Sunday, November 12, 2017

two new GRANT books hot off the presses

It was a big summer and fall for the nation's 18th president. . . Click on the image to go to the publisher's site:

  • Hardcover: 1104 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; First Edition edition
    (October 10, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420487X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204876

  • Series: American Presidency Series
  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
    (August 28, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700624848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700624843

Saturday, November 04, 2017

US Army 29th Infantry Division shoulder sleeve patch with a blue and gray monad

Shoulder sleeve insignia of the United States Army 29th Infantry Division, nicknamed the Blue and Gray Division, based on their circular blue and gray badge with a yin-yang design, or monad, a Korean symbol of eternal life. The colors symbolize the Division tradition of being formed by men whose forefathers fought in the Civil War, for both Union blue and Confederate gray. The 116th infantry regiment of the 29th Division was part of the first wave assault to land at Omaha Beach on D Day, June 6, 1944. They suffered heavy losses, but pushed on to relieve and reinforce combat units inland. At the end of September they were fighting on the German border and, in March 1945, were ordered to attack in the heavily defended Ruhr industrial region. 

On April 3rd, the Division liberated Dinslaken civilian labor camp. They had pushed on to the Elbe River when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. The 29th Infantry served in the Army of Occupation in Frankfurt and Bremen until returning to the US on January 4, 1946, where they were inactivated on January 17.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

General Grant at his new City Point headquarters
From a recent post on one of my favorite Facebook pages

"Wow, I have long liked this detail with General Grant at right at his new City Point headquarters, early summer 1864, but did not until just now did I notice the captured Confederate flag leaning against the tree at left! You can never scour the details of these photos too often."

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Battle of the U.S.S. "Kearsarge" and the C.S.S. "Alabama"

The Battle of the U.S.S. "Kearsarge" and the C.S.S. "Alabama"
Édouard Manet, 1864

Manet's first known seascape is an imaginative depiction of an American Civil War naval battle fought off the coast of France, near Cherbourg, on June 19, 1864. In the distance, the C.S.S. Alabama, a scourge of Union shipping, sinks by her stern, clouds of smoke arising from a direct hit to her engines by the U.S.S. Kearsarge, which is mostly obscured from view. This picture was first displayed in the window of Alfred Cadart's print shop in Paris in July 1864, demonstrating Manet's quick response to a sensational and recent news event. [text: Google Arts and Culture]

• Title: The Battle of the U.S.S. "Kearsarge" and the C.S.S. "Alabama"
• Date: 1864
• Location: France
• Physical Dimensions: w50.75 x h54.25 in (Overall)
• Artist/Maker: Ă‰douard Manet, French, 1832 - 1883
• Provenance: John G. Johnson Collection, 1917
• Type: Paintings
• Rights: © 2014 Philadelphia Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
• External Link: Philadelphia Museum of Art

• Medium: Oil on canvas

Monday, October 16, 2017

it was Georgia's house, not Jennie Wade's

Georgia Wade McClellan
In my last post, I shined a light on my Iowa hometown's Abraham Lincoln connection -- the land grant he received for service in the Black Hawk War. Today I'm highlighting a Gettysburg connection, one that I was entirely unaware of in my junior high and high school years in Denison, Iowa, even as I made a family visit to Gettysburg, and poured through my first Bruce Catton volume. 

Civil War enthusiasts will know that one of Gettysburg’s well-known tourist attractions is the Jennie Wade House, at 548 Baltimore Street. It was there that Mary Virginia Wade was killed while kneading dough in the kitchen, the only known civilian to die in the Battle of Gettysburg. [Exploitation of that family is presumably lucrative, and knows no bounds.]

It bears noting that it wasn’t actually Jennie Wade’s house – it was the home of her older sister, Georgia Wade McClellan (one might also note that Mary Virginia was called “Gin,” or “Ginnie,” or "Jinnie” by her family, but Jennie is how she is remembered today, and is the name that appears on her tombstone in Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery). Mary Virginia Wade and her mother had taken refuge in Georgia’s house, where Georgia had just given  birth to her first child. On the third day of the battle, a wayward bullet entered the house and struck Jennie. 

It wasn’t until the sesquicentennial commemorations that I learned -- through a Civil War-related news item -- that Georgia Wade McClellan is buried in Denison. Georgia — who turned 22-years-old the day after her sister was killed — served as a nurse for wounded soldiers after the battle. Not long after the war, Georgia and her husband, John L. McClellan, moved west, eventually settling in Denison, where three of their children were born. Her husband reportedly became Denison’s first marshal. 

Georgia ran a home for women in Fort Dodge, Iowa for awhile. After her husband died, she lived with a grandchild in Carroll, Iowa, down the road from Denison, where she died in 1927. She was buried beside her husband in Denison's Oakland Cemetery on September 7 of that year. 

I have read in at least one source that Georgia was in attendance when Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in the national cemetery, and I'm endeavoring to substantiate that (the FindAGrave entry for Georgia goes so far as to say she was on the platform with Lincoln, and was one of the speakers that day, but no source is given). Check out FindAGrave for some additional information on Georgia, and a number of other photos. 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Abe Lincoln (Never) Slept Here . . .

. . . but he did own the land. Last month I journeyed to Iowa for a high school reunion, and I had a checklist of items I wanted to see—things I was oblivious to in my youth, and only subsequently learned about. One of the things I was curious to lay eyes on was a land grant to Abraham Lincoln. Quoting Abraham Lincoln Online: "Lincoln's second [Iowa] parcel was 120 acres in Goodrich Township, Crawford County. It is seven miles north of Denison and one mile east of Schleswig, identified by a marker erected in 1923 by the Denison Chapter of the D.A.R. Warrant #68645 was issued on April 22, 1856, and Lincoln located the land while living in Springfield, Illinois, on December 27, 1859.

The patent for the Crawford County tract was issued to Lincoln on September 10, 1860, during his first presidential campaign, and sent to the Registrar of the Land Office at Springfield on October 30, one week before the election. The property eventually passed to Lincoln's only surviving son Robert, who sold the property to Henry Edwards for $1,300 on March 22, 1892."

Another source, (on very handy site called Iowa Civil War Monuments) asserts that "When he visited Council Bluffs in 1859 to consult with Grenville Dodge about a future transcontinental railroad, he referred to his land here but said he couldn't take the time to see it."

I made the time, however, 40 years after I lived there. Thankfully, it's well marked. On Google Maps, you can find it here: 42°05'40.7"N 95°25'12.0"W

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Charlie, the horse who carried the dispatch from General Slocum to General Sherman

  • Title: [Charlie, the horse who carried the dispatch from General Slocum to General Sherman announcing the surrender of Atlanta, Georgia]
  • Date Created/Published: [1885]
  • Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs (Library of Congress).

Monday, October 02, 2017

First fully annotated version of Grant's memoirs

Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library historians, from left to right, Louie P. Gallo, John F. Marszalek and David S. Nolen, this month will release “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant: The Complete Annotated Edition,” published by Harvard University Press. (Photo by Megan Bean)

Contact: James Carskadon
STARKVILLE, Miss.—Although Ulysses S. Grant’s personal memoirs have remained in print for more than 130 years, the American nonfiction classic is being fully annotated for the first time in a new book by historians at the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University.
“The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant: The Complete Annotated Edition” will provide modern context for the historical memoirs when it is released Oct. 16 by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. John F. Marszalek, MSU Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History and Ulysses S. Grant Association Executive Director and Managing Editor, edited the book, along with Grant Association assistant editors David S. Nolen and Louie P. Gallo. The annotated version of Grant’s memoirs contains over 2,000 footnotes that provide additional information and place the former president’s thoughts in the context of when he was writing.
“The great thing about this book is it lets Grant speak for himself, but it lets a modern reader get more insight,” Marszalek said. “If we can make this piece of literature clearer to the modern audience, then we’ve accomplished something significant.”
Grant completed his memoirs at the Mt. McGregor retreat in New York, days before his death in 1885 and at a time when he had lost all of his money in a Ponzi scheme. The memoirs, sold door-to-door by former Civil War soldiers, would go on to be hailed as one of the most important works of American nonfiction in the 19th century. Grant’s writing style, which was concise and written in approachable language, has helped his memoirs remain accessible to audiences for generations after his death.
The Mt. McGregor retreat, later named the Ulysses S. Grant Cottage State Historic Site, was recently named New York’s 24th Literary Landmark. Nolen was the keynote speaker for a ceremony at the cottage commemorating the designation.
“It was an incredible honor to go and be a part of that ceremony and that event,” Nolen said. “I thought it was very fitting that the site should have that designation. When you think of the memoirs being completed there, Grant really made some difficult and painful decisions along the way right there in that spot, for what became a classic in American literature.”
The annotated version of Grant’s memoirs has been in the making for over 50 years. Former Ulysses S. Grant Association President John Y. Simon wrote in 1967 that the project would begin once the association had completed its compilation of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. With the 32nd volume of Grant’s papers completed earlier this decade, the Grant Library team at Mississippi State began working on a modern version of Grant’s memoirs. The annotated version contains a preface by Grant Association President and former Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams.
“Grant’s writing style is very unpretentious and plain, but in a good way,” Gallo said. “I think that translates over the years, because anybody can pick it up and read it. It’s just an easy read and the story is so intriguing. It’s interesting to see his perspective on these huge events in American history. We identify every person Grant mentions in the book, which helps preserve some additional memories. I hope this is the edition to end all editions of Grant’s memoirs.”
MSU Libraries will host a book signing on Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. The authors will hold book signings and discussions this month at Starkville Public Library and Square Books in Oxford. An additional book signing will take place when the new Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University officially opens with a celebration on Nov. 30.
For more on “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant: The Complete Annotated Edition,” visit
Mississippi State is one of five universities housing a presidential library. For more, visit
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Adolph Metzner Civil War Drawings (LoC)

From a guest post by Julie Stoner, a reference librarian in the Geography and Map Division. It was first published on “Picture This,” the Prints and Photographs Division’s blog.
As an admirer of Civil War drawings, I found my interest piqued by a recently digitized collection of drawings by Adolph G. Metzner. The difference in style from many other drawings of the time, along with the richness of color, drew me in to learn more about this man and his artwork. 
Born on August 13, 1834, in southwestern Germany, Adolph Metzner immigrated to the United States in 1856. Shortly after the start of the Civil War, Metzner joined the 32nd Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry, also called the First German, fighting for three years on the western front of the war. 
See the full blog post, with links to Metzner's work, here

Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, fall 1863

Beginning of the Atlanta Campaign, May 10, 1864

Battle of Peach Tree Creek, Georgia, July 20, 1864

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Southern Comfort -- McPherson in NYRB (2001)

Revisiting a New York Review of Books essay from the April 12, 2001 issue. . .

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Amiable Scoundrel" -- author interview (PhillyVoice)

Simon Cameron, who served as secretary of war from March 1861 to January 1862.
He was well-known as a party-machine Democrat in Pennsylvania. (Handout Art/Paul Kahan)

What sparked your interest in Simon Cameron? There are lots of people you could study in politics, after all.
Well, I have always been interested in Pennsylvania’s history — it is a thread that runs through all of my books — but it was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s magisterial Team of Rivals that wanted to make me find out more about Cameron. The traditional depiction of Cameron is of a Machiavellian and corrupt politico who, as Secretary of War, proved himself totally inept. I was curious how and why such a clearly gifted politician was unable to translate those skills into success as Secretary of War. What I discovered was that there were only two biographies of Cameron: the standard one (Edwin S. Bradley’s, Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s Secretary of War: A Political Biography) and the first of what was supposed to be a two-volume bio (Lee Forbes Crippen’s, Simon Cameron: Antebellum Years).  Both were incredibly dated and incomplete and, with the 150th anniversary of the war looming, it seemed like a good time to reinterpret Cameron’s life and legacy.
Read the full interview at PhillyVoice

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Retouching History: The Modern Falsification of a Civil War Photograph [fake news, Civil War style]

Figure 1. Studio photograph taken in Philadelphia, probably in early 1864. The handwritten numbers, “1895 x 1895” in reverse in the upper right-hand corner appear to have been hand-scratched on the emulsion side of the original glass plate negative; these numbers may represent a catalog reference used by the photographer. Photograph, courtesy, James Spina (see note 6 in the linked article).

Retouching History:
The Modern Falsification of a Civil War Photograph

by Jerome S. Handler and Michael L. Tuite, Jr.


“In the past decade,” the Yale historian David Blight has recently written, “the neo-Confederate fringe of Civil War enthusiasm . . . has contended that thousands of African Americans, slave and free, willingly joined the Confederate war effort as soldiers and fought for their ‘homeland’ . . . . Slaves’ fidelity to their masters’ cause - - a falsehood constructed to support claims that the war was not about slavery - - has long formed one of the staple arguments in Lost Cause ideology.” 

In this paper we discuss a graphic example of Blight’s contention by examining a Civil War-era posed studio photograph of black Union soldiers with a white officer. We maintain that this photograph has been deliberately falsified in recent years by an unknown person/s sympathetic to the Confederacy. This falsified or fabricated photo, purporting to be of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards (Confederate), has been taken to promote Neo-Confederate views, to accuse Union propagandists of duplicity, and to show that black soldiers were involved in the armed defense of the Confederacy. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fort Sumter, South Carolina (watercolor)

Fort Sumter, South Carolina
by Thomas Kennet-Were, 1869
[University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center]

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Watercolors of Civil War ironclads by Ens. D. M. N. Stouffer, ca. 1864-65. (David Dixon Porter Papers)

The vessels shown here were all part of the Mississippi Squadron under the command of Adm. David Dixon Porter (1813-1891). The squadron was created on 1 October 1862, by the transfer of command of the Western Flotilla from the army to the navy. Its purpose was to cooperate with Union land forces in combating guerrillas operating along the western rivers, to punish Confederate sympathizers, to protect transport and supply ships, and to prevent the movement of Confederate troops and supplies.

The Essex was an ironclad gunboat built in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1856. Originally commissioned the New Era, she served as a ferry until 1861, when she was purchased by the War Department and renamed. The Essex played an important part in the Vicksburg and Port Hutson campaigns.

The Choctaw, a side-wheel steamer built in 1853, was purchased by the government in 1862 and converted to an ironclad ram. The vessel spent the entire war patrolling the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

[quoted from Library of Congress, American Memory] Read about other vessels in the Mississippi Squadron by clicking on the link below:

John R. Sellers, Manuscript Division

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book Review: A More Civil War, How the Union Waged a Just War, by D. H. Dilbeck

[first published in The Civil War News, June 2017]

A More Civil War: How the Union Waged a Just War. 
By D.H. Dilbeck. Notes, bibliography, index, 224 pp., 2016. University of North Carolina Press. $34.95. 

Many texts have focused on the unspeakable violence and destruction of the Civil War as evidence that it ushered in a new era of “total war,” particularly in the way it expanded to target civilians and private property. Other essential studies, most notably Mark Grimsley’s, The Hard Hand of War (Cambridge University Press, 1995), and Mark E. Neely’s The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction (Harvard University Press, 2007), have tempered that assessment by highlighting, among other things, the significant restraint shown by and limits imposed upon Federal forces in enemy territory.

D.H. Dilbeck, in A More Civil War, aims to bring another dimension to our understanding of how the war was fought, and to offer a better understanding of how Federals reconciled support for such savage destruction with their notion of conducting a “just war.” While Grimsley and Neely thoroughly chronicle Union military restraint, Dilbeck maintains that their volumes fall short of explaining exactly why that restraint was manifested.

It is the philosophical, spiritual, and legal underpinnings of that restraint, codified in April of 1863 with the Lieber Code, that the author especially endeavors to illuminate. The Lieber Code outlined the limits to conduct in war, as befits a civilized Christian society, and yet a just war demanded severe prosecution to ensure an expeditious resolution. The idea is expressed in simplest terms in article 29 of the Code itself: “The more vigorously wars are pursued, the better it is for humanity. Sharp wars are brief.”

Of particular interest here is the profile of Francis Lieber, and the evolution of his thinking on the
rules of war. The Code, issued with Lincoln’s signature as General Orders 100 and entitled, “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field,” was authored by a man who felt keenly the horrors of war, having three sons in uniform. One of his boys was killed fighting for the Confederacy, and another was maimed in the service of an Illinois regiment.

As I read this book, it occurred to me that I had never seen a photo of Francis Lieber, who plays such a monumental role in the “civil” part of the title. I was surprised the publisher did not include one (for interested readers, you can quickly find a portrait of Lieber online at the Library of Congress site, from their Brady- Handy Collection).

A More Civil War is well organized and deeply researched, with ample notes and an impressive bibliography. It breaks new ground to the extent that it adds fresh furrows to the field plowed by Grimsley and Neely, and that’s a meaningful contribution.

David Woodbury was a contributing author and cartographer for The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference, and is the editor of Talking About History: Historians Discuss the Civil War. 

[Civil War News is a current events monthly newspaper (12 times a year) published by Jack W. Melton Jr. of Historical Publications LLC.]

Professor Francis Lieber (Library of Congress)

Blue & Gray Magazine Ceases Publication

Sad news today from Dave Roth in Columbus, Ohio. Many or most Civil War enthusiasts who came of age in the post-Centennial years cut their teeth on Blue & Gray magazine. The hallmark "General's Tour," for many years, was the place to go for a modern, driving-tour map of certain battles and campaigns. For certain actions, back issues of B&G probably still remain the only resource for such things. 

I still feel a tinge of excitement just to see the familiar cover. While I regret not always keeping my subscription current every single year -- contributing to the problem Mr. Roth highlights in his farewell address -- my home is nevertheless littered with dozens of issues on every subject, going back to the mid-80's or so. Rarely did I visit a battlefield visitor center without picking up some back issues, quite a few of which I read cover-to-cover in hotel rooms and on long flights home from battlefield tours. 

Thank you to Dave, and Jason and Robin, for so many years of an outstanding publication. 

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