November, 2011

30 Nov 2011, by

On requests…

The other day, I received this e-mail through this blog:

I am serching for info on the 6th georgia calv. company K My 3 great grandfather Andrew Jackson Brigman from walker co georgia was inlisted as a private on the confedrate side. I can find no info on this company, but have found sevral publications on genalogy sites regarding this very company, I am wondering what he did and where he fought. the family folk lore was that he had his 3 fingers shot off, in the war at some point. and was left for dead by the union troops.Or he played dead one or the other. I am wondering how to find this info if it is true. and as well why soon after the war did he move from walker county georgia where he had a plantation and family to lousiville Ky and then to Paducah, was he shipped to paducah because of wounds, Paducah is known for the union hospital sites but not confedrate? Ahh !!! Im so confused I need help if you can steer me in the right direction, Or give me a creditable web site I would be so greatful.

I get at least one inquiry like this per week. While I am flattered that you think I know enough about the war to answer questions about your specific ancestor, the very substantial likelihood is that I don’t. More likely than not, your ancestor served in a unit that I know nothing about. The 6th Georgia Cavalry, being a Western Theater unit, is not one that I know anything about. And while I appreciate your confidence in me and in your taking the time to write, if I did the research to answer every one of these inquiries, I would have no time to do anything else. Consequently, I made the decision that, unless it’s something I can answer in ten minutes of less, I will not do so, and that I will not typically respond to those inquiries for the simple reason that doing so takes time that I don’t have to spare.

I regret it if that offends the folks who make those inquiries, but I simply don’t have time. But I do thank you for your interest and for your faith that I might somehow be able to help. If I can, I will. If not, then the likelihood is that I will not respond.

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29 Nov 2011, by

New link added

This evening, I have added a link to my friend Steve Cunningham’s excellent West Virginia in the Civil War website under the “Civil War Sites” category. Take a few minutes and check out Steve’s site, which is chock-full of good and useful information. You won’t be disappointed.

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On this Thanksgiving Day, when we all have to much to be thankful for, I want to share this, Brian Pohanka’s final interview, wherein he talks about the importance of battlefield preservation. It is haunting and bittersweet to see his image and to hear his voice again so many years after his untimely death, but it’s critical that we continue his work. I miss his wise counsel.

Here is a link to the interview.

And to all, a happy Thanksgiving. Be grateful for what you have. I know that I am. I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to visit this blog, and I am grateful to everyone who takes the time and spends their hard-earned money to read my books.

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The following neo-Confederate hooey was posted on Facebook today:

The legacy of Captain Henry Wirz should be rewritten. This man was a hero for doing the best he could. And, on his final night before his execution, Stanton sent govt agents to Wirz`s cell offering a bribe to for liberty if he implicated President Davis for Andersonvilles problems. Wirz stood strong to his values with integrity and chose death before excepting a bribe against Davis, even though he was completely innocent himself…..This is just another example how evil and devious Stanton really was to try and bribe Capt Wirz into lying against President Davis….God bless Captain Wirz, you were a hero for that act alone!

This is, of course, a mainstay of neo-Confederate doctrine. As it goes, Wirz was a hero and martyr, and only the wardens of Elmira and the other Union POW camps were war criminals. The heroic Wirz, by contrast, maintained his heroic character by refusing to implicate Jefferson Davis. So, therefore, his war crimes weren’t so bad. Ummmm…no.

As I said, this is a mainstay of neo-Confederate doctrine. Try this one on for size, which appears on a prominent neo-Confederate website, that of the Georgia Heritage Council:

A Confederate History Minute (9) – by Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.

Captain Henry Wirz, Confederate Hero and Martyr

Captain Henry Wirz was born, Hartman Heinrich Wirz in November 1823, in Zurich, Switzerland where his father, Abraham Wirz was highly respected.

At the outbreak of the War Between the States, Wirz enlisted in the Fourth Louisiana infantry on June 16, 1861. He was promoted to sergeant a year later and was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines. He never recovered from the injury to his left wrist and it caused him great pain for the rest of his life.

Wirz was promoted to Captain on June 12, 1862 and was first detailed to General John Winder where he was given command of a Confederate military prison in Richmond, Virginia.

After serving a year as special emissary to President Jefferson Davis in Paris and Berlin, on March 27, 1864, he was installed as commandant of Andersonville Prison at Fort Sumter in Georgia. Wirz did the best he was able to do with many Union prisoners and the little food and medicine. It is written that the guards got the same food and medicine as the prisoners.

The Confederacy sent a distress message to Union President Abraham Lincoln and Union General Ulysses S. Grant. The South pleaded for an exchange of Confederate and Union prisoners. Lincoln and Grant, however, refused believing the Union prisoners might go home but the Confederate prisoners might go back to fight.

Captain Henry Wirz was unfairly charged of war crimes and it is written that no witnesses for the defense were allowed to testify. Among those who would have is a Union soldier who was a prisoner at the prison.

For over 30 years there have been efforts to exonerate the good name of Captain Henry Wirz. There is an annual memorial service to Wirz on the Sunday nearest November 10th each year in Andersonville, Georgia, at the monument to Wirz placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Georgia Division).

This sort of rewriting of history really is appalling. Wirz was hanged for a reason. He was neither a hero nor a martyr. He was a war criminal. Casting him in any other light is just plain wrong, and is something we need to remain constantly vigilant in battling. Call these neo-Confederate revisionists on their nonsensical hooey. Don’t let them get away with it.

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The following inquiry appeared on some forum boards:

What is the reasoning behind most historians today not willing to accept that Stuart’s attack was in cooperation with Pickett’s attack ? Now I have heard that one reason was because neither Stuart nor Lee made mention of it in their Gettysburg Battle reports. They also did not make mention of the signal shots but most historians think they happened, but not as signal shots.

The reason I am bringing this up again is due to the more research I do the more sources I find that state that Stuart was acting in cooperation with Pickett’s attack. Even the Union General in charge in the East Cavalry fighting, General D.McM.Gregg in an article states that it was. I have so far found 10 different sources that back’s this claim up. I just can’t accept it when historians say there is no evidence that Stuart was in cooperation with the frontal attack on Cemetery Ridge on July 3rd, 1863. As I have stated I have 10 different sources so far.

There actually is a rather simple explanation to all of this.

Let’s remember that late in the day on July 2, 1863, there were two separate but simultaneous engagements involving two separate divisions of Union cavalry on or near the far left flank of the Army of Northern Virginia’s position. David M. Gregg’s Second Division was engaged with Confederate infantry of the Stonewall Brigade of Maj. Gen. Edward “Alleghany” Johnson’s Division on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge, while Judson Kilpatrick’s Third Division tangled with troopers of Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton’s Brigade at Hunterstown.

Brinkerhoff’s Ridge is squarely on the far left flank of the Army of Northern Virginia’s infantry position. The Stonewall Brigade ended up performing flank duty because of the breakdown of command after Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins was severely wounded that morning, and nobody thought to tell Col. Milton J. Ferguson, Jenkins’ senior colonel, that he was now in command of the brigade. Because of that inexplicable breakdown, Jenkins’ men failed to perform the flank duty. That forced the Stonewall Brigade to do so, keeping it tied up for most of the day and leaving it unavailable to assault Culp’s Hill. Stuart himself sat on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and watched the climax of that fight. He knew that the Stonewall Brigade was fighting dismounted Union cavalry there. He could see Gregg’s guidons.

Just a few miles away at Hunterstown, Kilpatrick’s division tangled with the rearguard of Hampton’s Brigade, which was escorting the tail-end of the infamous wagon train captured by Stuart during his ride to the Gettysburg battlefield. A short but very spirited fight occurred there before both sides broke off.

Therefore, as the sun set late in the afternoon of July 2, there were a total of four brigades of veteran Union cavalry operating in the vicinity of Lee’s flank and rear, well positioned for a possible dash around the flank and into Lee’s rear, where they could make immense trouble.

Hence, on the night of July 2, Robert E. Lee knew that two of the three divisions of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps were operating on or near his far right flank. He was legitimately concerned that the Federals might try to dash around that flank and make mischief in his rear. He was so concerned, in fact, that he called Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden’s Northwestern Brigade–a command that Lee did not know or particularly trust, largely because it was untried–to the battlefield. The following are Imboden’s own words, from an 1871 article that appeared in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: “on arriving near Gettysburg about noon, when the conflict was raging in all its fury, I reported directly to General Lee for orders, and was assigned a position to aid in repelling any cavalry demonstration that might occur on his flanks or rear. None being made, my little force took no part in the battle. I then had only about 2,100 effective mounted men and a six-gun battery.” (emphasis added by me)

Lee was concerned enough about this situation that he placed Imboden’s command in a position where it could quickly and readily deal with a thrust at the flank or into his rear.

By contrast, there was no known force of Union cavalry operating on Lee’s far right. In fact, Brig. Gen. John Buford’s First Division had left the field about 11:15 on the morning of July 2, and no cavalry troops (other than a single regiment of Gregg’s division) had been sent to take its place. Thus, as morning broke on July 3, there was absolutely no cavalry threatening Lee’s far right, as neither Wesley Merritt’s Reserve Brigade nor Elon J. Farnsworth’s brigade of Kilpatrick’s division arrived in the vicinity of the Confederate far right flank until about 11:00 in the morning of July 3. Consequently, the small force of 100 or so troopers of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry, with a single piece of horse artillery, was more than sufficient, as there was no known threat.

As J. D. Petruzzi and I have documented extensively in our book Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, both Stuart’s men and horses had just finished a grueling eight day expedition around the Army of the Potomac that took a tremendous toll on both men and horses. Indeed, both men and mounts were at the limits of their endurance when they arrived on the battlefield very late in the afternoon of July 2, and neither men nor animals were in condition to undertake or engage in aggressive offensive activity, something that is well-documented. Therefore, the only mission for these troopers that makes any sense, given their worn-out condition, is a purely defensive one.

Given those circumstances, does it make nothing but sense for Lee to send Stuart and his three and a half brigades (about half of Jenkins’ brigade went with Stuart) to hold and protect that flank? So that there would be a significant force under his trusted and beloved cavalry commander, should that two-division threat to the flank and rear develop?

When analyzing all of these factors, and given Stuart’s dispositions and deployments on what became East Cavalry Field, it seems quite obvious to me that Stuart’s primary mission was to guard the flank. He deployed in an ambush formation, intended to draw David M. Gregg’s troopers in and engage them, thereby keeping them tied up and unable to make that dash around the flank. Stuart, always the opportunist, was looking for opportunities, and should he be able to defeat and scatter Gregg’s troopers, then, and ONLY then, would he attempt to make his own dash down the Low Dutch Road and into the rear of the Army of the Potomac’s position.

Finally, neither Lee nor Stuart EVER said anything about Stuart’s activities that day being somehow coordinated with the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble assault on the Union center. That, to me, is proof positive that neither officer contemplated anything other than what they both said in the official reports.

If you have studied the engagement on East Cavalry Field, and you know both the terrain and the condition of Stuart’s command, the battle plan that I have laid out above is ONLY explanation of Stuart’s mission on July 3 that makes any sense.

This essay is a synopsis of a small part of the 5500 word essay that I have written to rebut the ridiculous and implausible theory of Tom Carhart for the new edition of my book Protecting the Flank that will be published by Savas-Beatie in the early spring of 2012.

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Shameless self-promotion, November 16 edition: My NEW book, The Battle of White Sulphur Springs: Averell Fails to Secure West Virginia, is now out! This is the first and only detailed tactical study of this strategically important battle. It features the great maps of Steven Stanley and I am really excited about it. For those who have already ordered, you orders will ship on Saturday. If anyone is interested, please contact me!

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My friend Mike Block used to be a member of the board of trustees of the Brandy Station Foundation. Mike resigned that position in protest over the complete abrogation of the BSF’s duties as stewards of the battlefield. He has now posted his version of these events on his blog, and for those interested in this issue, it’s riveting but appalling reading.

A few thoughts, in no particular order:

1. Joseph McKinney was receiving flak from you, the readers of this blog, about his inactivity regarding this disaster. That pressure not only did not impact him or the board’s decision-making, it seems to have encouraged him to go the other way. He even mocks Bud Hall’s quite accurate description of this problem as “an unmitigated disaster.”

2. McKinney expressly admits that he failed to show leadership in this crisis, and, in fact, stated quite clearly that he didn’t want to spend much time on the greatest crisis faced by this battlefield since the development threats that led to the original land acquisitions.

3. From McKinney’s own words it is quite clear that they view this whole fiasco as nothing but a public opinion problem that needs to be quieted and dealt with and not as a preservation crisis. In other words, the spin is more important than doing their duty as stewards of the land. I find that absolutely incomprehensible and appalling all at the same time.

4. All of this makes it abundantly clear that neither the BSF board nor Joseph McKinney care a whit about preserving this battlefield, and that they have no business being at the helm of the organization tasked with preserving this hallowed ground.

Resign. Now.

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As promised, here is the fully executed Memorandum of Agreement pertaining to the Lake Troilo debacle at Brandy Station. For those concerned, this is a matter of public record, and the document is a public document, so I am not betraying anyone’s confidentiality or trust by posting it here.

A review of this agreement should demonstrate precisely how reprehensible the attempts at spin-doctoring by the do-nothing board of trustees of the Brandy Station Foundation truly are. Here are a few thoughts about the agreement, in no particular order.

First, and foremost, the MOA plainly and unambiguously demonstrates that the prior statements of BSF president Joseph McKinney that BSF property was not impacted by the construction of Lake Troilo were a flagrant lie. It’s quite clear from reading the MOA that BSF property was significantly impacted, and that any attempt to downplay that is disingenuous and a distortion of the truth.

Second, the work that was done by Tony Troilo in constructing Lake Troilo was clearly illegal and clearly in violation of multiple laws. From the beginning of this fiasco, and until the “stop work” order was issued, the BSF board and officers steadfastly insisted that it was none of their concern, that BSF property was not impacted, and that the BSF should take no steps to interfere. Had Bud Hall not intervened, this would have continued unabated with further, irreparable destruction being caused to core battlefield land.

Third, BSF president Joseph McKinney–who is clearly NOT a preservationist–stated repeatedly that the damage was reversible. How does one reverse such damage? The very thought is laughable. Once the ground is disturbed, it is forever disturbed. The artifacts are turned up. And so are the human remains reportedly found in the area. Once that bell is rung, it can never be unrung, Joe McKinney’s fantasy world notwithstanding.

Fourth, the 3.1 acres to be conveyed by Troilo–the basis for the BSF’s claim of a preservation “victory”–is the ground damaged–torn up–by the construction of Lake Troilo. This is no longer pristine ground, and has been forever damaged and tainted. If this is a victory for the BSF–and I don’t believe it is–it is at best a Pyrrhic victory.

Finally, and most important, the execution of this MOA demonstrates beyond doubt that the ill-advised and wrongheaded policy of appeasement pursued by the BSF officers and board will never do anything to protect the battlefield at Brandy Station. Only constant vigilance and constant communication with the authorities responsible for enforcing the laws will do so. Appeasing landowners who are friends will not. And if that means that feathers get ruffled from time to time, then so be it.

Fleetwood Hill MOA and Supporting Docs

I again repeat my call for Joseph McKinney and the rest of the BSF board to resign immediately in the wake of their disgraceful performance with respect to this episode, instead of bragging about it on the BSF website as they have. It is critical to note that other important preservation organizations have given up on and written the BSF off as a legitimate preservation organization because of this episode, and unless the board and McKinney do the right thing, not only will the organization be crippled, it will be doomed, as nobody will ever trust it as a steward of the land again. As it is, the other leading preservation organizations no longer take the BSF seriously, as its officers and board do nothing to engender confidence in them that they take the duty to preserve this land seriously.

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There are few things that irritate me more than people claiming credit for things for which they are not entitled to claim credit at all. That conduct strikes me as being disingenuous and as also trying to justify poor or inappropriate conduct by intentionally distorting the factual record and then saying, “Look at me! Look what I did!”

That has happened with the Brandy Station Foundation and with the resolution of the Lake Troilo fiasco. For those who don’t remember, the BSF published a policy that stated that it would not interfere with landowner rights on battlefield property. It published that policy to justify its complete and total inaction–indeed its abandonment of its sacred duty to protect the battlefield–with respect to the desecration of the core of the battlefield by landowner Tony Troilo. That abandonment of the organization’s mission to battlefield preservation horrified me and most other who care about battlefield preservation.

This week, the BSF has published its spin-doctoring attempt to justify its malfeasance with respect to this fiasco. It published this pack of lies:

In early spring Mr. Tony Troilo, who owns the property on Fleetwood Hill that saw the most intense fighting on June 9,1863, began work to expand his pond along Flat Run just to the west of Fleetwood Hill. Before starting work, Mr. Troilo checked with the Culpeper County Office of Planning and Zoning and was informed that no additional permits would be required. That information was incorrect.

Under the Clean Water Act, a permit is required from the US Army Corps of Engineers before a free-flowing stream can be dammed. Additionally, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires the Corps of Engineers to assess the effects of a project on historical resources when considering a request for permit.

On May 13, the Corps of Engineers issued a stop-work order to Mr. Troilo. After learning that he had not received the necessary permits, Mr. Troilo voluntarily agreed to remove the pond and restore Flat Run and its wetlands to pre-construction conditions. Additionally, during archeological monitoring of site stabilization measures at the work site, fill dirt several inches deep was moved onto roughly three-tenths of an acre of property owned by the BSF and under protective easement with the Virginia Department of Historical Resources. Mr. Troilo offered to either remove the fill or, if preferred, leave the fill in place and seed it with grass.

On July 26, representatives of the BSF, the Corps of Engineers, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources met with Mr. Troilo in Richmond to discuss remediation measures for adverse affects on the historic property—the site of a major Civil War Battle—and the encroachment on the BSF land. At the meeting, Mr. Troilo offered to convey to the BSF approximately 3.1 acres of his property lying to the west of Flat Run, thereby making the stream the property line between Mr. Troilo and the BSF. The Corps of Engineers and VDHR representatives considered the offer most generous, as did the BSF, and we agreed to accept the conveyance. Finally, the consensus among attendees was that attempts to remove the fill on the encroached property would risk damage to the underlying soil, and it was therefore better to leave the fill in place and seed it. These steps and a plan for restoring the stream bed have since been formally agreed upon by all the affected parties.

Once Mr. Troilo has restored Flat Run, the new property line can be surveyed and the 3.1 acres conveyed to our organization, an event that should be completed within the next few months. This will increase our ownership of land on the avenue of approach used by Sir Percy Wyndham on the morning of June 9 to 36 acres. Acquiring this property is in keeping with the BSF’s strategic goal of preserving key battlefield land and opening it to the public. We credit this positive outcome to two factors: Mr. Troilo’s positive approach to fully resolving issues associated with his pond; and, the decision by the board of the BSF to maintain a professional and cooperative relationship with Mr. Troilo throughout the process.

We are very pleased that this unfortunate situation was brought to an amicable resolution, and we are very grateful to Mr. Tony Troilo for his generous offer. We trust that you share our views.

There are so many lies in this attempt to spin the malfeasance of the BSF board that one hardly knows where to begin.

First, and foremost, but for the quick intervention of BSF founder and former president Clark B. “Bud” Hall to notify the authorities, Troilo’s desecration of the battlefield would have continued unhindered, because the board of the BSF surely wasn’t going to do anything to stop it. That’s how the Corps of Engineers became involved. The BSF spin is incredibly disingenuous, because BSF president Joseph McKinney saw this devastation before Bud Hall did, but elected not to do anything in order to avoid ruffling the feathers of his wife’s good friend Tony Troilo.

Second, it is a flagrant lie to describe Troilo’s actions as expanding an existing pond. In fact, the existing pond is not the result of damming of Flat Run and is a hundred yards or so away from the where the damming of Flat Run was done. The existing pond has been there since at least 1961. The damming of Flat Run was done with the specific and explicit intent to build a second pond. The BSF board is lying in a dishonest attempt to justify its actions.

Third, Culpeper County specifically and explicitly denies that its representatives EVER told Tony Troilo that he would not need a permit. This is another flagrant lie.

Fourth, Joseph McKinney and the BSF board specifically denied that BSF property was in any way affected by the damming of Flat Run, but they have finally admitted that BSF property was, indeed, affected, and significantly affected. In spite of the board’s claims to the contrary, the harm done CANNOT be undone or restored. The land was disturbed. That bell cannot be unrung. Now that it suits them to do so in order to justify their inaction, they now admit that BSF property was damaged by the damming of Flat Run.

Finally, nothing that Tony Troilo did was out of the goodness of his heart, as the BSF suggests. It was done in an attempt to mitigate the penalty that he is going to incur as a consequence of his flagrant violations of the law. Nothing more, and nothing less. Instead, the BSF pats itself on the back for allowing Troilo to get away with damaging trust land in the hope that it might not ruffle his feathers. And then, its obsequious tone and approach does little but suck up to Troilo.

I am out of town at the moment, but when I get home on Sunday, I will post the entire Memorandum of Agreement between Mr. Troilo and the authorities here, and you can read it for yourselves. You will see the scope of his violations of the law, as well as the severity of the sanctions imposed upon him as a consequence of his violations of the law.

In the meantime, I could not permit the lies and intentional distorting of the factual record by Joseph McKinney and the rest of his cronies on the BSF Board of Appeasement stand unrebutted.

More to follow…..

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Reader Gordon Ponsford, a sculpture conservator, is apparently also a poet. He forwarded this poem about battlefield monuments at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chickamauga to me, and I have decided to share it with all of you, as I find it moving. Enjoy.

The Sentinels of Hallowed Ground

On Battlefields across our land
Flags raised high, sword in hand
Standing guard over fallen dead
Where history dwells, now tourists tread

Gazing upon the open fields
Where valor stood and didn’t yield
These statues are more than bronze and stone
They’re bought with blood, by boys from home

Now a century and a half have gone
Since the silence of the drums and guns
Etched in stones are their epitaphs
Told to those who this way pass

So remember those who heard the call
They fought the fight, and gave it all
The cannons salute with a solemn round
To the Sentinels of Hallowed Ground

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