June, 2009

I hereby nominate this new blog for the 2009 Most Irritating Civil War Blogger Award. This guy insists on wasting other people’s bandwidth to announce his every blog post, and then he does so by referring to himself in the third person. Here’s a prime example of what I’m talking about here. Now, I’m all for shameless self-promotion, and I’ve certainly done more than my fair share of it. However, I have never once referred to myself in the third person in doing so.

The blog’s content is okay but pretty pedestrian. Although there’s nothing outstanding there, but he nevertheless feels compelled to tell the world whenever he posts, as if it’s announcing the publication of a new book. I can’t even begin to describe how annoying that is. Consequently, I have made a policy decision that including him in my blogroll would only encourage the behavior. Therefore, as long as he persists in such boorish behavior, I will never, ever include him in this blog’s blogroll.

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From today’s AP wire:

Wal-Mart step closer to store near Va. battlefield

By STEVE SZKOTAK Associated Press Writer
June 25, 2009

ORANGE, Va. – Wal-Mart has won the backing of Orange County planners for a Supercenter near the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia.

The 5-4 vote Thursday sends the proposal to the Board of Supervisors. That board is believed to be leaning toward approval of the 138,000-square- foot store within a cannon shot of the Civil War battlefield.

Supervisors will conduct a public hearing before taking a vote on the proposal. It has been criticized by some of the nation’s top historians.

They have said the store is an affront to 29,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were killed or injured 145 years ago at the Wilderness.

Wal-Mart has said its studies have concluded the store will not actually be on the site of any bloody combat.

It certainly is an affront, but given that three of the five Orange County supervisors have already publicly stated that they support the project, I see no way to stop it. It means that an already overly congested but terribly historic intersection is now about to become even more overly crowded. Shame on the Orange County supervisors for permitting their greed for tax dollars ahead of irreplaceable historic ground that, once developed, can never be reclaimed.

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Thanks to loyal reader Charlie Knight for passing along the news that the imbecile re-enactor who fired a live round at another re-enactor and wounded him has finally done the right thing and pled guilty.

From today’s issue of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Civil War re-enactor pleads guilty, must take gun course

By Linda McNatt
The Virginian-Pilot
© June 25, 2009

A 30-year-old Civil War re-enactor pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of reckless handling of a firearm in regard to a shooting in September while filming a battle scene.

Joshua Silva of Norfolk must complete a gun safety course and pay $1,200 in restitution before his scheduled return to court Sept. 16. If he completes those requirements, the charges will be dismissed, Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Farmer said.

Silva was a walk-on in the Civil War documentary “Overland Campaign Web Series Project.” He carried a replica of a 19th-century .45-caliber pistol with live ammunition. When he fired the gun, the bullet struck Thomas R. Lord Sr. of Suffolk. Lord was flown from Heritage Park on Courthouse Highway to a Norfolk hospital.

Lord was portraying a Union soldier; Silva was on the side of the South. The shooting happened during one of the scenes that involved a volley of shots between the two armies.

Farmer said officials believe Silva did not know the gun was loaded.

“The victim is satisfied with the agreement,” Farmer said. “Mr. Silva broke a cardinal rule of re-enacting – never, ever use live fire.”

Most re-enactments include a weapons check as part of the routine, Farmer said, but somehow that part of the routine must have slipped by in this incident.

“This could have been much, much worse.”

Lord, 73, was shot in the shoulder, near the collar bone, Farmer said. He has recovered and still takes part in re-enactments.

Linda McNatt, (757) 222-5561,

I’m glad that this moron finally accepted responsibility for his galactic stupidity and pled guilty. One can only hope that he has learned his lesson and will check his gun to see if it’s loaded next time he goes to a reenactment…..

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Mike Noirot has an excellent and interesting interview of Jim Lighthizer, the president of the CWPT, on his blog today, and I commend it to you.

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Someone asked,

Why didn’t Lee use his other cavalry units to scout out the land to find the location of the Union army? I mean… Stuart disappeared, so why not send your own cavalry to scout ahead. This makes no sense to me.

I couldn’t resist. Here’s my response:

There were seven brigades of cavalry assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by:

Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee (Robert E. Lee’s nephew)
Brig. Gen. William H. F. “Rooney” Lee (Robert E. Lee’s second son)
Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton
Brig. Gen. Beverly H. Robertson
Brig. Gen. William E. “Grumble” Jones
Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins
Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden

Imboden’s command had just been converted from partisan rangers that spring, and had had its first action as “regular” cavalry in the Jones-Imboden Raid of April 1863. These men were untried and hence suspect.

Jenkins’ command had also recently joined the “regular” cavalry service, serving mainly as mounted infantry much more so than in the conventional role of cavalry.

Robertson’s brigade was extremely green. It consisted of two very large, but very green regiments of North Carolina cavalry. They had seen their first action at Brandy Station on June 9, and had not done well at all. They basically fired a couple of volleys and then bugged out and were non-factors for the rest of the day, allowing Gregg’s command to march to Fleetwood Hill unmolested and undetected. Plus, Robertson and Stuart didn’t get along. Stuart detested Robertson and did not want to work with him under any circumstances.

Grumble Jones was as good a commander as the Confederates had; he was really outstanding. However, Jones and Stuart absolutely despised each other; their enmity was open and well-known. At the same time, they respected each other a great deal. Stuart quite correctly called Jones the “best outpost officer in the army,” meaning that he recognized Jones’ real talent for operating in a detached fashion. Jones’ brigade consisted of the 6th, 7th, 11th, and 12th regiments of Virginia Cavalry and the 35th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, battle-tested veterans all (the 7th Virginia was Turner Ashby’s own regiment) and was, arguably, the finest combat command assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia’s mounted elements. This is the same brigade that Thomas L. Rosser dubbed the Laurel Brigade in 1864, and this was a very fine combat command. Jones and his brigade bore the brunt of the fighting at Brandy Station and then again at Upperville on June 21, 1863, and again during some of the many cavalry engagements during the retreat from Gettysburg. Even though Jones and Stuart were unable to get along, Stuart knew that Jones and his command were fighters.

Stuart marched on June 25 with three brigades, Hampton, Fitz Lee, and Rooney Lee’s brigade, now commanded by Col. John R. Chambliss, Jr. of the 13th Virginia Cavalry after Rooney’s wounding at Brandy Station. Stuart gave very specific orders to Robertson that his brigade and Jones’ brigade were to guard the mountain passes until the ANV had passed, and that they were then to follow the army north into Pennsylvania. Robertson failed miserably and did not arrive in Gettysburg until the morning of July 3. Had Robertson obeyed his orders, he would have arrived in time to lead the advance of Hill’s and Longstreet’s Corps as they advanced from the direction of Chambersburg. Unfortunately, Robertson ranked Jones, meaning that Robertson ended up in command of the two brigades, and not Jones. I firmly believe that had Jones been in command of this task force–rather than Robertson–things would have been very different indeed, as Jones would have been much more aggressive and much more diligent about seeing that the column moved with alacrity. It’s not a big surprise that Robertson was relieved of command after the Gettysburg Campaign and that he never commanded troops in the field again after his miserable failures during the campaign.

Jenkins’ brigade was actually with Ewell as Ewell made his advance to the Susquehanna River. A regiment and a half–the 35th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry of Jones’ Brigade and about half of the 17th Virginia Cavalry–went to York and then on to Columbia with Early, and the rest of Jenkins’ command went with Rhodes and Pender as they advanced on Harrisburg by way of Carlisle. Those elements of Jenkins’ command that were with Rhodes and Pender had skirmishes in Camp Hill, PA–just across the river from Harrisburg–on June 29 and 30, and then led the advance of the two divisions from Carlisle on July 1. While Lt. Marcellus Jones of the 8th Illinois Cavalry is usually credited with firing the first shots of the Battle of Gettysburg, it’s instead likely that one of Devin’s men actually fired that first shot at one of Jenkins’ guys as they advanced from Heidlersburg. Jenkins’ command actually did rather well. If you hear that there was no Confederate cavalry at Gettysburg on July 1, that is simply not true. Jenkins’ guys were there, and did rather well, particularly considering that this was their first real test and that they were not, by nature, well suited to that sort of work..

That leaves Imboden’s Northwestern Brigade. The simple truth is that they were untried and hence unknown. Consequently, Robert E. Lee didn’t trust them. Instead of being called to operate with the main body of the army, they were sent off on a foraging expedition. As late as July 1, they had a skirmish in the streets of McConnellsburg, PA, sixty miles due west of Gettysburg. Lee did not call Imboden’s command to the main battlefield until the morning of July 3. They then were given the arduous task of escorting the seventeen-mile-long wagon train of wounded to the Potomac River crossings at Williamsport, MD, and then to defend the town against Buford’s attacks on July 6. Imboden was nothing short of spectacular during these four or five days, clearly his greatest contribution to the Confederate war effort.

In short, then, had Robertson obeyed Stuart’s orders, there would have been two full brigades of cavalry with the main body of the Army of Northern Virginia. Jenkins’ brigade was with Ewell and was actively engaged. Imboden’s command was not summoned by Lee, who made a conscious choice not to utilize those men.

I hope that helps. As I said, we addressed this issue at great length in Plenty of Blame to Go Around if this topic is of interest to you and you want more detail than what I have related here.

That’s a summary of a significant portion of the conclusion to Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, but it certainly puts the situation in its proper context.

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146 years ago today, the Union cavalry, supported by Col. Strong Vincent’s infantry brigade of the Army of the Potomac’s Fifth Corps, defeated Jeb Stuart’s cavalry at the Battle of Upperville. Upperville is significant for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it represents the first time that the Union cavalry defeated Stuart’s men on the field of battle and held the battlefield at the end of the day. As they had at Brandy Station 12 days earlier, John Buford’s Federal division and William E. “Grumble” Jones’ Confederate brigade bore the brunt of the day’s fighting. Late in the day, a combined assault by Buford and David Gregg, supported by Vincent’s infantry, shattered Stuart’s lines at Upperville and sent his troopers flying from the field for the first time.

They fell back to the mouth of Chester Gap, the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley, and the support of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s First Corps infantry beyond. Fortunately for Stuart and the Confederates, the Federals did not press their advantage and did not discover the presence of the main body of Longstreet’s corps beyond (although Alfred Pleasonton later lied and claimed that he had). The Confederate infantry would have driven the Yankee horsemen off, of course, but they would have gained useful intelligence about the whereabouts of the main body of Lee’s army.

In addition, Stuart lost his favorite aide, the giant Prussian mercenary Maj. Augustus Heros von Borcke, badly wounded in the neck during the final assault by Gregg’s troopers. von Borcke’s wound was thought mortal–although he recovered from it–and it ended his active participation in the American Civil War. It was a serious loss for Stuart, who was very fond of the outgoing, fun-loving German. Stuart himself barely escaped; he reported to his wife Flora that some of Buford’s Regulars of the 1st U.S. Cavalry had been gunning for him but had missed.

However, as he had since Brandy Station, and particularly at Aldie and Middleburg on June 17 and 19, respectively, Stuart managed to keep the active and diligent Union cavalry from locating the body of the Army of Northern Virginia as it advanced down the Shenandoah Valley toward the Potomac River and Maryland. Thus, even though Upperville was a tactical defeat for Stuart’s horsemen–their first at the hands of the Federal cavalry–it remained a strategic victory.

The next day, June 22, Stuart received the orders that led to his eight-day raid during the Gettysburg Campaign, triggering a controversy which still rages to this day. Thus, the Battle of Upperville is worthy of commemoration for a variety of reasons. Here’s to the cavalrymen of both sides who fought there 146 years ago today.

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16 Jun 2009, by

Dahlgren Update

On Monday, Dan Hoisington, the publisher at Edinborough Press, the publisher of my Ulric Dahlgren bio, informed me that he had approved the blue lines for the book and had returned them. He indicated that the printer was running about two weeks for printing and binding, so it would appear that the book is on track for the end of June release date that I’ve been promising. As this book was one of my labor of love projects, I am particularly eager to see the final product in print.

Stay tuned.

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Yesterday finally ended three weeks of insanity.

On Friday morning, I hit the road for Virginia, headed for Culpeper. It’s nearly 435 miles each way, and it’s a LONG drive. I reached the Graffiti House at Brandy Station about 3:30, and then spent the next 90 minutes laying out a driving tour for my Brandy Station book, including shooting GPS coordinates for the stops on the tour (I ended up shooting 36 of them). I then went and checked into my hotel, had dinner in the hotel restaurant, and spent the evening watching the Pens beat the big, bad Red Wings to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup home to Pittsburgh. It was really pretty remarkable.

Last summer, I auctioned off a two-day tour as a fundraiser for battlefield preservation, and this weekend was time to deliver the goods. That’s why I made the trip. Saturday, with the help of Mike Block, who is a member of the board of trustees of the Brandy Station Foundation, who came along to help me lead the tour, we covered the Battles of Kelly’s Ford and Brandy Station in detail. We finished at the National Cemetery in Culpeper. This is now the second time that Mike and I have done this dog-and-pony show, and we really work together well. I really enjoy doing tours with him.

I was also fortunate enough to have Prof. Chris Stowe, who teaches at the Army Command and General Staff College’s branch campus at Fort Lee in Petersburg, VA, along. Chris is working on George Gordon Meade’s papers, and he is extremely knowledgeable. Finally, I had the opportunity to have Tim Ferry and Lance Williams along, and we had a great day. After a long, hot day, I then had dinner with old friend Melissa Delcour at a terrific Italian place in Culpeper called Luigi’s that I highly recommend.

The Brandy Station battlefield looks great, with the exception of the hideous McMansion that was built on the crest of Fleetwood Hill. We saw pretty much the whole field, although we didn’t hike out to the stone wall on the Cunningham farm. The ground was too soggy, and there would have been too many snakes and too many mosquitoes out there, and I made the command decision not to expose ourselves to it.

On Sunday, I took Chris, Tim, and the four fellows who won the tour to Trevilian Station. We drove the 45 miles down, toured the battlefield–none had been there previously–and then I took Tim and one of the others back to the Graffiti House, where they had left their cars. While I didn’t go off into the woods to look at the property–no time for that–I was able to confirm that the parcel of property that is going to be the subject of the CWPT’s next fundraising campaign is a key parcel because it connects the first and second days’ battlefields with a pristine parcel to make that link. It’s a pristine, 250-acre parcel that was part of the farm that was a major portion of the second day’s battlefield that was called the Gentry farm in 1864.

I then had to drive home. I left at 3:00, and got home at nearly 9:45. With the trip to Trevilians, I drove about 550 miles yesterday while making the banzai run. By the time I got home, I was completely exhausted, and I am still tired now, even after a decent night’s sleep in my own bed last night.

There’s nothing I love more than battlefield stomping, but after three straight weekends of leading tours and too much driving, I am worn out. I’m thrilled at the prospect of actually being home this weekend for a change. I also haven’t had a chance to see stuff I want to see because I’ve been leading tours non-stop. It would be nice to see something new while having someone else lead the tour for a change.

Anyway, that’s it for the banzai runs for now. I have a talk to the Western Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable on Wednesday night, and then nothing again until October. It’s going to be a nice break. In the meantime, if any of my readers are in the Pittsburgh area, I hope you can make the talk on Wednesday night.

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12 Jun 2009, by

Crash and Burn

At 4:30 on Wednesday afternoon, as I was busily working on a draft of a complaint, my laptop suddenly locked up. When I tried to reboot it, it would not boot; the hard drive just made a clicking noise, and I came to the incredibly unhappy realization that I had suffered the same hard drive crash that my wife had suffered 13 days earlier. Apparently, the Fujitsu hard drives that Apple was using at the time (and Sony, too) are prone to zero-sector damages, which lead to crashes.

Of course, my whole life is on that computer. Most of the important stuff had a recent back-up done, but I still panicked. Anything that was sone since the back-up the week before would be lost, and there was a lot of work done during that period of time.

Luckily, everything will be recoverable. I should have it all back early next week. WE went and bought a new 2.5 inch drive for the laptop–Western Digital this time–and it was installed today. The old drive was 120GB, while the new one is 250GB, so I am better than doubling drive capacity. And the best part was that drives have come down so much that it cost me $79.99 for the new drive.

I am using our back-up laptop as I write this. It’s something like 6 years old, and it was the forebear to netbooks. Susan calls it the tiny laptop, for good reason. It weighs like 3 pounds and has a 10-inch screen. However, unlike netbooks, this is a full Pentium II processor running Windows XP, and it will do until I get my machine back Sunday when I get home.

All things considered, it could have been MUCH worse. However, as I told Susan yesterday, I feel like Linus from Peanuts does when he can’t find his security blanket.

I spent the afternoon today laying out the driving tour of the Brandy Station battlefield for my upcoming book, including adding GPS coordinates. I only addressed the publicly accessible portions of the battlefield; the Yew Ridge portion of the battlefield is entirely in private hands, and I have too much respect for the property owners to turn tourists loose on their property.

The battlefield is still beautiful, and I’m so grateful that I know it well enough to be able to lead tours there. I’m leading a tour of Kelly’s Ford and Brandy Station tomorrow and of Trevilian Station on Sunday before making the banzai run home Sunday.

Like I said, all things considered, it could be much, much worse.

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Here is an e-mail that I received from Jackie Barton, the Ohio Civil War Sesquicentennial coordinator for the Ohio Historical Society about a large rally to be held on Thursday, June 11, to protest the slashing of the OHS budget by the Ohio Senate yet again:

Thank you to everyone who has shown their support of the Civil War 150th and the Ohio Historical Society by contacting your State Senators about funding!

Here’s the situation:

The Senate approved their version of the budget yesterday without restoring our funding, BUT there is still time to act. We’ve been hearing from the offices of state Senators and Representatives that our message is being heard!

What now?

The budget will go into conference committee, where members from the House, Senate and the Governor’s Office will reconcile differences in the budget. HERE is where our funding has the best chance of being restored.

What can you do?


Please mark your calendars for Thursday, June 11 from noon – 1 p.m. to Rally for History! at the Ohio Historical Center, located at I-71 and 17th Avenue in Columbus. You’ll also have an opportunity to visit the statehouse if you have time at the end of the rally.

The Ohio Senate voted yesterday to approve the next two-year state budget, which includes significant budget cuts that would reduce the state’s investment in the Ohio Historical Society to the lowest level since 1994. Now the budget goes to a conference committee made up of a small number of House, Senate, and Governor’s Office officials.

There is still time to make an impact and help restore funding for historic sites and the Society’s Outreach programs that affect students, teachers, local history organizations and Ohio communities. It’s time to Rally For History! Please join us on Thursday, June 11. We’ll be thanking all who participate in the rally with FREE parking and admission to the Ohio Historical Center. More details coming very soon…


If you have already called and emailed your State Senator, call and email your State Representative. You can also call, write and email Governor Strickland to show your support of restoring funding to the Ohio Historical Society in budget line 509! If you’d like to contact all three at once, use our Legislative Action page:


We have some ideas about what you can do in your own community to make a statement about these budget cuts. If you want to hear more, call or email me.

Please feel free to call me with questions and thanks for your support! We’ll update you on rally details early next week.

Thank you again-your support is so important!


Today, Jackie passed along a link to a new site, Save Ohio History!. Check it out. And, if you live in Ohio, please do what you can to ensure that the dolts in the Ohio State Senate hear your demand that the funding for the OHS not be slashed yet again. If you can’t make it to the big rally in Columbus, the web site will have some ideas of some other things that you can do to ensure that your voice is heard.

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