Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Role of West Pointers in the Civil War


Artillery Practice at the Academy
As most historians known, officers from West Point played a significant role in the Civil War. I tried to quantify this question by examining the general officers who served in the war.  I decided to only include the senior commanders, major generals and above, because brigadier generals were often political appointees and brevet promotions (Union officers only). I also excluded all brevet commissions in March 1865 and later because many were strictly honorary and did not reflect actual combat responsibilities. This criteria resulted in a total of 216 officers of which 126 were union and 90 were Confederate.  This supports the notion that proportionately many officers from the South chose to fight for the Confederacy. If we used the size of the two armies as an indicator, we would expect at least twice as many high-ranking general officers in the north and probably more considering the use of brevet promotions in the Union Army.

The Plain at West Point
Of the total number of higher ranked officers, 59% attended West Point.  I did not include Southern officers who received commissions from VMI.  Another disparity is revealed when examining the two armies. In the Confederate high command, 64% of the officers attended West Point while in the Union Army only 56% were West Point graduates.  This might be the result of more political appointments from the Lincoln Administration compared to the Davis Administration.
 
Commandant of Cadets C. F. Smith
I examined the year that officers graduated from the Academy to see if I could find "the class the stars shined on."  Conventional reason might suggest that it was the Class of 1846 with McClellan and Jackson.  This class produced eight high-ranking officers. The class that took the prize was 1842 with thirteen senior officers. The class of 1841 had 8 and the class of 1843 had 9. These three classes accounted for 23% of all West Point officers who achieved the rank of major general or higher.  One might ask who taught the cadets in these classes.  Why it was the esteemed Commandant of Cadets, Charles Ferguson Smith.  During his term as Commandant, Smith accounted for 30% of all the West Point graduates who became senior officers during the Civil War.
  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Civil War Book Publishers

I have compiled a list of candidates in my quest for a publisher. I divided the prospects into three categories: publishing firms, academic presses, and self-publishing organizations. 

The major problem with publishing firms and academic presses is the lack of response.  In most cases you will not receive a confirmation that your inquiry letter or submission was received. You will generally only be contacted if the organization wants to see more of the work or the entire manuscript.  Compounding the author's problems is the lack of uniformity in the submission content. Happily the requirements are well-defined by most publishers.  Also some will accept e-mail letters of inquiry while others only want snail mail submissions. You may not hear anything in response to your submission. Regrettably, this puts the author in a state of literary purgatory.

The author may be tempted to try simultaneous submissions in an effort to get his work published. Kathryn Lively presents a good perspective on the subject in Are Simultaneous Submissions a Good Idea?  My thoughts are to carefully check the publisher's statement on exclusive reviews. Some issue statements while others don't mention the subject.  It also seems reasonable that submissions requiring longer and more exhaustive review processes should be sent on an exclusive basis. It would also be a good idea to include a phrase ("until when") in the letter stating the term of the exclusivity. In this respect, authors may wish to send proposals earlier in the writing stage.  This has to be weighed against having enough material to send the publisher who wants a nearly finished product.  Any way you consider the process, the publishing house controls the outcome.  The happy alternative is that authors have the opportunity to self-publish their work.  I would like to hear from readers on their experiences with publishers.

The following are publishers that I am considering for my biography of C. F. Smith.

Publishing firms: Profit is the main emphasis with these organizations. They want books that will sell well and not cost too much to print. These organizations may be more aggressive in marketing your book than academic publishers.  Some of these publishers require peer reviews.  

1 Savas Beatie LLC - Civil War Regimental Histories - Submissions

2 McFarland and Company - Civil War Books - Submissions

3 The History Press - 149 books - Submissions

4 Roman and Littlefield Publishers - 100 books - Submissions

5 Stackpole Books - 66 books - Submissions

6 Thomas Publications - 40 books with focus on Gettysburg - Submissions

7 Westholme Publishers - 18 books - Submissions

 8 ABC-CLIO Praeger - 18 books - Greenwood Publishing Group

9 Potomac Books - A subsidiary of the University of Nebraska Press -17 books - Submissions

10 Casemate Publishing  - Military Books and 13 Civil War books - Submissions

11 Schiffer Publishing - 13 books - Submissions

12 Pelican Publishing - 10 books - Submissions

13 Oxford University Press - 9 books - Submissions

14 Arcade Publishing - 9 books - Submissions

15 Prometheus Books - 7 books -
Submissions

16 Angel Valley Press - 5 books - Submissions
 
17 Regenery History - 4 books - Submissions

Academic presses: The emphasis with these publishers is scholarly merit. They tend to focus on promoting faculty contributions. They also seem to favor work that deals with people and regiments from the state and battles in the state. You will see what I mean if you click on some of the links. The academic press has a rigorous review process that helps ensure a scholarly document but takes a long time to complete. 

1 LSU PressCivil War Section - Submissions

2 University of North Carolina Press - Civil War Section - Submissions

3 University Press of Kansas - Civil War Section - Submissions

4 Indiana University Press - Civil War Section - Submissions

5 Kent State University Press - Civil War Section - Submissions

6 University of Tennessee Press - Civil War Section - Submissions

7 University of Missouri Press - Civil War Section - Submissions

8 Texas A&M Press - 301 books - Submissions

9 University of Nebraska Press - 258 books - Submissions

10 University Press of Kentucky - 229 books - Submissions

11 University of Florida Press - 166 books - Submissions

12 Fordham University Press - 64 books - Submissions

13 Mercer University Press - 64 titles - Submissions

14 University of Iowa Press - 40 books - Submissions

15 University of Georgia Press - 16 books - Submissions

16 Ohio University Press - 9 books - Submissions

17 University of North Texas - 8 books - Submissions

18 Princeton University Press - 7 books - Submissions

19 Farleigh Dickinson Press - 6 books - Submissions

20 Cornell University Press - 4 books - Submissions

21 University of Oklahoma Press - Some titles - Submissions

Self-publishing: Self-publishing is gaining popularity as the publishing business evolves. It is fairly easy to do and provides the author with total control of format and content.  

1 CreateSpace - Self-publishing - Print what you submit

2 Book-Surge Publishers - Self-publishing - Print what you submit

3 Lulu Press Inc. - Self-publishing - Print what you submit

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fort C. F. Smith - Arlington, VA


In 1858 the Jewell family had a farm on the site of what was to become Fort C. F. Smith. The farmstead included a house called the "Red House," a barn, outbuildings, fields, and orchards. The outbreak of the Civil War resulted in the construction of a line of forts that formed the Defense of Washington. In 1863 the Union Army appropriated the property and decided to build a fort to extend the line of forts in Arlington.

On May 30, 1863, Brig. Gen. J. G. Barnard, Chief Engineer of Defense of the Department of Washington, recommended that "the new fort immediately north of Fort De Kalb, and near the Potomac, be called Fort C. F. Smith, after the late Maj. Gen. C. F. Smith, who died at Savannah, Tenn., of disease contracted in the service, and who greatly distinguished himself at the battle of Fort Donelson."[1] Therefore, in 1863 Fort C. F. Smith was constructed by Union troops as part of the defense of Washington, DC. The fortification extended the line of forts in Arlington, Virginia to the Potomac River. Along with Forts Strong, Morton, and Woodbury, it served as part of the outer perimeter of defenses that protected the Aqueduct Bridge of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

The fort consisted of lunettes[2] facing south and west and two bastions[3] to the north to protect it from an attack up the ravines from the Potomac. Entrance to the fort was from the east by a road that crossed Spout Run and proceeded up the hill to Fort Strong. The trees around the site were cut down to provide clear lines of fire for the fort and to build other forts and their supporting buildings in fortifications protecting Washington. The support buildings where the troops ate and slept were located east of the fort. The structures included the barracks, mess halls, cookhouses, officers' quarters, barn, and headquarters building.

The fort was decommissioned in 1865, and the buildings were removed.[4] The Jewell family returned and operated a small farm and nursery. Between 1888 and 1994, the land was owned by the Deming, Yates, Lindsay and Hendry families. Each owner made changes to the property, adding an orchard and cottage, building and enlarging the main house and expanding the gardens with trails, a summer house over the well, and many exotic plants and trees. As the site evolved, some elements were removed, including the summer house and orchard.

Fort C.F. Smith Park was acquired by Arlington County Government in 1994. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The park is preserved by Arlington County at the Fort C.F. Smith Park.



 
 


The park's web site provides a brief biographical sketch of General Smith. Unfortunately, the information contains several errors.  

He fought in the war with Mexico (1846-1848), and led a 1856 survey [the expedition was to select a site for a post and to warn hunters and trappers not to enter US territory] expedition to the Red River area of northern Idaho. [the expedition was to northern Minnesota Territory]. He participated in the federal policing action against the Mormons, 1858.

On February 15, 1862 during Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Mississippi [District of Cairo] siege of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, Smith led [more appropriately coordinated] a charge at the head of his 3d Division that breached the Confederate defenses and was largely responsible for the Confederate surrender. When Confederate forces asked for terms of surrender, Smith counseled Grant to offer no terms except "unconditional and immediate surrender." [Dr. Brinton's account indicates that Smith said, "No terms to the damned rebels."] Grant's famous dispatch made "Unconditional Surrender Grant" a household name throughout the North.

Charles F. Smith was promoted to Major General on March 21, 1862, and was temporarily placed in charge of the Army when Grant was accused of drunkenness. [Grant's removal was mainly due to a problem in communications between the two men. Halleck added the rumor of drunkenness to the accusations.]

He died on April 25, 1862, as the result of a minor non-combat injury. [Smith's leg was lacerated to the bone from his ankle to below his knee.]



[1] Barnard, J. G. Letter to S. P. Heintzelman, 30 May 1863, Official Records, Ser. 1 - Vol. 25 (Part II), 569.
[2] A lunette was originally an outwork of half-moon shape in a fortification. Later it became a redan with short flanks somewhat resembling a bastion standing by itself without works on either side. Lunette (fortification).  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunette_(fortification). Accessed September 18, 2013.
[3] A bastion is an angular structure projecting outward from the curtain wall of an artillery fortification. Bastion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastion. Accessed September 18, 2013.
[4] Fort C.F. Smith - History, http://www.fortcfsmith.com/. Accessed August 20, 2013.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Where the South Lost the War by Kendall D. Gott

Where the South Lost the War describes the events of the Fort Henry and Fort Donelson campaign. Kendall Gott's analysis earns its place among other books on the campaign by virtue of his discussion of the attack on For Henry and emphasis on the Confederate operations during the campaign.

Battle of Fort Henry
The author begins by covering the developments leading up to the attack on Fort Henry.  He explains the capture of Fort Henry and the Union raid of February  6-12 on the Tennessee River. As expected, the majority of the book deals with the Union victory at Ft Donelson. Gott devotes a chapter on each of the first three days of the attack (February 12, 13, and 14) and two chapters to the actions on February 15. The descriptions are complemented by a fine collection of seventeen maps.

General A. S. Johnston
This book is appropriately titled Where the South Lost the War because it focuses on the series of bad decisions that lost these two strategic positions.The thing that separates this book from others on the campaign is the author's analysis of the series of Confederate mistakes, which virtually make a gift of the forts to Grant's forces.  Gott places most of the command errors at the feet of General A. S. Johnston. However, there is plenty of error to go around especially the decisions made during February 15-breakout attempt.




General C. F. Smith
General U. S. Grant receives little credit for the victories.  The defeat at Fort Henry is due more to the placement of the works and flood conditions than Foote's gunboats.  The loss at Donelson is from the command structure and indecisiveness. Grant's moment of fame is ordering General C. F. Smith's attack on the Confederate right. Smith's leadership and the bravery of  his Second Division wins that part of the battle. Smith's protégé  and former brigade commander, General Lew Wallace, is also commended by disobeying orders and helping to stiffen resistance on the Union right.



Gott concludes that the Union victory or Confederate defeat was the critical turning point in the war.  He says the victory gave "the nation and the world confident assurance of the United States' ability to restore the national union." The triumph "lifted the spirits of the nation" and "showed that the nine months of continuous drilling and disciplining of troops and preparing them for war were not spent in vain." Gott also raises the question of how Johnston's army might have done at Shiloh. "One can only speculate upon the outcome of that battle, and indeed the war, had the bulk of the 21,000 soldiers of Fort Donelson also been present [at Shiloh]."

We rank Where the South Lost the War
 


For additional comments on the this campaign, please see THE Turning Point of the Civil War.