Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Releases-Savas Beatie & Penguin Press

The mailman has been pretty busy for the last couple of weeks with some new releases.

Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief written by James M. McPherson and published by Penguin. McPherson is the author of arguably the most widely read Civil War book of all time, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States). This assessment of Jefferson Davis contains just over 300 pages including notes and index. There are b/w photos and fifteen maps. A quick look at the typeset and format leads me to believe this is a book aimed at a wide reading audience and probably not one that is intended to break new ground.

Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg, The Battles of Chaffin's Bluff and Poplar Spring Church, September 29 - October 2, 1864 written by Richard J. Sommers and published by Savas Beatie. This is a revised and expanded edition of the 1981 edition. This has all the attributes readers have come to expect from a Savas Beatie title. This book has considerable heft. No expense has been spared: index, notes, bibliography, order of battle, 22 maps, 91 b/w photos and need I say anything about the quality of the paper and binding. The book totals out at 661 pages. Not cheap but quality like this never is.  

Read an interview with Dr. Sommers on the SB website here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review-Central Florida's Civil War Veterans

Grenier, Bob. Central Florida's Civil War Veterans (Images of America Series). Charleston, Arcadia Publishing. 2014. 128 pages, b/w photos. ISBN 9781467112024, $21.99.

The state of Florida has been receiving it's due lately with several excellent books coming out dealing with the state's role in the Civil War. Now, from Arcadia Publishing, author Bob Grenier brings us a large collection of photos dealing with Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate, from the Central Florida area.

In 10 chapters broken down by county, Grenier gives readers soldiers, locations and reenactors. As might be expected there are very few photos of actual Florida soldiers in uniform. If you have done Florida Civil War research you will understand why.

There is a nice mix of Union and Confederate men pictured. Many former Union soldiers retired to Florida. Many were also businessmen who saw the potential of the sparsely populated state, Cities like Haines City, Sanford, Hawk's Park (now Edgewater), Zellwood and others were named for those who fought during the war. African-Americans and women are also represented in the book.

I took particular interest in the chapter on Volusia County seeing that I live in this county. This was nicely done and had several photographs dealing with William Rowlinski, a Russian immigrant who served in the 24th SC Infantry before becoming a lighthouse keeper later in life. He was the first principal keeper of the Ponce Inlet lighthouse (called Mosquito Inlet at the time). I was also interested in anything that might deal with St. John's county area since I have written on St. Augustine and the war. I was not shocked to see a reference to the three Sanchez sisters. Their story of being spies for the Confederacy and warning Capt. J. J. Dickison about a Union raid often stretches the limits of reality. I did not include the story in my book because I couldn't find what I considered strong enough evidence to back the story. That being said however, this is a story that is burned into the mythology of Florida's war efforts and the sisters are often looked at as heroes. I imagine there is some truth to the story but as it is often told the plausibility of it just doesn't add up.

As with many books in the Images of America series there are inconsistancies in the quality of the photos. Many are quite grainy or damaged so it's easy to see that Mr. Grenier did the best he could with the limited source material available. Most photos however are quite nice and overall this is not a quibble just an observation.

For anybody interested in the role of Florida in the Civil War or how the state was impacted post-war this is a volume I can highly recommend. Overall, the photos are nice with a strong variety and the captions read well. There are no notes or bibliography but each photo lists where it is from allowing those interested to follow up if they would like.

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Release-Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson

Thanks going out to Scribner for sending along a copy of Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson. The book should be available by the end of the month.

This is a quite large book, nearly 700 pages including index, notes and bibliography. There is also a section of b/w photos. Unfortunately, at first glance, many of these are the standard photos readers of Civil War books have seen many times. Twelve maps are included throughout the text.

Author S. C. Gwynne is not known for his writing on the Civil War but does have a strong history in having written Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and also the National Book Critics Circle Award. Dust jacket quotes come from Peter Cozzens, John Hennessy and others.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Press Release-Hood's Tennessee Campaign: The Desperate Venture of a Desperate Man

The History Press is pleased to announce the publication of  Hood's Tennessee Campaign: The Desperate Venture of a Desperate Man (Civil War Sesquicentennial) by James R. Knight.

About the bookThe Tennessee Campaign of November and December 1864 was the Southern Confederacy’s last significant offensive operation of the Civil War. General John Bell Hood of the Confederate Army of Tennessee attempted to capture Nashville, the final realistic chance for a battlefield victory against the Northern juggernaut. Hood’s former West Point instructor, Major General George Henry Thomas, led the Union force, fighting those who doubted him in his own army as well as Hood’s Confederates. Through the bloody, horrific battles at Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville and a freezing retreat to the Tennessee River, Hood ultimately failed. Civil War historian James R. Knight chronicles the Confederacy’s last real hope at victory and its bitter disappointment.

Thursday, August 21 at 6 p.m. @ Maury County Library
(211 W 8th St, Columbia, TN)

Friday, August 22 at 10 a.m. @ FiftyForward Turner Lifelong Living Center at Bellevue YMCA (8101 Hwy 100, Nashville, TN)

Friday, October 10, time TBA @ Stones River National Battlefield (3501 Old Nashville Highway, Murfreesboro, TN)

November 14-16 @ Carter House/Canton Plantation, celebrating Blue & Grey days and anniversary of Battle of Franklin (Franklin, TN)

Saturday, November 29 @ Rippavilla Plantation - The Battle of Spring Hill Sesquicentennial Anniversary (Spring Hill, TN)

Tuesday, December 2 at 2:30 p.m. @ The Metropolitan Archives - First Tuesday at the Archives Meeting (Nashville, TN)

Monday, March 23, time TBA @ The Blount Mansion (Knoxville, TN)

Monday, August 4, 2014

St. Johns County Confederate Burial #2 William Dominique Ashton

William Dominique Ashton  Florida Conscripts

William Dominique Ashton was born some time around 1830 in Florida . The records are not completely clear but this gives a very good estimate that is in between the dates found. He was the son of John and Susan Ashton.

By 1860 William was married and he and his wife Mary had started a family. The 1860 census shows them having four children. Also in the home was William's younger brother, Samuel. William worked as a farmer and appears to have been a successful one. He owned $500 worth of real estate and had personal property worth $4,400. This personal property included four slaves; 3 males and a female. The war was not kind to the Ashton family and by 1870 his worth had dropped to a combined $800; less than 20% of his pre-war wealth. His family continued to grow however and the 1870 census showed he and Mary had nine children. The war could not have been far from the family mind when in 1867 they named a son Robert Lee Ashton. The year 1880 saw the family continue to grow and by this time there were at least 13 children though several had left home to start their own lives.

William was not to live much longer; passing away on June 8, 1887. William is buried in Sanksville Cemetery. The approximate GPS coordinates for his burial location are N 29.54.959 W 081.31.607 . His grave is marked with a Confederate headstone. It does not appear that his wife ever filed for a widows pension in the state of Florida so little is known about the family at this point.

William served a very short time as a Private in the Florida Conscripts. It appears he was a member of the Florida Conscripts and was mustered in to service on September 27, 1862. He was discharged for disability in December 1862. His military records show he was 5' 7" with blue eyes, light skin and sandy hair.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book Review-The Siege of Lexington, Missouri

 The Seige of Lexington published
by The History Press.
Wood, Larry. The Siege of Lexington, Missouri: The Battle of the Hemp Bales (Civil War Sesquicentennial) . Charleston: The History Press. 2014. B/W photos, index, bibliography, notes, maps. 158 pages, 132 pages of text. ISBN 9781626195363, $19.99.

With a population of approximately 4,000 the town of Lexington, Missouri was in the 1860's the states fifth largest. The city was an important trading post, allowing planters to sell hemp, tobacco, and other products. The town also had a strong sympathy toward the Confederacy.

Wood provides adequate background into the area. Colonel Charles Stifel and the 5th US Reserve Corps were looked upon with suspicion. Their killing of banker James Lightner helped lead to the formation of a Missouri Home Guard unit.
By September 12, 1861 skirmishes were already taking places at Lexington with the Confederates , led by Sterling Price, getting the better of the Union forces led by Colonel James Mulligan. Price however does not immediately follow up on his advantage and from the 13-16 Union forces build fortifications and trenches. Mulligan was not being reinforced however while the Confederates received around 3,000 more men.                                                                                                              
September 18 saw a massive artillery battle between the two sides. The Anderson House, a disputed hospital or hideout for sharpshooters depending on your view, was taken and retaken several times. Day two saw the battle shift toward a small arms fight. Confederate forces turned back Samuel Sturgis and his attempt to help reinforce the Union troops. By this point things were beginning to turn desperate for the Union fighters. They did not have food or water and there was little chance for reinforcements to penetrate the Confederate line. September 20 saw the surrender of Union forces with enlisted men being freed on an oath and officers held as prisoners. The aftermath of the battle was a gruesome mess for locals. Dead men and animals had to be dealt with as did the damage done to the city. The Siege of Lexington became the high point of the war for the Missouri State Guard. When the state seceded later in the year the State Guards were disbanded and Price was named a General in the Confederate army.                                                                                                               
As for the subtitle of the book: I don't want to spoil it for those not familiar with the battle, as I was not. There is a good, and interesting, story that will clear this up.                                                                     
This is a pretty easy to read book and it seems to cover the battle well. The photos are a nice addition. As has been stated elsewhere what this book needed were professionally drawn maps. Better maps would have turned this 4 star review into 5. Still, well worth a look!

Mr. Wood is the author of the blog Ozarks History.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

St. Johns County Confederate Burial #1 Noah Preslar

Noah Preslar 20th Battalion, Georgia Cavalry Co. A & F

Noah Preslar was born May 8, 1838 to parents Alvin and Esther Preslar of Union County, North Carolina. The 1850 census shows Alvin working as a farmer and having $150 worth of real estate. It does not appear that the Preslar family were slave-holders. Noah was the second oldest of six children in 1850. He had an older sister Theresa, a younger sister Rachael, and three younger brothers; Joseph, Hosea and Caswell.

By 1860 young Noah was living in Georgia Militia District 1211, Echols, Georgia working as a farm overseer. His wife Barbara was two years his senior and also in the home were daughter Esther and sons Hasletine and Levi. Big changes took place in Noah's life and by 1870 he was living in Orange County, FL with his second wife Emma working as a farm laborer. Emma was nine years his senior. Noah's first wife Barbara was living in Brooks County, GA with daughters Esther and Nora and sons Haseltine, Abraham and Hiram. Levi was working as a farm laborer in Echols County, GA before becoming a Valdosta, GA police officer.

Noah continued the life of a farmer living in Brevard County, FL as a widower in 1880. Noah had continued his itinerant ways and by 1900 was living in Precinct 4 of St. Johns County, FL along with third wife Martha and sons James and Ovie. Despite being over age 70 Noah was still working as a farmer in 1910 while living in St. John's County.

Noah passed away on April 18, 1911 and was buried in Sanksville Cemetery. Sanksville was founded some time after the Civil War to serve the Bakersville community. The cemetery, originally named Bakersville Cemetery, was used by both white and black residents and the name Sanksville comes from the Sanks family who are descended from Peter Sanks. Peter was originally a slave and after emancipation began buying land in the area.

Preslar had a mixed service record. He originally enlisted in Co. A, 20th Battalion Georgia Cavalry. He was enlisted by Captain S. B. Spencer at Thomasville, Georgia. The 20th also went by the names Millen's Partisan Rangers or the 1st Battalion Georgia Partisan Rangers. The unit served on the Georgia coast until spring 864 when it became part of P. M. B. Young's brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia. Here they would participate in the Wilderness Campaign, Cold Harbor and other battles. Preslar was not with the brigade long enough to see it disbanded and companies merged into other regiments.

By September 1863 Preslar had transferred to Co. A where he worked as an ambulance driver in early 1864. During the Battle of Haw's Shop (or Battle of Enon Church as it is sometimes known), in Hanover County, VA,  Preslar said he was shot in the right hip with the ball exiting his left leg. He was admitted to Wayside Hospital No. 9 on May 29th and was on a June muster roll at the 4th Division Jackson Hospital in Richmond in June, 1864. On June 23, 1864 he was granted a 30 day furlough but was listed a being a deserter on August 26, 1864.

Courtesy: Florida Memory Project

Preslar tells a different story in his 1907 Florida Confederate Pension application. He claims to have been taken prisoner at Darien, Georgia and was sent to a prison in Hilton Head, South Carolina where we was until the end of the war. On his application a physician vouches for his claim of a gun wound to the left thigh and he was ultimately awarded a yearly pension of $120. This amount was renewed in 1909. After Preslar's death in 1911 his wife Martha was denied the widow's pension by the state because she was not married to Noah prior to 1895 as required by law. By 1913 however Martha was awarded the same $120 per year that Noah was receiving. Martha died in 1925.

The coordinates for Noah's burial location are 29. 54.972N 081 .31621W. From I-95 use exit 318.