Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A Stillness at Appomattox

I'm back in the Golden State after a jam-packed Civil War weekend in Appomattox, and will take some time later this week to post some photos and reflections. After two days of following Patrick Schroeder around—this being my second visit to the area—I'm finally beginning to get the lay of the land. It's a difficult campaign to grasp, and pouring over maps is not quite enough.

For me, it's always been a challenging puzzle to visualize the disengagement of Lee's army from Petersburg, the rapid Federal pursuit, and the precise chronology and movement of pieces of both armies along a network of roughly parallel roads on either side of the Appomattox River. For the first time, I started to see a more complete picture of how the Army of Northern Virginia became disconnected, and how Federal cavalry closed off first one route and then another, forcing the remnants of Lee's army into a "punchbowl" with nowhere to go. Now I need to revisit some of the primary source material, and Chris Calkins's narratives, to finally achieve something approaching fluency in my understanding of the incredibly dramatic closing hours of the war in the East. Virtually all Civil War battlefields require a personal visit to make sense of the complicated and often clumsy descriptions intended to illuminate them, but some require it more than others.

You can't appreciate the swale that swallowed Longstreet's Assault until you personally make the walk to Cemetery Ridge. Once you've seen for yourself the ravines at Shiloh, you won't so casually fault Beauregard for not finishing the job on the first day. And until you
grok the geography and road network on Lee's retreat from Petersburg, you cannot appreciate how close we came to losing the poetry of Catton's title, A Stillness at Appomattox, in favor of a stillness at some other place. I billed this tour as "Unseen Appomattox," and Patrick did not disappoint. We made several forays into heavily wooded areas to locate the ruins of various wartime structures, and some extant defensive works, and saw many other sites that warmed the cockles of our uber-geeky Civil War hearts.

[Photo at top: Appomattox Court House National Historic Park historian Patrick Schroeder, holding up a period photo of Longstreet's headquarters in front of the ruins of that building.]



That happens to be the "Flood House", also Longstreet's last headquarters. I have dozens of photos of that house inside and out and quite a few artifacts recovered from that and surrounding properties, pertaining to Lincoln's War of Northern Agression.Were you able to draw a rendition of the "Morton House" from what remains of it, or were you able to view it? Sure would like to see what it may have looked like before it fell in.I did a pretty fair photo layout of the remains of that house, as well.

Tim Pence said...

Virginia_Rebel: I am VERY interested in those Flood house photos. Please contact me at Have an interesting story regarding this house.


Tim Pence
Bowling Green, KY

Tim Pence said...

Virginia_Rebel: correction-my email address is