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Saturday, February 18, 2012



One of the 18th Massachusetts' own, Capt. John Lewis Spalding, was recently featured by author Ron Coddington in the New York Times Civil War related "Disunion" series. To read Ron's profile of Spalding, which one reader commented was "Not a story of heroism, just a tale of fallible men muddling through sometime more and sometimes less honestly in extraordinary times," click on this link.

If you'd like to follow along, the entire New York Times Disunion series can be found on its very own Facebook page.

If you'd like to read more by Ron Coddington, please visit his absolutely terrific Faces of War Web site and Blog.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Preservation and development. Civil War Preservation Trust President Jim Lightizer opened a news conference to a National Press Club audience in Washington yesterday by saying the two don’t necessarily cancel each other out. They can co-exist in today’s society if given careful thought and planning; developers, power companies, and local governments just need to be mindful of our common past and heritage and ensure the legacy of the past is carried forward far into the future.

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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.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Not only are Civil War battlefields in danger, but so too are the plans of re-enactors to encamp and stage their mock battles in Massachusetts. Click on this link to read about Bay State towns turning their backs on people dedicated to recreating the lives of Billy Yank and Johnny Reb, for one a weekend a year, at least.

Thursday, November 05, 2009



A tip of the cap to the Twins, Angels, and Phillies for well played, hard fought, and gutsy post-season baseball. A bigger tip of the cap to my New York Yankees and in particular Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, "The Great" Mariano Rivera, and "The Captain," Number 2, Derek Jeter. Love those guys!

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Friday, October 23, 2009


The Post Office brings news of two upcoming events.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Did you know that the average person only reads the first four paragraphs of a newspaper or magazine story?

I get it. At least I think get it. Beginning tomorrow Touch the Elbow is going to a new format. It has nothing to do with redesigning the page, or template, or moving the site. Rather, each new post is going to be summarized in twenty million words or less for a quick overview of the topic or subject matter. Readers will be able to make up their minds very quickly about whether they want to read the entire post, or not. The option to read on will be available by clicking “Read More.”

Of course I have to warn you beforehand that there’ll be a subliminal message embedded in each summary saying “Read me! Read me!”

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The authors of "Touch the Elbow" are not willing to concede to the news from a fellow blogger just yet, meaning we’re not planning to lower our flag to half staff today, or in the near future. We’re going to pull a Major Robert Anderson and stay the course in the presence of wolves howling at the door.

By now you may be aware that Eric Wittenberg announced on “Rantings of a Civil War Historian” that he was taking a break from blogging and pulling back to take stock of his life. I’m not going to attempt an analysis of what may or may not be happening, because that’s between Eric and, as he points out, his reflection in the mirror. But as I wrote in a comment to him, I know work related burnout from personal experience and, trust me, it’s horrible to go through and something that’s incredibly difficult to combat. If you try to ignore or convince yourself you can bull your way through, sooner or later the gas pedal becomes frozen, the fuzzy cloudy feeling in your head seems like a permanent condition, and your ability to string coherent thoughts together a thing of the past. You don’t want to walk out the door in the morning. You want to retreat to the safety and comfort of your bed and have a televised image of Jerry Springer as your only companion.

There are many, many people who know Eric far better than I do. I’ve only met him once, which occurred over a two day period while we were on the same Kilpatrick-Dalhgren Raid tour. Prior to going on the tour Eric allowed me to read two key chapters of the manuscript for what would turn out to be his latest release, “Like a Meteor Blazing Brightly: The Short Controversial Life of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren.” I was blown away not only by his willingness to share his work, but the generosity of doing so with a complete nobody.

Meeting Eric was as revealing, in that it defined him as to the person he is. He’s a big guy, I’m not. Instead of using physical presence and reputation to intimidate me, I was immediately put at ease. He was just a regular guy; an interesting guy, who happened to share a common passion, who was as interested in what I was working on as I was interested in what he was working on. My God! the guy was human. He just knew a whole hell of a lot more about the Civil War than I did.

So, this is not an obituary, but rather akin to visiting the emergency room where someone is being treated for a badly sprained ankle. No flowers necessary. Just get well cards to let Eric know we all hope he’ll lose the crutches and be back running a 400 meter race at a track meet of his own time and choosing.

And Eric, if you read this, hopefully the authors of "Touch the Elbow" can emulate your example by achieving a goal of 1,000 well written, thought provoking, and informative posts, unless, of course we fade to black a third time...


Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I've just learned that in addition to some great music that'll be supplied by Hard Drivin' Fish, free food and beverages, at Friday, September 18th's S.B.P.A. benefit concert at the multi-purpose and recently renovated Shepherdstown, WVA train station, there's also going to be an auction for Civil War items. If that doesn't have you reaching into your wallet for the $10 admission fee, nothing will motivate you to move off your couch.

See the related post below for a link to the S.B.P.A. and concert information, as well as Saturday, September 19th's wading of the Potomac River. Tickets for that event are going fast!

Lastly, if you've never been to Shepherdstown this is a great opportunity to visit a very picturesque little town of historic importance. Additionally, Antietam and Harper's Ferry are within easy driving range.

Two upcoming events are on tap to benefit the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association.

On Friday, September 18th you can listen to the blues influenced sound of Hard Swimmin Fish at the renovated Shepherdstown Train Station. A mere $10 will not only get you through the doors, beginning at 7:30 p.m., but entitle you to free food and soft drinks. Compare that to the cost of going to see a movie!

On Saturday, September 19th a very unique event will be held, but you're going to have to hurry to make a reservation as there are only a limited number of tickets available. The event involves wading the Potomac River from Maryland to Shepherdstown, West Virginia at Pack Horse Ford, essentially crossing at the very same place Union and Confederate troops did following the Battle of Antietam.

Ed Dunleavy, President of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, assures everyone that the 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. crossings are entirely safe and no one should fear falling into the river and floating their way to Washington, some 80 miles away.

As if an added incentive were needed, the $25 fee includes a tour of the Shepherdstown battlefield and a barbeque, which includes "adult" beverages, following the tour.

For more information and to make a reservation, please click on this link for the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association.



Tuesday, July 14, 2009


This photo is purportedly one of Gen. Robert E. Lee making his escape across the Potomac into Virginia on the morning of July 14, 1863. Notice the pontoon boats in the background, which were detached and set to drift after the crossing.



Photo courtesy of the National Enquirer



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This announcement from the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association:

Shepherdstown Preservation Group Announces the Establishment of a Historical Advisory Board

The Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc. (SBPA) has established a Historical Advisory Board (HAB). Edward E. Dunleavy, President of SBPA, announced today the establishment of the HAB. Dunleavy stated that “the HAB was organized by Dr. Peter Carmichael, the West Virginia University (WVU) Eberly Professor of Civil War Studies. The Board of Directors of SBPA and its more than 130 members wish to thank Dr. Carmichael for his effort. The HAB includes many of today’s most respected scholars and Civil War historians.”

Dr. Carmichael stated that “the outpouring of support from the academic community in forming a Historical Advisory Board attests to the undeniable historic importance of the Battle of Shepherdstown. Among the scholars who have joined the board, all are recognized experts in the field of Civil War history, and many have received national attention for their work, including James McPherson, Gary W. Gallagher, Elizabeth Pryor, and William Link. Their support of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association is indispensable to saving what they uniformly believe is sacred historical ground.”

Dunleavy added that “importantly West Virginia is well represented on the HAB with Civil War historians from WVU, Marshall University and Shepherd University. The HAB ensures that SBPA's portrayal of the Battle of Shepherdstown is historically accurate and we thank the members of the HAB for their participation.”

Members of the SBPA HAB are:

Kevin T. Barksdale – Marshall University
Stephen W. Berry II - University of Georgia
Keith S. Bohannon - West Georgia State University
Peter S. Carmichael - West Virginia University
Thomas W. Cutrer - Arizona State University
William C. Davis - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
William W. Freehling – Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
Gary W. Gallagher - University of Virginia
Lesley Jill Gordon – University of Akron
A. Wilson Greene – Petersburg, Virginia
Clark B. Hall – Fairfax, Virginia
Earl J. Hess – Lincoln Memorial University
Caroline E. Janney - Purdue University
Robert E. L. Krick – Richmond, Virginia
Susanna Michele Lee – North Carolina State University
William A. Link - University of Florida
Thomas A. McGrath – North Country College
James M. McPherson - Princeton University
Frank A. O’Reilly – Fredericksburg, Virginia
Elizabeth B. Pryor - Washington D.C
George C. Rable – University of Alabama
Gordon C. Rhea – Charleston, South Carolina
Mark A. Snell - Shepherd University
Susannah J. Ural – University of Southern Mississippi
Joan Waugh – University of California, Los Angeles

Biographies of members of the HAB are available on the SBPA website by clicking here:

The Battle of Shepherdstown was fought on September 19 – 20, 1862 over approximately one square mile, east of what was then Shepherdstown, Virginia and south of the Potomac River and Boteler’s (aka Packhorse) Ford. The battle was the last of three battles fought during the Army of Northern Virginia’s (ANV) Antietam or Maryland Campaign. Approximately 9000 troops took part in the Shepherdstown battle with 677 casualties about equally divided between the Union Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s troops. The battle’s significance is that it was a contributing factor in Lee’s decision to reverse the order to move north back into Maryland. As a consequence, the ANV retreated up the Shenandoah Valley toward Winchester. That retreat allowed the Union Army to declare a military victory and enabled President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc. (SBPA), organized in 2004, is a non-profit, Section 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to saving and preserving the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown. SBPA has preserved 84 acres by way of conservation easements granted by members who own property on the site. For more information and to purchase the book entitled: Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign September 19 – 20, 1862 ; please visit by clicking here

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In my first post, I suggested reading the comments of the story about the closing of CSA galleries. It was a rather normal back and forth argument between two groups, arguing over the “Lost Cause”/ “Heritage not Hate” vs. the evil Carpet Bagging Northerners.

That was until I read this one comment that really hit home on what the true heritage of the Confederacy really is.


It's no surprise that many of you don't understand that many black people hate and discontent with the flag has nothing to do with Slavery.

The hurt, hate and discontent these days comes from the KKK using the flag when they torture my great grandmother, great grand father, my grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, aunts, uncle, cousin and I during the 1900's.

Those pains are still around and people like me who were raised on James Island, and did not have equal rights when it came to the law carries the scares. That is why the flag offends me.

I was not around for slavery and none of my family members I know or meet was either.

Do you know how it feels to 8 years old, black and having a good friend that is white he comes an play with you when his mother visit, and then to find out that his big brother and father think of you as the N word and actually call you it in your face. That's the kind of pain that sticks with you for life.
Let it go, thats easy for someone who don't have to go through it to say. It still goes on, but behind your back.


Sunday, February 15, 2009


This article was featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on February 14, 1909.


Atlanta’s Significant Tribute to Lincoln


In the many hundreds of celebrations the country over incident to the centennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, there are none which can compare in uniqueness or significance to that which, at Trinity church, in Atlanta, tonight will bring together in common cause to honor the memory of the great American, the veterans of the blue and gray.

Unquestionably in many of these gatherings there have assembled men and women of the south with those of the north and east and west; but here in a southern city which the fortunes of war reduced to ashes will the survivors upon both sides of that conflict, who knew all of its bitterness and miseries, come together to honor the memory of him who was commander-in-chief of the invading army.

Side by side the members of the Atlanta camps, United Confederate Veterans, will join with those of the Grand Army of the Republic, O.M. Mitchel Post No. 1, in tribute to Lincoln, the man, the American. General Clement A. Evans, commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans will offer the opening prayer, followed by the reading of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” by General J.W. Scully, United States army, retired. Other veterans of north and south will alternate upon the program, and Rev. J.W. Lee will deliver the memorial address.

There could be no higher, more glorious evidence of a triumphantly restored nationalism.

Perhaps in no other nation of the world, within less than half a century after the extreme bitterness of the civil conflict had been implanted in every breast, would such a gathering as this, in tribute to the leader of the conquering armies, be possible.

Animosities and prejudices must have disappeared when the defeated voluntarily unite in praise of him who, more than any other, had to do with the victory achieved.

Even the esteem and admiration in which men of the south, back to those who fought its battles, have always held the war president, could not have sufficed to make such celebration possible, had it not been for the victory of fraternal spirit over the deep-rooted enmities of civil strife.

In this the south’s victory is greatest, for it had not only to erase the enmities of war, but to crush and blot out the rankling bitterness of defeat.

How well and nobly it has done this could not be better evidenced than in the mutual tribute which confederate survivors, together with those who stood in opposing ranks, will pay tonight to the most generous of enemies and the most abiding of friends.

Abraham Lincoln belongs to the whole United States.

His work was not sectional, but national, and that is the view which now, less than half a century following his tragic death, is almost full grown.

The celebration at Trinity church is timely in its conception and in its expression of the spirit of today – a spirit in which hand and heart unite in significance of the supremacy of the brotherhood of man.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Today’s post features an article that appeared in the Washington Post on February 8, 1909.

“Dixie” Was Adopted


Famous Song Originally Written for Minstrel Show


First Sung in New York


Friend of the Author, Daniel Emmett, Says Words and Music Were Composed in 1859 -
Air Was One of Many Considered by the People of New Orleans for a Popular War Chorus.



Editor Post: I read with much interest the article in your Sunday edition touching the use of “Dixie’s Land,” the production said to have been forbidden recently in Chicago as inappropriate to be used at the Lincoln memorial. It is a matter of congratulation that Joseph Nimmo, jr. has given a correct statement of President Lincoln’s attitude toward the song – one of approval. That was, in the nature of things, perfectly natural. Mr. Lincoln’s heart, always full of sadness, and burdened with a sense of deep responsibility, needed the relief which such a frolicsome song as “Dixie” would afford.

While I would have it sung everywhere, and on all patriotic occasions, I would not have people misunderstand by who and under what circumstances the matter was written. Ten years ago, while the author, Daniel D. Emmett, was still living, I received from him a portrait and an account of the origin of the song and the words. Concerning the controversy I wish to make a few observations, all of which are taken from records that cannot be disputed.

1. Daniel D. Emmett, author of both the words and music of “Dixie,” was born at Mount Vernon, Ohio, October 22, 1815, the son of Abraham and Sarah (Zerick) Emmett. His father was a native of Staunton, Va. and his mother of Frederick, Md. Both parents and Daniel are buried at Mount Vernon, Ohio.

2. “Dixie” both words and music, was written April 5, 1859 by Emmett, in the city of New York, two years prior to the war of 1861-65, for the Bryant minstrels. On Saturday evening, Jerry Bryant, the senior member of the troupe, requested Emmett to present at the rehearsal Monday a “hooray” for the public. Mr. Emmett responded that the time was short in which to compose such a production; but, being urged, he set earnestly at work and presented, at the designated time, both the words and music as they are now sung.

3. It may be interesting to learn how “Dixie” became the popular was song of the South. It occurred in this manner: At the opening of what is called the civil war a great entertainment was being given at New Orleans. All parts were supplied, except the popular war songs for the chorus. Many marches and songs were tested, but failed to render satisfaction. Finally, “Dixie” was tried and proved a great success. The people took to it kindly, and it ran through the halls and along the streets. Once let loose, it spread like wildfire.

Nor were its conquests confined to civil life. It reached the army and was adopted in camp as the song which best expressed Southern sentiment and feeling. It conquered and remained a victor, being put by the side of “Bonnie Blue Flag,” “My Maryland,” &c.

4. On the night preceding the assassination of President Lincoln, viz. April 13, 1865, a brass band serenaded him at the White House. After a number of patriotic pieces were rendered, Mr. Lincoln, evidently under the impression that “Dixie” was a Southern composition, called for it remarking at the time, “We have captured the tune and now have a perfect right to it.” In addition to Joseph Nimmo, jr. others heard it, among the number being the late Dr. Franklin T. Howe and Comrades S.C. Mills and John Bresnahan.

5. One of the members of the original minstrel troupe, Neal Bryant, who some years ago was a clerk in the geodetic coast survey in this city, informed me that so strong was the conviction that “Dixie” was a Southern song that in New York the week following the assassination all theater engagements by the Bryant minstrels were cancelled. The mob feeling engendered was so strong that it could not be booked. Sentiment has changed.

Let Dixie be sung by every one that appreciates stirring music.

J. Frise Richard
Washington, Feb. 7.