Saturday, October 6, 2018

More Books: Denmark Vesey's Garden, Reed's Combined Operations, and Chesson on Richmond

Between breaks in work on my North Carolina book, I've tried to read a few titles that do not prominently feature George Pickett, Benjamin Butler, or Robert Hoke. Here are some I've found particularly interesting:

Denmark Vesey’s GardenDenmark Vesey's Garden:  Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy
by Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts 

This book is getting a lot of well-deserved buzz. In a straightforward, accessible style, Kytle and Roberts trace how citizens of Charleston remembered slavery and commemorated the war. It begins with the 2015 murders at Mother Emanuel Church and then goes back to trace through the days of John Calhoun, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights era - and then returns to the present. Among many other things, the book describes competing commemorations following the war, debates about monument construction and retention, and the interpretation of the past offered up by tour guides and museums. With Denmark Vesey's Garden, Kytle and Roberts join David Blight, Caroline Janney, Carol Reardon, Kevin Levin, and others in providing an important contribution to the study of Civil War memory.

Combined Operations in the Civil War
by Rowena Reed

This title, first published in 1978 by Naval Institute Press, should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in coastal military operations during the Civil War. Reed, a Dartmouth history professor who died early in her career, left us with a detailed, well-researched study of combined operations during the war. Over the years, the book has received criticism for overplaying George McClellan's strategic plans and, in particular, exaggerating his vision for operations against the the Confederate coastline. Whether you agree with Reed's take on Little Mac or not, the book is well worth your while. Not only does it thoughtfully discuss the broader strategic and operational issues associated with Union coastal efforts, it also delves into the important details of campaigns in North Carolina, on the Peninsula in Virginia, along the Mississippi, in and around Charleston Harbor, and at Fort Fisher. It has wonderful maps too. 

Richmond After the War, 1865-1890
by Michael B. Chesson

I stumbled on this title while looking for studies about Richmond during Reconstruction. Published by the Library of Virginia (the Virginia State Library) in 1982, it covers the economic, political, and social developments in the former Confederate capital during the latter half of the 19th century. Among other things, Chesson describes the turbulence of Reconstruction in the city, the struggles of black citizens against the rise of Jim Crow, the brief emergence of the Readjusters in Virginia, and the dedication of the Robert E. Lee monument in 1890. In reflecting on this period, Chesson argues that the growing attachment of Richmond's ruling majority to the culture of the Lost Cause in the 1880's and 1890's blunted the city's ability to modernize and prosper in the decades following the Confederacy's demise.  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

N.C. Book Update

The North Carolina book is moving along nicely. I recently finished making changes and corrections in response to the copy editor's review. The manuscript is now back with the University Press of Kansas for layout and will then be ready for proofreading. It looks like the final product will be over 500 pages long. I hope to pass along more updates - including the title - soon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Visit to Franklin, Tennessee

The Federal line near the Carter House
My wife and I enjoyed a nice getaway last weekend in Nashville with some longtime friends. On our last day, we made it down to Franklin for some sightseeing. With my friend Aaron Cohen navigating, I tramped around a few of the battlefield sites there including Windham Hill, Fort Granger, and the Carter House. At the Carter House Visitor Center, I had the good fortune to chat with James Knight, author of several titles on the Civil War in Tennessee. He was nice enough to sign a copy of his book on Hood's Tennessee Campaign for me. I learned later that he has also written about Bonnie and Clyde. At Fort Granger, Amy Glover, a California transplant exploring the site with her family, kindly snapped the picture of me below. Fort Granger is an impressive work, towering over the Harpeth River and surrounding countryside. The maps don't do it justice. 

Author James Knight and your blogger.
Fort Granger

Friday, July 6, 2018

Another Visit to Plymouth, North Carolina

Fort Compher site, Plymouth N.C.
Recently, I had the chance to make another visit to Plymouth and explore the sites of some of the more obscure fortifications there - most of which are long gone now - and check out some other locations around the town. As I've worked on my North Carolina book, I've had the good fortune to benefit from the vast knowledge of local historian Jimmy Hardison. For decades, Hardison has examined every nook and cranny of the battlefield and made many incredible finds, some of which are on display in the Port o' Plymouth Museum. I've also received extensive assistance from the public historians at the museum, namely David Bennett (now with the Virginia War Museum) and the current curator, Elizabeth Freier. Harding, Bennett, and Freier have patiently fielded emails and phone calls from me over the last few years. I greatly appreciate all of their help.

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.”