21 July 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 7 comments

Some time ago, I mentioned that, as I was trying to put my new regimental history of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry to bed, I discovered a large set of letters that I had not found the first time around. Consequently, the project had to be put on hold while I tracked the letters down. My researcher in Philadelphia made a trip to the University of Pennsylvania, and reviewed them for me. He reported back that they were great letters, just filled with good material. Thus, there was no choice but to wait, since I just wouldn’t have been able to live with myself knowing that I had missed something significant like that.

The letters arrived while I was in Philadelphia earlier this week. I got to see them for the first time on Tuesday and was blown away by just how good they are. In truth, they’re probably worthy of publication on their own. For these purposes, though, I had to go through them one at a time and insert pertinent material into my manuscript. It took me pretty much all evening for three straight nights to get this finished, but I’m pleased to report that it is, in fact, finished. I sent the final versions of all chapters to the publisher this evening. The final version of the manuscript is just about exactly 120,000 words in length.

I finally feel like I’ve gotten everything that there was to be had on this regiment. I have about a dozen different sets of letters, several post-war memoirs, a couple of diaries, the 1868 regimental history, and tons of newspaper articles. If there’s anything more out there, it’s in private hands and I don’t know about it.

I’ve been working on the Lancers in earnest since 1994, which is when I decided to tackle researching this regiment and studying their storied history. Twelve years later, it’s finally done. It’s almost an undescribable feeling.

I have also finished chapter 12 of the Dahlgren bio. With the completion of that chapter, Dahlgren is dead and buried in his final resting place in Philadelphia. The controversy surrounding his life and death has been spelled out in detail. I have one chapter left to go: my assessment of Ulric Dahlgren’s unfinished life. There’s also one appendix to do, which will address the authenticity/legitimacy of the so-called “Dahlgren Papers” found on Ulric’s body when he was killed on March 2, 1864. In short, there’s finally a very large light at the end of that particular tunnel after nine months of working (on and off, but mostly on) on the first draft of the manuscript. I will start on that final chapter when I get back from my coming trip to Richmond, meaning that I’m taking the week off from writing beginning tomorrow and ending a week from Sunday.

Of course, once I do finish that first draft, there will be lots of editing and tweaking to do, but the important thing is that the heavy lifting is finally almost done.

I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere.

Scridb filter


  1. Sat 22nd Jul 2006 at 6:07 pm

    If you’re not saving it for the book, what’s your conclusion on the papers?

    Legit or not?

    I tend to think they are legit, and the trail probably leads back to Stanton, but I have not done nearly as much research on the matter as you.

  2. Valerie Protopapas
    Sat 22nd Jul 2006 at 9:41 pm

    P.S. I’m dying to know what information you managed to glean from that newspaper – if it’s not a secret, that is.


  3. Sat 22nd Jul 2006 at 9:47 pm


    I see it precisely as you do.


  4. Sat 22nd Jul 2006 at 9:48 pm


    What was most useful was the obit of Dahlgren. I quoted from it in chapter 12.


  5. Valerie Protopapas
    Sun 23rd Jul 2006 at 8:39 am

    Thanks. I’m glad it helped.

    I’m surprised, however, that Dahlgren’s obit wasn’t to be found in other works referencing the man. Tell me, did you notice a certain reluctance to cover Dahlgren in later works? Certainly in the contemporary writings I read, he was very well thought of and his death greatly mourned. Indeed, there was much consternation concerning the treatment of his body by the Confederates and a general condemnation of their actions.

    Do you find that later writers were ambiguous about the young man and that is perhaps why coverage of his short life is so lacking? After all, other equally young and courageous men fought and died in the war and they seem to lack no positive coverage Consider Col. Charles R. Lowell who, despite somewhat negative comments about his abilities as a commander (NOT his character) by those who served under him, was lionized in at least one biography and certainly well spoken of by writers covering the war both contemporary and modern. Yet, Lowell, like young Dahlgren, died during the war and certainly not nearly so spectacularly.

    Furthermore, he, Lowell, didn’t even function in a theater of the war considered ‘glorious’. Rather, he was commanded to chase ‘guerrillas, horsethieves and ‘outlaws’, a job (as Lowell himself put it) for a policeman rather than a soldier. So why then is Lowell relatively well covered while Dahlgren – who came from a much more prominent military family and moved in the best of circles – so ignored? Do you think it reflects a later assessment by historians and writers of the whole ‘plot’ business and (not to sound like a conspiracy theorist) a desire to let that whole thing die of neglect?

    Dahlgren had EVERYTHING that should have marked him for simply TONS of coverage. He was handsome, young, brave, well born and consorted with the ‘movers and shakers’ of the time. Furthermore, he died young in a hail of bullets during a daring raid after which his body was handled anything but deferentially but was eventually returned to his grieving father, the famous Admiral Dahlgren. Even from the point of view of a ‘good yarn’, Dahlgren’s story should be one of the best know of the war. Instead, he gets considerably less interest than many men of his period who had NONE of these ‘markers’ of fame. I find this a bit mystifying myself. Hopefully, your work may shed at least SOME light on this – although perhaps you are not going to delve into the matter as it takes place posthumously.


  6. Sun 23rd Jul 2006 at 8:55 am


    That’s not the point.

    What I wanted was a variety of examples of how different newspapers in the north reported his death and whether they suggested he was a martyred hero.

    There were plenty of those accounts, and he received plenty of coverage from those papers.


  7. Valerie Protopapas
    Sun 23rd Jul 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Excellent. I have just obtained another couple of papers from around that time. I’ll see if there is anything there.

    Still, I’m sure I mentioned (as you might have noticed) that CONTEMPORARY newspapers carried a great deal about the man, but he doesn’t seem to be well covered in later civil war writings. Yet it would seem that the ‘marks’ I noted should have secured him sufficient fame (or notoriety) to have made him a subject of more interest than apparently has been the case.


Comments are closed.

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress