Monday, August 27, 2007

Meade and Lee reunited at Appomattox Court House

After Lee's surrender at Appomattox there were many Union soldiers who requested to visit their former friends from the old army. Meade and Lee served together in the old army and were good friends. Both men led soldiers who fought and shot against each other from the Seven Days to Appomattox. After the surrender, Meade visited Lee at the final headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia. The confersation was very coordial.

The former opposing commanders at Gettysburg ran into each other as Lee rode back to his tent. Bobby Lee asked "But what are you doing with all that grey in your beard?"

George Meade cheerfully stated "You have to answer for most of it."

This meeting represents how the war was a battle between gentlemen. So many of them knew each other, went to school with each other and served together in the United States Army. I always respected these two soldiers and it amazed me that they respected each other so much. Just looking at their brief conversation one can easily see that they respected one another. These were the men that fought each other during the wars climatic battle at Gettysburg and yet were able to joke with one another. It also shows that both men had a sense of humor despite the horrible loss that they faced from 1861-1865. Its great stuff which any Civil War buff should be aware of.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Civil War Medal of Honor Winners on Film Part 2

The other Medal of Honor soldier from the Civil War who has been depicted on film is Colonel Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine. Actor Jeff Daniels played Chamberlain twice in the movies Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. Joshua L. Chamberlain is perhaps most widely known for his role in holding the Federal position on Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. However, he had a marvelous career as an army officer.
Chamberlain was wounded six times during the war and his 1864 wound was the most severe. He would suffer from the wound for the rest of his life but General Grant promoted him to Brigadier General. Moreover, Chamberlain oversaw the final Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.
In both films, Jeff Daniels does a great job portraying Chamberlain. He is passionate, courageous and he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. After the war Chamberlain made himself into a national hero and won the Medal of Honor in the 1880's for his performance at Little Round Top. These scenes do not appear in the films but one can imagine Jeff Daniels accepting these honors as a much older man. Many people consider Chamberlain a hero and his career as a historical figure was resurrected the 1990 film The Civil War by Ken Burns. Today, I am not going to debate Chamberlains importance in history other than to say that I think its overrated. I'll leave that for a future blog.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Right or Wrong, God Judge Me!" Book Review #3

Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth have a lot more in common than some historians are willing to admit. Both were unable to testify at a trial or state on public, police records why they chose to murder a president. Reading their own words is crucial to understanding their motives and ideas. Such is the case of John Wilkes Booth whose writings appear in this one-volume by John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper.
Rhodehamel works as a Norris Foundation Curator of American Historical Manuscripts at the Huntington Library. Louise Taper, a noted Lincoln collector, owns the largest extant collection of John Wilkes Booth letters in the known world. Both authors put this book together, included all known Booth writings in their entirety and provide commentary on each manuscript. Moreover, a short biography on Booth is provided a long with a marvelous introduction that explains how Booth's signature is worth more money than Abraham Lincolns.
The book is indispensable to anyone wanting to study Lincoln's murder and Booth motives. One of the best items is a letter that Booth wrote to his mother that discusses his reasoning for the murder. You can really see that Booth was a total "Momma's boy" and he really kisses his mothers butt. Being a theatre man, Booth calls out Shakespeare in a lot of his writings by using the English author as a basis for his motives. He really thought that he was Brutus and Lincoln was Caesar. Also, discusses is the pre-murder conspiracy that tried to kidnap Lincoln and hold him until the Union armies agreed to exchange Confederate prisoners.
Another letter that is included is Booths "To Whom it may concern" letter. In this document Booth calls himself a confederate doing his duty. Another document is Booth's letter to the newspapers that he gave to a friend to publish. Booth explains his motives further from the time that he changed his kidnapping motives to murder. The friend destroyed the document after Lincoln's murder because he was afraid of being implicated in the death. He later "rewrote" the document for the Lincoln investigators but it is surprising that he could remember the entire thing in its entirety. However, Booth later refers to the document in one of his last writings while fleeing from Union troops.
The diary of Booth, written while he was on the run from Union forces is included and this document Booth is a beaten man who feels that he is being hunted like a wild animal. "I can never repent it, though we hated to kill: Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment." That quote says it all about Booth and how much hatred he felt towards our 16th President of the United States. In his second and final diary entry Booth states that he will fight it out because that is all he has left in the world. You can read Booths diary in its entirity just click here.
I highly recommend this book to all Civil War buffs. To understand the man you gotta read what the man wrote and you need to go out and buy Right or Wrong, God Judge Me: The writings of John Wilkes Booth.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What Civil War General am I?

Today's blog is short and sweet. Personally, I took a quiz that shows what Civil War general I am. Some interesting choices but since Lee and Sherman are at the top of my list I don't feel so bad. Thank god I am not General Burnside or Hooker or Bragg. I highly recommend this quiz to you. Check it out ASAP!

You scored as Robert E. Lee, Honorable and courageous, you've made a career of winning great battles against overwhelming odds. You, um, might want to stay the heck out of Pennsylvania...

Robert E. Lee


William T. Sherman


General James Longstreet


General George McClellan


U.S. Grant


Stonewall Jackson


General Ambrose Burnside


General Jeb Stuart


General Nathan Bedford Forrest


General Phillip Sheridan


Which American Civil War General are you?
created with

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A last letter home

Letters home from soldiers can explain a lot of the ups and downs that soldiers face. Sometimes letters can bare bad news and bring pain to the family members that read them. Obviously, these letters are ones that bare the news that the a particular soldier is not coming home. Many times these letters are written by an officer and rarely come from the death bed of a soldier. However, during the Civil War there were moments when soldiers were able to write out or dictate a few lines to someone present. Many times these were never reported but the ones that were offer us a glimpse into the family life of the 1860's and the love that a son had for the family involved.

Sergeant John Moseley, 4th Alabama Infantry was one of the few soldiers who managed to communicate to his loved ones as he lay on his death bed. Here is Moseley's letter, note how he says goodbye to his loved ones who are miles away from the small hamlet of Gettysburg. Moseley was wounded during the Confederate attack on Little Round Top on July 2, 1863. Imagine if you received the letter below stained with your loved ones blood as Moseley's letter was on that July day.

Battlefield Gettysburg, July 4,1863

Dear Mother:

I am here a prisoner of war, and mortally wounded. I can live but a few hours, at farthest. I was shot fifty yards from the enemy's line. They have been exceedingly kind to me. I have no doubt as to the final result of this battle, and I hope I may live long enough to hear the shouts of victory before I die. I am very week. Do not mourn my loss. I had hoped to have been spared; but a righteous God has ordered it otherwise, and I feel prepared to trust my ease in his hands. Farewell to you all! Pray that God receive my soul.

Your unfortunate son John
as quoted from the book "Wasted Valor" by Greg Coco

Friday, August 17, 2007

George G. Meade: The "No respect General"

Last night as I continued my research on the 4th Alabama I came across a few lines about George Meade that caught my eye. It wasn't a fact that I was unaware of but have you ever been reminded of something and it clicked some information within your mind? General George G. Meade has never received his just due in history. Few historians rank him as a top General of the Civil War even though he commanded the Army of the Potomac longer than anybody and he defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg.
Meade took command of the Army of the Potomac in June of 1863 under extraordinary circumstances. The Army of Northern Virginia had just whipped the Union army at Fredericksburg in December 1862 and at Chancellorsville in May 1863. In fact, Lee had defeated or fought to a draw every Northern general to cross his path since taking command in June of 1862. So Meade had to face down the invincibility that Robert E. Lee had assumed in the the eyes of the public and foreign nations. Moreover, Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania was underway so he had the added pressure of beating an army that his forces had be unable to contain for nearly twelve months.
History tells us that Meade overcame these obstacles and Robert E. Lee was defeated on July 1-3 at Gettysburg. However, when you ask the common layman about the great generals of the Civil War they tend to mention Lee, Grant and Sherman. Meade is the forgotten man of the group, a great warrior and a tough soldier who doesn't get the credit that he so richly deserves. It should be noted that when Grant took command of all Union forces in 1864 he traveled with the Army of the Potomac to face Lee. General Grant kept Meade in command of the army but pulled all the strings. U.S. Grant's presence overshadowed Meade and helped make him a forgotten general.
Meade's military career was extraordinary because he served in three wars during his lifetime. During the Civil War he rose through the ranks from brigade command to army command in just two years. Meade had a terrible temper which earned little respect from the men serving in the ranks but amongst his fellow generals he was fairly respected. Many historians have accused Meade's lack of aggression but he preferred to calculate the risks and then make a decision. In many ways, Meade was the exact opposite of Robert E. Lee because he took his time and didn't over commit his forces. This lack of "aggression" emphasized Meades finest qualities as a commander which is the ability to adapt tactics.
I would argue that Meade was able to change with the times. During the Civil War the weapons had advanced warfare beyond the old style tactics that many officers still used. Just take a look at Picketts Charge and you will see Robert E. Lee using a strategy that was fairly outdated. The weapons were way ahead of the tactics. Military educators failed to emphasized Meade's unwillingness to attack fortified positions with frontal assualts as an intelligent decision. This could have been used during World War I when millions of Europeans and Americans were killed in attacks on fortifications.
Perhaps the thing that hurt Meade's image was his short lifespan after 1865. Meade died in 1872 after serving faithfully in various commands. These included; Military Division of the Atlantic, the Department of the East, and the Department of the South. Gettysburg didn't entrench itself within the national conscience until after Lee (who died in 1870) and Meade passed on into the next world. Therefore, Meade and his reputation didn't enjoy the celeberity that many Gettysburg heroes benefited from. Despite these facts there is one thing that the world cannot change and that is George G. Meade commanded the army that defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg and that victory helped pave the way for the defeat of the Confederacy. Meade might have summed up his own legacy in history when he discussed warfare itself by stating "War is very uncertain in its results, and often when affairs look most desperate they suddenly assume a more hopeful state." I hope that Meade's uncertainity in history has passed and that history will continue to view Meade in a postive light. I think it will.
More infomation on Meade can be found at
This is my 25th post. I hope that you have enjoyed all of my writings up to this point. More on the way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Why won't the voices stop!

I know that the the name of this blog might scare a few people. Believe me it relates to the story that I am about to unfold. I don't know why a small hill in Pennsylvania holds such a magicial hold on me. Those who have read my blogs from the beginning know this. If you've just stumbled upon it or have just arrived please to a blogger search and you'll find it referenced in most of my blogs.

Little Round Top was the site of an unsuccessful assault by Confederate troops against the Union left flank on July 2, 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Considered by many historians to be the key point in the Union Army's defensive line that day, Little Round Top was defended successfully by the 20th Maine, 16th Michigan, 44th New York, 83rd Pennsylvania and later the 140th New York. The Confederate attack consisted of regiments from both Evander Law's and Jerome Robertson's brigades. These regiments are the 4th Alabama, 15th Alabama, 4th Texas, 5th Texas, 47th Alabama and later the 48th Alabama.

The study of the fight on Little Round Top has occurred since I was eight years old. All the time I want to find out more and I am always looking for the next book or article on the subject. That part of the battle is unique because it involves both sides overcoming the heat, the exhaustion of that day. The lost of John Oates who was the brother of the 15th Alabama's colonel William Oates. The pain that Will must have felt and the way he had to carry that with him for the rest of his life. The courage of the 20th Maine and the 140th NY as they held key parts of the Union line on Little Round Top. It just all seem to come together in a brilliant package that makes history so interesting to me.

The story of Little Round Top is overshadowed by the films and documentaries that have made it larger than life. I am happy to say that before the film Gettysburg (1993) Ken Burns The Civil War (1990) came out I was already a Little Round Top fan. I personally believe that the Union was saved on that small hill and I'll never doubt that....ever! It still amazes me that some historians dispute the importance of the struggle for Little Round Top. They say that had Lee's men secured the hill that it couldn't have been used for artillery. I find it interesting that Little Round Top never seemed to be an objective for the Confederates. Robert E. Lee even states this in his official battle report on the battle. "General Longstreet was delayed by a force occupying the high, rocky hills on the enemy's extreme left." This statement backs up the premise that Lee's true objective was to turn the Federal flank and not occupy Little Round Top. Still the possession of the hill would have put Lee in a position to reevaluate his decision made to keep the town of Gettysburg within his armies possession. Lee would not have used the word "delayed" if the true assault objective was Little Round Top.

If Little Round Top was an objective for the Confederates or not. Whether or not Little Round Top was the key to the battle is pointless. I highly doubt that my interest in the struggle for Little Round Top will ever leave me. I visited that rocky hill twice in my lifetime in 1986 and again in 1989. I cannot wait to visit it again and so my fiancee Megan how much the battle has become a part of me. If you haven't visited Gettysburg yet, if you haven't been on Little Round Top than plan a trip as soon as possible.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Abraham Lincoln had a weird face

Many people remember Lincoln as the best President in American history. According to science and recent laser scans, Abraham Lincoln had unusual degree of facial asymmetry. What in the hell does that mean?? Basically, the left side of Lincolns face was smaller than the right. This issue is known as cranial facial microsomia. Yes I can't say that either!
This isn't the only ailments that historians have given to Lincoln. Many have said that he suffered from smallpox, depression and heart disease. Now lets get back to cranial facial microsomia. Lincoln's bony ridge over his left eye rounder and thinner than the right side, and set backward. This could have caused double vision and many his friends noticed that his left eye would move upward before his right. The cool thing about this study is that Lincoln allowed his face to be sculpted in 1860 and in 1865. So the people conducting this study have been able to use accurate measurements so this study can be viewed as accurate.
However, laser scans can tell us that one side of Lincoln's face was smaller than the other but it cannot tell us how this occured. Was Lincoln born with it? Lincoln was kicked in the head by a horse as a child so could this have been the cause? We may never know the answer but I will keep an eye on this and as soon as I hear more I will write another blog.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Civil War Medal of Honor Winners on Film

Andrews' Raiders who managed to steal a Confederate locomotive called The General are depicted in the film The Great Locomotive Chase (1956). Their goal was to disrupt the railroad between Atlanta and Chattannoga. The men were eventually captured, with some recieving the death penalty for spying. The men were the first recipients ever of the Medal of Honor awarded on March 25, 1863.

The real members of Andrews Raiders were:

ROSS, MARION A., Sergeant Major, 2d Ohio Infantry
PITTINGER, WILLIAM, Sergeant, Company G, 2d Ohio Infantry.
BENSINGER, WILLIAM, Private, Company G, 21st Ohio Infantry.
BUFFUM, ROBERT, Private, Company H, 21st Ohio Infantry.
KNIGHT, WILLIAM, Private, Company E, 21st Ohio Infantry
PARROTT, JACOB, Private, Company K, 33d Ohio Infantry

The actors who played the parts were:

Don Megowan (played Ross)
John Lupton (played Pittinger)
Harry Carey, Jr, (played Bensinger)
Eddie Firestone (played Buffum)
George Robotham (played Knight)
Claude Jarmin, Jr. (played Parrott

More infomation on Andrews Raiders can be found at:

Friday, August 10, 2007

A true American finally gets his reward

Few people realize that Robert E. Lee never became an American citizen again until 1975. Yes I said it, 1975! After the war he filed for his citizenship, swore allegiance to the Union and got every part of the readmission process completed except for President Andrew Johnson's signature. In June, 1865, he sent his official application to Grant, who strongly recommended it and forwarded it to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. On October 2, 1865, Lee took a formal oath of allegiance to the United States. This was duly notarized and sent to Secretary of State William Seward.

What happened after that remained a mystery for over 100 years. Strangely, the document never reached the desk of President Andrew Johnson; consequently when Lee died in 1870 the citizenship he desired was not restored. Elmer Oris Parker a researcher at the National Archives located this valuable document in 1970. It had been placed in a cardboard box and we may never know how it got there. Nevertheless, on 5 August 1975 President Ford signed a Joint Resolution of the Congress restoring General Lee's US citizenship.

At that time, the president said:
I am very pleased to sign Senate Joint Resolution 23, restoring posthumously the long overdue, full rights of citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. This legislation corrects a 110-year oversight of American history. It is significant that it is signed at this place.Lee's dedication to his native State of Virginia chartered his course for the bitter Civil War years, causing him to reluctantly resign from a distinguished career in the United States Army and to serve as General of the Army of Northern Virginia. He, thus, forfeited his rights to U.S. citizenship.Once the war was over, he firmly felt the wounds of the North and South must be bound up. He sought to show by example that the citizens of the South must dedicate their efforts to rebuilding that region of the country as a strong and vital part of the American Union.In 1865, Robert E. Lee wrote to a former Confederate soldier concerning his signing the Oath of Allegiance, and I quote: "This war, being at an end, the Southern States having laid down their arms, and the questions at issue between them and the Northern States having been decided, I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony."This resolution passed by the Congress responds to the formal application of General Lee to President Andrew Johnson on June 13, 1865, for the restoration of his full rights of citizenship. Although this petition was endorsed by General Grant and forwarded to the President through the Secretary of War, an Oath of Allegiance was not attached because notice of this additional requirement had not reached Lee in time.Later, after his inauguration as President of Washington College on October 2, 1865, Lee executed a notarized Oath of Allegiance. Again his application was not acted upon because the Oath of Allegiance was apparently lost. It was finally discovered in the National Archives in 1970. As a soldier, General Lee left his mark on military strategy. As a man, he stood as the symbol of valor and of duty. As an educator, he appealed to reason and learning to achieve understanding and to build a stronger nation. The course he chose after the war became a symbol to all those who had marched with him in the bitter years towards Appomattox.General Lee's character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.In approving this Joint Resolution, the Congress removed the legal obstacle to citizenship which resulted from General Lee's Civil War service. Although more than a century late, I am delighted to sign this resolution and to complete the full restoration of General Lee's citizenship.

August 9th and August 10th

Today and yesterday were the anniversaries of two Civil War battles:
On August 9, 1862 the Battle of Ceder Mountain occurred. Union General Nathanial Banks was defeated by General Thomas J. Jackson during this pivotal battle of the Second Manassas (2nd Bull Run) campaign. During the battle the Federals gained an early advantage before a counterattack by General A.P. Hill succeeded in driving the Union forces back. This battle gave the initiative to Robert E. Lee and led to the defeat of General John Pope at Second Manassas.

On August 10, 1861 the Battle of Wilsons Creek occurred. This battle is the most famous Civil War battle that occurred in Missouri. The state was divided because some of its residents were loyal to the North or the South. During the battle Union general Nathaniel Lyons squared off against Confederate general Sterling Price. After fierce fighting the Northern army was defeated by the Confederates who could not follow up their victory due to the disorganization of their forces because of the battle. I will add this battle to my forgotten battles of the Civil War series as soon as possible. However, the results of this battle buoyed southern sympathizers in the state and gave control of southwestern Missouri to the Confederacy. The battle also resulted in the death of Brig. General Nathaniel Lyons who was a gifted officer with a lot of promise. Nearly 2,330 total casualites resulted from the Battle of Wilson's Creek. These include the dead, wounded and missing. The United States lost 1,235 men. The Confederate loss was significantly lower with 1,095 dead, wounded and missing.

More on Wilson's Creek here:

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Today in Civil War history: August 8, 1863, Davis refuses Lee's resignation

I stated before that I wanted this Civil War blog to be unique and I will stick to that. Today I want to discuss an event that occured 144 years ago and to many it is one of those obscure events that had an impact on the Civil War. Confederate President Jefferson Davis refused General Robert E. Lee's resignation. Our story actually begins after the battle of Gettysburg and the first major defeat of Robert E. Lee. Shelby Foote once said that, "Gettysburg was the price the South paid for having Robert E. Lee as commander." The South lost 28,000 men at Gettysburg and it was a cost that they never recovered from. Lee became very depressed after the battle and he sat down one day to write a letter to Davis.

In part Lee wrote "I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire. How can I fulfill the expectations of others? In addition I sensibly feel the growing failure of my bodily strength. I have not yet recovered from the attack I experienced the past spring. I am becoming more and more incapable of exertion, and am thus prevented from making the personal examinations and giving the personal supervision to the operations in the field which I feel to be necessary. I am so dull in making use of the eyes of others I am frequently misled. Everything, therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new commander, and I the more anxiously urge the matter upon Your Excellency from my belief that a younger and abler man than myself can readily be obtained."
Lee's offer was not accepted by Jefferson Davis who wrote Lee on two different occasions to refuse the proposition. Davis wrote, "I have impressed upon you the propriety of avoiding all unnecessary exposure to danger, because I felt our country could not bear to lose you. To ask me to substitute you by some one in my judgment more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army, or of the reflecting men of the country, is to demand an impossibility. . . ." As history states, Lee continued as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia for the wars duration and his death in 1870 was celebrated by the entire nation. The Confederacy would have lost the war sooner had Robert E. Lee's resignation been accepted by Davis. In retrospect, some might accuse Lee of keeping the war going by not quitting even if his resignation wasn't accepted. That is easy to say when you look at the history of it but even with the setbacks of Gettysburg and Vicksburg many Confederate leaders felt that they still had a chance to win the war. Without Robert E. Lee those chances would have collapsed under their own weight because General Lee was seen as a key to maintaining southern morale. He was one of the war's best commanders and without him all would have been lost in Confederate minds.


Freeman's entire work on Lee is available for online reading and it is located here:

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Book Review #2 Gettysburg Requiem: The Life and Lost Causes of Confederate Colonel William C. Oates

Gettysburg Requiem: The Life and Lost Causes of Confederate Colonel William C. Oates (Hardcover) by Glenn W. LaFantasie.
Lee, Grant, Longstreet, Sherman, Custer and other Civil War generals have many biographies for readers to enjoy. But it is rare for a biography of a colonel or in this case a lieutenant colonel to appear in the national Civil War library. Subjects such as these are too infrequent because of the lack of source depth and the amount of time it takes to put one together. Robert E. Lee or Grant have papers/letters in libraries and have and enormous biographical library behind them. So it is easier to write a biography of Grant but tackling the lesser known officers is a vein that historians need to hit more.
Author Glenn LaFantasie tackled an extremely difficult topic in his biography of William C. Oates (1833 -- 1910). LaFantasie's subject was a true man of his time and Oates should have had the nickname "Contradiction" for his attitudes and lifestyle. For example, he had a black lover (who mothered one of his three sons) but was a racist. Oates was a respected citizen, attorney, politician but murdered a man and beat up another on the steps of the Alabama legislature. He was wounded six times in battle but rose no higher in rank than lieutenant colonel of the 15th Alabama regiment. He felt that Lincoln could have made reconstruction easier but saw Lincolns presidency as a threat to the southern way of life.
LaFantasie's research is solid, straight-forward and is very detailed. He went through archives in several states, explored newspapers, magazine articles, periodicals and most of his citations are from primary sources. When I buy a Civil War book I really look at the sources that the author used because it is so vital to use primary sources. Too often you find books that use secondary sources and the only primary things that you see are the official war records. Today, the Internet makes things so much easier that authors can find things a lot easier than they did in 1901.
The research in this book reveals a man who struggled but was able to succeed during a difficult time in American history. Oates was a Confederate hero who dealt with the loss of his arm, struggled with his feelings of manhood and his regret at the loss of his brother John on Little Round Top. Throughout his life, Oates resisted everything but temptation which is characterized in his relationship with women. After losing his arm in 1864 Oates is nursed to health but a local family that in Alabama. The family gives Oates a black servant to help him to recover and he ends up having a sexual relationship with her that lasts a few years. This relationship ends up with Oates having a child. Later on he has a relationship with a 14 year old girl that produces another child. When he finally marries at the age of forty-eight it is to a 19 year old woman. So Oates was a man who had a lot of inner-conflicts that he took out on other people including the women in his life.
Glenn LaFantasie provides his readers with a full picture of Oates life. Besides the things that I previously mentioned he goes into detail (but not boring detail) about Oates career as a lawyer before and after the war. His experiences as a representative in the United States Congress is explored but since Oates spent 14 years in Washington D.C. one wishes that LaFantasie would have explored it more. His war years are explored in detail but LaFantasie doesn't overwhelm his readers with useless facts but does a good job by avoiding a pitfall that a lot of Civil War biographies fall into. The 15th Alabama's struggle for Little Round Top versus the 20th Maine could have taken up hundreds of pages. Glenn doesn't spend the entire book focusing on it and that is a good thing. He gives us what we need to know and maintains that focus for the entire book.
Although, the author spends some time criticizing the sexist and racist attitudes of the south he does provide an excellent picture of his subject. The best part of the book is Oates and his battle for a monument for his brother John and his 15th Alabama regiment on Little Round Top. I've always called this the 2nd struggle for Little Round Top because the United States government resisted any push for Confederate monuments at Gettysburg. Check out this book from your library or purchase a copy, it is well worth it and it is a great read.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Where have you gone Marilyn Monroe?

Don't worry I'm not stopping blogging about the Civil War but I wanted to quickly look at an event that happened Today in History.

August 5, 1962 actress Marilyn Monroe (June 1, 1926-August 5, 1962) is found dead in her Los Angeles home. The police rule that her death was caused by a drug overdose. she faced disappointments in her career and personal life during her later years. Her death has been subject to speculation and conspiracy theories.
Marilyn Monroe was born under the name of Norma Jeane Mortenson. She became an orphan at a young age and as an adult worked her way up through the Hollywood ranks to become the most recognizable actress in history. Her affairs with John and Robert Kennedy according to some conspiracy theorists may have brought about her death. He beauty captivated and still attracts millions of loyal fans. Like Elvis Presley, Marilyn is an icon for all Americans and her influence on the role of celebrities in America is well-known. Monroe paved the way for many of todays stars who rarely act with the same poise and grace that Marilyn showed in front of a camera. Films like Niagara gave Monroe an opportunity to show her acting ability and few people realize that she wasn't the "dumb" blonde that she portrayed in many of her films. Marilyn was intelligent and quirky. Here are a few funny quotes attributed to her, I think we can all take a lesson from Ms. Monroe:

"I think that when you are famous every weakness is exaggerated."

"I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot"

"Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn't that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you. "

"I don't want to make money, I just want to be wonderful"

These type of qualities are sore missed in todays celebrities. Simon and Garfunkel once wrote a song asking "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" The same could be said about Marilyn Monroe because many of the actresses today do not have her beauty, passion, style and talent. "Where have you gone Ms. Monroe?"

Friday, August 3, 2007

In honor of two great ones

Here at "Throwing down the Gauntlet" I try my best to expose my readers to all kinds if facts, opinions and things that most Civil War blogs avoid. However, today I want to pay respect to two men that I respected as Civil War historians. I have to plead ignorance because I didn't know that these men died (in 2005) until last summer. Author Shelby Foote and historian Brian Pohanka were inspirations to me as solid leaders in Civil War authorship and information. History can be so ironic at times, everybody knows that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day (July 24, 1826). However, Pohanka and Foote passed within two days of one another (June 15th and the 17th 2005). Isn't that crazy?

Brian Pohanka (1955-2005), Civil War historian who advised filmmakers, preserved battlefields, reenacted troop movements and dressed the part, died of cancer June 15, 2005. Brian was just 50 years old but his work was very extensive. First, he worked as an adviser on Glory" (1989) and "Cold Mountain" (2003), Gettysburg (1993). His expertise stemmed, in part, from his work as the senior researcher, writer and adviser on the 27-volume Civil War series by Time-Life Books. I own the entire set and I have always cherished those books. They are a big reason why my interest in the Civil War began. I will have to write a blog on that some other time. He also was series consultant for the History Channel's "Civil War Journal." I love that show and I own the A&E Biography from that series which focuses on General Robert E. Lee. He worked tirelessly to save Civil War battlefields from extinction because he saw the value of eduction over commercial development. His insights, stories and quips have stuck with me throughout my years as a Civil War buff and researcher. My life and his parallel each other in one aspect, both of us began reading about and loving the Civil War from an early age. I started at age 8, Brian started at age 7. "I saw the battle lines in those books and took my toy soldiers and set them up the same way," he told a battlefield preservation group in 2004. Brian was a humble man who didn't take the credit for his expertise.

One of his best lines, from which I will recite from memory exemplified everything that Brian believed in as a Civil War historian. On an episode of "Civil War Journal" he said "Those men that served in that war must be remembered not as monuments of bronze or granite but people of flesh and blood who sacrificed everything. I think that if we forget those men and forget what they fought for, we really lose something as a people." In 1990 he said "Some kid a hundred years from now is going to get interested in the Civil War and want to see these places. He's going to go down there and be standing in a parking lot. I'm fighting for that kid." Bye Brian and thanks!

Shelby Foote (1917-2005) is another class act whose memory will never fade from my mind. Many remember him for his three volume work The Civil War: A Narrative. Foote was a lonely child, who grew up in Greenville, Mississippi. From an early age Foote began writing, enjoyed success and eventually wrote a book about the Battle of Shiloh. The book was so successful that his publisher asked him to write a history of the entire Civil War. Foote's success as a writer gave him the power to ask for a special favor from his publisher. He agreed to write a history but stated that a work of that magnitude required several texts instead of just one volume. The publishers agreed and Foote set out on a journey that took 20 years and Foote later claimed that he wrote 500 words a day before he was finished. The Civil War: A Narrative, published in three volumes between 1958 and 1974, was hailed by critics and historians as a unique masterpiece. In the nineteen-eighties, filmmaker Ken Burns asked Foote to appear in a series of interviews on his 11 hour documentary The Civil War. The program was one of television greatest successes and it made Foote a star. Shelby Foote said it best when he stated that the war is "central" to our lives as Americans. In the years following the release of the film, Foote would receive tons of fan mail and phone calls from fans and admirers. It was a celebrity that Foote never wanted. Foote was a big influence for me mainly because of his appearance in Ken Burns film but his work had always been a part of my Civil War library. One of the things I have in common with Foote is my love for this photograph:

During Ken Burns film, Foote talked about the photograph and its importance to him. Like Brian's quote I will quote this from memory. "There is a photograph that I'm very fond of." Foote states "It shows three Confederate soldiers who were captured at Gettysburg. They are posed along a snake rail fence and you see exactly how the Confederate soldier was dressed." As I watched this in 1989 I was shocked to see that Foote admired the man on the far right who has his hands in a position as if he is posing for the photograph. The defiance of these men really shows everything that the Southern army was about during the war. They were great fighters and even with Federal guards nearby the men stood erect in the face of the uncertainty as prisoners. Though a native Southerner, Foote did not favor South in his history or novels and was not counted among those Southern historians who regard the Civil War as the great Lost Cause. He also spoke out for the rights of minorities and his love for the Civil War continued until the end of his life. Foote passed away on June 27, 2005. I love that picture and we miss you Shelby!

Brian sources:

Shelby Foote sources:

Thursday, August 2, 2007

I will try to make this blog as unique as I can. Recently, I thought about how the Dukes of Hazzard tv show is a reflection of the Civil War itself. There are more ways than I listed here but these are some of the main ones that i've enjoyed my whole life.

Jeb Stuart Duke appeared in the third season episode"Along Came a Duke". An obvious reference to General JEB Stuart of the Confederacy.

In one episode Bo duke says "We have more firepoweron our tail than the Yankees had at Gettysburg."

A horse named "Manassas" appears in an episode called "The Rustlers"

The General Lee, the 1969 Dodge Charger was named after Robert E. Lee.

Daisy Dukes jeep is called "Dixie" This might refer to the National Anthem of the Confederacy.

The Confederate Tag appears on the roof of the General Lee and on the licence plates of cop cars

Boss Hogg's full name was Jefferson Davis Hogg, and his benevolent twin brother's name was Abraham Lincoln Hogg, an obvious reference to the presidents of the Confederacy and the Union during the Civil War, Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, respectively. Abraham Lincoln Hogg is a good guy and Jefferson Davis Hogg is a crooked politican.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I have. Its a lot of fun using the Civil War in relation to something else.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The best Lost Cause image

Recently, I talked about the Lost Cause myth. Southern artists produced tons of Lost Cause art that not only reinforced the Lose Cause myth but also pushed it on generation after generation. The image above shows General Robert E. Lee and many of his top generals but if you look closely a lot of them are key members of the Lost Cause or died during the war. Lets examine who is in the image first. Going from left to right the generals are, John B. Gordon, Stonewall Jackson, the man standing with his sword is A.P. Hill, General Lee, James Longstreet, Joseph E. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard. Lets examine each man and see why they are important to the Lost Cause Myth
Gordon, helped foster the myth along with his friend General Jubal Early. Without any prior military experience he rose from Captain to command a corps. He was wounded five times during the Battle of Sharpsburg and led the final Confederate march during the Confederate surrender. However, Gordon seemed to loom larger after the war than during it. He wrote a famous memoir about the war and I feel his addition here is the biggest fault of this painting.
Stonewall Jackson is an obvious addition because of his victories in Virginia and the fact that he died in the line of duty. Jackson's influence doesn't have to be discussed here because I am sure my readers have heard of his exploits.

A.P. Hill also died fighting for the Confederacy, and he saved the Confederate army at Antietam in 1862 so his addition here is fairly obvious. After his promotion to corp commander in 1863, Hill's career didn't have the same strength but as a division commander he was one of the best on either side. As the leader of a division Lee once called him the "best soldier of his grade".
Lee's addition is obvious. I find it interesting though that he has the only light coloured horse in he painting and he is front and center. He also appears to be the only figure in the painting to be going forward. It appears that his fellow officers are hesitant but not Robert E. Lee. He was perfect, he was the marble man, and he was the Lost Cause.
James Longsteet's addition is a shock but even as he quarreled with Early and others over his behaviour at Gettysburg he was beloved by his former soldiers. "Old Pete" Longsteet had a hand in a lot of Confederate victories and was Lee's second in command for most of the war. His addition is obvious
P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston are mainly in the painting because of their victory at First Manassas. Also, Beauregard led the Confederate forces at Fort Sumter which ignited the Civil War in the first place. So these two men, despite their failures later in the war, were still held in high esteem during the post-war years. Beauregard's addition is unique because he spoke up for blacks after the war but the old Confederacy didn't raise a fuss about it.
JEB Stuart is leaning on his horse on the far right. The flamboyant Stuart is wearing his red-lined cape and looking like the a knight from Medieval times. The cavalry commander was killed in action during the war and was seen by post-war observers as one of the wars greatest commanders. It helped that he appeared to be so chivalrous in life because post-war writings only made Stuart even larger than life.
Perhaps another intersting fact about this painting is if you look at the casuality report for each man.
(3) Jackson, Hill, Stuart
(5) Jackson (died of wounds), Stuart (died of wounds), Johnston, Gordon, Longstreet. (It was reported that Hill was killed instantly by a bullet through the heart so he doesn't count here.)
Finished the war unscathed:
(2) Lee, Beauregard