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,
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

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.