Thursday, August 19, 2010

Major Civil War Archaeological Find

OK, so I'm a day or two late on this one and I know many other bloggers have already posted it. Just in case you missed it....

Georgia Southern students have located what appears to be the remains of the Civil War prison camp known as Camp Lawton. Built as a "replacement" for the foul Andersonville Camp Lawton was in existence for a mere six weeks but held over 10,000 with the death toll reaching somewhere between 750 and 1330.

Read the full story here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Interesting Research Find

One of my current research interests is in Confederate soldiers who are buried in Volusia County, Florida. There is nobody famous here that I have found. No Generals thought to retire to the beach at Daytona. My how times have changed. I am trying to photograph all known headstones, gather GPS coordinates, and put together some biographical information on each known Confederate. For some this will prove near impossible while others will of course have more information available.

Working in alphabetical order I am starting with Wiley Abercrombie from the state of Alabama. Abercrombie served both in the 2nd Georgia Infantry and then transferred to the 7th Alabama Cavalry. After obtaining his pension application I found he served as Aide de Camp to Major General Samuel G. French. This weekend I started  retrieving his military records through Footnote and found this interesting letter written by General French to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  I have tried to keep the original spellings. I have attached a copy of the letter. I hope you are able to save it and see the original.

Montevallo, Ala
May 10th 1864

His Excellency
The President


I have the honor to request that Wiley Abercrombie of Columbus Georgia be appointed one of my aids de camp. I have had but one aid for the past six months.

Wiley Abercrombie has served in the army as a private since the beginning of the war. I do not remember what company and regiment he belongs to, but he is at present at the Head Quarters of Brigadier General Clanton. His commission or appointment sent to General Clanton will reach him.

Very Respectfully
Your Faithful Servant

S. G. French
Maj. General

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Review--Flames Beyond Gettysburg

Mingus Sr., Scott L., Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863. Ironclad Publishing, Columbus, OH. 624 pages, 462 pages text. 41 b/w illustrations and maps, 4 appendices, 6 driving tours, end notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0967377080. $23.95.

While being one of the most well known battles of all time the battle of Gettysburg is also one of the most complex and difficult to understand. The battle has been written to death in many people's mind and each minute of action seems to have been dissected. A seldom discussed aspect however is what took place in Pennsylvania in the days leading up to the famous battle. Author Scott L. Mingus, Sr. has given us a thoroughly researched and highly readable treatment of the actions that took place near Gettysburg just before the fateful battle.

The main thrust of this massive work is Brig. General John B. Gordon's brigade and their attempt to follow orders and secure the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge for use by the entire division of Jubal Early's division. Gordon led his troops from Waynesboro through Gettysburg to York and ultimately controlling the town of Wrightsville. Ultimately the Confederates failed in their mission to secure the bridge due to the actions of Union troops led by Col. Jacob Frick and Major Granville Haller. The combination of Frick and Haller's actions plus the Confederates being recalled to the Gettysburg area by Gen. Robert E. Lee helped save the area east of Gettysburg and possibly other areas of Pennsylvania east of the Susquehanna River.

While there are military aspects to the book Mingus has also written a book dealing with how this aspect of war affected the civilian population. Considerable time is spent outlining how locals worked to move personal property east ahead of the coming storm. Livestock was especially important and moving animals away from oncoming troops occupied much of the locals time. Whether they were hidden in houses or moved east the value of animals is shown through these efforts. Also shown is that Confederates, even though in hostile territory, were not universally despised. There were civilians willing to provide food and shelter. Of course all was not rosy for non-combatants. Despite being told that private property was not to be harmed or destroyed this was not always the case. Shopkeepers were given worthless Confederate money in exchange for goods. Many citizens lost animals, crops, and prized possessions. Houses considered abandonded were many times ransacked by troops who felt they were getting revenge for actions by Union troops in the South. This isn't to say all was bad as the Confederates did work to help save the town of Wrightsville by forming a bucket brigade in an effort to prevent the town from burning due to embers from the burning bridge.

Mingus has written an important book on an overlooked part of the Gettysburg campaign. This is a long book but do not be intimidated by size. The type is large and easily readable. If set in standard type the work would be shorter. Also included in the page count are 6 driving tours. For anybody looking to further their knowledge on  Gordon's path these are vital and will provide much more insight. For those interested in further research there is a large section of end notes and an ample bibliography. Also a plus is the price. At less than $25 this is a bargain. My understanding is the book has sold out from the publisher and that Mr. Mingus is working on an updated edition to include many firsthand accounts he has located since the original publication. These can only make an excellent book even better. A must read for any body interested in the Battle of Gettysburg and certainly one that anybody interested in the Civil War in general should own.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Interesting Find Close By

I have finally been able to thumb through a brochure I picked up while out of town at a work conference. Seeing that the conference was very near Walt Disney World it would stand to reason that I could find a Kissimmee Area Guide.

My dad was born in the Kissimmee area and we used to go and visit my grandmother when I was a child. I figured I would take a look and see what there is to do in the area besides the normal theme parks, chain restaurants, and "outlet" malls. You know, what doesn't cost a fortune to do.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of Civil War related activities. Who knew that St. Cloud was originally built as a retirement city for G.A.R. members? The G.A.R. Memorial Hall still stands today and according to the brochure houses a museum and also serves as the meeting place for the Lucious L. Mitchell Camp No. 4 of the Sons of Union Veterans. Also, Mt. Peace Cemetery, contains the burial location of over 350 Union veterans. Unfortunately neither the Hall nor the Cemetery appear to have official websites.

Once the weather cools down a bit it looks like a trip over there is in order.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Civil War Book Review--Summer 2010

I received an email today letting me know that the new Civil War Book Review is available online. Always worth checking out for new titles.

The Civil War Book Review, a quarterly journal published by the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections Division, has released its Winter 2009 issue at

As we approach the Civil War Sesquicentennial, one begins to wonder how we can possibly find anything new to discuss. It seems as if scholars and the followers of Civil War history have talked endlessly about the war but the books that continue to pour into our office, onto the shelves at book stores across the country, and into the hands of thousands of readers suggests otherwise. The promising works that continue to appear remind us that one can never completely understand the Civil War and all of its complicated and interwoven aspects fully; that is, again, the case with the Summer 2010 issue of Civil War Book Review.

I am pleased to announce a new feature for our site. In recognition of the Sesquicentennial, each quarter we will feature a different image in our editorial that highlights one specific soldier, North or South. We hope that this serves as a constant reminder of one of the very personal elements of the war as hundreds of thousands of men left their families to fight. This summer we have chosen a portrait of Private Sampson Altman, Jr., Company C, 29th Regiment Georgia Volunteers, C.S.A. Private Altman fought in the battle of Shiloh but died of disease on April 23, 1863.

The Summer 2010 issue of Civil War Book Review features a nice assortment of both new angles and new topics in Civil War history. Stephanie McCurry has asked us to; again, examine the notion of Confederate nationalism as we remember that the war disrupted all of society throughout the American South in Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South. The war served as a platform for women and slaves to become political actors, challenging the authority of the central government and McCurry tells this story quite effectively. Next, Donald Stoker offers the grandest of strategic investigations of the entire war in The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War. Stoker examines all aspects of the war, blending political and military details very successfully, to assert his belief that the war’s outcome boiled down, primarily, to President Lincoln’s superior strategic plan. In The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and its Legacies, Victoria E. Bynum seeks to understand southern society, specifically, those pockets of southern dissent in Texas, North Carolina, and Mississippi where inner civil wars challenged the Confederacy’s success. Following emancipation and Reconstruction, Bynum details the legacy of these pockets of resistance after the failed attempt at southern independence as dissenters and former Confederates continued to live side-by-side. Finally, Benjamin Ginsberg, in Moses of South Carolina: A Jewish Scalawag during Radical Reconstruction, looks at one of the more peculiar characters in southern history, Franklin Moses, Jr. Moses, an ardent supporter of secession who served in the Confederate army as an officer, supported racial equality after the war provides a new lens for understanding the complexity of social relations across the South.
 Kenneth W. Noe was gracious enough to grant Civil War Book Review an interview to discuss his latest book, Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates Who Joined the Army after 1861. In the book and in the interview, Noe discusses those soldiers who resisted enlistment in the earliest months of the war, instead choosing to enlist for much more personal, localized motives, yet often fought with no less zeal and dedication than their veteran comrades.

This summer, Leah Wood Jewett has dug through the archives at Louisiana State University to find a collection of letters in which a prominent Louisiana planter pondered the coming presidential election. Her findings help us to understand the growing anticipation of the war as Americans looked forward pensively, just as we await the Civil War Sesquicentennial and begin to celebrate our look back at the conflict.

Since the previous issue, Civil War Book Review has relocated to a new office on the campus of Louisiana State University. Always a painstaking undertaking, the move was made much easier by the staffs of LSU Libraries and Special Collections; their help is appreciated greatly. Everything is in order and we look forward to continuing to provide our supportive readers and reviewers with the best publication possible.

Civil War Book Review is published in the first week of the months of February, May, August, and November. If you would like to receive e-mail reminders of upcoming issues and special features on the website, click on “Sign me up for CWBR Updates!” link at the bottom of any page in the journal. From there, you can provide us with your contact information so that you will receive these e-mail reminders. Of course, we will NEVER share your personal information with any third party.

Civil War Book Review is the journal of record for new or newly reprinted books about the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras, and is a project of the United States Civil War Center, LSU Libraries Special Collections. A reader’s survey can be accessed through the CWBR homepage.

To contribute to the Civil War Book Review fund, or for information on editorial matters, contact Nathan Buman, Editor, by phone at (225) 578-3553 or by email at

Civil War Book Review

Louisiana State University

Agnes Morris House

Raphael Semmes Drive

Baton Rouge, LA 70803

(225) 578-3553 phone

(225) 578-4876 fax

Visit us on the web at!


Newsletter Review--The Surratt Courier August 2010

The Surratt Courier. The Surratt Society. Volume XXXV No. 8, August 2010.

Today's mail brought the new issue of The Surratt Courier newsletter. A very nice issue this month with several interesting things.

The main article this month deals with Elizabeth Keckly. Keckly was born a slave in 1818. After the death of her owner Keckly was able to borrow the money to purchase freedom for her and her son. She was soon able to repay the loan through money earned as a seamstress and dressmaker. Keckly soon was sewing for the wealthy and powerful including Mrs. Stephen A. Douglas, Mrs. Robert E. Lee, and Mrs. Jefferson Davis. Keckly declined an offer to move south with the Davis family preferring to stay in Washington D.C. By fortunate chance she became the dressmaker for Mary Lincoln. Keckly and Mrs. Lincoln were to become close friends with Keckly attending to Mrs. Lincoln in the days after her husbands death. Later Keckly published the book Behind the Scenes or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. The publication of the book cost her the friendship of Mrs. Lincoln who felt betrayed by some of the material disclosed.   The tie to the Surratt Society is the efforts put forth to find and mark the lost grave of Elizabeth Keckly.

Also included is a brief article reprint dealing with the story of the boots Abraham Lincoln was wearing on the night of his assassination and how they came into the possession of the National Park Service. An announcement of a new book, My Thoughts Be Bloody, which is a new John Wilkes Booth biography written by Nora Titone is included. Did sibling rivalry lead Booth to murder President Lincoln? We'll have to read the book and find out. The Surratt society is on the verge of turning 35. An announcement concerning a sternwheeler cruise to celebrate is included. Join members on board the Cherry Blossom for a Potomac River cruise. Scheduled for Sunday September 26 this looks like it would be a fun event. Cost is $40. Also, a dues reminder for the upcoming year is included. For $7 this is a great membership.