Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Review--The Battle of Pea Ridge

Knight, James R. The Battle of Pea Ridge: The Civil War Fight for the Ozarks. The History Press, Charleston, SC. 2012. 159 pages, 136 pages of text. Index, maps, b/w photos, notes, order of battle. ISBN 9781609494476, $19.99.

The majority of those interested in the Civil War seem to read about the battles in the east. This is a shame because there are interesting stories that took place in the western theater as well. Pea Ridge is a prime example.

Author James M. Knight makes another quality contribution to The History Press Civil War Sesquicentennial Series with his new book The Battle of Pea Ridge: The Civil War Fight for the Ozarks. This is a highly readable account of this often overlooked battle. The major areas of battle are well covered without bogging down in minutiae that will tax most readers. Battles at Bentonville, Oberson's Field, Morgan's Woods, Elkhorn Tavern, Clemen's Farm, and Ruddick's Field all receive coverage. As for sources author Knight admits to relying heavily on the work of Earl Hess and William Shea; Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. "Without their work, this book would never have happened" (page 7). Unfortunately however there is no bibliography included. Readers are left to reference the notes or possibly refer to Hess and Shea.

In addition to a readable text the book includes 14 beautiful maps created by Hal Jespersen, many vintage and contemporary photos, and an order of battle. These help make this book an indispensable read for those not wanting the massive treatment given by Hess and Shea. This is a worthy addition to the History Press line and is highly recommended!

*Thanks to The History Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

New on Fold3--The Sultana Disaster

Fresh on the heels of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster archive company Fold3 announces the addition of records relating to the Sultana. With 1,700 lives lost, including many released Union prisoners of war, this was truly a disaster of epic proportions. If you have a membership this collection looks well worth a look.

The Sultana Disaster

When the boiler exploded aboard the steamer Sultana on April 27, 1865, more than 1,700 people lost their lives. Most of those aboard were recently released Union prisoners from Confederate prisons in Cahaba, Alabama, and Andersonville, Georgia. They were en route from Camp Fiske in Mississippi to Camp Chase, Ohio, but the explosion occurred only a few hours into the journey. In addition to the faulty boiler, the ship was also grossly overburdened with 2,200 passengers on a vessel built to carry 376.
Records relating to the Sultana Disaster, April 1865, are now available on Fold3. They include lists of the former prisoners who survived the disaster, with military service information and brief comments on their injuries. There are also lists of those who perished, yet not of the civilian survivors or those who died.
The enormity of the disaster led quickly to investigations. By January 1866, a court-martial was convened to charge Captain Frederick Speed, the man who volunteered to coordinate the transfer of prisoners, with “neglect of duty to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.” There are 647 documents in the court-martial case with testimonies, witness accounts, and statements by the defense and prosecution. After "nearly six long weary months" the trial came to a close. Capt. Speed was the only person charged in the incident. He was found guilty, yet the charges were later dismissed by Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review--Robert Toombs

Scroggins, Mark. Robert Toombs: The Civil Wars of a United States Senator and Confederate General.  McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, N.C. 2011. 230 pages, 198 pages of text. Index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9780786463633, $40.

As a lifelong politician, Robert Toombs gained a reputation as an outspoken yet influential speaker. In his new book author Mark Scroggins shows us the growth of Toombs and his views and in doing so also helps give us a history lesson on 19th century politics in the state of Georgia.

Toombs began his rise to political fame as a rather unremarkable student first at Franklin College, from which he was expelled, to graduating last in his law school class at the University of Virginia. After having passed the Bar Exam in 1830 he joined the Washington Guard Militia in 1836 being elected Captain. This brief stint in the military did nothing to hurt his political ambitions.

Toombs was first elected to the Georgia legislature in 1837 right before the States Rights party aligned with the Whigs in 1839/1840. The Whigs were many things but most of all anti-Democrat. Toombs made his national debut as a Whig delegate to the 1844 Presidential election. He stumped for high protective tariffs and defended the constitutionality of the national bank.

Call Number: LOT 13301, no. 39 [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
During his political career leading up to the Civil War Toombs took part in the major events of the time such as the issue of Texas becoming a state, the war with Mexico, the Wilmot Proviso, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and every Presidential election up until 1860. It was however Toombs belief that the north was unwilling to see the southern point of view in regards to slavery that tipped him into pushing for secession.

As a leader of the secession movement in Georgia Toombs put forth that the government of the United States was unable to protect southern interests due to abolitionists, anti-slavery laws, and Republicans who would act against the Constitution to deny southerners their property rights. Once the states that were to make up the Confederacy had seceded from the Union it was widely believed Toombs would be elected President. His outspoken views however turned enough men against him and as we all know Jefferson Davis was chosen. Toombs was however nominated to be Secretary of State, a job for which his firebrand attitude made him uniquely unqualified.

Eventually resigning his post Toombs became a political general receiving the rank of Brigadier General. His days in the army were mixed including extremes of being arrested for disobeying orders from General Longstreet to a successful stand at Rohrbach Bridge during the battle at Antietam (Sharpsburg). Despite having resigned before the end of the war Toombs was considered a wanted man which led him to leave the country eventually ending up in Cuba and then France before returning to the States to again practice law in his native state of Georgia.

Toombs later years saw him considered to be more an elder statesman who could be counted on for a good line or story rather than a real political insider. Toombs was out of touch with the new south and the changing economics of the Reconstruction world. He still espoused a belief that slavery would have eventually died out on its own once it was no longer profitable. To Toombs slavery was not a moral issue but rather an issue of profit and loss. While there appears to be no proof he was ever a member Toombs had ties to the Klan and voiced sympathetic words towards the group. As he continued aging Toombs was willing to voice his views as to what doomed the Confederacy. Further alienating himself from the current times he believed that the Conscript Act, which he claimed demoralized troops, and Jefferson Davis and his inefficient leadership led to Confederate defeat. In his last interview in 1885 he still spilled anger toward Davis.

Author Mark Scroggins has written an interesting and highly readable book. Toombs is an important figure not just in the history of Georgia politics but also the whole pre-Civil War period. For those who feel the world of politics is ugly today a read through of this book will show that the bitterness and animosity between political parties has been around for well over a century. With the mark Toombs left it is surprising there are only three other full length works about him. While somewhat high priced, especially for a paperback, this is a work that anybody with an interest in Georgia history should seek out.

*Thanks to the author for sending a complimentary review copy which he graciouslly signed as well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Civil War veteran to be laid to rest decades after death - KPTV - FOX 12

I have not done any further research on Peter Knapp other than to see that there are 14 listings on the Soldiers & Sailors database. If you see anything further or do any research on Mr. Knapp please feel free to add it to the comments section.

Civil War veteran to be laid to rest decades after death

A Civil War veteran will be laid to rest with full military honors Friday, 88 years after he died.

The cremated remains of Peter Knapp and his wife, Georgianna, sat in storage at a crematorium in Portland until a distant relative tracked them down.

Alice Knapp didn't start out looking for the remains. Instead, she was trying to track down a diary Peter Knapp kept during the war.

"I'm just floored at the attention this is getting. I'm very, in a sense, very humbled by the whole experience," she said. "All I wanted to do was get information and find the diaries."

Peter Knapp is the "third great-uncle" of her late husband, she said. The soldier began fighting for the Union during the Civil War and even spent months in a Confederate prison in Andersonville, GA.

After the war, he settled in Kelso and began operating sawmills. Peter Knapp died in 1924. His wife died a few years later. For reasons no one knows, their remains were never interred.

Alice Knapp, of Nehalem, has been researching the family's genealogy since the 1980s, an endeavor that's gotten easier thanks to the internet.

After a distant cousin, found online, mentioned Peter Knapp's diary, Alice Knapp's research led her to a crematorium where the remains were being held.

She said, "I just felt that, you know, if it was a relative of yours, if you suddenly discovered your relative was forgotten about at a mortuary somewhere, and had never been buried or no final arrangements made for them, wouldn't you want to bury them?"

The ceremony will be held April 13 at 3 p.m. in the Willamette National Cemetery.

Copyright KPTV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Upcoming Posts

Here are a couple of recent titles that have been sent along by publishers.

1) From Simon & Schuster comes the new book from Fergus M. Bordewich titled America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union. Read more about the book on the publishers website here. There is also a three minute video of the author briefly discussing the time frame.

2) From LSU Press comes Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri written by Aaron Astor. The publisher has a nice information page here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review--Testament to Union

Jacob, Kathryn Allamong and Edwin Harlan Remsberg. Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington D.C. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 1998. Index, listing of sources by monument, bibliography, b/w photos. 192 pages. ISBN 9780801890956, $25.

It is only fitting that a war that defined our country would be the home to many monuments and memorials commemorating said war. It is also only fitting that these monuments be honored and remembered in a volume that allows readers and historians to learn about them in one convenient location. Author Kathryn Jacob and photographer Edwin Remsberg have done justice to these men and women.

After a brief introduction the book is broken into 41 "chapters" each of which tells the story of an individual monument. These chapters are all brief, most being less than five pages. Each entry contains vital information such as location, the name of the sculptor, date erected, and medium. The text for each covers the history of the monument and may include information such as who commissioned and paid for it, symbolism that is incorporated, site selection, biographical information on the sculptor and more. Also included for each is a brief listing of sources for those interested in more information. Each monument receives at least one b/w photo and many have several. The book also includes three appendices: an alphabetical listing of sculptors and their monuments, an alphabetical listing of sculpture names, and a timeline of when sculptures were erected. As of the printing of this book the last sculpture was erected in 1998. It is the African-American Civil War Memorial.  Read more about the memorial and museum here.

Just a couple of minor quibbles here. I would really like to see the book updated to include GPS coordinates.  These are really a must now considering most cell phones are GPS equipped and the majority of travellers will at minimum have a GPS unit if not a smartphone. For me I also found the photos a bit inadequate. This is more a product of the printing and attempts to keep the price down and is no reflection on the photographer. Personally, I would like to see a companion volume with large color plates of the memorials. There is also no map that can help tie these sites together and make visiting several at a time more convenient. Maps are free for the asking just about anywhere in the D.C. area however.

These minor issues aside this is a must have for any Civil War historian who is visiting Washington D.C. Without this book there is little doubt travellers would miss the majority of these overlooked sites. For armchair tourists this is an excellent book as well. It can be read in short time frames and does not need to be read in any order. Much to the chagrin of my wife I will be taking this with us on our next visit to the nation's capital. Highly recommended!