Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Civil War in Indian Territory

The latest issue of Blue & Gray magazine (see above) examines the places and events of the Civil War in Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma). For an excellent synopsis of this neglected subject, see the website of the Oklahoma Historical Society:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nor must Uncle Sam’s Web-feet be forgotten

Above (top): USS Sebago; (bottom) USS Maratanza

In the aftermath of the Confederate evacuation of their defensive lines at Yorktown, the Union navy was unleashed, pursuing the Confederates westward toward Richmond on both sides of the Virginia Peninsula. Scouting, raiding, and generally raising havoc, the navy ranged ahead of the land forces, using the James River in the south and the York and Pamunkey rivers in the north. The navy’s forays beyond the flanks of the Confederates had important strategic consequences, not least among them the reshaping of the theater of operations decisively in favor of the Army of the Potomac – at least for a time. Occasionally too, as at Malvern Hill, the navy was a factor tactically. The joint army-navy operation at Eltham’s Landing was one such instance.

In defining the candidate engagements for my Peninsular Campaign scenario booklet, Eltham’s Landing just popped off the pages of the sources for any number of reasons, not least the presence of Uncle Sam’s Web-feet. Most sources identify the following gunboats as present at Eltham’s Landing:

USS Maratanza, double-ender, sidewheel gunboat (1 x 100-lb Parrott RML; 1 x 9-in Dahlgren pivot SBML; 4 x 24-lb howitzer)

USS Sebago, same as Maratanza

USS Wachusett, screw sloop (1 x 50-lb Dahlgren RML; 2 x 11-in Dahlgren SBML; 4 x 32-lb, 42-cwt)

Without doubt, a powerful force. However, I’m not convinced that all of these vessels were present during the combat. Moreover, the extent and effectiveness of their employment may be questioned. Then there is the matter of how to represent their fire in the circumstances of the historic combat under the rules. All grist for the mill of the scenario design.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Colonels in Blue

Hunt, Roger D. Colonels in Blue: Union Army Colonels of the Civil War : The Mid-Atlantic States : Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2007.

This volume is one of three related collective biographies produced by the author. A companion volume, recently printed, is listed below. In addition, there is an earlier work, apparently comprehensive, also listed below. I haven't seen either of the works listed below, so my comments apply only to the volume cited above. I found this book quite useful as a ready reference on the men profiled. It is thoroughly researched and provides readable, well-organized biographical sketches of its subjects, most of which are accompanied by photographs or other images. Mr. Hunt is also co-author of a book titled Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue. See also: Hunt, Roger D. Colonels in Blue: Union Army Colonels of the Civil War. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer, 2001, and Hunt, Roger D. Colonels in Blue: Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia : A Civil War Biographical Dictionary. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2011.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Between the Lines at Gettysburg

The photo shows the site of the large-scale fight between the pickets of the two armies that took place largely on the William Bliss farmstead between the lines on July 2d and 3d. Elwood Christ wrote the book on the fighting and estimated that about 4,500 men were involved (about equally divided between the two sides), and casualties were 830. In the photo, the site of the farm is indicated by the bushes in the middle ground, below the lone tree in the center. The photo was taken looking east from the North Carolina monument toward the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. The Angle and Copse of Trees (purported objective of the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge on July 3d) can be seen to the right of center.