2011 Civil War Travelogue, Part 3

Welcome to my 2011 travelogue page, commemorating the first year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial! This is Part 3 of 2011. Go to Part 1 (includes an index of all the 2011 trips). Go to Part 2. Go to Part 4. Go to Part 5.

Here is a reminder about the reason I write these pages the way I do. They record my experiences and impressions of Civil War trips primarily for my future use. Thus, they sometimes make assumptions about things I already know and focus on insights that I receive. They are not general-purpose descriptions for people unfamiliar with the Civil War, although I do link to various Wikipedia articles throughout. Apologies about the quality of interior photographs—I don't take fancy cameras with big flashes to these events. If you would like to be notified of new travelogues, connect to me via Facebook.

Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, June 26–30

Sunday, June 26

This is my third annual Civil War Institute (and my twelfth visit to Gettysburg) since 2004. I had soured a bit on the experience because I felt there was too much dead time in the agenda and the student accommodations were really pretty uncomfortable. (They also scheduled a series of themes in 2007–10 that I found uninteresting.) I returned this year because the new director, Peter Carmichael, assured me that they were working on tightening the agenda and adding more material. I also decided to live off campus, selecting the Quality Inn at General Lee's Headquarters (check out their cute URL!), which is actually very close to the campus as the crow flies.

The Sunday program did not start until the afternoon, so in the morning I was able to go running. Peter Carmichael had invited me to run with him on a few occasions in the past, but we never made the connection until now. We met at his house and ran a few laps around the Gettysburg Country Club, which is land that was just recently acquired for preservation, a great 95-acre addition to the national park that covered some very significant actions on July 1. I will have to say that this was one of the most unattractive golf courses I have ever encountered, so I can see why it might have gone out of business. Even so, Peter told me that Dwight Eisenhower used to play on the course. This was a rather different running experience for me because (1) I rarely get to talk to people on my runs and (2) I have never had tactical battlefield discussions on them :-). We ran 5.25 miles and then parted company. Since my training regimen for the marathon needed to clock more mileage this weekend, I did another five on my own. I ran the big loop up to Oak Hill and then down Confederate Avenue for a ways and back. Upon returning to the hotel, I decided to check out the shortcut to the college, which is down a hill, through the woods, across some railroad tracks, and then you end up at the far southwest periphery of the college. I soon realized that this was not a viable option, particularly because of the no trespassing signs.

The tracks separating my hotel from the college
I spotted some derelict railcars hidden in the trees

I had lunch at the venerable Lincoln Diner near the train station (brunch, I suppose, although that is a concept a little too fancy for this place). I got to visit the David Wills House, which is the residence where Abraham Lincoln spent the night before his Gettysburg Address. It is now managed by the National Park Service and has a number of exhibits about the impact of the battle on the town and about the Gettysburg Address. I guess the highlight was visiting the room in which Lincoln slept. They also had a cool little diorama that showed the buildings of the town in 1863, executed in admirable detail. I thought the $6.50 admission price was a bit excessive, but enjoyed my brief visit.

Lincoln bedroom at the Wills Hoouse
Lame photomerge of an interesting diorama

Registration at the college began at 1 PM. They had quite a number of book buying opportunities to tempt me in the main conference room and I also bought the annual T-shirt. Unlike the 2005 shirt (the "Calvary") there was no glaring typo in large type. However, I do question the judgment of displaying Edward Porter Alexander's photo at the expense of Stonewall Jackson or Joseph E. Johnston. Irvin McDowell and PGT Beauregard both made the cut. Chuck Teague had a 90-minute presentation for the early birds. In previous years, he did battlefield walks nearby to the college, but this time it was a presentation that could accommodate a larger number of participants and also people with mobility impairments. Chuck can be an entertaining speaker on the battlefield, but he has been able to transform PowerPoint into a weapon of mass destruction. I swear that the three-day battle of Gettysburg expended fewer bullets than Chuck did in his presentation. The subject was "Leadership Issues in High Command at Gettysburg." He started off by saying that he would limit himself to the categories of Operations and "Grand Tactics" at the Army level. He gave a background of the battle, sketches of both of the commanding generals, and a lengthy description of the two staffs. He went through a very lengthy accounting of all the categories of command decisions. I was feeling a bit drowsy following my exercise of the morning, but Chuck was able to rouse me periodically by including quotes from the generals that he chose to shout out, often attempting to mimic various regional accents. He concluded with a list of "miffs and blunders" on both sides, which might have made a more interesting presentation if limited just to those points. One interesting tidbit that he put forward was that he suspected AP Hill might have been bipolar because the condition ran in his family and it could explain why he performed well in some battles, but certainly not in Gettysburg.

Chuck Teague (sorry about my little camera's response to the poor lighting)
Interesting new building (gym) on campus since my last visit

I found a new restaurant for dinner, which is now up near the top of my Gettysburg list (a relatively short list, alas): La Bella Italia, on York Street. I went in with the intention of getting a pizza, but was intrigued by their list of Strombolis. It was really excellent and a very large portion, which I am ashamed to say I almost fully consumed.

The official program at the CWI started at 7 PM. Peter Carmichael started with a rather emotional introduction of Gabor Boritt, the retired former director. Gabor always used to open the conference with a little poem about summer in Gettysburg and the entire audience recited it with him. Peter's opening lecture was an introduction to 1861 and I thought he did an outstanding job, very animated and insightful. (Since the last time I saw him present, he seems to have attended the William Shatner School of Oration, sprinkling in pregnant pauses in unexpected places, like "to be or not ... What?... to BE." :-)) He covered a lot of ground quickly, so I probably did not take adequate notes, but his overlapping themes were about how the Union got itself into a hard war rather than their initial intention of actions of reconciliation, and how the war turned from one exclusively about restoring the Union to Union plus emancipation. He talked about the Virginia slaves who escaped in 1861 and flocked to Fort Monroe, where Benjamin Butler, of all people, establish the de facto policy of liberating them from their masters as contrabands of war. He remarked that Fort Monroe is not on the traditional "cannonball circuit" of Civil War tourism sites, and that he has noticed that other instances of radical transformation involving race are similarly ignored, such as in Southhampton County, the site of the Nat Turner slave rebellion. He had good things to say about Winfield Scott and the Anaconda Plan, but identified at least two fatal flaws it: Scott (and Lincoln) misread the South's reaction to having invading armies on their territory, and Scott's notion of an advance down the Mississippi ignored the consequences of what would happen when those armies came in contact with the slave population.

Peter and Gabor
Peter's intro lecture

A section of the talk dealt with the Confederate strategy and he talked about how President Davis had to convince the Southern population that their participation in the war was beyond politics. He said that the Confederates turned God into a nationalist, claiming he was on their side. He also successfully tied the southern efforts to the American Revolution, not the concept of slavery. One of the more thought-provoking statements that Peter made was that, despite the overwhelming interest of this and other audiences, battles didn't really make much of a difference in the war. Truly decisive battles were generally not possible and that large battles simply demonstrated the continuing stalemate between the sides. The armies were too maneuverable to be destroyed. The only decisive nature of the major battles was the effect on the civilian populations. He spoke briefly about First Manassas and indicated that McDowell did about the best he could be expected to do. I was pleased to see that he used some of my Wikipedia maps for this portion of the presentation, although they were somewhat older, less attractive versions than are currently available. The first question from the audience was from an eccentric African-American lady who lives in Harlem (via Berkeley) and she astonished me by accusing Peter of saying bad things about the South and indicating that slavery was simply a "labor issue." Peter had to do some tap dancing to give her a satisfactory answer and the remaining questions were a good deal more mainstream. I do not enjoy making statements in front of really large groups of this type, but if I had done so, I would've asked why he didn't say anything about the importance of border states in 1861. The evening ended as we adjourned to the patio outside the Student Union for an ice cream social.

Monday, June 27

We started the first full, busy day at 8:45 AM with Jason Phillips of Mississippi State University, the author of Die Hard Rebels, who spoke on "Prophecy among Civil War Soldiers: A History of the Future." He challenged the notion that the soldiers at the time had an expectation that the war would be short. This is the conventional wisdom, and he mentioned prominent historians such as Bell Wiley, Shelby Foote, and James McPherson, all of whom repeat this meme, but failed to cite any quotations to back it up. His research found correspondence in which soldiers foresaw a long, bloody war, although he cautioned that it is difficult to make absolute judgments about either public or private correspondence because the authors may be trying to influence others, rather than revealing their own true thoughts. He went into detail about the correspondence of two soldiers, one Union and one Confederate. He lambasted the Battles and Leaders series and other postbellum memoirs, which tended to treat the short war idea as a literary device, one that was used to increase the feeling of tragedy about the war, like a counterpart to the Lost Cause movement. He addressed the fact that Abraham Lincoln initially called for only 90 day commitments from state militias, saying that this was all the president was authorized by existing law to do when Congress was not in session.

Jason Phillips
Allen Guelzo and Peter

Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College, one of my favorite Civil War lecturers, was in the program with the subject "The Lessons of War: Abraham Lincoln and the First Year of the War," but instead he presented on the topic "What Was Secession?" He reviewed and skewered some of the supposed reasons given for secession, such as that the Constitution was simply a compact between sovereign states, or that the harm inflicted upon the South made it justified. He called secession a "betrayal of democracy" and agreed with Lincoln that it was a form of anarchy. He briefly discussed Texas v. White, the 1869 Supreme Court decision that said secession was not legal. And he said that the Civil War was not a lesson we should have to learn twice. In the Q&A, he was asked a potentially embarrassing question about how the formation of West Virginia could be justified, since it was essentially a secession from a secession. He used this opportunity to explain the difference between secession versus revolution, the latter being a full break from the laws and structure of society, whereas the former was an easy withdrawal that kept all these institutions intact. (The South desperately needed to keep its institution of slavery unchanged and so therefore did not wish to engage in revolution.) As to West Virginia, he pretty much said that Lincoln had to do what he needed to do and the only conceivable alternative was to turn the loyal West Virginians back over to Jefferson Davis.

We took a break and went over to historic Pennsylvania Hall for the annual group photo, which considering that there were over 330 people lined up on the steps, was handled pretty easily. I went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Tito's Tacos, which violated a long held tenet of mine that it was not worthwhile having Mexican food outside of a border state. However, Peter Carmichael had given it a strong recommendation, so I decided to give it a try, and it turned out to be very good indeed. (Peter told me that every state is a border state now. :-))

After lunch we heard from Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh (which seems to be pronounced "Shay," although I heard multiple alternatives from different people) of the U.S. Naval Academy, the author of West Pointers and the Civil War. His talk was entitled "Old Army Doctrine and the Practicalities of Waging War in 1861." The basic premise was how the common background of many of the professional military officers prolonged the war, but also brought it to a relatively clean conclusion. The prolongation was because of what he called an "equilibrium of competence," in which the leaders had no ability to overwhelm their counterparts with superior knowledge or experience. This is in contrast to the situation with Napoleon, for instance, where he (the "Big McClellan"?) was able to decisively defeat the Prussian armies because of his superior abilities and organizational concepts. He gave an interesting statistic that two thirds of all the major generals and above on both sides had come from the U.S. Army. On the issue of the conclusion of the war, it was the shared ethic and familiarity of the officers that both allowed generous surrender terms and prevented the outbreak of guerrilla warfare.

Wayne Hsieh
Tim Orr

Tim Orr from Old Dominion University spoke on "An Almost Inextricable Mass of Confusion: The North Mobilizes for War." Tim's delivery was like a Gatling gun, making it a bit difficult to keep up with him. (It would have been amusing to give Chuck's PowerPoint presentation from yesterday to Tim and see how quickly he could go through the bullets.) I was unable to identify a central theme for his talk, which was dominated by anecdotes. He started off by saying that the prominence of the Lost Cause -- which asserts that the North had such an overwhelming advantage in manpower and manufacturing capability that the South had no opportunity to win -- has made the study of how the North mobilized somewhat irrelevant or uninteresting. He touched briefly on the various calls for volunteers, which were not all identical, in that some were calls for state militias, others were for standard U.S. Volunteers, and others were combinations of volunteers and draftees. There was an enormous amount of squabbling between the state governors versus the federal authorities, and some of this was based on the political parties. In 1861 only six of the governors of the loyal states were Democrats and they wanted to ensure that adequate populations of Democrat officers were put in place, hoping to reap the glory of a successful war career for political purposes. I did not realize that the governors were responsible for appointing all officers in grades O1 through O6 (that's modern terminology for second lieutenant through colonel) in their regiments. Two of the largest states had extra regiments because of these disputes. In New York, the governor raised 28 additional regiments, which had two-year commitments rather than the three-year federal commitments, so that he could appoint sufficient Democrat officers. And the famous Pennsylvania Reserves were created for this same reason. Tim also covered some logistic issues, such as Brooks Brothers essentially attempting to defraud the government with "shoddy" uniforms. Shoddy was a technical term related to cloth made from scraps. He also talked about the organized "refreshment saloons" for newly formed regiments and how the local women used to actively flirt with the new soldiers. The departures of these regiments were often scenes of chaos.

Mary De Credico, who says she is half-Italian

Mary De Credico, also of the U.S. Naval Academy, spoke on the counterpart subject, "The South Mobilizes for War." She talked about the miserable state of manufacturing in the South and emphasize that Richmond and Atlanta were the two key cities in the Confederacy because of this. The Confederates had a slight advantage over the North in the beginning because by April 15, they already had 60,000 men under arms, whereas the Federals had only the remnants of the 16,000 men of the U.S. Army, which was spread out over the frontier. Getting ready for a Civil War is always tricky because you cannot effectively mobilize against a portion of your country in advance of the rebellion. And yet the South was able to make preparations. For instance, Edmund Ruffin Wrote a letter to the U.S. War Department asking for the information about how far Fort Moultrie was from Fort Sumter, and the War Department had no reason to deny his request for information. Gov. Joseph Brown of Georgia placed a large order for rifles from the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts. Brown was also an example that Mary gave of friction between governors and President Davis. The governor refused to allow Confederate forces to use his Western and Atlantic Railroad unless they reimbursed him using greenbacks. Early in the war the Confederates had to turn away 200,000 volunteers for lack of equipment.

I had to make a special trip to Wal-Mart this afternoon to buy a sweatshirt. I had not anticipated a trip in June requiring warm clothes, but they keep the conference room at a frigid temperature. (I am assuming that because of the average age of the participants, the college actuaries are predicting some conference deaths and they want to be ready to refrigerate the bodies.) Why Wal-Mart? Well, I got a perfectly acceptable sweatshirt for $7 instead of the $40 that CWI is asking for branded items. After dinner we had a brief speech from Ron Cogswell, the COO of the Civil War Trust, about the current state of battlefield preservation, and then a panel discussion with the afternoon speakers: Jason, Wayne, Tim, and Mary. The subject was more discussion about mobilization, which I am sorry to say I did not find particularly illuminating.

Ron Cogswell
The mobilization panel: Jason, Wayne, Tim, Mary

Tuesday, June 28

Our first speaker of the morning was Susannah Ural of the University of Southern Mississippi, the author of a recent book about Irish-Americans during the war, the Harp and the Eagle. I was impressed with her because of her obvious knowledge of military history at a detailed level, rather than emphasizing modern social subjects like gender discrimination in battlefield monuments. Her topic was "The Battle of Ball's Bluff and the Committee on the Conduct of the War." She only spent a few minutes on the battle itself, concentrating on its aftermath. Because of the death of Col. and U.S. Sen. Edward D. Baker, the battle was quite controversial and spawned the formation of the congressional committee that plagued many Union generals during the war. Charles Stone is well known as the scapegoat of the Union disaster, but I had not been very clear in my understanding of specifically what caused his downfall. It started a few days after the battle in a controversy involving the return of runaway slaves to their owners in Maryland (a loyal, but slave, state). Stone sent an insulting letter to Sen. Charles Sumner, accusing him of slander and saying that he was a known coward, presumably referring to his infamous beating in the Senate by Preston Brooks. Stone was jailed for 189 days without any charges being filed and when he was eventually released his career was ruined. Another thing I found very refreshing about Susannah was that she was willing to give short, negative replies to questions she was unable to answer. For example, "What can you tell us about the colonel who replaced Stone?" "Nothing!" Very few Civil War historians are willing to stop talking long enough to indicate they really do not know an answer. There was an interesting interchange with Ethan Rafuse in which they discussed the legacy of George B. McClellan. Ethan pointed out that T. Harry Williams wrote favorably of McClellan in his 1941 book, but by 1952 in Lincoln and His Generals, he turned quite negative. Since both World War II and Korea occurred between those dates, it is interesting to imagine why the change of heart.

Susannah Ural
A. Wilson Greene

Next was A. Wilson Greene, referred to as Will, who is the director of Pamplin Park and the author of a number of books. He revealed that he is working on a two volume history of the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign that will pick up where Gordon Rhea is leaving off at the end of his series about the Overland Campaign. His topic today was "The West Virginia Campaigns of 1861" and he referred to five campaigns, although he did not enumerate them as he went through, so that remains somewhat of a mystery. I thought he did a really excellent job covering the various minor battles in enough detail to understand them in the context of the entire campaign, a campaign that I have never studied very closely. In answering a question about why Robert E. Lee failed that fall of 1861, Will indicated that he suffered from inferior, uncooperative subordinates (most notably, ex-governors John B. Floyd and Henry Wise) and attempted to control them with complex plans. He learned lessons from both of those problems and began to choose subordinates carefully and give them enough latitude in their orders to succeed.

Ethan Rafuse gave an "Overview of First Manassas Campaign." Ethan is a professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the author of a few books including one very well-regarded about George B. McClellan. He started off with a great expression that I intend to remember for the future: "If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute." He was speaking of his presentation handouts. He spent the majority of his talk on the background of the campaign, including a discussion of strategy based on Jomini's writings. He said that the basic strategy for both sides was to influence the southern people. This was a time when conciliation was still the leading concept, not hard war. He also discussed the perceived notions of martial capability on each side. Although the conventional wisdom is that the Southerners had innate advantages, he noted a number of instances in American military history where Northerners demonstrated martial prowess. Simply because of the nature of a manufacturing society, the precision and discipline carried over well into the military arts. He also noted that West Point was very "Yankee oriented." By the time he reached the actual battle action, he was running out of time, but this will not be much of a problem because I will be on the battlefield with him tomorrow.

Ethan Rafuse
Joseph Glatthaar

Joseph Glatthaar spoke on "The High Command after First Manassas." Joe is from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is the author of General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse. Although Joe presented well, there was little new information for me. It was essentially a description of all the political feuding of P.G.T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston against Jefferson Davis, and since I wrote both of their biographies on Wikipedia, I pretty familiar with these incidents. Joe described Johnson as "politically inept" and that he sought to best his peers, where everything came down to rank and privileges.

After a break for refreshments, we had our second panel discussion of the week. The conference had assigned an official book for us to read, which was Edward Porter Alexander's Fighting for the Confederacy. Susannah, Will, and Joe joined Gary Gallagher to discuss their impressions. Gary, of course, was the editor of Alexander's memoir, which was 1200 pages in a manuscript that was not originally intended for publication and was overlooked for 80 years. Gary told the story of how someone brought an isolated chapter from the unknown manuscript to Robert K. Krick and he and Gary argued over who would drive to North Carolina to investigate further. Gary joked that since Alexander was associated with the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, Bob was not interested in anything that happened after Stonewall Jackson (Second Corps) was killed. All of the panel members agreed that it was a seminal work, probably the best memoir written by a Confederate officer, second only to U.S. Grant's as a war memoir. It is dispassionate, blunt, and analytical. Although Will said that he liked it, he ticked off a list of questionable/arguable judgments (Meade was a timid commander, Jubal Early's Washington raid was unwise—he should have been sent to reinforce Joseph E. Johnston in the Atlanta campaign), and said that Alexander's judgment about Stonewall Jackson's performance during the Seven Days was wrong. Susannah said this was a good example that could be used as a defense of memoirs in general, which are often shunned by historians because they are written so long after the fact and are tainted by political considerations, faulty memories, and the Lost Cause. Joe described his take on Alexander as an "incredible Yankee hater," although he attempted to tone down some of this attitude, and the panelist traded recollections of some of the politically incorrect and bloodthirsty things Alexander said about killing his enemy. It portrayed a very positive view of Joseph E. Johnston, who apparently had a more magnetic personality than most modern historians will admit. It also correctly assign the blame for the poor coordination at the Battle of Seven Pines. Gary thought it showed a very realistic view of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. He commented on the fact that Lee chose to spend his idle time at Longstreet's headquarters, not because he needed to supervise Longstreet, but he wanted to spend time with "people who resembled human beings."

Fighting for the Confederacy panel:
Gary Gallagher

In the evening session, Peter Carmichael spoke about next year's conference and attempted to quell some of the dissatisfaction that has been swirling around. It is scheduled for June 22–27, 2012, which is not only a little earlier in the month, but also starts Friday evening and ends on Wednesday. Peter explained that by scheduling the lectures on the weekend, it will be easier to attract speakers and attendees who find the current schedule difficult. Some of the complaints heard in the hallways are that some teachers will have difficulty attending because their school year is not over by that date and the some people may have difficulty justifying being gone portions of two weeks instead of all of one week (although that does not seem like a big problem to me).

The final presentation was by Gary Gallagher, whose topic was "The Real Lost Cause: The Loyal States' War for Union." This is the subject of Gary's new book, The Union War, and its premise is that what has really been lost is the meaning of Union. What with the Lost Cause of the Confederacy and the emphasis on civil rights, the notion that soldiers were fighting for an abstract concepts such as Union has been washed out of historiography. He talked about almost all recent war movies that depict the U.S. Army in more of a Vietnam-like negative light. Also, virtually no current history books can be open to the index to see entries such as "Union, importance of." In the context of movies and novels, he said it was remarkable to witness the rise in prominence of the 20th Maine and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who were virtually unknown prior to the publication of Michael Schaara's The Killer Angels. He did say that he admires Chamberlain, "an academic who functions in the real world." We also got to hear his riff on Robert E. Lee, who as a general was "bad news" and commanded the army in which more than any other would ensure you got shot. It's always fun to hear him talk about this and hear the gasps from the uninitiated in the audience.

Wednesday, June 29

Today was our big excursion to Manassas! We boarded our bus at 8 AM for a trip that was supposed to be two hours, but some road construction and traffic congestion kept us on the road until 10:30 AM. I chose to go with Ethan Rafuse who had arranged a tour in Army staff ride format -- well sort of. On the way he gave us an overview of the staff ride concept and loaded us up with the typical Army acronyms that they invent for every process more complicated than cleaning their bottoms. We learned METTTC (Mission, enemy, troops, time, terrain, civil considerations) and FAS courses of action analysis (feasible, acceptable, suitable). (I was disappointed that he did not explain MOUSEMOSS, but perhaps it has been rendered obsolete. I am sure that they have entire departments of civilian contractors who come up with these things.)

We started at the Stone Bridge over Bull Run and talk about Irvin McDowell's plans, his options for completing his mission, and details of the march to the battlefield. We also briefly covered the Union demonstration at the bridge. Then it was over to Matthews Hill, where we discussed the initial Union attacks. Ethan was critical of McDowell for being right there on the scene and we agreed that an army commander should be further to the rear, in a known location easily accessible by all of his subordinate units. David Hunter had a similar problem, a division commander going forward with the skirmishers of the 2nd Rhode Island. (Hunter and Ambrose Burnside had a touchy situation because the governor of Rhode Island was with them during the battle.) Then we found some shade next to the Stone House and assessed the progress of the Union's morning attacks, which were actually doing pretty well. McDowell unfortunately chose to wait and consolidate his units instead of continuing, leaving the Confederates time to devise defenses on Henry Hill, just to the south. There were also Confederate reinforcements coming in by railroad from the Shenandoah Valley and it would have been good to finish the battle before they all arrived.

Stone Bridge over Bull Run
Bull Run
Ethan (in white) and some staff riders
Up Matthews Hill
Down the south side of Matthews Hill
View of Henry Hill from Matthews Hill

For lunch, we drove to Stuart's Hill, which is actually relevant to the 1862 battle, but had nice picnic tables. (I should emphasize how great the weather was today—sunny, in the low 80°s. We have been blessed with very good weather during the week so far.) I sat at what turned out to be the orthopedic table, where everyone except me had had knee replacements and similar operations, which they chose to discuss at length. I was able to find an interesting kiosk that had an explanation of Confederate signaling. The main stop for the day, and the main action of the battle, was Henry Hill. We started with 35 minutes in the visitor center and I bought a 150th anniversary Manassas T-shirt, and also watched the electric map show. We gathered outside near the giant statue of Stonewall Jackson, the one that I have described as Jackson on steroids. I believe Ethan said that the statue was prone to being struck by lightning on periodic occasions. We reviewed Jackson's defensive line of artillery and described Erasmus Keyes's uncoordinated attack. We went down the reverse slope of the hill to see Jackson's infantry position. We walked over to the position where Charles Griffin had two Union guns in an isolated position. As part of a staff ride concept, we had a number of written reports and we were able to read Griffin's bitter description of how the chief of artillery, Maj. Barry, convinced Griffin not to fire on approaching Confederate troops because he claimed they were Union troops assigned to guard his battery. Then it was over to Rickett's battery, guns that were captured by the Confederates, turning the tide of battle. Ethan said that a battalion of U.S. Marines was assigned to protect these forward-positioned artillery pieces, but they broke and ran. One of the ladies on the tour said that Ed Bearss never told them about that! At the reconstructed Henry house, we discussed William T. Sherman's unsuccessful piecemeal counterattacks, and I made the observation that apparently he did not learn his lesson because he did exactly the same thing at Tunnel Hill in Chattanooga. Henry Hill is a very interesting place to be because so much action happened in such a small area and it is easy to interpret.

Jackson (and not-so-Little Sorrel) on steroids
Union monument to the dead
Reconstructed Henry house; Ethan said that the original was only one story
View of the Henry house from the top of Henry Hill

We drove to Chinn Ridge and discussed McDowell's afternoon attempt to get around the Confederate left flank. Oliver Otis Howard's brigade was attacked by Jubal Early and Edmund Kirby Smith and was forced to withdraw. (Howard's Civil War career was destined to have a number of such incidents.) Our final stop was at Sudley Springs Church, where we discussed the Union withdrawal turning into a rout in which the soldiers scrambled to return to Washington. As is typical for a staff ride, we discussed the cost of the battle in terms of casualties. We walked through the woods to find a big pile of rocks, which was the unlabeled ruins of the Amos Benson house. A famous story from the battle is that a soldier from the 2nd New Hampshire, John L. Rice, was severely wounded in the chest and he was left behind at his request, so that he would not endanger his comrades. The Benson family took him in, found a surgeon, and Rice miraculously survived. Benson went on to become a Confederate soldier. In 1886, Rice returned to find the house and offered to pay the family in his gratitude. They refused, but suggested that battle damage to the church still needed to be repaired and Rice returned to New England, where he raised money for the repairs, collecting $235, more than the $200 needed. We also had a brief description of what happened to some of the key players, but because of the traffic problems in the morning we were behind schedule and we were unable to complete what the staff ride calls the Integration Phase, where everyone compares notes and decides what they learned. So Ethan, who did an excellent job leading the staff ride, will have to remain blissfully ignorant about whether he was successful in motivating all of us. (He motivated me, certainly.) We had a catered barbecue dinner at Bull Run Park and got back to the college pretty worn out at 8:30 PM. It was a good day for me because, although I have visited the battlefield before, it was mostly in the context of 1862 battle, and I had not had a good detailed look at 1861.

Thursday, June 30

Today the Institute experimented with a new format: small breakout sessions about Battle of Gettysburg topics. We arrived at Glatfelter Hall, a venerable old building that still uses black chalkboards, although they have installed laptop protectors. In the three sessions, I remained in the same room with about 20 people and three different instructors rotated in. Since there were more than three instructors leading sessions, I do not know by what algorithm my three were chosen and I don't know what opportunities I may have missed by the luck of the draw. The first hour was Greg Mertz from Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, whose topic was the artillery bombardment on July 3. Since Edward Porter Alexander was a key figure there and since he was the subject of our conference reading, Greg started out with a capsule biography and then talked about the artillery at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and finally Gettysburg. At Fredericksburg, Robert E. Lee disagreed with Alexander's placement of the artillery, designed for maximum effect against the infantry, rather than counter battery fire across the river, but Alexander ignored the advice, to the benefit of the Confederates. One lesson that the Confederates should have learned: as they received the Union bombardment on the southern end of the battlefield, they should have realized that it was extremely difficult to determine whether a bombardment was an effective means of softening up for an infantry assault (it wasn't). At Chancellorsville, Alexander was in temporary command of the Second Corps artillery and historians agree that it was the most effective use of Confederate artillery during the war. At Gettysburg on July 3, he wrote afterward that he was critical of the selection of Lee's target for Pickett's Charge and thought they should have targeted the Cemetery Hill salient. We also discussed the nine howitzers from A.P. Hill's corps that Alexander hoped to send forward with Pickett, but that somehow disappeared. And we had a lengthy discussion about the fusing on artillery shells, trying to understand why the Confederate bombardment was so ineffective.

Greg Wertz
Troy Harman

My friend Troy Harman was up next and he spoke about "shaping the battlefield," which was a discussion of how the park boundaries evolved. He showed a number of antique maps with different plots of land proposed and, in some cases, preserved. The original concept was called "Park Avenue," which meant that narrow corridors would be purchased to preserve important locations and position monuments. The land in between those corridors was assumed to remain pristine farmland forever. As this assumption proved to be faulty, more and more acreage had to be acquired and gaps filled in over the years. Some of the monuments are not located in the exact spots that would be desirable, but rather on land that was less productive for farmers and therefore available for a cheap sale. Troy gave Howard Avenue as an example of this. Troy is always able to present unusual facts that catch me by surprise, and this presentation had a few examples: the "Paine map" that George Meade approved early on July 2 shows the III Corps (Sickles) extending parallel to the Emmitsburg Road into the Peach Orchard, with the VI Corps (Sedgwick) positioned on the left of Sickles; Jedediah Hotchkiss was sent on a secret mission into Pennsylvania to do mapping in February 1863; the original proposal from the New York Board of Gettysburg Monuments Commission proposed preserving the land of Camp Letterman as the official entrance to the park.

The third session was with John Heiser, who talked about the George Rose Farm, which encompassed both the Wheatfield and parts of the Peach Orchard. He said very little about the battle details, focusing on the aftermath of the battle. The farm was virtually destroyed and hundreds of bodies were buried there. The family put in multiple claims for damage, totaling $750, but they ended up with nothing. John also talked about the workings of the Frassanito books in identifying the contribution that the farm made to the battle history. I had lunch in one of my favorite odd Gettysburg spots, Ernie's Texas Wiener Lunch, a tiny old-fashioned diner downtown. The Texas wieners (with ample chili and onions) are pretty good and quite a bargain.

John Heiser
Troy Harman on Benner's Hill

In the afternoon we had battlefield tours and I signed up to go with Troy Harman. We started at Benner's Hill, where Troy showed us his favorite panorama of the northeastern battlefield. I had been with him in this area before and it is very impressive, because you can from one spot see Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill, Powers Hill, and Wolf Hill. From this location we discussed the (unrealized) opportunities for Slocum's XII Corps to come around Wolf Hill and strike the Confederate left flank. Troy told us that Powers Hill, which was the location for the giant Union artillery reserve and logistics area, is scheduled to have many of its trees cut down in August. This denuding will restore it to its 1863 appearance and will make it clear why it was a good signaling platform. We walked north along Benner's Hill, talking about the artillery duel of July 2, crossed the Hanover Road, and traversed a lot of farmland, sometimes using faint road traces from the 1780s. We discussed how on July 1, the presence nearby of Slocum's corps right on the Confederate Second Corps flank was a very tangible reason for Richard S. Ewell not to attack Culp's Hill. We came upon the rear of the Daniel Lady farm, which was the location of Edward "Allegheny" Johnson's division before it attacked the hill on July 2. We continued over Hospital Hill and passed by the Giant Foods supermarket before reaching the site of Camp Letterman. There is nothing left of the enormous hospital complex from after the battle. At one time the main receiving tent area was occupied by a trailer park, but it is now simply an open field. The Park Service would like to preserve this area, and they were fortunate when Target Corp. decided against building on that lot, but it is still not safe. We also discussed the Confederate artillery that fired from that location all the way to Cemetery Hill on July 3. One of Troy's interesting insights was related to the way that the Union referred to battles, frequently naming the nearest watercourse (versus the Confederate practice of naming the nearest geographic feature or town). He emphasized how important it was to have a battle near a water source so that the men and horses could be watered. Also, swabbing down the artillery tubes apparently also took a lot of water. He described how the two major water sources—Marsh Creek and Rock Creek—provided the effective limits of the battlefield and suggested that the Battle of Gettysburg could well have been called the Battle of Rock Creek/Monocacy.

The panorama from Benner's Hill
Daniel Lady farm
Site of Camp Letterman
Three of the five emergency vehicles responding to our downed hiker

We had some unfortunate excitement at the end of our walking tour. One of the men became exhausted on a walk that I would guess was about 2 miles. It was pretty hilly in spots and uncomfortably warm. Eventually they had to call for help and to my surprise, five government agencies showed up with emergency vehicles: the fire department, an EMT unit from Emmitsburg, the Gettysburg hospital, the park rangers, and the police. Fortunately, they were able to pick up the guy out in the field and it looks like he was not suffering from a serious problem. After we returned on the bus, I took the opportunity to visit La Bella Italia once again for another Stromboli, but I was smart enough to order a small size this time. Then I drove to Dulles for a brief overnight in an airport hotel—my flight is quite early on Friday morning. I chose to miss the closing "banquet" and auction in the cafeteria so that I could attempt to get a good night's sleep.

I was quite impressed with this year's Civil War Institute. Addressing my concerns from previous years, the 4.5 days were completely packed with interesting content. The vast majority of the lectures I attended were excellent, which I hope you can detect from my descriptions above. Peter Carmichael and his staff did a great job selecting historians to participate and all of the administrative aspects were flawless. Other than Sunday morning when I went running, I actually had no free time to visit the battlefield, so I will need to take this into consideration for next year's schedule, perhaps arriving a day earlier. I found that staying in a nearby motel was very amenable, although it was obviously more expensive. I will very likely attend next year's conference.

Friday, July 1

United Airlines called at 11 PM last night to say my flight was canceled for "aircraft servicing." I rebooked for a flight to San Jose with about a six-hour delay. So in retrospect I could have stayed over in Gettysburg. Oh, well. The Doubletree in Sterling, VA, is very nice and I got a good sleep (and one of their excellent chocolate chip cookies!).

Go to Part 4.