December, 2007

31 Dec 2007, by

Happy New Year

Susan, Nero, Aurora, and I all join to wish each and every one of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2008.

We had 265 posts and 1,737 comments this year, meaning that 2007 was a productive year ’round these parts. Thanks to all who make this site part of your daily ritual.

There will be more rantings to come in the new year……

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I’m a cav guy. That’s no secret. In fact, cavalry operations interest me most of all. I find the evolution of tactics fascinating, and I likewise find the changing role of the cavalry in the Civil War to be one of the most interesting studies of the evolution of military doctrine I’ve yet found.

By 1864, as a consequence of changing technology, weaponry, tactics, and the emergence of competent leadership, cavalry doctrine had changed substantially from where it was at the beginning of the war. By late 1864, large mounted forces began acting as independent commands, almost like a mounted army. Each side featured one such force. Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson’s mounted army tore the guts out of the Deep South in the winter and spring of 1865, establishing the prototype for the modern armored force.

The Confederate force was commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price. Price cobbled together a 12,000 man army in the summer and fall of 1864, mounted the entire force, and set off on a raid into Missouri that was intended to threaten St. Louis. His command included the cavalry forces of J.O. Shelby and John Marmaduke, both pretty good horse soldiers. Unfortunately, Price was no Marshal Murat, and he suffered three major defeats during this campaign, at Pilot Knob, Westport, and Mine Creek. During the latter two actions, Westport and Mine Creek, Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, who had been banished to the West in the spring of 1864 after he testified against George Gordon Meade before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, played an integral role in those Union victories.

During this time in the Eastern Theater, Pleasonton was never known as a battlefield commander, and he certainly was never known as a lead from the front kind of guy. However, when he got to the west, he suddenly became a very effective battlefield commander, and in the engagements at both Westport and Mine Creek, he did extremely well, managing significant battlefield victories over Price’s forces. These actions were clearly Alfred Pleasonton’s finest moments in the Civil War. In fact, the town of Pleasanton, Kansas (misspelling and all) was named for him.

J. D., Mike Nugent and I like to have the occasional cav fest, as we like to call them. We go and do some very serious battlefield stomping, focusing pretty much exclusively on cavalry actions/battlefields. We study the terrain and the tactics, and we learn as much as we can while we’re on the ground. We’re looking to do a Price’s Raid cav fest some time during 2008. We can fly into Kansas City from Columbus for next to nothing on Skybus, rent a car, and spend several days stomping these battlefields. We’re also going to try to squeeze in a visit to the U. S. Cavalry Museum at Fort Riley, Kansas, a place none of us has visited but all wish to.

It seems to me that a study of Price’s Missouri Raid with a visit to Fort Riley will make for a truly excellent cav fest.

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For years and years, there was only one full-length biography of Wade Hampton, written in the 1940’s by Manly Wade Wellman titled Giant in Gray: A Biography of Wade Hampton of South Carolina. Although it was an early biography and clearly biased toward the Southern perspective, it nevertheless gave full coverage to both Hampton’s military career during the Civil War as well as his long-running post-war political career. This book’s weaknesses are its obvious lack of objectivity, and its failure to take advantage of unpublished manuscript material.

The last few years have seen a sudden explosion of new biographies of Hampton. The first one, by Ed Longacre, is titled Gentleman and Soldier: A Biography of Wade Hampton, III. Longacre’s biography, published in 2003, provides the best coverage of Hampton’s military service of any of the books. It’s well written and well-researched (I gave Ed some material for the project). Its coverage of Hampton’s political career is not as strong, which is this book’s weakness. The second one, by Walter Brian Cisco, titled Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior, Conservative Statesman, was published in 2004. Like Wellman, Cisco is a Southerner, and his book is a bit controversial. It has some focus on Hampton’s military career, but its primary focus is Hampton’s political career, examined in exhaustive detail. Unfortunately, Cisco is a Southern apologist, and his book’s most significant flaw is that it fails to recognize any of Hampton’s human foibles (note: I reviewed the manuscript when the publisher was deciding whether to accept it for publication and blurbed it on the dust jacket, something that I now regret a bit, as I have since learned that there are inaccuracies in it). In short, if you combined the strengths of Longacre’s book and the strengths of Cisco’s book, you would have the perfect biography of Hampton.

Robert K. Ackerman, a retired history professor, is the latest to pitch into the fray. His new biography of Hampton, published by Hampton’s alma mater, the University of South Carolina Press, earlier this year, is titled simply Wade Hampton, III. This book has the advantage of having been written by a trained, seasoned academic historian, and it reads well. The problem with Ackerman’s book is that its coverage of Hampton’s military career is superficial at best. In a 340 page book, only about 30 pages are devoted to Hampton’s Civil War career, and the rest to his political career. The coverage of the Battle of Trevilian Station, Hampton’s finest moment in command of the Army of Northern Virginia’s Cavalry Corps, gets three sentences. There is not a single map to be found anywhere in the discussion of Hampton’s Civil War service, and no detail to speak of, either. Although it does address the impact of the combat deaths of Hampton’s son and brother on the general, it doesn’t give any detail upon which to evaluate the impact Hampton had on the Confederacy; arguably, Hampton’s victory at Trevilian Station bought the Confederacy another eight months of life, but there is no mention of this to be found.

The good news is that this book does provide the most fair and balanced coverage of Hampton’s post-war political career yet written. As just one example, it provides the best discussion of the falling out between Hampton and one of his erstwhile followers, Martin W. Gary, of the four published books. It also gives some of the best coverage and discussion of the relationship between Wade Hampton and his true protege, Matthew C. Butler. For that, it is worthwhile. However, I find it interesting that, unlike the other three published biographies of Hampton, the choice of cover art for the book is not Hampton as soldier, but rather a painting of Hampton in very old age. That probably says more about this book than anything else.

Thus, the door remains wide open for the definitive biography of Wade Hampton. Fortunately, there is one yet to be published in this barrage of Hamptonmania. Prof. Rod Andrew, Jr. of Clemson University has his book, Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior to Southern Redeemer, due out next. Rod’s book will be published by the University of North Carolina Press next April. I gave Rod a fair amount of material for use in his book and also spent some time discussing things with him while he was writing it. Knowing the biography series published by the University of North Carolina’s Press, I am very hopeful that Rod’s book–the last of the four–will end up being the most comprehensive of all and will give both aspects of Hampton’s life the coverage that they deserve.

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Daniel Mallock maintains a blog called Books, Film & Music, which includes a nice hodgepodge of information on a variety of subjects. Dan, a transplanted Northerner, has made his first foray into posting on the Civil War with a really outstanding summary of the Battle of Franklin, which I commend to you. It’s probably the best concise summary of this fascinating battle I’ve seen yet.

If Dan continues to post this level of quality material on the Civil War, I will have to find a place for him in the blogroll. 🙂

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Well, you’ve heard me talk about the retreat book plenty here. Sorry to keep banging away at it, but the book now has an official write-up on and on the distributor’s web site. Here is the write-up:

The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863
Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, & Michael F. Nugent

The titanic three-day battle of Gettysburg left 50,000 casualties in its wake, a battered Southern army far from its base of supplies, and a rich historiographic legacy. Thousands of books and articles cover nearly every aspect of the battle, but not a single volume focuses on the military aspects of the monumentally important movements of the armies to and across the Potomac River. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is the first detailed military history of Lee’s retreat and the Union effort to catch and destroy the wounded Army of Northern Virginia.

Against steep odds and encumbered with thousands of casualties, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee’s post-battle task was to successfully withdraw his army across the Potomac River. Union commander George G. Meade’s equally difficult assignment was to intercept the effort and destroy his enemy. The responsibility for defending the exposed Southern columns belonged to cavalry chieftain James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart. If Stuart fumbled his famous ride north to Gettysburg, his generalship during the retreat more than redeemed his flagging reputation.

The ten days of retreat triggered nearly two dozen skirmishes and major engagements, including fighting at Granite Hill, Monterey Pass, Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro, and Falling Waters. President Abraham Lincoln was thankful for the early July battlefield victory, but disappointed that General Meade was unable to surround and crush the Confederates before they found safety on the far side of the Potomac. Exactly what Meade did to try to intercept the fleeing Confederates, and how the Southerners managed to defend their army and ponderous 17-mile long wagon train of wounded until crossing into western Virginia on the early morning of July 14, is the subject of this study.

One Continuous Fight draws upon a massive array of documents, letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and published primary and secondary sources. These long-ignored foundational sources allow the authors, each widely known for their expertise in Civil War cavalry operations, to describe carefully each engagement. The result is a rich and comprehensive study loaded with incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern and Northern cavalry, and fresh insights on every engagement, large and small, fought during the retreat.

The retreat from Gettysburg was so punctuated with fighting that a soldier felt compelled to describe it as “One Continuous Fight.” Until now, few students fully realized the accuracy of that description. Complimented with 18 original maps, dozens of photos, and a complete driving tour with GPS coordinates of the entire retreat, One Continuous Fight is an essential book for every student of the American Civil War in general, and for the student of Gettysburg in particular.

About the Authors: Eric J. Wittenberg has written widely on Civil War cavalry operations. His books include Glory Enough for All (2002), The Union Cavalry Comes of Age (2003), and The Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads and the Civil War’s Final Campaign (2005). He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

J. David Petruzzi is the author of several magazine articles on Eastern Theater cavalry operations, conducts tours of cavalry sites of the Gettysburg Campaign, and is the author of the popular “Buford’s Boys” website at Petruzzi lives in Brockway, Pennsylvania.

A long time student of the Gettysburg Campaign, Michael Nugent is a retired US Army Armored Cavalry Officer and the descendant of a Civil War Cavalry soldier. He has previously written for several military publications. Nugent lives in Wells, Maine.

Ted Savas writes a pretty good book description. 🙂

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I hope that everyone had a great Christmas and/or Festivus. Susan and I spent the day as we always do: a movie and dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant. From my perspective, the best thing was having four days in a row off to recharge my desperately drained mental batteries. I really needed the break.

Unfortunately, I spent a fair portion of those four days once again fighting the neo-Confederate wars. I spend a fair amount of time posting on the Armchair General forum boards. I enjoy the interaction with most of the people there, many of whom are extremely knowledgeable. Over the course of the past days, a clown calling himself Thomas Jefferson has been there espousing the Lost Cause and loudly beating his neo-Confederate drum, whether anyone wants to hear it or not.

Never in my life have I ever encountered anyone more enamored of the sound of his own voice than is this clown. He actually has deluded himself that his Lost Cause rants are something novel, and that he’s come up with some new angle on a debate that’s been raging since the end of the Civil War. He won’t listen to reason, he refuses to acknowledge that anyone but him has a point, and he insists on using insulting and offensive language, even when asked to stop. The moderator for the Civil War forum pitched into the fray with me, and we stood side by side trying to hold back the neo-Confederate onslaught.

Unfortunately, he wore us down. We both reached the point where we were worn out by making the same argument ad nauseum for the 58th time. One can only hear the same nonsense spouted persistently and endlessly for so long before you reach a point of throwing up your hands in frustration and saying “enough!” I only have so much time for such stuff, and I finally reached my breaking point with the guy and kind of blew a gasket. I started posting things like “shut up already–nobody wants to hear what you have to say.”

When that didn’t do the trick, I posted this earlier today:


Perhaps you might consider that I have better things to do with my time than to waste it in an unproductive dialogue with you, particularly when you’ve made it clear that (a) you are not interested in anything but hearing the sound of your own voice and (b) you don’t have a sufficient level of respect for me to cease and desist from using a term that I have told you that I find to be pejorative and offensive, and which I politely asked you to cease using.

Given that particular combination, I have made a conscious decision to make better use of what little free time I have than to waste it on the likes of you.

I’m finished with you and with this.

Perhaps if you learn to show a little respect, I might change my mind. However, until then, please feel free to forget that I exist.


And I am indeed finished with him. However, as Sir Winston said, “We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end…We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender…”

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Susan, Nero, and Aurora join me in wishing each and every one of you happy holidays. Merry Christmas to all, happy Kwanzaa to those to whom it applies, and to the rest, a joyous Festivus.

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Since this is the holiday season, and giving is better than receiving, I thought I would take a moment to pass along a few holiday gift wishes. They are presented in no particular order.

–To the Civil War Preservation Trust, I wish for you unlimited funds for the continuation of the good work that you do.

–To Jenny Goellnitz, I wish for you a lifetime of Hodge-free robust good health. I have many battlefields yet to show you.

–To Michael Aubrecht, I wish for you the joy of nights of sleep uninterrupted by Jackson’s cries.

–To Duane Siskey, I wish for you a lifetime of joy living on the battlefield in Gettysburg.

–To George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, I wish for you the impeachments that you so richly deserve.

–To Dana Shoaf, I wish for you an unlimited supply of great articles for your magazines.

–To Drew Wagenhoffer, I wish for you a huge supply of great Civil War books for your insightful reviews.

–To Mannie Gentile, I wish for you a full-time ranger position. I can’t think of anyone more worthy.

–To Ted Savas, I wish for you another year of great Civil War books marked by record, unprecedented sales.

–To Al Ovies, I wish for you to have ample time to finish your excellent work on Custer and Merritt, which I believe will be a very significant contribution to the body of knowledge.

–To Clark B. “Bud” Hall, I hope that this will be the year when you tell me that your Brandy Station manuscript is done and on its way to me for review and comment.

–To Kevin Levin, I wish for you a year of continued success in fighting the good fight against the neo-Confederates of the world. I can’t fight that fight alone.

–To Steve Basic, I wish for you a great year where you finally get to enjoy life for its own sake and not because you’re too busy taking care of someone else.

–To all U. S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wish for you safety and a very quick return home.

–To my brothers in arms J. D. Petruzzi and Mike Nugent, I wish for you the gift of multiple printings of One Continuous Fight.

–To the rest of my fellow Civil War bloggers, I wish for you another year of perseverance and satisfaction in knowing that others care enough about what you might have to say to give their time to read your words.

–To Jim Schmidt, I wish for you the joy of seeing your first book in print.

–To my father, I wish for you a few more good years of happiness and health before you leave us.

–To Ted Alexander, I wish for you continued success at losing weight. You’ve already made great progress, and all of your friends are proud of you.

–To Dimitri Rotov, I wish for you the continued gift of insight and commentary and for you to keep the rest of us honest.

–To Stan O’Donnell, I wish for you to learn that you have some familiar new neighbors in the mansion next door.

–To Brian Downey and Harry Smeltzer, I wish for you continued success with your very ambitious projects to bring quality digital history to the Internet.

–To Tonia “Teej” Smith, I wish for you a year without surgery. ‘Nuff said about that.

–To my much loved and long-suffering wife, Susan, I wish for you a year of stability and happiness after a really crappy 2007.

And to everyone else who gives their time and effort to indulging my rantings each day, I wish for you and yours a wonderful holiday season, no matter which holiday you may celebrate, and a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2008.

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20 Dec 2007, by

A Cool Program

The Civil War Education Association is putting on some nifty programs this year. I’ve already posted about the cavalry tour I’m leading for CWA next June.

Old friend Bruce Venter, who is probably THE authority on the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid, is leading a really interesting tour for the CWEA. 1864 was a leap year, just as 2008 is, meaning that both years had a February 29. The Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid began on February 28 and ended on March 1. Bruce is going to be leading a real-time tour of the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid for the CWEA, commencing on the evening of February 28 and ending on the evening of March 1.

Given my interest in the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid, I could not pass up the opportunity to attend this event, so I signed up this morning. The truth is that I’m actually rather looking forward to just being a participant and not having to lead a tour or give a talk. I just get to sit back and enjoy the program.

We have a new airline here in Columbus called Skybus. Skybus specializes in some off-the-beaten path airports, and one of the airports it services is Richmond, Virginia, which is the home base for this program. Skybus is a low cost airline, and I was able to book a round-trip flight to Richmond today for $90.00. When the taxes and fees were added in, the total was $110. The drawback is that there is only one flight per day, and it departs Columbus at 6:00 AM. It arrives in Richmond at 7:15. The program doesn’t begin until 8:00 that evening, so I’m going to have the whole day to kill. I had to rent a car anyway, so I called Bobby Krick today to see whether he might be available to do some battlefield stomping with me, and he is available to do so.

You will recall that earlier this week, I posted about another book idea that I had that will focus on the evolution of cavalry tactics during the latter phases of the Overland Campaign of 1864. I mentioned that I hadn’t seen some of those sites, and that I was going to need to spend some time with Bobby getting the lay of the land. That process will begin in February when I’m in Richmond.

It’s going to be terrific trip. Perhaps some of y’all who find the saga of the Dahlgren Papers interesting might come along, too. If so, see you in Richmond.

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