February, 2007

Don Caughey, a teacher who regularly visits this blog, has launched his own blog Crossed Sabers, which focuses on “the cavalry in the United States, primarily oriented on the forces of both sides during the Civil War.” Welcome to the blogosphere, Don. I’ve added a link to my blogroll.

And thanks for your very kind words about Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. They’re much appreciated.

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10 Feb 2007, by

Drew Gilpin Faust

Harvard University stands poised to appoint its first woman president, named Drew Gilpin Faust. Prof. Faust is, I am very happy to report, a Civil War historian of some distinction.

Prof. Faust has written a number of very well-regarded books on the Civil War South. Her most recent title, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, was described as “a major contribution to both Civil War historiography and women’s studies in this outstanding analysis of the impact of secession, invasion and conquest on Southern white women” by Publisher’s Weekly. She is also the author of The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South, a study of the growth of the Confederate nationalist movement.

Although Prof. Faust’s studies are not military studies, they nevertheless are devoted to the Civil War. That can only help, and I hope that here appointment heralds the coming of a new respect for the Civil War era and for the military history of that important period of American history among the halls of academia. Congratulations, Prof. Faust, and keep up the good work.

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The work I do serves two purposes. First, and foremost, it scratches my teaching itch. It’s how I fulfill my need to write, which is something of a compulsion.

It’s also intended to be something of a money-making venture. Now, I fully understand that my work is never, ever going to make any bestseller list. At the same time, doing the research, acquiring illustrations, and paying cartographers costs money. Sometimes, it costs a LOT of money. The upshot, therefore, is that I have to at least be able to break even in order for me to be able to justify the expenditure to Susan. In a perfect world, I even get to make some profit. Hopefully, I will be able to collect some decent money from the sales of the Stuart’s Ride book, which has sold very well.

I’m trying to figure out the best way to spur sales of my other titles. I’ve been talking to some web developer types about how to do just that. We’re slowly but surely coming up with some ideas about how to do this. It’s clear that I am going to have to spend some money to make some money, and I am not opposed to doing so if it appears that there will be a worthwhile rate of return for doing so.

Ultimately, there will be some changes coming to this particular web site. However, this blog will continue to exist no matter what and no matter what changes do occur. Please stay tuned.

In the interim, if anyone has any ideas about how best to drive sales of books, I will be more than happy to hear them. And thanks for your time and for continuing to indulge my rantings.

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I’ve long maintained a deep and abiding interest in Hubert “Leatherbreeches” Dilger. As a student of the Eleventh Corps, I’ve had a chance to study Dilger’s actions at both Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in some detail, and I’m convinced that there was probably no better company level artillery officer on either side during the Civil War than Dilger. Dilger’s stand in the Plank Road at Chancellorsville–just his six Napoleons against Jackson’s whole corps–is one of those wonderful stories that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Dilger was awarded a Medal of Honor for that stand, and rightly so.

He probably also should have been awarded one for his work at Gettysburg on the first day, also. His performance that day was just as spectacular. At one point, he personally sighted a gun, pulled the lanyard, and said, “I”ve spiked their gun for them.” The Confederate OR’s talk about how a Confederate gun on Oak Hill was put out of commission when it was struck on the muzzle by a Union artillery shell. That would have to be the shot fired by Dilger.

Legend also has it that Dilger fired the shot that tore Bishop Leonidas Polk apart on Pine Mountain during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign. Some recent evidence suggests it wasn’t, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Dilger did fire that shot–he was that good an artillerist.

After the war, Dilger settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where he raised a large family. One of his sons, Anton Dilger, although born in Virginia and a U. S. citizen, went to college and medical school in Germany. Anton spent an idyllic childhood on the family farm in Virginia. Like his father, Anton was a superb horseman. Anton Dilger, physician, U. S. citizen, and fiercely loyal to the Fatherland, became a useful tool. He was recruited by the German government and sent back to the U. S. to act as an agent provacateur.

Taking up residence a scant six miles from the White House, Anton Dilger’s task was to develop and implement a campaign of biological warfare against his own country. Specifically, he was sent to the United States to engage in germ warfare against his countrymen. His target would be the horses and cattle supplied to the Allied armies by the then-neutral United States, and Dilger set about cultivating anthrax bacteria and Pseudomonas mallei, the germ that causes glanders, a crippling equine disease. Fortunately, Dilger’s scheme failed and his plot was unsuccessful. He died of the Spanish flu at age 34 during the global pandemic of 1918.

Anton Dilger’s nefarious scheme has been documented in a new book by a journalist named Robert Koenig titled The Fourth Horseman: One Man’s Secret Campaign to Fight the Great War in America. I first learned about this book from a post on David Woodbury’s blog (thanks for making me aware of this book, David) and ran out and bought a copy. I’m working my way through it.

It’s really a fascinating read. Koenig focuses on German issues, and writes well. He made good use of surviving members of the Dilger family, and has done a good job of telling the story. His Civil War materials are not entirely accurate; he relied on a biography of Hubert Dilger written by one of Leatherbreeches’ great grandsons, and it’s not particularly accurate in its telling of the story of Dilger’s Civil War service. If you can get beyond that–and I highly recommend doing so–it’s a fabulous story and filled with lessons that have to be learned. That a foreign agent could do this kind of work–and nearly succeed–literally in the shadow of the White House is a terrifying prospect at best. And that the son of a true American hero–a Medal of Honor winner–could act as a saboteur for a foreign government is even more unfathomable.

I highly recommend this book. It’s filled with important but chilling lessons with an amazing connection to the Civil War.

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My self-imposed break of several months has about run out of steam. After several months of absolutely no motivation, I’m finally starting to feel motivated to get back to work. So, I think that the plan is to get back to work tomorrow night, after one more night of goofing off to watch the Super Bowl. Tomorrow night, I start working on my Boyd article in earnest. And there’s other stuff backed up in the queue behind it. So, I guess I’d better get back at it…..

The break was much needed. I feel much more motivated about things, and I feel much more prepared to face the pile of accumulated projects.

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Yesterday, I got a call from JD, asking me if I had received a letter in yesterday’s mail accusing us of plagiarism of our work on the charge of the 1st Delaware Cavalry at Westminster, Maryland on June 29, 1863. Specifically, we were accused of plagiarising an unpublished manuscript on these events written by correspondent, submitted to the Carroll County, Maryland Historical Society, but never published by them. Neither JD nor I had ever even heard of the manuscript, let alone seeing it. In short, we’ve been accused of stealing from a manuscript we’ve never seen.

Neat trick, eh? I’ve often wished that I was good at mind-reading; I know my wife wishes I was a mind-reader when it comes to her. 🙂

However, it’s never been one of my talents, and try as I might, I am utterly unable to read long distance by osmosis–and take verbatim–pieces of a manuscript that I not only have never seen, but had never even heard of prior to reading this individual’s letter. The basis for the claim was our using the moniker “the John Burns of Westminster” to describe civilian Francis Shriver, who joined the 1st Delaware Cavalry in fighting Fitz Lee’s Virginians, and because we made use of several unpublished manuscript sources.

Well, a descendant of Shriver wrote a book about his family’s role in the Civil War that was published by Heritage Books of Westminster, Maryland, and we got that particular moniker from Shriver book. As for the unpublished manuscript sources, well, let’s see….there is a copy of one of them in the archives of the Gettysburg National Military Park, which is where we discovered it. I found another by doing a Google search and then having a friend go to the Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware to go get the manuscript material for me, and the final material came from another published source.

So, here’s the deal: we got all of our sources from fair and legitimate sources. Neither JD nor I have ever even heard of this manuscript, let alone having seen it. It is, therefore, entirely impossible for us to have plagiarized something we’ve never even seen. Needless to say, receiving this letter really pissed us both off. We combined forces to draft a response that is firm, professional, but quite insistent that we did absolutely NOTHING wrong.

We’ve both come to the conclusion that this guy–who claims to have spent forty years researching these events–is really pissed that we stole his thunder by publishing a well-respected account of the episode and beat him to the punch. All I can say is that it’s not our fault that the Carroll County Historical Society elected not to publish his manuscript–and there must be a reason for that–and that he’s angry that someone else is getting the credit for conducting good scholarship and writing a good account that made its way into print. So, instead of accepting that he might have had something to do with his own failure, it must, therefore, be our fault and we must have plagiarized a manuscript we never saw to do so.

Needless to say, this really pisses me off. I guess it’s the price of doing this sort of work, doing it well, and stealing someone else’s thunder in the process.

I’m sorry you feel that way, but it’s not my fault. Get over it.

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