Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Civil War Cavalry Seminar

I really enjoyed this event at Longwood University in Farmville, VA on February 27th. It looked to be a quality event when I saw the ads, and it more than lived up to my expectations. I'm happy to say that the event was very well attended --- indeed, standing room only for some. It's nice to see events like these continue to grow in popularity. Patrick Shroeder, the NPS Historian at Appomattox National Historical Park and his staff put on a first-rate event and should be commended, as should Dr. David J. Coles, the chair of Longwood's history department, for playing host.

I arrived to the location a bit early, and was able to finally meet Eric Wittenberg of Rantings of a Civil War Historian (see link at left) in person. He was very gracious, and introduced me to many of the attendees. I was also pleasantly surprised that Craig Swain of To The Sound of the Guns was able to make it. It was great to get to "meet" him again, since although we correspond frequently we hadn't actually seen each other since visiting a certain sandy place in a hurry over 15 years ago.

Bert Dunkerly, one of the rangers at Appomattox, had the unenviable task of leading off the presentations with a talk on cavalry horsepower and firepower. The talk intrigued me enough that I'm in the process of gathering materials for a series of articles on the same topic here.

Unfortunately Jeffry Wert was unable to attend due to severe weather in Pennsylvania, so the order of the presentations changed slightly. Eric's presentation on Phil Sheridan, originally scheduled for the afternoon, shifted to the morning. I had never before heard the famous "Sheridan rant," as he referred to it, and found it very interesting. I'm not a huge fan of Sheridan myself, but hadn't heard such a well researched case against him before. I was interested enough to buy the book, which I read in its entirety on the flight home. It sparked a few thoughts that may soon grace this blog as well.

After a brief lunch, Clark "Bud" Hall spoke on the battle of Brandy Station. The acknowledged dean of Brandy Station, his definitive work on the battle, "Sabers Across the Rappahannock," is forthcoming from UNC Press. Bud gave a very good talk on the "Daremark Line" and the strategic context of the battle instead of focusing on leaders and charges.

Eric then went again with a presentation on Jeb Stuart. This was based on the book "Plenty of Blame to Go Around," which he co-wrote with J.D. Petruzzi of Hoofbeats and Cold Steel . I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and the presentation was excellent as well.

Scott Patchan was the final presenter, with a talk on the cavalry during the 1864 Valley Campaign. I was really looking forward to this one, as I had only recently read his book "Shenandoah Summer" and enjoyed it a great deal. His talk was very informative.

Following the seminar, I was fortunate enough to be invited to dinner with Eric and Susan Wittenberg and Bud Hall and his companion, Kim, in Lynchburg. Unfortunately I can't recall the name of the restaurant. i thought it was the "Mill Spring," but I don't think that is correct. It was a very pleasant conclusion to a great Civil War day.

Due to an early Sunday morning flight, I had to depart right after dinner to drive back to the airport. I then became but the latest U.S. cavalryman to have difficulties entering Richmond, although in my defense I was one of the few who tried it from the west side. I was able to reach the hotel with only minor problems due to my "shortcut," and flew home the next morning with no problems.

All in all, a very good time, and well worth the trip. Thanks again to everyone.

No comments: