June, 2012

Steve Light, who works in the education department at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, is also an alumnus of Gettysburg College, and is a long-time student of the Battle of Gettysburg. Steve has started an interesting blog on the Battle of Gettysburg called Battlefield Back Stories. I’ve added a link. Please check it out.

Also, Gettysburg Daily has faded to black. I’ve moved the link to the compilations category, as the content remains available.

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When I did my post on Col. Othniel De Forest of the 5th New York Cavalry, I noted that in the spring of 1864, De Forest was cashiered from the army, and that not long after his death that December, he was cleared of any wrongdoing and reinstated to his prior rank of colonel posthumously. The reasons for this were a mystery, and I indicated that I intended to pursue the answer to this question in the hope of solving the mystery. I ordered De Forest’s service and pension files in the hope that they would hold the key to solving the mystery.

I am pleased to report that the mystery has, indeed, been solved, that the system worked the way it was supposed to work, and that an injustice was thereby corrected.

Sometime shortly after the end of the Gettysburg Campaign, De Forest was arrested and charged with fraud. He had been ill during the early phases of the Gettysburg Campaign and only returned to duty on July 10, during the retreat from Gettysburg. At that time, he became commander of the First Brigade, Third Cavalry Division, as its senior colonel. However, on July 29, he was sent to the General Hospital in Washington, D.C. on orders of the Cavalry Corps surgeon. There was some confusion over this, as he was reported to be away without leave, but “he was found on a [railroad] car quite ill.” Although he was ill, when De Forest arrived in Washington, he was arrested by the Provost Marshal and conducted to Old Capitol Prison. Then, on August 3, he was taken to New York City under guard, where he was turned over to the civil authorities despite being what was described as “dangerously ill.” Presumably this was the same illness that ultimately caused De Forest’s death the following December.

An individual named Samuel Strong claimed that at the time that the 5th New York Cavalry was formed in 1861, De Forest conspired with others, including his brother Benjamin DeForest, to (a) procure authority to raise the regiment, (b) to purchase horses and equipment for the regiment and (c) to share in the profits of the venture. “The evidence shows that the Govt was defrauded of large amounts thro these parties, which was accomplished in various ways,” states the summary of the court-martial proceedings against De Forest. The document indicates that horses were purchased for $45 and sold to the government by the conspirators for $113, with the parties dividing the profits. De Forest supposedly controlled the inspection of the horses, which enabled deficient horses to be pressed into service. De Forest also was charged with selling the sutlership for the regiment as a bribe. Supposedly, De Forest skimmed more than $50,000 from the government as a result of this scheme, and he was charged with theft. The matter was referred for criminal indictment, and the brief states, “The evidence in this case presents offenses so grave and important that as to require a further punishment than the mere dismissal of Col. De Forest, which of itself does not seem adequate besides some restitution should be made for the losses of the Govt. through his frauds.”

As a result, De Forest was summarily dismissed from the service, and was dishonorably discharged by order of President Lincoln on March 24, 1864. Special Orders No. 131, dated March 29, 1864, declares, “By direction of the President, Colonel O. De Forest, 5th New York Cavalry, is hereby dismissed from the service of the United States with disgrace, for presenting false and fraudulent accounts against the Government.” A handwritten note on the Special Order dated May 11, 1864, adds: “No payments are to be made to Colonel De Forest without the special orders of the Department. By Order of the Secretary of War.”

In December 1864, De Forest died of “congestion of the brain.” After his death, there was a concerted effort to clear his name and restore his reputation. Consequently, a Military Commission convened to reevaluate the charges against De Forest. The Judge Advocate General’s office opposed the request, arguing:

The Judge Advocate General, in reviewing the case at great length, & with much minuteness, entertains the opinion that the application should be be granted–1st because the evidence strongly implicated the deceased, and 2d because “the order dismissing his officer has been made final by his death. No revocation of it can reach him. Before he can be honorably discharged from the service, as asked for, he must be restored to it; but such restoration is a physical impossibility, because he is dead. It is believed that the action proposed has neither the support of example nor of principle, and if allowed to drawn into a rule of administration, could scarcely fail to lead to dependable results,”

After completing its investigation, the Military Commission rejected the Judge Advocate General’s recommendation. The Military Commission expressly found that “all the charges against Colonel De Forest were trumped up by one Samuel Strong who was solely actuated by vindictive motives.” The Commission recommended that “the order dismissing the accused be revoked and that he be honorably discharged the service as of the date of his dishonorable dismissal.”

As a result, on March 14, 1866, War Department Special Orders No. 115 declared, in part:

By direction of the President, upon the report of a Board of Officers, convened by Special Orders, No. 53, series of 1863, from this Office, so much of Special Orders, No. 131, March 29th, 1864, from this Office, as dismissed Colonel O. De Forest, 5th New York Cavalry, is hereby revoked, and and he is honorably discharged the service of the United States, as of the date of the aforesaid order of dismissal, with condition that he shall receive no final payments until he has satisfied the Pay Department that he is not indebted to the Government.

On April 11, the General Order was revised:

So much of Special Orders, No. 115, Paragraph 2, March 14th,, 1866, from this Office, as relates to Colonel O. De Forest, 5th New York Cavalry, is hereby amended to read…as follows: He is restored to his regiment, to date September 3d, 1864, when a vacancy occurred in the the grade of Colonel from the discharge of Colonel John Hammond.

And so, De Forest’s dishonorable discharge was revoked and his name was cleared posthumously. As it appears that he was the subject of an injustice, I’m pleased to know that the injustice was corrected, albeit posthumously. And so, the mystery has been solved.

I love pursuing these interesting leads and seeing where they lead. Finding these human interest stories demonstrates plainly that these men were just human beings, plagued with the same flaws and strengths as the rest of us.

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21 Jun 2012, by

Autie ‘n me

The other day, I was asked a couple of interesting questions. One question was whom do I think was the best Union cavalry commander, and as a subset of that question, where did I think that George Armstrong Custer fit into that calculation. The person who asked my opinion actually suggested that Custer has been underrated by historians. I answered the question about the best commander as I always do when asked to answer such questions, which was to identify John Buford as the best. I cited to John Gibbon’s assessment of Buford–he wrote, “John Buford was the finest cavalryman I ever saw”–and said that was good enough for me.

The Custer question opened up a real can of worms that I’ve spent some time considering over the years. At one point, I was asked to write a bio of Custer, and I initially refused. I eventually agreed, but once I got into it, I realized that not only was my heart NOT in the project, after Jeff Wert’s excellent, balanced, and fair bio of Custer, I realized that I had nothing to add, and eventually terminated the project. However, researching it and beginning to write it really forced me to sit back and take stock of this guy whom I had little positive to say about.

Personally, I would NEVER use the word underrated to describe Custer.

My thoughts on Custer have been a long, strange trip. For most of my adult life, most of my thoughts on Custer were seriously prejudiced by the end he met at Little Big Horn. I adhered to the theory that he was reckless and careless about the well being of his men. It bothered me a great deal that Custer had not paid his dues like Buford, George Stoneman, Alfred Pleasonton, David M. Gregg, and the others had. It also bothered me a great deal that this flamboyant man child got the press and attention that he got and that quiet competent professionals like Buford and Gregg did not ever receive. Consequently, I pretty much dismissed him out of hand as a poseur. Eventually, I realized that that was unfair and wrong.

My research into various projects forced me to study Custer’s career in the Civil War. Much ado has been made about his exploits–read my friend Greg Urwin’s Custer Victorious:The Civil War Battles of General George Armstrong Custer if you need an example of why I would never consider him underrated–and in most instances, rightfully so. He put up a real stinker at Trevilian Station, but other than that, his career in the Civil War was marked by tremendous luck that landed him in the right place at the right time, and some real talent at leading men.

Custer had a lot of real problems. Because he had never commanded much of anything when he was promoted to general, he had not come up through the ranks like his predecessors like Buford, Gregg, and even Merritt (who, as a brand new second lieutenant right out of West Point, served in the same company with, and under the direct command of, Capt. John Buford, and who was very much Buford’s protege and greatest legacy to the Union cavalry). Consequently, he had little skill for and no experience whatsoever with the traditional roles of cavalry: scouting, screening and reconnaissance. He also was a political naif when it came to Army politics, not ever really having had to deal with them. In many ways, he was as Lee allegedly described John Bell Hood: all of the lion and none of the fox.

In 1864, when Sheridan took command, his style and Custer’s meshed nicely, and Custer became his go-to guy. And, with the exception of his lackluster performance at Trevilian Station, it’s pretty difficult to argue with his record. He was pretty much the ultimate hussar, as opposed to John Buford, who was the ultimate dragoon.

But, let’s make no mistake about it. It’s not a fair or appropriate comparison to compare someone who spent most of the war as a brigade commander with someone like, say, Gregg or Merritt, both of whom commanded the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps at some point during the war and both of whom made their fame as division commanders. There’s a quantum difference between commanding a brigade and a division, and an even greater expanse between commanding a division and a corps.

And so, my thoughts about Custer have come full circle. I am now able to see him clearly–both his good and bad points. At times, he was the reckless clod who charged blindly into whatever lay in front of him without doing any scouting. He had absolutely no skill or talent for the traditional role of cavalry whatsoever. But he was a fighter–of that, there can be no doubt. And he was an inspirational leader whose men loved him for his willingness to lead from the front. Most of all, he was lucky. And his luck finally ran out one hot, dusty day in June 1876.

In the pantheon of Union cavalry greats, I would place him well below the likes of Wesley Merritt or Custer’s West Point classmate and rival, James Harrison Wilson. Why? Because Merritt and Wilson both had the skill and talent to be corps commanders, whereas Custer had neither the experience nor the political skill to be anything more than an outstanding brigade commander and a reasonably good division commander. I also would place Buford ahead of him, because Buford had no peer in the Union army as an intelligence gatherer who was also a ferocious fighter. And finally, I would place David Gregg ahead of him. At the end of the day, it was Gregg whom Sheridan relied upon most heavily in 1864 because Gregg was steady, experienced, and competent.

There are others whom I admire greatly. Robert H. G. Minty was probably the best Union cavalry brigade commander of all of them. Thomas C. Devin was terribly competent, terribly reliable, and deserving of the nickname “Buford’s Hard Hitter,” which pretty much speaks for itself. William Woods Averell deserves much better than he gets historically; much of the historical treatment of his career in the Civil War is terribly unfair. Averell certainly had his issues, but there was no better raider than him in the Union services, and his men adored him. George D. Bayard is the great unknown. After Stoneman, he outranked EVERYONE in the Union cavalry, and had he not received a mortal wound at Fredericksburg, he would have been next in line to command the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps when Stoneman left the AoP for medical leave in May 1863. Bayard was young, competent, and aggressive, if unpopular with the men for being a terrible martinet, and he would have been a VERY different sort of leader than Alf Pleasonton, who was the ultimate lead-from-the-rear kind of guy. I’m not normally much of one for “what-if’s”–there was enough that actually happened to keep me interested, not speculation–but that’s a tantalizing one.

Given that a number of my books have dealt with the Michigan Cavalry Brigade–including my current project–I’ve had to really study Custer’s tenure in command of the MCB in great detail. There can be no doubt that the men who followed him loved him unconditionally. It’s clear that he was inspirational leader of very real skill. He was nothing if not aggressive–too much so at times–and he was a fighter. His poor grasp of army politics nearly cost him his career in the post-war army, and his poor treatment of those who served under him earned him the eternal hatred of some of his officers. But, it is very difficult to argue with his record of success. And in the end, that’s what really matters.

He will never be my favorite, but I have come to respect him, and I have made peace with my relationship with him.

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I took this photo in Gettysburg yesterday. Click the photo to see a larger image of it.

There are way too many sites and people out there who claim that they are defending Confederate heritage when they show the Confederate battle flag. I have no doubt that some of them are sincere. But it’s awfully hard to take those claims seriously with stuff like this out there. Can someone please tell me how garbage like this promotes Confederate heritage?

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We’ve amply pointed out the fact that Joseph McKinney refused to speak to take a stand against the construction of Lake Troilo here, thereby rendering the Brandy Station Foundation irrelevant as a battlefield preservation organization. That’s well documented.

Then, when he finally does open his yap, stupidity pours out…..

From today’s edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, we have this prize:

Remembering Battle of Brandy Station heroes

By: Rhonda Simmons | Culpeper Star Exponent
Published: June 11, 2012
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About 50 people took part in Sunday’s fourth annual commemorative religious service at the historic site of St. James Church in a wooded area near the intersection of Beverly Ford and St. James Church roads to mark the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station.

Shielded by several towering trees, the congregation — a few dressed in period clothing — sat on folding chairs and wooden benches for the 45-minute outdoor service, featuring lots of prayer, spiritual hymns and tributes for those who died during this particular battle.

“We remember before God today those soldiers who perished in the fields and woods of our region 149 years ago at the Battle of Brandy Station,” stated the Rev. Peter Way, of Scottsville. “We pray that time will not erase the memory of the devastation of this day, and that we will not forget the lessons it may teach us. As we remember the sacrifice made by these soldiers so long ago, may we resolve to work for justice, freedom, and unity in our own way, and to pray for that day when war shall end forever.”

Warrenton-based musicians the Cabin Raiders — Jason Ashby, Steve Hickman and Kevin Roop — provided traditional Appalachian-style music during Sunday’s service.

Built in 1840, St. James Church suffered total destruction during the winter encampment of Union troops in 1863-64.

Joe McKinney, president of the Brandy Station Foundation, shared some insightful history about that fateful battle on June 9, 1863.

Dubbed the largest cavalry battle of the American Civil War (Battle Between the States) and the start of the engagement of the Gettysburg Campaign, the Battle of Brandy Station begin that morning when Union cavalry launched a surprise attack on Confederate soldiers stationed in the church.

“Under orders to move on Brandy Station, Union soldiers needed to drive the Confederates from their position here at the church and penetrate the confederate line and move forward,” McKinney explained. “The Reserve Brigade, probably the hardest fighting brigade in the Union cavalry, was ordered to attack St. James Church.”

Armed with lances, however, it was five companies within the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry that actually tried to attack the Confederates that day, according to McKinney.

“At about 400 yards out, they launched their charge and came under a terrible [round] of artillery fire,” he said. “The men here manning the guns were in awe at how the soldiers kept advancing through the artillery.”

Quoting a Union captain, McKinney repeated those words… “What had been a glorious charge became a race for life as the men from Pennsylvania outnumbered and suffering heavy casualties turned and attempted to escape.”

McKinney said the Sixth Pennsylvania suffered the highest rate of casualties of any regiment on June 9, 1863.

“Prior to this battle, because of their distinctive lances, the sixth Pennsylvania had not been considered much of a regiment. In fact, other infantrymen would make fun of them. But the Sixth Pennsylvania men showed on this day that they were hard fighters and considered one of the elite members of the Union Army from this time forward.”

Toward the end of Sunday’s ceremony, BSF member Bob Jones shared his condolences for the fallen soldiers.

“We join together today to honor those who gave their lives here at St. James Church and in the fields around us during that eventful spring day 149 years ago,” he said.

Jones also concluded the ceremony with the poem “Listen.”

“As the sun begins to go down, as the day comes to a close, please rise. Please rise and listen with me to one final sound. A sound in honor of those who fought and died for all of us on that beautiful spring day of June 9, 1863,” stated Jones, prompting the lone drummer to generate a loud bang, startling a parishioner.

Organized by members of Christ Episcopal Church and Brandy Station Foundation, both groups invited guests to the Graffiti House for a reception featuring refreshments.

For the record, there were no reports of snakebites or bee stings during Sunday’s outdoor service. However, there may have been a few bug bites.

The emphasis in the quote is mine.


The last two companies of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry (E & I) turned in their lances on May 5, 1863. As of that date, just over a month before the Battle of Brandy Station, not a single member of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry still had a single lance. In fact, a member of the regiment wrote home and lamented to his mother the fact that they did NOT have the lances at Brandy Station, as that might have made a difference in the outcome of the battle.

Let’s remember that this guy wrote and published a very expensive book on the battle that he presumably spent some time researching, and he can’t even get a major detail like the fact that the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry didn’t have lances at the Battle of Brandy Station correct. One would think that the president of a battlefield preservation organization might know a little something about the battle for which he is charged with protecting the field of honor where that battle was fought. And you would think that this would especially be true after writing an overpriced book about that battle. Apparently not. Wow. I’m stunned by the staggering level of incompetence.

Nice work, Mr. McKinney. You were better off to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are a fool than to have opened it and to have removed all doubt (with apologies to Abraham Lincoln). Don’t you think it’s time to resign?

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Mother Mother Ocean, I have heard your call….

So wrote Jimmy Buffett nearly forty years ago in my favorite song of his, “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”

I have heard its call too. I’ve heard it for my whole life. My favorite sound in the world is the sound of the surf crashing against the beach. My favorite sensation is having sand and ocean water between my toes. My favorite sight is the horizon where the sky meets the ocean in the distance, with the vast expanse of water in between. I feel at home at the beach. More importantly, I feel happiest when I am at the beach. And I feel most at peace here. There is nothing more therapeutic for me than standing on the beach, flying my kite, with the ocean waves lapping at my feet. It’s sheer joy. Nothing beats the tranquility of watching my kite ride the waves of the sky while the ocean waves cover my feet. It’s the one time when I truly feel completely at peace. I spent nearly 90 minutes doing that today, and it seemed as if just a few minutes had passed. And for those nearly 90 minutes, all was right with the world. For those nearly 90 minutes, I forgot all about the stresses and pressures of my job, and for those nearly 90 minutes, I was immune from the toll that the ordeal with my parents has taken on me.

Susan and I are presently in Kure Beach, North Carolina for the week. We’re here with our friends Tom and Debbie and their daughter Elizabeth. This is our second summer vacationing with them, but it’s certainly not our first visit to the Cape Fear region. Susan and I first started coming to the Wilmington area in 2002, when I was first invited to speak to the Cape Fear Civil War Roundtable by my friend Chris Fonvielle. We’ve been coming here for at least a week for nearly every year for the last ten years. It brings about the intersection of two things that are near and dear to me: the Civil War and the beach, so I always savor these visits. Some years, we’ve come here twice. We love this area, and I can easily see ourselves retiring here someday. That’s the dream, anyway.

Kure Beach is at the southern end of Pleasure Island. The southern tip of the island is where the remains of Fort Fisher are. Fort Fisher was a behemoth fort made entirely of sand. Its purpose was to keep the vital Cape Fear River open to Wilmington, about 17 miles upriver, so that blockade runners could continue to supply the Confederacy. When Fort Fisher finally fell in January 1865, the final ocean going port available to the dying Confederacy was closed, and the beginning of the end came. For those interested, Chris Fonvielle has written THE definitive work on the Wilmington Campaign, which I highly and strongly recommend to you.

The years have not been kind to Fort Fisher. The entire eastern face of the fort is gone, devoured by the hungry waves and the destructive forces of the many hurricanes that have battered Cape Fear since 1865. A segment of the northern face of the fort remains, but it’s incomplete. Part of it was lost to the waves, and another part of it was lost to World War II, when a grass runway for coast watching aircraft was developed at the cost of some of the fort’s sand ramparts. Battle Acre, where the monument to the Union soldiers who fought and died to capture Fort Fisher stands, now sits nestled among a major recreation area. The southernmost battery, Battery Buchanan, also remains, but there is very little left. Although there is very little of Fort Fisher left, what remains is the most heavily visited historic site in North Carolina.

We paid a brief visit there yesterday upon our arrival in the area. I collect pins from Civil War battlefields that festoon my old Civil War Preservation Trust hat, and I needed one for Fort Fisher, so we headed there to get one. When Susan and I got there, we were pleased to find fellow Civil War historian, author, and blogger Michael C. Hardy. Susan took this photo of Michael and me, and I used the opportunity to purchase a copy of Michael’s new book on North Carolina in the Civil War for my burgeoning collection of books on the subject.

We have rented a house in Kure Beach for our week here. It sits just over two miles due north of the northern face of Fort Fisher, just across Fort Fisher Boulevard from the ocean. In 1865, this area was wide open sand dunes, covered only by the maritime forest and the occasional shack. Today, it’s a very popular beach resort area filled with upscale homes that are rented to folks like us. In 1865, this area was certainly within the range of the huge guns that peppered Fort Fisher. The land-based Union assaults on Fort Fisher staged here and kicked off from here, and this area was surely struck by shells from the Confederate guns at Fort Fisher. In short, the house we have rented for the week sits on a Civil War battlefield.

And that causes me to suffer the terribly mixed emotions that I am now feeling. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is where I feel most at peace with the world and most happy. But the fact that all but a small portion of the Confederate goliath at Fort Fisher has been destroyed bothers me a great deal. I completely understand that this is some of the most desirable and most expensive real estate in the United States, and I completely understand that the inexorable march of progress dictates that not every inch of every battlefield can be preserved. I get that. And I am grateful that the small surviving piece of Fort Fisher is preserved and is in good hands. But my time here in Kure Beach is marked by terribly mixed emotions. The development really irks the battlefield preservationist in me. The rest of me adores the beach and the ocean and the fact that I am where I should be in the universe. I have learned to balance those mixed emotions, but they nevertheless rear their ugly head from time to time. Today happens to be one of them.

The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder, I’m an over-forty victim of fate…

That’s “A Pirate Looks at Forty” again. And I think it sums me up best of all. I was born more than 150 years too late to have been a Civil War cavalryman, but I feel drawn to their stories, and I feel compelled to share them. Jimmy Buffett often says that this song is to ease people’s pain. It works for me. And it helps me to balance my mixed emotions.

My occupational hazard is my occupation’s just not around…

No, it’s not. And so, I lawyer on. But I will keep fighting the good fight of battlefield preservation, and I will continue to tell the stories of the men who fought, died, and gave the last full measure of their devotion. And I hope that all of you will accompany me on that journey a bit longer.

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I would be remiss if I did not point out the fact that my friend Clark B. “Bud” Hall has been given the highest possible award to recognize his work with battlefield preservation by the Civil War Trust last night at its annual meeting.

The following article appeared in today’s Fredericksburg Freelance-Star newspaper:

Civil War Trust Honors Trio
Edward Wenzel, Clark B. “Bud” Hall and Tersh Boasberg receive lifetime awards; recognized as fathers of today’s battlefield preservation movement

RICHMOND—People have been saving pieces of Civil War battlefields since not long after the guns fell silent at Gettysburg in July of 1863.

But such efforts accelerated hugely in the past 30 years, as suburban sprawl and breakneck development spelled the last chance to set aside key places where soldiers in blue and gray fought to the death.

Saturday night, three of the giants of that modern battlefield preservation movement were honored here by the Civil War Trust, itself spawned by those three men and their contemporaries.

Two Virginians—Edward Wenzel of Vienna and Clark B. “Bud” Hall of Heathsville—and Tersh Boasberg of Washington, D.C., received the trust’s Edwin C. Bearrs Lifetime Achievement Award for their decades of devoted work and volunteerism.

Each have “demonstrated exceptional merit in and extensive commitment to Civil War battlefield preservation,” according to the trust, the nation’s largest nonprofit dedicated to such efforts:

– Wenzel fought fiercely to save the Chantilly battlefield in western Fairfax County. Its destruction spurred creation of the first national battlefield advocacy group, the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, based in Fredericksburg. APCWS later merged with the Civil War Trust. Wenzel was also a driving force in the Save the Battlefield Coalition, which waged an against-all-odds battle against a regional mall and mixed-use development on the Second Manassas battlefield site in 1988.

That fallout from that ultimately successful crusade led Congress to create the blue-ribbon American Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, whose work remains the blueprint for ongoing governmental and private-sector work to recognize and preserve the best of remaining battlefield properties.

– Hall campaigned alongside Wenzel to try to preserve Chantilly (known by Confederates as Ox Hill), now the site of housing subdivisions and commercial development, and worked with the brand-new APCWS. Hall founded the Brandy Station Foundation, which defeated two huge development schemes—including a Formula One racetrack—proposed for that cavalry battlefield in Culpeper County. Today, the preserved and interpreted Brandy Station battlefield is one of the trust’s crowning achievements.

– Boasberg, one of the country’s top land-use and preservation attorneys, provided the legal expertise that made possible some of the movement’s early battlefield preservation victories, including the Manassas and Brandy Station campaigns. His broad vision and Capitol Hill advocacy contributed to lawmakers’ establishment of the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. In 2010, Boasberg ended a decade-long tenure as chair of Washington’s Historic Preservation Review Board.

James Lighthizer, the trust’s president, said the trio—along with one other Virginian and a Virginia museum also honored Saturday night—“represent the epitome of the historic preservation movement.”

“Their efforts stretch across decades, demonstrating the way that concerted and consistent work can culminate in monumental achievements that will be felt for generations to come,” he told 400-plus attendees and guests during a banquet at the trust’s 2012 Annual Conference in the former Confederate capital.

The trust presented its Carrington Williams Battlefield Preservationist of the Year Award, named for the trust’s first chairman, to Mark Perreault of Norfolk.

Perreault co-founded Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, which was instrumental in President Obama’s action last year to create the 96th unit of the National Park System. Fort Monroe was the site of Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler’s landmark “contraband decision,” which deemed escaped slaves who reached Union lines to be spoils of war who would not be returned to their masters.

By the end of the war, more than 10,000 men and women had escaped bondage and journeyed to what came to be called “Freedom’s Fortress.”

Their experience and Butler’s decision is vividly described in author Adam Goodheart’s best-selling history, “1861: A Civil War Awakening.”

The trust presented its Brian C. Pohanka Preservation Organization of the Year Award, named after the late Virginia historian and preservationist, to the Museum of the Confederacy, headquartered in Richmond, and the Friends and Descendants of Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison, in Ohio.


Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029

That’s Ed Wenzel on the left, Bud Hall in the middle, and Tersh Boasberg on the right in the 1996 photo at the beginning of this post.

Congratulations to all for having your selfless preservation work recognized–at last, IMHO–but especially to Bud Hall. Personally, I can think of nobody more worthy or more deserving of winning this sort of an award.

Now, let’s remember that this is the same Bud Hall whose membership in the Brandy Station Foundation was terminated by Joe McKinney and his merry band of appeasers because he was supposedly a bad influence on the organization that he founded. How does that egg all over your face taste, Mr. McKinney and your board of dolts? There’s certainly plenty of it for you to eat. Have a nice side of crow to go with it.

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I’ve known about this for a couple of weeks, and it’s been incredibly difficult resisting the urge to talk about it in public.

The original edition of Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions was published in 1998. It won the Robert E. Lee Civil War Roundtable of Central New Jersey’s annual Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award as 1998’s best new work interpreting the Battle of Gettysburg. That was very exciting, heady stuff for a first-time author, and winning that award for my first book remains one of the highlights of my life. The handsome crystal prize itself occupies a place of honor in my office.

A couple of weeks ago, I was informed that the new edition, which has been slightly re-titled as Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions: Farnsworth’s Charge, South Cavalry Field, and the Battle of Fairfield, July 3, 1863, has also won a prestigious award. Here’s the full press release announcing the award:

Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions by author Eric Wittenberg was selected as the 2011 winner of The Army Historical Foundation’s Distinguished Writing Award for the reprint category. The Army Historical Foundation has an annual awards program to recognize books and articles that have made a distinctive contribution to U.S. Army history.

Wittenberg’s Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions previously won the Bachelder-Coddington award upon its initial release. Now with a completely revised and redesigned edition Wittenberg has won another major award.

“Considering that the original edition of the book won an award, I find it especially gratifying that the new edition was also recognized,” said Wittenberg. “The new edition is a completely different book, and it deserves to be judged on its own merits. I’m grateful to the good folks at Savas Beatie for sharing my vision for it, and I am similarly grateful to the Army Historical Foundation for honoring it.”

Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions is a fully revised edition that adds extensive new research, interpretations, and conclusions about the Battle of Gettysburg’s Farnsworth’s Charge, South Cavalry Field, and the Battle of Fairfield, July 3, 1863. The revised edition includes: nearly 15,000 words of new material, including a new appendix (co-authored with J. David Petruzzi), a walking and driving tour complete with GPS coordinates, updated photographs to reflect the modern appearance of the Gettysburg battlefield, and a new map.

“Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions is an influential book and we are honored that it was given this prestigious award,” explained Savas Beatie’s Managing Director Theodore P. Savas. “Eric is a true trail blazer in the arena of Civil War Cavalry research and writing and we are proud of our ongoing relationship with him.”

Candidates are nominated by their publishers. Each candidate receives an initial screening. A select Awards Committee of distinguished military historians and writers carefully judge the finalists. Each finalist is judged against the following four criteria: Significance to U.S. Army History, quality of writing (e.g. clarity, style and analysis), historical accuracy, and presentation (e.g. use of maps, photographs or other materials).

The Distinguished Book and Article Award consists of a distinctive plaque and a nominal cash prize to the author. The winners are announced to the public at the Annual Meeting of the Army Historical Foundation in June of each year. The Army Historical Foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, is dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the American soldier. Its goal is to promote greater public appreciation for the contributions that America’s Army – Active, Reserve, and National Guard – has made to the nation in 233 years of service.

The AHF Distinguished Writing Awards program was established in 1997 to recognize authors who make a significant contribution to the literature on U.S. Army history. Each year nominations are submitted to the Awards Committee by publishers and journal editors. A small group of finalists are selected and a final judging is made. For more information on the Foundation and its activities, please visit the AHF website.

To say the least, I am honored, flattered, and humbled all at the same time. Knowing that both editions of my first book have been honored with major awards tells me that I’ve done what I set out to do, which is to tell the stories of the men who fought, suffered, and died in those forgotten cavalry actions at Gettysburg and Fairfield, and that I’ve hopefully done so with respect and accuracy. It brings a certain symmetry too, knowing that both editions have been similarly recognized.

Congratulations are also in order to my friends Scott Mingus, Sr. and James A. Morgan, III, whose new editions–also by Savas-Beatie–were also nominated for the same award in the same category. Even if I had not won the award, I still would have won. The late, lamented Ironclad Publishing published the first editions of their books, and I was the one who talked Jim Morgan into writing his book in the first place. It’s wonderful being in the company of two old friends, and I congratulate them on the recognition that their fine books have received.

I am grateful to my friends at Savas-Beatie for bringing my book back into print, and for allowing me to do it the way I wanted to see it done. I am similarly grateful to Ted Savas, who shares my philosophy about what makes a good book, and for sharing my belief that no book can ever have too many maps or too many illustrations. And I am likewise grateful to all of your for your unflagging support over the years.

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