Civil War Fangirl

The thoughts of a (slighty eccentric & crazy) Canadian who happens to be obsessed with Abraham Lincoln & the Civil War

They “Fought Like Iron…”

I’ve mentioned a few times on Twitter that for the last little while I’ve been working on a blog post about this Union Army hottie Major General John Gibbon…

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“Hey, girl…” as my BFF Jen always says when we’re discussing the Generals we love. Gibbon is swoon worthy and y’all, he’s interesting as hell, too. Post will be done soonūüôā

Gibbon was the second commander of what is known as the Iron Brigade. The first commander was Union Brigadier General Rufus King. The Wisconsin Historical Society has some more information about him here

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Rufus King, first leader of the Iron Brigade. President Lincoln had originally appointed him Minister to the Papal States in 1861 but when the Civil War broke out, he took a leave of absence from this to join the Union Army. 

It was on May 7, 1862, when Special Order No. 46 was issued, giving command of the Iron Brigade to Brigadier General John Gibbon. To begin, the Brigade had consisted of the 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiments, 19th from Indiana and Battery B of the 4th U.S. Light Artillery. The 24th Michigan later joined their ranks.

When I started researching John Gibbon and finding out that he led the Iron Brigade, one of the questions I had was just how had this Brigade come to be called the “Iron Brigade”?

Well, it happened 154 years ago today, during the Battle of South Mountain (also known as the Battle of Boonsboro Gap), which was part of the Maryland Campaign. It was fought at three separate passes where General Lee’s Army ¬†(this is where I started to go down a rabbit hole but quickly got back out again. No, Mary, focus on how the Brigade was named. You don’t need to talk about the whole damn battle!):

So, I won’t go into a lot of detail about the battle but Civil War Trust has a good summary of the battle here. Also, I’ve included a couple maps too, just to give y’all an idea of where the battle was fought and who was where…

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Crampton’s Gap. Southern most post of the battle. The Union won the day here.¬†

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Fox’s & Turner’s Gap. The Federal’s almost take Fox’s Gap but Confederate General John Bell Hood arrives in time to stop this. Turner’s Gap is where the Iron Brigade earns it’s nickname.

 

Onto the naming of the Brigade. By this point, Gibbon’s Brigade was already standing out with their black Hardee hats. Ever the unique snowflake, it was Gibbon who had made them part of the uniform. Hence the other name they are also known by – the Black Hat Brigade.

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The Hardee hat, chosen by John Gibbon as part of their uniform. Hence the name “Black Hat Brigade”

The morning of September 14 found Gibbon and his men marching towards South Mountain. In short, General McClellan (henceforth known as G McC) had found General Lee’s Order 191 (Pro-tip: don’t roll important orders around a cigar. Someone will probably drop them), giving detailed plans of his army’s operation. Hence the marching to South Mountain. By this point, however, Bobbi Lee had found out G McC had found the order. He’d already reinforced South Mountain. I read a couple sources that state G McC was taking things at a “leisurely place”(*gasp* Is this what Lincoln referred to as “the slows”? I think so…).

Gibbon was marching with Brigadier General John Porter Hatch’s Division to begin with…

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John Porter Hatch. He was wounded at the Battle of South Mountain. After the battle, he was promoted to Major General of Volunteers. He also earned the Medal of Honor. 

Plans changed, however, and he received direct orders from General Ambrose Burnside to take his brigade plus Battery B (the artillery) back to the National Road. It was there they started advancing towards the mountain at what is known as Turner’s Gap.

It was Confederate General D.H. Hill who was defending¬†Turner’s Gap, a man who John Gibbon knew personally as he’d been D.H. Hill’s groomsman at his wedding. This is one of those moments where I think of the Godfather: “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business”.

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Confederate General D.H. Hill. He was the brother-in-law of General “Stonewall” Jackson. Did not get on too well with Bobbi Lee, therefore was considered to be under utilized. This may be why he looks angry.

With support from Battery B, it was Gibbon’s Brigade on its own that was to go up the National Road and hit the center of the Confederate line at Turner’s Gap. Back at headquarters, G McC and Burnside would have front row seats, so to speak, to see Gibbon and his men in action. Since Bobbi Lee knew G McC would be coming to pay him a visit, General D.H. Hill had been reinforced already with brigades from Brigidier General J.R. Jones and General John Bell Hood. Of course he had artillery of his own too.

Gibbs and his Black Hat Brigade were going to have a tough climb up to Turner’s Gap towards Alfred H. Colquitt, who had 1,100 men with him. It was later in the afternoon when Gibbon finally received word from Burnside to move forward. As they started their ascent, Gibbon was mounted on his horse, commanding “Forward! Forward! Forward!”. They¬†ascended towards Turner’s Gap, and they had a hell of a fight.

Much of the fighting was done in the darkness. The Black Hat Brigade fought hard and slowly, they gained ground, despite constant firing and shelling from the enemy. The Confederates were putting up a hell of a fight as well in order to hold their ground. Gibbon moved on the battlefield, directing his men where to go and seemingly staying quite cool considering the circumstances.

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Painting depicting the Iron Brigade fighting at Turner’s Gap. If anyone can tell me the name of the artist, please let me know! I couldn’t find it anywhere and they need credit for the this amazing painting.

Circumstances seemed grave near the end of the night and I’m sure even Gibbon was scared. You know shit is getting bad when you have to give your men the order “Hold your ground with the bayonet” because they’ve run out of ammo. This was the order he had to give the men of the 7th Wisconsin and it is eerily like an order given less than a year later by Union General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Little Round Top during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Just when things seemed at their worst, Gibbon finally got the word to cease firing and that they had won the day. At approximately 9pm on September 14th, the bloody fighting at Turner’s Gap was done.

Fighting had ended else where along South Mountain at this time too. General ¬†Lee soon withdrew his troops. The wounded and dead lay strewn along the mountainside and this was Gibbon’s greatest concern. 25% of the brigade had been lost – 37 killed, 251 wounded and 30 missing. The 7th Wisconsin had the heaviest casualties with 147 wounded or dead. Overall, the Black Hat Brigade had sustained greater losses than any other Brigade that day at South Mountain.

Their hard fighting and sacrifice did not go unnoticed, however. Remember I said that G McC and Burnside had front row seats to watch Gibbon and his bad ass Black Hat Brigade ascend Turner’s Gap? Nolan sums it up perfectly in his book about the history of the Iron Brigade:

McClellan and Burnside and a number of other officers had seen it all, the initial advance up the mountainside, the unflinching progress as the enemy’s fire increased and the dogged movements, always forward, into the darkness, marked toward the end of the day by the flashes from the opposing lines of rifles.¬†

“A brilliant engagement” was how Burnside put it. G McC, in his official report, wrote that “General Gibbon, in this delicate movement, handled his brigade with as much precision and coolness as if upon parade and the bravery of his troops could not be excelled”.

The word “iron” was used to describe the brigade and how they had fought. Some sources say that it was Hooker who said “those men fought like iron”. Others say it was McClellan. Another source I found attributed it to Hooker. Whatever the case, Gibbon’s Brigade, nicknamed the Black Hat Brigade because of their black Hardee hats, became known as the Iron Brigade. This was the name they most certainly had earned in the fighting of Turner’s Gap.

Nolan states that:

On the rocky sides of South Mountain at Turner’s Gap, Gibbon’s soldiers acquired a reputation, a reputation they would have to sustain with further bravery and which would somehow make them brave, as brave as an “Iron Brigade”.¬†

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Just a few of the men from Gibbon’s Iron Brigade. This Co. K, 7th Wisconsin Infantry. These are the men who suffered the heaviest casualties in Gibbon’s Brigade.

Prior to South Mountain, they had fought at Second Bull Run. They went on to fight at Antietam, which happened just a few days after South Mountain on September 17th, 1862. Their other battles included Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Minerun, Overland, Richmond-Petersburg and finally, Appomattox.

Also, I can’t recommend Alan T. Nolan’s book “The Iron Brigade: A Military History” enough. Although I haven’t read it all the way through yet,what I have read is very well written and very interesting. It was my main source for writing this post.

Thanks, as always, for reading. I absolutely loved learning how the Iron Brigade earned it’s name at South Mountain. The Iron Brigade is becoming a favourite of mine and I can’t wait to read the whole book about them.

Do any of you have a favourite brigade from the Civil War? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter or on my Facebook page.

Until next time,

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

Thus ensued the Battle of South Mountain

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Sources

“Bloody Prelude: The Battle of South Mountain”.¬†http://mountainaflame.blogspot.ca/2010/07/birth-of-iron-brigade.html

Civil War Trust

“King, Gen. Rufus (1814-1876)”. Wisconsin Historical Society.¬†http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Content.aspx?dsNav=N:4294963828-4294963805&dsRecordDetails=R:CS2379

Nolan, Alan T. “The Iron Brigade: A Military History”. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961.

“The Battle of South Mountain”. The American Civil War 150 Years Ago Today.¬†http://civilwarsesquicentdaily-wolfshield.blogspot.ca/2012/09/september-14-1862.html

Cump’s Memoirs…

For those who don’t know, “Cump” is the nickname of General William Tecumseh Sherman. I make no secret of the fact, that next to Lincoln, I dearly love the man and find him an incredibly fascinating individual. He’s pretty damn handsome too. I mean, come on…

oh, hai, Cump…you handsome devil…

Okay, enough with the swooning and batting of eyelashes…

Awhile ago, I started reading Sherman’s Memoirs. Being as I have 5 books on the go AND I’m a slow reader, I’m not too far into it. Plus,¬†the book is freaking gigantic. Cump had a lot to say and Robert L O’Connell is absolutely correct in his book”Fierce Patriot” (hands down, one of the best bios I’ve ever read) when he refers to Sherm as a chatterbox and states “if there was a contest for who spoke the most words in a lifetime, Sherman would have been a finalist…”. Slay that dragon, Cump…

oh, hey…look at that…two of my favourite men.

But the memoirs are full of good chatter. Yes, he has much to say but it’s interesting as hell. I’m enjoying it immensely. When I read it, I seem to get lost in a world where Cump is sitting with me, telling me the whole story. It’s fascinating to read. He also lets his sense of humour shine through and he’s got a certain way of saying things that I can see the meaning underneath the words. Let’s just say I’ve had a few laugh out loud moments and times where I’ve uttered “Oh, Cump…you’re cute”.There has also been many times I can picture him in a situation and imagine the mannerisms he must have employed, like eye rolling and uttering “Whatever the f$&/” under his breath when he was frustrated about something. Or maybe not under his breath. This is General Sherman after all…

Anyway, here’s some cool stuff I’ve found out so far…

He attended West Point and graduated in 1840 at the age of twenty. His best subjects were drawing, chemistry, mathematics and natural philosophy (science).He graduated sixth in a class of forty-three. His explanation as to why this happened is, to me, typical Sherman:

At the Academy I was not considered a good soldier, for at no time was I selected for any office, but remained a private throughout the whole four years. Then, as now, neatness in dress and form, with a strict conformity to the rules, were the qualifications required for office and I suppose I was found not to excel in any of these…

 

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I give you Exhibit A…messy haired Cump. Clearly not excelling in neatness yet still excelling in being handsome. Cump wins again!


He continues on about his demerit points.

My average demerits, per annum, were about one hundred and fifty, which reduced my final class standing from number four to six.

All I thought was “Damn, Cump, you knew how to have fun & you made sure you did at West Point”. Uncle Billy, as his soldiers later called him, knew how to have a good time. I’m also surprised geography wasn’t mentioned as one of his best subjects because, damn, you can tell the man was quite the geographer. The level of detail he gives in describing places in his memoirs , such as the terrain, buildings, etc. is incredible.

In the summer of 1840, he was appointed and commissioned second-lieutenant, Third Artillery. He was in Company A. He reported to Governor’s Island, New York and after that, it was off to the sunny south! Florida, specifically.

The entire Third Artillery were stationed along the Atlantic coast of Florida from St. Augustine south to Key Biscayne. His Company was stationed at Fort Pierce, Indian River.

Not the best map but you get an idea of where Cump was stationed

The fort was abandoned in 1842 (not long after Cump left) and burned down the following year. It’s now the home of Old Fort Pierce Park.¬†Cump describes his first encounter with the fort:

We walked up the steep sand-bluff on which the fort was situated and across the parade-grounds to the officers’ quarters. These were six or seven log-houses, thatched with palmetto-leaves, built on high posts, with a porch in front facing the water. The men’s quarters were also of logs forming the two sides of rectangle, open toward the water; the intervals and flanks were closed with log stockades.

It doesn’t sound like it was a bad place to be. Plus it’s Florida (granted, Florida pre-Disney so maybe not as fun…).

Sherman was stationed there during the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842. He arrived just before active operations so there was time for leisure and there was a particularly colorful character called Captain Ashlock (Sherman describes him as a “character of some note”), with whom he and other officers spent a good deal of time with:

The season was hardly yet come for active operations against the Indians, so that the officers were naturally attracted to Ashlock, who was the best fisherman I ever saw. He soon initiated us into the mysteries of shark-spearing, trolling for red-fish and taking the sheep’s-head and mullet.

They also caught green turtles so the cooks had an ample supply. They often ate turtle instead of what he describes as “poor Florida beef or the usual barreled mess-pork” (ummm…yuck).

Captain Ashlock unfortunately ended up drowning after his boat capsized¬†while he was bringing people to shore. Sherman remarked that “strange to say, he [Ashlock] could not swim, although he had been employed on the water all his life”. Ashlock had just been married too and had brought his wife back with him. Sherman did see to it that she and her sister were taken care of, giving them his own quarters to use. The two women were eventually sent back to St. Augustine, Florida.

Sherman did not see much action while in Florida. He did seem to enjoy his time there though, remarking that while on excursions there was:

a peculiar charm, for the fragrance of the air, the abundance of game and fish, and just enough of adventure, gave to life a relish.

So, while he seemed to have enjoyed Florida, he felt it was of little value to it being a great state. If only he knew what the future held…

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Florida became something, Cump! It’s the happiest freaking place on earth!

Let’s face it. Sherman would have enjoyed the fireworks. He probably would have also enjoyed the “Pirates Of The Caribbean”. As for “It’s A Small World”, however…

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Cump not impressed after the kids make him binge ride “It’s A Small World”…

He’s internally burning “It’s A Small World”. Let’s face it…some of us secretly want that…

My question for y’all: have you read the memoirs of anyone from the Civil War? Do you have a favourite and why?

As always, thanks for reading!

Until next time,

Mary


Sources

“Memoirs”. General William Tecumseh Sherman

O’Connell, Robert L. “Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives Of William Tecumseh Sherman”. Random House: New York, 2014

Reason #20 Why You Need To Watch “Firefly”…

My partner and I had a quiet night in. We went out for dinner with my parentals. Afterwards, we played Firefly Fluxx. I won the first round with my boys Mal & Wash…


After three rounds (two of which I won…just sayin’…), we decided “hey, let’s start watching “Firefly” again! ” cause you know, it’s only been two months since my first time through.

Yup…it’s that good.

Now you’re about to find out why I’m blogging about it on my Civil War blog.

Y’all, here it is: “Firefly” is a sci-fi western written & directed by the awesome Joss Whedon. What did Joss Whedon base this amazing show on? ¬†“The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara. That’s right. This awesome Sci-Fi Western is based on a novel about the battle of Gettysburg. Yup. When my brother told me I was all “WTF?” and I didn’t watch it cause it sounded silly.

But FINALLY I watched it…

And fell in love…

With Mal…

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Oh, damn, Mal…

With Kaylee…

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Kaylee Frye…major girl crush…

And Wash…oh, Wash…

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Hoban “Wash” Washburne…the guy I didn’t realize how much I loved until the end of the series…”I am a leaf on the wind…”

And Jayne…as much of an idiot as he is, I can’t help but love him for that…

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That f&%*ing hat is awesome…

And the whole show. It’s awesome. Y’all need watch it.

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All my loves from Firefly: Jayne, Kaylee, Shepherd, Simon, Inara, Mal, Zoe, Wash & River

And something cool I discovered? I’ve always thought that Malcolm Reynolds was based on union hottie General John Reynolds. Not just the last name but just how Mal is. I’m seeing it more the second time around.

They kind of look alike too

I was looking at info about Mal on the Firefly Wiki tonight and found his birthdate: September 20, 2468

Random, right?

Nope.

September 20th is not random. It is the same day as my Union Rock Star General John Fulton Reynolds was born. Granted, Reynolds was born in 1820 (same year as my man Sherman).

Wow. Cool. Kudos to Joss Whedon.

Watching the first episode the second time through makes me realize how much of the Civil War is woven into this show. That if the Civil War is an interest of yours, watch “Firefly” and after that, the movie “Serenity” because the a-holes at Fox cancelled “Firefly”. And “Serenity” wraps it all up.

But this connection of date of birth between John & Mal? It made the show mean that much more to me. And I thought it was the most awesome thing ever when I found out. Mal is awesome and so is Reynolds.

It’s the little things like that I love about the show. I love how the American Civil War is woven into the show in little ways like that.

Malcolm Reynolds, I believe, is Joss Whedon’s way of paying homage to the Union Rock Star General John Fulton Reynolds.

That’s reason #20 of why you need to watch “Firefly”.

That…and seeing Mal in a bonnet is hilarious…

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“I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you…”. SLAY, MAL, SLAY!!!

As always, thanks for reading.

Maryūüôā

P.S. SHINY!! (Watch “Firefly” and you’ll get this expression)

An Afternoon with Lincoln…

I was having one of those days where I needed to get lost in a good book. So, I grabbed by copy of “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald and sat outside for well over an hour reading, highlighting and making notes in the margins. That’s how I read. My books end up graffitied at the very end but I think that shows how much I enjoyed them.


Today, I read about his time in Congress, as well as when he went back to practicing at his law firm with his partner, William Herndon. I’m about partway through the chapter the covers the years 1849-1855. I thought with this post I could share some of the interesting things about Lincoln that I read this afternoon. So, here we go…

  • I found Lincoln’s thoughts on revolution from the 1840s to be quite interesting: “Any people anywhere…have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. Any portion of the people that can, may revolutionize and make their own, of so much of the territory as they inhabit. This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world”. As Donald states, Lincoln would have to eat these words in 1860-61. He made this statement in reference to the disputed land between Nueces and the Rio Grande during the Mexican war.
  • He visited Niagara Falls and when Herndon asked what reflections he had when he saw the falls, Lincoln replied he wondered where all the water came from. In reality, he had started writing a bit of a rhapsody about it, which he clearly didn’t share with Herndon: “Niagara is strong, and fresh today as ten thousand years ago. The Mammoth and Mastadon – now so long dead, that fragments of their monstrous bones, alone testify, that they ever lived, have gazed on Niagara. In that long-long time, never still for a single moment. Never dried, never froze, never slept, never rested”. Donald says this is where Lincoln stopped writing. My question is why? Donald states he might have recognized that he wasn’t go at writing this sort of thing. My thoughts? Maybe he got interrupted and never got back to writing it. How often has that happened to us before? We’ll be writing something, get interupted, lose our train of thought and never come back to it. Maybe that was the case with Lincoln.
  • Y’ALL, I FOUND A CONNECTION TO CUMP!! When Lincoln was in Congress, the Secretary of the Interior was Thomas Ewing.  Thomas Ewing was the father of Ellen Ewing and also William Tecumseh Sherman’s foster father. Sherman ended up marrying Ellen, so Thomas became his father-in-law.
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    Thomas Ewing, Sr. Sherman’s foster father AND father-in-law

    Lincoln had some dealings with Ewing when he was in Congress. Leave it to me to dig out a connection to Sherman. Also, it was Thomas Ewing who offered Lincoln the position governorship of Oregon Territory after he did not get the position Commissioner of the General Land Office (and position which paid $3000.00 a year. Quite a sum of money in those days!). Lincoln obviously did not take this governorship for a variety of reasons (mainly that Oregon would be democratic when officially in the union and Lincoln could not see them selecting a Whig as their governor or senator). When he declined the offer, Donald states that he “put the blame, as husbands so often do, on his wife who, he said, put her foot down about moving”. I actually can’t see Mary having enjoyed being in Oregon Territory. Nor Lincoln either. I mean, come on…remember the game “Oregon Trail”?

    I wouldn’t wanna go either. Also, google “Oregon Trail Game” and go to images. You’re welcome.

  • When Lincoln was back practicing law with Herndon, they ended up moving to a bigger office. They rented  a larger, second-floor office on the west side of Capital Square in Springfield. There they would together. And much to Herndon’s chagrin, Lincoln would often read…OUT LOUD…from a daily newspaper or whatever book he happened to have with him. Of this, Lincoln said “When I read aloud my two senses catch the idea – 1st I see what I am reading and 2dly I hear it read; and I can thus remember what I read the better”. YES!! #nailedit. I totally relate to this! I sometimes read out loud for this reason. And yes, I read parts of Donald’s book out loud this afternoon while sitting on my  back deck. IT DOES HELP!ūüôā
  • In their law practice, Herndon would mainly focus on the research, bookwork and supervise the one to two students who were reading law with the firm. Lincoln would handle the courts and the clients. Of course, they each took on cases of their own too.
  • It was by age 40 that Lincoln started to be referred to as (though never to his face) as “Old Abe”. (sidenote: my husband just turned 40…). He was referred to as this because “of his weather-beaten appearance and because of his many years in public life and at the bar”(sidenote: I don’t know about y’all but I’ve never viewed Lincoln as being weather beaten. I’ve always found him to be quite handsome but that’s just me. Am I in the minority here? ). Lincoln had this to say about it (I suppose he did find out about the name): “I suppose I am now one of the old men”.
  • When he was out on the court circuit, which happened twice a year, Lincoln did not use the public stage coaches. Instead, he used a buggy that was pulled by a horse named Old Buck. Old Buck had replaced Old Tom, Lincoln’s previous horse. Y’all this is me…you had to know I’d have something about a horse in here somewhere.
  • It was on the circuit court that Lincoln established his reputation as a lawyer and earned himself the nickname “Honest Abe”. Cool, huh?

Anyway, that was how I spent my afternoon! I was actually having a pretty crummy day but getting lost in this book for well over an hour really helped.


While I haven’t finished Donald’s bio about Lincoln yet (and y’all know I’m a slow reader), I’m curious if any of you have read it. What did you think of it?

And just cause I always love to know what y’all are reading, tell me in the comments! Cause you know, I need more books to add to my to-read list.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,

Mary

This might be the cutest Lincoln book ever…

We went to the Henry Ford Museum yesterday. It was awesome. I plan on doing a post about it on here once I get my photos off my camera. For now, check out this¬†post I did about the Lincoln chair over on another blog I’m part of called historygeekweb.

Anyway, before we went back home, I went to Barnes & Noble, the most amazing place ever (okay, not as amazing as Borders Books and Music was. Y’all remember Borders?). I managed to find what is perhaps the cutest Abraham Lincoln book ever.

Check this out:


The illustrations are cute. And the story is good. It’s a great introduction to Abraham Lincoln for a young child. As an Abraham Lincoln fanatic (and I can’t resist cute things like this), I had to get it. ¬†I’m happy to have it as part of my book collection.

The author, Brad Meltzer, is a cool guy. He’s written other children’s books like this Lincoln one, all about various historical figures like George Washington, Jane Goodall, Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart.

He also has a series of novels called the “Culper Ring”. I’ve read “The Fifth Assassin” and it was really good. I’m looking forward to reading the others in the series too.

This also is not my first children’s Lincoln book I’ve purchased as an adult. I’ve also got this one too:


It’s a cool story too.

Do you have any kids books that are part of your book collection? Any other kids books about Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War that you’ve come across? Please let me know in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading.

Mary

The Whirlwind Journey To Here…

I’ve been interested in Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War for as long as I can remember. Well, since at least six years of age. That’s a long time, considering I turn 34 in a couple of weeks. I’ve been asked a few times, especially since I’m a Canadian, how I came to be OBSESSED with American’s 16th President and the Civil War.

So, I decided to make a video about it. It’s about 18 minutes long. I totally get if you just skim through it or don’t watch it. I also made it for myself because I wanted to start posting videos on here and I’m trying to become more comfortable with doing that. I have social anxiety…this is a HUGE thing for me to be able to do this.

So, a couple things…

  1. The video is very amateur. I didn’t edit it or anything. It’s the raw footage as I shot it yesterday in my basement with my iPad.
  2. I swear a little bit. Okay, sometimes more than a little bit. Just a warning. I start talking and my filter doesn’t always kick in.
  3. I ramble.
  4. I don’t look at the camera.
  5. I’m learning as I go. And it’s been a good experience so far.

So, here’s the video…how I became¬†a history geek…

Oh, there’s a few things I mention in the video and I’ve posted the photos below, just so y’all have reference to them…

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This is it. The book that started it all for me. I still have it, along with all the other books in the series, in the black hole that is my parent’s place.

The above photos are from my first visit to Gettysburg with my highschool when I was 16. It was an amazing experience.

Oh, and here’s the blog post¬†I mention about when my husband and I went to DC. We got lost in Arlington National Cemetery. If you EVER go on a trip with me, DO NOT let me navigate UNLESS you want to get lost. If that’s the case, by all means, let me navigate. I was born with a broken GPS and I will get us lost.

Oh, and I give a shout out to a few people in my video. I’m taking it down to nerves (and really, I should have sat and made a list), but there are a few other people to mention that follow me on Twitter (and I follow them and immensely enjoy their tweets): Old News Co, Kimi, Roxi, Bob, Ethan, Mike, Abbie. And anyone else…I love y’all just as much! I hate leaving people out…

Oh, and I’d love to hear how y’all became interested into history, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, etc. I always love to hear how people become passionate about the things they love! Feel free to leave your story in the comments!

As always, thank you for reading (and if you watched the video, awesome!). I love and appreciate all of you.

Until next time…

Mary a.k.a Civil War Fangirl a.k.a Miss_Bellatrix

“Baldy is done for this time…”

The title of this post comes from the words spoken by General George Meade of his horse, Old Baldy, on July 2, 1863. This was, of course, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the 153rd anniversary which is happening right now. The words spoken refer to the fact the horse had been wounded and, as also stated by Meade, it was the first time ever his faithful companion refused to move forward while under fire.

For those who follow me on Twitter (@Miss_Bellatrix) or have been following along with this blog, you know the horses of the Civil War generals have come up from time to time. Being as it’s the anniversary of Gettysburg, I decided to write a post about General Meade’s horse, Old Baldy.

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Meade at Gettysburg.¬†Painting by Daniel Ridgeway Knight. Presumably the horse is Old Baldy. I kinda want this painting for my house. It would look nice ¬†in my living room. Next to the “Hero of Little Round Top” painting with my rock star General Chamberlain on it.¬†

I love researching about the General’s horses because often times, their stories are quite interesting. Each horse seemed to have it’s own personality and certain quirks (take Philip Sheridan’s horse for instance, Rienzi, with his fiery personality or Jackson’s Little Sorrel with his gait¬†and the way he walked). They were very much apart of each General’s life and in some cases, became an extension of their own personality.

The horse that was to become Old Baldy began his career in the Civil War in 1861 at the First Battle of Bull Run. At the time, the bright bay horse with a white face and feet was owned by Major General David Hunter. It is unknown what the horses name was at this time.

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Old Baldy’s first owner, Major General David Hunter. He would go on to serve as the Honor Guard at the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln and would also accompany his body back to Springfield.

At this battle, Old Baldy was wounded when a piece of artillery shell pierced his nose. This was to be the first of many wounds this horse was received (it has been reported he was wounded as many as 14 times). His wounds were tended to but Major General Hunter did not take the horse back . Presumably, he needed another horse right away and Old Baldy needed time to recover (I’d need time to recover too if my nose got struck by an artillery shell). Or maybe their personalities clashed (this would not be the first time a horse did not work out for someone in the Civil War. The reason Philip Sheridan came to have Rienzi is that the fiery horse and his first owner had relationship issues, mainly that Rienzi scared the shit out of his first owner. More on that in another post). Whatever the reasons, General George Meade ended up buying the bright bay horse with the white face for $150.00 soon after the First Battle of Bull Run. It his white face that gave Meade the idea to christen the horse with the name “Old Baldy” or sometimes just “Baldy”. Meade became quite attached to the horse with the white face. His staff, however, complained about Old Baldy’s peculiar pace, which is described as that of a racking gait – faster than a walk but slow for a trot.

Baldy went on to fight in many battles of the Civil War. He was at Dranesville, a small battle found on December 20, 1861, which resulted in a Union victory. He took part in the 7 days of fighting around Richmond in the summer of 1862. Old Baldy was back for round two at Bull Run, fought August 28-30, 1862. This particular place proved to be bad luck for the horse to be at as he ended up being wounded in his right hind leg. On September 14, 1862, Meade and Old Baldy were involved in the Battle of South Mountain. This was part of the Maryland campaign.

The resilience of this amazing steed was proven again at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. Old Baldy ended up getting wounded in the neck and was left on the battlefield, presumed to be dead. In the next advance of the Union Army, the horse, who must have had a freaking pain tolerance like no other and was presumably the most easy going horse around, was found grazing with a neck wound. One can imagine Meade was quite happy to find his trusty steed was still alive. The horse was cared for and fit for battle once again. Baldy went on to carry Meade through both the battles of Fredericksburg (December 11-16, 1862) and Chancellorsville ( April 30-May 6, 1863).

On June 28, 1863, General Meade was given command of the Army of the Potomac after General Hooker resigned. This was mere days¬†before the Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought from July 1-July 3, 1863. It was on July 2 that General Meade was atop of Old Baldy. A bullet passed through Meade’s right trouser leg and entered the horse’s stomach. For the first time ever, according to Meade, Baldy refused to move forward. Meade stated “Baldy is done for this time. This is the first time he has refused to go forward under fire”. Baldy was immediately taken off the field to recover.

In 1864, General George Meade made what was probably a very difficult decision: to retire his faithful companion who had been with him through most of the Civil War. During the Overland Campaign, Old Baldy ended up getting struck in the ribs by a shell at the Weldon Railroad. Meade took him from service after this.

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Old Baldy, the faithful companion that carried General George Meade through many battles from 1861 to 1864. From all the wounds he received, he is often described as bullet scared. Still a beautiful, brave horse. 

The brave bay horse was taken to Philadelphia to a farm that belonged to Meade’s staff quartermaster Captain Sam Ringwalt. Afterwards, the horse was moved to Meadow Bank Farm, which was owned by a friend of the Meade family. He was here for several years.

Meade maintained a close relationship with his horse even after the Civil War, one source describing them as inseparable. He rode him in several Civil War memorial parades. One can imagine this was probably common among many Generals. As much as we can try, we probably will never really understand the bond that exists between them. In researching this article, I sense that Meade did genuinely did care for his horse. I’ve encountered this in many of the horses I’ve researched – that their owners cared for them immensely (we only have to look to Lee and Traveller to know this is true).

In November of 1872, Old Baldy was the riderless horse in the funeral procession for Meade. The horse lived for another 10 years after his owner had passed. Old Baldy was euthanized in December 1882 after he became too feeble to stand. He was 30 years old, quite old for a horse.

After his death (and this is where the story might get a little squeamish for some), Old Baldy’s head and front hooves (why the front hooves, I have no idea!), were sent to a taxidermist. They were mounted and put on display at the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum and Library in Philadelphia. In 1979, the head was loaned to the Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable. They paid for restoration of the head and placed it on display in the Meade Room in the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia. The museum unfortunately closed in August 2008. Luckily, in 2009, Old Baldy (or, his head, I suppose…) was returned to the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum. A ceremony was held there on September 26, 2010 to officially welcome the horse (or his head…is anyone else thinking of “The Godfather” right now? Just me? Oh, okay…) back to the museum.

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The head of Old Baldy. I think it’s cool but also kinda creepy. I’ve clearly seen “The Godfather” too many times…

The legacy of Old Baldy lives on, as is evidenced by the Civil War Roundtable group I mentioned above that takes their name from Meade’s faithful steed. And both Baldy and Meade have been immortalized in a few monuments, photos of which you can see below.

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General George Meade monument. He is atop Old Baldy. The monument is at Gettysburg on Cemetery Ridge. 

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Monument of General George Meade and Old Baldy in Philadelphia. I love the way this one looks. I think they’ve captured Meade and Baldy perfectly.¬†

I hope you enjoyed the story of General George Meade’s horse, Old Baldy. It was one I enjoyed researching.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Until next time…

Sources

Civil War Trust http://www.civilwar.org/

Famous Horses of the Civil War. http://www.civilwarhome.com/horses.html

Hidden City Philadelphia “Forgotten and Alone: Bring Old Baldy and the General Into Town”¬†http://hiddencityphila.org/2015/08/forgotten-and-alone-bring-old-baldy-and-the-general-into-town/ August 7, 2015.

Horses of the Civil War Leaders. http://www.civilwarhome.com/warhorses.html

Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable. http://www.oldbaldycwrt.org/

Philadelphia Oddeities. “Old Baldy”¬†http://www.ushistory.org/oddities/oldbaldy.htm

The Battle of Gettysburg: George Meade http://gettysburg.stonesentinels.com/monuments-to-individuals/george-meade/

Wikipedia. “Old Baldy”¬†https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Baldy_(horse)

 

Union Rock Stars: Major General John Fulton Reynolds

I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of sorts with someone from the Civil War. Surprise, surprise.¬†It started when I was at Barnes and Noble earlier this week and I picked up this Gettysburg Field Guide…

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…and landed on a page with a photo of this handsome gentleman, Major General John Fulton Reynolds…

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“Every girl crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man…”. Reynolds was one of the Rock Star¬†Union Generals (and kinda hot). His horses were Fancy & ¬†Prince.

Something about seeing him made me want to learn more him and down the rabbit hole I went. Turns out he’s a very interesting fellow and was perhaps one of the most talented men in the Union Army at the time of his death at Battle of Gettysburg.

Born on September 20, 1820 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (about 50 miles from Gettysburg) Reynolds graduated from West Point in 1841 (a year after Sherman. Yes, I had to stick him somewhere in this post…). As¬†with many of the well known military personalities from the Civil War, Reynolds fought in the Mexican War. He proved himself to be quite talented during this war, and was brevetted (in other words, promoted) twice for gallantry. He especially proved himself at the Battle of Buena Vista, when his artillery stopped a flanking attack by enemy cavalry, forcing the Mexican Army to withdraw.

In 1860, he was back at West Point, this time as commandant of cadets and an instructor in tactics. When the Civil War broke out, he was appointed Brigadier General of volunteers. It was here he began a lengthy association with the Pennsylvania Reserves. Also, another tidbit of information, while Reynolds was Pro-Union, he did not support anti-slavery politics.

During the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, Reynolds occupied and became military governor of Fredericksburg, Virginia.¬†He fought during the Seven Days Campaign, commanding his brigade at the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek and Gaines Mill. It was after Gaines Mill Reynolds had an “oh shit” moment (well, it was more than a moment, I suppose) when he ended up getting captured by the Confederate Army. After Gaines Mill, Reynolds had not slept for a few days and was absolutely exhausted. He was attempting to sleep when the Confederate Army found him and captured him. Reynolds was no doubt embarrassed. Confederate General D.H. Hill, who also happened to be a friend of Reynolds, tried to reassure him that all would be fine by saying “do not feel so bad about your capture, its the fate of wars” (#nothelping). He was held at Libby Prison but luckily for him, this was not to last long. On August 15, 1862, he was exchanged and released back to the Union Army.

Back in the saddle on either Prince or Fancy, Reynolds picked up where’d left off and show cased his military talent at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He led his men in a last ditch stand at Henry Hill. He shouted “Now boys, give them the steel, charge bayonets, double quick”. He assisted greatly in keeping the¬†Confederates halted allowing the Union Army to retreat.

He was not at Antietam due to a slightly paranoid Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew G. Curtin, wanting him to organize, train and lead a Pennsylvania militia called into active duty. Needless to say General McClellan and General Hooker were none too pleased about losing one of their military rock stars. They stated that “a scared governor ought not to be permitted to destroy the usefulness of an entire division”. Too bad the governor won out, much to the chagrin of Mac and Fightin’ Joe. (side note: Mac was not going to have to worry about it for long since Lincoln was about done with his shenanigans and Mac was about to relieved of *surprised gasp* command of the Army of the Potomac).

Off Reynolds¬†went to train the militia…

Turns out he was only gone for a couple of weeks…

Reynolds was back for the Battle of Fredericksburg. By this time, the Army of the Potomac was now headed by General Burnside. Reynolds directed the First Corps. One his divisions was commanded by George Meade, who ended up making the only breakthrough at the battle. Reynolds failed to reinforce Meade because he had not received clear orders from from a Brigadier General William B. Franklin as to what his role was. #Frustrating.

Despite this, on November 29, 1862, Reynolds was promoted to Major General of Volunteers. It was also after this battle, he was one of a few generals to speak out against General Burnside.

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General Burnside (his horse was Old Bob) and Reynolds (dunno who Mr Blurry Face is in the background). I love this photo. Reynolds is looking RIGHT at the camera. And that stance. Damn…he looks like a man who gets shit done….

We all know what happened to Burnside…

Next up was Chancellorsville. In charge of the Army of the Potomac by this time was General “Fightin Joe” Hooker…

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General”Fightin’ Joe” Hooker. He got concussed at Chancellorsville after an incident with a cannon ball. His horse: Lookout (that’s the one one I could find. I’m sure he had more)

Major General Reynolds commanded the First Corps again at this battle. He ended up clashing with “Fightin Joe” when Hooker changed the placement of his troops, causing the XI Corps to become over run by General “Stonewall” Jackson and his troops before Reynolds could get his I Corps to their new position. The Union Army ended up having to retreat. Afterwards, a vote was held as to whether to proceed with battle. There was a 3 to 2 vote to continue and go on the offensive against the Confederates. Reynolds voted for the offensive. Hooker, however, made the ultimate decision, and despite the majority wanting the offensive, decided to withdraw the Army of the Potomac (I’m sure the other Generals that voted for the offensive were thinking “WTF, man?”). When awakened by Meade and told the news of the retreat, Reynolds said loud enough for Hooker to hear “What was the use of calling us together at this time of night when he intended to retreat anyhow?”. Yeah, I’d be angry too. Hooker did have a rough day though. Not only had Stonewall’s surprise attack rattle him to his core, he also had a concussion from an incident involving a cannonball striking the house he had set up command in.

Reynolds had voiced his concern for a good commander of the Army of the Potomac, stating “If we do not get someone soon who can command an army without consulting Stanton and Halleck at Washington, I do not know what will become of the army”. Clearly, Reynolds felt the army needed to be independent from the government in Washington and have the ability to make its own decisions.¬†Just as he’d done with Burnside, Reynolds spoke out against General Hooker, calling for his removal. Before this could happen, Hooker ended up resigning. Of himself he said “To tell the truth, I just lost confidence in Joe Hooker”.

Reynolds had the talent to lead the Army of the Potomac. He’d proven himself to be excellent tactical commander on many occasions. President Abraham Lincoln recognized this in him and on June 2, 1863, the two met in Washington. Lincoln asked if Reynolds would lead the Army of the Potomac. His response was basically “Yup…if you’ll let me do what I want and let me have control. Oh, and no interference from Washington” (not exactly what he said but you get the idea…). Lincoln could not guarantee this. Sticking to what he firmly believed, Reynolds refused the command.

On June 28, 1863, General George Meade was given command of the Army of the Potomac. This was just a mere three days before the Battle of Gettysburg.

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General George Meade. Random fact: His horse was called Old Baldy. Coolest name ever for a horse.

On the morning of July 1st, Reynolds was leading his force to the little Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg when he found out Confederate Forces were almost there too. He met with Major General Buford there.

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Major General John Buford. Union Cavalry officer. He died five months after the Battle of Gettysburg. His horse was Grey Eagle

Reynolds shouted to him “What’s the matter, John?”. Buford replied “The devil’s to pay”. ¬†Reynolds learned the situation – Buford’s ¬†men were being pushed back by the Confederates and Reynolds had a choice: move back or fight.

He decided to fight.

Reynolds led the Iron Brigade to McPhearson’s Ridge. Out ahead of his men, he eyed the Confederates in an apple orchard . He turned back in his saddle and shouted to the infantry behind him: “Forward, forward, men! Drive those fellows out! Forward! For God’s sake, forward!”. These were to be his last words. Suddenly, he fell from his horse and lay still. An aid rushed to him and saw he’d been struck behind his right ear by a bullet. Major General John Fulton Reynolds, was said by Shelby Foote to be “not only the highest ranking but the best general in the Army” at the time of Gettysburg, was dead at the age of 42.

Of the death of Reynolds, one soldier wrote “his death affected us much for he was one of the soldier generals of the army”. Reynolds was incredibly talented, a gifted tactician and had proven himself many times on the battlefield. We’ll never know if he would have been offered command of the Army of the Potomac again but it’s easy to speculate he probably would have done well in that role. If he had lived, he, General Grant and General Sherman would have been a force to be reckoned with.

Reynolds was burned on July 4, 1863 in his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

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There are also a few memorials for him at Gettysburg, which I plan on going when I’m back there (hopefully in the Autumn)

I’m not done with Reynolds just yet. There is another part of his story I want to tell and it’s a bit of a love story. It deserves it’s own post though.

Thank you, as always, for reading!

Sources

Civil War Trust. “John F. Reynolds”.¬†http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/John-F-Reynolds.html

Foote, Shelby. “The Civil War: A Narrative. Volume 2 Fredericksburg to Meridian”. New York: Random House, 1963

Reardon, Carol & Tom Vosslet. “A Field Guide To Gettysburg”. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013

 

 

 

Cool Things I Learned About The Civil War This Week…

Whew! Yeah, it’s kind of a long title, I know. I don’t need to tell any of you that Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War are huge passions of mine. While I’m not a scholar in either area, I still do a great amount of reading and research about it. I do that for personal interest but also for blog posts on here.

I always come across things every day that I find really interesting. It’s usually just some random, little fact. ¬†I decided that every week (or perhaps more)¬†I’m going to try and do a post about some cool things I learn about Abraham Lincoln and/or the Civil War. Or perhaps it’ll just be some random facts I’ve known for awhile and just feel like writing about them. Some of the things I find might even turn into longer blog posts.

So, what are some things I found out this week? This week it’s mainly about horses cause that’s what I’ve been researching…

– Rienzi (also known as Winchester), General Philip Sheridan’s horse during the Civil War, was born on a farm near Lakeport, Michigan. This town is just up the road from Port Huron, Michigan, a town I’m quite familiar with and only about 90 minutes from me. ¬†Soon after the Civil War began, a group of citizens from Port Huron, Michigan, pooled their money together and purchased Rienzi, at the time called John, for Captain Archibald Campbell. Captain Campbell¬†was a member of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. Unfortunately, he¬†had little experience as a rider and John the horse could be a little, as they say, head-strong. Long story short, Captain Campbell’s Commander was Colonel Philip Sheridan (later to became a General), who happened to be an excellent horseman. Colonel Sheridan took a liking to Captain Campbell’s horse. This was noticed by Campbell, who ended up giving the horse to Sheridan in June of 1862. Sheridan christened the horse as “Rienzi”, named after the the Mississippi town they were encamped¬†in.

– After their deaths, Rienzi and Little Sorrel (General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s horse) were mounted (another word for “stuffed”) by the same taxidermist, Frederic S. Webster. Both horses are on display – Rienzi is in the Hall of Armed Forces at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Little Sorrel is at the Virginia Military Institute Museum in Lexington, Virginia.

– Before being on permanent display at the Smithsonian, Rienzi was on display at Governors Island, New York. After a fire in 1922, Rienzi was moved to the Smithsonian.

– I was reading excerpts from Gideon Welles’ diary this week. I’ve mentioned his diary earlier in this post and this one. I read his entry recounting the Grant Review of the Armies, which happened April 23rd and 24th, 1865 (Oddly, Welles has the dates as 22nd and 23rd).¬†He delayed his proposed trip south so as he could “witness this magnificent and imposing spectacle”. He recounts the thousands of people that came out to see the armies as they marched by and that public offices were closed for two days. The one part of the entry that really moved me? He ends by writing:

But Abraham Lincoln was not there. All felt this.

Clearly, he and many others were still feeling the loss of their beloved President. This is what I love about Welles’ diary – I can always get a sense of what he was feeling when he wrote an entry. When I read his diary, I do feel as though he’s actually talking to me. If you’ve never read it before, I highly recommend tracking down a copy of it (I got mine from iBooks – it’s free on there).

– ¬†I want to end with a picture. This one is of Ellen Ewing Sherman. I first saw this picture a few months ago but I was reading a bit about her this week. She is my favourite of the Civil War wives. Is that any surprise, given that her husband is my favourite General? She was quite an interesting lady and¬†I plan on writing more about her on my blog…

Ellen Ewing Sherman

What interesting things have you learned recently about Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War or just in general? Feel free to post in the comments.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Until next time…

______________________________

Sources

Little Sorrel & Rienzi: Morgan Mounts of the Civil War. https://www.morganhorse.com/upload/photos/904LittleSorrelAndRienzi2012.pdf

Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson.

 

 

 

What I’ve Been Reading…

 

“Manhunt” by James L. Swanson

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This is the first detailed account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the ensuing manhunt for John Wilkes Booth which I’ve read. It is a thrilling and captivating narrative that I was pulled into within the first few pages and it kept pulling me through all the way to the end.

The book reads like a thriller. It is evident that the author did a great deal of research as the book is richly detailed.¬†Never once though did I feel overwhelmed by the amount of detail; I only wanted to keep reading and I found it very hard to put down! Often, I¬†found myself thinking “read just one more chapter!” and of course I’d end up reading more than that.

All the people in the book become “characters” in the story and I found that at the end I had what I can only liken to as favourite characters, in that I want to learn more about them. Most notably of these are two of the females in the story – Asia Booth Clarke (John Wilkes Booth older sister) and Mary Surratt (accused of of being involved in the conspiracy and found guilty. She was executed for her involvement and this is something that has become controversial and I want to read more about it).

For myself, I felt I came to have a better understanding of the assassination, those involved or connected to it and the places that are now made famous because they were where Booth went after fleeing from Washington D.C. If you want to learn more about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, this book is a great place to start.

“Heart Of A Dove” by Abbie Williams

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I posted about this book earlier when I was about midway through. I finished it last month and figure it’s high time I finally said a bit more about this book which has become one of ¬†I would take to a desert island with me. I was drawn in after reading the first few pages and knew immediately that it would be damn near impossible for me to put this book down!

It is a beautifully written historical fiction romance set a few years after the Civil War. It is the story of Lorie Blake, orphaned after the Civil War and sold into prostitution. She ends up being rescued by three men and she flees north with them. Along their journey, they encounter danger, twists, turns, unbearable decisions and of course, love.

The book made me laugh and cry. The suspense in the book made my heart race and I came to fear the villains as much as the characters themselves do. The ending made me cry. And the build up of romance and love between a couple of the characters? I loved it. It’s some of the best I’ve ever read.

Speaking of the characters, I became quite attached¬†to a few of them. Abbie writes in such a way that I felt as though I came to know all the characters so well. They are unforgettable and when I wasn’t the reading the book, I found myself thinking about the characters – what they they might have looked like, how they would have sounded, their mannerisms.

Lorie is a beautiful, strong female and has become one of my literary heroines. I want to be friends with her. Malcolm, a 12 year old boy, made me laugh so much (all I’m going to say ¬†here is “hoop snakes”. Read the book and you’ll know what I’m talking about). I quickly developed a crush on two of the male characters – Angus and Boyd. Especially Boyd, with¬†what I imagine to be a sexy Tennessee accent and a kind of rugged look. I haven’t crushed this hard on a character since Sirius Black. Oh, and of course there is Sawyer. I can’t forget to mention Sawyer. I’m not going to say much more – you’ll just have to read the book to get to know these characters more. ¬†I’m sure you’ll see why I’ve grown to love them so much.

I swore off romance after reading some really not-so-great romance. If you’ve sworn off romance, I recommend reading this book. This is real romance – not sappy or unrealistic. Abbie has given me a new appreciation for the genre and I am very much looking forward to reading her other books.

Also, the sequel to “Heart Of A Dove, titled “Soul Of A Crow” is due out in June. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy. Let’s just say I’ve finished it, enjoyed it just as much (if not a little bit more than this one) and I’m very much looking forward to getting a review posted soon. The third book is due out in 2017 (which is going to feel like forever!). I haven’t been this excited about a book series since Harry Potter.

And here’s a shout out to Abbie – thanks for being an awesome author! She’s on Twitter, so be sure to follow her – @WilliamsAbbie77. If you’re a writer, her blog is also a great resource.

“A Friend Of Mr. Lincoln” by Stephen Harrigan

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This is a story of Abraham Lincoln in his early years in Springfield in the 1830s & 40s. The story is told through the eyes of Cage Weatherby, a fictional poet, who becomes friends with Lincoln after they meet during the Black Hawk War. He comes to be in Lincoln’s close circle of friends in Springfield, along with faces that those of us who have studied Lincoln have come to know – Joshua Speed, John Stuart and a few others.

Cage is witness to key events in Lincoln’s life, including some of his early political speeches and debates, his courtship with Mary Owens, his life on the circuit, his early career as a lawyer, the almost duel with James Shields in 1842, and of course, his courtship with Mary Todd. This is something I should mention too – while I did not find fault with the way Mary is portrayed, there are some that might.¬†She is certainly not the nicest person at times and is sometimes portrayed downright nasty and malicious.

The story is well told and the narrative pulled me through from start to finish. The descriptions are richly detailed to the point where the book played out just like a movie in my head. I could see all the characters, their movements and mannerisms just as the author describes them.

I enjoy books more when I feel I get to know the characters well and it was certainly the case with this one. Of course my favourite character was Lincoln (well, duh…how could my main history crush NOT be my favourite character?) ¬†but I felt I came to know Cage quite well and grew to be quite fond of him. He’s become one of my favourite literary characters. I also liked the character of Ellie, a fiercely independent woman. As for his portrayal of Lincoln, I loved it. He was brought to life for me – the way he spoke, his mannerisms, his sense of humour and his struggle with depression, are all captured in a way that I feel was certainly very close to how Abraham Lincoln probably was. I came away feeling like I know Lincoln a little bit better than I did before. I laughed out loud at many of the stories Lincoln tells in the book and was moved to tears when he goes through some very deep periods of depression. As someone who struggles with depression, I related to exactly how the author portrays it.

This is one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read about Abraham Lincoln (the other one I loved reading was “I Am Abraham” by Jerome Charyn, which I posted about here). My only complaint about the book is that it seemed to end very abruptly. I wanted to know more about Cage, in the latter years of the Civil War.

I definitely recommend reading this book. It is one I know I will read again. It’s another desert island book for me.

Here are the books I’ve got on the go now:

“Rebel Yell” by S.C. Gwynne (yes, I’ve had this one on the go for awhile. I’m a slow reader since I always have four or five books on the go).

“Grant & Sherman: The Friendship That Won The Civil War” by Charles Bracelen Flood

“Palatine” by L.J. Trafford

“Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth” by Terry Alford

Let me know what you’re reading! Or what have you read lately that you really enjoy? ¬†I always love book recommendations, too.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

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