Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New Books on the night stand

My work (the stuff I do to pay the bills) is no way related to my passion for reading and researching about the Civil War. The one connection between my corporate world job and my history life is that my job gives me the financial wherewithal to build my personal Civil War library. There is nothing more I like in then finding a new Civil War title. Over the past week I pick three new titles and added them to my reading list.

William Marverl's Mr. Lincoln Goes to War ( 2006, Houghton Mifflin). I have enjoyed Marvel’s writing in the past so I picked it up. I am about ½ through it. Marvel’s assertion that Lincoln was calculating in how he positioned the South to take the first shot is not really a new theory. Richard N. Current’s Lincoln and the First Shot ( 1963, Harper and Row) covered a lot of this same ground. Marvel is a little harsher in his view of Lincoln during the lead up to Fort Sumter. While Current cites Lincoln as being aware that launching and expedition to the fort would probably lead to war he also indicates that Lincoln believed that a peaceful solution could be reached. Marvel on the other hand indicates that Lincoln missed opportunities to prevent war and in fact fanned the flames. The one thing that stands out is how Marvel debunks the idea that northern soldiers in 1861 were strictly motivated for patriotic reasons. He writes that the abstract notions of patriotism or principle really only played a superficial role in getting men from the north to volunteer in 1861. His theory is that was not a lot of difference in the motivation between those soldiers who enlisted in 1861 to those who enlisted in 1863

The second book which I did find at my local Border’s is Glenn W. LaFantasie’s Gettysburg Requiem, The Life and Lost Causes of Confederate Colonel William C. Oates. (2006, Oxford University Press). I picked this up because I am a sucker for books that have to do with the action around Little Round Top. Growing up in Maine the stories of Joshua L. Chamberlain could not be ignored. As I have grown older understanding how the legend of Chamberlain has grown (a lot through his own hand) has become more interesting. I this book will provide some good insight into how Chamberlain’s chief opponent at Gettysburg viewed what happened and worked to memorialize the scarf ices of his men.

The third book just arrived today. Edmund J. Raus Jr.’s Banners South, A Northern Community at War ( 2005, Kent State University Press). An initial overview shows that this a regimental history of the 23rd NY with a twist. Instead of the traditional focus on strictly the military aspects of the 23rd’s history Raus deals extensively with the connection between the common solider and the home front. I am looking forward to reading this book because as I work through my own research the element of the home front is never far from the minds of the soldiers.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Am I a Centennialist?

Another day and yet another Centennialist rant. Does the fact that somebody reads and is inspired by a populist publication like American Heritage make one a Centennialist? If so I must be one because my first exposure to the Civil War came from the pages of AH and their picture history. If I am one does that mean so are Gary Gallagher and Gerry Prokopowicz? I heard them both say that AH was one of their first exposures to the Civil War. Maybe I should clean out my book case and fill the holes with some good quality anti-centennialist writings. I am still under forty so maybe there is time for me to purge my soul and get rid of the albatross around my neck.

Friday, June 16, 2006

June 18, 1864: “A Pile of Loyal Maine Legs and Arms..”

The 142nd anniversary of the Charge of the First Maine Heavy Artillery will fall this coming Sunday. I recently came across this reference to the aftermath of the charge.

June 19th, 1864
"I have been up to my elbows in blood all day, and its is a relief now just at night to turn for a few minutes homeward, where there is peace and happiness. Our Division had a terrible time yesterday afternoon charging the rebel lines- all the more terrible because the assault was repulsed. Our Brigade, fortunately was not e engaged… but the rest received an awful fire and, ever since here at the hospital, we have been full of the saddest business. The First Maine Heavy Artillery, now doing infantry services, a very large Regt. Composed of a fine class of young men was dreadfully cut up. 500 will not much exceed their loss in killed and wounded. The dear, glorious fellows have been writhing and groaning and dying ever since, and my heart aches for them. It is a sorry sight to see them brought one after the other - these Maine boys and laid on the Surgeon’s table. A pile of loyal Maine legs and arms is the token of what the day’s work has been. Petersburg seems a hard nut to crack and is costing us heavily."

Chaplin Joseph Hopkins Twichell, The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell, A Chaplain's Story (University of Georgia Press, 2006)

The Charge of the First Maine Heavy Artillery has been listed as the single greatest battle loss of any regiment during the entire Civil War. To me the size of the losses on June 18, 1864 is not most important element of this story. What is most important is how the losses on June 18th effected the small towns and villages of Eastern Maine.

For example the town of Carmel, Maine in Penobscot County according to the 1860 Census had a population of 1271. In the course of the war this town had 14 men who were killed or mortally wounded. 10 out of the 14 who were members of the First Maine Heavy Artillery. 7 of those ten were killed on June 18, 1864. In other words .6% of the this town’s 1860 population was killed on June 18th. Cherryfield, Maine in Washington County had 5 men KIA/Mortally wounded on June 18th. This represented 31% of the towns total losses for the whole war.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Well My Ancestor was in the 12th Maine!!!

This comes from the Gospel Banner in Augusta, Maine dated August 27, 1864.

“The oddest pets we have yet seen, says a Washington paper, were two bears, which the 12th Maine Regiment, of the Nineteenth Corps, led through the city recently. These bears were brought all the way from Louisiana, and have been in several fights. The have become perfectly tame and tractable, and march along at the head of the band, with an air that indicates they feel themselves veteran soldiers of the bruin order, and that they have a character to sustain.”

Just shows you never know what you might find when you are doing research.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

New ACW Blog

Touch the Elbow is a new CIvil War related blog I just had a chance to look at today. It looks interesteing and I will be adding it to my links section.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Must See Radio

Fellow Blogger Kevin Levin is scheduled to appear on Civil War Talk Radio on Friday June 9th. I am looking to forward the hearing him and the discussion on his study of the Crater.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Walking the Charge

Pictured above is Don Troiani's The Forlorn Hope, 1989

One of the highlights of my recent trip happened on Sunday morning. I got up early and left the University of Richmond and drove down to Petersburg. I was there early and wanted to get to the site of the First Maine Heavy Artillery Monument. I parked my car and walked over to the remains of the of Prince George County Road. For those of you who don’t know the story this is where the First Maine Heavy Artillery formed up in 3 Battalions of about 300 men each. Each Battalion would have been about 375 ft across and 2 ranks deep. From this position in the road the First Maine Heavy Artillery was ordered to charge across what would have been an open field to the opposing Confederate works. Using the roadbed as my starting point a I walked over the embankment that would have provided the last bit of cover for the men who went forward on that day. Moving through the woods I noticed that from where I was my left flank would have been some what sheltered by the small hill at the top the Hare House would have stood, however my front and my right flank would have been wide open. About 100 paces in the ground started to slope upwards ever so slightly. At this point my I was thinking how many men would have fallen by now. In another 20 to 40 paces I began to move beyond the front slope of the Hare House hill. If I was here in June of 1864 I would now have been wide open to artillery and musket fire on the on my right, center and left. How many more men fell in those twenty steps. At 180 paces I found a small gulley and wondered how many men fell here or tried to seek cover? Still the charge proceeds, on ward and forward, towards the top of the opposing hill. In 1864 along the crest of the hill would have been thousands of muskets firing and tearing holes in to the entire line. At 255 paces I found another small gulley and again wonder how many fell to this point how many refused to push on and who many still went further. By 289 paces I am now in front of the First Maine Heavy Artillery Monument. Placed here in June of 1894 and dedicated in September of that year it was recognized as the point in the charge where most of the men fell. For those that had not fallen is this the point where they decided to turn back. Almost 300 paces in and I have yet to start climbing up the incline of the opposite hill. Since I am not facing a writhing fire of artillery and muskets I decide to push on. At 315 paces I find a large depression and I could feel how those who made it to this position would have clung here to the earth counting their blessings they were still alive but dreading the thought of having to back track over the same ground that had already claimed so many of their comrades. After this depression which is still a good 3 feet deep it is another 30 paces before the ground really begins to slope up to the crest that would have been the Confederate line on that day in June 1864. At this point in reflection of what happened to the men of the First Maine Heavy Artillery I turned back…..

There are 212 names of those killed or mortally wounded on June 18, 1864 listed on the monument of the First Maine Heavy Artillery. This does not take into account the additional 400 plus wounded on that day. The monument to me stands as a stark reminder not only of the wastefulness of war but also a reflection on the true cost of freedom.

Friday, June 02, 2006

In the News

Interesting article from dailypress.com that talks about how the Civil War offers tips for modern combat.
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