Most Incompetent Union General

There are of course several generals in the running for this title:  Ambrose Burnside, Don Carlos Buell, John Pope, Henry Halleck, Nathaniel Banks and the list could go on for some length.  However, for me the most incompetent general clearly is Benjamin Butler.  A political general appointed by Lincoln to rally War Democrats for the war effort, Butler in command was a defeat waiting to happen for any Union force cursed to be under him.  Butler during the Bermuda Hundred campaign in 1864 threw away chance after chance to take Richmond, with a timidity that rose to astonishing levels and an ineptitude at leading his forces that defies belief.  Grant summed up Butler’s generalship well in his Personal Memoirs when he recalled a conversation with his Chief of Engineers:

He said that the general occupied a place between the James and Appomattox rivers which was of great strength, and where with an inferior force he could hold it for an indefinite length of time against a superior; but that he could do nothing offensively. I then asked him why Butler could not move out from his lines and push across the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad to the rear and on the south side of Richmond. He replied that it was impracticable, because the enemy had substantially the same line across the neck of land that General Butler had. He then took out his pencil and drew a sketch of the locality, remarking that the position was like a bottle and that Butler’s line of intrenchments across the neck represented the cork; that the enemy had built an equally strong line immediately in front of him across the neck; and it was therefore as if Butler was in a bottle. He was perfectly safe against an attack; but, as Barnard expressed it, the enemy had corked the bottle and with a small force could hold the cork in its place. (more…)

Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (5)  
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Lego Battle of New Orleans

Something for the weekend.  Well if we can have a Lego version of Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel, why not a Lego version of The Battle of New Orleans sung by Johnny Horton? (more…)

Published in: on November 27, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (9)  
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Lincoln: Thanksgiving Proclamation


If a nation ever needed Divine assistance it was our own America during the Civil War.  Riven in two, the nation must have seemed on a path to destruction by many of those who lived through that terrible trial.  Abraham Lincoln, as he led the United States through that struggle, increasingly found his mind turning to God.  This Proclamation was written by Secretary of State Seward, but the sentiments are no doubt ones in which Lincoln fully joined. (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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Great Turkey Disasters

As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and as we recall our blessings and thank God for each and every one, let us also remember the humble turkey and the various disasters that result when that proud bird is not treated with the care that it deserves, dead or alive.    Oldtimers like myself will recognize the above video as part of the famous “Turkey Drop” episode from WKRP, a sitcom from the Seventies. 

Of course Turkey Disasters are not, unfortunately, restricted to the realm of fiction.    Deep frying a turkey poses various risks.

Here we have a case of the flaming avian:


Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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November 22, 1860: Olympia Learns That Lincoln is Ahead


The Presidential election in 1860 was conducted on November 6.  Most of the nation within a few hours of a telegraph, learned almost immediately that evening or the next day, that Lincoln had been elected.  However, there were large portions of the nation, most of them in the West, where telegraphs were still unknown.  There news traveled at what to us seems an unbelievably slow rate.  Olympia, the territorial capital of the Washington Territory, did not learn of the initial election results until November 22, 1860.  The reaction to the news illustrates however that when examining the past, the perception of the people who lived at the time to events often differs radically from ours: (more…)

Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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In Defense of Those Who Wore the Gray

On my other blog, The American Catholic, I had a Veterans Day post in which I used the two above videos.  One of my readers made this comment:

What’s with the creepy Civil War video featuring some guy celebrating the heroism of Confederate soldiers? Practically ruins the article for me. Granted, I’m prejudiced on this point, but I can’t help it. Those nasty, murderous traitors were fighting for the right to buy and sell my ancestors like cattle. Thank God they lost. And kindly don’t hold them up to me as noble heroes. I’d as soon sing the praises of the SS. And yes, I know they weren’t quite as bad as the SS. But the difference is smaller than you might think.

I would note that I can understand the point of view of my reader.  For someone who is black, and I am not, I would imagine that slavery and its legacy remains a very powerful issue.  If I were black I might have views similar to his.  However, I do believe his views are mistaken.  In my response to his comment, I wrote as follows: (more…)

Published in: on November 21, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Maryland, My Maryland

Something for the weekend.  Maryland, my Maryland, James Ryder Randall’s  cry from the heart after his friend Francis X. Ward was killed in the fighting that occurred when the Sixth Massachusetts fought its way through Baltimore mobs on its way to Washington at the beginning of the Civil War.  The Sixth Massachusetts received a  much friendlier reception from the citizens of Baltimore during the Spanish-American War. (more…)

Published in: on November 20, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Maryland, My Maryland  
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Favorite Civil War Book

The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth — not a different truth: the same truth — only they reach it, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.

Shelby Foote



I know quite a few of our readers have a keen interest in the Civil War .  I am curious as to what the favorite Civil War books of our readers are.  There are so many magnificent studies of the Civil War that I have read over the years, that I find the question difficult to answer.  However, I think pride of place for me is Shelby Foote’s magisterial three volume The Civil War:  A Narrative.  Written by a master novelist, Foote’s volumes are an epic recreation of the terrible conflict that made us, certainly more than any event since, what we are today.  That is my choice, what is yours?

Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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A Belated Happy 235th Birthday to the Corps

On November 10, 1775 the Continental Congress passed this resolution authored by John Adams:

“Resolved, That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said battalions but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve with advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present War with Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by names of First and Second Battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the Continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.”

The Marines have fought in all our wars and by their conduct have lived up to this description of the Corps:

“No better friend, no worse enemy.” (more…)

Published in: on November 18, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on A Belated Happy 235th Birthday to the Corps  

Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key  achieved immortality by penning the Star Spangled Banner.    Key watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 13-14, 1814 aboard the HMS Tonnant, held by the British after his successful mission to negotiate a prisoner release.  Key was moved by the successful defense of Fort McHenry and wrote a poem entitled The Defense of Fort McHenry which soon became immortal as the song The Star Spangled Banner. (more…)

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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