Saturday, October 15, 2011

Recs: The Pickets Unusually Vigilant

The best pieces I read this week

Harper's Weekly cartoon from October 14 referring to Rose O'Neal Greenhow and her fellow female spies

October 15, 1861 was most significant to the war along the Potomac because of a seemingly minor event. General G.T. Beauregard at last put the finishing touches on his grandiose official report of the Battle of Manassas and mailed it to General Samuel Cooper. The Confederate commander had not spared Richmond from any of his characteristic purple prose and had also taken the opportunity to grind a few axes, for instance beginning not with the lead up to the battle, but with his own account of the rejection of his strategic proposals by the very people he was submitting his report to. The minute he signed his name to it, it became a time bomb ticking down to detonation.

Speaking of Manassas, Bull Runnings posted two letters this week from Ambrose Burnside's 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry that we followed during the battle. One is from an unknown soldier and gives a rather frank and graphic depiction of the battle, and the other is from Lieutenant Warner of Co. C, and appears somewhat fantastical, despite its author's claims to the contrary.

Why did the Confederate army choose to fall back yet again from its positions close to Washington in mid-October? All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac has the answer with its characteristic local flavor.

Another lively letter graced UNC-Chapel Hill's The Civil War Day-by-Day, this one by a South Carolinian in Hampton's Legion, the mixed arms unit that played a key role at Manassas. Charles Woodson Hutson's letter to his mother is characterized by an amusing irreverence towards everything from the Sabbath to his own unit's griping that makes it worth a read.

The pedantic genius behind To The Sound of the Guns has a post over at The Civil War Monitor on the naval war that is "bolted on" to the overall study of the war.

And Disunion addressed the U.S. Navy (no doubt anticipating Craig's post), but focused on its activities in the Far East during the war, which were significant actions.

And while Beauregard was finishing his report, several of his cavalry scouts were running into Lt. Colonel Isaac M. Tucker. Tucker was the acting commander of the 2nd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, part of Brig. General Phil Kearny's New Jersey Brigade based at Camp Seminary [today the Episcopal Theological Seminary and Episcopal High School on Seminary Road and Quaker Lane in Alexandria]. He also happened to be the "Brigade Officer of the Day", which meant any reports by pickets or any discipline problems in or around camp were reported to him.

Mid-morning, pickets reported that a Confederate horseman had been spotted down Little River Turnpike [VA-236, and the switch from the name Duke Street for the road then occurred at the edge of what is today Old Town Alexandria] and Tucker set off on an all day mission to track him down. It ended with a skirmish along the turnpike in fields whose locations are now lost, with one soldier dead.

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