Sunday, June 3, 2018

The 1864 New Bern Expedition: Abram P. Haring's Medal of Honor Letter

Abram P. Haring's Medal of Honor File- NARA
My upcoming North Carolina book from University Press of Kansas includes several chapters on the often overlooked Confederate expedition against New Bern in early February 1864. During the first hours of that operation, a handful of Union soldiers led by young First Lieutenant Abram Pye Haring of the 132nd New York delayed a large Confederate force along a narrow stream known today as Bachelor Creek. Decades after the war, Haring would receive the Medal of Honor for his remarkable stand that day.

As part of my research, I looked at Haring's files in the National Archives and, among other things, learned that Haring, on his own behalf, applied for the Medal of Honor ("Medal of Merit" as he called it) in an 1890 request to General Thomas Vincent in Washington. Here is a transcript of that letter.

◈   ◈   ◈   ◈   ◈
Abram P. Haring (

New York, June 13, 1890
Genl. T. M. Vincent
A. A. G., U. S. A.
Washington, D. C.

I beg to call your attention to the following statement and if consistent for the award of a Medal of Merit I should be pleased to be put in the way of getting it. On February 1, 1864, I was in command of the out post picket with 11 men on the reserve at Bachelors Creek [also called Bachelor or Batchelder's Creek] near Newberne, N.C. When attacked in force by Confederates under Genl Pickett. We held the position for two hours before we was reinforced by three companies of our regiment. The attack and resistance was principally during the first two hours – we were outnumbered by thousands – finally flanked and compelled to retire.
Haring's 1890 Letter, NARA RG 94

The resistance first made, defeated the object of Genl Pickett – i.e., the capture of Newberne and is now published for the first time to my knowledge by Townsend, titled “Honors of the Empire State in the War of Rebellion“ pages 348 + 349 – also Vol 41 page 136. 
For the same action I believe Genl Innis N. Palmer who was in command of Newberne, was promoted to full Maj Genl. U.S.A. I enclose a copy of [the] order issued by colonel comdg regiment.
I may add that I was wounded Mch 8, 1865 in battle near Kinston, N.C.

Respectfully yours,
Abram P. Haring
Late 1st lieut Co. G
132nd Regiment N.Y. Vol Infty

Saturday, May 5, 2018

North Carolina Book - Off to the Press

LOC Civil War maps (2nd ed.), 508.5
Last week, I handed over my North Carolina manuscript to the staff at University Press of Kansas. It feels strange at the moment to have no pages to edit (and edit and edit). The book currently clocks in at about 190,000 words (including 1,800 footnotes), 18 maps, and 21 images. I'll be posting more details - title, release date, etc. - as things progress.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

New Petersburg Books on the Horizon

It has been five years since the release of my book about the Petersburg Campaign, Richmond Must Fall. Though much of my focus recently has been on my upcoming North Carolina project, I try to keep an eye on upcoming Petersburg books. Over the next several months, four titles related to the campaign will hit the shelves.  

A Campaign of Giants--The Battle for Petersburg; Volume 1:  From the Crossing of the James to the Crater, by A. Wilson Greene

This will be the first installment in Will Greene’s comprehensive, three-volume study of the Petersburg Campaign. I was fortunate to conduct a battlefield tour with Will outside Petersburg a few years ago. With two titles about Civil War Petersburg already under his belt and many years as executive director of the Pamplin Historical Park, Greene is expertly equipped to convey the ins and outs of the entire campaign. This first volume will take readers through the Crater battle in late July 1864.

From the publisher – “Full of fresh insights drawn from military, political, and social history, A Campaign of Giants is destined to be the definitive account of the campaign. With new perspectives on operational and tactical choices by commanders, the experiences of common soldiers and civilians, and the significant role of the United States Colored Troops in the fighting, this book offers essential reading for all those interested in the history of the Civil War.”

John Horn, one of the coeditors of Civil War Talks, has prepared a detailed study of the 12th Virginia Infantry, a regiment that was made up mostly of men from Petersburg. As with Horn’s study of the Weldon Railroad battles in August 1864, I helped prepare the maps for this new regimental study. Using a mound of archival sources, Horn has constructed a deep look at the 12th Virginia’s experience during the war, delving into every major campaign conducted by the Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. I'm looking forward to the published version.

 From the publisher -- “Horn's definitive history is grounded in decades of archival research that uncovered scores of previously unused accounts. The result is a lively, driving, up-tempo regimental history that not only describes the unit's marches and battles, but includes personal glimpses into the lives of the Virginians who made up the 12th regiment.”

John Selby’s study of George Meade will be published by Kent State University Press as part of its Civil War Soldiers and Strategies series. John, also a coeditor of Civil War Talks, has prepared a much needed look into of Meade’s generalship throughout the war, including the general's performance during the nearly year-long Petersburg Campaign. I had the opportunity to look through the manuscript and provide feedback. I can’t wait to see the final product.   

From the publisher -  “By basing his study on the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, original Meade letters, and the letters, diaries, journals, and reminiscences of contemporaries, Selby demonstrates that Meade was a much more active, thoughtful, and enterprising commander than has been assumed.”

Just released, this is another installment in the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series from the University of North Carolina Press.   

From the publisher – “Assessing events from the siege of Petersburg to the immediate aftermath of Lee's surrender, Petersburg to Appomattox blends military, social, cultural, and political history to reassess the ways in which the war ended and examines anew the meanings attached to one of the Civil War's most significant sites, Appomattox.”

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 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.