Wednesday, February 29, 2012

James H. Carleton, Ft. Tejon, and the California Column

I am always amazed when things just fall into place, and once again, the history gods have smiled on me!

The stern looking gentleman to the right is Brevet Major General James H. Carleton. He served in the U. S. Army during the Mexican American War, and then served in the 1st U. S. Dragoons, stationed at Fort Tejon (!!!!!!!!!!!!) in Lebec, California.

He did a lot of interesting things, including burying the remains of the Mormon Massacre victims from Mountain Meadows, in 1857.

I am interested in him because I am working on a post concerning the Battle of Picacho Peak. In 1861, Major Carleton raised the 1st California Volunteer Infantry in defense of the Union during the Civil War. He was appointed to the rank of Colonel for his efforts.

In October, 1861, Carleton replaced Brigadier General George Wright as Commander of the District of Southern California, and just over six months later he led the California Column across California, Arizona, New Mexico, and into Texas. When in Arizona, he fought the Battle of Picacho Peak--sort of.

A subordinate--Lieutenant James Barrett--was ordered to sweep the Picacho Peak area, but not to engage in any fighting if Confederates were sighted. Barrett took matters into his own hands, attacked a Confederate patrol with his twelve-man cavalry unit, and lost his life.

Even though this battle was small, it represents the high-water mark of the Confederacy in the West.

As I learn more about this skirmish, I will share it here. Learning to write military history is NOT an easy task, so I am starting with smaller engagements. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Battle of Picacho Pass

Or Picacho Peak--same battle. This small skirmish occurred on April 15, 1862, in the area surrounding beautiful Picacho Peak, about 50 miles northwest of Tucson. It was fought between a Union cavalry patrol from California and a group of Confederate pickets from Tucson. The Battle of Picacho Peak/Pass marks the very westernmost edge of any Civil War engagement.

This small battlefield looks NOTHING like Eastern battlefields. It is hot, dry, sparsely vegetated and red. The battlefields in the East are definitely green, but this one is red, from the hard-baked minerals in the Arizona desert.

The battle itself was small, involving about twenty-five soldiers in all, but the battle occurring there now is a lot larger.

Picacho Peak is yet another State Park on the "hit" list of important historical sites that will be closed due to a lack of funding. It is listed by the Civil War Preservation Trust as one of the ten historic battlefields most endangered by development or neglect. This park is slated to close June 3 due to state budget cuts.

There is a Presidential Primary in AZ tonight. There is also a measure on the ballot to increase vehicle license fees by about a $1.00 in order to keep this park open.

I certainly care more about Picacho Peak than about Romney or Santorum.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Driver

The Daytona 500 was rained out yesterday, and Monday morning as well. Luckily it is on now--night in Florida, a cold evening here in CA.

The NASCAR piece for ECW looks great, and is getting comments. Apparently that site is getting hit by haters, so leave nice comments! You don't have to agree, but don't be insulting.

Not that any fans of Colonel Ellsworth would EVER be anything other than Ladies & Gentlemen . . .

So--the handsome man on the right is "my" driver, Tony Stewart. He just happens to be a 3-time NASCAR Champion, but I've liked him always. He is a great driver, and an interesting man.

Hope he wins tonight!

P.S.--What a crazy night! What a crazy weekend! Fire, jet fuel, rain, delay after delay--I have never seen anything like this. Hope the season isn't .. . cursed!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

NASCAR & the Civil War

Today is the day! Daytona!!!

As a person who "worships at the church of NASCAR," the 3+ month break between the end of the last racing season and the beginning of the next is a very long time.

But, today begins the real season--Speedweeks not withstanding--and I will be putting up my NASCAR flag in a few moments.

Sometimes it is embarrassing to be a NASCAR fan, especially when a colleague wants to challenge its very place in sports. I have learned to take the higher path and ignore such nonsense.

NASCAR is just plain FUN, and I love it! I also love the Civil War, for many of the same reasons. So, I talked the kind folks at into letting me write a post about the connections between stock car racing and the War Between the States.

The post will be up tomorrow! I worked hard on it (I work hard on all of them, and this blog, too), so I expect you "fans" to take a look at it. Some interesting stuff, especially concerning the casting of To Appomattox.

Gotta go put up the flag--Drive it like ya stole it, Tony!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

History Cat is Happy

Teh Catmom is home.

She was gone for yeers, maybee minuts--I am not shur. Kittehs not good at time.

She smelld funny, but like teh Catmom anyway. No other kittehs on her.

I ben sleepin on teh book.

I mist her. I am purren lowd now!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Confederate Statue in Alexandria

The gentleman above is nicknamed "Appomattox," and he stands in the center of downtown Old Alexandria. When I say the center, I mean he is right in the middle of the intersection of Washington and Prince Streets.

He marks the location where units from Alexandria left to join the Confederate Army on May 24, 1861. He is facing South, the direction toward many of the battlefields upon which his comrades fell during the War Between the States. His back to the North.

The names of those Alexandrians who died in service for the South are inscribed at the base of the statue. In 1900, the name James W. Jackson was added to the east side of the base.

Jackson was the proprietor of the Marshall House, and he killed Colonel Elmer Ellsworth on the morning of May 24, 1861. He was almost instantly killed by Corporal Francis Brownell.

Nowhere is Ellsworth mentioned--on the statue (I get that) or on the plaque where the Marshall House stood.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Magical History Tour #1 Almost Over :-(

No, I did NOT buy a stand-up cardboard Elmer Ellsworth! But I would if I could have!

We get on the plane this morning at 10 ish, me with pounds of notes, some new books, and a sad heart. This was a great experience, for certain. I now know much more than I did, about so many different things--not the least of which is that you always take the front cab in the line.

Not only did I make some good contacts, I learned how to set things up for next time by calling ahead and asking to see specific artifacts and sources. I now know I will need a writing day every third day, at least, to keep up with new information.

All this will come in handy for the second iteration of the Magical History Tour. I am thinking it will have to be Chicago or upstate New York, although I don't know when. I have done OK money-wise on this one, but it still is expensive.

I'm pretty happy, that's for sure--but I will be sorry to leave such nice people & interesting places. Nice to be going home, though. I know a little black and white kitty who will be glad to see her catmom--I missed you, History Cat!

Elmer Ellspeep! OMG!! More Magical History Tour!!

I really though this was MY idea last year, but apparently I have been co-opted. The Washington Post has an annual Spring contest involving Peeps, called the Peep Show. The idea is that dioramas are sent in to the Post using peeps to portray artistic, literary, and historic events.

It has been going on for years, so google it up and prepare to laugh until you cry!

Last year the Alexandria Archeological Museum sent in their entry, seen right, in part. This beautiful interpretation of the Death of Ellspeep is exactly what it looks like---

Elmer Ellsworth---------

in Peeps!

Red kepi and all!!

This is the third day in a row I have been reduced to tears!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Magical History Tour Continues!

A day to remember! Went to Fort Ward this morning, and walked their trail. The weather is perfect here this week! When we went into the Museum--it was yesterday all over again--tears and tissues! EE's red kepi is there, and locks of his hair--Civil Wargasm indeed!!

The most interesting artifact, however, was a child's chair. It belonged to James Jackson, and I have never seen a photo of it anywhere--so I inquired about it. Seems it is on loan from the Daughters of the Confederacy, which is a notoriously difficult group to get permission from for anything. I have to seek their permission to photograph the chair!

I sneaked a snapshot of it, but it is all behind glass and reflects the windows on the opposite wall. Now I have one more thing to add to my to-do list.

The folks at the Fort Ward Museum were terrific! I stood around and talked Ellsworth for over an hour with historian Walton Owen and a lovely fellow at the cash register. It could have gone on much longer, but my patient friend Bree finally stepped forward & said, "We have to go!" So we went. The picture to the right was taken from Seminary Ridge, at Fort Ward.

The cab driver that drove us back to Old Town Alexandria didn't hold back a bit telling us the Ellsworth story from the Confederate point of view. He even drove us by the statue of the Confederate soldier in downtown Alexandria--the one with his arms folded . . . and his back to the North!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Amazing Painting

The painting to the right is Alonzo Chappel's Death of Ellsworth. I took the picture, because I SAW IT!!!!! I have seen several images of this painting at lots of Internet sites, but seeing the real painting is amazing.

Chappel is best known for his images of the Revolutionary War. He painted this scene based on the descriptions of Ned House, a reporter for the New York Tribune, who was there. In fact, that's House, behind Ellsworth.

The way the painting is designed is very interesting, with the two rifles crossing in the center of the painting. The only two faces copied from life are Colonel Ellsworth's and Francis Brownell's. The others are in shadow or--Jackson--turned away from the viewer.

The light is carefully controlled, guiding your eye into and through the painting, letting the story emerge.

OMG!!! I'm here in Alexandria, saw the Ellsworth exhibit, cried like a baby--and now I'm an art critic!

I sit amazed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Favorite Restaurant in Alexandria

Made it! I am now officially in Ellsworth territory!!!

The plane trip was just fine, and Dulles was OK, but the shuttle from the airport to the hotel was BRUTAL!!!

All right, not Mud March brutal, but long and nauseating.

Once Bree & I checked in, we collapsed. It was only 4 PM CA time, but we had been up since 4:30, so . . .

The gentleman at the front desk told us about an historic eatery called the Royal. It has been in it's current location since 1904, and is walking distance from the hotel. We had dinner there tonight (see above) and are still basking in the afterglow of crab cakes, and sweet potato fries. Ah! The Magical History Tour is off to an excellent start.

For those miscreants who are reading this blog & thinking I am not home, and it would be a good time to rob me--FORGET ABOUT IT! A friend who knows where I keep the gun is staying there to watch the house. And there's Mary CATherine!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

History Cat Hacks Again

Catmom es gone to warzone, leavin' kitteh alone.

Just chekin' updates on Civil War Times.

Catmom's skripshun is ok.

I es in charge!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

A World on Fire

So, I was sorting around the library (mine) looking for a book to take with me to DC/Alexandria, and I realized I had bought a copy of Amanda Foreman's rather massive tome, A World on Fire.

I took it into the bedroom, where the serious reading gets done, and started in on it. What a good book! Written by a British historian, it is about how our war affected Europe in general and England in particular. Nice!

I have been hacking away at it for several days now, enjoying myself immensely, when I realized I had never solved the original problem--what to take with me to read on my trip. A World on Fire, which took Foreman a few years to write, has nearly 1,000 pages! Probably not the best choice for light travel reading--eeek!

So, back at it again tonight. I have a couple of issues of Civil War Times to catch up on, so I will take them for sure. Robert called early this morning to tell me Adam Goodheart was going to be on NPR, but that got pushed to tomorrow. Still, it made me think.

I got it!

I am going to take Goodheart's 1861 and read that again! I can share passages with Bree (best friend since high school!!!) and revel in Ellsworthian anecdotes. Perfect!

And it doesn't weigh a zillion pounds . . .

Thursday, February 16, 2012

NASCAR and the Civil War

A while ago I sat down and began a list of topics I was interested in writing about for Emerging Civil War. Those folks have been kind and very supportive, and I enjoy writing for them, so I didn't want to run out of ideas.

The list included something about NASCAR and the Civil War. I am a serious NASCAR fan--I should admit that right up front--and hoped I could find a tie-in.

So far so good! Amazingly, this is a topic covered in some form in most of the CW blogs, and there is stuff on line that is . . . well, I don't want to give it away, but suffice it to say that there is more to this than one would initially think.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Almost Alexandria!

I will be leaving for the 1st Magical History Tour next Monday at 8:00AM, from San Francisco! I can hardly wait.

I hate flying, but I am guessing I will be in a serious Ellsworthian haze, so it won't be bad. We are staying in Alexandria instead of DC, because I think the general neighborhood will be safer, and it was cheaper.

Here's the plan:
* The Ellsworth Exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery
* Ford's Theater, where there is some Ellsworth stuff, I hear
* Alexandria for the site of the Marshall House
* Fort Ward, because there are Ellsworth artifacts there as well
* My friend, Bree, wants to see the Arboretum

If anyone--ANYONE!--has ideas, suggestions, or wants to say hello while I am there (2/20-24), please let me know. Leave a Response here, or email me. Sometimes the site is hinky with Responses--they disappear, or aren't shown on the main page, but I get notified by email if one has been posted. I can read it from there. (Anyone who knows how to fix this, let me know as well!)

History Cat doesn't know I will be gone, so shhhhhhhhh! Don't tell her!

Back to packing lists . . .

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have To Laugh

The middle school where I work sells carnations all week long the week before Valentine's Day. The deal is that, for $1.50, you can have a flower delivered on February 14 to a classmate. It can be done anonymously, or not--your choice.

This little fundraiser raises more than money--it raises expectations!

Who gets a flower? Who gets a bunch of flowers? Who got a bear added to the flowers? (That happens when someone drops off a gift in the office & asks that it be delivered last period.)

Today students were just crazy! The love was everywhere--EVERYWHERE, I tell you! By 8th period, well--it was interesting, to say the least.

Then, just as with every high point, comes the crash & burn part. Some folks didn't get flowers! Hearts were visibly broken--boys as well as girls. I went through more than just a few tissues in my classroom after school.

Poor little things--eleven is too early to be starting this.

Should I tell them it never gets any better?

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Favorite Civil War Valentine

I wish these were evenly sized, but I am not sure how to do that, and when I upgraded my computer, I realized I had to upgrade the printer driver in order to print the smaller one, enlarge it, then scan it--and I haven't done that--so there you go!

In my research for the ECW post about Valentine's Day during the Civil War, I found this gem. It is a tent, with flaps that open to show the image of a poor, lonely soldier writing to his sweetheart.

Her image is hovering above him, in a cloud-like dream. Aw!!! I thought it was very touching, and since it didn't exactly get used in, I thought I'd show it here.

BTW, the bloc for ECW will be up tomorrow, with lots of good information about this most romantic of holidays. Check it out, in between the roses, chocolates, champagne, and cards.

Or . . . just check it out.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Elmer Ellsworth Wrote the Book of Love, Part 2

Ellsworth put a great deal of work into the pages he drew for his sweetheart. He was an accomplished amateur artist, and he used every talent he had to decorate this going-away gift.

On one page, across from a CDV of Carrie, he wrote, in his most artistic script, these words:
When you look upon these lines, dear Carrie, may they remind you of the fond heart, filled with high hopes and bright anticipations of your future, whose prayers . . . nightly ascend to Heaven . . .

Remember, dear Carrie, that your future usefulness, perhaps happiness--depends entirely upon the disposal of your time during the ensuing two years. As you dispose of this most precious time, so will you prove the extent of your affection for one whose whole happiness is centered in the hope of your future excellence.

Pompous? Amusing? Loving? All of the above.

And typical Ellsworth, always looking for improvement, always looking forward to a future filled with love, happiness, and satisfaction.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Elmer Ellsworth Writes the Book of Love, Part 1

Elmer Ellsworth fell in love with a lovely young woman named Carrie Spafford. Her father thought she was too young, at age 16, to be seriously involved with anyone, much less an impecunious young man with a doubtful future.

The decision was made to send Miss Spafford off to school in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, hoping the enforced absence would bring an end to the mutual infatuation.

Heartsick at the thought of his loss, but determined to prove himself worthy in the eyes of both Carrie and her father, Elmer Ellsworth purchased a beautiful album from one of Chicago's finer stationery stores. It still exists, and is in the Chicago Historical Society.

The cover is plain, but inside there is an engraving by the Sartain Publishing Company, one of the finest in Philadelphia, which says Album of Love. It is the sort of book in which a young lady might ask a friend to write some sort of tender sentiments, and then to sign her name.

Ellsworth put his own twist on this little book.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Better Get Started on Your Civil War Valentines!

Attention Reenactors! You know how your loved ones and significant others give you that "look" on a regular basis? The look that basically says, "It's me or the Civil War!"

Yeah, that one! And it gets even worse as you pause to think about your answer.

This year, present those you love with an authentic "fake" Civil War Valentine!! The image to the right is a Love Knot Valentine, and many were created and exchanged during the War Between the States.

A Love Knot was drawn on paper, and consisted of graceful, heart-shaped loops. On the loops were written love messages which could be read by turning the knot around and around. The most clever were those poems that could be started at any point and continued in any direction.

This Love Knot says: The Knot of Love which has no end to let you know my love is true and that to none alive but vow. So be my wife and live with me as long as love shall granted be and I shall ever faithful prove of thee alone my own love sweetest of creatures to thee I send.

I am certain the poem can be rewritten to meet individual needs--maybe her name could be included (hint, hint!). I am equally certain that this lovely, thoughtful, non-farbish Valentine will smooth over any hurt feelings brought on by having to attend an event this coming weekend.

Do it! You'll thank me later!!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

General Lee's Violets and Spring

Dear Annie,

It is very warm here, if that is news, and as an evidence I enclose some violets I plucked in the yard of a deserted house I occupy.

I wish I could see you and give them in person . . .

Good-bye, my precious child. Give much love to everybody, and believe me,

Your affectionate father,
R. E. Lee

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fort Tejon's 2nd California Infantry Garrison

Last weekend was the annual meeting of the 2nd California Infantry group at Fort Tejon, in Lebec, California.

I have written several times about this pretty little landmark, and have determined to do all I can to help save it.

The picture is of the soldiers and officers of the 2nd, who worked on their impression all weekend, along with a supportive group of civilians, including two blacksmiths and a carpenter.

Volunteers for this particular program come from all over the state: San Diego, Riverside, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, Camarillo, and Santa Maria. They also come from out of state: Arizona, Mississippi, and Arkansas!

In between the drilling, volunteers do specified work on buildings that are on the property, under the direction of a State Ranger. Captain Gardiner's House is completely inhabitable now, instead of just being a static museum where plexiglass panels separate visitors from the rooms. The Barracks is where the men bunk for the weekend. I remember when it was just a broken down pile of timbers.

These people have worked so hard to hold on to history. That sites such as this one--historically important to California--should get closed because of money is heartbreaking.

Where is a History SuperPac when one is needed?

(Thanks to Karina Mooradian for the picture and specifics.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!

Every single one of the men and women we read about, from the lowest Irish immigrant family to the occupants of the finest plantation house in the South, from New York City's elite to the sodbusters in Bloody Kansas. Washington, D. C., Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and New Orleans--all had read or heard of Mr. Dickens. Happy Birthday, good sir!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Battle of the Crater--finally up!

After a small kerfluffle, the book review for Battle of the Crater is up. Read it on, and let folks know what you think.

I saw Red Tails over the weekend, after seeing Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard on CNN. Both actors talked about the importance of the movie, comparing it to Glory. I thought about that for a long time, and thought about it again as I watched the film. There is a statement at the beginning of the movie saying something to the effect that black soldiers aren't very good troops. The statement is dated 1925.

I was shocked, if not surprised, that even in 1925, this argument was still being made. Had the 28th gone on to cut the Jerusalem Plank Road, opening the way for the Army of the Potomac to enter Richmond, ending the war almost a year earlier, would the argument still hold water?

Can't we all just get along?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

War Chicken!

I first read about General Lee's chicken in a science fiction book. I can't remember the title, but the female lead dreams General Lee's dreams. It was both weird and cool.

I sort of mentally filed the information away, hoping it would come in handy sometime. The time is February, I think, on

One of the sources, a book purported to be by General Lee's cook and former slave, is written in dialect. Perhaps he dictated it. It is strange, and I am wondering if quoting from it is racist. I am uneasy about it, so maybe I will ask for some opinions.

The hen was real. Her name was Nellie Hen, and she was mostly black. The chicken around today that is close to what she may have looked like is a Black Star. Black Stars are a crossbred chicken, so not a relative. Apparently they are good egg layers, as was Miss Nellie Hen.

I find it amazing that a chicken could travel with the Army of Northern Virginia for over two years. She was, indeed, a true War Chicken

Friday, February 3, 2012

Battle of the Crater is Up

The man to the right is Colonel Pleasants, whose Pennsylvania troops besieging Petersburg came up with the idea of digging a tunnel under "Fort Pegram," and exploding it.

The story is interesting, certainly. What is most compelling is the USCT's 28th, which was trained as the leading division of the charge set to begin just as the dynamite began to blow.

At the last moment, there was a change in the order of battle, and chaos was the result.

I know this, in part, because I read Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen's book, The Battle of the Crater. I even reviewed it, for It is up right now, so click on over and read it. Please.

I am getting very concerned. I have said nice things about both Bill O'Reilly and Newt Gingrich lately. Strange. Very strange.

I don't think it indicates a trend, however. At least I hope not.

War Chickens this weekend!

PS--Battle of the Crater WAS up, but had a technical difficulty--the grand fellows at ECW are coaching me, and my screw-up--er--technical difficulty, will be overcome, I am sure. Meanwhile, check them out anyway--Caity Stuart (I think that is how her last name is spelled) has a picture of the 54th MA monument, and a pertinent SuperBowl analogy. Huzzah!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

War Kittehs Hack Blog!!

History Cat hax Catmom'z 'puter!
War Horsez?
War Chikenz?
Wer is War Kittehs?
If kittehs in da Civil War, it be over fast.
Kittehs not so good at forsed marchen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

War Horse? War Chicken!!

Sheridan's Winchester--

Jackson's Little Sorrel--

Lee's Traveller--

Meade's Old Baldy--

War Horses all!! Brave, true, fearless under fire--

But wait!! These equine heroes, although famous in their own rights, bear little to challenge . . .


Tomorrow, War Chicken, in all her glory, will once again grace these pages.

It's gonna be clucking awesome!