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This is the archive for May 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Although the wonderful folks of CWI keep giving me credit for the recent posts on the blog, as of late it has been all Donald, (who was once confused as Stephen and if this keeps up who knows what he will think his name is) and not me. The building of my new house is really taking its toll on me and my ability to write. Of course there are some out there who would say that it is a good thing that I haven't been writing. :)

But it hasn’t stopped me from reading. That I have been doing non-stop but it has been a mixed bag of stuff. Currently though, I am reading something that I feel qualifies in the Civil War genre, From Slave to Priest: A Biography of the Reverend Augustine Tolton (1854 - 1897) : First Black American Priest of the United States by Sister Caroline Hemsath.

While not close to finishing the book, it is having a rather significant impact on me right now. While I’ll get more into it on another post, I just have to say that as a devout Roman Catholic, I am very disappointed in so much that happened within the Church after the war (both the clergy and layman across the nation) AND at the same time so proud of those who stood up for the education and ordination of Father Tolton when there seemed to be no hope.

Father Tolton, as the title suggests was born a slave and was already working in the fields as the war broke out. His father, Peter Paul Tolton would escape during the early years of the war with the goal of making it to St. Louis and joining the Union Army. Augustine, his mother Martha, brother and sister would also later escape – making their way to Quincy, Illinois. The book describes the family leaving Hannibal and crossing the Mississippi into Union territory much better than I could

Even though Martha Jane had been without food for days, she had the strength to bring her children to safety. One by one she helped them from the swaying rowboat, and together they stepped from slavery forever. Kneeling upon the ground, the valiant woman gathered the weeping children into her arms. Tears streamed down her dark cheeks as she said, “Now you are free. Never, never forget the goodness of the Lord.”

Although all of the family had escaped, there was no word of where Peter ended up. The family would never see Peter again. According to the book, Martha found Union rolls stating that Peter had indeed joined the Army but would die in battle.

During a break in reading the book, I decided to look up Peter and see what unit he was with. Unfortunately my search came up empty. I did the normal Google search; Soldiers and Sailors database, tried spelling variations, and even looked through a whole Colored regiment from St. Louis. I’m not ready to give up yet, there is more searching (and of course help from the blogging community is always welcome) but there is a sense of foreboding on the horizon.

Could Mary have told Augustine the story to try to give the young child closure or perhaps someone else did this to Mary – who couldn’t read to begin with? I don’t know, which is exactly where I stand – a lot more questions than when I began.

Of course, that always seems to be the way.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A final look back before we bid Harpers Ferry goodbye and head on down the road.


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Monday, May 26, 2008

Andersonville National Cemetery


Battleground National Cemetery, Washington, DC

Cold Harbor National Cemetery

Gettysburg National Cemetery

Glendale National Cemetery, Mechanicsville, VA


Loudon National Cemetery, Baltimore, MD

Richmond National Cemetery

Friday, May 23, 2008

This monument, found on Potomac Street in Harpers Ferry, has been a source of controversy since its dedication on October 10, 1931.


On the night of October 16, 1859, Heyward Shepherd, an industrious and respected colored Freeman, was mortally wounded by John Brown’s Raiders, in pursuance of his duties as an employee of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. He became the first victim of this attempted insurrection.

This boulder is erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans as a memorial to Heyward Shepherd, exemplifying the character and faithfulness of thousands of Negroes who, under many temptations throughout subsequent years of war, so conducted themselves that no stain was left upon a record which is the peculiar heritage of the American people, and an everlasting tribute to the best in both races.

On May 21, 1932, this response:


In 1932, W.E.B. Du Bois, founder of the Niagara Movement and a founder of the American Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), responded to the Shepherd Monument by penning these words:

Here John Brown aimed at human slavery a blow that woke a guilty nation. With him fought seven slaves and sons of slaves. Over his crucified corpse marched 200,000 black soldiers and 4,000,000 freedmen singing:

“John Brown’s Body lies a mouldering in the grave
But his Soul Goes Marching on!”

For an excellent article that examines the controversy surrounding the Heywood Shepherd Memorial follow this link

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The day before America celebrated the 83rd birthday of its intent to separate itself from Great Britain, four men arrived by train in the small town of Sandy Hook, Maryland. Posing as cattle buyers looking for a property that would allow them to graze the herd they intended to purchase, they were directed to a vacant farm located five miles north of the Potomac River and Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Over the next three months, situated in the cabin on the Kennedy farm, John Brown would finalize plans with 21 others for the raid on the Federal arsenal. When the raiders left after sundown on October 16th to carry out their operation, three men would be left behind to guard the cache of arms and supplies, John Brown’s eldest son Owen, Barclay Coppoc, and Francis Meriam. Those three and only two of the eighteen who accompanied Brown into Harpers Ferry, Osborne Anderson and Charles Tidd, would survive its aftermath.

The Kennedy Farm, a National Historic Landmark, sits today as virtually isolated as it did 149 years ago. What thoughts went through Owwen Brown’s, Barclay Coppon’s, and Francis Meriam’s minds and the words they spoke to one another as they waited for word from the raiders through the morning of October 18th are trapped within the walls of the cabin forever.








The Kennedy Farm is located at 2406 Chestnut Grove, Sharpsburg, MD. For more information follow this link.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Are these the eyes of a kind man? The eyes of a cruel man? The eyes of a compassionate man? The eyes of a misanthrope? The eyes of a merciful man? The eyes of a dispassionate killer? The eyes of an avenging angel, or the eyes of the devil incarnate? The eyes of a devoutly religious man? The eyes of a zealot? The eyes of a just man? The eyes of an unjust man? The eyes of a rationale man? The eyes of a psychopath? The eyes of a crusader seeking justice and equality, or the eyes of one who would tear the fabric of the existing social order?

When you look into his eyes you will see what you want to see and believe what you want to believe. Revered. Reviled. Revolutionary. Anarchist. Christ like. Lucifer. A man who struck a blow for freedom. A man who sought to defile the Constitution. A man who sought to liberate. A man who sought to slaughter.

His vision failed. His plan failed. Like everything else he ever sought to achieve in his life. While his life of failure ended on the gallows at Charles Town, Virginia, it was instead a moment of triumph, a vindication. His voice did not trail off, but thundered long after he was gone, in song and in verse. The truth he carried in his heart was a drumbeat that sounded louder and louder, reverberating throughout the North, where he was a martyr, and South, where he was the subject of fear and loathing; down through decades and generations. Prophet? Charlatan? If not John Brown, another would have risen in his place. If not the Civil War, at some point in time there would have been open rebellion against a slave holding nation. The oppressed always try to rise to throw off the suffocating grip of their oppressor. That is a basic lesson of history, one that is repeated over and over.






The Engine House, where Brown and his men barricaded themselves with their hostages


Harpers Weekly etching of the Storming of the Engine House by U.S. Marines


Three of Brown's men, John Kagi, Lewis Leary, and John Copeland

Monday, May 19, 2008

I took a drive out to the Balls Bluff battlefield near Leesburg, Virginia, the second time I’ve visited that battlefield. The trip was intended as part of another project, which unfortunately I didn’t have time to finish up due to a late start and the distance traveled, so I’ll probably head back into Northern Virginia within the next two weeks.

The battlefield is preserved as a 168-acre park under the jurisdiction of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which acquired the land in 1984. The Authority has done a great job in placing interpretative signs and laying out trails through the woods, including a one-mile loop that circles the boundaries of the park.

I was completing the last portion of the main trail, when I saw a woman and child carrying a wreath. Having just passed a memorial to the 8th Virginia Infantry, which was in service from First Manassas to the surrender at Appomattox, primarily as part of Pickett’s Division, I asked if she was going to lay the wreath at their monument. She answered yes, but that later turned out to be a misunderstanding on her part. I made mention of their battle record, and she remarked that she was originally from Ohio. That puzzled me, because I would have presumed someone from that State would have Northern sympathies, but I let it go and continued on my way.

As I headed for the Union cemetery, which holds only one identified grave among it’s 51 grave markers, I saw the woman and child approaching and opening the gate. Now my curiosity was peaked and I asked if I could take a picture and then asked a few questions. Denise and her daughter Kasey, as it turned out were laying the wreath to honor the Union dead at Balls Bluff, something they’ve done around Memorial Day for the past four years. Denise explained that her grandmother is a member of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, an organization she lamented has few members now. The wreath was, in her estimation, a small gesture, “but somebody has to remember.” Perhaps Kasey will keep the Memorial Day tradition alive when she gets older and one day pass it down to her own children.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Note: Charles Austin enlisted at Fairhaven, MA on August 7, 1862 and was mustered that same day as a Private in Co. F of the 18th Mass. Infantry. It's unknown what relationship Silas P. Alden, the recepient of the following letter, had, if any, to the Austin family.

Camp near Sharpsburgh, Maryland
Sept. 28th 1862

Capt. Silas P. Alden

I now take my pen to communciate to you the sad news of Charles H. Austin’s death which took place at the Lutheran Hospital, Sharpsburgh, Maryland Sept. 24th 1862 at which place he is buried. He belonged to Co. F, 18 Reg Mass Vol & tented with me what time he was with us. His complaint was camp fever of the worst kind & diareah. He suffered but very little. He was very ambitious & tried hard to keep along with the Reg but I saw that he began to fail the next day after we joined the Reg. but did not notice it so mutch until we reached Fort Cocoran & their he seemed lost & out of his head by spells. I told him he must go & see the doctor & he did so & the doctor gave him some pills & told him to keep still & two days after the Regiment was ordered to move under light martching orders. That was rubber blanket , overcoat, canteen & haversack for the recruits had no guns then & Charles was ordered to stay with some others & go to the hospital. But 4 days after we left the Seargent three other men that had been left in charge of the knapsacks started for the reg. He felt pretty smart & though he must keep up with the Reg & so he started to & traveled five days before they caught up with us. I had been of on piquet duty & when I came in the Reg was in line ready to martch & who should come up & take me by the hand but Charly. I never was more surpised in my life for he looked wild & haggard & apparet very mutch beat out but said he felt first rate. I told him there that he had better go to the hospital but he thought he was getting better & thought that he could keep along with the regiment & that after noon we had a heavy shower as we were crosing the late [Antietam] battle field & he got some wet & saw a large number of dead & wounded & I think it had a bad affect on him for he never appeared like himself after. Then we had to on piquet again that night & came to me to know where he was bunk that night. I told him if we slept at all it would be along side of the fence where we were then lying & seemed surprised. I got him as good a place as I could under present circumstances & the next morning we were ordered to martch & he came along with us to this place & we stoped here two nights & one day & then [on September 20, 1862] we were ordered into line to ford the Potomac into [Shepherdstown] Virginia & went but did not stop long for we found the Rebs there in large force. We had a few rounds at them & were ordered to fall back again acros the river. We did in good order with a loss to the Reg of 2 killed & eleven wounded & when I got back I found that Charly had been over but came back before we did. When I saw he looked very bad. We got him dry & got in him in to a tent & made him as comfortable as we could. The doctor came to see him & said he should go to the hospital the next day, but the ambulances were all away so he did go until the day that he died. The steward of the hospital sent his wife’s picture & five dollars in money to the Company. The orderly sargent sent for me & gave it in my cair. i shall send the money in this letter but the picture is in a case & cannot be sent by letter. I will take care of it & if Mrs. Austin wants me to send it by Adams & Co. Express you will please write to me to that affect. The rest of the boys are all well & send their best respects to you. No more at present.

Yours with respect.
Benjamin Sampson
[Company F, 18th Massachusetts Infantry]

It is all around Sarah Austin, like a stalking horse, crushing her soul and being. Her husband lying cold in an unknown place too many miles away to calculate with no money to bring him home to the familiarity of his native soil and now her precious, sweet, little darling Sarah Ellen, but fourteen months into this life on October 27, 1862 of fever and swelling on the brain. Is there no mercy to this life she asks of no one in particular. She is grateful for the eight dollars a month and the two additional dollars a month for each dependent child from a grateful nation, but it is not enough to stave off creditors who foreclose on her farm. Is this life so coldly calculating that it steers all those who walk in the way of the righteousness to a grave while still in the burst of relative youth? That is a question seven-year-old Arthur and five-year-old George would have asked at their mother’s passing on June 25, 1865 had they been then old enough to formulate it.

Separate families would take in the sons, raising them as their own, George’s life harder than Arthur’s. Each would marry, with one child between the two. Each would see the turn of the century that carried with it the introduction of a carriage that moved without the aid of a horse and word of the Wright brothers defying gravity. Did either travel south to visit their father at Antietam National Cemetery in their lifetime? I do not know, but want to believe it to be so. I do not want to believe that I am the first of all those who knew or have known of Charles Austin’s life to have found his grave. It causes me to linger, to seat myself close by on the ground to his marker, and read aloud Benjamin Sampson’s letter of his passing.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

You never know what your email will bring to you. Besides that vast waste of Spam that I seem to get, I am often contacted by those with family connections to the 18th, readers of our book, or random people who have something to say about a post that I have written.

Sometimes it is for something different, like the man whose family had found a tombstone of a soldier and wondering how to return it to the right cemetery. A few months ago it was for something totally different, yet very moving and powerful.

I won’t mess with perfection, instead letting the email speak for itself

My name is Master Sergeant Gene Nelson and I am currently on active duty serving with the National Guard in Arlington, Va.

I am writing you in order to share a most unusual journey. In the late 1960s when I was about 14, I was cutting through a cemetery in Taunton, Massachusetts when I happened to notice a stone with the name of a soldier who died at Bull Run. The stone didn’t refer to any battle. I would learn later it was in reference to a civil war battle.

Last October I visited Manassas, Virginia and the two battle areas. As I was walking through the fields, I remembered back forty years to the walk in the cemetery in Taunton.

This morning I returned to the Taunton cemetery and parked within fifteen feet of the resting place of W.E. Manchester, Company F, 18th Regiment ,V Corps. Why I would remember this man’s name is a wonder to me at best. It is still more amazing I was able to track down how he died through your web site. If by chance you have any information on this soldier other than what is already listed I would be very interested.

Thanks for letting me share this journey. I will be flying back to Arlington this evening with the intent to go back to Bull Run and gather a small amount of soil and bring it back to Private Manchester's grave site.

I feel some connection to this young soldier but do not know why.

Two months later we would receive the following from MSG Nelson


But this wasn’t the first time we had heard from someone dealing with William. Last year we had a collector contact us who had bought some of William’s equipment and wanted to know if we had any additional information on him. It also allowed us to grab pictures of the equipment which added yet another piece to the puzzle we call the history of the 18th Massachusetts. You can still view what was bought by going here and scrolling down until you find William's name.

Long time readers will know of Donald’s firm belief (one that I concur with) that there are forces unknown to us that help us in our quest of the 18th Massachusetts. William has been brought to our attention twice, neither by a relative or someone who "should" have a connection to the 18th or this man. Yet, they found him and then found us, letting us know how so long after he died, he still is around.

Tonight as I type and look at William’s gravestone, I think I have finally come up with a succinct way of stating the belief.

Sometimes we chase the dead, other times, they chase us.

We just need a few more to chase us down.

William E. Manchester: born in Rehobeth, MA, the son of William and Catherine Manchester. He was a 27 years old resident of New Bedford when he married Clarissa E Walker, the daughter of George and Elvira, at Taunton, MA on Jan. 1, 1854. They were the parents of four children born in New Bedford, William A., born Jan. 3, 1855; Ida F., born Sept. 10, 1856; Charles K., born Sept.. 1, 1858; and Elmira, born Nov. 30, 1860. Manchester was a 34 year old Cooper from New Bedford, MA, when he enlisted on Aug. 23, 1861 and was mustered into the 18th Mass. Infantry on August 24, 1861 as a Private in Co. F. He was killed in action at Second Bull Run on August 30, 1862. Clarissa Manchester, who resided in Taunton, applied for a Widow's pension on Nov. 7, 1862 and was issued benefits of $8.00 per month and an additional $2.00 per month for each minor child under Certificate #: 731. Clarissa Manchester died in Taunton, MA on Dec. 16, 1921

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Theirs was to be a life of certainty, that it would be slam in the face hard, that they would struggle to scratch life from a small parcel of land where soil lay shallow over a bed of rocks deposited by glacial movement thousands of years before European shoes first left their imprint. Theirs, too, was to be a life of uncertainty, where life itself could be cruel and twisting and sweep away a babe still suckling at a mother’s teat.

They knowingly leapt into this life hand in hand, Sarah Reed, then 16 and two months pregnant, and Charles Austin, four years older, when they married on January 20, 1857. They harbored no illusions, no fanciful dreams. Their strength, they were directed, was to rest in each other, their vow to draw the other up in the face of this certain reality, and mourn uncertainty together if and when it came like a howling nor’easter, merciless and dry eyed to sorrow.

Their first child was born in the heat of an August drought that laid waste to fields that had held promise in the spring, sickening corn, withering the winter’s salvation that was to be gotten from a vegetable garden not twenty feet from the front door, a drought that siphoned off the last remaining droplets from a well that in the end yielded pebbles and dirt in the bucket. They named the child Arthur for reasons unknown, thirty years before Tennyson would reincarnate the romance of a long ago King in his prose, and forty years before such a name would come into vogue.

She did not whisper her thoughts to him in the darkness, this orphaned woman-child. He was half a brother, half a father, she a mother to herself, a child to herself still, her own parents dead these past few years. She would turn from his touch, forsaking duty as wife, until he would have his will and way. Her tears would later drop as illumined diamonds in a tallowed glow when a second wrinkled baby failed to take breath. She would not look, turning her head away, and upon his return did not tell where he buried this still born son or daughter. He would not say which and she did not ask until in a moment of melancholy a month later. Even then he would not answer and himself turned away to an envelope of silence.

Winter came, dry and bitter, threatening to tear the front door from its hinges when opened and push the glass from each pane. Soil crumbled in the hand through the spring, into the summer, and he took work wherever it was to be found. She peddled the few small eggs gathered from an ever-shrinking flock, twisting the last hen’s neck in November to give meager thanks for an abundance that was never theirs or promised to them. He had reasoned going to sea, for their future he told her, and she railed at him for the ease in which he would abandon her and his only child just now learning to talk, the ease at which he would consider tempting fate in the swirl and churning of the deep.

The first rain came in mid-March, a sprinkling so spare that the drops seemed to strike the hardened ground and rebound back to the clouds, leaving piles of dust quivering like beads of mercury. There were prayers rising to an invisible deity from pews packed tightly with those who implored the benevolence that came from the bounty of a green, yellow, gold, and ripened harvest. For one more week there was the starkness of the thin overhang of white clouds. They gradually massed, grew darker, and finally let loose for four days

Two summers pass and there is news. The buried child long since discovered by wild rooting hogs is forgotten by the hungry suckling of a son they name George, a curiosity to his brother who expresses his displeasure by pinching folds of skin. He is whipped mightily when his mother discovers the trigger for the infant’s sudden screaming bouts. There is to be no Cain and Able in this house he’s warned as the leather strap slaps against his skin. By the time a sister Sarah Ellen is born on August 14, 1861, he is older, wiser, and an adoring older brother.

The rumors that were just that have faded away, replaced by men feverish with patriotism amid the fevore of war. Sarah begs. He listens and watches as friends gather on a railroad platform wearing uniforms surrounded by mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, their children, and those who wish them well. They are all proud men. Men who talk of bravery and daring, of Union, of country. They do not talk of dying. They wave from the open car windows and his envy almost overwhelms him. He feels almost a coward, safe as he is in his Massachusetts town. Almost disloyal. What does he believe in? It gnaws at his conscience, gnaws at his belief system, gnaws at his manhood, like a saw biting into wood.

Fifteen months of war. More are needed in the aftermath of Bull Run, Balls Bluff, and the Peninsula. All have combined to bleed the Union, slowly, surely. The Recruiters come and the town sweetens the pot in order to meet their quota. $100 bounty to all those who answer the call. He signs his name where required on August 7, 1862. He barely has time to say goodbye, though they’ve said their goodbyes the night before and on this morning. He kisses Arthur and George. They do not understand. They remain dry eyed. She is not dry eyed. She is not proud. She is not brave. She fears, is consumed by fear. She has heard the newspapers read aloud and has seen the families of the deceased consumed by grief. He will write he tells her. Every day. She nods, promising the same. It is time. He climbs aboard the train with his friend Benjamin Sampson. They do not turn to wave. There is grimness in their demeanor. They have spoken to each other of death.

Monday, May 12, 2008

You’re going to have to forgive me Jimmy Quackenbros of Muscatine, Iowa, because I know you want to hear all about the Wheatfield tour at Gettysburg. All in due time little man, all in due time, because it’s starting to creep into the wee early hours of the morning. But I did want to tell you this. Fed up and suffering with an ever-shrinking number of Civil War titles at your local Barnes and Nobel or Borders bookstores, then head to the vastly expanded bookstore at the new Gettysburg Visitor’s Center. Granted you can order books on line, but there’s nothing like pursuing hundreds of titles neatly arranged on shelves. I’m not guaranteeing they’ll have every book you’re looking for, probably not, but with the number of Civil War related books this place definitely has the feel of a bag of Lay’s potato chip. Bet you can’t buy just one. Even our favorite ranting historian and his saber rattling buddy will like the place, because they’ll find multiple copies of “Plenty Of Blame To Go Around,” on display.

The book that caused my heart to beat the fastest though was one of the thinnest and least expensive. And, if not the book with the most copies in stock, it came pret-ty darned close. I counted thirty copies. Thirty! That’s five times the number I’ve seen in any one bookstore previously. So, why the excitement you ask? Because it was our little book, “The Civil War Research Guide,” right there on a top shelf between James Marten’s “The Children’s Civil War” and Wiley Sword’s “Courage Under Fire.” Trust me, the thrill of seeing this little tome on display never wears off and probably never will.



Friday, May 09, 2008

Well, we’ve now confirmed that we have at least one person who reads Touch the Elbow. Not half bad, what eh? Jimmy Quackenbros of Muscatine, Iowa sent an email saying he was, of all things, a fan and that my approaching trip to Gettysburg had inspired him to include an attachment with his email. He also posed a very serious and difficult question. Who would win a steel cage grudge match between Benjamin “The Beast” Butler and the current reigning WWE champion The Undertaker? Jimmy thought "The Beast" would win, because anybody nicknamed "The Beast" had to be "a very, very bad man." Jimmy’s mother Helen added in a post script: “Jimmy reads very well for a seven year old.”


Thursday, May 08, 2008

While Donald has been happily visiting all over the place and sending fantastic pictures of said visits all over the Intraweb (a “The Simpsons” reference); I’ve been stuck trying to get a house ready to sell so that I can move into a new one that is part of a housing development named after a plantation that never existed. I know, only in South Carolina.

That isn’t to say I haven’t been enjoying Civil War related life, quite the contrary. Lots of new books, a visit (two actually) with an author and lots of crazy comments keep surrounding me. I’ll have to talk about those later.

Now though, I thought I would show a picture of a wonderful shirt that I just bought for myself and my son. I’ll let it do the talking.

This can be yours for the small price of $15 at My son begged for it when he saw it. He is becoming quite the History Geek like his dad!

Dale, a co-worker who originally hails from the Bronx, is keeping me apprised of the progress on the new Yankee Stadium. She returned from the most recent visit to her old haunts with Part One of a Sunday series the Daily News is running on The House That Ruth Built. I’m getting more and more tempted to shell out the big bucks it’s going to take to secure seats to the final game on September 21st. Of course that then merits another consideration. If I go to the wake doesn’t that then obligate me to attend a christening next spring when the new park opens. Ah, the complexities that life presents to us; complexities that make us poorer for the experience.

I was looking at page five of the supplement and read this interesting little tidbit.

When the White Construction Co. finished its work in the Bronx in early 1923, it hadn’t merely built the biggest ballpark in the country, it had built the funkiest right-field wall in the annals of the game, one that caused injuries and mayhem. It was aptly called “The Bloody Angle.”

Named after a Civil War battlefield in Spotsylvania, Va., “The Bloody Angle” of the wooden right field fence jutted out 12 feet into fair territory, perpendicular to the right-field foul line…Then the 12-foot-high fence ran straight back to the wall.

The result was a triangular crapshoot for rightfielders in front of a fence that was just 257 feet from home plate…

The Bloody Angle was eliminated prior to the 1924 season…By then it had caused a season’s worth of agita for unsuspecting outfielders, and just as many bizarre caroms as balls would hit it and ricochet back toward the infield.

That someone saw fit to tie the New York Yankees to the Civil War got me to thinking about whether there were other connections. Afterall, it’s probable that some veterans and possibly a few who saw action at Spotsylvania actually attended games, cheering as the Babe stepped to the plate. With a little investigation I found one additional connection (no, not the name “Yankees"), which you can see for yourself by following this link. And, no, contrary to rumors circulating on the Internet, John Wilkes Booth did not survive Garrett’s Farm and sing the National Anthem on Opening Day in 1923.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

You stand in any checkout line and you can’t help but notice People magazine. No, I didn’t buy a copy, but the latest edition touted actress Kate Hudson as the most beautiful of the beautiful. Kate Hudson? Ok, what do I know? I’m not certain of the criteria or how the selection is made, but my guess would be by a small group sitting in a room at Time-Life tossing comments back and forth.

So a comparison is in order between 2008’s standard of beauty versus the Civil War’s standard of beauty. And who better to represent the latter than Kate Chase, the daughter of Treasury Secretary Salmon P., reputed to be the most beautiful woman in all of Washington and who, legend has it, drove Mary Lincoln to fits of jealousy.



Done looking? Ok, then lets move on to Martinsburg, West Virginia where another legendary beauty, Belle Boyd, got her start in life as a femme fatale and Confederate spy extraordinaire. Called the “Cleopatra of Secession,” Belle reportedly charmed her way into the lusting hearts and minds of more Union officers than any other woman of the South, using those charms to develop information and track Union troop movements. She was rewarded with a personal note of thanks from Stonewall Jackson, the Southern Cross of Honor, an honorary captaincy, and three short stints in Washington's Old Capitol Prison for her efforts on behalf of the Confederate States of America. Ironically she'd take a Union Naval officer as the first of three husbands and die in 1900 while on her way to lecture at a Grand Army of the Republic Post in Wisconsin. Seems the boys in blue couldn't get enough of her right up to the very end.




Tuesday, May 06, 2008

This excerpt from the August 27, 1884 edition of the Boston Globe

Eighteenth Massachusetts

Reunion at the United States Hotel

For several years past the Eighteenth Massachusetts Regiment has held no reunion, but this year, by the earnest work of Colonel [William B.] White, Sergeant [Levi] Hawkes and Lieutenant [George W.] Smith, a notice was sent out, and yesterday, in response to the call, nearly 100 of the old soldiers met at the Unites States Hotel [Boston] to hold a reunion. Many and warm were the greetings, and one and all agreed that from this time forward the members should meet each year to have a reunion.

At 1.30 the meeting was called to order by Colonel White, and Sergeant Hawkes read the report of the committee who met at the Crawford House to take steps to form an association in order for the Gettysburg monument be secured. The report was accepted, and several designs for a monument submitted for the consideration of the regiment. A committee was appointed to select a design for a monument and another appointed to proceed with the work. The committee was Lieutenant G.W. Smith, Sergeant Levi N. Hawkes, Colonel W.B. White, Captain Louis N. Tucker, Captain W.W. Hemenway. A subscription was opened to add to the State appropriation, and about $200 was raised, General [Joseph] Hayes, formerly a [Colonel] of the regiment, heading it with $100. All subscriptions are to be paid within twenty days. It was then voted to make the organization of the regiment permanent, and that the annual reunion be held August 26 of each year.

This excerpt from the July 1, 1885 edition of the Boston Globe

Soldier’s Excursion

Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association go to Westerly.

Yesterday a party of Massachusetts veterans visited Westerly, R.I. to examine the work being done by the Smith Granite Company upon monuments which are being built for the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association. The party comprised the following among others: Comrades W.H. Ward, James H. Cruff, Joseph H. Brown and W.H. Brown of the Eleventh Regiment; George E. Muzzey, Joseph W. Thayer, and George Kimball, Twelfth Regiment; William B. White, Levi Hawkes, W.W. Hemenway, C.H. Smith, J.A. Pratt, and E.B. Smith, Eighteenth Regiment; J.C. Chadwick and George E. Teel, Nineteenth Regiment; John D. Reed and Benjamin B. Brown, Third Battery, Fred A. Lull and W.A. Waugh, Fifth Battery. Colonel J.B. Batchelder of Hyde Park, the government historian of the battle, and a number of veterans from Providence and vicinity also joined the party. The Thirteenth Regiment and the First Battery, although having monuments in process of construction by the Smith company were not represented.

The excursionists left Boston at 10 a.m. in a special car provided by Superintendent Folsom of the Providence railroad, and on reaching Westerly, after a rapid trip, took dinner at the Dixon House. Here they were shown pleasant courtesies by Budlong Post, G.A.R. of Westerly…They then proceeded to the quarries where the afternoon was spent in examining the outlines of the work being done, being politely shown about by Mr. Walter E. Wheeler, representing the company.


Monday, May 05, 2008

I’ll be heading up to Gettysburg on Friday night, the first of two visits I’ll be making this year. The second visit will occur on July 2nd to commemorate what I’ve labeled the 18th Massachusetts Infantry’s “Big Day at Gettysburg,” during which time I’ll lay a wreath at 18th’s monument in “The Loop,” a tradition that started a couple of years ago.

Friday night’s planned arrival is in preparation for the following day’s activity, a walking tour of the Wheatfield sponsored by the Civil War Education Association. One of the leaders of that tour will be Jay Jorgenson, who’s written the only published account devoted exclusively to the July 2nd fighting at the Wheatfield. As much as I’ve read about the fighting at the Wheatfield and walked that ground, this tour should hopefully provide a unique perspective of the fighting that raged there on the second day of the battle. It should also allow an opportunity to see first hand the new Visitor’s Center everyone’s been raving about.

Speaking of Gettysburg, one of the recent acquisitions that came into hand were six glass plate lantern slides of Massachusetts monuments at Gettysburg. These slides, which date to the 1890’s, once hung in an unidentified G.A.R. Post in Massachusetts. Among the group, and the primary reason for purchasing them, was one of the 18th Massachusetts’ monument. I’m still trying to figure out how best to display them. One of the ideas I have is to mount them as a group in some type of box with backlighting. I’m not good at making things, nor, as my father used to say, should I be trusted with electric wiring, so I’ll have to mull this over a little bit more.

1st Massachusetts Battery

3rd Massachusetts Battery

7th Massachusetts Infantry

13th Massachusetts Infantry

18th Massachusetts Infantry

37th Massachusetts Infantry