Saturday, October 10, 2020

Grant's Bravery at Burgess Mill: October 27, 1864

As the Second Corps pushed toward the South Side Railroad during the October 27, 1864 offensive at Petersburg, Ulysses S. Grant rode forward with a single aide to examine the conditions at Burgess Mill on Hatcher's Run. Here is the description of the incident from Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 (Kent State University Press, 2013)
U.S. Grant (LOC)
Concerned that a strong Confederate force would threaten any advance on the White Oak Road toward the South Side Railroad, Grant desired more than secondhand reports and sought to examine the ground at Burgess Mill personally.  He requested the company of his aide-de-camp, Orville E. Babcock, and directed  the rest of the party to stay behind. The two galloped on the Plank Road, past Egan, and to within several yards of the bridge at Hatcher’s Run, exposed to sharpshooter and artillery fire from the opposite bank. Severed telegraph wires littered the road in a tangled mass. Grant’s horse, distressed by the shells and balls zipping through the air, became ensnared, and strained to pull away, only  tightening the coil. With their commander in a tight spot, Union officers to the rear watched with increasing anxiety. 
Burgess Mill Battlefield, Oct. 27, 1864
from Richmond Must Fall

But Babcock coolly dismounted and untangled the horse, while Grant sat calmly in the saddle admonishing his aide to  avoid hurting the animal’s leg. The two pushed even closer to the bridge, where  Grant noted the dense brush on the banks, the trees slashed by the rebels, and the dams blocking the run. He then turned “slowly back as unperturbed as a man could be.” When he reached his fretful staff, he responded to their protests with a smile, saying, “Well, I suppose I ought not to have gone down there.” Thomas Livermore, the Hancock aide who ran the gauntlet earlier, noted that Grant had “exposed his own life . . . to find out with his own eyes whether our men were being killed to no purpose.”

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Emerging Civil War Book Award: The Fight For The Old North State

Emerging Civil War has chosen The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January–May 1864 (University Press of Kansas, 2019) as the recipient of this year’s Emerging Civil War Book Award.

From ECW Book Review Editor Ryan Quint: “[Newsome's] book on fighting in North Carolina was not only one of the best campaign studies I read last year, but have read ever.”

Thanks so much to Emerging Civil War and kudos to my friends at University Press of Kansas for their great work in putting this project together!

Monday, August 3, 2020

New in Paperback: The Fight For The Old North State

Happy to learn that The Fight For The Old North State is now out in paperback. Many thanks to the University Press of Kansas for getting the soft cover version out so quickly. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Blackberry Raid Update: Crump's Crossroads, July 2, 1863

Map of New Kent County, Crump's Crossroads Detail (LOC)
The Blackberry Raid project continues to move along. I recently finished writing about Erasmus Keyes' anemic efforts against Richmond's defenses. In early July 1863, Keyes advanced from John Dix's base at White House Landing to demonstrate against Bottom's Bridge on the Chickahominy River. If successful, Keyes would have prevented Confederate reinforcements from intercepting George Getty's march to the South Anna railroad bridges, key components of Robert E. Lee's line of communication with Richmond. But Keyes’ operation came to an abrupt halt after an engagement with D.H. Hill's forces at Crump's ("Baltimore") Crossroads -- on the same day the Union left at Gettysburg managed to hold against James Longstreet's massive assault.
Erasmus Keyes (LOC)
I'm struck by how poorly Keyes performed at Crump's Crossroads. He never got close to Bottom's Bridge and spent several days at Talleysville (Baltimore Store) and Crump's doing pretty much nothing. Though his political views contrasted sharply with those of his professional nemesis, George McClellan, the two shared similar command traits. Cautious and ineffective, Keyes seemed to spend most of his energy in July manufacturing excuses for his failure. The campaign would mark the abolitionist's last field command. He would fade into obscurity - and little would be written about his actions before Richmond during the Gettysburg Campaign. His lengthy autobiography, published eleven years before his death in 1884, ends abruptly in 1862 and, not surprisingly, ignores the events of July 1863.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

1890: What the Richmond Planet Said About the Lee Monument

"The Negro was in the Northern processions on Decoration Day and in the Southern ones, if only to carry buckets of ice-water. He put up the Lee Monument, and should the time come, will be there to take it down." - Richmond Planet, June 7, 1890
Lee Monument (LOC)
When the Robert E. Lee monument went up on the outskirts of Richmond in the spring of 1890, several editors from African-American newspapers made their views crystal clear. Here are a few more excerpts:
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Image result for john mitchell jr richmond planet
John Mitchell, Jr. Ed.- Richmond Planet
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Richmond Planet, May 10, 1890
"The boxes were decorated with bunting and Confederate flags. On every hand could be seen the “stars and bars.” Nowhere in this procession was there a United States flag. The rebel yell, reinforced by a glorification of the lost cause was everywhere manifest."
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The New York Age, New York, NY 
(quoted in Richmond Planet, June 7, 1890)
"Robert E. Lee was one of the greatest generals of modern times. We grant that. But he was a traitor, and gave his magnificent abilities to the infamous task of disrupting the union and to perpetuating the system of slavery. Where then is the wisdom or the propriety of wasting any sentiment on Robert E. Lee? Let the unconstructed Democracy of the South glorify him and his memory as they will, but let the patriots of the nation indulge in none of it." 
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The National Home Protector, Baltimore, Md.  
(quoted in Richmond Planet, June 14, 1890)
"The [dedication] of the Lee monument adds another chapter to the history of the American nation that the next generation both North and South will no doubt read with regret. Though the general was guilty of treason against the United States government he bound himself under oath to support and fought bravely to forever establish and extend the accursed institution of human slavery; yet he possessed virtues which are fair minded people appreciated. That he would have a monument erected to his memory by the people who followed him to defeat, seems to be in the natural order of things. But when the unveiling of the monument is used as an opportunity to justify the southern people and rebelling against the U. S. Government and to flaunt the Confederate flag in the faces of the loyal people of the nation occasion calls for serious reflection. When General Lee furled his flag and presented his sword to his conquerors, he said secession is dead, and now, any attempt to resurrect the corpse of rebellion is not only an insult to the loyal people of the nation, but also casting a stigma on Gen. Lee’s record as commander of the Confederate Army."
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 The State Capital, Springfield, Illinois 
(quoted in Richmond Planet, June 14, 1890)
"This is shameful disregard for the flag of the Union and of higher respect for the flag of treason, was disgracefully he demonstrated at the unveiling of the monument to the lead Gen. R. E. Lee at Richmond, Va., May 29. We appreciate the spirit which prompted his followers to rear a monument to his honor. He had many virtues which are worthy of emulation, but when they put up that ensign of treason – the stars and bars – and make it a god to display, and to worship. We, as an American citizen, offer or silent protest and demand in the name of our fathers, in the name of the constitution and in the name of every patriotic impulse that such thing shall not be tolerated."

Grant's Bravery at Burgess Mill: October 27, 1864

As the Second Corps pushed toward the South Side Railroad during the October 27, 1864 offensive at Petersburg, Ulysses S. Grant rode forward...