Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review--A Sanctuary for the Wounded

Koontz, Hilda C. A Sanctuary for the Wounded: The Civil War Hospital at Christ Lutheran Church, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania*. Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Gettysburg, PA. 2009. 86 pages, b/w photos, bibliography. No ISBN. $9.95

As arguably the turning point of the Civil War it stands to reason that every aspect of the Battle of Gettysburg and the borough itself are written about. With over 45,000 casualties and more than half of these being wounded men, more than 150 local spots served as field hospitals. This book takes a look at one of these locations.

Located on Chambersburg Street, the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church served as a Union field hospital despite being behind Confederate lines. Taking in the patients on the first day of the battle the hospital was finally closed six weeks later. Upon closing patients were transferred either to Camp Letterman or the Lutheran Theological Seminary. 

This brief look at the church covers areas such as a brief history of the church, civil war medicine, use of the church as a hospital, and looks at several of the major players in the church/Civil War history. Most of these are not familiar names except to those with extensive Gettysburg knowledge. These are interesting stories however. By bringing life to men such as Horatio Howell, the chaplain of the 90th PA who was killed on the steps of the church, and women such as Martha Ehler and the book she penned, Hospital Scenes After the Battle of  Gettysburg, 1863, that describes the work of the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster the authors bring a human element to the horrors of the battle.

This is an interesting book that should be enjoyed by anybody with an interest in Gettysburg history. Those interested in Civil War medicine may also take an interest. Be advised however this is by no means a definitive work on the subject. The essays are brief and the research and writing vary by author. This appears to be a collective effort by church members and not historians. Still, this is an interesting work and supports a worthy cause.

For a more in depth look at the many field hospitals at Gettysburg I would recommend a copy of A Vast Sea of Misery written by Gregory Coco.

*If you are interested in purchasing this book I highly recommend contacting Battlefields and Beyond Military Book Shoppe. Look in the Gettysburg section for this and other great books.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Author Asks for a Second Look

A while back I commented on the poor quality of a two part article published in the Surratt Courier. Please feel free to see the original post here. Today I received an email from the author of the articles in question. I won't bore readers with the long author "bio" that was included but in fairness to the author here is his rebuttal.

Dear Robert

I am somewhat surprised that you have not updated and/or revised your February 10, 2010 blog post about your "Newsletter Review" of The Surratt Courier''s January and February 2010 issues. As I am sure you're aware, per the editorial staff of the Courier, there was a serious error as regards the printing of explanatory notes of my two-part article "There's Spirits Mingling In Heaven With The Godly" [an excerpt from my forthcoming book Dixie Reckoning: A Reassessment of the Lincoln Assassination and Lost Confederate Treasury published by Progressive Press] due to and thru no fault of my own.

Needless to say, I would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to rectify your aforesaid remarks as soon as possible. Thanks & Regards,


This being said I decided to research Mr. Stelnick's book further. As far as I can tell it is still not available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. After that I looked up the publisher of the book on Google. Here's the information I was able to find. Have a look around the publisher site if you would like and then make your own determination.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Magazine Review--Civil War Monitor

Issue number 2 of the magazine Civil War Monitor is on the stands. Like the premier issue this is well worth checking your local bookstore for! This is 72 pages of top notch history.

Civil War Monitor is setting the bar for the other magazines dealing with this subject and in some cases is already leaving some behind. With a wide range of topics, qualified authors who write in an accessible fashion, interesting columns, relevant illustrations, and endnotes this is a magazine aimed at anybody with an interest in the Civil War.

I held out from subscribing after the first issue but having seen the continuing high quality of the publication it looks like I'll be getting out my checkbook. $30 for 8 issues seems to be one of the better bargains out there. If you don't want to subscribe cover price for this issue is $5.99. Prefer to read online? Check the Monitor website and subscribe to the digital version.

Highlights this quarter include:

Custer and the End of Innocence written by Glenn LaFantasie

Black Men in Blue written by Ronald Coddington   A photo collection of African American Union soldiers including biographical essays on each.

Hard Times Are Common Now written by Steven Newton  Ulysses S. Grant and the battle near Dandridge, TN.

Faded Glory written by James Marten  The struggle of old soldiers and the enduring costs of the war.

A panel discussion on the  best Civil War books of 2011 and a listing of the top selling Civil War titles of the year.


Travels--Suggestions for those visiting the Confederate capital of Richmond, VA.

Primer--A great introduction to Civil War era canteens that is loaded with photos.

Preservation--Updates on the Civil War Trust's efforts at Gaines Mill.

In Focus--The Center for Civil War Photography and an interesting find in a photo of Robert E. Lee.

Casualties of War--General Earl Van Dorn written by Stephen Berry.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ash Lawn-Highland Charlottesville, Virginia

The front entry to Ash Lawn-Highland. This is a later addition
to the house and is known as the Massey House.

James Monroe as painted by Samuel
Morse circa 1819. The painting hangs
in the White House
Owned and operated by the College of William and Mary, Ash Lawn-Highland was the home of James Monroe the fifth President of the United States. Monroe purchased the estate in 1793 at the suggestion of his friend and near by resident Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson helped select the site and provided gardeners to help start the orchards. The Monroes moved to Highland*, as the estate was then known, in November 1799. Guests to the home included another President and his wife, James and Dolly Madison. A combination of poor health and financial difficulties forced Monroe to sell Highland in 1826.

Monroe is perhaps one of the more under appreciated of Presidents. His resume is extensive including being a U.S. Senator, he served as a minister to England, France, and Spain, he served as Governor of Virginia, and served terms as Secretary of State and Secretary of War in addition to being a two term President.  Monroe played a vital role in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 for which Thomas Jefferson is so well known. He is also famous for the "Monroe Doctrine" of 1823. This foreign policy dictate has served as a basis of American dealings with European countries for nearly two centuries.

In the years following Monroe's sale of the property it changed hands many times. Owner John Massey who purchased the property after the Civil War  expanded the house to it's current size. Ash Lawn-Highland was first opened to the public in 1931 by owners Jay Winston Johns and his wife Helen Lambert Johns. The Johns bequeathed the estate to The College of William and Mary in 1974. The college reopened the home in 1975. The college continues to research and restore the home. At over 500 acres the estate is a self sustaining project that is able to contribute revenue to the college. As a still working site this is a vibrant and active destination with everything from vegetable and flower gardens to being a supporter of the arts, to having a large number of special events open to the public, and the ability for the property to be rented out for weddings and other special occasions.

With it's great views and abundant history Ash Lawn-Highland is a nice place to visit that when we were there was empty when compared to the more famous and close by Monticello. If visiting I recommend the President's Pass. This pass is good for admission to not just Ash Lawn-Highland but also to Monticello and Michie Tavern. With this pass you will get a lot of history bang for your buck.

*The property was renamed Ash Lawn after Monroe passed away. Today, both names are associated with the property.
James Monroe burial site
located in Hollywood Cemetery,
Richmond, Virginia

Some of the gardens. You can just see the top
of outlying buildings on the property. In the background
notice the unobstructed mountain views.
Statue of James Monroe
in the garden area. The large
base is approximately 5 1/2 feet tall.
Bedroom inside main house

Outlying buildings including Overseers Cottage and
Slave Quarters

Be sure to visit the Ash Lawn-Highland Facebook page.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Upcoming Post

Thanks to reader and author Mark Scroggins for sending along a nice signed copy of his book Robert Toombs: The Civil Wars of a United States Senator and Confederate General.

Published this year by McFarland, the book clocks in at 230 pages including index, bibliography, and notes. The book also contains b/w photos. The book retails for $40 and the ISBN is 9780786463633.

This biography seeks to cover the whole life of Toombs including his early days as a lawyer, his time as Confederate Secretary of State, his unsuccessful time as a Confederate General, and his post war life. Though I have not read this one yet it would appear that any student of Georgia in the Civil War would want to take a look.

Scroggins is an archivist and the author of two prior books. He has previously written for America's Civil War amongst other magazines.

Lincoln Forum on C-Span

I received this email from the Lincoln Forum recently and thought I would share for any interested readers. Sorry I didn't get it posted before the first airing though. Still time to see some interesting discussions though.

Dear Lincoln Forum Member:

The Executive Committee, Board of Advisors, and staff want to thank you again for setting new records at the sold-out Lincoln Forum XVI symposium. For those who want to see some of this year's stellar presentations on C-SPAN--and for those eager to view what they may have missed--here is the schedule so far:

Each broadcast is Saturday at 6 PM and repeats the next morning (Sunday) at 11 AM on American History TV, C-SPAN 3.

  • December 17 - William Seale, "Life in the Lincoln White House"
  • December 24 - Stephen Berry, "The Todd Family at War With Themselves"
  • December 31 - Jason Emerson, "Robert Lincoln: First Son, Presidential Confidant, and Civil War Soldier"
  • January 7 - Victoria Ott, "Southern Women View the North and Lincoln"
  • January 14 - Lincoln Forum Panel, "Why Didn't the War End in 1861?"

Jack Davis' superb opening-night address already ran--without notice to us, unfortunately. Look for it in re-broadcasts.

Other talks--and this year's panel--will be scheduled later in January, and we will send another email blast with broadcast information.

We hope you can celebrate the holiday season by tuning in to the Lincoln Forum. All of us wish you a wonderful new year.

Betty Anselmo

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mount Olivet Cemetery--Frederick, MD

During our recent vacation we had the pleasure (the cold pleasure I should say) of taking a quick visit to Mount Olivet Cemetery in beautiful Frederick, MD. Unfortunately it was during the freak late October snow and the grounds were rapidly accumulating snow and the cemetery offices were closed so we did the best we could with our limited knowledge, time, and warmth.

The cemetery was opened in 1854 and the first burial was Ann Crawford. According to it's website the cemetery now is the final resting place for more than 34,000 people with plenty more room.

Perhaps the most famous burial in the cemetery is that of Francis Scott Key. Key lived from 1779-1843. He is most remembered for having written the lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner". Key wrote the famous words after having witnessed the bombing of Fort McHenry during Battle of Baltimore in 1814. On his way back to Baltimore, Key penned the poem "Defence of Fort McHenry" which was published in December 1814. In 1916 by executive order Woodrow Wilson declared the song to be the national anthem. In 1931 Congress authorized the same and this was signed by Herbert Hoover. In later life Key served as an attorney and helped in the prosecution of Richard Lawrence who had attempted to kill President Andrew Jackson. Originally buried in Old Saint Paul's Cemetery. Key and his wife were moved to Mount Olivet in 1866. The large monument was placed in 1898. By Congressional resolution an American flag has flown over the Key grave since May 30, 1949.

Frederick resident Barbara Fritchie has been memorialized in the poem Barbara Frietchie written by John Greenleaf Whittier. Legend has it the over 90 year old woman waved a Union flag in the face of Stonewall Jackson's troops as they marched through Frederick during the Maryland campaign. When fact confronts legend however it  turns out that Fritchie was sick on the day Jackson's troops marched through Frederick and also that they did not pass Fritchie's house. Despite this her legend lives on and the Barbara Fritchie House still stands today.

Maryland's first governor Thomas Johnson is also buried here. Johnson was a member of the Continental Congress and supported a break with England. Johnson then served as Governor from 1777-1779. Johnson held many other posts leading to a nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court. He served two years before resigning due to the rigors of the old circuit court system. Johnson passed away in 1819 and was originally buried in the All Saints Churchyard. His remains were later moved to Mount Olivet.

While there we were able to photograph a few other interesting markers that were Civil War related. There is a neat memorial to the young who served and died. There is also a nice memorial to the more than 400 unknown Confederate dead from the Battle of Monocacy. There is also a large Confederate memorial that was dedicated in 1990.

Unknown Confederate dead from Monocacy
Memorial to children killed in the Civil War

Full length view of the Confederate Memorial
Close up of the soldier atop the
Confederate Memorial.

Be sure to check Findagrave or Interment for partial listings of those buried here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review--Warman's Civil War Collectibles

Lewis, Russell E. Warman's Civil War Collectibles 3rd Edition. Krause Publications, Iola, WI. 2009. 399 pages, color photos, glossary, bibliography, index. ISBN 9781440203749, $32.99.

For many of us who have an interest in the Civil War our interest goes beyond reading about generals, or campaigns, or battles, to having a desire to own pieces related to a particular battle or an ancestor's regiment.

Unfortunately many of these items are costly and for many out of the budget. This is where a good general guide like this can be a Godsend. While prices are out of date before any price guide hits the shelves what a book like this can do is help novice collectors learn to focus and give collecting ideas. While a $1,000 and up musket may be out of the question this guide can show that there are related items out there that have a tie in. Can't afford the gun right now? How about collecting the many kinds of bullets available instead? For a much more reasonable cost Civil War aficionados can still feel a connection. Can't afford an officer's frock coat, try collecting buttons instead.

The book is broken down into many chapters such as belt buckles and plates, buttons, bullets and projectiles, ephemera, photos, guns (in all their varieties), medical items, and many more. Each chapter is loaded with color photos and price information that comes from various auction houses and military antique dealers. Also included is a brief outline on the subject and collecting hints pro and con.

With around 1,400 color photos, a nice bibliography for further research, a glossary of  terms and a large listing of professional dealers this seems to be an ideal book for those interested in "collecting" the Civil War.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Press Release--The Shenandoah Spy E-Book Sale

I received the following press release today from online friend and author Francis Hamit regarding a special sale on the e-book version of The Shenandoah Spy. Click the photo for easy ordering and further information.
For Immediate release:



(Pine Mountain Club, California)

“The Shenandoah Spy”, Francis Hamit’s riveting and dramatic account of how 17 year-old Belle Boyd became a spy and scout for the Confederate Army in 1861 and ‘62 was published in 2008 and garnered many five stars reviews and other critical praise. Originally published in trade paperback and currently priced at $22.50 in that edition , it is also available as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook e-readers at $9.99.

“We want to reacquaint readers with this exciting novel about the American Civil War and inspire them to buy the second one in our “Acts of War” series, “The Queen of Washington”, which is about Confederate spy Rose Greenhow,” Hamit said; “So in the spirit of the holidays we are temporarily marking down the e-book of “The Shenandoah Spy” to 99 cents until about January 8, 2012. Our goal is to sell at least 100,000 copies at that price.

“It’s not quite a giveaway, but if you can’t spend a dollar on this, then you just don’t know a great deal when you see one. Amazon Kindle has dramatically improved in recent years and you can read Kindle editions on a wide variety of devices. It’s now a great venue for consumers. We hear great things about the Nook as well. We have some titles which are only available in e-book format because they are too small for regular book publication or not of wide enough interest to justify the expense of a printed edition.

“ These novels do have print editions, but we understand times are hard right now and want to give people the best chance we can to read this one. We have to make something. This is a business, after all, but 35 or 40 cents net is about as low as we can go.”

The holiday sale is only offered in the USA and UK.

Hamit also hopes that customers will buy some of his other titles in these e-book formats and might even buy his new book “The Queen of Washington”, which is currently offered only in hardbound by online bookstores at a substantial discount from list price.

For further information contact:

Francis Hamit
(661) 242-1686 or by e-mail at
Printed review copies available of either book upon request.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review--Hollywood Cemetery: A Tour

DuPriest Jr., James E. Hollywood Cemetery: A Tour. Richmond Discoveries, Richmond, VA. B/W photos, map. 1989. 28 pages. ISBN 0941087018, $12.

Hollywood Cemetery, located in the old Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia is a wonderful example of the rural cemetery movement from the mid 1800's. Overlooking the James River the cemetery is the final resting place to over 18,000 Confederate soldiers and has over 65,000 burials in total.

For the visitor to the cemetery it can be an overwhelming event. James DuPriest Jr. has written a very brief guide that will suit the visitor with limited time or those who only have limited interest. For those seeking a more in depth tour of the cemetery should look elsewhere. For what it is this booklet serves it's purpose.

In a brief 28 pages DuPriest gives a very short history of the cemetery and a quick oversight into cemetery iconography. Also included is a map spread over two pages that helps orient visitors to the 24 sites highlighted. Some of the sites discussed include historian Douglas Southall Freeman, Confederate generals William "Extra Billy" Smith, Fitzhugh Lee, George Pickett and J.E.B. Stuart, Presidents James Monroe, James Tyler, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the famous Iron Dog, and others.

This guide is really just the briefest of introductions to this marvel of a cemetery. Containing authors, military figures, presidents, industrialists, scientists, judges, and more this cemetery really can't be covered in a brief guide such as this. If you just need a brief guide this may be your book, if you are looking for a more in depth guide covering a wider spectrum of sites or one with color photos the reader is advised to look elsewhere.

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

Located on South Fairfax St. in Alexandria, Virginia sits a small but interesting museum that dates from the late 1790's. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum sits as a  reminder of early medicinal and retail history.

Founded in 1792 and moved to it's current location in 1796 the family run pharmacy operated until the great depression and increased competition caused it's closure in 1933. Edward Stabler founded the pharmacy and operated it until 1819 when his son William took over management. William inherited the business when Edward died in 1831. William's brother in law John Leadbeater took over ownership in 1852.

Store records with purchases
made by Robert E. Lee
During the long and successful run of the business it served both the average citizen and the famous. Sales records detail purchases made by the likes of Martha Washington, James Monroe, Eleanor Parke Custis, and Robert E. Lee.

In addition to medicines, over the years the pharmacy sold varied products including farm equipment, surgical supplies, dental instruments, soaps and perfumes, cigars, mineral water, paints, and more. During the Civil War products such as "hot drops" were popular and sales records show that Union troops were large purchasers of this cough suppressant.

As the Great Depression destroyed business after business the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop was no exception. The shop closed for good in 1933. After closing, the shop was left in the same condition as when it operated. The Landmark Society of Alexandria then purchased the property eventually opening it as a museum in 1939. In 2004 the museum was closed for renovations. After extensive renovations it was donated to the city of Alexandria and was reopened in 2006. When reopened the museum allowed visitors to visit the second floor "manufacturing room". This room sits as it did when the original shop closed in the 1930's. Also available to visitors is the basement where the cistern is located.

I highly recommend this nice little museum to any visitor of Alexandria. It is a must see for anybody interested in retail history, pharmaceuticals, or bottle collectors. The admission charge of $5 (be sure to ask about a AAA discount) is well worth the cost.

Be sure to visit the museum's Facebook page.

Various medicines and also beautiful
glass signage below.
Row after row of medicine bottles.

Congress Water!

Various patent medicines.
George Washington bust
seen as you walk in the
front door.
Benjamin Franklin as seen
to the right of  George
An assortment of products bearing
the Leadbeater logo.

The basement cistern

Interpretive plaque discussing the

Tanglefoot remedy for fleas.
E.S. Leadbeater and Sons Wholesale
Druggists glass bottle.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Live Near the Robert E. Lee Family...Kind of

608 Oronoco in Alexandria, VA
Now remember this house itself does not appear to be historic BUT you are going to be living right across the street from Robert E. Lee's boyhood home.

Robert E. Lee's Boyhood Home
Historical Marker at Lee's Boyhood Home
While the Lee Boyhood Home is no longer open to the public you may view further information on the house here. Information on a modern sale of the house is available here.

Lee-Fendall House
If you are interested in 608 Oronoco you will also be living on the same block as the Lee-Fendall House. A nice history of the house can be found here. The property originally owned by "Light horse Harry" Lee, the Revolutionary War hero, was eventually sold to Lee's cousin Philip Richard Fendall in 1784. Fendall began construcion and the home was in the family for 118 years housing 37 members of the Lee family. After the last Lee family member to live in the house passed away in 1903 the house changed hands several times until finally purchased by the Virginia Trust for Historic Preservation. The house now serves as a museum and can be rented for weddings and other social functions.

Now that I have your interest with all the history you will be living near we'll get to the vitals. The house has 3 floors, 4 bedrooms, 4 full baths and 2 half baths. It was built in 1941 and sits on just over 1/10 of an acre. So how much will it cost you to live near all this history you ask? Why just $1,995,000 with around $18,000 a year in property taxes.

I do however recommend taking a quick look at the real estate listing. Be sure to check out the over 20 photos available. The home is really quite amazing.

Yale University Press Press Release

Modern Tracks

For those of us used to traversing the country via airplane, a twenty-five mile-per-hour train ride across New York State seems fairly staid. However, for the first riders of America ’s railroads, the speed at which the train traveled was overwhelming and exhilarating.

In Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman celebrated the power of the railroad to take us “To the free skies unpent and glad and strong,” and one new train passenger, a New England merchant called Asa Whitney, remarked that the rapid movement of the cars left the trees “waltzing.” A t the same time, though, Thoreau worried that “Men have become the tools of their tools,” voicing an anxiety that many felt in the face of such dramatic technological progress.

In his new book, The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America, William G. Thomas attempts to make sense of these various reactions, setting them along side historical records of railroad expansion and its effects. Thomas calls his project “a social history of the railroad and its role in American history,” and comments on the way in which the railroad was understood in its time to be a hallmark of modernity, allowing for personal mobility and providing concrete evidence of human progress.

Moreover, Thomas challenges conventional conceptions of the role of railroads in the Civil War, reexamining the notion that increased rail development in the North allowed for the Union victory.

Instead, Thomas looks to the expanding transportation networks throughout the country and asserts that the development of a railroad in the South served to bring the region together into a viable nation state, and thus, making the Civil War one of the first modern geopolitical conflicts.

In his prologue, Thomas connects the rapid technological developments of the mid-nineteenth century to our own changing digital age. A professor of history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Thomas is particularly interested in digital history, a practice that, he explains, is not simply about searching through computer databases. According to Thomas, digital history is, “less archival and more exploratory, less about ensuring preservation and more about inviting and enabling inquiry,” and in this spirit, he has created a website to accompany The Iron Way, featuring models mapping railroad expansion in the mid-nineteenth century and a record of every time the world “railroad” appears in military correspondence and reports of the period. By making his sources publicly available, Thomas encourages his readers to explore the topic further, using the narrative his book offers to find their own way across the iron tracks that first brought modernity to America .