April, 2009

30 Apr 2009, by

Choosing Images

Those who are familiar with my work know that I firmly believe that no book can ever have too many maps or too many illustrations. I’ve been busy the past couple of days selecting the images to use in the Brandy Station book. I get a total of 55 of them, and I have to save some of them for the tour portion of the book. There will be 12 maps, which leaves me approximately 37 images of the participants to use in the book. I usually end up with a few more Union images than Confederate simply because Union images are easier to find, but I try to keep the ratio at about 55-45%.

After 15 books, I’ve accumulated a large collection of images of my own. Also, the entire Brady collection of the Library of Congress–more than 2000 images–is available, and in high resolution scan format. Finding high-quality images has become a much easier and much more enjoyable task than it used to be. It used to be something that I absolutely dreaded, largely because I hated spending hours hunched over the scanner. I’ve already got good digital images of a large percentage of the ones that I want to use in the Brandy book, so it will probably only take an hour or two at the most to complete the task of scanning the ones that I need.

This is the fun part of the process for me. I don’t recall ever having the illustrations for one of my books nailed down as early as these are. It’s nice not having to worry about it for a change.

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Jackie Barton of the Ohio Historical Society, who is the coordinator for the sesquicentennial commission, saw my post from yesterday, and left a comment. It had enough good and useful information in it that I decided to feature it:

Hi Eric,

Thanks for the coverage and the support. The Advisory Committee hasn’t actually been appointed yet: we’re working on criteria/goals. And though we are certainly behind states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, we are mostly in line with or even ahead of some others. I’ve been participating in a quarterly call with all the state coordinators who are planning to commemorate the 150th through American Association of State and Local History, and some states are just starting to plan.

Also, FYI, there is a legislative act proposed in the Ohio Senate to create a War of 1812 Commission. You can see the legislation at:


Jackie’s e-mail suggests that the article in the Columbus Dispatch that I ran yesterday was not entirely accurate when it reported that the commission had been selected.

I also think that the idea of a War of 1812 Commission is a great idea. The critical naval battle of the War of 1812 was fought in the Lake Erie waters of Ohio, so it makes good sense.

Thanks to Jackie for the clarification.

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Gov. Ted Strickland has FINALLY gotten around to establishing a committee for the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War here in Ohio. From today’s issue of The Columbus Dispatch:

Committee named to plan Ohio’s 150th anniversary Civil War events
Monday, April 27, 2009 10:41 PM
By Alan Johnson
Ohio’s contributions and losses in the Civil War will be recognized by a committee commemorating the 150th anniversary of the conflict.
Gov. Ted Strickland today established the Civil War 150 Advisory Committee under the direction of the Ohio Historical Society. The 18-member committee will plan events for the sesquicentennial commemoration from 2011 to 2015.

No new state funding was allocated for the Civil War 150 committee, but the Historical Society – which is in a budget crisis – set aside $60,000 from its operating funds for the project. The agency expects to get $40,000 from public and private donations.

Strickland said the 150th anniversary “provides a fresh opportunity for a new generation to rediscover the many ways in which Ohioans contributed to the success of the Civil War, as well as how the war changed life in Ohio.”

Of the 345,000 Ohioans who served in the war, 35,000 lost their lives.

President Abraham Lincoln had two Ohioans in his cabinet: Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. Ohio natives Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Phillip Sheridan were Union generals, and one military unit, the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, included two future presidents: Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley.

Historical Society spokeswoman Kim Schuette said the agency picked a staff member, Jackie Barton, to coordinate Civil War 150 activities.

All I can say is that it’s about damn time, particularly considering that I wrote to the governor about this 14 months ago….

I’m not on the committee, but that’s okay. I’ve got enough to do with my own projects, my job, and with the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation. I’m just glad that someone finally got around to dealing with this important issue before it was too late. Of course, there’s not a single dollar appropriated for this (big surprise, given (a) the lousy economy and (b) the tendency to deny funding for anything historical in this state), but at least there’s now a commission.

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About two weeks ago, I posted about my Brandy Station project. I mentioned that I had not located a publisher for the project, and I also mentioned that the thing didn’t even have a title yet. I’m pleased to announce that both problems have been resolved.

The History Press, of Charleston, South Carolina, has accepted my proposal, and I am prepared to sign a contract with them to publish the work. My proposal was for a 68,000 word manuscript, with 50 maps and illustrations, and it was accepted as proposed. I am due to submit the manuscript some time around Labor Day, and I think that there’s a reasonable chance that it will be out before the anniversary of the battle in June 2010. I will be putting together the tour in June, and intend to include GPS coordinates with it. My friend and mentor Clark B. “Bud” Hall has the manuscript at the moment, and Bud will work with me to put together the tour. As stated previously, the Civil War Preservation Trust and master cartographer Steve Stanley have given me permission to use Steve’s excellent maps in the book.

The book will be titled The Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863: North America’s Largest Cavalry Battle. It is to be part of The History Press’s forthcoming sesquicentennial series on battles of the Civil War, which sounds like it’s going to be an interesting series.

I will keep everyone posted as to my progress. Many thanks to Charlie Knight for the introduction. Charlie returned the favor; I introduced him to Ted Savas, and Ted will be publishing Charlie’s excellent new treatment of the Battle of New Market. Thanks, Charlie.

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Time for another of my infrequent profiles of forgotten cavalrymen. Tonight, we feature Colonel John Beardsley of the 9th New York Cavalry, a scoundrel if ever there was one. He’s one that probably should remain forgotten.

Colonel John BeardsleyBorn on October 12, 1816, in Fairfield, Herkimer County, New York, John Beardsley was appointed to the United States Military Academy in 1837. He graduated 17th in the class of 1841, which included such future luminaries as John Reynolds, Robert Garnett, Richard Garnett, Don Carlos Buell, Nathaniel Lyon and Israel Richardson, all of whom would become generals in the Civil War.

Upon graduation, Beardsley joined the 8th Infantry. Beardsley served in the Seminole War in Florida from 1841-42, and in Mexico. In 1846 with the 8th Infantry, Beardsley participated in the Battle of Palo Alto and in the Battle of Resaca de la Palma. On June 18, Beardsley was promoted to first lieutenant.

The 8th Infantry was assigned to serve with the expeditionary force of Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott, then preparing for an amphibious landing at Vera Cruz. When the invasion began, the 8th Infantry participated in the Siege of Vera Cruz and in the Battle of Cerro Gordo, where their division played an important role in the rout of the Mexican forces. Fighting alongside his comrade in the 8th Infantry, Lt. James Longstreet, Beardsley fought in the Battle of Churusbusco and at the Battle of Molino del Rey, where he was severely wounded in action while leading an assault on the Mexican works.

His conduct at Molino del Rey caught the eye of his superiors, and Beardsley received a brevet to captain for gallant and meritorious service. It took him more than a year to recover from his wound, and he did not return to active duty until 1849, when he was promoted to Captain and company command in the 8th Infantry. After several more garrison assignments, and as a result of visual impairment and lingering problems resulting from his combat wound, Capt. John Beardsley resigned his commission on December 31, 1853, thus ending a twelve year career in the Regular Army marked by regular promotions and meritorious service.

The decorated war hero returned home to New York and took up a career in farming. He led a quiet life on his farm near Athens, New York until the storm clouds of Civil War gathered in 1861. In October of that year, the governor of New York appointed Beardsley as colonel of the 9th New York Cavalry, and gave him the task of recruiting, arming, and training the regiment. His commission was dated November 21, 1861. Interestingly, Beardsley brought two servants with him, Horace, a tall (5’8″) black man with black eyes and hair, and Kip, a dark complexioned male. Due to administrative problems, Beardsley’s command did not receive mounts until the spring of 1862, and had a troubled early history. At one point, while Beardsley struggled to train his demoralized recruits in the tactics of fighting on foot, a proposal was made to either disband the unit, or to assign its men to various artillery batteries. Elements of the 9th New York served with various artillery batteries and infantry regiments during the Peninsula Campaign. Finally, the regiment’s men rebelled and refused to serve with the artillery or infantry any longer. As a result of the near mutiny, Maj. Gen. George McClellan ordered the unit sent north to be mustered out of service in May 1862.

Put aboard ships, the New Yorkers expected to be mustered out of service upon their arrival in Washington, D.C. Instead, the men of the regiment went into camp and were surprised when orders for the regiment to be mounted arrived on June 21, 1862. The newly mounted troopers moved to the front in July 1862, joining Pope’s newly-formed Army of Virginia. Col. Beardsley reported to Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel, who assigned Beardsley to command a brigade of cavalry consisting of the 4th New York, 9th New York, 6th Ohio, and 1st Maryland. Given his background as a West Pointer, and his previous record of valor, John Beardsley seemed to be as good a choice to command a brigade of cavalry as Brig. Gens. John Buford and George D. Bayard, who commanded the other two brigades assigned to Pope’s army.

Buford and Bayard did outstanding service during what became the Second Manassas Campaign, prompting Pope to praise their service lavishly. However, the official reports are devoid of mentions of either Beardsley or his brigade. The brigade played a limited role in the campaign, its principal contribution being the capture of the Waterloo Bridge, near Warrenton, Virginia, on August 25. Elements of the brigade served with Buford’s troopers on August 30, participating in the short but fierce cavalry fight at the Lewis Ford, in the closing engagement of the Second Battle of Bull Run.

The rest of Beardsley’s command was assigned the hopeless task of trying to stem the stampede to the rear after Beardsley’s old comrade in arms, Maj. Gen. James Longstreet, launched his massive counterattack against the Union left on the afternoon of August 30. Thereafter, Beardsley ordered his men to form line of battle (in a single rank) to the east of Henry House Hill, astride the Warrenton Turnpike, to cover the retreat of the army. Beardsley’s brigade eventually followed the broken army off the field.

Beardsley’s report on the conduct of his brigade during the campaign is brief and cursory. His summary of the action ends by stating, “It would be difficult to enumerate all the duties which my brigade performed. It could not have done more. Without transportation, without supplies, almost constantly in the saddle day and night, frequently engaged with the enemy, they bore all without a murmur.”

Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel, Beardsley’s immediate superior, wrote only, “…the commanders of our small cavalry force have assisted me under all circumstances cheerfully and to the utmost of their ability…” Sigel’s failure to recognize Beardsley as the commander of his cavalry forces, and his insistence upon referring to all of the cavalry officers under his command perhaps demonstrates the corps commander’s displeasure with the brigade commander’s performance.

After the ignominious defeat at Second Manassas, Beardsley’s brigade returned to Washington, D.C. with the 11th Corps, where the unit served in the city’s defenses during the Antietam Campaign. Beardsley and his brigade rejoined the reconstituted Army of the Potomac in November. Sometime in late 1862, Col. Beardsley was put in command of the cavalry Convalescent’s Camp near Hal’s Farm in northern Virginia, where he remained until late February 1863. On February 24, 1863, General-in-Chief Henry Halleck sent a curious order to the Army of the Potomac’s commander, Major General Joseph Hooker. Halleck, via his Assistant Adjutant General James Barnett Fry, directed Hooker’s attention to the Convalescent Camp under the command of Colonel Beardsley, and instructed Hooker to issue the necessary orders for Colonel Beardsley to join his proper command, the 9th New York Cavalry. Why would the apparently low profile assignment of a relatively unknown colonel attract the time of the General-in-Chief of all federal armies, his able A.A.G. (who was described by Ulysses S. Grant as one of the best staff officers in the army ) and the recently appointed commander of the government’s principal army (Hooker was appointed in early February 1863)?

Fry’s order generated a brief and furious reaction. On March 10, 1863, Major Charles McLean Knox of the 9th New York Cavalry preferred court martial charges against Colonel Beardsley claiming disloyalty, cowardice and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman resulting from a series of incidents occurring between August 6 and November 4, 1862. Major Knox alleged that Beardsley proclaimed, in the presence of enlisted men of his command, on August 6, that “we have no government that we are fighting for – no government; Congress is a mean, abolition faction; the Constitution is broken – we have no Constitution; the abolitionists of the North brought on this war; the Republicans are abolitionists.” Similarly, Beardsley allegedly said, “I would rather fight under Lee than under an abolition leader” on September 12 when he was informed that General Robert E. Lee had invited the conservative portion of the North to join Lee in putting down the administration in Washington.

Major Knox preferred more serious military charges regarding Colonel Beardsley’s actions in the face of the enemy. Knox alleged that Beardsley left his command while it was skirmishing with the enemy on September 1, 1862, when the brigade was serving as the army’s rear guard near Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia. Knox similarly alleged that, on November 4, 1862, during the 11th Corps advance from Centerville, Virginia toward Warrrenton, near New Baltimore, Beardsley precipitately retreated when his command first encountered enemy resistance, with Beardsley “manifest[ing] trepidation and fear . . . placed himself at the head of the retreating column and finally ordered the column to trot . . .” Knox pointed out that 40 men of the 9th New York Cavalry stopped the enemy advanced and drove the Rebels back to New Baltimore while Beardsley conducted his retreat.

Knox’s most serious charge related to Beardsley’s conduct on the battlefield at Second Manassas. Knox alleged that on August 30, 1862, Beardsley publicly berated Lt. Col. William Sackett, commanding Beardsley’s own 9th New York Cavalry, while Sackett tried to form line of battle “to stop a stampede that had commenced on the battlefield.” Beardsley allegedly interrupted Sackett’s dispositions of the troops, stating “[w]hat in Hell are you doing with the Regiment there – bring it around here – bring it here, I tell you – by file, march – trot – march – by God, you do not know how to handle a Regiment – I will put someone in command of it that does know how to form a line”. Remember, Beardsley was a career infantry officer whose cavalry regiment had received horses only a little over two months previous to this event. Knox believed that Beardsley’s words and actions indicated that Beardsley “was too much excited to know what he was doing.” Knox went on to allege that Beardsley then left the 9th New York and went to the rear, leaving the command under fire without orders. Lt. Col. Sackett kept his command in place until no more stragglers came his way, and then retired the regiment across Bull Run until he found Colonel Beardsley, from whom Sackett requested instructions. Knox alleged that Beardsley told Sackett to form on one side of the road, but then ordered the 9th New York to the other side of the road while retreating artillery was passing on the road. Knox inferred that Beardsley used the subsequent chaos in the road to abandon his command once again, and that he then rode off to Centerville, leaving the 9th New York formed without orders.

Finally, Knox alleged that Beardsley arrested Lt. Col. Sackett on September 8, 1862 while Beardsley was under the influence of alcohol. He averred that the inebriated colonel berated Sackett in an abusive and ungentlemanly manner. This episode involved a matter in which Beardsley never preferred charges against Lt. Col. Sackett.

Some support for Major Knox’s charges can be found. Lt. Col. Charles Wetschky of the 1st Maryland Cavalry stated in his official report dated September 17, 1862 that, on August 30, his command was ordered to stop stragglers until Colonel Beardsley subsequently ordered the 1st Maryland to form a line of battle on the right of the retreating column. Lt. Col. Wetschky stated that the line was promptly shelled by artillery, causing Beardsley to pull the line back behind a hill. Beardsley then ordered the 1st Maryland to remain in position until it received further orders. Wetschky reported that “the regiment was left without orders until the bridge over Bull Run had been nearly destroyed, when the officer in charge of the party who were ordered to destroy [the bridge] sent a message for the cavalry to come up in great haste – that he had just discovered that they were still in the rear.”

The report of Colonel William Lloyd of the 6th Ohio Cavalry, Beardsley’s final regiment, dated September 13, 1862, recites a consistent story of being formed to stop straggling infantry, and then being shelled by artillery while in position. Lloyd then states “[w]e were shortly thereafter ordered to withdraw, and with the brigade, conducted by Colonel Beardsley, we moved on toward Centerville with the then retreating army.” Is this a clever use of the passive voice, indicating that Beardsley was present during the retreat but that he did not give the order to withdraw from the battlefield proper?

Major Knox’s charges were sent to the 1st Cavalry Division on March 10, 1863. On March 12, Brig. General Alfred Pleasonton forwarded the charges to the Cavalry Corps. Pleasonton’s endorsement stated that “Colonel Beardsley . . . is not a proper officer to command a brigade, to which his rank entitles him and from the gravity of these charges, it would evidently be of advantage to the service if he was out of it.” The speed at which Pleasonton’s headquarters forwarded Major Knox’s charges seems to indicate that no deliberation was required before deciding that Beardsley should be removed from command as the spring campaigning season got underway.

Beardsley must have realized that he had little chance of retaining his command. He resigned as Colonel of the 9th New York Cavalry on March 14, 1863, and his resignation was speedily accepted by divisional headquarters and sent to the Cavalry Corps on March 16. Corps headquarters was obviously forewarned of the issue, because Colonel Beardsley’s resignation was accepted a mere one day later. Major General George Stoneman, commander of the Cavalry Corps, took time out of his busy schedule (the Battle of Kelly’s Ford was fought between Federal and Confederate cavalry on March 17, as blue clad horse soldiers forces under Brig. Gen. William W. Averell sallied south of the Rappahannock) to accept Beardsley’s resignation with the following endorsement: “Respectfully forwarded with the recommendation as strong as English language can express that it be excepted [sic].”

Even more remarkable than the events surrounding Beardsley’s resignation are the efforts made by many people to sweep these ugly incidents under the rug. Instead of elaborating on the reasons why Beardsley left the service, the regimental history of the 9th New York states only, “March 9….Col. Beardsley…rejoined the regiment…June 4, Lieut. Col. Sackett returned from Washington with a Colonel’s commission for himself and a Lieut. Colonel’s commission for Maj. Nichols. Col. Beardsley had resigned.” There were no other references to Beardsley in the balance of the 9th New York’s fine regimental history. An obituary of Beardsley that appeared in a West Point alumni publication simply stated, “Immediately after [Second Bull Run], he came back to the Regiment and assumed command and remained with it until he resigned his commission at Acquier (sic) Creek, on the Potomac, April 8, 1863.” There were no other references to the circumstances underlying the resignation stated.

Beardsley returned to New York, where he resided for the rest of his life. In the years after the war, he worked as a farmer and as a trust agent. He died in Athens, New York on February 18, 1906, and was buried in Athens Rural Cemetery. Despite the disgrace that marked the end of his military career, the obituary that appeared in a West Point alumni publication stated, “Colonel Beardsley was highly respected by all who knew him for his excellent qualities of mind and heart.” The cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the end of Beardsley’s career with the 9th New York Cavalry was complete. It is, perhaps, without precedent in American history that a West Pointer with such a distinguished pre-war service record would have his career end so ignominiously, followed by so extensive an effort to sweep the incident under the rug.

What happened to John Beardsley on August 30, 1862 that turned the hero of Molino del Rey into a brigade commander who reportedly shied away from combat and apparently abandoned his troops under fire? Perhaps the sight of the Union army being pushed off the plains of Manassas for the second time in 14 months, combined with Beardsley’s obvious contempt for the Republican administration, broke his will resist. Beardsley’s position, at the rear of the army, with all the normal incidents of tales of woe and defeat compounded by the very real success of Longstreet’s attack, could only lead an experienced soldier to the conclusion that John Pope, the Republicans’ hand-picked savior of the East, had badly mismanaged his command. Alternatively, Beardsley could be yet another anti-Pope Democratic old Army officer who fell before Edwin Stanton’s winnowing of the officers corps, as most poignantly exemplified by the Fitz John Porter court martial. This alternative may provide a reason for the involvement of Halleck in this affair.

Thus ends the strange saga of Colonel John Beardsley. A Civil War career that began with such great promise ended with secrecy and cover-up. Perhaps he should have remained a forgotten cavalryman.

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Dana B. Shoaf is the editor of both America’s Civil War and Civil War Times, and he faces a big task. First, and foremost, it’s a big challenge to find sufficient quality content to fill 12 issues per year of two different magazines. Second, the two magazines have slightly different focuses.

The biggest challenge he faces is finding material that will appeal to the masses but which maintains some scholarly credibility. Dana recently gave a talk on the subject. From yesterday’s issue of the Hagerstown Herald Mail newspaper:

Historian: Articles should appeal to masses

APRIL 20, 2009
HAGERSTOWN — What do Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Sex Pistols have to do with the Civil War?

Not much, but to Dana Shoaf, editor of the Civil War Times and America’s Civil War magazines, their stories are connected to the history magazine business.

Shoaf told an audience of about 30 Monday at Hagerstown Community College’s Kepler Theater that the brothers who created the Mr. Olympia contest — which Schwarzenegger won seven times — bought the publishing group that owns Civil War Times and other magazines three years ago after selling their weight-lifting magazines for $250 million.

Shoaf also told the crowd gathered Monday for HCC’s annual Kreykenbohm lecture series that the touring philosophy of the Sex Pistols, an English punk rock band that formed in the 1970s, held some lessons for what he said was the need for history magazines to reach a broader audience.

The Sex Pistols began touring in dive bars in the deep South that typically catered to a country-western crowd, instead of their usual punk bars. The Southern audiences often threw bottles at the band.

Shoaf said the band’s philosophy was, “You must go where you need to to convert the masses.”

That is what Shoaf argued for during his talk Monday, titled, “When Worlds Collide: The Problems of Academics and Popular Civil War Magazines.”

“The problem with academic historians is they are not reaching a wide popular audience,” Shoaf said.

He said there is a need for factual, well-researched historical articles that are moderately priced and appeal to the masses.

Shoaf said that in his business, people often are reluctant to read social history because they think it is boring. They want articles about battles, but Shoaf said they like social history if they aren’t aware that’s what they are reading.

He gave an example of an article on the depiction of Abraham Lincoln’s face by the press.

“At first it was unflattering, but over time, as the war went on, the depictions became more realistic as people gained more respect for him,” Shoaf said. “That’s social history.”

Shoaf has taught American history at HCC and Northern Virginia Community College, worked for Time Life as a writer and researcher, and published a number of articles and book reviews about the Civil War, according to Joan Johnson, HCC’s chair of English and Humanities. Shoaf also is a board member of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation.

Dana’s point, I think, is well taken. A few years before the magazine group was sold to the Weiders, the prior owner, Primedia, tried out a very well-respected scholarly journal called Columbiad, but nobody bought it, and it quickly died. It was the closest thing to a purely academic journal available generally. North & South magazine tries to cross into both realms, as it offers a mass appeal presentation, but includes more scholarly pieces and includes footnotes with its articles. North & South, however, is very poorly run and only appears sporadically any more. Thus, Dana’s publications are the only ones available regularly, and while he does a great job with them, I do wish that they included footnotes. I think it would lend a little more credibility, but management steadfastly refuses to include them.

This is, of course, nitpicking. Dana does a great job, and I don’t envy him the task of running two mass-market magazines at once. Keep up the good work, Dana.

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From yesterday’s edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Civil War Museum Won a Battle, Lost the War
By Stephan Salisbury

Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)

The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia — which state officials once believed was so critical to the city’s cultural fabric that they waged a court fight to keep it here — has been refused promised capital funding by Gov. Rendell and has lost access to its planned new home in the heart of Independence National Historical Park.

The museum, a reconfigured version of the Civil War Library and Museum in the 1800 block of Pine Street for more than 80 years, has sold its old quarters and put its unparalleled collection of artifacts and documents in storage.

Now, officials said, the entire cache may be lost to the city — just a few years before a major, long-planned regional commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial is set to begin.

“We are back in a place where there’s a big question mark whether a big part of Philadelphia’s heritage is going to remain here,” said Sharon A. Smith, president and chief executive of the museum. “That’s an unpleasant place to be.”

Rendell could not be reached directly for comment, but Charles Ardo, a spokesman, wrote in an e-mail Friday that the governor “has limited funds available to release, has already committed to numerous projects statewide and in the Philadelphia area, and, unfortunately, he cannot fund every project.”

Former Union officers established the museum in 1888, and it possesses what many scholars believe is one of the nation’s finest collections of Civil War materials — 3,000 artifacts including Jefferson Davis’ smoking jacket; plaster casts of Abraham Lincoln’s hands and face; the first John Wilkes Booth wanted poster; weaponry of all kinds; the stuffed head of Old Baldy, Gen. George Meade’s trusty warhorse (on long-term loan from the Grand Army of the Republic Museum in Frankford); and an array of battle flags.

The museum ignited a furor in 2001 when it announced that it intended to move much of its collection to a museum planned for Richmond, Va., capital of the Confederacy.

Descendants of the Union officers who had donated virtually all of the holdings were particularly upset. Then-Attorney General Mike Fisher authorized a state suit in Orphans’ Court to block the transfer, and several powerful politicians, including State Rep. James R. Roebuck and former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, both Philadelphia Democrats, crafted a plan to reconstitute the museum in the city of its birth.

The leadership of the old library and museum relented, and Fumo and Roebuck shepherded a $15 million capital bill through the legislature. Then-Gov. Richard Schweiker agreed to release the money, which would be used for conserving the collection and housing the museum in more-visible quarters.

In 2007, the museum reached an agreement with the National Park Service to move into the stately, neoclassical First Bank of the United States; restore the interior; and open up shop at Third and Chestnut Streets in time for the sesquicentennial in 2011.

The park service, which had been using the building for offices and storage, agreed to lease the space to the museum if funding was in hand by late 2008. According to E. Harris Baum, museum board chairman, and Smith, the chief executive, Rendell told museum officials in the spring of 2007 that money would be released when the legislature raised the debt ceiling — which it did last year.

Now Rendell has declined to release the money.

Ardo, his spokesman, said that “we’ve met with representatives of this project several times and have explained” that money is not available. He said Rendell had suggested that museum officials work through legislative caucuses to gain access to the money.

State Sen. Lawrence M. Farnese Jr., the Democrat who succeeded Fumo, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Dennis M. Reidenbach, director of the park service’s Northeast Region, expressed disappointment that the museum would not be moving into the First Bank building, a National Historic Landmark. He said the park had extended its expired agreement with the museum in the hope that state funding would be released. When that did not happen, park officials agreed they needed to move forward with their own plans for the facility.

“This was something we hated to walk away from,” Reidenbach said.

Roebuck, the state representative, said he was “very disappointed” that Rendell had declined to fund the building.

“I don’t understand the governor’s logic in this,” Roebuck said. “Perhaps we should have let the collection go to Richmond. This is the question: Should we let a vital historical collection remain in the city, or should we let this unique collection go someplace else? Now we’re back at square one, and we never should have been there in the beginning.”

Kim Sajet, head of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, said that while more than 67 organizations would participate in the sesquicentennial commemoration, only one would have both high visibility and a total focus on the conflict — the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia.

That is now threatened.

“They are an unfortunate victim of how we value our history and heritage organizations,” Sajet said. “It’s a huge loss. We have to make sure we keep the collection in the city. Absolutely.”

The museum’s Baum and Smith said they were scrambling to find another home in the historic district.

“We are in a serious bind,” Smith said. “We closed our building in ’08. Our collection is in storage. All of the architectural work on the First Bank, all of the planning, all of our business plan — those no longer have meaning.”

She wrote in an e-mail late Friday: “We never would have invested about 3/4 million on all of the plans for the new museum if we didn’t think we had the Gov’s commitment.”

Having spent time in the old museum, and knowing what was in its collection, there can only be one response to this news: anger and disappointment. I understand that virtually every state government is having serious financial difficulties in this recession, but a promise is a promise. A promise is particularly a promise when someone relies on that promise and acts to his or her detriment as a result. In my lawyer’s world, that’s called promissory estoppel, and it’s actionable.

Let’s hope that these good folks find the money somewhere before the treasures of that collection–originally donated by members of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States–are not lost to the City of Philadelphia, where they belong.

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There is a Barnes & Noble superstore six or seven miles from my house. It’s right next to the Cheesecake Factory, so we visit it often. We visited it tonight, and I was absolutely appalled to see that the Civil War section has now shrunk to two shelves, or about 35 titles. That’s it. What was there was an odd mix of new books, like Jeff Wert’s bio of Jeb Stuart and Benson Bobrick’s new bio of George H. Thomas, and older books, including some Bruce Catton stuff. With only about 35 titles to choose from, the selection was obviously extremely limited.

I understand that it’s a business, and I likewise understand that they’re going to carry what sells, but the Civil War section of this store gets smaller and smaller every time I go in there. With the sesquicentennial of the war coming up in 18 months, I’m just horrified that (a) Barnes & Noble devotes absolutely no shelf space to the Civil War and (b) that my fellow Ohioans are so apathetic about history that there’s not enough demand for Civil War books at that humungous store to warrant more than 35 titles in stock.

By comparison, there were about 35 poorly written idiotic vampire titles aimed at tween and teenage girls who think that sort of thing is neat and romantic. To me, that speaks volumes about where our priorities are as a society.

I’m appalled by this, and I have no idea what can be done to get Barnes & Noble to increase their selection of Civil War titles, but if there is anything that can be done, I will gladly do it. Rob Wick, if you read this and have any suggestions, please pass them along, because I’m absolutely horrified by what I saw tonight.

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I believe that I’ve lost the right to claim the title as most prolific Civil War historian working today. My friend Scott Mingus now gets to claim that title. Scott has published five books on the Civil War since 2007, and his sixth book is due out this fall. That’s really a remarkable track record and some really remarkable productivity.

Scott’s next book looks particularly interesting, as it provides in-depth coverage of the role of one the best-known Confederate units in the Gettysburg Campaign. The book is titled The Louisiana Tigers in the Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863 , and will be published by the Louisiana State University Press in October. is currently offering a 30% pre-order discount, so, if it’s of interest, you might want to avail yourselves of the substantial savings being offered.

Good luck with it, Scott–and keep up the good work.

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I own this web site. I pay for it. That means I get to make the rules.

My rules are really pretty simple. No anonymous comments are allowed. Be civil. Stay on topic. Be polite. Insulting me on my own web site is guaranteed to get you permanently banned. Spamming is never, ever allowed. When I say “enough is enough”, I mean it. Obey the rules at all times.

There’s nothing terribly difficult or complicated about those rules. Either obey them, or you’re gone for good. They are not negotiable, and my decisions about enforcing them are not subject to any right of appeal. And if you don’t like the rules, then hit the road and don’t come back, now, or ever, because they’re not going to change. Now, or ever.

Mr. Warren chose to break about five of those rules in the two comments that he left yesterday, so I have not only deleted his comments, I have permanently banned his IP address. We won’t see him here again.

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