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This is the archive for February 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Donald does self-assigned homework for the Surratt Society's upcoming conference on the Lincoln Assassination.



I promise I'm not going to beat this issue to death, but a quick update on Tuesday's post concerning the alleged quote by Leonard L. Haynes regarding Black Confederates. One person responded and said it was not Leonard L. Haynes III who made the statement, but his father Leonard L. Haynes, Jr., a former historian at Southern University and now deceased.

Another effort was made to determine how widespread the use of the quote was on Confederate and Southern heritage sites and after tallying 50 Web sites I stopped counting, thus concluding the quote rivals "The only thing we have to fear is itself" as one of the most popular maxims appearing on the Web.

In response to the response, Leonard L. Haynes, Jr. was not on the faculty or in an administrative capacity at Southern. He was by vocation a pastor and leader of the African Methodist-Episcopal Church in Louisiana, and also served on the Board of Trustees at Tarrant County (Louisiana) Junior College, as a dean at Claflin College, Orangeburg, South Carolina, on the staff of Phillander-Smith College, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and as president of Morristown College, in Morristown, Tennessee. He authored at least one book titled "The Negro Community Within American Protestantism, 1619-1844," which was published in 1953.

I also sent an email to someone who just might be able to shed some light on the quote, but doubt I'll hear back. I can imagine their thoughts after receiving my query. It was probably something along the lines that they weren't going to get involved in a fight between a bunch of white guys arguing over whether African-Americans, of their own free will, fought to maintain a slave holding republic.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Maybe you've seen this particular quote making the rounds on Civil War related Web and blog sites.

"When you eliminate the black Confederate soldier, you've eliminated the history of the South. ..."

Monday, February 22, 2010

"I have picked up a great many relics during the war but have been compelled to throw them away as I could not carry them..."
Capt. Joseph Collingwood, Co. H, 18th Massachusetts Infantry



Not so with Sergeant Edmund F. Churchill of Company E, 18th Massachusetts Infantry. One of the Regiment's truly great souvenir hunters, he grabbed nearly everything of personal significance he could lay his hands on and, after carefully tagging them, shipped them home via Adams Express to Pembroke, Massachusetts. Lacking photographs to visually document his wartime experience, the relics would have allowed him and all who held them to have something tangible beyond memories by which to remember the war.

Friday, February 19, 2010


"It's been a cold hard lonely winter," so we all deserve this on a Friday, smack in the middle February, as a sign of things yet to come.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


A few weeks back I happened to see a dead rat lying on a strip of grass next to my work place in Southwest DC. It wasn't that large of a rat, probably about nine inches in length with its tail outstretched. I wasn't certain how it died, but I knew for certain what was going to happen if no one disposed of it. Sure enough no one disposed of it and little by little, day after day, nature took its course, until, after about ten days, only a skeleton remained. And I was struck by the absolute certainty of this thought as I observed the body decompose: we all go the way of the rat. The only uncertainty is when.

The uncertainty as to if or when certainly played on the minds of soldiers during the Civil War. It would have played in their minds before a battle. It would have played in their minds if they got sick and were sent to the hospital. It would have played in their minds if they were taken prisoner. It would have played in the minds of a nation when it was realized that 20 per cent of the men who marched off to war didn't return home. For those fortunate enough to have escaped death on the battlefield, in the hospital, or a prison camp, life was expected to be more certain after the guns were silenced. That is until circumstances that comprise life's uncertainty intervened.

Friday, February 12, 2010


A couple of blogs mentioned the Center for the Study of the Civil War's upcoming June Conference on "Petersburg: In the Trenches With the Common Soldier." Taking it a step further, here's a roundup of Civil War related conferences scheduled for the rest of the year. Please let us know if we've missed any. We'll periodically update and repost this entry as changes occur.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In 1842, the doors to two military colleges were opened in South Carolina – The Arsenal in Columbia and The Citadel in Charleston. About 25 years later, one would be destroyed by fire as the visiting troops of General Sherman played tourist in Columbia and the other would become the headquarters of the Union Army as it occupied Charleston during reconstruction.

The original intent of both colleges was to implement the 1822 “Act to Establish a Competent Force to Act as a Municipal Guard for the Protection of the City of Charleston and its vicinity" which provided for a building be erected for the deposit of the arms of the State. While the buildings had been constructed in the 1820’s, Federal troops manned them at first. It wasn’t until later that they would house the two new colleges.

All would seem normal except for one small thing that also happened in 1822, a plot by a freed slave by the name of Denmark Vesey. There is a lot of questions that surround what exactly Denmark wanted to do but it boils down to a Slave Revolt, killing the slave masters and escape to Haiti. The questions do look towards what Denmark really wanted to do once the slaves were freed (ie kill the masters or not) but one thing that is not questioned, he has been demonized by citizens of Charleston over the last 188 years.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Director Akira Kurosawa's classic "Rashomon," a movie still dissected by film students sixty years after its release, is the tale of several people who are participants in the same event. But, as each witness recalls that event, decidedly different viewpoints emerge, often contradicting what others before them have disclosed. With Kurosawa's film in mind, today's post provides another perspective to the one Tom wrote about in Saturday's "With Friends Like These..."

Saturday, February 06, 2010

On a regular basis I search the Internet for things revolving around the 18th Massachusetts. I am continuously surprised at the things I find that have been hidden to most of the world for a century or more, now open to all who have the inkling to look.

Shortly before my birthday I discovered something that could have been huge – a letter from Great-Great Grandfather to his sister talking about the battle of Gettysburg. Those of you that have followed this blog know this could have been big for two reasons, helping us prove that General James Barnes did not fail in his responsibilities and to give us needed information about the unit towards the end of the war.

While it was over four pages in length, it did not really touch on either. When I mentioned it to my wife, she was ready to buy it as a combined birthday and Christmas present but I felt that at $1100, it was too expensive for what little information it provided.

I went ahead and copied the letter’s content and then meant to email Donald and Steve about it but got distracted when my wife offered me a Jameson and Coke. The Jameson must have killed the brain cell that was storing that memory because I then forgot about it for a few months.

That is, until I received an email from a collector looking for more information about Edmund and the 18th Massachusetts. He had just started collecting and wanted our opinion on the value of the letter. We got in a long series of back and forths discussing why one letter would be more expensive than another (famous battle, famous unit, famous author, etc.) and how he might find a letters at a much cheaper cost. In the end he decided to pass on the letter; which was good because Donald mentioned he might get it.

About a day later, I received an email stating that the collector had changed his mind and would be getting it. And in what I consider a very gracious move, offered to give us color copies of the email. While we wouldn’t have the original, we would have an exact duplicate. About a week later he emailed me that the copy was on its way, which should have been the end of it.

So when I came home to find an envelope from FedEx on my counter, I did not bat an eye – until I saw it was from Donald.

Yes, the collector had lied to me about the letter. He was not providing a copy at all.

You see, Donald came up with a plan where he would buy it himself but have the collector tell me he was buying it and sending a copy.

So as I opened the FedEx envelope, I pulled out the original letter and yes, I was a bit emotional. Even though I had done everything I could not to see this letter, not to really care about it, much less desire it – as I saw it for the first time – it meant the world to me.

In the end, I had answered a question I didn’t know I had asked.

Historical relevance matters not when it comes to the 18th Massachusetts.

As Donald says, these are “Our Guys”. It is our duty to carry on their memory – and because of this, everything single thing about them, from a uniform button to a bugle to a razor or even to the simplest of a letters - is Sacred and Valuable in its own right. Nothing should ever be lost because it is “just” something.

Because if it belonged to the 18th, it we should always see it as, “just amazing.

Thursday, February 04, 2010



Okay, I know we're already 35 days into 2010 and this represents my first effort of the new year and decade. I don't know if anybody is still hanging around this site, but if you are I'll forgo a long and potentially boring explanation as to the whys for the absence.