Tuesday, August 30, 2011

US Army Heritage & Education Center (USAHEC)

The US Army Heritage & Education Center (USAHEC) is an excellent resource for Civil War researchers.  I've spent several days there over the past two years.  Their staff is wonderful to work with, and the facilities and research materials are top notch.   The Center is located in Carlisle, PA west of Harrisburg off Interstate Highway 81 and north of Gettysburg.  I heartily recommend a visit when you are in the area.

However, don't let its distance affect your use of its resources.  Allow me to take you on a virtual tour on its web-based resources.  At the top of  the home page, you will see a horizontal menu with the following topics: About USAHEC, Organizations, Plan Your Visit, Exhibitions, Research, Media Galleries, Get Involved, and Home.  These topics have drop-down menus  USAHEC is an excellent source for all Army information, but I want to concentrate on the Civil War resources.  Plan Your Visit contains directions operating hours, and events if you can travel to Carlisle.  Exhibitions contains information on current and past exhibits including the Army Heritage Trail.  After a day in the books, I enjoyed a walk along the trail to see the exhibits. 

Our first stop is the Media Galleries.  The Perspectives in Military History Lecture Series contains seven lectures of interest to students of the Civil War.  Under Photo Galleries you will find the MOLLUS Civil War Image Collection. with over 23,000 photographs.  On this site you will find the US Army Heritage Collections Online.  Within this area are a Research Catalog, Reference Bibliographies, and Digitized Material.  The Research Catalog is a searchable database. The Reference Bibliographies have three files devoted to the Civil War:  Civil War Unit Bibliographies, Civil War Union Biographies, and Civil War Confederate Biographies.  Under Digitized Material you will find searchable files of manuscripts/archives, photographs, military publications, audio visual, and oral histories.

I hope this brief introduction has whet your appetite. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monuments at Alatoona Pass

Mississippi Monument
In October 2007, I met two gentlemen who were in the process of erecting a monument to Confederate soldiers who fought in the Battle of Allatoona Pass.  I was quickly recruited to take pictures of the event for the local paper. Gary Wehner told me he would keep in touch with his project to place other monuments at the site.

Therefore, it was with great pleasure that this week's mail brought a letter from "Captain" Gary Wehner of Company F of the 5th Missouri.  Captain Wehner reported that it appears that monuments from all eleven states represented at the battle will be in place in time for the 150th anniversary on  October 5, 2014.  The states of Ohio, Wisconsin, and Louisiana have formed committees for the project. 

On the Union side, units from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin fought in the battle.  Confederate states represented include Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and Texas.  For more information, please see the Order of Battle.

In the next few years, Gary will be joined by other volunteers to work on landscaping and paths.  This is a great project celebrating the efforts of Union and Confederate soldiers who fought then and their descendants who want to honor them by erecting these monuments.

Please see the following sites for more information on the battlefield and preservation efforts:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Using Civil War Names

Have you been Shermanized?
Inspired by ABC's Good Morning America's report on texting, I decided to try my hand at forming verbs, adverbs, adjectives from the names of Civil War leaders.  Let the silliness begin.

Shermanized - the total destruction of property, i.e. "The fire shermanized the once beautiful forest" or "After the hostile takeover, the acquiring company quickly shermanized the firm shedding 20% of the workforce."

McClellanly - cautious, timid, i.e. "Frank mcclellanly approached the beautiful blond at the end of the bar."

Grantful - determined, dogged, relentless, i.e. "US Marshall Owens grantfully pursued the murderer until he found near Wichita Falls, Texas."

Granted - slander, libel, malign, i.e. "The defense attorney granted the witness with accusations of illegal drug use."

Sheridanistic - opportunistic, i.e "Black Mountain Finance's success was characterized by a series of sheridanistic investments."

Custerial - vain, egotistical, i.e. "John's superiors were impressed by his abilities, but could not tolerate his custerial behavior."

Smarthalleck - impertinent, sassy, cheeky, i.e. "Walter's classmates considered him a teacher's pet and a real smarthalleck for always knowing the answers."

Leeful - esteemed, honored, revered, i.e. "Reverend Johnson was leefully regarded in the McKinney community for his many charitable acts.

Jacksonly - aggressive, forceful, uncompromising, i.e. "Linda jacksonly pursued the vice president position inspite of the opposition of the all-male board of directors."

Longstreetish - defensive, protective, i.e. "Coach Ryan's longstreetish defense kept teams in check within the twenty-yard lines, but was susceptible to the big play."

Stuartly - flamboyant, charismatic, i.e. "Not only was Peter brilliant; he was also stuartly."

Johnstonish - stable, steady, constant, i.e. "As a quarterback, Sinclair was amazingly johnstonish, neither forcing throws into coverage or fumbling the ball."

Hooded - demoralized, defeated, i.e. "After the primary, a hooded former-Governor Smith dropped out of the Republican presidential campaign."

Forrestful - tough, gregarious, i.e. "The President's advisers wanted him to adopt a more forrestful persona."

Lincolnable - clever, resourceful, i.e. "Among her other traits, Betsy was considered a most lincolnable researcher."

Davisish -  contrive, plan, scheme, i.e.  "Rick was a davisish man who always considered all options before speaking"

Please add your own contributions.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Most Influential Women of the Civil War

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Women played a large role in the Civil War as nurses, spies, and diarists.  Here's my ranking of the most influential ladies of that era.

25. Susie Baker - African-American nurse, laundress, and educator
24. Elizabeth Scott Neblett - Southern diarist
23. Abbey House - "Angel of Mercy" to Confederate soldiers and became first woman to vote
22. Anita Ford Willard - Confederate spy
21. Pauline Cushman - Union spy
20. Phoebe Yates Levy Pember - nurse and administrator of Chimborazo Hospital at Richmond
19. Sarah E. Thompson - Northern diarist from Tennessee
18. Alice Williamson - Southern diarist
17. Mary Chesnut - Southern diarist
16. Mary Todd Lincoln - Lincoln's wife
15. Mary Edwards Walker - Doctor who was assistant surgeon of Army of the Cumberland and winner of Congressional Medal of Honor
14. Elizabeth Cady Stanton - women's rights leader
13. Susan B. Anthony - women's rights leader
12. Sojourner Truth - African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist
11. Lucretia Mott - abolitionist and Political and social reformer
10. Varnia Jefferson Davis - Davis' wife
9. Harriet Tubman - Underground railroad and nurse
8. Sally Tompkins - "Angel of the Confederacy" who founded a hospital in Richmond and was commissioned as a Captain by Davis
7. Belle Boyd - Confederate spy

6. Rose O'Neal Greenhow - Confederate spy

5. Julie Ward Howe - composer of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"

4. Clara Barton - nurse and founder of the American Red Cross
3. Dorothea Lynde Dix -  Superintendent of Nurses for the Union Army
2. Mary Ann Bickerdyke - Union nurse and hospital administrator

1. Harriet Beecher Stowe - author of Uncle Tom's Cabin
Lincoln may have said "so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war." Whether true or not, she had a tremendous impact on public opinion. Southern diarist Susan Bradford wrote "Our old friend, Mr. Burgess, says: 'If Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe had died before she wrote 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' this would never have happened.'  He says, 'she has kindled a fire which all the waters of the earth cannot extinguish.'  Isn't it strange how much harm a pack of lies can do?"
To learn more about the contributions of women during the war, please see

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Officer's Petition to Replace "Old and Disabled Officers"

Fall of Mexico City
On September 24, 1847 U. S. Army officers serving in Mexico signed a petition asking for the "passage of a law providing for the retirement of old and disabled officers."  The document was "signed by almost every member of the old regiments serving" in Mexico.

The petition to the 30th Congress read,

We, the undersigned, officers of the army, most respectfully represent to your honorable bodies, that, in consequence or age, infirmity, and other causes, many of the officers of the army are permanently unfitted for active duty in the field, and that their places are supplied, and their duties were formed by their juniors, to the great injury of the service, and to the prejudice of the younger officers of the army, we would most respectfully urge, that faithful servants, having spent all the best years of their lives in the service of their country, are entitled to an honorable competence on their retiring from active service; and we respectfully express the opinion that the pay proper, as proposed, some years since, by Major General Macomb, and recently renewed by the Adjutant General, is not such a competence. For the purpose, therefore, of rendering the army more efficient of doing justice, both to those who remain in, and to those who may retire from the service, we respectfully petition ---
1st. That officers of the army, who, in the opinion of a board of officers, approved by the President of the United States, may, from age, infirmity, or other causes, become permanently unfitted for duty in the field, shall retire from active service in the army.
2d. That officers who have faithfully served their country for thirty years may have the privilege of retiring from active service in the army.
3d. That all officers so retiring from active service in the army, shall, during their natural lives, receive the pay proper of their respective rank and the service rations to which they may be entitled at the time of their retiring.
4th.That the places or officers so retiring shall be filled by regular promotion of the officer next in rank; and the officers so promoted receiving only the allowances of the higher grade to which they shall be promoted.
Your petitioners entertain the belief that the enactment of a law, founded on the foregoing principles, will not only be beneficial to individual officers, but will essentially tend to the usefulness and efficiency of the army; and they therefore solicit its passage. [1]
This petition addressed the problem of promotion that infested the peacetime army. Unfortunately, Congress appears to have done nothing to address the issue.  The reduction of the size of the army after the war meant that fewer promotions and, more importantly, pay increases, would be awarded.  This economic hardship forced many young officers to resign while their older superiors did little but collect their pay and gather dust.  Among those who resigned were Jackson, McClellan, Rosencrans, and Sherman.   

Special thanks to Betsy R. Miller for locating this document.

[1] Petition of Officers of the United States Army in Mexico, December 20, 1847, 30th Congress, 1st Session, "The passage of a law providing for the retirement of old and disabled officers." 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Top Rated Civil War Generals

"The Best Civil War General" 
The debate rages on!  Who was the best Civil War general?  We weigh-in with our ranking based on the following factors: number of victories in "A" rated battles, number of battles won, winning percentage, net casualties, and enemy casualties.  Before readers get too excited, this system only considers results,   not intangible factors.

So here's our top 25 generals

25. Meade - Union - inflicted a lot of casualties, but suffered net losses
24. Warren - Union - four wins
23. Longstreet - Confederate - shocking to some, but not the cadre of those who don't like Pete
22. Pleasonton - Union - underrated cavalryman
21. Sibley - Union - undefeated but far from quality wins
20. Magruder - Confederate - two wins, Civil War Oscar
19. Burnside - Union - 9,600 net casualties, really doesn't belong on the list
18. Price - Confederate - 5,900 enemy casualties
17. Ewell - Confederate - 12,900 enemy casualties
16. Johnston, Joseph - Confederate - 20,600 enemy casualties
15. Early - Confederate - 4,000 net casualties put him on list
14. Curtis - Union - two "A" ranked victories
13. Blunt - Union - five wins
12. Banks - Union - five wins
11. Thomas - Union - 9,700 enemy casualties, one "A" ranked victory
10.Forrest - Confederate - nine wins, 5,500 enemy casualties
9. Grant - Union - high net casualties hurts his ranking, most wins
8. Farragut - Union - undefeated in battle, two "A" ranked victories
7. Beauregard - Confederate - nine wins, 15,300 casualties, two "A" ranked victories
6. Sherman - Union - seven wins, inflicted 18,000 enemy casualties
5. Sheridan - Union - six wins, three "A" ranked victories
4. Rosecrans - Union - 34,000 enemy casualties, two "A" ranked victories
3.Lee - Confederate - 11 wins, 168,000 enemy casualties, six "A" ranked victories
2. McClellan - Union - surprising place for most prodded general, 26,000 enemy casualties, two "A" ranked victories
1. Jackson - Confederate - You may not agree with the other rankings, but this one seems correct - 9 wins, three  "A" ranked victories, 20,000 enemy casualties

Observations:  What's that they say about liars and statistics?  Some of the rankings make sense, but others (Rosecrans, Longstreet, McClellan) don't.  I'd like to revise the system to show impact of performance on battles where the officers were not the primary commanders.