Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gettysburg Weekend

My father-in-law and I had a fantastic visit to Gettysburg this past weekend. Since he had never been there, my wife and I decided a couple of years ago that it would make a good 70th birthday present, so off we went. The fact that my birthday last week as well of course had absolutely nothing to do with it....

We arrived Thursday evening, and turned in early after dinner at Gettysburg Eddie's and a quick visit to a deserted Reliance Mine Saloon.

Knowing how overwhelming the battlefield can be to the uninitiated, I'd reserved a tour through the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides to provide an orientation to the field and overview of the battle. I've visited enough times to cover the basics pretty well, but not nearly as well as they do. Our guide, Paul Bauserman, did an excellent job with the tour, the best of the three times I've used the service, which says quite a lot.

On my previous visits to the area, I hadn't visited the site of the battle of Fairfield, so armed with our trusty Complete Gettysburg Guide and a draft driving tour that Eric Wittenburg was kind enough to provide for proofing, we headed for Fairfield.

We had lunch at the historic Fairfield Inn, then moved out to the battlefield. I took pictures of the inn and a couple of other buildings significant to the battle or its aftermath, but due to an oversight managed to miss the building where Lieutenant Balder of the 6th U.S. Cavalry reportedly died. Despite Eric providing the street address. Argh. Thanks to the directions, it was quite easy to find this time, and I was able to gain a much better mental picture of how the battle progressed.

Afterward, we returned to Gettysburg and stopped by the national cemetery to pay our respects to the troopers from the regular cavalry regiments (primarily the 6th) who are buried there.

After a few more stops along the sites of some Day 1 fighting, we did some tourist treasure-hunting and called it a day. We had dinner at O'Rorke's, where I'm not sure I've ever seen more food on a single plate in my life, and stopped by the Mine on our way back to the hotel.

I'd corresponded with Craig and Harry since they were in the area during the weekend to attempt a link up. Harry was busy doing productive things with the Saving Historic Antietam Foundation, but Craig emailed that he'd be up on Saturday. We coordinated to meet for lunch.

We began our second day on the field with a drive through Day 2's fighting on the southern side of the field. Moving up toward the Pennsylvania monument, I rediscovered (oxymoron?) the Regulars Monument, which I hadn't photographed before. Probably because Jenny Goellnitz' website always has better pictures than mine anyway. We stopped for a couple of pictures and drove on.

It's fortunate that we did, for who did we chance upon 200 yards further down the road, but Craig himself, spotted appropriately enough near some cannon. Remembering the picture-taking failure of the Longwood trip, we quickly remedied the situation. There really isn't an informally designated photo place at Gettysburg like there is at the cannon in front of the visitor's center at Antietam, so we just picked one and handed the camera to my father-in-law.

Craig had completed his work recording markers in town, and we decided to take a look at the markers near South Cavalry Field. Most I had visited before, but I hadn't seen the marker denoting the detachment of the 1st and 2nd US Cavalry on Merritt's left flank, which Craig was able to point out for us. I was able to get pictures of all 3 of my own 2nd US Cavalry's markers on the field.

Craig also offered a good perspective on the fight itself, but that's a post for another time. After an obligatory tromp along Pickett's Charge and lunch at the Appalachian Brewing Company, Craig headed for York County. Tony and I headed back to Little Round Top and the Pennsylvania Monument, which for some reason I had never been up in before. Coming down, we took this picture that appears to belie 1864 claims by the Cavalry Bureau that cavalry horses didn't grow on trees, also known as the monument to the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry, one of my favorites.

We stopped by the new visitor's center late in the afternoon before driving back to Baltimore. I miss the old one, but I haven't made up my mind whether I'm for or against the new one. Our intent was to spend as much time as possible on the field, so it was largely irrelevant to our trip.

All in all, we had a great time. Thanks again to Craig for his generosity in spending hours tooling around the battlefield and educating us about Civil War artillery.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sheridan's Second Raid, A Doctor's Perspective

The second of the physician's viewpoint articles on Sheridan's 1864 raids, this one focuses on his second raid. These were the observations of Surgeon R.W. Pease:

“On the evening of June 6th, I was directed to make preparations for a movement of the 1st and 2nd divisions of this corps, which would probably involve an absence of several weeks. Orders were given by the Major General commanding that but four ambulances to each division and two for headquarters should accompany the expedition. Instructions were immediately issued to have one ambulance loaded for each division, and an army wagon was well-filled with supplies of all kinds, and taken with the headquarter train. The command marched on the morning of June 7th, crossing the Pamunkey river at New Castle ferry, and moved towards the Virginia Central railroad, intending to strike it near Trevillian Station. Our march was uninterrupted until the morning of the 11th, when, about for miles east of Trevillian Station, we came upon the enemy in force. The engagement continued with great fury until about four o’clock P.M., the rebels being driven about five miles beyond the railroad. Our loss was about one hundred and sixty wounded. These, with about seventy wounded rebels, were brought to our field hospital, and every possible attention given to them. At eleven o’clock P.M., all but thirty-six severely wounded were placed in army wagons and moved to the station. Those left were placed in charge of Assistant Surgeon R. Rae, 1st New York Dragoons, with whom five hospital attendants and rations for five days were left, with medical supplies in sufficient quantity for immediate wants. The greater part of the 12th was occupied in destroying the railroad. At five o’clock P.M., the enemy was found about three miles west of the station in a strong position, entrenched and fully prepared for an attack. A spirited engagement ensued, which continued until after dark. Our loss, in this attack, amounted to about three hundred and sixty-six wounded. Our hospital was established at the station in a large and commodious building. Orders were received about eleven o’clock P.M. to be ready to move our wounded by midnight. Thirty army and twelve ammunition wagons were assigned for this purpose. All who could not be transported in these wagons and in our ten ambulances were placed in carriages and other vehicles, which we had impressed on our route. In addition to our own wounded, we had about forty severely wounded rebels. All were brought along on our return except the rebels, the thirty-six wounded left after the first day’s fight, and ninety-four severely wounded on the 12th. The latter were left at Trevillian Station in charge of Assistant Surgeon Stickler, 10th New York Cavalry, and Assistant Surgeon Powell, 1st New York Cavalry. One hospital steward and seven attendants were left with them, with rations for three days and nearly all the remainder of our medical supplies. Our train of wounded was at once fully organized, and six medical officers detached to attend it. On the 19th, we reached King and Queen Court-house, and from thence sent the wounded to Washington, via West Point. Seven of the wounded died before reaching Washington. On the morning of the 20th, we resumed our march for White House, Virginia, being hastened by a message stating that that place had been attacked. We made the march of twenty miles in four hours, but found the enemy had been repulsed. On the 21st, the corps moved to Jones’ bridge, skirmishing nearly all day. Thirty-seven were wounded. Five or six of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry fell into the hands of the enemy; two were wounded by bushwhackers; making a total loss of forty-five men. Orders were received to send our sick and wounded to Washington the next day. Forty wounded and eleven sick were sent accordingly. On the 23d, during a skirmish near Jones’ bridge, on the Chickahominy, we had four killed and nine wounded. We received into our hospital tent ten of the 28th U.S. Colored Troops, wounded at the same time. On the 24th, the 2d division was attacked by the rebel cavalry while on the St. Mary’s church road, parallel to the Charles City Court-house road, on which a train of eight hundred wagons, left at White House for this command to guard to the James river, was moving. The division was driven back to Charles City Court-house, and lost about two hundred men. The severely wounded fell into the hand sof the enemy. On the 26th, I received an order from General Sheridan to go with the wounded and sick to Washington.”

Source: Barnes, Joseph K. The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (1861-1865), Volume 1. Washington: Government Printing Office: 1870.Page 180.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Scott Patchan's new blog

A warm welcome to the blogosphere for Scott Patchan's new blog, Shenandoah 1864. The topic should be obvious, and Scott is one of the foremost experts on the subject. I found his Shenandoah Summer an excellent read, and look forward to an upcoming book on Third Winchester. He's also a very informative speaker, as I was fortunate enough to see him present at the Longwood University seminar last month (see entry below).

His first post is an interesting piece on Colonel James Mulligan at Second Kernstown. I think you'll enjoy it.

Welcome, Scott. I look forward to reading many more great posts.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Irish tune on St. Patrick's Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s day I thought I’d do something a bit different than the Kelly’s Ford battle. The tune “Garry Owen” is often related to the cavalry, although during the war it was the march of the 69th New York infantry. It was later particularly associated with the 7th Cavalry. Custer reportedly heard it sung among his Irish troopers and liked it so much that it became adopted as the unofficial regimental march.

The song’s lyrics have changed a great deal over time. This morning we’ll look at three of them. Here are the song’s ‘original’ lyrics, the ones Custer most likely heard:

Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed
But join with me, each jovial blade
Come, drink and sing and lend your aid
To help me with the chorus:

Instead of spa, we'll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garryowen in glory.

We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.


Our hearts so stout have got us fame
For soon 'tis known from whence we came
Where'er we go they fear the name
Of Garryowen in glory.


After the battle of Little Big Horn, the 7th Cavalry developed their own new lyrics to the tune. The leader of the element would sing the lines of the verses, and the group would yell back “Sgt. Flynn” at the end of each of those lines. According to some reports, this version was sung by the elements of the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee.

I can hear those Sioux bucks singing, Sgt. Flynn
I can hear those tom-toms ringing, Sgt. Flynn
I can hear those Sioux bucks singing,
I can here those tom-toms ringing,
But they don't yet know the tune to Garry Owen.

Garry Owen, Garry Owen, Garry Owen
In the valley of Montana all alone
There are better days to be
In the seventh cavalry
When we charge again For dear old Garry Owen.

It's first call I hear it sounding, Sgt. Flynn
And it sounds like taps a-rounding, Sgt. Flynn
Oh me lads, here's something fancy
Take a break, it's Private Clancy
And you'll feel better when he strikes up Garry Owen


For it's Boots and Saddles sounding, Sgt. Flynn
Along the line the men are bounding, Sgt. Flynn
So let' saddle-up and fall in
For the trumpets are callin'
And the band is tuning up for Garry Owen.

For it's forward we're advancing, Sgt. Flynn
And the breeze guides are a-lancing, Sgt. Flynn
Walk, trot, gallop, charge by thunder,
We will ride those cut throats under.
Drive your sabers to the hilt for Garry Owen.


We are ambushed and surrounded, Sgt. Flynn
Yet recall has not been sounded, Sgt. Flynn
Gather round me and we'll rally
Make one last stand in the valley
For the Seventh Regiment and Garry Owen.


You are cut, and scalped, and battered, Sgt. Flynn
All your men are dead and scattered, Sgt. Flynn
I will make your bed tomorrow
With my head bowed down in sorrow.
O'er your grave, I'll whistle Taps and Garry Owen.

The 7th’s version of the lyrics changed over time, and by 1905 they looked like this. I believe these are the same lyrics later adopted as the offical tune for both the 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Cavalry Division.

We are the pride of the Army
And a regiment of great renown,
Our Name's on the pages of History.
From sixty-six on down.
If you think we stop or falter
While into the fray we're going
Just watch the steps with our heads erect,
While our band plays Garryowen.

In the Fighting Seventh's the place for me,
Its the cream of all the Cavalry;
No other regiment ever can claim
Its pride, honor, glory and undying fame.

We know fear when stern duty
Calls us far away from home,
Our country's flag shall safely o'er us wave,
No matter where we roam.
‘Tis the gallant 7th Cavalry
It matters not where we are going"
Such you'll surely say as we march away;
And our band plays Garryowen.


Then hurrah for our brave commanders!
Who led us into the fight.
We'll do or die in our country's cause,
And battle for the right.
And when the war is o'er,
And to our home we're goin
Just watch your step, with our heads erect,
When our band plays Garryowen.


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.