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.

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.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Review-Grandfather Mountain: Images of America

Hardy, Michael C. Grandfather Mountain (Images of America). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2014. 128 pages. ISBN 9781467121040, $21.99.

If you have ever been to a historic location or been in a new bookstore you are most likely familiar with the Images of America series. These price friendly books can provide a quality reminder of a vacation while possibly adding to the visitor's knowledge of an area. They are a standard in many cities and unfortunately sometimes serve as the only book available.

It would seem possible that at some point the well would run dry on opportunities for this series. It hasn't yet though and veteran North Carolina writer Michael C. Hardy has recently published a volume on Grandfather Mountain, the nearly 6,000 feet high North Carolina mountain that is the highest peak in the eastern Blue Ridge Mountains.

Depending on your point of view Grandfather Mountain is a mountain, a state park, or a non-profit organization. Mr. Hardy does a good job covering these aspects in the limited amount of text he is given. Books in the Images series rely almost exclusively on photos and have limited text other than brief photo captions. Good captions are what can turn a plain book of photos into a worthwhile purchase. In Grandfather Mountain Mr. Hardy delivers the goods.

Chapters include: first photographs, famous faces, Grandfather Mountain from Afar, Grandfather Mountain's Winding Roads, Singing on the Mountain, Highland Games, State Park, Flora and Fauna and Visitors From Near and Far. Chapters are usually around 10-12 pages long and have many photos with in-depth captions.

Annual events such as Singing on the Mountain and the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games are looked forward to by many people each year. Singing on the Mountain has attracted some of the biggest names in music and religion including Johnny Cash and three generations of the Graham family. The highland games has grown from a single day event to one that now spans over four days of competition. Both events receive their own chapter and have plenty of interesting photos.

The story of the completion of the Blue Ridge Parkway through the property of Grandfather Mountain is well told photographically. Grandfather Mountain is home to an incredible and diverse variety of plants and wildlife. Come face to face with the famous bear, Mildred, in the pages of this book.

Far from telling the whole history of the Grandfather Mountain property and the men who have owned it this book is not trying to do that. It succeeds admirably in what it sets out to do which is to showcase, in photos, the beauty and history that is Grandfather Mountain. For those wanting more reading material on what appears to be a fascinating history there is a small bibliography included.

Highly recommended!

Please consider visiting Michael C. Hardy's website and ordering a signed copy direct from the author. Visit by clicking here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Book Review--Remembering North Carolina's Confederates

Hardy, Michael C. Remembering North Carolina's Confederates (NC) (Images of America) . Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2006. 128 pages. 9780738542970, $21.99.

Books in the Images of America series follow a fairly standard formula. 128 pages, they are jammed with b/w photos and have little text other than the photo captions. The quality of the photo captions is what sets the excellent apart from the just interesting. In Michael Hardy's book Remembering North Carolina's Confederates we have what can be called an excellent book. Captions don't just tell what the photo is but instead there is real and solid research behind them. It is obvious that service records, local histories, official records and more were consulted for the writing process.

Mr. Hardy has mined an impressive 19 sources for the photos used in this book. OK, one of the sources were his personally taken or owned photos but that is to be expected. The sources used vary tremendously and do not include the Library of Congress. If you want to see rare North Carolina Confederate photos from libraries and historical societies from across the state in addition to some from personal collections this is the place.

The book is broken up geographically which can be a help if you are looking for an ancestor. There is no index (not due to Mr. Hardy but rather the publisher's format) so this breakdown can save the casual reader time. Chapters include: the Mountains, Southern Piedmont and Foothills, Northern Piedmont, Coastal Plain, North Carolina's Tribute to Jefferson Davis and Out of State.

I could list many favorites but will let it go with just a chosen few that are special in my mind. First is the headstone for Josh Waggoner of Ashe County that proudly announces his Confederate service. The problem is his service record lists him as a deserter. Next is the headstone of Egbert Ross, buried in Charlotte. He died during the Battle of Gettysburg. His headstone reads like a standard definition of "good death": "Thus the soldier died calmly and bravely amid the storm of battle that raged around him. One of the purest patriots of the war." The story of Colonel John Randolph Lane is one of bravery and medical marvel. He was shot in the back of the head while rallying troops at Gettysburg. He lived until 1908 despite this potentially fatal wound. Finally, upon his death in 1930 Charles Stedman was the last remaining Congressman to have served in the Civil War. There is a wonderful photo of Major Stedman shaking hands with Isaac Sherwood. General Sherwood was the last member of the Union forces to serve in Congress.  You will no doubt find many others that will be your favorites!

With quality photo choices, excellent research and writing and a reasonable cover price this is a book that anybody with an interest in North Carolina Civil War history should own. If you are interested in little known Confederate photos this is also for you. While there are large number of modern photos they are of excellent quality and fit right in with the theme.  Genealogists working on North Carolina relatives who served in the Civil War should also give this a close look. Highly recommended.

I have posted the link to Amazon through the bibliographical information and the photo above. You might also consider contacting Mr. Hardy directly and buying a signed copy direct from the author. Please visit his website here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New Release: The Homefront in Civil War Missouri

Today's mail brought a copy of The Homefront in Civil War Missouri written by James W. Erwin. James W. Erwin is a Missouri native. He graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in mathematics. After service in the United States Army, he obtained an MA in history from the University of Missouri and a JD from the University of Missouri Law School. He practiced law in St. Louis for more than thirty-seven years.

From the publisher:  Over one thousand Civil War engagements were fought in Missouri, and the conflict could not be quarantined from civilian life. In the countryside, the wives and mothers of absent soldiers had to cope with marauders from both sides. Children saw their fathers and brothers beaten, hanged or shot. In the cities, a cheer for Jeff Davis could land a young boy in jail, and a letter to a sweetheart in the Confederate army could get a girl banished from the state. Women volunteered to care for the flood of wounded and sick soldiers. Slavery crumbled and created new opportunities for black men to serve in the Union army but left their families vulnerable to retaliation at home. The turbulence and bitterness of guerrilla war was everywhere.

The book is 124 pages with bibliography and index. There are no notes and during a quick look through I did not notice any maps. As with all History Press titles there are plenty of illustrations. This looks like it will be an interesting look at what it was like to live in a state with divided loyalties.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Review--Lincoln's Campaign Biographies

Horrocks, Thomas A. Lincoln's Campaign Biographies (Concise Lincoln Library) Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2014. 148 pages 106 pages of text, index, notes, selected bibliography, b/w illustrations. ISBN 9780809333318, $24.95.

The more things change the more they stay the same. In many ways this is a truism in political campaigns. While modern technology has dramatically changed the campaign trail, often times making image more important than substance, many things are still the same.

Modern Americans demand that their politicians be polished, rehearsed, and personally available. In Abraham Lincoln's time this was not the case. Lincoln could hardly be called polished and most active campaigning was done by supporters rather than the candidates themselves.
In four quick reading chapters and a conclusion author Thomas A. Horrocks outlines the history of politics and print and how the Lincoln campaigns played into this. Chapter one discusses the relationship between 19th century political campaigns and print sources. Newspapers and pamphlets were the leading way to get a message out about a candidate. Later came the growth of the campaign biography. Abraham Lincoln understood the value and importance of the press in getting elected.

Chapters two outlines the growth of the campaign biography and discusses the symbols and themes often associated with these biographies. The goal of a positive campaign biography was to combine the candidates life story and image with the purpose of introducing, promoting and convincing readers to vote. Some of the attributes covered in a campaign biography would be establishing a noble lineage, what was the role of parents, a discussion of the education and military experience the man had and finally a discussion about their civilian life and political career.

The campaign biographies of 1860 and 1864 are discussed in chapters three and four. Here Horrocks covers the major campaign biographies of the years and gives readers insight into how they worked to influence readers. In addition to covering pro-Lincoln works Horrocks discusses the anti-Lincoln works as well. 1864 biographies that were anti-Lincoln used the fear of racial equality as their major theme.

The book concludes with a discussion as to whether campaign biographies were truly a help to Abraham Lincoln. Horrocks believes they were most likely a help but that Lincoln was also helped tremendously by the split in the conservative Democrat party and also the inclusion of third party candidate John Bell.

Overall, I found this an enjoyable and easy read. All the books in the Concise Lincoln Library are worthy of a look especially considering the price. If you are looking to learn about Lincoln and a particular topic these are a great place to start. Low price, competent scholarship and solid documentation make this series a winner!                        

Friday, May 23, 2014

Controversial Savas Beatie Book Wins Award

Savas Beatie Title Wins 2014 Albert Castel Book Award
El Dorado Hills, CA May 23, 2014 - John Bell Hood:  The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General by Stephen M. Hood was selected as the 2014 winner of the Albert Castel Book Award.
The award is given biennially by the Kalamazoo Civil War Round Table to authors writing on the subject of the Civil War in the Western Theater.
According to reviewing members of the Kalamazoo CWRT: 
"The voluminous inclusion of citations to historical documents and other primary source material challenge previous interpretations of Hood's military actions. A look back at past author's interpretations of John Bell Hood's record reveals the biases, inventions, and myths that have darkly colored his Civil War reputation. This book refutes the aspersions of 'historians' to name Hood the sole cause of the loss of Atlanta, and failure at Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville." -Margean Gladysz
"Anyone who wants the true story of the fall of Atlanta and the Tennessee campaign needs to study this book."
-Graham Hollis
"Sam Hood makes a compelling case that Hood's reputation has been unjustifiably tarnished over the years by authors who have repeated half-truths and myths that are not supported by primary sources. Even people with little or no interest in Hood should read it as a cautionary tale that the things that 'everybody knows' are not always true." -Dave Jordan
"I knew we had a very special book from the moment I first read the manuscript, but all of us at Savas Beatie are thrilled and humbled that John Bell Hood won such a prestigious award," said Theodore P. Savas, the managing director for Savas Beatie. "We were always confident that anyone who actually took the time to read Stephen Hood's book, whether in reviewing it or for pleasure, would find it original, well-researched, and truly ground-breaking in what it exposes about the state of this slice of Civil War historiography. It surprises people, I think, when they find out Sam's work is not an argument that Hood was the overlooked Jackson or Lee," continued Savas. "It is about intellectual honesty and rigorous scholarship, and a cautionary tale about both. Anyone writing about General Hood or his tenure with the Army of Tennessee in the future who ignores this book and/or his recently discovered personal papers will do so at his peril."
John Bell Hood was one of the Confederacy's most enigmatic generals. He died at 48 after a brief illness in August of 1879, leaving behind the first draft of his memoirs Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies. Published posthumously the following year, the memoirs immediately became as controversial as their author. A careful and balanced examination of these "controversies," however, coupled with the recent discovery of Hood's personal papers (which were long considered lost) finally sets the record straight in John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General.
About Stephen M "Sam" Hood.: Stephen M. "Sam" Hood graduated from Kentucky Military Institute, Marshall University (BBA, 1976), and is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. A collateral descendant of General Hood, Sam is a retired industrial construction company owner, past member of the Board of Directors of the Blue Gray Education Society, and a past president of the Board of Directors of Confederate Memorial Hall Museum in New Orleans.  He lives in his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia, with his wife of 37 years, Martha, and is the proud father of two sons: Derek Hood of Lexington, Kentucky, and Taylor Hood of Huntington, West Virginia.
About Savas Beatie LLC: Savas Beatie LLC is a leading military and general history publishing company. Read more about John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Confederate General, including excerpts and an interview with the author.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

History Press New Release: Silver Spring and the Civil War

The History Press is pleased to announce the publication of Silver Spring and the Civil War by Robert E. Oshel, PhD.

On July 11, 1864, some residents cheered and others watched in horror as Confederate troops spread across the fields and orchards of Silver Spring, Maryland. Many fled to the capital while General Jubal Early’s troops ransacked their property. The estate of Lincoln’s postmaster general, Montgomery Blair, was burned, and his father’s home was used by Early as headquarters from which to launch an attack on Washington’s defenses. Yet the first Civil War casualty in Silver Spring came well before Early’s raid, when Union soldiers killed a prominent local farmer in 1862. This was life in the shadow of the Federal City. Drawing on contemporary accounts and memoirs, Dr. Robert E. Oshel tells the story of Silver Spring over the tumultuous course of the Civil War.

Oshel is the vice-president and past president of the Woodside Park Civic Association. He is the author of the association’s "Home Sites of Distinction: The History of Woodside Park." He is a member and past-chair of the Silver Spring Library Advisory Committee, and a member of the Friends of the Silver Spring Library. Dr. Oshel was also a founding member of the Silver Spring Historical Society. He writes a monthly history column for the Woodside Park Voice, and already has several local events lined up this spring.

Meet the author
Saturday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. @ Silver Spring Library (8901 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD)
Thursday, May 15, at 7:30 p.m. @ Long Branch Library, with Sligo-Branview Civic Association (8800 Garland Ave, Silver Spring, MD)
Saturday, June 7 from 2-4 p.m. @ Costco (Westfield Wheaton Shopping Mall, 11160 Veirs Mill Rd,Wheaton, MD)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Did the Florida Civil War Governor Commit Suicide or Not?

Dale Cox over at the Civil War Florida blog has posted what he considers evidence that Florida governor John Milton did not commit suicide. Read his full post here. This of course flies in the face of nearly 150 years of belief that Milton killed himself in the face of certain Union victory.

Cox's claim that Milton was dead before the fall of Richmond is true but of little importance in the debate in my opinion. It was clear by April 1, 1865 that the war was over for the Confederacy. It was only a formality and waiting for generals to surrender their armies. I would find it hard to believe that Milton thought the war effort would continue long. The inaccuracies in reporting can be explained away several ways. Perhaps editors didn't hear of this news until after the fall of Richmond and thus made an assumption (perhaps a logical one) that Milton killed himself after hearing the bad news. It is also possible that reports were written this way in order to sell newspapers. Journalistic sensationalism didn't start in the 20th century.

The Milton family has for years proclaimed John Milton's death to have been an accident. Their claim is that he was gathering his rifle to go bird hunting and when he accidently dropped it the rifle went off killing him instantly. This is certainly a plausible story and similar accidental shootings have happened hundreds of times since Milton's death.

As Cox shows in his post an article in a local Florida newspaper confirms the accidental death story. The story in the April 3, 1865 West Florida News says: A TRAGIC ACCIDENT!Gov. Milton has been killed by the accidental discharge of a gun. The Governor was in his home when he retrieved a shot gun in expectation of an expedition to shoot birds. The gun discharged and the Governor was killed.

For Cox this account and the oral history told by family confirm for him that the death was accidental and not suicide. He further bolsters his belief by stating that Milton could not have been buried St. Luke's Episcopal Church Cemetery had his death been by suicide.


Here are my issues with this theory. Family lore and oral history always have to be taken with a grain of salt. No family wants to have the stigma of suicide attached to them. This would particularly be true for a prominent family such as that of Milton. It would certainly be more honorable in the eyes of the family to proclaim that the death was an accident while preparing to go hunting. In addition, any concerns regarding where the governor could be buried would be set aside by proclaiming the shooting to be an accident. There appear to have been no other "witnesses" to this event other than Major William Milton, the son of John. His claim certainly should be questioned. My concern regarding the Florida newspaper article stems from the same concern. Was this a story planted by the family in order to save face? You can't brush aside the death of the governor of the state. It appears that no other news outlets picked up this accidental death story instead. Now of course newspapers in the Confederate states were nowhere near as common as those in the Union states. That COULD explain part of the fact that the accidental death story didn't take hold as opposed to the suicide story.

I don't think there will ever be a definitive answer on the death of John Milton. Supporters on both sides can point to evidence and make their case. What is known is that in the days leading up to the end of the war Florida governor John Milton died under what can be considered mysterious circumstances. For those who now study the war they will have to determine for themselves what they believe.

Some sites such as the NPS give the death of Milton little coverage and do not dip into the controversy. Ridgeway Body Murphee in his Ph.D. Dissertation, discussing the leadership of Milton and Joseph Brown of Georgia, covers the controversy slightly but does not take a definitive stand either way. An online tribute to Milton and some genealogical information can be found here. A search of online book sites does not turn up a biography of John Milton.

*I have tried to load a photo of John Milton but for some reason Blogger is not letting me add photos. Please click here to be taken to the Florida State Archives page and see a portrait of Milton.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Civil War: The Untold Story DVD Release

Narrated by Emmy® and Golden-Globe nominated actress
Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey)
DVD Debut on April 29, 2014 from Athena
Brand new documentary explores the battles that defined the Civil War;
Release coincides with its premiere on public television
“First rate…compelling” —James Lighthizer, President, Civil War Trust
“If Ken Burns thoroughly covered Gettysburg and Antietam in his landmark series,
Wheeler invites viewers to more thoughtfully consider Shiloh and Vicksburg.”Denver Post
 Silver Spring, MD –Providing new insights into the causes of the war, as told through the lens of the Western Campaign, the ground-breaking documentary Civil War: The Untold Story debuts on DVD on April 29, 2014 from Athena, an RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) brand. Narrated by Emmy® and Golden-Globe nominated actress Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey), the stunning 2013 production, set to air on PBS stations in Spring 2014, uses dramatic battle recreations, compelling archival imagery, 3-D maps, and insightful interviews with top Civil War scholars in this five-part series to show why the West played such a vital part in the outcome of the war. Focusing on the often overlooked battles of Vicksburg, Shiloh, Atlanta and more, the series also explores the issue of slavery and the surprising roles that African-Americans played in the conflict. The DVD 2-Disc set includes five episodes, plus rare archival footage from the 50-year anniversary of the Siege of Vicksburg (14 min.), and 12-page viewer’s guide (276 min., plus bonus, $49.99, AcornOnline.com).
In this revealing documentary from the award-winning producers of Life after Katrina, Homes of the Underground Railroad, How the West Was Lost, and many more, Elizabeth McGovern recounts how the struggle between North and South—long defined by battles like Gettysburg, Antietam, and Bull Run—was quite dependent on events in the lands then known as “the West.” Although often overlooked, the western theatre—between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River—saw some of the conflict’s bloodiest encounters, such as Shiloh, Vicksburg and Chickamauga. It featured iconic leaders like the Union’s Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman as well as the Confederacy’s Albert Sidney Johnston and John Bell Hood. This series also tells inspirational and untold stories of African Americans—from enslaved to emancipated, to fighting for their freedom.
Episodes: Bloody Shiloh; A Beacon of Hope; River of Death; Death Knell of the Confederacy; With Malice toward None
Bonus Features: Rare archival footage from the 50-year anniversary of the Siege of Vicksburg (14 min.); 12-page viewer’s guide with a map, a timeline, profiles of Westerners who played major roles in the conflict, and articles on African Americans fighting for their freedom and Texas in the Civil War
Street Date: April 29, 2014                                SRP: $49.99                  UPC: 0-54961-2234-9-7
DVD 2-Disc Set: 5 episodes – Approx. 276 min., plus bonus – Documentary - SDH Subtitles - Contains disturbing images
An RLJ Entertainment, Inc. brand (NASDAQ: RLJE), Athena releases provide an authoritative and entertaining learning experience through high quality, informative, non-fiction programming. Athena’s 2014 releases will include: Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey, Secrets of Ancient Egypt, The Science of Measurement, Talks About Nothing, The Story of Medicine, Civil War: The Untold Story, Theatreland, The Rise of the Nazi Party, Alexander’s Lost World and David Suchet: In The Footsteps of St. Paul. Athena DVD sets are available from select retailers, catalog companies, and direct from RLJ Entertainment at (888) 870-8047 or AcornOnline.com.

Preorder on Amazon here: Civil War: The Untold Story

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New History Press Title Deals with Perryville

Here's a new release from the History PressManey's Confederate Brigade at the Battle of Perryville (Civil War Sesquicentennial)

On October 8, 1862, forty thousand Union and Confederate soldiers clashed at Perryville, Kentucky, in the state’s largest Civil War battle. Of those who fought, none endured as much as the Tennessee and Georgia soldiers who composed Brigadier General George Maney’s brigade. The Confederate unit entered the fray to save other Southern regiments and, in doing so, experienced deadly resistance. Many of those involved called the brigade’s encounter the toughest of the Civil War, as several of Maney’s regiments suffered casualties of 50 percent or greater. Despite relentless fighting, the Confederates were unable to break the Union line, and the Bluegrass State remained in Federal control. Join Kentucky Historical Society’s Stuart W. Sanders as he chronicles Maney’s brigade in the Battle of Perryville.

Meet the author
June 1 at 2:00 p.m. @ Jack Jouett House (Versailles, KY)
 June 5 at 7 p.m. @ Hoosier Blue and Gray Civil War Round table (Mt. Auburn, IN)
July 8 at 7:30 p.m. @ Harrodsburg Historical Society (Harrodsburg, KY)
August 21 at 7 p.m. @ Oldham County Historical Society (LaGrange, KY)
Monday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m. @ Boyle County Genealogical Society at the Boyle County Library (Danville, KY)
Additional events TBA.