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Nice Work, If You Can Get It . . . Here’s Your Chance!

The U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) is looking to hire a military historian to join our teaching team at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. A completed PhD in history and teaching experience (especially military history) are the most important qualifications, with publications and engagement in other professional activities being helpful. Field of research and study is completely open.

The job consists of teaching the core Intermediate Level Education course on military history, H100: Rise of the Western Way of War, three times a year, plus other instructional and administrative duties as required by the teaching team. H100 is a twelve-lesson (24 hours total) graduate-level course, developed by the Department of Military History (DMH) here at Fort Leavenworth, that covers military history from approximately 1400 through World War I and is organized around the themes of military change over time, military theory, and the relationship between war and society. The texts are Geoffrey Parker, ed., Cambridge History of Warfare and MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray, eds., The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050, plus a book of readings put together by the course and lesson authors at Fort Leavenworth. For each iteration of the course, you will also conduct a one-day staff ride of Chickamauga, with training and support (the picture below is from the train up/recon for the July 2010 ride; photos from the April 2010 ride are further below) provided–with a BIG assist from NPS historian Jim Ogden–by me and other instructors from the Department of Military History.

Lookout Mountain1

The job announcement (Vacancy Announcement Number SWEX11024615) will be posted tomorrow at Civilian Personnel Online and remain up for two weeks only–closing date for applications is 9 May 2011. If you need further information, contact Dr. Richard Barbuto at

The college hopes to get someone hired and in harness with the Redstone Arsenal team in operation in time for the fall iteration of the course, which starts in August or September. Now check out these photos. This could be your future!

A good day for a Chickamauga recon with Terry Beckenbaugh, Jim Ogden, Christopher Stowe, Greg Hospodor, and Derek Mallett.

Dr. Greg Hospodor of DMH-Fort Leavenworth, channelling his inner Willich at the Brotherton Field

Dr. Terry Beckenbaugh of DMH-Fort Leavenworth, making the magic happen on Horseshoe Ridge.

Dr. Derek Mallett of DMH-Redstone, helping a colleague get pointed in the right direction on Horseshoe Ridge .

Christopher Stowe of DMH-Fort Lee, bringing it all back to Meade :) on Snodgrass Hill.

On to Richmond!

Off to Virginia tomorrow for a Seven Days staff ride with the good folks at Fort Lee (not exactly Richmond, but close enough). Call me crazy, but for some reason I suspect this will come up in the course of our discussions of battlefield leadership and joint operations:

Gunboat Candidate

I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t. :)

Society for Military History Program and Awards

SMH-LogoThe program for the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History, which is being held on 9-12 June 2011 in Lisle, IL, and sponsored by the Cantigny First Division Foundation, has recently been posted. There will be a number of sessions and papers that address topics of interest to students of American Civil War military history. Moreover, there will once again be a pretty decent contingent of Civil War historians in attendance, including Mark, Brian Holden Reid, Susannah Ural, Greg Urwin, George Rable, and Jeff Prushankin. I will be presenting a paper in a session on “Teaching the Military Revolution: A Roundtable Discussion” and participating in activities associated with chairing the SMH Awards Committee.

Gerhard Weinberg is this year’s recipient of The Samuel Eliot Morison Prize, which recognizes not any one specific achievement, but a body of contributions in the field of military history, extending over time and reflecting a spectrum of scholarly activity contributing significantly to the field.

Joseph Fitzharris will receive the Edwin H. Simmons Award (formerly the Victor Gondos Award), which recognizes long, distinguished or particularly outstanding service to the SMH.
Wilson Thirty Years
For the SMH Distinguished Book Awards, which are given to outstanding works in the following categories, U.S., non-U.S., biography/memoir, and reference, the committee (Robert Citino, Peter Kindsvatter, Adrian Lewis, George Satterfield, and myself) selected:

Chad L. Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era (University of North Carolina Press)
Peter H. Wilson, The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy (Harvard University Press)
John MacFarlane, Triquet’s Cross: A Study of Military Heroism (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
Clifford J. Rogers, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. (Oxford University Press)

The SMH Moncado Awards for outstanding articles in The Journal of Military History go to:

Yuval Noah Harari, “Armchairs, Coffee, and Authority: Eye-witnesses and Flesh-witnesses Speak about War”
Marc Milner, “Stopping the Panzers: Reassessing the Role of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in Normandy, 7-10 June 1944”
Greg Kennedy, “Anglo-American Strategic Relations and Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air Power 1934-1941”
John T. Kuehn, “The U.S. Navy General Board and Naval Arms Limitation: 1922-1937”

Further information about the SMH program and logistics for the meeting can be found here.

From the department of “Huh”?

Anyone out there know what this artillery piece is? (Click image for full-size photo.)

Curious cannon

This is decidedly outside my field of expertise, but have ventured to speculate that the carriage suggests it may have been used for garrison or siege operations and it looks more like a howitzer than a regular field artillery piece. Other than that, I am stumped.

According to the person who brought it to the attention of my CGSC colleague Terry Beckenbaugh (who in turn brought it to my attention), it “by tradition belonged to HS Adams. It is 3.5 inch in diameter.”

A Fond Farewell

After a long tenure as a member of the original team of bloggers that brought you Civil Warriors, I’ve decided that it’s time to take a break from blogging and step down from this blog.  I am currently engaged in finishing several manuscripts (as anyone can tell you, often the last steps in getting a manuscript off are the hardest, most tedious, and when it’s over, you welcome it with great relief).  I’m going over last minute revisions in my manuscript about the Civil War in the Eastern theater (a rather concise manuscript by my standards); revising America’s Civil War for an updated edition; working on the third volume of my contribution to the Library of America’s multivolume look at the war (the first volume, which Stephen W. Sears, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, and I coedited, will appear early next year); helping a senior colleague finish a manuscript on Union generalship; and finishing various assorted book chapters, editing assignments, and the like.  Then I have some other assignments awaiting completion: it will continue to be a very busy time for me.

The last decade for me has been a time where I’ve invested much energy in administrative matters at the university, college, and department level, as well in several professional organizations (such as the Abraham Lincoln Association); I’ve also concentrated on being a good father to three rather lively young ladies as well as being a good spouse to Cheryl, who brings real Confederate blood into the family.  The professional/career choices came at the expense of my publishing, as I simply did not want to maintain the pace of publication I had enjoyed in the 1990s.  I wanted to think more before I wrote more, and there is more to life than writing.  At the same time, I wanted to do things worth doing: in one case I got entangled in a project that became a big mistake because of the behavior of the publisher and the fact that I was misled as to what my task entailed (although the finished book proved a success, the back story remains interesting, in part because most of my ghostwriting and revision remained intact while I was not given appropriate credit).  That experience left a sour taste in my mouth and took time and energy away from my own work.  Other projects and opportunities proved more rewarding, such as my trip to Turkey in 2009 on behalf of the State Department, as well as an active presence with a newspaper sports blog back in New York.  I wanted to rethink what I was doing, and then of course sometimes life gets in the way.  For those of you waiting for volume two of the Grant biography, don’t worry, it’s coming, but I wanted to make it worth the wait.  I promise I will finish Grant in much less time than Edmund Morris took to write his Theodore Roosevelt trilogy, and I remain wedded to two volumes.  I’ve also embarked on several other projects, a few of long standing, but the fact is that while I’m maintaining my personal obligations (with one daughter in college, another soon to follow, and a third still mastering Halo) while concluding other obligations (mainly administrative ones at ASU) and moving back into writing once more.  Blogging for me is a way to comment on various issues as they come across my desk (or screen), and I want it to be part of what I do in the way I want it to fit what I do.

My decision to depart from Civil Warriors does not mean that I’m leaving the world of blogging: far from it.  Although I am still pondering an offer to become a blogger for a hockey site (where I would cover the Phoenix Coyotes), I will resume blogging next year, this time on my own, on a site tentatively called Crossroads.  There’s a great deal more to blogging that simply submitting blog texts, and I’ll have to learn what to do and how I want to do it.  I expect the learning curve to be an interesting one.

I want to take this chance to thank Mark Grimsley for inviting me to join him at Civil Warriors.  Mark’s been a professional collaborator for many years, and I expect that to continue (we still have to nail down revisions to our Gettysburg battlefield guide).  I also want to thank the other members of the team, especially Ethan Rafuse: he and I have exchanged manuscripts over the years, and, having just digested his comments on my work, I’m about to return the favor. I count both Mark and Ethan as good friends and confidants.  Civil Warriors has been a warm and inviting home over the years, and I wish it all the best as Mark and Ethan continue to carry it forward.  As for my fellow bloggers, a tip of the hat to Kevin Levin and Eric Wittenberg … and gentlemen, we will soon discuss other projects.

Take care.

Little Mac and Second Manassas

CWTDec2010About a month ago, Harry Smeltzer and others saw fit to call my attention to an article in the December 2010 Civil War Times Illustrated by Edward H. Bonekemper III that offered a very critical recounting of George McClellan’s conduct during the Second Manassas Campaign. My initial impulse was to do the response that Harry urged me to prepare here at Civil Warriors. Then, however, Chris Howland, Dana Shoaf’s right-hand man at CWT, contacted me and asked if I wanted to do a response in a letter to the magazine.

I agreed, but found that the 100-150 word limit for the letter was insufficient to contain all my thoughts on the subject. When I told him this, Chris, after accepting a very brief 100 or so word response for the printed edition (it appears in the just-published February 2011 CWT), kindly invited me to prepare a longer response that would accompany Bonekemper’s article when it was posted on I accepted the invitation and the article and response have just appeared. They can be accessed by clicking here.

My response, entitled “Little Mac Acting Badly–A Response”, begins on window/page 6. Enjoy!

Call for Papers

The 54th Annual Missouri Valley History Conference will be held March 3-5, 2011 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Society for Military History sponsors a full slate of sessions at the MVHC and also will again be sponsoring a “huddle” for Society for Military History participants. Individual proposals and session proposals are welcome. For individuals, send a one page proposal and short c.v. (only c.v. if volunteering to chair/comment). For sessions, send one-page session proposal, one-page proposal for each paper, and short c.v.s for all participants. Please include e-mail address. Deadline for proposals is October 31, 2010.

Send proposals, c.v.s and inquiries for contest rules to: Connie K. Harris, PO Box, Grasston, MN 55030 or send by e-mail to The Society for Military History and the First Division Museum Cantigny sponsors the Kevin J. Carroll award for the best graduate student paper in Military History. This prize is valued at $400 dollars. In addition, the Society for Military History and the First Division Museum Cantigny sponsors a paper prize for the Best Undergraduate Student paper in any area of History which is valued at $200. For information on this prize please send inquiries to Charles King at

Staff Riding the Valley Campaign of 1862, pt. 2

For part one, click here.

19May1008After lunch in Front Royal, Mike, Tim, Sam, and I headed south up the Shenandoah Valley to Rockingham County. After getting off I-81 at Harrisonburg we proceeded to Cross Keys to begin our study of the battles of 8 and 9 June 1862 that closed the campaign. The initial plan was to first stop at Chestnut Ridge just east of Harrisonburg where Col. Turner Ashby was killed in a 6 June rearguard action. But at that point we were running behind schedule, so we decided to skip that stop and go straight to Cross Keys.

As chronicled a few years ago on Civil Warriors, this was not my first visit to Cross Keys. However, in the time since my last visit in June 2007 the owner of the property adjacent to the Carrington Williams Kiosk had made it decidedly unwelcoming to battlefield visitors. Fortunately, when he learned that I was putting this trip together, Brig. Gen. (ret.) John Mountcastle put me in contact with Dr. Irvin Hess, the owner of the Widow Pence Farm, which is located near the right-center of the Confederate line at Cross Keys. It was also where Brig. Gen. Isaac Trimble’s brigade of Maj. Gen. Richard Ewell’s division saw heavy fighting with the Federals at Cross Keys. Dr. Hess not only invited us to stop by to see the Pence Farm, but generously offered to serve as our guide to Cross Keys and Port Republic.

Upon our arrival at the Pence Farm, Dr. Hess took us into the house, which he has restored and made into a truly outstanding site. (He actually lives a few miles away just across the river from Port Republic.) After a few minutes looking around the house and all of the artifacts on display in it (the first photo on the right is of Sam Watson, Mike Pearlman, Dr. Hess, and Tim Nenninger on the front porch of the house), we went over to the barn, which Dr. Hess has filled with a magnificent array of even more displays and artifacts related to the war in the Shenandoah Valley. Not the least interesting of these is a huge table-top diorama of the Cross Keys battlefield, which Dr. Hess used to provide us with an excellent overview of the 8 June engagement before taking us around the actual battlefield.

19May1011We followed this by going over to Union Church, which marked the approximate location of the Confederate left and Union right at Cross Keys, then drove along Battlefield Road, which roughly parallels Mill Creek, behind which Ewell posted his command, passing the point where Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont’s forces came closest to actually piercing the Confederate line.

Dr. Hess then led our caravan over to Port Republic, where our first stop was Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters at Madison Hall. There we discussed Jackson’s close shave on the morning of 8 June when, with the engagement over at Cross Keys then developing, a mixed force of Union cavalry, infantry, and artillery commanded by Col. Samuel Carroll—the vanguard of Brig. Gen. James Shields’s column as it advanced up the Luray (or Page) Valley east of Massanutten Mountain—suddenly charged into Port Republic and caused quite a bit of consternation for the Confederates. We then headed over to the site of the old bridge over the North River (where Dr. Hess, Sam, and Tim are standing in the second photo on the right) Jackson used to rather narrowly escape the chaos in Port Republic before his men were able to drive Carroll’s men out of the town.

We then finished the ride by going over to the Lewiston Coaling to see the site of, and discuss the Battle of Port Republic on 9 June 1862 between Jackson’s Confederates and Brig. Gen. Erastus Tyler’s Federals. We then followed in the footsteps of Brig. Gen. Richard Taylor’s Louisiania Brigade by storming the Coaling to take in the excellent view of the battlefield it provides.

19May1014 19May1016

After Port Republic, Tim and Mike headed off to Lexington, while Sam and I made a quick stop at Chestnut Ridge to see the Ashby Monument. That is, once we found it, as there had been considerable road construction around it in the three years since I had last visited it that resulted in the parking area being relocated. Once we finally figured out where it was, Sam and I made the short hike over to the monument to the “Black Knight of the Confederacy”, where he made a point of expressing his customary reverance for the Lost Cause and its heroes on camera before we finally took off for VMI and the SMH.


Staff Riding the Valley Campaign of 1862, pt. 1

Kernstown1A few months ago, Michael Pearlman, author of Truman and MacArthur: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown and Warmaking and American Democracy: The Struggle over Military Strategy, 1700 to the Present , and a former colleague here at CGSC, asked if I would be interested in leading a staff ride of the Shenandoah Valley in the days prior to the opening of the Society for Military History’s Annual Meeting in Lexington, Virginia. I agreed and on Wednesday, 19 May, Mike, Tim Nenninger of the National Archives, Samuel Watson of the U.S. Military Academy, and I spent a very full day studying the 1862 Valley Campaign. Mike asked if we could work in Cedar Creek and some of the other 1864 operations, as he was tired in his prep reading of the Yankees playing the role of the Washington Generals to the Confederate Globetrotters, but that simply proved impracticable. In any case, I told him we would get to see the Yankees win one at First Kernstown.

We started out by rendezvousing at the parking lot for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park on Cavalier Heights. Because the shuttle buses were not yet running down to the town, we had an excuse for combining into a single car, and driving to Lower Town. After finding parking on Potomac Street, we went to the Point where the Shenandoah River flows into the Potomac and discussed Harpers Ferry, the Valley, Jackson’s early command at Harpers Ferry, and the Federal “lockjaw” operation in which Nathaniel Banks’s command occupied Kernstown2 Harpers Ferry in early 1862, as well as Federal plans for 1862 in Virginia and how Banks’s and Jackson’s forces figured into them.

After spending about an hour in Harpers Ferry, we returned to Cavalier Heights, got in our cars, then proceeded up the Valley to Winchester to study the Federal victory at First Kernstown on 23 March 1862. We started at Opequon Presbyterian Church just south of Pritchard’s Hill. The first two photos to the right provide a view looking north toward the Pritchard-Grim Farm from the church parking lot, where an unreconciled Sam made a point of calling attention to the part of the sign that clearly indicates this was, at least in 1862, a Union victory. (The 24 July 1864 Battle of Second Kernstown–also fought on the Pritchard-Grim Farm–did not work out so well for the Federals.)

We then went over to the Pritchard-Grim Farm, the 315-acre section of the battlefield that is owned and managed by the Kernstown Battlefield Association. A call in advance ensured the KBA would have someone on hand to open the visitor center (pictured on the right) when we arrived, and we began our visit by seeing the exhibits. We then went up to Pritchard’s Hill where the Federal commander at Kernstown, Nathan Kimball (James Shields having been wounded the day before), posted his artillery and had his command post during the battle.

19May1004The bottom photo on the right was taken near the military crest of Pritchard’s Hill and is looking west toward Sandy Ridge. It was on Sandy Ridge that Jackson’s attempt to turn the strong Federal position on Pritchard’s Hill was turned back, setting the stage for the rout of his command. It was also on Sandy Ridge where Richard Garnett made the decision to withdraw the Stonewall Brigade without orders that led to his relief from command and court-martial.

After Kernstown, we backtracked to Winchester. The First Winchester battlefield has been lost to development to the point that, while it is possible to do a pretty good tour of the battlefield and see where the significant actions took place, the sight lines are not particularly great. Thus, given our fairly limited time, we did not bother going up to the Federal line on Bowers Hill and Camp Hill. Instead, we just stopped at the Winchester Visitors Center at Abram’s Delight, which is just off the road along which Richard Ewell’s command on the Confederate right made its attack on Camp Hill during the 25 May rout of Banks’s command at First Winchester. There, in addition to taking advantage of the facilities and bookshop, we used the large maps of the Shenandoah Valley on display to discuss and trace the course of the campaign from First Kernstown to McDowell (the latter an absolutely wonderful battlefield that distance, of course, it made impracticable for us to visit on this trip) to Front Royal and First Winchester.
We then headed south and east on the old Winchester-Front Royal Road to our next stop at Cedarville a few miles north of the town of Front Royal and the confluence of the north and south forks of the Shenandoah River. It was at Cedarville that the closing engagement of the 23 May Battle of Front Royal between Jackson’s command and a force of about a thousand Federals commanded by John Kenly occurred. The battle that began south of the town and saw Jackson’s men overwhelm a series of positions from which Kenly tried to vainly fend off the Confederates and saw the First Maryland Confederate do battle with the First Maryland Union. Here we discussed the course of the decidedly uneven battle at Front Royal and its consequences. The most important of the latter, of course, being President Lincoln’s decision to compromise Federal operations against Richmond on the York-James Peninsula in order to deal with Jackson. We then went into Front Royal for lunch before heading south on I-81 to study the operations in Rockingham County that closed the campaign in June 1862.

Lincoln mistakes? Part 3

Lincoln reads EPAbout two months ago, one of my fellow alumnus of the 1999 West Point Summer Seminar, Dr. Nick Sarantakes of the Naval War College, threw out the question, “What mistakes did Lincoln make?” Here is part three in the series of points that were debated.

Mistake No. 3: Decision to allow West Virginia to secede from Virginia and bring the Confederacy back into the Union, one piece at a time. This, along with the Emancipation Proclamation, guaranteed that the war would be fought to a bitter end.

My response: As my good friend Mark Snell of the George Tyler Moore Center (whose annual seminar, scheduled for 24-27 June, will be studying Petersburg this year) this has observed, the mistake was the naming of “West” Virginia. The loyal western Virginians should have claimed the title Virginia and made the secessionist section of the state rebrand itself as East Virginia, Chesapeake, Treasonistan, or something else. And, given the federal nature of the system and the way secession had happened, there was no constitutional or practical alternative to restoring loyal governments in the South province by province. Also, cause and effect are more complicated than suggested in the statement about the Emancipation Proclamation. That its symbolism made the South fight harder is without question; indeed, that was McClellan’s objection to it. But the Emancipation Proclamation was also the product of a realization–probably correct–that by July 1862 (due to the defeats in the Shenandoah Valley and perceived reversal on the Peninsula reviving Southern morale) Northern hopes that the war could be won quickly would not be realized and the South was ALREADY determined to fight harder than anticipated. Thus, tougher measures were perceived to be needed. Lincoln’s big botches came in his handling of the military operations that produced the setbacks that revived southern morale.

Response: First off, be careful what you say about WVa! I agree with what you say about making the western part of the state the true seat of government, but that is not what happened. Plus, Lincoln is in the midst of efforts for Reconstruction, attempting to bring Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee back into the Union; yet, why hack off a piece of Virignia? On the issue of changing the nature of the war with the Emancipation Proclamation, I am sure that we all have views and opinions on this, not to mention a slew of books already written on the subject. I am always struck by the timing and wording, just before the 1862 mid-term elections and giving the Confederates the option to come back in by Jan. 1. Why give them the option if tougher measures are needed? Was Lincoln going to forget everything and keep slavery? Probably not.

What do you think?

Back to Abe?

While I do not question the value of the vigorous recent discussion of Governor McDonnell’s venture into Civil War history, I do think too much time and space has been taken up with an matter that can probably be summed up in a single, simple statement: The guy’s a dope.
First Bull Run
Anyway, back to the discussion of Lincoln’s mistakes (please?). Here is the second point of dispute:

Mistake 2. Decision to push the initial fight at Bull Run when McDowell and Scott both said not to rush into a confrontation with the 90-day militias.

My take: While not as certain of my view on this as I was regarding the decision to resupply Fort Sumter, there was a good case to be made that a quick decisive battlefield victory would pop the secessionist bubble quicker and more effectively than waiting to implement the Anaconda Plan, and it HAD to be tested. The demands of northern public opinion aside, the North had a momentum of success at that point and one could point to the swift, decisive battlefield victories that redeemed Missouri and western Virginia as evidence that such a victory was eminently achievable and would have the effect the advocates of action believed it would. Moreover, while McDowell and Scott were unquestionably correct to be concerned about the greenness of their troops, green Federal troops had won decisive battlefield victories in Missouri at Boonville and western Virginia at Rich Mountain. Also, the degree to which First Manassas was a VERY near-run affair is, I think, too often overlooked. Thus, while the decision clearly did not work out, it is hard for me to see a more feasible and acceptable alternative that was available to Lincoln at the time.

Response: Quick decisive victory. I hear it now – Home by Christmas! Austerlitz! The problem is that these never work. People are home by Christmas, but not sure which one, and Austerlitz only left ten more years of warfare in Europe. My argument to this comes from the past experiences of war, in particular 1812 (a war of amateurs) versus 1846 (a war of professionals). While there is no denying that Scott was not going to lead anyone into battle (although he would be fantastic to hide behind on the battlefield – he was the size of a small barn) he did know the difference in leading untrained militia versus a professional army. While I am not going to debate the battle with an expert on the subject, my question is choosing to fight and allowing the politics of 90-day militia drive your military strategy. Is it better to throw the dice and maybe win or to stack the deck and then take the gamble?

There it is; in my view a much, much tougher issue and thus rich grist for debate. What do you think?

Lincoln mistakes?

Fort SumterA few weeks ago, one of my fellow alumnus of the 1999 West Point Summer Seminar, Dr. Nick Sarantakes of the Naval War College, threw out the question, “What mistakes did Lincoln make?”

Not surprisingly, he got some interesting answers, some of which I disagreed with. I expressed my disagreement (while finding it a bit odd, as someone perceived to be in the tank for Geo. B. McClellan, to be defending Lincoln), which prompted a counterresponse. At that point, I decided to disengage, thinking that it would be a good idea to let my colleague have the last word, then let the patrons of this blog pick up on and get in on the discussion.

Here is the first point of dispute:

Mistake 1: Decision to reinforce Fort Sumter when Anderson had already made arrangments to surrender the fort and push the South into a confrontation – something that he argued against in 1846 when he was a Whig congressman against Polk’s actions to move Taylor onto the Rio Grande.

My take: Lincoln did EVERYTHING he could do consistent with his duty to the Constitution and the people who elected him–and nobody else–president to accommodate the South in 1861. It was SOUTHERNERS who created the confrontation when they cut off Fort Sumter–unless you believe the Confederacy was a legitimate entity and not just a bunch of whiny slaveowners pouting over the 1860 election. If the former, then the entire Union war effort had no legitimacy and the idea that you can break the law–and shoot at law enforcement officials–without consequence just because you don’t like the outcome of an election becomes enshrined in American jurisprudence. Entirely different situation in 1846–there it was an international border dispute–in 1860-61 it was a matter of enforcing the law within the borders of the United States. Lincoln’s decision had some negative consequences, of course, but there was no better alternative. “The tug” had to come somewhere.

Response: While there is no doubt that the Southerners fired the first shots at Sumter, the question becomes what did Lincoln expect to happen when the relief force arrived off Charleston? The Star of the West had already been fired upon (By the way the first shot of the Civil War was against the US Merchant Marine – in which case we ran like HELL!), did he expect something different? To South Carolina, this was an international border dispute and while the Union may not have recognized it as such, neither did the Mexicans in 1846. I am confused about negative consquences? Lincoln called upon the states for troops and the Upper South seceded and the Border states were thrown into disarray. The “tug” or “spark” did have to come somewhere, but I think it was a mutual tug and not solely the Southerners opening fire on Sumter.

There it is. What do you think?

George Washington Takes Robert E. Lee to Heaven. Or Not.

Our fellow historian Susannah Ural (author of The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865) is searching for a “newspaper image of George Washington as an angel, escorting Robert E. Lee to heaven, dated 1870. I remember one like this with Lincoln, but I’m almost certain I saw a similar one with Lee. Google images isn’t pulling it up and books are at home. Anyone have a link to that drawing of Wash/Lee?”

Tragically, Prof Ural concedes that she may have “finally lost my mind and somehow made this up as a Lost Cause image.” Let’s hope not.

Any ideas?

Society for Military History

SMH LogoThe program for the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History, which is being held on 20-23 May in Lexington, Virginia, and sponsored by the Virginia Military Institute, has recently been posted. There will be a number of sessions and papers that address topics of interest to students of American Civil War military history. Moreover, as usual, there will be a pretty decent contingent of Civil War historians in attendance, including Mark, Carol Reardon, Susannah Ural, Brian Holden Reid, Gary Gallagher, and Joe Glatthaar. I will be presenting a paper in a session on “The U.S. Cavalry in the Civil War Era” and participating in various activities associated with chairing the SMH Awards Committee, which made some most excellent selections this year.

The recipients of the Distinguished Book Awards, which are given to outstanding works in the following categories, U.S., non-U.S., biography/memoir, and reference, are:

Daniel E. Sutherland, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War (University of North Carolina Press)
savageconflictEdward J. Drea, Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853-1945 (University Press of Kansas)
J.P. Harris, Douglas Haig and the First World War (Cambridge University Press)
Spencer C. Tucker, ed. The Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (ABC-CLIO)

The Moncado Awards for outstanding articles in The Journal of Military History go to:

John Morgan, “War Feeding War? The Impact of Logistics on the Napoleonic Occupation of Catalonia” (January 2009)
Irving W. Levinson, “A New Paradigm for an Old Conflict: The Mexico-United States War” (April 2009)
Brian Holden Reid, “Michael Howard and the Evolution of Modern War Studies” (July 2009)
Kevin M. Boylan, “The Red Queen’s Race: Operation Washington Green and Pacification, 1969-70” (October 2009)

Further information about the SMH program and logistics for the meeting can be found here.

Return to Appomattox

Was back in Virginia a few weeks ago helping Chris Stowe and the rest of the CGSC teaching team at Fort Lee on the third iteration of an Appomattox Staff Ride. In the time since the first iteration of the ride in April, Chris wisely adjusted the ride to start at Fort Gregg instead of Five Forks. This avoided the problem last time of spending a huge chunk of time (time management is always the biggest challenge on these rides) on the events of 1 April and the whole background and conduct of the Battle at Five Forks. Instead, we simply started out saying, “OK, it is the morning of 2 April, Five Forks has happened, what is the situation?” After discussing this and the events of 2 April that led up to the fight for Fort Gregg, the four groups (led respectively by Chris, Fort Lee team leader Bob Kennedy, Fort Belvoir’s Chris Keller, and myself) did stands at Sutherland Station, Amelia Court House, Hillsman House, Kershaw Ridge, Cumberland Church, Final Battle, McLean House, and ended at the Gordon-Chamberlain salute/Grant-Lee second meeting site.

Some photos from the ride are below, courtesy of Kaysteine Briggs, who belonged to the staff group assigned to me, which proved to be an outstanding one. Although a bit chilly, we were spared the rain that accompanied the recon we did the day before and the April ride.

1 - Sutherland
Sutherland Station

3 - Hillsman
Hillsman House Here, and throughout the ride, a major point of debate was just how much faster Phil Sheridan would have ended the war if not for that punk George Meade. (Boy, wouldn’t it be great, especially at a time when people are trying to figure out how to spend gift cards, if there was a really good recent book out there on Meade–or even just a decent essay? For that matter, wouldn’t a book that discusses Lee during this campaign–especially one that, in the words of one unimpeachable source “shows once again why [its author] is one of the finest Civil War military historians at work today”, also be a great addition to one’s bookshelf? :))

Kershaw Ridge
Kershaw Ridge

7 - Appomattox
Near Appomattox Court House