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Happy Oak Grove Day!

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Oak Grove (or King’s School House), the opening engagement of the Seven Days Battles, which was fought on what is today the grounds of Richmond International Airport.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Redoubt Numbers 3, June 25, 1862–5 p.m.

Honorable E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

The affair is over, and we have gained our point fully and with but little loss, notwithstanding strong opposition. Our men have done all that could be desired. The affair was probably decided by two guns that Captain De Russy brought gallantly into action under very difficult circumstances. The enemy driven from his camps in front of this and all now quiet.


HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Camp Lincoln, June 25, 1862–6.15 p. m.

Honorable E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

I have just returned from the field, and find your dispatch in regard to Jackson.

Several contrabands just in give information confirming the supposition that Jackson’s advance is at or near Hanover Court-House, and that Beauregard arrived, with strong re-enforcements, in Richmond yesterday.

I incline to think that Jackson will attack my right and rear. The rebel force is stated at 200,000, including Jackson and Beauregard. I shall have to contend against vastly superior odds if these reports be true; but this army will do all in the power of men to hold their position and repulse any attack.

I regret my great inferiority in numbers, but feel that I am in no way responsible for it, as I have not failed to represent repeatedly the necessity of re-enforcements; that this was the decisive point, and that all the available means of the Government should be concentrated here. I will do all that a general can do with the splendid army I have the honor to command, and if it is destroyed by overwhelming numbers, can at least die with it and share its fate. But if the result of the action, which will probably occur to-morrow, or within a short time, is a disaster, the responsibility cannot be thrown on my shoulders; it must rest where it belongs.

Since I commenced this I have received additional intelligence confirming the supposition in regard to Jackson’s movements and Beauregard’s arrival. I shall probably be attacked to-morrow, and now go to the other side of the Chickahominy to arrange for the defense on that side. I feel that there is no use in again asking for re-enforcements.


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), ser. 1, vol. 11, pt. 1: 51, pt. 3: 251-52.

Later this week, I will be busing and walking the battlefields of the Virginia peninsula in the company of my good friends from the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War. From the looks of the weather report, it is going to be hot, hot, hot in more than one sense of the word!

Brooks Simpson Has Been to the Mountaintop

For some, the Road to Damascus runs through Arlington.

The Whipping Man

Last week, I was asked through my department chair here at the staff college if I would be interested and available to participate in a Scholar’s Forum at the Kansas City Repertory Theater. It was to follow a performance of a three-man play called The Whipping Man on Saturday, 31 March.

Here is a description of the play:

The play opens in April 1865 just as Passover begins the day after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox. Caleb, a Jewish Confederate soldier, returns to his war-ravaged family home in Richmond, Virginia, from which his parents have fled. Simon and John, his former slaves, are now living in the house. All three men now face the devastation that the war has brought to their lives as well as the challenges and possibilities of their new relationship to each other. Each man must come to a new understanding of their faith and of what freedom means to an individual and a society.

Playwright Matthew Lopez links the historical enslavement of the Jews with the enslavement of African-Americans in the United States in a compelling drama blended with surprising moments of humor as secrets and truths propel these three fascinating protagonists into a new day.

Fresh from its New York debut where the show was so well received it was extended three times, comes a new work rooted in the largely unknown but true history of Jewish slaveholders in the South. This extraordinary new play is a powerful exploration of lives that come unraveled as the ravages of slavery are revealed at the close of the Civil War. The Whipping Man is one of the most original and thrilling new plays on the history of race, religious identity, and what it means to be free. “Emotionally potent” – The New York Times

I accepted the invitation and brought my daughter Corinne with me. First half of the play was a bit intense for an eight-year old. So she spent most of the first act playing in the lobby and conversing with the member of the theater’s staff, Melinda McCrary, who had invited me to see the play and moderated the forum afterward. Corinne was, though, able to handle the second half and ended up enjoying it a lot more than I (and she) thought she would. She especially enjoyed getting to go up on the stage and look around backstage after the forum, see how they did all of the special effects, and afterward remarked she could not wait to tell her friends about it.

The forum was also excellent. About 50-60 members of what was about a 300-500 person audience remained afterward for the panel, which consisted of myself, Ms. McCrary, and a local rabbi. The discussion hit on a wide range of topics, driven mostly by questions from the audience. (As I have documented earlier, the Q & A is always my favorite part of any speaking engagement.) Among the subjects that we discussed were trench warfare in 1864-65, the African-American experience in Reconstruction, and Jewish traditions in the context of 19th-century American religious history.

The play was absolutely fantastic too. If you get an opportunity to see it, I highly recommend taking advantage of it. I have never been what might be considered an “enthusiast of the lively arts”, but this is the sort of thing that could make me one!

Patriotic Gore

Interesting take on Wilson’s book by David Blight:

“Patriotic Gore is Not Really Much Like Any Other Book by Anyone”: Revisiting one of the most important and confounding books ever written about the Civil War.
By David Blight
Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012, at 7:02 AM ET

Fifty years ago this spring, the great literary critic Edmund Wilson, author of classic intellectual histories of Marxism, French symbolism, English literature of all kinds, and many other subjects, published one of the most important and confounding books ever written on the American Civil War. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War both offended and inspired its many reviewers and readers in 1962, when America was celebrating the Civil War Centennial, and it is still likely to dismay as well as enlighten the serious-minded student of the central event of American history. A mythic and sentimental Civil War is still abroad in our culture; reading Wilson anew during these sesquicentennial years will puncture those myths as it explains why they persist. Before or after 1962, no one ever wrote a book quite like Patriotic Gore and it deserves a rereading in our own wartime.

Wilson was an intimidating, irresistible writer. Experts in English departments can argue the point, but he was the preeminent American literary critic/historian of the 20th century. Born in Red Bank, N.J. in 1895, the son of a stalwart Republican father who was a successful lawyer and an occasionally institutionalized depressive, and a deeply caring mother who wished he would be more athletic, Wilson went to boarding school, where he cultivated a love of literature, and then to Princeton, where he graduated in 1916. When the United States entered the Great War, he enlisted in the Army’s ambulance corps, spending much of 1918 working in a hospital complex in Northeastern France. That experience behind the lines of the Western Front, but immersed in its horrible results—his jobs were burying the dead, attending to gas victims, and preventing suicides on the mental ward—shaped Wilson’s moral view of war for the rest of his life. He openly opposed World War II, and by 1960 had become so fiercely pacifist and so discouraged with the Cold War and its proliferation of nuclear weapons that he refused to pay his taxes.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, Wilson wrote prolifically in nearly every genre, including fiction, social criticism and the nonfiction essay, autobiography, and especially literary history. Almost no part of world literature remained beyond his interest. Wilson would chart a plan of superhuman reading and research, spend years in the literary mines of his own imagination, and then produce classics such as Axel’s Castle (1931), a study of French symbolism and modernism, and To the Finland Station (1940), his massive intellectual history of ideas of social justice from the French Revolution to the Russian Revolution of 1917, as well as a brilliant series of portraits of writers and suffering artists (especially Karl Marx) trying to change the world with their pens. To grasp the structure and purpose of Patriotic Gore, one should first read Wilson’s Finland Station. There we see him endlessly pursuing the meaning of the actor in history, and above all, the question the nature, trajectory, and meaning of History itself.

The rest of the article can be found here.

“I Can Do it All”

On Thursday, 8 December 2011, I will be in Littleton, Colorado, speaking to the Rocky Mountain Civil War Round Table on “McClellan as General-in-Chief.”

This Thursday, of course, will be the 150th plus one month anniversary of the day in 1861 when then thirty-four year old Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan (his 185th birthday is this Saturday!) ascended to the post of Commanding General of the United States Army upon the retirement of Bvt. Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott.

From 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, 1880-1901), ser. 3, vol. 1: 613-14:

Washington, November 1, 1861.

In accordance with General Orders, Numbers 94, from the War Department, I hereby assume command of the Armies of the United States. In the midst of the difficulties which encompass and divide the nation, hesitation and self-distrust may well accompany the assumption of so vast a responsibility; but confiding as I do in the loyalty, discipline, and courage of our troops, and believing as I do that Providence will favor ours as the just cause, I cannot doubt that success will crown our efforts and sacrifices.

The Army will unite with me in the feeling of regret that the weight of many years and the effect of increasing infirmities, contracted and intensified in his country’s service, should just now remove from our head the great soldier of our nation–the hero who in his youth raised high the reputation of his country on the fields of Canada, which he hallowed with his blood; who in more mature years proved to the world that American skill and valor could repeat if not eclipse the exploits of Cortez in the land of the Montezumas; whose whole life has been devoted to the service of his country; whose whole efforts have been directed to uphold our honor at the smallest sacrifice of life-a warrior who scorned the selfish glories of the battle-field when his great qualities as a statesman could be employed more profitably for his country; a citizen who in his declining years has given to the world the most shining instance of loyalty, in disregarding all ties of birth and clinging still to the cause of truth and honor. Such has been the career, such the character, of Winfield Scott, whom it has long been the delight of the nation to honor both as a man and a soldier. While we regret his loss, there is one thing we cannot regret-the bright example he has left for our emulation.

Let us all hope and pray that his declining years may be passed in peace and happiness, and that they may be cheered by the success of the country and the cause he has fought for and loved so well. Beyond all that, let us do nothing that can cause him to blush for us; let no defeat of the Army he has so long commanded embitter his last years, but let our victories illuminate the close of a life so grand.

Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.

From John Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary (3 vols.; Washington, 1908), vol. 1: 50-51:

…. The night of the 1st November we went over to McC[lellan]’s. The General was there and read us his General Order in regard to S[cott]’s resignation and his own assumption of command. The President thanked him for it and said it greatly relieved him. He added:—”I should be perfectly satisfied if I thought that this vast increase of responsibility would not embarrass you.” “It is a great relief, Sir! I feel as if several tons were taken from my shoulders, today. I am now in contact with you and the Secretary. I am not embarrassed by intervention.” “Well,” says the President, “draw on me for all the sense I have, and all the information. In addition to your present command, the supreme command of the army will entail a vast labor upon you.” “I can do it all,” McC[lellan] said quietly.

McClellan was the fourth man and first graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to hold the post of Commanding General. His predecessors in the office, which was created in 1821, were Jacob Brown, Alexander Macomb, and Scott. McClellan was by a considerable margin the youngest man ever to hold the office, which was eliminated in the General Staff Act of 1903. (The second youngest was Grant, who was about 42 when he became general-in-chief in 1864.)

Information on the Rocky Mountain Civil War Round Table, including logistics for next week’s meeting, can be found at this site.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Before everyone rushes out in pursuit of cheap electronic goods that will probably be obsolete this time next year, from The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler (9 vols.; New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953-55), vol. 6: 496-97:

Proclamation of Thanksgiving
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.


Every *properly* educated student of American history, of course, knows that the true First Thanksgiving Celebration in British North America did not take place at Plymouth Plantation in 1621, but at Berkeley Plantation in Virginia two years earlier on 4 December 1619. That day 38 men from Berkeley Parish in England landed on the banks of the James River and, in thanks for their safe voyage from England, proclaimed:

Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.

Of course, to those of us with an interest in the American Civil War, Berkeley Plantation is better known as the site of Harrison’s Landing, the final destination for the Army of the Potomac after the Seven Days’ Battles, and where “Taps” (also known as “Butterfield’s Lullaby”) was composed in 1862. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that if you have not visited Berkeley Plantation, you have not visited Virginia.

Now to run out and grab that cheap Blu-Ray combo with surround sound. It’s what Mr. Lincoln and the folks at Berkeley would have wanted, I think.

More on Black Confederates

For those who just can’t get enough of this subject:

Retouching History: The Modern Falsification of a Civil War Photograph
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. As of the date of this website this photograph is being sold on the web by an on-line retailer,, which promotes itself as “The Internet’s Original Rebel Store,” and advertises this photograph as a legitimate photo of “Members of the first all Black Confederate Unit organized in New Orleans in 1861.”

The Photograph
In a photographic studio somewhere in Philadelphia, probably in early 1864, a group of black Union soldiers posed for a rather somber photograph with a white officer. We know nothing of this group, but it may have formed part of a unit that had been recently formed in the union army [4]. In his preliminary emancipation proclamation of September 1862, President Lincoln announced that the federal government would enroll African-American soldiers as of New Year’s Day 1863. By June of that year, a committee of prominent Philadelphians had been appointed to raise black regiments. By the war’s end the federal government had raised 166 black units of infantry, cavalry and artillery totaling 185,000 combatants. Eleven of these units had been formed at Camp William Penn, “the largest camp existing for the organization and disciplining of Colored Troops,” located in Chelten Hills (now Cheltenham Township, just outside the northern city limit of Philadelphia). The white officers commanding the troops were trained under the auspices of the Free Military School for the Command of Colored Troops established in Philadelphia in 1863.

The rest of the essay, with notes, can be found here.

There’s a *blurb* about me! A blurb!

As part of their commemoration of the 150th, the Kansas City Star recently ran a series of articles on the Civil War, focusing naturally on its impact on the Kansas-Missouri border region. In July, they ran the following story on the war’s lessons for the modern military, drawing on interviews with myself and my colleague Terry Beckenbaugh.

July 24

LEAVENWORTH | A more fitting place for Army officers to come and study insurgencies and counterguerrilla tactics would be hard to find in the United States.

For it was from right here that Union soldiers ventured out to butt heads with the bushwhackers who ruled the nearby Missouri countryside.

Proud of its part in taming the West, Fort Leavenworth offers little evidence, beyond some old graves in the cemetery, of its history in the bloody suppression of revolt next door. No displays about “jayhawkers” or “Red Legs” are in the post museum; no statues of their commanders are to be found.

But in the classrooms at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, chapters of the Civil War are remembered, 150-year-old lessons even taught. Not so much Gettysburg or Chancellorville, either, but of places mostly unheard of back east — bloody places, such as Grinter’s farm, Baxter Springs, Centralia, Lawrence.

In an era of prowling Predator drones, it may seem strange that anything would carry over from the days of black powder, but the past has a way of circling around to surprise us on many fronts, cultural as well as military.

Full story is here.

Rock Chalk . . . Terrorist?

More from the Trans-Mississippi . . .

Osceola — still smarting from Civil War — calls on KU to drop Jayhawks as mascot
by The Associated Press and KY3 News
12:15 p.m. CDT, September 19, 2011

OSCEOLA, Mo. — Leaders of a town that was nearly destroyed 150 years ago by a Kansas militia want the University of Kansas to get rid of its Jayhawks mascot because it’s an association with “a group of domestic terrorists.” A resolution passed last week by the Osceola Board of Aldermen also asks the University of Missouri to educate Kansas on the historical origins of the “Border War.”

Osceola, which is 60 miles north of Springfield on Missouri 13, has a population of about 950. The town was a thriving center of commerce on the Osage River and had 2,500 residents on Sept. 22, 1861, when U.S. Sen. Jim Lane led a band of 2,000 “Jayhawkers” in the Kansas Brigade on a two-day siege of the city.

Lane’s men killed a dozen men on the town square, burned nearly all the buildings, and stole all the residents’ property and livestock, as well as cash from the banks. Residents fled and only about 200 people remained after the Jayhawkers left.

While many people know about the raid by a band of Missourians, led by William Quantrill, on Lawrence, Kan., in August 1863, most don’t know that many of the Missouri guerrillas shouted “Remember Osceola” as they burned Lane’s home town. The two attacks were among many along the Missouri-Kansas border during the Civil War between slavery abolitionists like Lane and Southern sympathizers like Quantrill.

Full story is here.

Not surprising . . .

But wow.

Richmond 1865

Civil War still divides Americans
By: CNN Political Unit

Washington (CNN) – It has been 150 years since the Civil War began with the first shots at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and in some respects views of the Confederacy and the role that slavery played in the events of 1861 still divide the public, according to a new national poll.

In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Tuesday, roughly one in four Americans said they sympathize more with the Confederacy than the Union, a figure that rises to nearly four in ten among white Southerners.

When asked the reason behind the Civil War, whether it was fought over slavery or states’ rights, 52 percent of all Americas said the leaders of the Confederacy seceded to keep slavery legal in their state, but a sizeable 42 percent minority said slavery was not the main reason why those states seceded.

Full story here.

Money quotes–and some responses:

Grand Review 1865” . . . most Republicans said slavery was not the main reason that Confederate states left the Union.” Yes, yes, monocausal arguments regarding any historical event as complex as the Civil War are inherently inadequate and it is a wee bit of an oversimplification to say it was all and only about slavery, but hello Republicans! (Republicans?? What would Abe and Thad say!?!) Read what Southerners themselves said at the time!

But, hey, if it helps some folks out there sleep at night . . . you win, it WAS all about Jeffersonian limited government and state rights v. Hamiltonian activist national government power. And the side that fought for limited government got its brains beat out. (See the image on top? That ain’t Washington in 1865. You want a scene from Washington in 1865? Check out the bottom picture. That is the nation’s capital enjoying the Grand Review of the VICTORIOUS army in the Civil War.) Seems to me if we want to be a nation of Hamiltonian winners, we should follow the path of Hamiltonian winners and that only people who hate America would want it to be a broken country of bitter, limited government losers like the Confederacy. Which brings us to . . .

” . . . one in four Americans said they sympathize more with the Confederacy than the Union.” On what grounds, pray tell? That they hate the United States and wish it had been destroyed? Why do these people hate America? I certainly hope DHS and the TSA are paying attention here!

” . . . Republicans [So much for “the party of Lincoln”–yeah, yeah, I know this hasn’t been the case since about 1965–But why? Did something significant happen in the South around that time?] were also most likely to say they admired the leaders of the southern states during the Civil War.” I will be the first to say that one can admire Robert E. Lee’s and Stonewall Jackson’s generalship and aspects of their personal characters, while condemning their betrayal of the government they took an oath to serve and their service to the cause of destruction of the Union. I do. But it was an odious (and, never forget, LOSING) cause.

Moreover, beyond Lee and Jackson (who were exceptional because they were, well, exceptional), which “southern leaders” are they admiring? James Henry Hammond? Robert Toombs? John Floyd? Leonidas Polk? Alfred Iverson? Yeah, I know the North had its Simon Camerons, James Ledlies, Judson Kilpatricks, and Franz Sigels–but, hey, at least the North WON.

Your thoughts?

12 April 1861

Fort Sumter

Ultimatum day

Today, of course, marks the 150th anniversary of Stephen Lee, James Chestnut, and A.R. Chisholm’s delivery of the ultimatum from P.G.T. Beauregard to Robert Anderson demanding the surrender of Fort Sumter, with tomorrow marking the anniversary of the first shot. Interesting story below from Time Magazine on the matter of what brought about a conflict that has many names, one of the more interesting perhaps being “The Great Southern Hissyfit”.

The Way We Weren’t
By David von Drehle
Thursday, Apr. 07, 2011

A few weeks before Captain George S. James sent the first mortar round arcing through the predawn darkness toward Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861, Abraham Lincoln cast his Inaugural Address as a last-ditch effort to win back the South. A single thorny issue divided the nation, he declared: “One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.”

It was not a controversial statement at the time. Indeed, Southern leaders were saying similar things during those fateful days. But 150 years later, Americans have lost that clarity about the cause of the Civil War, the most traumatic and transformational event in U.S. history, which left more than 625,000 dead — more Americans killed than in both world wars combined.

Shortly before the Fort Sumter anniversary, Harris Interactive polled more than 2,500 adults across the country, asking what the North and South were fighting about. A majority, including two-thirds of white respondents in the 11 states that formed the Confederacy, answered that the South was mainly motivated by “states’ rights” rather than the future of slavery.

I guess that explains the Fugitive Slave Act. Anyway, for the full story, click here.

A Happy Story

I think just about everyone can agree this is good–no, great–news:


Preservation community pleased with decision by retail giant to drop plans to build a supercenter within historic boundaries of Wilderness battlefield

(Orange, Va.) – In an unexpected development, Walmart announced this morning that it has abandoned plans to pursue a special use permit previously awarded to the retail giant for construction of a supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield. The decision came as the trial in a legal challenge seeking to overturn the special use permit was scheduled to begin in Orange County circuit court.

“We are pleased with Walmart’s decision to abandon plans to build a supercenter on the Wilderness battlefield,” remarked James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust. “We have long believed that Walmart would ultimately recognize that it is in the best interests of all concerned to move their intended store away from the battlefield. We applaud Walmart officials for putting the interests of historic preservation first. Sam Walton would be proud of this decision.”

The Civil War Trust is part of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, an alliance of local residents and national groups seeking to protect the Wilderness battlefield. Lighthizer noted that the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition has sought from the very beginning to work with county officials and Walmart to find an alternative location for the proposed superstore away from the battlefield.

“We stand ready to work with Walmart to put this controversy behind us and protect the battlefield from further encroachment,” Lighthizer stated. “We firmly believe that preservation and progress need not be mutually exclusive, and welcome Walmart as a thoughtful partner in efforts to protect the Wilderness Battlefield.”

In August 2009, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a controversial special use permit to allow construction of the Walmart Supercenter and associated commercial development on the Wilderness Battlefield. A wide range of prominent individuals and organizations publicly opposed the store’s location, including more than 250 American historians led by Pulitzer Prize-winners James McPherson and David McCullough. One month after the decision, a group of concerned citizens and the local Friends of Wilderness Battlefield filed a legal challenge to overturn the decision.

The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–6, 1864, was one of the most significant engagements of the American Civil War. Of the 185,000 soldiers who entered combat amid the tangled mass of second-growth trees and scrub in Virginia’s Orange and Spotsylvania counties, some 30,000 became casualties. The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, composed of Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, Piedmont Environmental Council, Preservation Virginia, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Parks Conservation Association, and Civil War Trust, seeks to protect this irreplaceable local and national treasure.

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, the Trust has preserved nearly 30,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at

This Week

A more substantive series of posts is in the works for this blog (promise), but I would definitely be remiss if I did not first take a little time here to call notice to a certain noteworthy event in history. Namely, that it was in fact 150 years ago this week–9 January 1861, to be exact–that anti-government, state rights reactionaries in the southern part of the United States, upset over the fact that a certain skinny guy from Illinois had been elected president, fired on the Star of the West.

Star of the West

Here is the report of the ship’s commander:

NEW-YORK, Saturday, Jan. 12, 1861.

M.O. ROBERTS, ESQ. — SIR: After leaving the wharf on the 5th inst., at 5 o’clock P.M., we preceeded down the Bay, where we hove to, and took on board four officers and two hundred soldiers, with their arms, ammunition, &c., and then proceeded to sea, crossing the bar at Sandy Hook at 9 P.M. Nothing unusual took place during the passage, which was a pleasant one or this season of the year.

We arrived at Charleston Bar at 1:30 A.M. on the 9th inst., but could find no guiding marks for the Bar, as the lights were all out. We proceeded with caution, running very slow and sounding, until about 4 A.M., being then in 4 1/2 fathoms water, when we discovered a light through the haze which at that time covered the horizon. Concluding that the lights were on Fort Sumter, after getting the bearings of it, we steered to the S.W. for the main ship-channel, where we hove to, to await daylight, our lights having all been put out since 12 o’clock, to avoid being seen.

As the day began to break, we discovered a steamer just in shore of us, who, as soon as she saw us, burned one blue light and two red lights as signals, and shortly after steamed over the bar and into the ship channel. The soldiers were now all put below, and no one allowed on deck except our own crew. As soon as there was light enough to see, we crossed the bar and proceeded on up the channel, (the outer-bar buoy having been taken away,) the steamer ahead of us sending off rockets, and burning lights until after broad daylight, continuing on her course up nearly two miles ahead of us. When we arrived about two miles from Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter being about the same distance, a masked battery on Morris Island, where there was a red Palmetto flag flying, opened fire upon us –distance, about five-eighths of a mile. We had the American flag flying at our flagstaff at the time, and soon after the first shot, hoisted a large American Ensign at the fore. We continued on under the fire of the battery for over ten minutes, several of the shots going clear over us. One shot just passed clear of the pilot-house, another passed between the smoke-stack and walking-beams of the engine, another struck the ship just abaft the fore-rigging and stove in the planking, while another came within an ace of carrying away the rudder. At the some time there was a movement of two steamers from near Fort Moultrie, one of them towing a schooner, (I presume an armed schooner,) with the intention of cutting us off. Our position now became rather critical, as we had to approach Fort Moultrie to within three-quarters of a mile before we could keep away for Fort Sumter. A steamer approaching us with on armed schooner in tow, and the battery on the island firing at us all the time, and having no cannon to defend ourselves from the attack of the vessels, we concluded that, to avoid certain capture, or destruction, we would endeavor to get to sea. Consequently we wore round and steered down the channel, the battery firing upon us until the shot fell short. As it was now strong ebb tide, and the water having fallen some three feet, we proceeded with caution, and crossed the bar safely at 8:50 A.M., and continued on our course for this port, where we arrived this morning after a boisterous passage. A steamer from Charleston followed us for about three hours, watching our movements.

In justice to the officers and crews of each department of the ship, I must add that their behavior while under the fire of the battery reflected great credit on them.

Mr. BREWER, the New-York pilot, was of very great assistance to me in helping to pilot the ship over Charleston Bar, and up and down the channel.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Ron Paul on the Civil War

Ron Paul

“To get rid of the original intent of the Republic”? Is that what Lincoln was trying to do? Really?

Wasn’t the decisive event in bringing about the end of slavery in the British Empire a case of judicial fiat–what certain quarters would decry as “judicial activism” today (at least when they don’t like the outcome)–namely, the 1772 Somersett decision? Of course, it is these same folks who believe Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin, George Washington, and the other framers of the U.S. Constitution were champions of limited federal power.

Of course, to point out the stupidity of all this makes one a condescending elitist. Sigh . . .