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The Rout of the Confederate Flag

As surely you already know, in the wake of the murder of nine worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a petition was circulated demanding the removal of a Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state house.  It quickly generated a massive number of signatures and a national ground swell of pressure arose for the state government to do precisely that.  This story is already well-covered on Kevin Levin’s Civil War Memory blog, so I won’t rehearse the details any further.

Just for the record, I fully support the removal.  The battle flag represents an army that fought for the preservation of slavery and has a long, notorious association with white racism.  Yet it flies on the capitol grounds of a state whose population is 30 percent African American, most of them descendants of slaves.

But this post isn’t about that.  It’s about recent decisions to eliminate sales of the Confederate flag or to forbid its presence in certain sites.

Those sites that forbid the flag do not include National Park Service battlefields.  But the park service has adopted a policy of ending sales of souvenirs in which the Confederate flag is depicted on “standalone” merchandise; that is to say, merchandise devoid of historical context.  Gettysburg National Military Park has reportedly urged private businesses in Gettysburg to do the same.  Tragically, this would result in the elimination of merchandise such as this:

Confederate Swim Suit Gettysburg Summer 2009 (sm)

I’m still learning about this issue, so consider this post a work in progress.  It first got on my radar thanks to a Facebook status update by a friend of mine.  Since his privacy settings are limited to friends, I’ll quote the update without attribution:

So according to the NPS page, the only Confederate flags allowed are with permitted and approved living history events. You or I couldn’t have one, you can’t have one on your vehicle (I assume that means stickers too). The Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg has banned them on the outside grounds completely.


Gettysburg in Kansas, 20 June

Dole Institute to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary

Gettysburg Dole

LAWRENCE — July will mark 150 years since the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas will honor the event with a full day of programming on Thursday, June 20.

The afternoon will be a conference-style event in which military historians and Civil War experts will focus on the three individual days of battle:

Day 1, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
Day 2, 2:45 p.m.-4:15 p.m.
Day 3, 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m.

The evening program at 7:30 p.m. will focus on the seven critical decisions made during the battle. Each afternoon session and the evening program can be enjoyed as a whole or individually. All programs are free and open to the public.

“This epic battle was a crucial moment in the Civil War that really set our nation on course for today. In order to create interaction and get a real dialogue going among our experts, we’ll be utilizing the same discussion format as our Post-Election Conference,” said Dole Institute Director Bill Lacy. “The quality of the conversation will be excellent.”

The expert panelists include: Steve Lauer, professor at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies; Ethan Rafuse, professor of history at the Command and General Staff College; Terry Beckenbaugh, professor of history at the Command and General Staff College; Jennifer Weber, associate professor of history at KU; Debra Sheffer, associate professor of history at Park University; and Kevin Benson, professor at U.S. Army University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies.

Gettysburg remains the most significant battle fought on American soil. More men fought and died during the Battle of Gettysburg than in any other battle before or since 1863. Today Gettysburg sees more than 1 million visitors each year, and efforts are still being made by the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation to preserve the monuments, memorials and grounds of this historic site.

For more information on the Gettysburg event and other summer programming, please visit the Dole Institute website.

Gettysburg, 30 June 2013

Sacred Trust Talks and Book Signings: 150 Years of History

Gettysburg Foundation

The Gettysburg Foundation and Gettysburg National Military Park present 1-hour talks by Civil War literary giants followed by question and answer sessions and book signings. All lectures are free and take place outside under the Museum and Visitor Center tent; book signings follow inside the Visitor Center lobby.

George Gordon Meade and the Gettysburg Campaign
Kent Masterson Brown
Time: 9:30 a.m.

Deju vu All Over Again: Memory, Experience and Generalship at Gettysburg
Brooks Simpson
Time: 10:30 a.m.

Fighting Joe and the Snapping Turtle: Commanding the Army of the Potomac in 1863
Ethan Rafuse
Time: 11:30 a.m.

Lincoln and Freedom in Film and Fact: A Look at History and the Movies, Spielberg and the Civil War
Harold Holzer
Time: 12:30 p.m.

Gettysburg’s Missing Battle: The Case of the Missing Civilians
Margaret Creighton
Time: 1:30 p.m.

We Had Only to Close our Fingers: George Meade at Williamsport, July 14, 1863
Allen Guelzo
Time: 2:30 p.m.

General Lee’s Army and the Declining Margin for Error
Joseph Glatthaar
Time: 3:30 p.m.

The Joshua Chamberlin You Didn’t Know
Tom Desjardin
Time: 4:30 p.m.

“Civil War literary giants”? Wow! (And, of course, everyone knows that you always put your best hitter third in the line-up; ahem, right before lunch.)

In light of George G. Meade’s evidently burgeoning popularity, the focus of my talk is actually going to be on Hooker, with “the Snapping Turtle” figuring marginally.

The entire The Gettysburg 150th Anniversary Commemorative Events Guide can be found here.

The Future of Civil War History–Some Questions

On 14-15 March, I will be in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, participating in a three-day conference on “The Future of Civil War History: Looking Beyond the 150th”. (The program can be found here.) My former comrade in Chancellorsville staff riding Christian Keller and I will be leading a few dozen participants around the Gettysburg Battlefield for about two-and-a-half hours in what is billed as “Rethinking the Staff Ride Model” before I high-tail it down to DC to catch a flight to New Orleans so I can participate in the Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History.

A look through the program for the Gettysburg conference, though, has raised a couple of questions in my mind. The session of the program on the evening of 14 March is billed as “Popular Misconceptions about Civil War Military History”. Other sessions are dedicated to such questions/issues as How Can Civil War Sites Offer a Usable Past during a Time of War? Strategies in Educational Programming, Exploring Violence in the Classroom and in a Museum Setting, and Building a Dialogue among Museum Professionals, Academics, and Civil War Re-enactors. These matters and others addressed at the conference are naturally of interest to those of us who work in the professional military education system, teaching today’s makers of military history–who also happen to be perhaps the Civil War’s most committed audiences of scholars and students. Thus, one would think that our perspectives would as a matter of course be considered of value and interest to anyone else wrestling with these issues.

And yet, of all the participants in the program, only Chris (who teaches at the Army War College in Carlisle) and myself, are members of the professional military education system, which invariably raises the following questions:

1. What place do those of us who work in professional military education, our perspectives, and our real and potential contributions as educators and scholars have in the “future of Civil War history”?

2. Why, if this program is any indication of where the thinking of those who presume to be determining the “future of Civil War history” rests, does the answer to the first question appear to be “rather marginal”?

The floor is open. If you do not have answers to these questions now, perhaps someone at the opening session on Thursday afternoon (which I expect to attend) will.

This Week in the Army of the Potomac

This, of course, is the 150th anniversary of a truly tumultous week in the history of the Army of the Potomac; one that generated the following documents:

January 23, 1863.

I. General Joseph Hooker, major-general of volunteers and brigadier-general U. S. Army, having been guilty of unjust and unnecessary criticisms of the actions of his superior officers, and of the authorities, and having, by the general tone of his conversation, endeavored to create distrust in the minds of officers who have associated with him, and having, by omissions and otherwise, made reports and statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions, and for habitually speaking in disparaging terms of other officers, is hereby dismissed from the service of the United States as a man unfit to hold an important commission during a crisis like the present, when so much patience, charity, confidence, consideration, and patriotism are due from every soldier, in the field. This order is issued subject to the approval of the President of the United States.

II. Brigadier General W. T. H. Brooks, commanding First Division, Sixth Army Corps, for complaining of the policy of the Government, and for using language tending to demoralize his command, is, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States.

III. Brigadier General John Newton, commanding Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, and Brigadier General John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, for going to the President of the United States with criticisms upon the plans of their commanding officer, are, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States.

IV. It being evident that the following named officers can be of no further service to this army, they are hereby relieved from duty, and will report, in person, without delay, to the Adjutant-General, U. S. Army: Major General W. B. Franklin, commanding left grand division; Major General W. F. Smith, commanding Sixth Corps; Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis, commanding Second Division, Ninth Corps; Brigadier General Edward Ferrero, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Army Corps; Brigadier General John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps; Lieutenant Colonel J. H. Taylor, assistant adjutant-general, right grand division

By command of Major General A. E. Burnside:

Assistant Adjutant-General.

U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 70 vols. in 128 parts (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), series 1, vol. 21, part 1: 998-99.

Though William Franklin’s and Baldy Smith’s service in the Army of the Potomac would soon come to an end, President Abraham Lincoln did not approve these orders. Nor did he punish “Fighting Joe” for his efforts to undermine his senior officers–which had in fact begun during George McClellan’s tenure in command. Rather, Lincoln did just the opposite, giving Hooker command of the Army of the Potomac. That was followed by this famous letter:

Executive Mansion,
Washington, January 26, 1863.

Major General Hooker:

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and a skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of it’s ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticising their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army, while such a spirit prevails in it.

And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.

Yours very truly,

Roy P. Basler, ed. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953-55), vol. 6: 78-79.

In light of the circumstances, it is suprising that there is nowhere in the historical record anyone writing a letter to Lincoln at the time to this effect:

Dear Mr. President:

In light of your record of supporting officers who have worked to undermine their superiors over the past year and a half–from George McClellan in his dealings with Winfield Scott the previous fall to the circumstances under which the corps were created and their commanders appointed in the Army of the Potomac last March to the ongoing machinations of John McClernand, who the heck are you to bemoan the existence of and place responsibility elsewhere for the fact that such a “spirit” prevails in your army “of criticising their Commander, and withholding confidence from him”?

Perhaps, in surveying the history of the Army of the Potomac and its notoriously bad command climate, there is far more cause to be “not quite satisfied with you”?

Your obedient servant . . .

Interesting . . .

Wasn’t there an episode on Family Guy on this issue?

Secession petitions filed on White House site
Posted by Rachel Weiner on November 12, 2012 at 11:23 pm

From states across the country, Americans have filed petitions on the White House Web site seeking to secede from the union and form new state governments.

While most of the petitions come from states that supported Mitt Romney in last week’s election, a few swing states and even the deep blue Northeast are represented.

Petitions have been filed for Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York. North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

The rest of the story is here.

Where’s Nathaniel Lyon when you need him?

In case you missed it . . .

PBS’s superb American Experience episode, Death in the Civil War, which aired last week, is available on DVD. You can purchase it directly from PBS here, or order it here on

150 years ago

The above video clip is, of course, the opening scene from Glory, which is a dramatized recreation of Robert Gould Shaw’s experience at Antietam with the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry. As part of Gordon’s brigade of Williams’s/Crawford’s Division of Mansfield/Williams’s XII Corps, the 2nd Massachusetts was involved in two significant actions on 17 September 1862, the fight with D.H. Hill’s forces in the Cornfield and an advance alongside the 13th New Jersey from the East Woods to the Hagerstown Pike in the aftermath of Sedgwick’s disaster in the West Woods.

Shaw later wrote:

Of course there are mistakes made in every battle; that day we were the victims of one; for Gordon’s Brigade was sent forward to support Sumner in [the West Woods] which he had already been driven out of. Instead of finding friends there, we were met by a volley of musketry; we didn’t return fire for some time, thinking there was some mistake, and when we did fire, we did very little execution, and had to retire. Colonel Andrews saved us there, fo rif we had gone as far as we were ordered, we should probably have been overwhelmed.

Also with the 2nd Massachusetts that morning was Lt. Col. Wilder Dwight.

Near Sharpsburg. Sept. 17th 1862.
On the field

Dear Mother,
It is a misty moisty morning. We are engaging the enemy and are drawn up in support of Hooker who is now banging away most briskly. I write in the saddle to send you my love and to say that I am very well so far —

Dearest mother,
I am wounded so as to be helpless. Good bye if so it must be I think I die in victory. God defend our country. I trust in God & love you all to the last. Dearest love to father & all my dear brothers.

Our troops have left the part of the field where I lay —

Mother, yrs

All is well with those that have faith

Dwight died from his wounds two days later in Boonsboro.

Dwight’s story is prominently featured in the episode of the American Experience PBS is airing tomorrow night, Death in the Civil War. “Enjoyment” is probably not the right word to describe what the viewer will experience watching it, but they will find it a superbly done and sobering look at an important aspect of the Civil War.

Oh, yeah . . .

Speaking of anniversaries in Russian history, yesterday was also the bicentennial of this event:

This Week

Of course, this is the 150th anniversary of the week that the Maryland Campaign came to a head, with the finding of Special Orders 191, South Mountain, the Fall of Harpers Ferry, Antietam, and Shepherdstown. 17 September 1862, of course, remains not just the bloodiest day of combat in the American Civil War, but the bloodiest day in American history with over 3,000 killed outright and total casualties coming to a little over 22,700.

On Tuesday, 18 September, PBS will broadcast Death in the Civil War as part of its American Experience series, deliberately timed to coincide (appropriately) with the anniversary of Antietam. I received an advanced copy a few weeks ago (which is fortunate, given that I will be otherwise engaged on Tuesday night.) I cannot recommend this program highly enough. It is, of course, inspired by Drew Gilpin Faust’s great book This Republic of Suffering, features her prominently, and offers a powerful and moving treatment of the subject.

That being said, we should also remember that this is the 70th anniversary of critical events in the far larger and far bloodier battle of Stalingrad. It was on 14 September 1942 that Alexander Rodimtsev’s 13th Guards Rifle Division crossed the Volga River–in daylight, under fire (the experience of which is dramatized, with some license, here in the film Enemy at the Gates)–to launch a critical counterattack in the fight for the city.

From Earl Ziemke, Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East:

The 14th was another dark day for the defense. In the south quarter, XXXXVIII Panzer Corps reached the railroad station and forced a spearhead through to the Tsaritsa. North of the river, LI Corps rammed two divisions abreast into the center of the city, by 1200 had the main railroad station, and at 1500 reached the Volga at the waterworks. By dark, the corps held almost a mile of river bank, and antitank guns set up there had sunk two ferries and a steamer. . . . Seydlitz’s LI Corps began to experience on the 14th and 15th what XXXXVIII Corps already had for several days: street fighting in a city that was being contested block by block, building by building, even floor by floor. Nothing was conceded. Houses were fought over as if they were major fortresses. According to the History of the Great Patriotic War, the main railroad station changed hands five times on the morning of the 14th and another thirteen times in the next several days. Who held what at any particular time was impossible to tell.

From Vasily Grossman, A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army:

The Sixth Army’s major offensive into the city was launched just before dawn on 13 September.

That evening, Fuhrer headquarters celebrated the success of the 71st Division reaching the centre of the city. Stalin heard the same news in the Kremlin when Yeremenko telephoned him and warned that another major attack could be expected the next day. Stalin turned to General Vasilevsky. “Issue orders immediately for Rodimtsev’s 13th Guards Division to cross the Volga and see what else you can send over.” Zhukov, who was also with them, poring over a map of the area, was told to fly down again immediately. Nobody was in any doubt that the moment of crisis had arrived. . . .

The battle on 14 September went badly for the defenders. The German 295th Infantry Division captured the Mamaev Kurgan as Chuikov had feared, but the biggest threat came in the centre of the city, where one of Sarayev’s NKVD regiments was thrown into a counter-attack on the main station. It changed hands several times during the day. . . .

As the [13th Guards] division was approaching the Volga, we saw a tall, dark cloud. One couldn’t possible mistake it for dust. It was sinister, quick, light, and black as death: that was the smoke from burning oil-storage tanks rising over the northern part of the city. Big arrows nailed to the trunks of trees said “Crossing.” They pointed towards the Volga. . . . The division couldn’t wait until night to cross the river. . . . Barges were rocking the waves, and men from the rifle division felt frightened because the enemy was everywhere, in the sky, on the opposite bank, but they had to encounter him without the comfort of solid earth under their feet. The air was unbearably transparent, the blue sky was unbearably clear, the sun seemed relentlessly bright and the flowing flat water seemed so tricky and unreliable. And no one felt happy about the clarity of the air, about the coolness of the river in the nostrils, about the tender and moist breath of the Volga touching their inflamed eyes. Men on the barges, ferries, and motor boats were silent. . . . Every head was turning from side to side in anxiety. Everyone was glancing at the sky.

“He’s diving, the louse!” someone shouted.

Suddenly, a tall and thin bluish-white column of water sprang up about fifty metres from the barge. Immediately after it another column grew and collapsed ever closer, and then a third one. Bombs were exploding on the surface of the water, and the Volga was covered with lacerated foamy wounds; shells began to hit the sides of the barge. Injured men would cry out softly, as if trying to conceal the fact of being wounded. By then, rifle bullets had already started whistling over the water.

There was one terrible moment when a large calibre shell hit the side of a small ferry. There was a flash of flame, dark smoke enveloped the ferry, an explosion was heard, and immediately afterwards, a drawling scream as if born from this thunder. Thousands of people saw immediately the green helmets of the men swimming among the wreckage of wood rocking on the surface of the water.

The date given for the scene from Enemy at the Gates linked to above is 20 September 1942. Grossman quotes a report written on that date by an officer from the 13th Guards Division that states:

May I report to you, the situation is as follows: the enemy is trying to encircle my company, to send sub-machine-gunners round to our rear. But all their efforts have so far failed in spite of their superior strength. Our soldiers and officers are displaying courage and heroism in the face of the fascist jackals. The Fritzes won’t succeed until they’ve stepped over my corpse. Guards soldiers do not retreat. Soldiers and officers may die like heroes, but the enemy musn’t be allowed to break our defence. . . . While the company commander is alive, not a single whore will break through. . . . We will die like heroes for Stalin’s city. Let the Soviet land be the [enemy’s] grave. . . .

Folks who whine about what happened to the South during the Civil War merit little sympathy from anyone who knows the story of World War II on the Eastern Front. And while the death count from the Civil War of 750,000 is indeed sobering, it pales in comparison with Soviet losses in their Great Patriotic War. Moreover, World War II (in combination with the horrors of the Stalinist regime) decimated the generation that would have assumed leadership of Russian society in the 1970s and 1980s and it is no coincidence that it is during those decades that the Soviet Union really started to fall apart. It was Hitler’s objective to destroy Bolshevism and any fair assessment must concede that, as repugnant as it was, the Nazi regime made a not inconsiderable contribution to the outcome of the Cold War.

Just trying to keep things in perspective.

13 September

Yesterday was, yes, the 150th anniversary of the finding of Special Orders No. 191. More importantly, though, it was the 253rd anniversary of this:

And, of course, it was the anniversary of my birth (thanks to all who posted birthday wishes on Facebook)–and that of Brad Johnson, the last decent Washington Redskins quarterback. While the Jeff George-Tony Banks-Shane Matthews-Danny Wuerffel-Patrick Ramsey-Tim Hasselbeck-Mark Brunell-Jason Campbell-Todd Collins-Donavan McNabb-Rex Grossman-John Beck Era wasn’t without its share of fun and laughter, I think I’d rather have fifteen more years of this:

The Deep Cut – 150 years ago this afternoon

A.M. Judson, History of the Eighty-third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers (Erie, Pa.: B.FH. Lynn Publisher, 1865), 51:

The enemy were well posted on the hills in our front, and, having selected their own position, they compelled our troops to be the attacking party. The order was now given to advance and charge upon the enemy. The brigade passed through the woods and over a rail fence, into an open field, in columns by division, and then deployed and formed line of battle en echelon. This movement they executed in splendid order, in face of the enemy and amidst the roar of artillery and the crashing of musketry which were directed upon them. Col. Campbell, standing in front of the line, now gave the command to double-quick. The men of the Eighty-Third dashed forward with a yell. The enemy’s batteries vomited forth showers of grape and canister into their faces as they approached. But still they faltered not, nor did the lines waver. Whilst they were pressing forward, Col. Campbell was wounded by a minnie ball in the leg and fell. The regiment passed over him and he was taken to the rear. The command then fell upon Major Lamont, who also received a wound shortly after and fell into the hands of the enemy. In spite of the terrible opposition they met with, the Eighty-Third charged forward until the other regiments of the brigade halted and commenced firing.

They then halted and commenced firing also. The understanding was that the division of troops on our right were to clear the railroad cut of rebel infantry, while our division was to advance and charge the batteries on the left of it; but their part of the programme the troops on our right failed to fulfill. The consequence was that, in addition to the artillery fire in their front, our men were now exposed to a galling flank fire from the rebel infantry in the railroad cut. They fought on, however, without any expectation of success, losing fearfully at every discharge of the enemy’s guns.

Theron W. Haight, “Gainesville, Groveton and Bull Run,” War Papers Read Before the Commandery of the State of Wisconsin, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (Milwaukee: Burdick, Armitage & Allen, 1896), vol. 2: 366-71:

It must have been between two and three o’clock when Porter’s Corps of 8,000 or 9,000 men marched down and formed in a column of a dozen lines or so at our left, we having been massed into a similar column ourselves. The two forces were then ordered on, and our portion of the column found a piece of woods in our front and went right along through it, moving slowly as we heard the whirring and whistling of bullets about our heads. . . . For half a mile or more to the left of us a long line of men in blue was marching forward with the same object. Now the bullets began to fly about our ears, and men to pitch forwards or backwards, out of the line, to the earth. Artillery from unseen locations back of the enemy’s infantry line opened upon us, and the shouts and yells from both sides were indescribably savage.

It seemed like the popular idea of pandemonium made real, and indeed it is scarcely too much to say that we were really transformed for the time, from a lot of good-natured boys to the most blood-thirsty of demoniacs. Without my being in the least degree conscious of any such thing, the bottom of my haversack had been torn away by a fragment of shell, and a bullet had pierced my canteen, relieving me of the weight of all my provision and drink, and my hat had somehow been knocked off my head on my way from the woods to the railroad grade. . . . [M]any, very many, were lying on the ground behind us, dead, or yielding up their young lives with the blood that was oozing from their gaping wounds. Those of us who were on the embankment were too few to even attempt to drive out the troops on the other side of it, and accordingly lay as flat to the slope as we could, crawling occasionally to the top, and discharging our muskets, held horizontally over our heads, in the direction which seemed to afford a chance of hitting somebody on the other side of the grade. In the meantime a second line of troops attempted to come across the field from our side, and the din instantly became so infernal that I desisted from the feeble efforts I had been making against the enemy, in order to see what was happening in our rear.

As I looked back, I saw our line making a grand rush in our direction, many of the men holding their arms before their faces, as though to keep off a storm. Bullets were pouring into them from the infantry beyond us, but worst of all, Longstreet’s batteries, freshly posted on a rise of ground a mile or so to our left, were enfilading the approaching troops with solid shot, shell, and sections a foot long or more, of railroad iron, which tore up the earth frightfully, and was death to any living thing that they might touch on their passage. Our second line gave way before this terrific storm, and ran back to the cover of the woods, leaving us on the embankment to our fate. As for ourselves, we still kept up the desultory fire that I have described, with no serious effect, I presume, after the brief intermission mentioned.

But shortly there came an unlooked-for variation in the proceedings. Huge stones began to fall about us, and now and then one of them would happen to strike one or another of us with very unpleasant effect. By this time all my friends on the rebel work at my side were badly wounded, and I had received a few scratches and bruises for my own part. The enemy kept up the showers of stones, and we were returning the favors to such extent as we were able, and bullets intended for the rebels from our soldiers back in the woods were striking the ground about us, and at least one of them struck a comrade at my elbow, wounding him in the back, and fatally. . .

It was a puzzle to decide upon any course of action, and I took time to cut away Cotter’s shirt, find that his hurt was one that I could not relieve, and replace the garment with my own, and also to place a bandage about Ayer’s arm, before finally deciding to try running over the embankment in the hope of obtaining a cessation of hostilities at that point, in case of my getting over alive. I was fortunate enough to be permitted to jump down from the top into the rebel line before anybody got a successful shot at me, and made bold to ask the further favor of being allowed to bring my wounded friends over the work. This request was not granted, and I probably owe my life to the refusal. The stone-throwing ceased there, however, and I helped bandage up the wounded arms of a few of their soldiers who had been retired into the ditch at the foot of the grade.

Shortly afterwards an officer seized me by the collar, drew me to my feet, and bade me look at the greatest soldier, he said, that ever lived. It was indeed Stonewall Jackson, who was riding down the line, a stalwart figure, in rusty uniform, his slouch hat in his hand, and accompanied, of course, by a retinue of mounted officers. He was greeted with hearty cheers, but his own aspect was rather pre-occupied, as though he were thinking of something out of the range of present vision.

Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012

Antietam Lecture Series

If you did not get enough Antietam at Ted Alexander’s Antietam-fest last month at Chambersburg, or were unfortunate not to be able to attend, here is another opportunity to learn about the great campaign whose 150th anniversary will be celebrated next month.

Save Historic Antietam Foundation Inc. is pleased to announce a special lecture series in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the battle of Antietam. The lectures will take place in the Mumma Farm barn at Antietam National Battlefield on Saturday September 8, starting at 9:00.

This event will also feature presentations from the recipients of two special scholarships funded by SHAF. Daniel Vermilya has received the first Joseph L. Harsh Scholar Award and will share his research on the Union Army at Antietam. Susan Rosenwald was awarded the special Sesquicentennial Award and she will share her research about the role and actions of Clara Barton at Sharpsburg.

Other speakers will include Dennis Frye, Chief Historian of Harpers Ferry National Park, Dr. Mark Snell, director of the George Tyler Moore Center for Study of the Civil War, and local columnist and writer Tim Rowland. The event is free and open to the public. No reservations will be required.

Donations to SHAF will be accepted and there will be book signing by the authors and other items for sale.

9:00-9:30 – Coffee and Danish
9:30-9:45 – Opening Remarks, Tom Clemens, President, SHAF
9:45-10:30 – Session I, Dr. Mark Snell, “Causes of the Civil War”
10:30-10:45 – Break
10:45-11:30 – Session II, Dan Vermilya, Harsh Scholar recipient, “Perceptions, Not Realities: The Strength, Experience, and Condition of the Army of the Potomac at Antietam”
11:30-12:00 – Awards
12:00-1:00 – Lunch, Box Lunch available, by pre-order only $10.00 each*
1:00-1:45 – Session III, Susan Rosenwald, Sesquicentennial Award recipient, “Clara Barton at Antietam”
1:45-2:00 – Break
2:00-2:45 – Session IV, Dennis Frye, “September Suspense: Lincoln’s Union in Peril”
2:45-3:00 – Break “Behind the Battles: Strange and Obscure Stories of the Civil War
3:00-3:45 – Session V, Tim Rowland, “Odd Incidents of Maryland Campaign”
3:45 – Closing Remarks
* Preorder on-line at, choices will be available on the website.

For more information call Tom Clemens 301-331-3877 or visit SHAF’s website.

Tweeting Gettysburg

What would George Meade, Robert E. Lee, Henry Burgwyn, Alonzo Cushing, Joshua Chamberlain, and the other heroes of Gettysburg have done with Twitter accounts?

At Gettysburg, tweeting the news and battle data
By Amy Worden
The Philadelphia Inquirer
July 7, 2012

Deliver the breaking news of the Battle of Gettysburg to the world in 140 characters or fewer.

That’s the goal of the first live team-tweeting effort by journalists covering this weekend’s annual reenactment of the epic Civil War battle – or at least one pivotal skirmish.

Four tweeters, armed with smartphones and recruited from two area newspapers, will deliver minute-by-minute coverage of the reenactment Saturday of the fighting at Devil’s Den as part of the battle’s 149th-anniversary event.

One reporter will file from the Confederate side and another from the Union perspective, said organizer Marc Charisse, editor of the Hanover Evening Sun.

“We thought it would enhance people’s understanding of what happened there,” said Charisse, also a Civil War historian, who will be providing color commentary @esmcharisse.

York Daily Record editor James McClure will tweet the “big picture,” Charisse said, an overview of the battle as the reenacted violence at Devil’s Den unfolds.

There’s no question that a few liberties are taken with the battle during the annual reenactment, which has attracted thousands of people to Gettysburg for decades. It is not fought on the actual battlefield (it’s staged on a farm about seven miles away); it is often, as this year, not held on the battle’s actual dates (July 1 to 3); and visitors pay $54 to watch the action over three days as an announcer provides the play-by-play.

Twitter, however, adds a new dimension of social media and instant communication for about 2,000 reenactors, who go to great lengths to replicate 19th-century warfare.

Full story can be found here.

(Hat tip to Chris Stowe.)

Don’t know if it has anything to do with this, but Tweety’s pose here looks awful familiar . . .