new introduction by Prof. Jon Coulston of St. Andrews University in Scotland.

For those interested in the evolution of American cavalry tactics and doctrine, this book is a must-read. Nolan’s text became one of the principal treatises on doctrine and tactics for the mounted arms of the British and American armies. Philip St. George Cooke incorporated some of those tactics into his 1860 treatise on single-rank cavalry tactics. For those interested in the Charge of the Light Brigade, the history of mounted operations, and the evolution of tactics, this book is indispensable.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

To all of my regular readers, Susan and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a delightful Festivus to all. I hope Santa was good to all of you, and that your stockings were filled with lots of good books and no lumps of coal. 🙂

Time to go set up the aluminum pole, followed by airing of grievances, and finally, by the feats of strength…..

Scridb filter

Continue reading

While at Barnes & Noble today, I finally had a chance to get a look at a book I’d heard about and which held a certain amount of interest for me due to its subject matter. I’d heard that George Walsh had a new book out titled Those Damn Horse Soldiers: True Tales of the Civil War Cavalry. The book is intended to be a one-volume study of Civil War cavalry operations. I had high hopes for it.

Instead, what I got was EVERYTHING that I hate most about Civil War books. The book is VERY broad brushstrokes overview, attempting to cover all Civil War cavalry operations in 480 pages. It covers the period 1862-1865, and tries to cover all theaters of the war. That, by definition, means that the book cannot provide the sort of detailed examination that I would otherwise expect out of this kind of a book. The discussion of the Battle of Brandy Station covers a total of six pages. A fourteen hour long battle that was the biggest cavalry battle ever fought on the North American continent, and it gets six pages. There is no depth and no analysis. It’s just a narrative. I guess that’s okay, but there is absolutely no substance to the book.

The book has no bibliography. That, in and of itself, precludes it from the list of books I would ever considering purchasing. The lack of a bibliography permits the author to hide the lack of substantive research since there’s no recital of what sources were reviewed. The last book I reviewed that had no bibliography was Carhart’s festering pile of turds. I had the same reaction then, too.

I had a chance to take a look at the end notes. They’re quite spare, and what notes there are cite mainly to secondary sources. More than half of them cite to secondary sources. The rest are to readily available published primary sources such as the Official Records, the Southern Historical Society Papers and other similar sources. There were no references to any unpublished manuscript material whatsoever or to any newspaper sources. Few of the published primary sources are particular rare or difficult to find. In short, it is clear that the author did almost no research of any depth, and that what research he did was shallow at best.

There is not one single map in the book. Given the fact that it addresses several dozen actions (albeit not in any depth), unless the reader is familiar with those actions on his or her own, the readder will get absolutely no guidance or assistance in understanding these events from maps. In my humble opinion, books can never have enough maps, and the failure to include them is indicative of either extreme cheapness on the part of the publisher, laziness on the part of the author, or, worse yet, a combination of the both.

Finally, there is not a single illustration anywhere in the book. Again, given the numerous personalities who pop in and out of the story along the way, being able to match up a face with the name is an extremely useful and helpful thing, but there’s not a single illustration to be found. Again, that represents either chintiziness on the part of the publisher, laziness on the part of the author, or some very unpleasant combination of both.

Another thing interested me. There are five blurbs on the back of the dust jacket. Two of them pertain to other books by the same author. The other three are about this book, but none of them are by anyone known or recognized as an authority on the Civil War. One of them is by the novelist Steven Coonts, best known for writing techno-thrillers. I have never heard of the other two blurbists. That nobody know as being a Civil War expert was asked to endorse this book ought to tell you everything you need to know about it.

Save your money. Don’t buy this book. If you want an overview of Civil War cavalry operations, your money will be better spent on Samuel Carter’s excellent 1982 book The Last Cavaliers: Confederate and Union Cavalry in the Civil War or Stephen Z. Starr’s classic three-volume set, The Union Cavalry in the Civil War

Scridb filter

Continue reading

We stopped by Barnes & Noble earlier today, largely because we got a coupon we wanted to take advantage of using. I took the opportunity to check the magazine section and got a very pleasant surprise.

The new issues of America’s Civil War and Civil War Times came out pretty much simultaneously. Our work is featured in both.

Civil War Times features an article by JD and me on the charges of the 11th New York Cavalry (Scott’s 900) at Fairfax Court House and the 1st Delaware Cavalry at Westminster, MD that delayed Stuart’s march to Gettysburg by a full day between them. The article is the cover article for the magazine and gives our work a real spotlight. The article is extracted from two chapters of our book.

America’s Civil War includes a review of Plenty of Blame to Go Around by old friend Jeff Wert. It’s the featured review for the issue, and there’s a large, full-color image of the dust jacket. Fortunately, Jeff liked the book and gave it a very favorable review.

So, between the two magazines, it constitutes an embarrassment of riches for us, and will, undoubtedly, sell a few more books for us. The next issue of Gettysburg Magazine which is presently at the printer, includes an article by JD and me on Corbit’s Charge at Westminster, MD on June 29 that is THE most detailed treatment of that episode ever published (it has stuff in it that the book does not include), so that will be yet another showcase for the book.

We’ve been very fortunate to get so many good showcases and to have received so many wonderful reviews. Our publisher has already told us that a third hardcover printing of the book is in the works, so we’re very fortunate indeed.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Regular reader and fellow lawyer Randy Sauls, who lives in Goldsboro, NC, is the founder of the Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Association. Randy has every reason in the world to be extremely proud of himself and of his organization.

In December 1862, Union General John G. Foster led 12,000 Union soldiers on a foray out of New Bern intended to destroy a vital railroad bridge over the Neuse River. 2,000 Confederate defenders awaited them. On December 17, 1862, the action occurred. Although Clingman’s Confederates fought valiantly and delayed Foster’s advance, the vastly larger Union force evetually overpowered the Southern defenders and the bridge was burned. Foster then returned to New Bern on December 20. The bridge was rebuilt within a matter of a few days and the railroad restored to service.

The battlefield languished for decades. About ten years ago, the county acquired 32 acres of the battlefield, and Randy and his group raised money and spent years developing those 32 acres into a nice little battlefield park. Randy sent along photos, and it appears that he and his group have done a first rate job of it. Their battlefield park was dedicated on December 13. The park features a Civil War Trails marker, four other interpretive markers, a restored fence lines, a walking trail, and a gravel parking lot. This project, accomplished with private dollars, clearly was a labor of love for Randy and his merry band. My friend Wade Sokolosky’s Confederate ancestor was killed in action during this fight, and Wade–a lieutenant colonel on active duty in the United States Army–was present in the uniform of a Confederate private.

Randy invited me to the dedication ceremony, and I would have loved to have made it. However, it was just a few days after Susan’s knee surgery, and I would not have felt comfortable leaving her under the circumstances. Consequently, I reluctantly passed on the invitation, even though I would have loved to have been there and to have been a part of their success.

Kudos to Randy and his gang for a first-rate job, and for providing us with a textbook illustration of how a group can accomplish a lot without a lot of public money while still preserving our heritage and history. I’m looking forward to visiting the battlefield in May, when we have our annual North Carolina vacation.

North Carolina seems to spawn these groups. The most notable one, of course, is the Averasboro Battlefield Commission, which has done a magnificent job with almost no public money. The folks in Kinston are trying to do something similar with the First Kinston and Wyse’s Fork battlefields through their Historical Preservation Group, and I likewise commend their efforts.

It seems to me that the rest of us could learn something from the success of these groups in the Old North State.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

The wonderful news contained in this press release came to me via e-mail:


After 20 months of debate, the Control Board concludes that Gettysburg and gambling don’t mix.

(Harrisburg, Pa., 12/20/2006) – During a public hearing today, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board rejected a proposal to build a 3,000-machine slots parlor one mile from the Gettysburg Battlefield.  James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), issued the following statement in the wake of the vote:

“This is a great day for Gettysburg and for preservationists throughout the nation.  By not allowing gambling to encroach on this famous town and battlefield, Pennsylvania has sent a clear message that it cares deeply for its historic treasures.  It is no exaggeration to say that this is the most significant battlefield preservation victory since the defeat of Disney’s proposed theme park at Manassas in the early 1990s.

“Together with the many thousands of Americans who have anxiously awaited this decision for some 20 months, I applaud the members of the Gaming Control Board and thank them for recognizing that Gettysburg and gambling don’t mix.

“I also want to thank the tireless volunteers of No Casino Gettysburg and recognize the work of our other partners in the Stop the Slots Coalition.  There is no question that this victory was a team effort.

“I sincerely hope this vote will serve to motivate preservationists to redouble their efforts to save the remainder of the Gettysburg Battlefield before it is lost forever.  The casino proposal itself was merely a symptom of a larger development problem plaguing Gettysburg and many other Civil War battlefield communities.  The Civil War Preservation Trust is committed to working with other preservation groups to protect the Gettysburg battleground.”

Since the Gettysburg slots parlor was first proposed in April 2005, CWPT has been one of the leading voices against the casino.  Earlier this year, the organization identified Gettysburg as one of the most endangered battlefields in the nation because of the slots proposal.  CWPT members collected more than 34,000 signatures in opposition to the casino.  Together with the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, No Casino Gettysburg and Preservation Pennsylvania, CWPT is proud to be a member of the Stop the Slots Coalition.

The Civil War Preservation Trust is a 70,000-member nonprofit battlefield preservation organization.  Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites.  Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 23,000 acres of hallowed ground throughout the United State, including 697 acres in and around Gettysburg.  CWPT’s website is located at

It’s so reassuring to find that, for once, the bureaucrats got it right and put the interests of the voting public and of history ahead of the interests of big money.  I thought for sure that this was a done deal, and it came as a happy and very pleasant surprise to learn that, for a change, my cynicism was not well-taken.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

So, here’s the bottom line…I am presently suffering from a horrific case of severe motivational deficit. Since Susan blew out her knee on October 19, I just don’t have any motivation to get anything productive done. Blogging has been about the most productive thing I’ve been able to force myself to do. Beyond that, with having to watch the dogs, handling much of the household stuff, my workload at the office, and everything else that’s been going on in my life, I just don’t much feel like doing anything productive in the Civil War arena.

I SHOULD be working on my article on William H. Boyd in the Gettysburg Campaign, but there’s no motivation to be productive. I continue to tweak the Dahlgren manuscript in my ongoing effort to get it wrapped up, but that seems to be the limit of what I feel like doing. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been extremely productive all year and I need a break. Maybe it’s the holiday doldrums. Maybe it’s a combination of both. Who knows.

The point is that I’m having serious issues with getting anything productive accomplished. I should be bothered by it, but I’m not. I guess that’s a pretty good indicator that I need a break. I’m hoping that I will be able to get myself cranked back up after the first of the year. Stay tuned.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

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