I bought my favorite Civil War book while on vacation in South Carolina in August 1973. We were camping near Myrtle Beach and drove north to Wilmington, N.C., to tour the U.S.S. North Carolina, and somewhere along the way I found “The Civil War Handbook,” to which I have referred regularly and often over the last four decades. “The Civil War Handbook” was written by William H. Price and published in 1961 by Prince Lithograph Co. of Fairfax, Va. “Much of this material, when originally drafted, was selected by the National Civil War Centennial Commission for their informative and interesting ‘Facts About the Civil War.’ This original material, revised and enlarged, has grown into ‘The Civil War Handbook,’” writes Price. Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for the ‘History — Civil War’ Category
When I found the book “Brass-Pounders” by Alvin F. Harlow, I wondered skeptically how a book about Civil War telegraphers could be interesting. After all, how many stories could someone write about operators sitting in old wooden offices sending and receiving Morse code? But from the first story on, I found the adventures of the telegraphers compelling, and I learned that many were field operators who replaced horseback couriers. The exploits of Massillon native Jesse Bunnell stand out as extraordinary.
In late June 1862 the federal Army of the Potomac under Gen. George B. McClellan moved up the Virginia Peninsula between the York and James rivers toward Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy when “Forward to Richmond” was the North’s rallying cry. Gen. Fitz John Porter’s V Corps was on the north side of the swampy Chickahominy River, and McClellan’s headquarters were 10 miles away on the other side of the Chickahominy. Read the rest of this entry »
The General is perhaps the most famous steam locomotive in U.S. history. It is the subject of books and movies, it was made into an Avon decanter in the 1970s, it was featured on a U.S. Postal Service steam locomotive stamp set in the 1990s, its sounds were recorded for a 7-inch record in 1962, it was made into O gauge and HO electric trains and a large plastic model, and it has its own museum, in Kennesaw, Ga., where a dramatic race began that firmly entrenched the General in the annals of Civil War history.
James J. Andrews and his raiders, from Ohio, were riding the train posing as men planning to enlist in the Confederate army and stole the train on April 12, 1862, during a breakfast stop at Big Shanty Station, now Kennesaw, on the Western & Atlantic Railroad line, in sight of Confederate Camp McDonald. Their mission was to race north to Chattanooga and cut communications, but they didn’t count on the tenacity of conductor William A. Fuller, who, with Jeff Cain and Anthony Murphy, chased the raiders on foot, on a handcar, on the locomotive William R. Smith, on foot again when they encountered a break in the tracks near Adairsville, and finally backward on the Texas. The close pursuit prevented the raiders from completing their mission and taking on wood and water, and they were caught when the General ran out of steam, just short of their goal. Because they were spies, those who were caught were shot. Read the rest of this entry »
The General is perhaps the most famous steam locomotive in U.S. history. It is the subject of books and movies, it was made into an Avon decanter in the 1970s, it was featured on a U.S. Postal Service steam locomotive stamp set in the 1990s, its sounds were recorded for a seven-inch record in 1962, it was made into O gauge and HO electric trains and a large plastic model, and it has its own museum, in Kennesaw, Georgia, where a dramatic race began that firmly entrenched the General in the annals of Civil War history. Read the rest of this entry »
It took me nearly four decades to read Bruce Catton’s “Banners at Shenandoah.” I bought the book when I was in high school, perhaps in 1973, and a friend saw the description on the cover — about a “boy” who discovers the “true nature of manhood and courage” — and said, “That’s just like ‘The Red Badge of Courage.’” That remark unduly influenced me, and I let the book sit on my shelf all these years, considering it to be a second-rate imitation of the famous Stephen Crane Civil War novel by a famed Civil War author who probably wasn’t a good novelist. Boy, was I wrong.
For one thing, the protagonist is 17 when he enlists, hardly a boy by 19th-century standards. Secondly, Catton is a superb storyteller. Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes I own a book for years and little appreciate it, the book sitting on the shelf largely ignored, poor thing, until something about the book grabs my interest. Such was the case with “The Civil War Almanac.” My friend’s parents gave the book to me as a Christmas gift in 1988, during a long, low period of my interest in the Civil War, but last year, my interest reviving, I pulled the book from the shelf, studied its format, and discovered a fine reference book for the War Between the States. Including an introduction by Henry Steele Commager and a few pages of color paintings and maps, the almanac presents a chronological history of the war under the headings “Eastern Theater,” “Western Theater,” Trans-Mississippi,” and “Washington.” It also contains sections on weapons, naval warfare, biographies, and antebellum and postwar chronologies. Many photos and paintings in black and white complement the text. I have been consulting the almanac regularly and will use it to post events on my blog in recognition of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the war, such as today’s entry on Hurricane Irene. Read the rest of this entry »
Hurricane Irene blew the bedroom door shut this morning. I was putting on my belt and had the door slightly ajar, and a mild gust created a vacuum and pulled the door shut. Medium-size cumulus clouds were moving from north to south as part of the far western edge of Hurricane Irene, which moved up the East Coast during the weekend after its assault on North Carolina, and the storm’s counterclockwise rotation sent wind blowing from the north in northeast Ohio. I thought of granddaughter Nessa, who lives in base housing at Camp Lejeune, N.C., retreated somewhere inland, and so far is incommunicado; and my brother-in-law’s family, who live in Royersford, Pa., and Allentown, Pa. A friend’s son in Philadelphia said he is without power, but my brother-in-law told us later in the day that they have power. Read the rest of this entry »
I watched a round of Civil War movies last week: “Gods and Generals,” “Gettysburg” and “Glory.” (What’s with all those “G” movies?) I enjoyed the movies, but I was hampered a bit by my ignorance of soldiers’ ranks, so I embarked this week on a study of Civil War army structure and rank, focusing mainly on the North.
From what I’ve learned so far, organization of armies and insignia of rank were about the same North and South. Northern armies took their names from rivers and Confederate from regions, thus the North, for example, had Army of the Tennessee and the South had Army of Tennessee. Read the rest of this entry »
“Shoddy” has a long list of word friends in the “Merriam-Webster Collegiate Thesaurus”: cheap, base, common, mean, paltry, poor, rubbishy, sleazy, tatty, and trashy. Further on are shabby, broken-down, dilapidated, dingy, disreputable, down-at-heel, run-down, scruffy, seedy, and tacky.
The “Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary” dates shoddy to 1832 and says its origin is unknown, defining it as a noun, “a reclaimed wool from materials that are not felted that is of better quality and longer staple than mungo … a fabric often of inferior quality manufactured wholly or partly from reclaimed wool … inferior, imitative, or pretentious articles or matter … pretentious vulgarity” and as an adjective, “made wholly or partly of shoddy … cheaply imitative: vulgarly pretentious .. hastily or poorly done.” Related words are shoddily and shoddiness.
Time-Life’s “Arms and Equipment of the Union” says that “shoddy” gained currency in the Civil War, when firms produced inferior wool fabric in the rush to supply soldiers with uniforms, and the book quotes a soldier who said a jacket was a “coarse, fluffy, flimsy material” and fell apart at the slightest provocation, “irritating the skin, and covering the floor with refuse.” Read the rest of this entry »
My dear cousin Joel,
I write to you because you, who also experienced the hardships of service in the late Civil War, understand the punishment I endured on the march south through Georgia. That march has left me nearly an invalid.
I enlisted as a private at age 22 on Nov. 16, 1863. My enlistment form, to refresh your memory, says I was age 22, having been born March 3, 1841, in Hanover Township, with brown eyes, dark hair and dark complexion, standing 6 feet 2 1/2 inches tall, occupation farmer. I signed up at Alliance for a three-year term. I received a $300 bounty for enlisting. Read the rest of this entry »