Monday, December 31, 2007

CWL---The Confederates, The Crater, and Their Recollections

Is Not The Glory Enough To Give Us A Share?: An Analysis of Competing Memories fo the Battle of the Crater, Kevin M. Levin, in The View From the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, editor, University of Kentucky Press, 2007, pp. 227-248.

On July 30, 1864 four divisions of the Federal 9th Corps assaulted a crevasse that was 200 feet long, 60 feet wide and 30 feet deep that had been created by the explosion of 4 tons of gunpowder under a Confederate fort in the Petersburg, Virginia line. Their assault was countered by a brigade of South and North Carolinians and three brigades of Virginians. The Rebels won the battle and the Virginians won the history.

In 1936 the National Park Service acquired the Crater's site and relied upon the Virginians' accounts to tell the story of the battle. The debates between the Carolinians and the Virginians were part of the collective debate among veterans over the causes and the glory of the war. A national narrative that ignored the importance of slavery and emancipation and elevated the brotherhood of war was constructed from the 1870s through the 1940s. The Southern veterans argued over their battlefield accomplishments and revolved around the states since their CSA had dissolved. State and local history were developed by the frictions of state rubbing against state for domination of the process of memorializing, history writing, and memory construction of the war.

The earliest interpretations of war were authored by the veterans. Personal, unit, and state pride were developed and, to a degree, historical accuracy was sacrificed. Edward Pollard, wartime editor of the Daily Richmond Examiner, produced The Lost Cause in 1866. The Southern Historical Society Papers, first issued in 1876, gave those outside of Virginia a forum for marking their place in the War of the Rebellion. The Confederate Veteran appeared in 1893 and a wedge between Virginians and other Confederates were again driven between Confederate veterans.

Kevin Levin, who offers the weblog Civil War Memory, develops these themes through a discussion of how the Battle of the Crater has been written and rewritten in the course of the 150 years since the end of the war. His essay is a case study of Civil War memory that, in the past decade, has been addressed by David Blight, Fritzhugh Bundage, David Goldfield, Carol Reardon and others have developed. Kevin Levin's weblog is located at

Sunday, December 30, 2007

CWL---Popular Sovereignty Among the Privates! The Texas Brigade Tosses Officers Out of Camp!

Popular Sovereignty In The Confederate Army: The Case of Colonel John Marshall and the Fourth Texas Infantry Regiment, Charles E. Brooks, in The View From the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers, Sheehan-Dean, Aaron, editor, University of Kentucky Press, 2007, pp. 199-226.

Texans, like many soldiers South and North in 1861, voted for their regimental officers. Hood's Texas Brigade compiled an impressive record of driving Yankees and their own Richmond appointed officers off the field. Brooks cites several instances of Texas regiments dismissing their officers from their commands. 'Popular Sovereignty' a 1850s political sentiment that held that local voters should choose whether their territory or state would institute slavery, also applied to the selection of officers.

Colonels, lieutenant-colonels, captains, surgeons and chaplains served at the pleasure of the rank-and-file; those officers who were placed over them by the governor or central government had be be accepted by the troops or they would be dismissed by the privates, corporals, sergeants and captains. The 1st, 4th and 5th Texas infantry regiments and the 13th Texas cavalry regiment sought to dismiss officers by a variety of means. Written petitions, shaving the commander's horse's tail, cutting saddle parts, hooting and jeering, walking away from drill were used to show the rank-and-file's sentiment. One regiment went so far as to grab an officer, hoist him on to his saddled horse, lead it out of camp and then set it off at a gallop.

As volunteer regiments organized, soldiers held a distinct spirit of democratic sovereignty. A volunteer had right to pick officers and had a right to 'secede' and transfer out of one company or regiment and join another if they were unhappy is the current officer. Non-slaving holding enlisted men fought loyally in the slave-holders' war. In the movie Gettysburg the question is asked, "What are you Rebs fighting for?" The answer is "My rights (rats)." The fundamental issue of selecting local leaders were among the rights for which the CSA enlisted man was fight.

Above is a photo of the memorial to Texas Civil War soldiers that is located in Dallas, Texas.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Other Voices---Slaves, Runaways, And Freedmen: Two Men Tell Their Stories

Freedom Just Ahead: The War Within the Civil War , a review of A Slave No More, review by William Grimes , New York Times, December 5, 2007.

A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation David W. Blight, Harcourt Press, illustrated, index, $25.00.

The chaos of Civil War meant only one thing to America’s four million slaves: hope. With armies on the march, and the old social order crumbling, men like John Washington and Wallace Turnage seized the moment and made a break for freedom, issuing their own emancipation proclamations before the fact. They were “quiet heroes of a war within the war to destroy slavery,” as David W. Blight puts it in A Slave No More. Both Washington and Turnage, near contemporaries, wrote vivid accounts of their lives as slaves and the bold bids for freedom that took them across Confederate lines and into the waiting arms of Union soldiers. Recently discovered, both texts have been reproduced by Mr. Blight as written, with misspellings and grammatical errors intact.

Mr. Blight, a professor of American history at Yale and the author of “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory,” has also provided an extended preface that provides historical context, fills in biographical gaps and extends the life stories of both men past the Civil War, when their manuscripts break off abruptly, to their deaths in the early 20th century. Two remarkable lives, previously lost, emerge with startling clarity, largely through the words of the principal actors themselves. Washington, born in 1838, grew up in Fredericksburg, Va., and stayed there, in servitude to the widow of his master, after being separated from his mother and four younger siblings at 12. Unlike Turnage, who labored on an Alabama plantation and suffered constant whippings, Washington lived a town life, running errands or enduring hours of enforced idleness and staring longingly out the window.

In 1861 he was hired out to a tobacco factory in Richmond and got his first glimpse of Confederate troops, so many, he wrote, “that it appeard to be an impossiability, to us, colored people, that they could ever be conquord.” Soon, though, he began hearing of slaves making their way to the Union lines and freedom. Once back in Fredericksburg, where he worked as a hotel steward and barkeep, he decided to join their number. Washington’s narrative captures both turmoil and nervous excitement as Union forces closed in on Fredericksburg, bayonets glinting across the Rappahannock River, their movements eagerly watched by black residents. Washington, in a characteristically sardonic aside, notes: “No one could be seen on the street but the colored people. and every one of them seemed to be in the best of humors.”

In the confusion Washington escaped to the Union lines. “I told them I was most happy to see them all that I had been looking for them for a long time,” he writes. When a Union soldier asks if he wants to be free, Washington answers simply, “by all means.” In Alabama, Turnage met his oppressors with open defiance. He fought with bullwhip-wielding overseers, suffered repeated whippings and beatings and lit out for freedom repeatedly. Running for miles across creeks and through fields, cleverly talking his way out of tight spots and, more than once, fighting off enraged dogs, Turnage, a mere teenager, evaded pursuers for weeks at a time, enduring extreme deprivation.

"I went as long as four days without anything to eat but one hickery nut that the squirrels did not get,” he writes of one escapade. Among other things, Turnage’s testimony sheds light on the support network among slaves, nearly all more than willing to feed or conceal a runaway, or provide information on how to evade capture on the road ahead. “They gloried in my spunk,” Turnage writes of a group of slaves who hid him at one plantation. His final flight, from Mobile to the Union ships anchored offshore, caps his thrilling tale. After nonchalantly walking straight through a Confederate camp and wading barefoot through snake-infested swamps, he reaches an impasse, with Confederate pickets behind him and a broad expanse of water ahead of him.

“It was death to go back and it was death to stay there and freedom was before me,” he writes. He pressed forward and, by luck, found a rickety little boat on the shore. I now dreaded the gun, and handcuffs and pistols no more,” he writes of his moment of deliverance, when Yankee sailors plucked him from Mobile Bay. “Nor the blewing of horns and the running of hounds; nor the threats of death from the rebel’s authority. I could now speak my opinion to men of all grades and colors, and no one to question my right to speak.” Washington made his way to Washington, where he and his wife, whom he took from Fredericksburg, rose to middle-class prosperity. He died in 1918. Turnage worked, at various times, as a janitor, sign painter, watchman and glass blower in New York. Eventually he moved to Jersey City, where he died in 1916.
By that time, slavery and the war were distant memories. In their all-too-brief narratives, Washington and Turnage, as Mr. Blight notes, offer a precious commodity: “unfiltered access to the process and the moment of emancipation."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Other Voices--- Uncle Sam Santa Visits Gettysburg NMP

Congress Just Keeps Throwing Money At Park Service, Scot Pitzer, Gettysburg Times Staff Writer, December 23, 2008.

Congress intends to give another $3.8 million to Gettysburg National Military Park to finish the Cyclorama painting restoration — even though National Park Service leaders testified before federal legislators that no taxpayer money would be needed to fund the project. The painting restoration is part of a comprehensive $125 million effort undertaken by the park and its non profit partner, the Gettysburg Foundation, to build a new Civil War museum and visitor center along the Baltimore Pike, demolish the antiquated facilities currently positioned near the Taneytown Road, and restore that area to its 1863 Battle of Gettysburg appearance.

“Thanks to the generosity and entrepreneurial spirit of private sector partners, the National Park Service can accomplish this (project) at no cost to the taxpayers,” former NPS Deputy Director Denis Galvin testified before Congress in a Feb. 1999 hearing. The total federal spending on the restoration of artist Paul Philippoteaux’s painting of Pickett’s Charge, with the additional $3.8 million, now stands at $15.7 million. “Galvin testified under oath that they did not need, and wouldn’t accept, taxpayer funds,” said Franklin Silbey, a private consultant and historic preservationist.

“Here you have a total of $16 million in public money that is being spent, or has been spent, for this picture restoration. Has there ever been an audit on how this money has been spent?” Investigators from the Government Accountability Office visited the Gettysburg Battlefield earlier this month to see if fund-raising efforts by the Gettysburg Foundation are compliant with government standards, but the agency’s findings won’t be made public for several months.

“Maybe there is finally some oversight to this project, because it’s long overdue,” said Steinwehr Avenue business owner Eric Uberman. The House Appropriations Committee and U.S. Rep. John Murtha, R-Pa., of Johnstown, were behind Congress’ $3.8 million allocation. Murtha was recently given a tour of the battlefield by park and Gettysburg Foundation officials.

“He wanted to know how much more money was needed to finish the Cyclorama painting restoration. The Gettysburg Foundation told him $3.8 million,” GNMP spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said regarding the 1884 artwork. “Congressman Murtha has been a longstanding supporter of the project.” When GNMP and what was then the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation united several years ago, the alliance was branded as an ideal private-public partnership, with NPS leaders claiming that they could accomplish the project fundraising goal — then an estimated $40 million — without acquiring state or federal funds. Project officials maintain that they’ve never asked for the tax monies.

“We want to make it clear that Congress has made these decisions,” Gettysburg Foundation spokeswoman Dru Anne Neil said. The Gettysburg Foundation has collected more than $30 million in taxpayer dollars to cover project costs. In addition to the Congressional money, state coffers have pledged about $20 million to fund the Baltimore Pike visitor center and museum construction. “It’s all been their choice,” Neil explained. “We’ve never asked for the money.”

During the Congressional hearings in 1999, when federal legislators contemplated whether to back the Gettysburg project, lawmakers were skeptical of the park’s claim that all of the funds could be raised without acquiring public monies. “I always hear these pie in the sky ideas of a park… then what happens is they turn around and ask us for (the money),” Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands Chairman James Hansen told Galvin. “Now give me a straight answer. Do you really think you can raise this money?”

At the time, the estimate for the facility and the acquisition of the land was $40.4 million. Park officials thought $22 million could be raised through grants and nonprofit fundraising, and the remaining costs would be covered by a non-recourse commercial loan. “Yes,” Galvin replied to Hansen’s inquiry. “And it seems to me if we can protect Gettysburg National Military Park without spending taxpayer dollars, that means $40 million is going to go someplace (else) in the system and do some good… and I don’t see frankly why we wouldn’t pursue it.”

According to recent press announcements, the Gettysburg Foundation has now raised more than $95 million, with one-third of that total being public monies, and a portion of that sum being loans. The Gettysburg Foundation plans to use the $3.8 million to install and hang the artwork’s 27 individual panels within the new gallery, fabricate related exhibits, and install exhibit lighting. Slightly more than $11 million has already been spent to doctor the 377-foot long, 27-foot high painting. Originally, the project was budgeted to cost $1 million.

“This project is the first of its kind ever undertaken in North America,” Neil said. “No one really knew exactly what it would cost.” For years, the painting hung within the present-day Cyclorama building, erected in 1962 along the Taneytown Road beside the current park visitor center. But both facilities have become antiquated — the visitor center building was built in 1921 and was actually a private dwelling — and fires, floods and roof leaks have damaged the once tear-inducing painting. Complicating matters is another key factor: the visitor facility is sized to accommodate 450,000 people a year, but handles about 1.5 million tourists annually.

When the new 139,000 square-foot visitor center opens in April, and the adjoining Cyclorama building opens in the fall, the park plans to raze the current facilities. But the demolition probably won’t occur until 2009-2010. The land was the scene of the high water mark struggle between the Union and Confederate armies on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

“It’s a ground-breaking project. It’s never been done before,” Lawhon said regarding the $125 million price-tag. “The whole scale has gone up and the costs have gone up as well.” The $3.8 million being given by Congress, Gettysburg Foundation officials assert, are the last funds needed to pay for the artwork project. The allocation is marked on the federal spending plan in a specific fashion: “complete Cyclorama restoration.”

“Every year, committees come up here to visit and see where we are on the project,” Neil said regarding the construction effort that began 24 months ago. “They asked us what we needed, and that ($3.8 million) was the number we gave them.”
Source: Contact Scot Pitzer at 334-1131, ext. 247 or<

Thursday, December 20, 2007

(Sort Of) Off Topic Novel--- Something From Down Under

Damnation Falls, Edward Wright, Orion Press, 320 pp., U.S. hardcover $24.95, Australian paperback $20.20

Damnation Falls, Sue Turnbull, reviewer, Sydney (Australia) Chronicle, December 21, 2007.

It begins with a button and a prophecy. Tramping the Tennessee backwoods with his dad, Randall Wilkes turns up an American Civil War relic. His historian father, typically withholding and impassive in the face of his young son's enthusiasm, comes over all doom-laden about the potential significance of the find. "Whatever's here," he intones with patriarchal pomposity, "one day the earth will give up."

Fast forward a few decades and the earth is giving up a whole closet full of skeletons with which Randall has to deal, as does his now aged father who has since won a Pulitzer Prize for his Civil War histories. Much is at stake chez Wilkes and the truth will out, whatever the consequences.

Edward Wright, author of Damnation Falls, already has a swag of real-life awards over the shoulder. His first three crime novels - set in 1940s Los Angeles and featuring B-movie western alumnus John Ray Horn and his native American sidekick, Joseph Mad Crow - have garnered in sequence the British Crime Writers' Association Debut Award, a Shamus Award from the Mystery Writers of America and the British association's Ellis Peters Historical Award. If you missed them, it may be time for a rewind.

Meanwhile, clearly not overawed by past success, Wright has stepped out of series with Damnation Falls, a stand-alone crime novel that dramatises American history by means of contemporary small-town relationships depicted with the kind of hothouse intensity writers from the American south seem manifestly destined to portray but with rather more restraint. Wright is a much less flamboyant and more subtle prose stylist than James Lee Burke, for instance.

Like Wright himself, the character of Randall Wilkes is a former newspaper man but one whose departure from the newsfront is precipitated by an ill-judged substitution of fiction for fact while working on a Chicago newspaper. Disgraced and out of a job, Randall returns to Nashville at his old friend Sonny's behest to embark on what he suspects is a piece of puffery, Sonny's memoirs. Given that Sonny is a former governor of Tennessee, what Randall wants to know is whether this will be a "summing-up kind of book or a curtain-raising kind of book".

Whatever Sonny's original intention, the invitation initiates both a kind of curtain raising and a kind of reckoning, with Wright setting things up carefully from the start, so that what unfolds as Wilkes sets about his task of memorialising Sonny is both shocking and inevitable. There are some nice narrative symmetries.

And an intriguing footnote: Wright was born in the same Arkansas town of Hot Springs as erstwhile American president Bill Clinton. Comparisons may be odorous (as Mrs Malaprop once said) but Sonny McMahan, the fictional former governor of Tennessee, is a man so charismatic that when he walks into a Nashville restaurant all the diners turn to watch his progress, "lifting their faces as if towards the sun". Further allusions to Clinton's Arkansas days and the Whitewater property scandal are never spelled out but lurk suggestively in the background as McMahan is revealed to be up to his clean-cut jaw in something not entirely kosher.

The action converges on the fictional small town of Pilgrim's Rest, established on the Cumberland plateau during the 19th century by a breakaway religious sect on a water source they christened Redemption Spring, just above the eponymous Damnation Falls. Wright draws attention to the religious foundations of America's political present, as well as the bitterness wrought by civil war. It's paradise well and truly lost.

Pilgrim's Rest is where Randall and McMahan began their friendship, united in the adolescent crime of pot-shotting at a neighbour's cats with their Daisy Red Ryder BB guns (some kind of American rite of passage, predictably involving firearms). And Pilgrim's Rest is the place to which they return as the victims of the past begin to emerge, forcing Randall, Sonny and the whole community finally to come to terms with the legacy of that darn button. Complex, layered but never laboured, Damnation Falls weaves between fact and fiction, the past and the present, truth and lies, without ever missing a beat. Nice work.


CWL---From it appears that the U.S. release date for the hardcover is August 5, 2008. What is for sale at is the Australian hardcover and tradepaper editions. The top illustration is of the U.S. harcover. The bottom illustration is of the Australian trade paperback.

The Australian hardcover retails for $35 but available from AmazonZshops for $17.
The Australian trade paper retails for $20 but is available from for $16.
The U.S. hardcover will retail for $24.95 and Amazon is offering it for $16.50.

Check the site:

CWL---A Short History of Jackson Studies Plus Five Essays

Whatever You Resolve To Be: Essays on Stonewall Jackson, A. Wilson Greene, University of Tennessee Press, 2005, 186pp., b/w illustrations, maps, index, paperback, $19.95.

I have the luxury of ordering inter-library loans and having them delivered to my desk. I frequently request a new book and read a few chapters before I order it for myself. Having encountered A. Wilson Greene's recent history of Civil War era Petersburg, Virginia and appreciating it, I requested an inter-library loan of Whatever You Resolve To Be. I read Robertson's biography of Stonewall Jackson when it came out in 1997 and decided I had covered Jackson thoroughly. I thought I would spend two hours on Greene's 2005 update of his 1991 work and send it back the same week I received it. Upon reading the Preface to the 2005 edition, I ordered a copy from AmazonZshops; it was $10.61 and that included $3.99 for shipping.

What convinced me to own the book was the preface to the 2005 edition; the 36 page review of Jackson studies from 1991 to 2005 is clear, concise and complete. Robertson's 1997 biography took its place at the center of Jackson studies. The understanding of Jackson which the public held from 1991 through 1996 is brief and illustrated by the author's effort to rename the Jackson Shrine, where 'The Arm' is buried to the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. The change was necessary in order to inform Andrew Jackson, Reggie Jackson, and Michael Jackson fans to keep moving on.

Robertson's conclusions regarding Jackson, Ron Maxwell's interpretations of them in Gods and Generals and those writers whose biographies found 'different Jackson's' are presented in an intriguing fashion by Greene. In a nutshell, much of Maxwell's Jackson behavior is plausible, if undocumented according to Robertson. Relying on his own understanding of Jackson, Greene sees Maxwell's Jackson as acting politically correct towards blacks but not necessarily historically accurate in 1862. Although, 'a more accurate Jackson emerged when Maxwell took his story to Moss Neck in the winter of 1863.' The films depiction of the May 1863 death are historically accurate. (xxxvi-xxxviii)

Other Jackson scholars produced efforts since the appearance of the Robertson biography. Byron Farwell's interpretation of Jackson 'judged Jackson more harshly that did his predecessors and his interpretations conflict with Vandiver, Henderson and Chambers pre-1960 and Centennial era biographies. Like Farwell, Paul Casdorph takes the biographies of that era to task for imagining from primary sources instead of letting the sources speak. Of course, some of those primary sources do romanticize Jackson. So, what is an historian to do with a host of mishandled primary sources that have thoroughly entered the popular culture in the course of 140 years?

Hot topics in Jackson studies in the last decade have been the Jackson-Lee relationship. In the past 20 years, Lee has had his detractors and their writings have fed the interpretation of Jackson. Some writers see Jackson as the stronger partner in the relationship. Also, the Lost Cause school of interpretation has handled primary sources in such a way that may have tilted the interpretation of the partnership in favor of Lee. Greene looks to Peter Carmichael's work as addressing the issue of Gettysburg without Jackson and the writings of Henry Kyd Douglas, staff officier of the Army of Norhern Virginia. Ethan Rafuse's work on First Manassas receives high marks for putting the battle within the context of the 1861 mentality of the generals. The major works on the 1862 Valley Campaign are reviewed with the work of Saurer, Tanner, Ecelbarger and Krick being favorably appreciated. Sears and Burton on the Peninsula Campaign, Krick on Cedar Mountain, Hennessey on Second Manassas. The Battle of Chantilly/Ox Hill received two studies, both of which are well researched and written notes Greene. Contested terrain, the Sharpsburg Campaign, is covered by Sears, Harsh and Hearn; each contributes different understandings of Jackson's efforts in the campaign.

Recently, two landmark studies of Fredericksburg have appeared; Rable and O'Reilly has offered thorough and complete works on the battle. Rable has developed Fredericksburg in the context of fall and winter of 1862 and O'Reilly was developed Fredericksburg in the context of boots-on-the-ground. On Chancellorsville, Sears and Furgurson offered two books; Sears finds luck playing a huge part in CSA success and Furgurson sees the Lee-Jackson relationship at its height.

Conflicting studies address Tom Jackson and his health issues; the mid-19th century context of health is reviewed and the stereotype of Jackson the hypochondriac is rejected. Jackson's education, his maxims, and his teaching style are reviewed in separate scholarly articles. All of these works prompted Greene to review with five essays, written in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He sets forth 12 pages of agreements and disagreements with the literature he reviews in his 2005 preface.
It was on the strength of this 2005 preface/essay that I purchased the book. In particular I am looking forward to the Fredericksburg essay in which he addresses the breakthrough of Meade's Division of Jackson's lines on December 13th.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

CWL--- North and South Magazine, Ranking the Generals, R.E. Lee is No.5

Command in the Civil War, Keith Poulter, ed., North and South, 10:4, pp. 15-25.

Keith Poulter, founder and current editor, ranks Robert E. Lee behind six other generals in seven qualities of generalship. Cleburn is first. Following are Grant (second), Thomas and Jackson (tied at third), Hooker (fourth)and then Lee (fifth) who is one point above Sherman (sixth). Poulter uses eleven categories and then picks seven as essential. The eleven are: physical courage, moral courage, coup d'oeil, logistics, political skill, charisma, coordination, administrative skill, killer instinct, maneuvers, people skills.

In round one which is the total score, Poulter gives Grant and Cleburn 19, Thomas and Lee 13, Jackson 11, Hooker 8, and Sherman 5. Running in negative numbers from worst to least worse are Pemberton (-12), McClellan (-11), Burnside (-6), Meade (-4),Bragg and Joseph Johnson (-4). Poulter then designates seven qualities as essential and again ranks the generals. The seven essential qualities are: coup d'oeil, moral courage, logistics, administrative ability, moral courage, coordination, and maneuver. Pick which term of the list in French means, glimpse and which Poulter uses shorten the phrase the ability to grasp a situation quickly in its entirety.

Contending with Poulter's remarks are historians John Simon (Grant), Craig Symonds (naval war), Steven Woodworth (Army of the Tenessee), Steve Newton (Confederacy). The article provides interesting reading as the contributors gentlely dissent for Poulter's rankings. First of all, why this list? Halleck and Hood need to be added. Cleburn might be taken of because he ended the war as a division commander while all the other commanded armies. Winfield Scott Hancock may be added. Also, one definition, physical courage, needs to be dropped from the list of eleven. Stamina should be added. What exactly is moral courage and how is it measured?

Each of the historians, in one way or another, are skeptical of the value of numerical rankings of generalship. Much of what make a good general resists quantification. Poulter remarks that Lee was an old fashioned commander with a pre-modern disposition work hard and then leave it in God's hands and therefore had a tendency to not think outside the box. To this charge, one historian replies with one word: Chancellorsville.

CWL finds fault with Poulter's rankings of Meade (-5 and -4). Since 2 is the highest award on the chart, Meade's physical courage gets a 2, no argument there. Poulter also gives Meade four -2s: Coup d'oeil, charisma, killer instinct and maneuver. Coup d'oeil is a -2 with no credit for map reading while in was in Adams County, PA and Poulter gives Meade a zero for coordination. Getting the Army of the Potomac through Maryland and into Pennsylvania four days doesn't count I guess, nor does kicking the Army of Northern Virginia in the shins a couple of times between the late afternoon of July 3rd through July 14th.

Charisma is a -2; yes, not everyone liked Meade but Grant liked him for the first three months, and leadership in wartime is not a popularity contest. By the way, GGrant, Sherman, Thomas, Hooker, and Johnston get zeros. Also, -2s are maneuver and killer instinct. I guess Meade lost points for killer instinct when he refused to send the army against the Mine Run trenches of the Army of Northern Virginia in November 1863. Meade managed to get the army across the James River but must of lost points from Poulter because Grant ordered Meade to do it. Overall, I'd give Poulter a zero for judging the stereotypical picture of Meade and not the the general George Gordon in Ethan Rafuse's Meade and the War in the East and in Richard Saurer's Meade: Victor of Gettysburg.

By the way, on my selves are every North and South since Volume 1, Number One (except 1:5) and I look forward to every issue. CWL encourages readers to subscribe to the magazine; it is among the very best for scholarship, graphics, interest level of articles and readability.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Other Voices---Portion of the 16th Maine's Battle Flag Comes Home; Last Seen In One Piece on July 1, 1863

Scraps Of Bravery Pieces of Civil War Flags Preserve Maine Regiment’s Legacy
Paul Carrier, Staff Writer, John Patriquin/Staff Photographer, Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram

Laurie LaBar of the Maine State Museum displays a rare fragment of the 16th Maine Regiment’s Civil War flag. With their capture imminent during the Battle of Gettysburg, 16th Maine soldiers tore up their flag and hid the pieces to keep their banner out of Confederate hands.

A small but invaluable piece of the state's history came home Monday when the Maine State Museum acquired a remnant of a Civil War flag that the 16th Maine Regiment carried into battle at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. The ragged bit of dark blue silk, emblazoned with a lone golden star, is less than 5 inches long. It was once part of a flag that, at 6 feet, may well have been taller than many of the soldiers who fought under it.

But the size of the seemingly unimposing scrap of cloth does not detract from its value. Quite the opposite: The fragment is valuable precisely because it is just that. With their capture imminent on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the men of the 16th Maine tore up their "colors," as Civil War flags were known. They hid the pieces of two flags in their clothing to prevent advancing Confederates from capturing the banners.

The state museum had three of those remnants in its collection until Monday, when a piece that the museum bought at auction ast month finally arrived. Carefully preserved in a glass-covered wooden frame, the remnant has a handwritten note attached to it that says John Palmer of Winslow, a soldier in the 16th Maine, gave it to his father. John Palmer is believed to have been captured at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, and imprisoned in Richmond, Va. He apparently was released from prison, and either sent or delivered the fragment to his father before being killed in battle in February 1865.

The note that accompanied the fragment, written in a flowing script on paper that is now faded and torn, reads: "A piece of the flag of the Sixteen Maine Regiment. Tore up on the field of Gettysburg to keep it from the hands of the rebels. Presented to
Ambrose H. Palmer by his son John Palmer after his liberation from Richmond."

What happened to the fragment in the years that followed is unclear, but the state museum bought it and three related Civil War artifacts for $3,680 from Cowan's, an auction firm in Cincinnati. The collection includes a black felt hat and an off-white cotton belt, both bearing the insignia of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veterans group. It also includes a photograph of an elderly man in a three-piece suit wearing what appears to be the hat from the auction lot. The man in the photo is believed to be Ambrose Palmer Jr., John Palmer's older brother and a fellow member of Company B in the 16th Maine Regiment. Unlike John Palmer, Ambrose Palmer Jr. survived the war and, judging by his photograph, lived a long ife.

Laurie LaBar, the chief curator of history and decorative arts at the museum, said Tuesday that two people who track auctions of Civil War artifacts notified the state museum when they learned that Cowan's planned to sell the Maine items. The museum put in the winning bid but it does not know who put the items up for auction. Contacted Tuesday, Amy Francis, a staffer at Cowan's, said the auction house could not release that information. LaBar said the fragment is an important acquisition because what happened to the 16th Maine Regiment at Gettysburg is as compelling, in its own way, as the more celebrated exploits of the 20th Maine Regiment at Gettysburg.

Led by Col. Joshua Chamberlain, the 20th Maine prevented the Confederates from capturing a hill called Little Round Top on the second day of the three-day battle. Little Round Top marked the left flank of the Union line at Gettysburg, and some historians say the 20th Maine's success there may have prevented rebel troops from overrunning the entire Union force that day. The 16th Maine fell to the Confederates on another part of the battlefield the day before, when it was attacked from two sides. Historians say the 16th Maine fought valiantly, but its soldiers turned their attention to saving their beloved flags when they realized that defeat was inevitable.

Like other Union regiments, the 16th Maine carried an American flag and a regimental flag, known collectively as "the colors." "For a few last moments our little regiment defended angrily its hopeless challenge, but it was useless to fight longer," Abner Small of the 16th Maine wrote after the battle. "We looked at our colors, and our faces burned. We must not surrender those symbols of our pride and our faith." The regiment's color bearers "appealed to the colonel," Small wrote, "and with his consent they tore the flags from the staves and ripped the silk into shreds; and our officers and men that were near took each a shred."

No one knows how many pieces of either flag remain, and museum officials aren't sure which flag included the remnant that they received on Monday. That was the 16th Maine's "greatest day," wrote Earl Hess, a history professor at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, in an introduction to a collection of Small's Civil War letters published in 2000. Hess said Tuesday that the 16th Maine's actions show that battle flags carried "very, very deep symbolism for Civil War soldiers,"representing the "esprit de corps" of a regiment and "a larger entity -- the country, the cause."

"It was such an important battle and this is a very compelling story within that battle," LaBar said. "Having two Maine regiments involved in very different ways at Gettysburg sort of bookends the whole war for me." The 20th Maine Regiment "turned the tide" at Gettysburg, LaBar said, but the 16th Maine's determination to keep its cherished banners out of enemy hands "is every bit as important as Little Round Top in helping us understand the Civil War."

CWL---The 16th Maine fought north of the Chambersburg Pike and south of the Eternal Peace Light Memorial. There is the unit monument immediately north of the pike and the destruction of the flag marker immediately south of the pike. For more on the 16th Maine at Gettysburg go to: and

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CWL----Reptile Slave Traders, Proslavery Propaganda, and Paternalism with Pain (Part One)

The Reputation of the Slave Trader in Southern History and the Social Memory of The South, Michael Tadman, American Nineteenth Century History, 8:3 September 2007, pp. 247-271.

Common depictions of the antebellum domestic slave trade reveal that it occurred on a small scale, that slave traders were on the lowest rung of the Southern social ladder and plantation owners avoided using them. Slave traders dealt only with runaway or criminal slaves. Slave trading had a contradiction in it: Plantation paternalism avoided breaking up slave families yet the domestic slave trade from 1809 to 1861 carreied about 1.25 million 'units', three times as those carried from Africa to America before the Constitutional embargo of 1808.

Michael Tadman's focus in this essay is on the clash of paternalism and the slave trade. If slaveholder disliked the slave trade, then the slaveholder must have felt guilty when he engaged with a trader in the buying or selling of slaves. If the slaveholder had no remorse then paternalism has a problem as a paradigm for understanding master-slave relations.

He argues that "the white South was comfortable with the domestic slave trade and that the trader was not an outcast." Slaveholder did not wrestle with the issues raised by the slave trade, and did not see contradictions between paternalism and the buying and selling of humans. He adroitly reviews the historiograph of both paternalism and the slave trade; then he explores the petitions and presentments of Southerners before the court in cases of buying and selling slaves.

White supremacy, slave trading and the paternalism in the antebellum South
When the matter of the slave trade was addressed in the South, the conditioned response was to demonize the slave trader with the understanding that breaking up families was wrong. For propoganda purposes the slave trader was then marginalized in discussions by stating that the exchange of slaves for cash or credit was in infrequent occurence in the South. The idea that slaves had an meager amount of emotions gave justification to the infrequent splitting up of slave families.
The claims were that 1.) the slave trader was an outcast, 2.) black people did not emotionally suffer like white people. The first claim was propoganda and the second claim was acted upon as an actual truth.

Historians and the Trade
Covering Collins (1904), Phillips (1929), Bancroft (1931), Holmes (1938), Stampp
(1956), and his own work (1989), Tadman traces the historic treatments of the slave trader and the victims of family separation. The reputation of the slave trader moved from outcast to businessman with real estate holdings and slave trading from being not typical and infrequent to typical and frequent. Begining with Stampp's work, slave trade began to be viewed as being constant and of a great scale. Tadman, in his works, concluded that traders were both men of wealth and standing, and men who were speculators who found acceptance at the highest levels of society. He concludes that in the slaveholders' minds that outcast slave traders were "rarely anything more that devices available for sectional progaganda."

CWL----Forthcoming in 2008, My Copy Is On Order

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, Drew Gilpin Faust, Knopf Inc., 368 pp.

An illuminating study of the American struggle to comprehend the meaning and practicalities of death in the face of the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War.

During the war, approximately 620,000 soldiers lost their lives. An equivalent proportion of today’s population would be six million. This Republic of Suffering explores the impact of this enormous death toll from every angle: material, political, intellectual, and spiritual. The eminent historian Drew Gilpin Faust delineates the ways death changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation and its understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. She describes how survivors mourned and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the slaughter with its belief in a benevolent God, pondered who should die and under what circumstances, and reconceived its understanding of life after death.

Faust details the logistical challenges involved when thousands were left dead, many with their identities unknown, on the fields of places like Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg. She chronicles the efforts to identify, reclaim, preserve, and bury battlefield dead, the resulting rise of undertaking as a profession, the first widespread use of embalming, the gradual emergence of military graves registration procedures, the development of a federal system of national cemeteries for Union dead, and the creation of private cemeteries in the South that contributed to the cult of the Lost Cause. She shows, too, how the war victimized civilians through violence that extended beyond battlefields—from disease, displacement, hardships, shortages, emotional wounds, and conflicts connected to the disintegration of slavery.
Throughout, the voices of soldiers and their families, of statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, and nurses, of northerners and southerners, slaveholders and freedpeople, of the most exalted and the most humble are brought together to give us a vivid understanding of the Civil War’s most fundamental and widely shared reality.

Were he alive today, This Republic of Suffering would compel Walt Whitman to abandon his certainty that the “real war will never get in the books. No other generation of Americans has encountered death on the scale of the Civil War generation. This Republic of Suffering is the first study of how people in both North and South coped with this uniquely devastating experience. How did they mourn the dead, honor their sacrifice, commemorate their memory, and help their families? Drew Gilpin Faust’s powerful and moving answers to these questions provide an important new dimension to our understanding of the Civil War.” —James M. McPherson, author of This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War

“During the Civil War, death reached into the world of the living in ways unknown to Americans before or since. Drew Gilpin Faust follows the carnage in all its aspects, on and off the battlefield. Timely, poignant, and profound, This Republic of Suffering does the real work of history, taking us beyond the statistics until we see the faces of the fallen and understand what it was to live amid such loss and pain.” —Tony Horowitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

“Drew Gilpin Faust has used her analytical and descriptive gifts to explore how men and women of the Civil War generation came to terms with the conflict’s staggering human toll. Everyone who reads this book will come away with a far better understanding of why the war profoundly affected those who lived through it.” —Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War

“Drew Gilpin Faust’s brilliant new book, This Republic of Suffering, builds profoundly. In the end, one can only conclude, as she does, that the meaning of the Civil War, for its contemporaries, was tied up with/lay in death itself. Powerful, moving.” —Stephanie McCurry, author of Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Pulture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country

“Whitman was wrong; the real war did get into the books. This is a wise, informed, troubling book. This Republic of Suffering demolishes sentimentalism for the Civil War in a masterpiece of research, realism, and originality.”
—David W. Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Source of Text: Publisher

Monday, December 10, 2007

Off Topic: JFK and Zapruder Film, First Shot Not Recorded

The Most Valuable Film in History
No single piece of evidence concerning the Kennedy assassination has remotely approached the Zapruder film’s value. Though badly shaken by what he had recorded, Abraham Zapruder regained enough composure to sell his film three days after the assassination for $150,000—equivalent to nearly $1,000,000 today. The value of Zapruder’s film, great as it was in 1963, only increased with time. When the National Archives purchased it in 1998, a panel of arbitrators valued the Zapruder film at $16,000,000.

It can hardly be said that the 26-second film has been undervalued commercially. Yet despite obsessive frame-by-frame analysis of the Zapruder film by investigators both professional and amateur over the past 44 years, the Zapruder film’s full forensic value has remained “hidden in plain view”. Demonstrating what everyone has overlooked in the Zapruder film is the first aim of this article. Exploring why this happened and what lessons can be drawn therefrom is the second.

After 44 Years, A Breakthrough
A newly published theory about the Kennedy assassination demands that we re-examine the Zapruder film, more closely than ever before.

In a New York Times article published on November 22, 2007, JFK assassination researchers Max Holland and Johann Rush set forth a novel explanation for when Oswald fired his 1st shot and why it missed. Holland and Rush theorize that Oswald fired his 1st shot about 1.4 seconds before Zapruder began filming the assassination sequence, and that Oswald missed because the shot ricocheted off the metal arm of a traffic light suspended over Elm Street. They argue that one should not assume—as everyone heretofore has assumed—that Zapruder filmed each of Oswald’s three shots as they occurred. Their bold hypothesis presents a stark challenge to the prevailing consensus as to the timing of Oswald’s gunshots. (A more detailed version of the Holland/Rush theory can be found at

Holland and Rush present and explain several pieces of evidence supporting their conclusion that Zapruder’s film captured only Oswald’s 2nd and 3rd shots.

Text from: Hidden In Plain View: The Zapruder Film and the Shot that Missed, Kenneth R. Scearce,

CWL----Combined Operations, Dysfunctional Personalities and Generals Who Know How To Fight

Unconditional Surrender: The Capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, Spencer C. Tucker, McWhiney Foundation Press, 2001, 136 pp, b/w photographs, maps, index, orders of battle, selected bibliography.

Tucker’s Unconditional Surrender is a short, solid and satisfying introduction to the war in Kentucky and Tennessee during the fall of 1861 and the beginning of 1862. Its refreshing to find a good map on the second page of a first chapter. A map of the Western Theatre with railroads, rivers and cities introduces the strategic considerations of Halleck, Johnston, Polk and Grant. At the end of the chapter another map with all the railroads, rivers and cities of the Confederacy are presented along with the Confederate Line of Defense in the Winter of 1861-1862. Each of the generals are sketched in sidebars the this chapter which sets the stage.

Emphasizing the riverine warfare , Tucker states that the ‘control of the west’s great rivers, the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Tennessee, and the Cumberland, was vital to both sides in the war.” This vitality becomes apparent as he describes the efforts of McClellan, Halleck, Grant, and Andrew Hull Foote to put together an inland fleet. New to the reader is Andrew Hull Foote, who is often mentioned in brief elsewhere. Both he and Don Carlos Buell are sketched by the author in sidebars. Foote’s career is truly remarkable: son of a U.S. senator, former student but not a graduate of the naval academy, convert to Christianity, executive officer of the Philadelphia Naval Asylum, commander of a ship that chased slave smugglers between Africa and the U.S., commander of a ship that landed marines in China and destroyed four forts in 1856. His industriousness in building a fleet that would capture Forts Henry and Donelson, Island No. 10, Nashville and Memphis in the first 5 months of 1862 is outstanding.

Tucker is careful in his descriptions of ‘timberclads’, and river-class iron gunboats and of the floating navy yards at which the ships were built and maintained. With carpenters and iron workers who had great experience in building steamships but little or no experience in building ironclads, Foote agitated locally, regionally and nationality those who had to contribute to the effort. McClellan, Fremont, Halleck, Buell and Gustavaus V. Fox (under-secretary of the navy) were lobbied for resources and funds by Foote.

Fort Henry on the east bank of the Tennessee and Fort Donelson on the west bank of the Cumberland were constructed on the Kentucky-Tennessee border by CSA general Lloyd Tilghman in the late fall and early winter of 1861. Fort Henry’s location was prone to flooding and after the arrival of troops under the command of Grant and the river fleet under Foote, it was evacuated and the CSA troops marched to Donelson. Grant drew his commanders together and all agreed that a quick advance on Donelson was appropriate.

The reader is struck with the resemblance of the Fort Donelson battlefield and the Shiloh battlefield, which would be fought in 60 days. On a ridge over looking a river, with flooded creeks and ravines on its flanks a once beaten army regards its foe. In February the CSA army is on the ridge, in April the USA army is on the ridge. Fortunately for Grant in both instances the CSA commanders exercise either to much tactical authority and too little strategic. The Confederate breakout of Donelson is successful until, Pillow and Floyd flinch and lose heart. The night after the breakout and retreat Pillow resigns the command of the fort to Floyd. Floyd promptly resigns the command and passes it on to Bruckner, who is wise enough to surrender the fort the next day as both Pillow and Floyd are floating in small boats and trying to escape capture. As in the battle Shiloh, it is Forrest who refuses inactivity and works an aggressive type of small unit warfare which both allows his troops to escape and twist the tail of the Union lion.

The consequences of Grant’s campaign includes the first great victory and his reputation as someone who knows how to fight and envied by Halleck. The CSA suffers a crisis of strategy. The retreat and concentration of Confederate forces and the Battle of Shiloh is a direct result of their loss of Forts Henry and Donelson. Indeed, Tucker points out that the 12,000 to 15,000 lost troops and the 40 pieces of lost artillery likely made a significant difference in the Battle of Shiloh in April.

Tucker and the McWhiney Foundation Press have produced a brief but rewarding discussion of the campaign, its commanders and its significance. The maps are clear, the biographical sidebars are informative and describe the personalities in command. This book is recommended for buffs and those unfamiliar with the war in the West. It is suitable for both high school and undergraduate academic libraries as well as public libraries.

Other Voices: ISO Black West Virginians in Blue Wool

State Still Was Civil War Medals 200 In Black Union Companies, Rick Steelhammer, Staff Writer, Charleston Gazette, December 9, 2007

Seven months after the Civil War ended and one week before ratification of the 13th Amendment made slavery unconstitutional, two West Virginia companies of an all-black Union Army regiment gathered near Philadelphia to receive their final pay and discharge papers.

The date was Dec. 13, 1865, and the place was Camp Cadwalader, an Army base a few miles from Camp William Penn, where the men of the 45th U.S. Colored Infantry began their basic training in June 1864. Among the regiment’s recruits, according to Army records, were 212 “colored men mustered into the service of the United States to the credit of West Virginia.”

“A lot of the men appear to be escaped slaves or freedmen who were living in Virginia or what was then the new state of West Virginia,” said state Archives historian Greg Carroll. The discharge formation at Camp Cadwalader ended an 18-month tour of duty that took the men of the 45th from trenches facing the Confederate capital of Richmond to the Mexican frontier. Fourteen soldiers were killed or wounded in battle, and another 50 died of disease — many of them in lonely Texas border towns, months after the war ended.

The regiment was one of 170 African-American military units organized near the end of the Civil War, when the Union Army hierarchy finally recognized the value of the black fighting man — even if they were not yet ready to commission black officers to lead them in battle. Col. Ulysses Doubleday was the 45th U.S. Colored Infantry’s commanding officer. Other white officers served on Doubleday’s regimental staff or as company commanders, while all sergeants, corporals and enlisted men were African-American.

“Many black people in the North wanted to join the Army back in 1861, during the first flush of patriotism, but were quickly told to forget it,” said Carroll. “The Army finally realized they could get another 100,000 troops by recruiting young black men, and by 1864, they really needed them.” While the federal government was finally eager to make use of black troops in combat roles, it was reluctant to pay them equally. Until June 15, 1864, when Congress passed pay equity laws, black soldiers were paid about 30 percent less than their white counterparts.

Successes by trailblazing African-American units like the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers, who fought off Confederate attacks during the Battle of Island Mound, Mo., in September 1862 and Port Hudson, La., in May 1863, paved the way. The best-known battle fought by black Union Army troops was the bloody July 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, S.C., by the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, the regiment memorialized in the movie “Glory.”

From Arlington Heights to Appomattox
The men of the 45th U.S. Colored Infantry, also known as the 45th U.S. Colored Troop, were needed even before their basic training was complete. In July 1864, four companies of the new regiment were diverted from Camp William Penn and rushed to active duty on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Their mission was to help defend the nation’s capital against Confederate Gen. Jubal Early, who had recently invaded Maryland.

The men of the 45th were assigned to a defensive position in Arlington Heights, where they served side by side with white units through the winter, waiting for an invasion that never materialized. As part of their duty, they were the only African-American unit to take part in President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural procession. In September 1864, the regiment’s six remaining companies were sent to the front lines near Petersburg, Va., and as part of an all-black division of 10,000 soldiers, crossed the James River and took part in the Union victories at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm and the seizure of Fort Harrison.

After spending the winter either in trenches facing Richmond or in the defensive perimeter surrounding Washington, all 10 companies of the 45th reunited in March 1865. On March 26, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and President Lincoln reviewed the regiment as it crossed the James River as part of Grant’s Army of the Potomac. On March 30 and April 1, the regiment took part in Union victories in engagements with Confederate forces at White Oak Road, Hatchers Run and Gravelly Run, and on April 2, took part in the third and final assault on the remaining Confederate lines at Petersburg.

The fighting in late March and early April left one member of the 45th dead and 11 others injured. On April 3, the regiment entered a deserted Petersburg with other victorious elements of Grant’s Army of the Potomac, but did not linger to savor the victory. They pursued Gen. Robert E. Lee and his remaining forces as they made their way toward Appomattox Court House. After helping block a possible western escape route for the beleaguered Southerners, the 45th was present at Appomattox when Lee capitulated. In May, the regiment was sent to Texas to guard the Mexican frontier in the vicinity of Edinburg. Dozens of soldiers in the unit died from disease before they were finally ordered back to Philadelphia.

If the men of the 45th expected a hero’s welcome, they didn’t get one. “They had heard a lot of vague promises about pensions when they enlisted, but after the war was over, very little was done for black veterans,” said Carroll. “Twenty-five years after the end of the war, Northern and Southern soldiers got together and shook hands, yet no black veterans were invited to join them.”

The year after the war ended, the state of West Virginia issued 26,000 medals to honor West Virginia troops for their service. The two West Virginia companies of the 45th Colored U.S. Infantry were among those authorized to receive the medals, but only two or three were ever collected, according to Carroll. The more than 200 medals from the two West Virginia African-American infantry companies are among about 4,000 unclaimed West Virginia Civil War service medals still being held at the Cultural Center for descendants to claim.

“They are beautiful medals, made of real brass, with white and red ribbons, still in their original boxes,” said Carroll. “Each soldier has his name engraved on the edge.” Among the few descendants to claim a medal for an ancestor in the 45th Colored U.S. Infantry is William Davison of Waynesburg, Pa. Private Jeremiah Alpheus, a member of Company G, was the brother of Davison’s great-great-grandmother. Alpheus survived the war, served on the Mexican frontier afterward, and was among members of the regiment mustered out of service in Philadelphia as 1865came to an end.

“<“I knew his name, because I’d already done a lot of family history research, and when I saw his name when I came across a roster for the regiment on a Web site, I thought we must be related, since there are very few people named Alpheus,” Davison said. According to Davison’s research, Alpheus and a sister were slaves owned by William Shaver in Marion County when the Civil War broke out.

“Both Jeremiah and his sister, Allison, were in William Shaver’s last will, to be freed upon his death,” Davison said. “Two other sisters had already been freed.” Since Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not cover slaves living in the section of Virginia that would become West Virginia, precisely when or how Jeremiah Alpheus became a free man remains a mystery. Davison marvels at what it must have been like “to go from being a slave to fighting for your country in such a short period.”

'People don’t understand why blacks volunteered to fight’
Despite Civil War service by more than 170,000 African-Americans, nearly one-third of whom died in the struggle, equality remained elusive for blacks in the military for generations.
“Dad went through the same thing in World War II,” said Davison. “He was in an all-black unit, the 320th Antiaircraft Barrage Balloon battalion. On D-Day, they landed on Omaha Beach with the Rangers, and got shot at as they set up their Volkswagen-sized balloons, which were tethered to 2,000-foot cables, to keep German airplanes from strafing the beach.

People don’t understand why blacks volunteered to fight in the Civil War, or why Japanese-Americans fought in World War II despite the way they were being treated,” said Davison, a Navy Vietnam veteran who served with a Marine reconnaissance unit. “But the answer’s simple — we fight to serve our country. It’s not politics, it’s our home.”

Davison said he treasures the West Virginia Civil War service medal he collected in behalf of his ancestor. “It’s a unique medal,” he said. “I plan to pass it along to my daughter.” In addition to having roots in 19th century West Virginia, Davison’s mother is a native of the state.

“Whenever I cross the border into West Virginia now, I wonder who from my family might have spent time there and what their lives were like. It’s a different feeling now. It feels more like home.” Carroll said one reason so few state Civil War medals have been claimed by descendants of the men of the 45th is that “there were so few records kept for black people prior to the 1880 Census.” Also, many men in the regiment did not come from West Virginia, or return here after the war.

For those wanting to determine whether an ancestor served in the all-black West Virginia unit, the State Archives and History Library has available a document titled “List of colored men mustered into the service of the United States, to the credit of the State of West Virginia, since April, 1864, assigned to the 45th Regiment U.S. Colored Troops.” The list names each soldier, his date of enlistment and discharge, and sometimes the city and county of birth. Descendants who can show documented evidence that they are related to a soldier in one of the regiment’s two West Virginia companies are entitled to file a claim for the medal issued to that man. A Web page maintained by Linda Fluharty,, has more information about the 45th, and includes a list of soldiers whose names appear on the unclaimed medals.


Other Voices: Fredericksburg's 145th Anniversary

Historian Leads Brigade Through Streets Of City; 145th Anniversary of Battle of Fredericksburg, Corey Byers, Writer, Robert A. Martin, Photographer, Free-Lance Star, 12/10/2007

Sprigs of boxwood shrubbery were tucked into the caps of Civil War re-enactors gathered at the city dock yesterday morning. The sprigs were worn by actual Union soldiers more than 140 years ago--chosen for the green color to compliment the North's own Irish Brigade.

National Park Service historian and author Frank O'Reilly led a tour of about 125 people, in addition to some re-enactors, through the streets of Fredericksburg yesterday afternoon, recounting the brigade's hellish trip from the Rappahannock River to the front lines at Marye's Heights. Throughout the weekend, battle re-enactments played out on city streets along with living-history camps and other historical tours. The next five days mark the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg, fought Dec. 11-15, 1862.

For two hours, O'Reilly's group made their way from Sophia Street to the Kirkland Memorial on Sunken Road. The National Park Service held an anniversary ceremony for the Battle of Fredericksburg at the memorial site. O'Reilly read historical accounts of the brigade's arduous trip, recounting how soldiers from New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts had to watch and listen to their compatriots die as they made their way to the front.

Despite low morale and heavy artillery fire coming at them, members of the brigade tried to keep it light. O'Reilly recounted one tale of a general who was grazed by a bullet, only to joke with his men about what had happened. "Only the Irish can laugh in the face of what is coming," O'Reilly said.

O'Reilly said 565 men in the brigade were killed, wounded or went missing in a battle that "destroyed troops physically but elevated them spiritually." "Today the military considers ten percent lost a disaster," O'Reilly told the crowd. "The Irish Brigade lost almost fifty percent." Those who followed O'Reilly's lead braved the brisk 50 degree weather, overcast skies and misty conditions. Ann Marie Keech, of Newport News, came for a weekend of Civil War events and described the park service walk as "you-are-there type of history." She described herself as a little bit of a Civil War buff.

"They paint the picture for you, so if you want to get into it you can," Keech said of the Park Service tour and the re-enactors. "When I close my eyes I'm not sleeping, I'm visualizing." Michael Beard, of Stafford County, said he went from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, taking in various historic events. Beard, like his friend Keech, didn't mind the weather, which was similar to what Civil War soldiers encountered so many years ago--minus a sky darkened by gun smoke from Union and Confederate forces. "It's more realistic because this is the weather they had."