Saturday, December 31, 2011


The envelope says, "Portrait of the 'Southern Gentleman' who objected to Ellsworth's Zouaves coming into Virginia because they didn't belong to the 'First Families.' "

I found this piece of ephemera while on patrol on the Internet, and laughed out loud. That's LOL, for some of you.

I am guessing that it is referring to the Federal occupation of Alexandria in May, 1861. That didn't turn out so well for Ellsworth, either.

James Jackson, who shot our Colonel, was not an FFer either. Sorry, Virginia. Neither were most of the young men in the various Confederate armies then forming.

Was spilled blood somehow more blue, and therefore worth more, if it came from a neo-aristo? I think not. That world, with all its silly pretensions, went away when the War came. Perhaps the blood was more equally distributed as it sank into Virginia soil, or was diluted and mixed by the water in Virginia creeks and rivers.

It was noted that the next year's growth in places where a battle had been fought or an Army had camped was more green and lush than ever before. Fertilizer is made up of many things. I suppose blood, bodies, and "night soil" are as good as chemicals.

Still, all that loss . . . and each soldier loved by someone, FF or not.

Please follow this blog in 2012. The book is finished with its second rewrite (almost--one chapter left). The second year of the War is upon us, take or give 150 other years, and I am looking forward to everything!

This December First Fallen topped 900 hits, which doesn't sound like much to many, I know--but each month it has built steadily, and for that I am glad. Happiest of New Years to you all!

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Bravest of the Brave"

After yesterday's post concerning the Black Horse Cavalry and a Confederate soldier designated "the bravest of the brave," I couldn't help but hearken back to my Napoleonic/French Rev days.

The gentleman to the right is the original "Bravest of the Brave," Michel Ney, Marshall of France under the Emperor Napoleon.

Ney was not highly born, so chose to go into the French Revolutionary Army, where he fought with such distinction that he was asked to remain in the Army after 1804. He continued to serve, becoming one of the elite. A "Marshall" was the highest one could go in the Napoleonic Army structure.

He, of course, served in the ill-fated invasion of Russia, and because he was so concerned with getting his men out as safely and quickly as possible, he stayed in Russia a bit too long. He almost got captured, and was on the run for weeks, trying to catch up with Napoleon.

Napoleon had assumed he had lost Ney--his own version of Jackson, his right hand. Then--Ney showed up! He was the last man in the Army to leave Russia, and his General was brought to tears to see him.

For this, Napoleon bestowed upon him the sobriquet "The Bravest of the Brave--le Braves des Braves.

When Napoleon was forced to abdicate, Ney stayed in the Army, biding his time until the Hundred Days. With Napoleon's return, he once more served the General he loved. When that attempt failed, Napoleon was sent into exile.

Michel Ney--having served France for 28 years, fought and commanded in over 100 engagements, and received many wounds--was executed by the stinking, elitist running dog Bourbons.

He was given the "honor" of being able to command at his own execution. and he stood in front of the firing squad, not blindfolded, but facing the guns with his eyes open, and gave the final command of his life, "Fire," whereupon he fell for the last time, finally dying for France.

Thus the origin of the expression, "Bravest of the Brave."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Myth of the Black Horse Cavalry--Pt. 5

To end this little set of blogs about the Black Horse Cavalry, I thought about trying to be positive about the whole thing. In truth, I probably would not have liked these fellows much. They were avowed white supremacists, fighting to uphold a way of life I think I would have despised.

That being said, the Black Horse Cavalry believed in what they fought for, and were there from First Bull Run to Appomattox. The above painting/print is by noted Civil War artist Mort Kunstler, and is called "Bravest of the Brave." It was presented to the public in 1999. It shows the BHC at Warrentown, VA on February 22, 1863.

They are escorting General Lee past the lovely Warrentown Courthouse, which has been replaced several times since 1863, but always from the original plans. It looks today much as it did back then. Sergeant Robert Edward Martin, the second rider from the right, is silhouetted against the light in the window of the courthouse.

Robert Martin was one of three Martin brothers serving in the BHC, and the two Martin sisters married BHC members. Robert was presented with a fine rifle, a gift of an admiring Englishman, as being the bravest man in Lee's Army. He thus became the "Bravest of the Brave."

Based on the knowledge that the BHC was in Warrentown during the winter of 1862-62 and constantly on patrol, Kunstler checked with James Robertson, Jr., distinguished alumni Professor at Virginia Tech for a suitable date. Robertson confirmed that there was a snowfall on February 22, 1863. The snow provides the lovely moonlight reflections that make this such a stunning piece of work.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Myth of the Black Horse Cavalry--Pt. 4

And, as promised, here is another drawing--this time the title is "Charge of the Black Horse Cavalry Upon the Fire Zouaves At the Battle of Bull Run."

Same scene, completely different interpretation.

Here is what IS known: A small part of the 11th New York and all of Reynold's Marines, who were to the left of Ricketts's Battery on Henry Hill, were fired on by Arthur Cumming's 33rd Virginia. The fire was sudden and intense, and the Marines broke ranks and fled back down Henry Hill, followed by the Zouaves. They ran to the Sudley Road cut for protection.

There was no protection to be had. Just as the Marines and the men of the 11th NY reached the cut, 150 mounted Confederates, under the command of JEB Stuart, reached the road as well. The Zouaves initially managed to establish a firing line and got off at least one shot, referred to as a "sheet of flame" in some sources.

What happened next was terrible. According to Edwin Barrett and W. W. Blackford, both members of Stuart's Cavalry:

I could see horses rearing, sabres glistening, and revolvers flashing. . . . I leaned down in the saddle, rammed the muzzle of my carbine into the stomach of my man and pulled the trigger . . . blowing a hole as big as my arm clear through him."

The "pet lambs" were indeed slaughtered.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Black Horse Cavalry #3

To the left is a drawing (Waud) entitled "The Ellsworth Zouaves Routing the Black Horse Cavalry." This is somewhat perplexing, as this is not exactly what happened.

The phrase Black Horse Cavalry was sometimes applied to the entire Confederate Cavalry, especially at the time of First Bull Run.

The cavalry which is pictured here was, in actuality, J. E. B. Stuart's 1st Virginia Cavalry. This was the cavalry that the Fire Zouaves encountered near Ricketts' Battery in July.

The picture is especially interesting as it indicates that the Cavalry was routed by the Zouaves. In the terrible melee that was First Bull Run, it is difficult to say just who routed whom. Much as I want to say the Zouaves won the day, it just is not true.

Tomorrow I will have a picture of the same event, from the opposite point of view. The contrast is very interesting. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas To All

Off to Mom's. Sort of a frontal assault, I suppose. One has to do these things, and my sister says it will be fun.

It is the trip south I dread. Sort of like Sherman's March To the Sea, only Meg's March To the Desert. The Civil War provides very few desert metaphors, alas.

I asked Santa for a book cradle, but I am thinking he doesn't get much call for those any more. I have a very cool dictionary stand, but several of my antiquarian resources need a desktop book cradle.

I will be taking all my Bull Run books with me, and a miserable autobiography of Ronald Reagan that I am supposed to read for my History Book Club. (Robert, if you are reading this, no offense)

I should be back Monday. Until then, please reread my posts so the stats won't fall off. I missed 800 by 5 last month. It's the right thing to do, I will greatly appreciate it, and so will Mom.

Anyone want another cup of eggnog?

The Black Horse Cavalry, Pt. 2

The gentleman in the picture is Private William Payne, a charter member of the 1859 Black Horse Cavalry militia unit. Mr. Payne is the author of a yet-unpublished manuscript which contains a roster of members of the Black Horse.

In addition to the list of names, he includes a short paragraph about how the Black Horse got its name. Nope! It was NOT because they all rode black horses, which seemed to be the obvious reason. Read on!

The purposes of the organization were well understood and the question was to give it a proper name. I well remember the conversations between Major Scott and myself. The first idea was that we were descendants of cavaliers. The company was to be a cavalry troop. I do remember that I called the Major’s attention to the fact that the first standard borne by our tribe, the Saxons, when they landed under Hengist and Horsa at Thanit, was the banner of the white horse. It was agreed therefore that a horse especially typical and representative of Virginia should be adopted. We were all extreme pro-slavery men, but the Major in addition, was in favor of opening the African slave trade and he suggested that the horse should be black, and hence the troop was named the Black Horse Troop.

I am deeply indebted to Harry Smeltzer, who writes the blog "Bull Runnings" for this quote. Excellent historian that he is, he is still on the lookout for more proof of sources--so if you can help . . .

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wounded Warrior Project

It's the most wonderful time of the year for most of us as we celebrate and gather with friends and family. But for some, it's a lonely time.

The season can often be difficult for service members--being far away from loved ones, lying in a hospital bed suffering from permanent battlefield wounds, and reflecting on the loss of brothers in arms weighs heavy on a warrior during the holidays.

As we go about our celebrations, the heroic servicemen and women who paid such a high price to protect our freedom are facing uncertain futures and long roads to recovery. Truly, there's no better time to show your appreciation than right now.

Your warm wishes will mean so much to these warriors and lift their spirits. Service members in hospital beds and those spending their first holiday at home since experiencing a life-altering war injury will know you appreciate their sacrifices.

Thank you for taking just a moment to honor wounded service members. On behalf of the entire WWP family, I extend best wishes for a joyful holiday to you and your family.

'Tis the season for caring!
Steven nardizzi, signature
Steven Nardizzi
Executive Director
Wounded Warrior Project

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Eleven Rebels Yelling!

Tomorrow (12/21/11), will be running a post I enjoyed writing very much. If all works correctly, there should be working links to other sites, as well.

I first spoke about this project in my post "Not Billy Idol's Rebel Yell." The post got a lot of hits, so I stole my own name for the ECW post. The entire project is very interesting.

It combines the best of today's technology with the best of history, restoring wax cylinders and doing all sorts of digital magic to make one old guy sound like a thousand young guys. Amazing!!

All my life I have been told, and read, that the real Rebel Yell was an unsolved mystery. Now that is no longer true.

We live in interesting times.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Myth of the Black Horse Cavalry--Pt. 1

One image that comes up again and again in my reading about First Bull Run and the New York Fire Zouaves is that they--the Zouaves--were routed by "Stuart's Black Horse Cavalry."

I did some digging, and found out much more about this literally mythical group of horsemen.

Well, maybe not entirely mythical, but certainly different than portrayed in several sources, including letters and diaries of the Fire Zouaves themselves.

The Black Horse was initially formed in Faucquier County, VA, in 1859. It was an idependent volunteer cavalry company--a mounted militia.

It was made up of young (and probably some not-so-young) men from the oldest, richest, most established families in the county, which is in the heart of Virginia's horse country. These knights gained their equestrian skills while fox hunting, and participating in actual "jousting tournaments" held in Faucquier Springs.

The Black Horse was mustered into the service of the Commonwealth of Virginia in May, of 1861. Therein, it became Company H of the 4th Virginia Cavalry. The 4th Virginia was an elite group, made up of companies from Prince William, Chesterfield, Madison, Culpepper, Powhatan, Goochland, Hanover, Warren, and Buckingham counties--tidewater counties all, and wealthy enough to support these fine sons of Virginia in style.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Havelocks For All!

If you have ever seen a movie about the French Foreign Legion or something going on in Africa--like a war--then you have seen a havelock.

It is a piece of cotton or linen fabric attached to a soldier's headgear that protects the back of the neck from sunburn. It is named for the sun-sensitive British officer who invented them.

Havelocks were not Union issue in 1861, or ever. But, someone decided they were necessary at the beginning of the War, and loyal Union women got together to make them in great numbers for Union soldiers.

Apparently, long-haired Southern boys didn't need them, or no one thought to make them, but they were a Union phenomenon, certainly.

Only problem was--the soldiers hated them! Except for the Fire Zouaves, who wore them proudly. As firefighters, they probably understood the comfort a wet cloth can give to the back of one's neck, plus they had, initially, shaved their heads.

So, here is a drawing of loyal Union women cranking out havelocks in 1861. I remember, as a loyal Union woman, doing just exactly the same thing for the beginning of the 125th CW celebrations, and I am going to assume that another generation of loyal Union women did the same thing last spring, for their brave reenactors.

With probably the same results--no one wore them, except the Fire Zouaves.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A "Donnybrook" Christmas For Me

To the left is another image of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, in full dress uniform. He only commanded his regiment in camp, and during the occupation of Alexandria on May 24, 1861.

This is not much to base a military career on. It is sometimes a topic of conversation, however. It is said that General Robert E. Lee, upon hearing of Ellsworth's death, expressed regret and evidenced confidence in what might have been EE's future on the field.

Would he have been kept near D. C., as "Lincoln's Pet General?" Would he have been ordered to serve on McClellan's staff? Would he have stayed a Colonel with his regiment after First Bull Run?

My work this Christmas vacation is to pour over books and maps about Bull Run, and try to find out just what went on with the 11th New York, Ellsworth's men. What was left of his imprint to hold the units together? Or did everything just fall apart?

I think it is important not to end the book with Ellsworth's death. His legacy was the Fire Zouaves, the 11th New York. Anyone who has an opinion, please Comment.

Looks like a good Christmas for me.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sign the Petition

Millions of Acres of Land You Own Are at Risk: Sign the Petition

Hello Meg,

Congressman John Garamendi represents California’s 10th Congressional District and serves on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands. That's right. Even if you don't own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many other natural treasures.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress, led by California Representative Kevin McCarthy, want to take 60 million acres away from you, including more than four million acres in California. That’s why I’m writing to you to ask you to sign the petition to stop this destructive legislation.

A critical vote is coming up in the House Natural Resources Committee, which is why it’s important that your voice is heard now.

Pristine lands that can be used to camp, hike, hunt, and fish will be given to oil, timber, and mining special interests to despoil without proper review if we don’t stop them from passing H.R. 1581, the so-called Wilderness and Roadless Release Act.

As a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, I’m doing all I can to stop the Committee from passing this legislation. Mining, logging and drilling are already allowed on more than half of our national forests and other public lands. This bill would open up almost all remaining public lands with insufficient oversight. Our drinking water will be put at risk, and billions of dollars in recreational commerce could be threatened.

Please, sign the petition asking Congress to stop H.R. 1581. These lands are deeded to future generations. We must stop the well-connected special interests committed to seizing them. When we tear down lands we borrow from our grandchildren, getting them back is nearly impossible.

Thank you for your commitment to our public lands.

Congressman John Garamendi

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fort Tejon In the Snow

The picture above is a view of the restored Barracks building at California's Fort Tejon, looking from up the hill east toward Highway 5, not visible.

This is just one of the restored buildings at the Fort, and inside it is detailed to look as if the Dragoons have just left in response to a morning bugle call. Hundreds of thousands of dollars and work hours have gone into restoring and recreating this one building, and it is not the only one. There are several more buildings, including the quarters of the Commanding Officer.

The split rail fences mark the locations of other structures and important areas, and there are plans to, slowly and accurately, restore the entire Fort.

Unfortunately, this state-owned property is one of many on the economic chopping block. No matter what one's politics, the financial mess our house is in is not the fault of any one person. No one is sitting anywhere--Sacramento or Washington--chortling with glee as American History goes swirling down the drain.

Please go to the website for the FTHA (Fort Tejon Historical Association) to see what YOU can do for this historic site. California's Civil War past may consist of sending soldiers who had been garrisoned in the West back to the East to both fight and command in their respective armies, but this pretty little place was part of that, and deserves better.

Occupy Fort Tejon, anyone?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Heard the Bells

The picture to the right is the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and his friend, Charles Sumner. Sumner was a politician, a senator from Massachusetts, and an ardent abolitionist. Now you know.

You now--well, in a second or so--know that the post concerning the origin and the missing stanzas of the Christmas carol "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day" is up on

Give it a read--and the italics are even there! (They fall out regularly when things get transferred, alas).

1863 was not Longfellow's merriest Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Secret, Guilty Pleasures

Just look at that face!!! Those gentle eyes, that sensitive mouth...

Okay, I admit it. Young Mr. Ellsworth is quite a handsome man, and that being said--one of my secret, guilty pleasures is a website called My Daguerrotype Boyfriend, "where early photography meets extreme hotness."

You never know who you will meet there! There are Civil Warriors aplenty, but one of Lincoln's assassins is also pictured, manacles and all.

Teddy Roosevelt has two appearances, and even a young Ernest Hemingway is included, although technically not "of the period." I am guessing the creator of the blog was overcome by his "extreme hotness."

For some reason, Elmer Ellsworth is not on the site!! I submitted the picture on the left, but have not heard back yet.

The more I look at CDVs and daguerrotypes, the less attractive men today look. I mean--how stupid is a baseball cap worn backward? Unless, of course, that is the position you play on the team.

Extreme hotness indeed!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Museum of the Confederacy

Being pretty much a Yankee, sometimes I find Confederate history daunting. I read the political arguments, and they just don't make sense to me. I even get irritated with Thomas Jefferson.

That being said, I have been hard at work on a post concerning the Rebel Yell. I posted here about finding a video clip, from the Smithsonian, of a bunch of old soldiers giving the Rebel Yell at a reunion. It sounded more like a series of barks than an actual yell.

A while ago, with much less information than what was on the Smithsonian video, the Museum of the Confederacy did some research. With only two authentic recordings, they used technology to create the voices of over a thousand men yelling that yell, and by God--it did sound just as eerie and strange as had been described by suddenly-nervous Yankees.

If you go to the MoC website (, you can get the CD they made of this effect. It is well done, and very convincing. Their historians must have been ecstatic when the Smithsonian video came out, verifying all their research and effort.

Confederate reenactors have been using the CD at their "School of the Soldier" gatherings to teach the authentic Rebel Yell, and it is easy to imagine the increase in magic moments when this wild war whoop comes over the hill at you, followed immediately by lines of butternut and grey, bayonets at the ready. EEEK!

The CD would make a great gift for the Secesh on your list--just sayin'

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Trudging Along

I have no complaints, except the numbness of my hands on a cold morning!

I added in the information about Lt. Edward Knox to the appropriate chapter in First Fallen last night, and the chapter is better for it. I hope chapters don't all have to be the same length, because mine aren't.

Here is the update on the book: totally written!!! First draft is done on everything. The last chapter on Lincoln was done a week or so ago, and it is sitting there, waiting for its rewrite, which I am not ready to do, yet.

Christmas Break starts the 17th for me, and I got the Maps of Bull Run book a while ago. I will spend break working on what happened to the New York Fire Zouaves at First Bull Run, and hopefully get my battle information done correctly. I don't think it is bad now--I just know it could be better. Once that is finished, it will conclude the second rewrite!!!!

Then, 2012 will commence the part where I tie all the chapters into a cohesive whole. Right now, they are stand-alone pieces, so I have to make a book of it all. Then I am thinking one last time, and--TA DA!! 90,000 words later it is a book.

Anyone know any publishers??

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Taft in 2012

Well, who knew? I was just checking Twitter, looking for tweets from the Washington Post, Emerging Civil War, and other assorted Civil War related stuff, and I ran into Ward Hill Lamon.

I have no real idea who the person behind WHL is, but I am more than happy to play along with all the political and historical personages on Twitter, including God and Sockington.

So, WHL is suddenly endorsing Taft in 2012. There is a youtube video and everything!! Check it out at

I'm thinking---he may be the man!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lieutenant Edward Knox

The man to the left with the facial hair is Lieutenant Edward Knox. He was an officer in the NY Fire Zouaves, and was waiting at the wharf with Colonel Noah Farnham, while Ellsworth and members of Company A, along with several other men, went to cut the telegraph wires in downtown Alexandria on May 24, 1861.

On their way to the telegraph office, Colonel Ellsworth looked up toward the flag flying over the Marshall House, just as they passed it. "That flag must come down, Boys!" declaimed Ellsworth.

He sent a member of Company A back to the wharf to bring up a group of men as quickly as possible, with the idea in mind that they, not he, would remove the flag. Just as the soldier rounded the corner for the wharf, Ellsworth changed his mind.

He entered the Marshall House, removed the flag, and was shot dead for his efforts. Moments after the double shooting of Ellsworth and Jackson, Knox and his men arrived at the hotel. Quietly, Knox was informed of the situation.

I ascended the stairs. Stepping over the body of Jackson, who still lay where he had fallen, I entered the room where all that was mortal of my beloved friend and commander lay silent in death. I will not attempt to describe my emotions while gazing on that sad scene. I could scarcely credit my own senses. There lay one whom I had seen only a few minutes before, full of life and the vigor of early manhood, cut down without a moment's warning by the hand of the assassin. His face wore a very natural expression and, excepting its pallor, his countenance looked the same as in life.

Knox, as an officer of the Fire Zouaves, fought in the Battle of First Bull Run, charging the enemy, "with a wild, wild yell, three cheers, and a loud, fierce cry of 'Remember Ellsworth!.'"

After Bull Run, Edward Knox was among the officers who resigned after Ellsworth's death in order to return to New York and organize the 44th New York, known as the "People's Ellsworth Regiment," or "Ellsworth's Avengers."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Longfellow and Christmas Bells

I hope everyone enjoyed the post on Emerging Civil War about Nast's Santa Claus. I enjoyed doing it.

The next offering will be the story of how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "Christmas Bells," became the Christmas carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." The story is interesting, and the two missing stanzas about the Civil War from the original poem are included.

I just applied to APU for entrance to their Military History Masters program. I am not sure just when I graduated from college, as I worked full time and got my teaching credential, too. I hope they will figure it out. Yes, it is expensive, but nowhere near some other programs, and they offer s specialization in the Civil War, which is what I want.

Truth be told, I can't even think of retiring. I am going to have to die at a desk somewhere, and if I can't teach in Middle School or High School, there is the college system. Maybe I can get a gig there. I love teaching, so it is no big deal, but this economy cuts one's options right down to the bone! 1837 all over again, except it may go on for years.

Wish me luck!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Panic of 1837, Part 4

How does this happen? The most hit posting of this entire blog is---Panic of 1837--Part 3.

Will somebody just tell me why??

It is easier to understand that I have a fairly respectable fan following in Russia than it is to understand why people give a rat's tail about the third installment in a series of posts explaining why I do not think Colonel Elmer Ellsworth's father was "impoverished," by anyone's standards.

Just in case it is not a punk, I have found another cartoon about the above-mentioned Panic. It seems as relevant today as then--just substitute a Lexus for the pony trap and an old minivan for the wagon . . .

Thomas Nast Invents Santa Claus

The post about Thomas Nast and his Santa images is up on!! I know you were ALL waiting for it. After a weekend of Dead Lincoln, this even cheered me up.

The picture above is Mr. Kevin Rawlings, who is the nation's foremost interpreter of Nast's Santa Claus.

Check it all out--fa la la la la, finally!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

the Civil War Trust

The Civil War Trust is a topic to which I shall refer several times this month. After all, Christmas is a time of giving!

Go to their website to see ALL the details, but suffice it to say that, for the next five years (and long after that, of course . . .) the Sesquicentennial will focus more attention on the War Between the States than there has been in the last twenty-five years.

Each time I go to the site, they get better. At first, it was difficult to figure out how to give a donation in someone else's name. Now, just go to "Give An Acre," and it is all laid out for you. The entry level gift is just $25.00, which is even cheaper than bees at Heifer.

They will send a beautiful e-mail card to whomever you wish to donate for, and the recipient even gets a year's worth of their magazine, Hallowed Ground. And about Hallowed Ground . . . they have an editor who is reaching out to the historians who blog and write for Emerging Civil War, so you just might see a certain writer in its pages some time soon. Or not. Hoping!!

There is more, but I will save it for a later post. Here is a hint: "What's in YOUR knapsack?"

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lincoln's Funeral

I am working on the last chapter of First Fallen. I guess it ought to be called "Last Fallen," but it is just Chapter 15. It is the second of the flanking chapters, the first being the East Room after Ellsworth's funeral. This chapter is the East Room after Lincoln's funeral.

Lincoln lay in state for three days, then a day or so more in the Rotunda of the Capitol. After that, the famous Inaugural Train Ride was recreated, but backward, until Lincoln had returned to Springfield, where he was buried.

The hearse to the right was the first used in the series of ceremonies. It took the casket from the White House to the Capitol, and was drawn by six white horses. I found it interesting that Lincoln had to be re-embalmed several times from the time to his death to his final burial, or one of his final burials. He has been dug up at least once and reburied.

Oddly, Mrs. Lincoln did not attend any of the funeral services for her husband. She stayed in her bedroom, grief-stricken, for days. The Johnsons despaired of getting her out of the White House so they could move in. Not happy times for anyone, alas.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Battlefields in the Snow

I am going to be working this weekend on a longer submission for emerging civil that involves gift giving.

For several years I have given donations to causes I thought worthy and fit in with the interests of friends, instead of giving a wrapped present. Sometimes it seems there is nothing one can give to another adult that has much meaning, so . . . that has been my solution.

This year I decided to donate to the Civil War Trust. I am trying to figure out how to do this, as they don't make it easy. There are no cards to print out on the computer, nor any smaller donations for entry level givers (or for those who have a lot of people to remember).

I will be working out my "issues" this weekend, and will share my solutions here, as well as in a much more complete version for ECW.

We have GOT to do something! Even the Edgar Allen Poe group is losing funding in Baltimore, and it only seems to be getting worse. The 99% can't do it all, but sometimes we seem to be the only ones trying to save our history, and our heritage.

The picture to the right is a photograph by Brian Knight ,and is called "Last Snow at Manassas." You can buy this, and other lovely prints at his website:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

May Your Days Be Merry & Bright

This probably isn't the cheeriest picture to begin December with, but for many soldiers, this was Christmas. The image is by Edwin Forbes, a sketch artist for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.

Forbes was attached to the Army of the Potomac in 1861, at the age of 22, and was one of the few artists who covered the entire war.

At least the guy in the picture is alive, and looks fairly well. Elmer Ellsworth was dead by this time, as were many others, of course. I think I have said before that I am so glad there is now DNA typing. I ache to think of the folks back home who never, ever knew what happened to their soldier. How truly heartbreaking that must have been for so many.

Christmas is coming, however--time to think happier thoughts! My next post for emergingcivil should be up soon. It is about Thomas Nast's first two Santa Claus images for Harper's Weekly. Many think his "Santa Claus In Camp" was the first depiction of Santa for Harper's, but he did one about a week earlier. It was titled "Christmas Eve, 1862." Santa is in that one as well, although not the main character. Be sure to check it out! Ho! Ho! Huzzah!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Snowfall at Chancellorsville

This beautiful image was taken by Kristopher White, and first published on It is so lovely, and reminds me of poems. The holidays are coming, and I can hardly wait. I am looking forward to writing about Christmas and New Years Day for both First Fallen and ECW.

The problem of living singly and holidays is that there are a lot of expectations of "togetherness" that just don't get fulfilled. Writing about lonely men and women who managed to make it through to another year helps with that, and I intend to make some sort of positive contribution.

I know I don't always post about battles, or tactics, or weapons. Others do that so well! I try to look at the Civil War differently--studying the silly, perhaps insignificant things that never make the big, Pulitzer-winning books, but are the things that make our heroes more human, and thus more able to be known as the men and women they were, as opposed to just a statistic.

I look forward to this December's journey!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Robert E. Lee's chicken

Lots of odds & ends in this post--catching up!

In the spirit of the holidays, I am looking for topics that are a touch more lighthearted than casualty statistics. It's cold, and no one hates a mud march of sadness and bitter results at Christmas more than I do.

So, I am researching Robert E. Lee's chicken. Apparently she was a hen, and laid an egg for him every morning under his cot. I know this is hardly the stuff of which great history is made, but it makes the Marble Man more real, at least in my opinion.

I have been very gratified at the response to my post about Fort Tejon, especially from out-of-state. It has gotten more hits than any other post (followed closely by the elusive Panic of 1837!!) and more comments.

If anyone has a picture of the Fort with snow, I'd love to have it. I plan on doing another post soon, and would like to use it. It is the least I could do for a place that was pretty good to me. Several folks have written to say that they have contacted CA legislators.

If there are any teachers out there in CA who have visited the fort, it might be nice to have your students write to the State government as well. When I taught 5th grade, I used to have my kids write letters to the soldiers so we would have some real "mail" at "fake mail call."

The book is going well. The second rewrite is almost done--very close, in fact. The next thing is to put the individual chapters together as a unified whole, and hope I haven't used the same quote in two different chapters, etc. So far no one has offered to read for me, so I keep reading to my cat.

The picture is a Black Star hen. I think the entire idea of back-breeding animals is fascinating. More on that later, but I wanted an image of a hen as close to one from the 1860s as possible. This is an older breed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Driving by Fort Tejon

On the way south to visit Mom--that is Southern California, not the Confederacy--I drive by a wonderful place that is very important to the Civil War history of California. Fort Tejon was established in 1854, and was a Dragoon post intended to guard Tejon Pass and control local Native Americans. In 1858, it also became a station on the Butterfield Stage overland route.

It was a small fort, 225 men, I think, at most. There were camels, but not for long. By 1861 it was evacuated, and its men sent to Los Angeles because of the Civil War. It was regarrisoned in 1863 by California volunteers, but by 1864, it was again vacant.

For nearly 30 years now it has been a Civil War re-enactment site, but this may end. It is on California's list of probable park closures. This would be just terrible. The Fort, through the efforts of their volunteer organization, the FTHA, has done everything it can to comply with requests of the State, and to enhance the programs at the Fort for the California school children and citizens who come every year.

One thinks of saving battlefields in the East, and that is surely necessary, but there is a lonely, lovely little fort in the Tehachapi Mountains that needs help as well. The link below is to the Fort Tejon Historical Association website, where there is more information on how to help save this landmark. Please click the link, and think about doing something. Please?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Not to interfere with the economic recovery . . .

On September 28, 1789, just before leaving for recess, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the President of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a "Day of Publick Thanksgivin" - the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution.

Subsequent presidents issued Thanksgiving Proclamations, but the dates and even months of the celebrations varied. It wasn't until President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.

In 1939, however, the last Thursday in November fell on the last day of the month. Concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen the economic recovery, (how familiar does this sound???) President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November.

As a result of the proclamation, 32 states issued similar proclamations while 16 states refused to accept the change and proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November. For two years two days were celebrated as Thanksgiving - the President and part of the nation celebrated it on the second to last Thursday in November, while the rest of the country celebrated it the following week.

To end the confusion, Congress decided to set a fixed-date for the holiday.

On October 6, 1941, the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day. The Senate, however, amended the resolution (as usual--need to put their 2 ¢ in!!!) establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday, which would take into account those years when November has five Thursdays.

The House agreed to the amendment, (imagine that!!!) and President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, thus establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More turkey!!

Well, the day is almost upon us. I will be driving to SoCal during most of actual Thanksgiving to visit Mom. It is a loooong drive, and I will be very thankful if there is little traffic.

We only have two days of school this week (budgets cuts!) so tomorrow is the last day. I plan to read Gary Hines' Thanksgiving in the White House to my math classes, even though my students are "too old" for the book. I think they will like it anyway!

I promised my principal that I would write up a blurb about the Lincoln Turkey Pardon to read over the loud speaker in the morning announcements, so that is to be done after this blog. I am thankful I work with such wonderful, creative, and supportive folks at my job. I have worked in other places that were not nearly so emotionally nourishing, so I know how important it is. They are all pulling for success for First Fallen.

The remaining chapters that have not gotten the second rewrite are Ellsworth's death--because I hate that chapter--and First Bull Run, which is not easy for me. I got a new book, however: The Maps of First Bull Run, by Bradley M. Gottfried. I am also going to mine the vaults of a great blog--"Bull Runnings"--to see what is there on the New York Fire Zouaves. It should be better than ever with this new information.

Enjoy the cartoon. There is more there than meets the eye, actually. And be sure to check on Wednesday, for the true story of the famous Turkey Pardon. Good things are happening at ECW. I know I feel very thankful for them!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Lincoln Turkey Pardon

The Presidential Turkey Pardon is scheduled at the White House for Wednesday, November 23. I may try to find it on C-SPAN, or CNN, or something. Probably not FOX, I'm thinking.

A lot of Presidents have pardoned the ol' gobbler, but just as many have chosen not to. I have no idea if there is turkey waterboarding, or a turkey version of Gitmo. I don't even know how Dick Cheney feels about all this.

I do know that Abraham Lincoln was the first President to pardon a turkey. Tad pleaded, successfully, for the sparing of his pet turkey, Jack. The President even signed the pardon. It is a pretty interesting story, and if you are a parent or teacher who is reading this, I'd like to recommend a picture book--Thanksgiving In the White House, by Gary Hines. It is a good read-aloud, and true as well.

I'd also like to recommend They will be publishing my longer, in-depth analysis of this pivotal Civil War event, hopefully on Wednesday, November 23. The whole Lincoln-Thanksgiving connection is very interesting, actually. It probably won the War.

I am working on the images for this blog, and some have been more successful than others. The current iteration is "Winter at Gettysburg." Let me know what you think. Please!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

curiouser and curiouser

OK, I admit it--I check the stats of this blog pretty regularly. Is anyone reading it? I rarely get comments, so maybe I am not very provocative. I have a dedicated fan or two (you know who you are!!) and I love to hear from you, but this blogging deal is tricksy.

When I go to all-time favorite posts, two very strange entries continue to be top-rated: "The Panic of 1837, Part 3," and "The Erie Canal Changes Everything." One other, "Tired," gets constant hits as well.

Really? These are not my best writing, for sure, and they are tangential to the main topic of the blog--Elmer Ellsworth--but they stay at the top of the list each time. I wonder. I thought the topics were fascinating, but I am a history wonk.

To write biography is very demanding, and I have had to learn so much about so many things just to better understand the world in which my subject grew up and lived in.

But only Part 3? How is it better than the other two? And the Erie Canal? Railroads had pretty much taken over by the time of the Civil War, except for local commerce in upstate New York.

"Tired??" Now that post is just me complaining about having too much to do one summer day. I even got a personal email from a friend who told me not to whine on the blog, but to be positive and informative. I took his advice, but "Tired" still gets hits--who knows why???

Well, it is what it is. I am loving this blog, and even go back and read older things myself. One of my favorite parts of the blog are the illustrations. The one above is a shot of Fall leaves, but not just any leaves. These particular leaves are in Mechanicville, New York, home town of the late Colonel Elmer Ellsworth!!

So there! <3

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is Thanksgiving Northern or Southern?

I never thought of Thanksgiving as either Northern or Southern, exactly. I know Plimoth is in Massachusetts, but I also know about George Washington's declaration of a day of national thanksgiving, and he was Virginian.

I especially know about Abraham Lincoln's proclamation of the 4th Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, in 1863. I thought that meant everyone, but apparently somewhere along the line (Mason-Dixon, probably) Thanksgiving got to be known as a Yankee holiday.

I find this confusing. Our family turkey was always stuffed with a cornbread and sage stuffing. The gravy was made with turkey giblets (don't ask), and we had a sweet potato casserole of some sort. The rolls were soft and white, with butter, and someone brought Ambrosia, a Confederate fruit salad if there ever was one. There were pickled things like gherkins, small onions, and bread-and-butter pickles.

What I loved best was the crab apples. They were canned in large jars, and looked beautiful, red and cinnamony. I know there were cinnamon sticks in the jars, and maybe red hots, or simple syrup flavored with red hots, or cinnamon oil and red food coloring. They were what we had instead of cranberries, and they were wonderful!

The desserts were, of course, pie. We had two kinds--pumpkin and pecan. The whipped cream always had bourbon in it.

Looking back over this list, I fail to see a Yankee footprint anywhere. Did southerners just do a southern version of someone else's feast? I hope not. The addition of oyster casserole and cranberries only makes everything just that much more memorable.

Did anyone bring the green bean casserole?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Sad Fall in Upstate New York

The image to the right is the grave marker of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth. It wasn't there 150 years ago--in fact, it took several years until one was purchased and put up.

This is how the cemetery looked last Fall, before the graveyard was cleaned up and decorated for the 150th anniversary memorial activities, which were covered by local, state, and national news.

Fall is a season of change, and for many it is a sad, sort of melancholy time. Imagine a year or more into the Civil War, and not knowing if the man you sent to the Army was dead or alive. No ID chips, no GPS, no DNA--just a lot of unidentified dead guys who hoped for, who deserved more.

Even this neglected graveyard is better than that.

My latest post for is about Condolence Letters, the ones sent from friends and commanders to those left at home, informing them of their soldier's fate. It will be up tomorrow, November 16.

Read it, please. Read it and be thankful that, in this twenty-first century season of thanks, there will be fewer and fewer unknown soldiers. Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sometimes I worry about myself . . .

I thought the picture above appropriate, alas!

I am now a writer for the outstanding blog site, Emerging Civil War. As such, I get "special privileges" such as access to their parent web host, WordPress. I am supposed to submit my articles there, along with a variety of illustrations I think might be appropriate.

Well, that is where the privileges get really special. I can get to the site, I can find my page, I can download my stuff, I can download images--and that is where it stops. I can't figure out how to get my post to the blog without accidently publishing it. Plus, the pictures all show up, and I have no idea how to edit them.

I have asked the great folks who run ecw, and they have sent me email after email, all of which I print out and follow, but where they lead me is nowhere. I am feeling like Lee at Gettysburg without Stuart.

Anyway, something should be up at ecw this week. It is about letters of condolence, and is sad and touching, I hope.

In the meantime, send help!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Ellsworths Reply to Lincoln

I am working on a new piece for It is about condolence letters, their uniformity, and purpose. I found a lovely little book printed in 1916 that contains Lincoln's condolence letter to Ellsworth's parents.

I am using the letter as part of the article, but there is more to the story of that particular letter. A few weeks after receiving the letter from the White House, Mr. Ellsworth replied to Lincoln.

I think the text of that short letter is worth printing here, small grammar errors and all:

It would be useless for us to describe our feelings upon the receipt of the sad news of Elmers death. Although the blow was severe, how severe God only knows, yet through his goodness and mercy we are enabled to say 'thy will not ours be done' The sympathy of all true Christians, and lovers of that country in whose defense he perished has done much to assuage the intensity of our grief We sincerely believe that God has removed him from a life of strife to one of eternal peace.

He was indeed toward us all you represented him, kind loving and dutiful. Our present comfort and future happiness always seemed uppermost in his mind. But he is gone and the recollections of his goodness alone is left us. We trust he did not die in vain, but that his death will advance the cause in which he was engaged.

With these few words accept our most grateful thanks for your kindness to and interest you have shown in our beloved son May it never repent you.

We would always be pleased to hear from you.

Gracious, as always.

Friday, November 11, 2011

no matter what war

We should never forget our men and women who serve. It is popular to be anti-war, I know. I don't advocate war for its own sake, but it has always been with us, and probably always will be. Whether you hail from a country with professional standing armies, or one that depends on volunteers to step forward when the time comes, soldiers, sailers, marines, air corps members, all serve. They do what many of us cannot, and their legacy is our continued freedom.

Flanders Field can just as easily easily be Yorktown, Gettysburg or Baghdad. Enjoy the poem, and remember, not just today, but every day.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not Billy Idol's Rebel Yell!

The painting above is by Roberta Wesley, and is called "Rebel Yell." I chose it for a very specific reason--I thought it nicely illustrated the topic below.

I was digging around in that gold mine--the Internet--and found something that is just endearing and enduring. The Smithsonian, which has been a huge supporter of the 150th, and of Colonel Ellsworth, has put a film segment on the web. Here is the address:

It is an amazing clip from a Confederate Veteran's reunion, and in it the vets are asked to give the Rebel Yell one last time. I have read much about that yell, and even from men who are pretty advanced in years, it comes through loud and clear. It is high, eerie, and chilling. It is now much easier to image what it would have been like to hear that sound from thousands of Rebel throats as they charged. This one is priceless. Check it out.

Of course, Yankee that I am, I immediately thought of the many contrasts made between the yell and the Northern "manly huzzah." Then I thought about the phrase "manly huzzah." It went downhill after that.

If there was a team of male strippers who made house calls in breakaway blue and butternut, the name chosen for the Yank would have to be Manley Huzzah. Any suggestions for the Reb?

Forgive me. Sometimes the fit comes, and I am helpless in its grasp.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hiram's Honor

The latest thing I have done for is a book review of Dr. Max Terman's Hiram's Honor, a fictionalized account of his relative Hiram's Civil War experiences.

It's pretty good, and amazing in that it is not taken from diaries or letters, but from government documents and Hiram Terman's war record. It is a good read, and is now in both paperback and hardbound. It is also in e-book format.

Anyway--that's the latest. I had a funny thing happen with it. I was eating lunch in the teacher's lounge, and one of our teachers was showing off her students' book reports. I had printed a copy of the blog, including the graphics and had it with me in my teacher bag (we all have them--really!)

I took it out and, in my best student voice, said, "Will you look at MY book report?" She told me I was being silly, that grown-ups didn't write book reports. I assured her that I had, indeed, written one. She looked at me, and I sort of pushed it at her. Everyone laughed.

Hmmmm-it was funnier at school. Lots of things are.

Check out the book report.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Veteran's Day

November 11 is Veteran's Day, and although the Boys in Blue & the Boys in Gray aren't here to thank any more, there are plenty of men and women who are currently serving or have served in the past.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum has a pretty good idea. They have taken images of Illinois soldiers from the Civil War and created postcards from them.

Beginning on 11/11 and ending on 12/7, the "Boys In Blue" postcards will be available at the Museum. For the paltry donation of $1, a visitor can purchase a card and write a message on it for a currently-serving Illinois soldier.

The postcards will then be mailed to 3 Illinois units currently serving in Afghanistan--the 1-14 Agribusiness Development Team, the 1644th Transportation Company, and the 661 Engineers.

This event complements an exhibit I would love to see: the Presidential Library's "Letters To Soldiers" holiday tree showcasing the beautifully crafted and emotional letters written to and from Illinois soldiers during the Civil War. I cannot but hope something is there from Elmer to Carrie, or Carrie to Elmer. They were such sweethearts!

The link for more information is
or just google up the ALPLM. And thank a service member.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How Tintypes Are Made

When researching history of the nineteenth century, there are, thankfully, photographic images of a lot of things that it would be next to impossible to imagine.

Thankfully as well, the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War has brought a ton of wonderful historical resources together on the Internet. What a treasure trove!!! I am daily blown away by what I find. How did historians ever work before they had computers?

On Twitter, I Follow civilwarphoto, which is from the Center for Civil War Photography. They have so many great images--I even got my official cwp 3-D glasses to look at stuff they have digitalized into three dimensional images. (so kewl!)

They had a link up tonight to the following:, which is a short (less than 4 minutes) film by the George Eastman House on how tintypes are made.
OMG!! Not only is the music sweet, the film itself is simple and very accessible. The Comments which follow are interesting, as are the Suggestions in the right-hand column. You gotta see this!!!

And of course, the picture tonight is a tintype of my favorite soldier--in rarely seen civilian attire. Remembering Ellsworth is much easier with images such as this one available.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Other Famous Ellsworths

It had to happen--it was inevitable. Someone asked me just how many things were named in honor of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, and I got to digging . . .

May I present Ellsworth, the pet mynah of Disney's Goofy? This particular image of Ellsworth was drawn in 1949, and shows a mynah that looks suspiciously like a crow. Nevertheless, the bird was created as Goofy's pet and appeared in a variety of Sunday Funnies world-wide.

Usually he wears clothes, a red-orange shirt and a beret, and he had a "Y" on his shirt in early incarnations, for "Yarvard," his alma mater.

He is sarcastic and supercilious, and his catchphrase is a warning, "Let's not, shall we?" He isn't seen very often any more, but he is, indeed, an Ellsworth.

Next time someone asks me to look up random information, I think I shall quote the bird. "Let's not, shall we?"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dick Cheney at Appomattox?

I am always both surprised and awed at where the Civil War shows up. It is such a touchstone for our lives. Even politicians can be identified with labels from the War. Copperheads, wanting to bring down the government, Fire-eaters making a lot of noise without much substance--it goes on and on.

I thought this worth sharing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Henry Clay Didn't Do It!!

In researching First Fallen, I read several interesting books about being a man in the nineteenth century--sort of proto Iron John stuff. The whole "Self-Made Man" idea started then, and was an important part of nineteenth-century male identity, especially for those hard-working, money-grubbing Yankees, such as--oh!--Abraham Lincoln, for instance. And Elmer Ellsworth.

Basically, it involves leaving family money and identity behind and going one's own way, creating an identity based solely on personal achievements.

Henry Clay is credited with coining the phrase, "self-made man," in a speech made before the Senate on February 2, 1832. "In Kentucky, almost every manufactory known to me, is in the hands of enterprising and self-made men, who have acquired whatever wealth they possess by patient and diligent labor." The OED even claims this to be the first use of the term.

However, in further study, I found an article by a gentleman, SubtropicBob, who disputes this. He googled that great online research tool, and found a print article--a letter signed by a Professor Newman--about Roger Sherman, Declaration signer and . . . self made man! Professor Newman claimed that Sherman rose from humble beginnings, etc. And--he wrote this letter to the Delaware Advertiser on October 9, 1828, predating the Clay quote by 5 years.

Who cares? SubtropicBob and I. I have changed my References and Endnotes, as well as the text of First Fallen, to reflect this new information.

It never hurts to keep researching.

Monday, October 31, 2011

They like me--they really like me!!

I waited until formally announced this, but I have been invited to become a regular writer for their blog. Well, it's more than a blog--it is a series of articles, interviews, and photographs that combine to give a new look at an old war.

There are Battles & Leaders aplenty for those who like that approach, and Billy Yank & Johnny Reb remembrances as well, but there is more. Somehow these historians have managed to combine academic rigor with poetry, rainy, soft focus reminiscences with sword-edged battle analyses, and they have graciously opened their door to me.

Apparently no one was put off by embalming, zombies, weird old Eleazar Paine, or the measles! Huzzah!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Civil War Zombie Apocalypse!!!

October 31st!!!


Be Afraid--Be Very Afraid!!!