Thursday, May 04, 2017

History revealed: Sgt. Harvey Tucker's Fredericksburg grave

An utterly fascinating blog post from John Banks' Civil War Blog . . . 

The scene at the top of this post, photographed by Mathew Brady's operators in Fredericksburg, Va., on May 19 or 20, 1864, probably was repeated hundreds, if not thousands, of times in the town and the surrounding, war-ravaged countryside during the Civil War. 
 Read the full essay here

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Returning to Vicksburg's Stockade Redan and Railroad Redoubt

22nd Iowa marker at the Railroad Redoubt, with Texas monument in the distance
For the American Civil War history buff, one of life’s great pleasures is tramping around battlefields and associated sites with the preeminent historians of our time. And for Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign, you can do no better than to accompany Terry Winschel on a three-day excursion. Last weekend Terry led a small group of enthusiasts all over the map, from Chickasaw Bayou, to Grant’s Canal, to Grand Gulf and Port Gibson, to Champion Hill and the Big Blackin to Vicksburg itself, and the siege lines encompassing the Confederate Gibraltar. 

Terry Winschel at the U.S.S. Cairo
This was my fourth visit to Vicksburg (one previous tour with Ed Bearss, author of the ultimate Vicksburg campaign study), and I was struck again and again over the weekend by fresh revelations. The campaign was so long, and so convoluted, it challenges even devoted students. The geography of the areaincluding the ever-changing riverfairly demands a personal visit for one to begin to appreciate the chess match played out by Union and Confederate forces. 

Upon my return to California, it dawned on me that it’s been 25 years since Ted Savas and I brought out volume two, number one of Civil War Regiments, devoted to Vicksburg. Terry wrote a couple of articles for that issue, including “The First Honor at Vicksburg: The First Battalion, 13th U.S. Infantry,” and last weekend we visited the Stockade Redan to recount Uncle Billy's assault there, when the colors of the 13th were advanced to the ditch in front of the formidable Confederate works (of the ten members of the color guard, nine were killed or wounded). 

As Ed Bearss writes in the introduction to the Vicksburg issue, the motto of the 13th U.S. Infantry remains today, “First at Vicksburg,” and the unit’s badge honors their service on May 19, 1863: “There is the cross from the Confederate battle flag with the colors changed from blue to red and the shoulder straps of the two future generals associated with the regiment at its organization—William T. Sherman and Philip H. Sheridan, the former as its colonel and the latter a staff officer.” 

Also in that issue was Jeffry Burden’s superb article, “Into the Breach: The 22nd Iowa Infantry at the Railroad Redoubt.” Burden relates one of the most celebrated exploits of a storied regiment, when a handful of men under Sergeant Joseph Griffith temporarily breached the Railroad Redoubt and captured a dozen prisoners. Visiting the Railroad Redoubt again last Sunday, to hear Terry’s account of the action there, was a thrill. Vicksburg is one of the campaigns about which I have read a great deal, but all these years later I’m still learning something new, as if only now beginning to tackle the subject in earnest. 

Artist's rendering of the assault May 22,
1863 assault on the Railroad Redoubt
This is why I will keep traveling to the historic sites, walking the ground, and seeing it with my own eyes. And this is why the preservation of our historic sites is so important. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. 

Below are some of my early attempts at map-making, to accompany the Winschel and Burden articles a quarter century ago (click to enlarge). 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2017 Lincoln Prize winners announced

The 2017 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize will be awarded to two recipients this year: James B. Conroy, author of Lincoln’s White House: The People’s House in Wartime (Rowman and Littlefield), and Douglas R. Egerton, author of Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America (Basic Books).
Both Conroy and Egerton will be recognized during an event hosted by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at the Union League Club in New York City on Wednesday, April 19. The authors, who will split a $50,000 prize, will each receive a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens' life-size bust “Lincoln the Man.”
Read the complete press release here. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

"Vicksburg is the key!" — Tour set for March 31-April 2

The Campaign and Battles for Vicksburg: 
an in-depth, multi-day tour with Terry Winschel

March 31–April 2, 2017

Friday, March 31: 8:00-4:00 — We will make stops at Louisiana Circle to set the stage and talk about the Naval Siege of Vicksburg. We'll then drive north through Vicksburg, past the Warren County Courthouse, Pemberton's Headquarters, and various river battery sites to the Cairo Museum (we will stop there on Sunday), and out to Chickasaw Bayou Battlefield. From there we will proceed across the river to the Williams-Grant's Canal to talk about the Bayou Expeditions and the march south through Louisiana. After lunch we will visit Grand Gulf and Port Gibson battlefields.
Saturday, April 1: 8:00-4:00 — We will first go to Champion Hill and Big Black River Bridge battlefields. After lunch in Vicksburg we will tour the Union siege lines around the city making stops at key sites as time permits.
Sunday, April 2: (1/2 day) We will go to the Cairo Museum and spend the remainder of the morning touring the Confederate defense line making  stops at Stockade Redan and Railroad Redoubt. We'll adjourn around mid-day.

visit my WHT page for all the details 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Balls Bluff Battlefield Expansion

Interior Secretary Approves Massive Expansion of Balls Bluff Battlefield Landmark

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell yesterday announced her approval of the expansion of the Balls Bluff Battlefield National Historic Landmark near Leesburg.
The expansion is significant. It increases the battlefield landmark from 76 acres to more than 3,300 acres on both sides of the Potomac River and includes Harrison Island.
The news was especially welcomed by the Loudoun County Heritage Commission, which initiated the project five years ago. Prominent in the effort were former Chairman Bill Wilkin, aided by members Mitch Diamond, Lori Kimball, Childs Burden, former member W. Brown Morton III, advisor Jim Morgan and Loudoun County Preservation Planner Heidi Siebentritt.
Read complete article at LoudounNow

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Decision at Tom’s Brook: George Custer, Tom Rosser, and the Joy of the Fight, by William J. Miller

Reprinted from
annual Books issue 
(November 2016)

Decision at Tom’s Brook: 
George Custer, Tom Rosser,
and the 
Joy of the Fight

by William J. Miller 
(Savas Beatie, 2016)
—visit the author's website

Above, George Custer, Library of Congress;
below, Thomas Rosser, American Civil War Museum

Civil War Trust's downloadable
map of the Battle of Tom's Brook

The Civil War Trust page
on Tom's Brook (overview,
facts and resources).

Civil War News book review page

Thursday, December 08, 2016

In Volcano, California, a 737-pound brass cannon named "Old Abe" played a pivotal role in ending a secession movement in 1860s California

From the San Luis Obispo Tribune
July 4, 2015 — Dan Krieger - Special to The Tribune
'Old Abe' versus rebels in California's Gold Rush towns
A 737-pound brass cannon named Old Abe played a pivotal role in ending a secession movement in 1860s California with some strategic window breaking.

"A pro-Union group, “the Volcano Blues,” petitioned the arsenal in Benicia for some artillery. All that could be spared was a 737-pound, Boston-manufactured brass cannon from the Mexican era. It fired a 6-pound ball and could do a great deal of damage to the quickly built wooden structures in Volcano. The gun was transported by riverboat to the Carson Pass road and smuggled into town. It was renamed “Old Abe” and mounted on a movable wooden carriage."

Read the full article about Old Abe here

Below, an image of Old Abe in the Library of Congress, dated April, 1940:

According to this Western Mining History website, Old Abe has a brother at Shiloh. I'll need to check with the NPS about that:

"The cannon was cast by Cyrus Alger & Co. in Boston in 1837 and is the first of two 6-pounders made on the same day to be stamped with serial number 4. The cannon was never fired. The other cannon still survives at Shiloh Battlefield and is called "Shiloh Sam". Abe is the only cannon of that age in the U.S. still on a nineteenth century wooden carriage, and has had an interesting history all on its own."