Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Book Update - North Carolina in 1864

  LOC - 99447455
I am happy to announce that my book about North Carolina in 1864 is under contract with the University Press of Kansas.

The book is an in-depth study of Confederate efforts to seize Federal bases in eastern North Carolina during the first several months of 1864. It covers Pickett's New Bern expedition in February, Hoke's assault on Plymouth in April, the fall of "Little" Washington, and Hoke's final approach on New Bern in May. Although it focuses on military operations, the book also sets these events in a broader context. Particularly, it explores the two principal motives behind the Confederate efforts: 1) to dampen the emerging peace movement in the state and 2) to ease the supply crisis plaguing Robert E. Lee's army. The manuscript also delves into the deployment of the Confederate ironclads Albemarle and Neuse, the gubernatorial contest between Governor Zebulon Vance and William Holden, the social transformations brought on by the war, the activities of North Carolina Unionists including those recruited into Federal units, and Union strategy for coastal North Carolina.  

The manuscript received the thumbs up from readers at the Press, and now I'm busy finishing up final changes before it goes into editing. I don't have a release date to share at this point but will provide updates as things move along.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Other Hatcher's Run: Feb. 5-7, 1865

"5th Corps, 7th of February" by Alfred Waud (Library of Congress)
Description on back of the sketch:  "The 1st Div 5th Corps charging some temporary breastworks of logs piled against trees on the morning of Tuesday 7th Feb. Thick pine woods. The ground smooth and covered with fine leaves. A.R.W. Near Hatchers Run."

Second Hatcher's Run  . . .  Is Missing Its Monograph

In early February 1865, Federal forces launched an offensive south of Petersburg to gain ground and threaten Confederate supply lines. Two corps from the Army of the Potomac, the Second and the Fifth, marched south and west and, over the course of several miserable winter days, fought William Mahone's division under temporary command of Joseph Finegan. The offensive, called variously "Hatcher's Run," "Second Hatcher's Run," and "Dabney's Mill," is covered in various books about the overall campaign. In addition, Brett Schulte has posted a detailed summary over at Beyond the Crater. However, there is no book treatment out there. Hopefully, someone will fill this hole in the campaign's historiography.

Thursday Feb. 9, 65

https://www.amazon.com/Civil-War-Talks-Reminiscences-Veterans/dp/0813931754/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516551280&sr=8-1&keywords=civil+war+talksBack at camp again after a very severe five days campaign beginning Sunday afternoon, ending yesterday afternoon. Monday evening our division led by Gen. Finnegan charged the enemy & drove them beautifully for more than a mile. The engagement took place in a body of woods on the right of Hatcher’s Run & about 3-1/2 miles below Burgess Mill. The enemy had first attacked Pegram’s division, turning it back, and had been in turn driven by Evans’s division, which they then drove back & were driven just as we were put in line of battle. We lost in our reg’t 23 kd & wd. The kd were Billy Willson of our company, a good fellow & a fine soldier, Geo. Spence of Co. H, a good soldier, Pattaway of Co. K and Baughn of Co. G. Among the wd were “Billy” Scott & Hamilton Martin of our company, both excellent soldiers. Lt. Ben Grasswit & Doncey Dunlop of Co. C, Bob Eckles & Jackson Bishop of Co. A, I myself received a slight scratch on the cheek, the position of my head only saving me from a dreadful wound or perhaps death. In company E several others were struck--David Meade, Thad Branch, Ben Peebles & Ello Daniel. I hope to return to my friends as safe guard today.

George S. Bernard, 12th Virginia in Civil War Talks

Monday, December 18, 2017

Gettysburg -- Mahone's Night Attack, July 2, 1863

"The suspense was unbearable, especially as, after awhile, some talk of instructing the men to fasten white bandages of some sort to the left arms began to be whispered about--the suggestion coming, as such things do, from nowhere and everywhere . . . . I have never heard, nor do any of the reports contain, any illusion to this abandoned project."  - William E. Cameron
Map of the battlefield of Gettysburg, Schuyler, LOC 

Below are two accounts from veterans of William Mahone's brigade describing a night attack planned for July 2 against the Union center at Gettysburg. For much of the 2nd, Mahone’s men remained in reserve at McMillan’s Woods on Seminary Ridge as other brigades in Richard Anderson's division conducted attacks across the Emmitsburg Road. However, sometime after dark, Mahone's regiments gathered for a night assault. Before the Virginians lunged ahead into the darkness though, the operation was called off. George S. Bernard and William E. Cameron, both members of the 12th Virginia, recalled the movement after the war. Their complete reminiscences of the Gettysburg Campaign are in Civil War Talks:  Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard & His Fellow Veterans.   

 George S. Bernard, 12th Virginia Infantry
  "it was . .  proposed to make a night attack" -
George S. Bernard
The foregoing entry in the diary, made on the battlefield during the afternoon of Friday, July the 3rd, the day of the great battle, omits a move, made about dark on the preceding evening, which no man in Mahone’s brigade who took part in it can ever forget. After the heavy fighting on the right, in which a portion of our division as mentioned was engaged, it was, as we understood, proposed to make a night attack, and for that purpose our brigade was taken from its position in a body of woods, or grove, on the slope of the hill where it had been since the forenoon, and marched some two hundred or more yards to our right and there taken to the crest of the hill, preparatory, as we all thought, to beginning a charge. 

It was, indeed, a serious and trying time, as we stood on the crest in readiness to move, the open fields to our right and front being then traversed by occasional shells whose blazing fuses made their pathway plainly visible, every man feeling that the order to go forward would soon come. Fortunately, however, for our particular command the order that came--and it came after a suspense of only a few minutes--took us, not forward to make an attack, but back to our former position, Gen. Lee having determined not to make the proposed assault. That we retraced our steps with a feeling of relief, it is hardly necessary to state. This incident of the evening of the 2nd of July, when writing in my diary on the afternoon of the 3rd, I overlooked, or deemed not worthy of mention in connection with the other over-shadowing events of those two days that were briefly recorded.

 William Cameron, 12th Virginia
Adjutant, Mahone’s Brigade
"I expect the heart of every man in the column was in his mouth"
WE Cameron.jpg
William E. Cameron
" . . . we were ordered out of the woods and conducted to the front by a route inclining to our right, through the wheat field occupied by our skirmishers, to a position between our main line and that of the enemy, confronting, but somewhat obliquely, Cemetery Hill. The movement was made in perfect silence, without a word in explanation of its object, and I expect the heart of every man in the column was in his mouth--I know mine was--as we stole silently and swiftly through the starlit, but dark night, to what was conjectured to be some perilous enterprise. Having penetrated the field towards the Federal stronghold to the distance of some six hundred yards, maybe more, possibly not so far--I am giving my impressions--we halted in line behind a tall worm-fence. 

Then, through the utter stillness, I could hear the muffled tread of other marchers, and through the mist in the valley see indistinctly other bodies of men to the right and left. The suspense was unbearable, especially as, after awhile, some talk of instructing the men to fasten white bandages of some sort to the left arms began to be whispered about--the suggestion coming, as such things do, from nowhere and everywhere. This smacked of a night assault, and recalled what I had read about forlorn hopes. I determined to find out something, and crept along the fence until I saw a group of horsemen, among whom were Generals Longstreet and Anderson. Their talk soon enlightened me that an attack in the dark was contemplated, though I could not hear all that was said. 

The discussion lasted some minutes, during which there seemed to be some difference of opinion between the two officers. At last, General Longstreet said in distinct tones--the reasons for caution having presumably ceased with the decision--“It would be best not to make the attempt. Let the troops return.” In less than five minutes we are on our way back and soon regained our former station. Just on arriving there, before the ranks had been broken, one solitary shell from the enemy whistled through the blackness and burst, it seemed to me, immediately among the men. Then all was still again. No one was hurt, and the remaining hours to daylight were unbroken by any sound save on occasional shot on the distant picket posts. I have never heard, nor do any of the reports contain, any illusion to this abandoned project.