Tuesday, November 25, 2014

History Press New Release: Unionists in Virginia

The History Press is pleased to announce the publication of Unionists in Virginia: Politics, Secession and Their Plan to Prevent Civil War by Larry Denton.

Whether the Civil War was preventable is a debate that began shortly after Appomattox and continues today. But even earlier, in 1861, a group of Union-loyal Virginians—led by George Summers, John Brown Baldwin, John Janney and Jubal Early—felt war was avoidable. In the statewide election for delegates to the Secession Convention that same spring, the Unionists defeated the Southern Rights Democrats with a huge majority of the votes across the state. These heroic men unsuccessfully negotiated with Secretary of State William Henry Seward to prevent the national tragedy that would ensue. Author and historian Lawrence M. Denton traces this remarkable story of Virginians working against all odds in a failed attempt to save a nation from war.

Larry Denton, an authority on the secession crisis, is the author of "A Southern Star for Maryland: Maryland and the Secession Crisis," and "William Henry Seward and the Secession Crisis: The Effort to Prevent Civil War." He held several academic administrative posts at the university level from 1968 to 1978. In 1978 he accepted an appointment to serve as special assistant to the associate administrator of NOAA, a presidential appointee. He ended his career representing the Weather Channel in Washington and resides in Easton, Maryland.

Monday, November 10, 2014

New Releases from The History Press

Thanks going out to The History Press for sending along copies of a couple new releases.

First up is The St. Albans Raid: Confederate Attack on Vermont (Civil War Sesquicentennial) written by Michelle Arnosky Sherburne.  In October 1864, approximately twenty-one Rebel soldiers took over St. Albans, Vermont, proclaiming that it was now under Confederate government control. This northernmost land action of the Civil War ignited wartime fear and anger in every Northern state. The raiders fired on townspeople as they stole horses and robbed the local banks. St. Albans men organized under recently discharged Union captain George Conger, F. Stewart Stranahan and John W. Newton to chase the Rebels out of town. The complex network of the Confederate Secret Service was entangled with the raid and conspired to unravel the North throughout the war. The perpetrators later stood trial in Canada, causing international ramifications for years to come. Michelle Arnosky Sherburne leads readers through the drama, triumph and legacy of the Confederate raid on St. Albans.

The second book is The Coal River Valley in the Civil War: West Virginia Mountains, 1861 (Civil War Sesquicentennial) written by Michael B. Graham adjunct professor at American Military University. The three rivers that make up the Coal River Valley--Big, Little and Coal--were named by explorer John Peter Salling (or Salley) for the coal deposits found along its banks. More than one hundred years later, the picturesque valley was witness to a multitude of bloody skirmishes between Confederate and Union forces in the Civil War. Often-overlooked battles at Boone Court House, Coal River, Pond Fork and Kanawha Gap introduced the beginning of "total war" tactics years before General Sherman used them in his March to the Sea. Join author and historian Michael Graham as he expertly details the compelling human drama of West Virginia's bitterly contested Coal River Valley region during the War Between the States.

I hope to make time for both of these in the not too distant future.

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.