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book notes – Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca: The Great Pedestrian of North and South America by Donald E. Chipman

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de VacaThe subtitle of this book on Cabeza de Vaca says it all. From the summary on the back cover:

Between 1528 and 1536, explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca trekked an estimated 2,480 to 2,640 miles of North American terrain.

And, after that, he walked about 1,200 miles in South America as well.

This book is part of the Texas State Historical Association’s (TSHA) Fred Rider Cotten Popular History Series, which is a series of short books about certain events, people, cities, places or other items in Texas History. The book on Cabaza de Vaca is 60 pages long.

From the description in this book, de Vaca’s travels can be broken into the following segments, each one an amazing journey by itself:

By boat from Spain to the New World (eventually to modern day Florida)

De Vaca left Spain (Sanlúcar de Barrmeda) on June 17, 1527 and arrived in Española sometime in August. The expedition spent time in the various islands, some of it encountering and hiding from inclement weather. They left for Florida from Cuba (part of the Narváez expedition) late February or early March of 1528 and arrived on the West Florida coast on April 15, 1528.

By horse and foot from the landing south of Tampa to the Florida panhandle

About 300 men left the Tampa area about May 1, 1528 and reached the Florida panhandle near Indian Pass in August. This trip was about 1,500 miles, and according to records that had some horses (those that survived the boat ride over).

By raft from the Florida panhandle to near Galveston, Texas

When no rescue from their boat was forthcoming, the remaining members built five rafts and set off on September 22, 1528. The skirted the coats, landing and encountering various indians, and finally de Vaca’s raft reached some island near Galveston on November 6, 1528. Only he and 45 others were still alive. The other rafts reached shore as well, but disease and indians would kill most of them.

By foot from Galveston through Texas, into Mexico and to north western Mexico

Initially as a trader (for about three years), then as a captive (much of the time from autumn 1532 to the first few months of 1535), and eventually as an escapist and healer, de Vaca went through south Texas, down to Mexico, then north across the Rio Granda briefly and down to the coast in the northwest part of Mexico. They finally found other Spaniards in the spring of 1536.

By foot and horse to Mexico City

Cabeza de Vaca and his companions arrived in Mexico City on July 23, 1536, slightly more than seven and a half years after touching Texas soil, and 2,400 miles from where they had fled their indian captors in Texas.

By boat back to Spain

De Vaca sailed from Veracruz, Mexico April 10, 1537 and, after a stop in Cuba, arrived in Lisbon, Portugal on August 9.

By boat from Spain to South American

De Vaca sailed from Cádiz December 2, 1540 and arrived at Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Brazil on March 29, 1541. De Vaca had been appointed governor and military captain of Rio de la Plata.

By foot from the island to Asuncion, Paraguay

Instead of going by boat down to Buenos Aires and sailing up river, de Vaca decided to march from the short near Santa Catalina Inland to Asunción. From October 18, 1541 to March 11, 1542, he marched the 1,200 miles to get there…on foot.

By boat, Cabeza de Vaca goes back to Spain for the last time

Apparently over-thrown and jailed from April 15, 1544 to March 7, 1545 because of his laws and leniency towards the natives (and no doubt other disagreements), Cabeza de Vaca once again marched back to the ocean and took a boat back to Spain. He was tried, found guilty and then petitioned and won a lesser sentence.

The book is an excellent summary of his journey (find it on Amazon here). Full disclosure: I was given this book by the TSHA, as our JoSara MeDia team is working to turn this into an audio book (see other TSHA audio books here).

Civil War and World War I winter parallels

Civil War and World War I winter parallels

I’ve almost finished S.C. Gwynne’s excellent book Rebel Yell – The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson. And the parallels between one scene set in the winter of 1862-1863 with the first winter of World War I are revealing.

The Confederate Army is camped for four and a half months over the winter after the battle of Fredericksburg near the Rappahannock River. They are free of fighting, after one of the bloodiest battles they (or anyone else in the world, for that matter) had ever seen. Similar to the first winter on the Western Front in World War I, the men of the armies on both sides have seen slaughter of their fellow man on a scale unknown.

And now they get a chance for leisure time. From pages 512-513:

Probably the most fun the soldiers had that winter were the snowball fights. Many of them had never seen snow before. Now there was lots of it, and they knew just what to do. Every time it snowed – which was frequently – there were battles, usually involving small groups of soldiers. But on a least one occasion they mounted a fight on a massive scale. Two armies were formed, of 2,500 men each, complete with authentic generals, colors, signal corps, fifers and drummers beating the long roll, couriers and cavalry. They conducted head-on assaults and flanking attacks. There were formal demands under flags of truce, and fortifications everywhere. “It was probably the greatest snowball fight ever fought,” wrote one participant, “and showed that ‘men are but children of larger growth…’. If all battles would terminate that way it would be a great improvement over the old slaughtering plan.” Robert E. Lee, who came out to observe the battle, was struck by several snowballs. The Richmond newspapers each devoted several columns to accounts of the fight.

The sweetest and saddest moment of this dreamy season came one evening when several Union bands appeared on the northern bank of the Rappahannock to play some favorites, songs such as “When This Cruel War Is Over” (by far the most popular),  “Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground,” “John Brown’s Body” and “The Battle Cry of Freedom.” Thousands of soldiers in groups on the hillside sang along while the rebels listened. Finally the Confederates called out across the river “Now play on of ours!” Without missing a beat the Yankee bands pitched into “Dixie”, “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” and “Maryland, My Maryland.” They ended the concert by playing “Home, Sweet Home,” with 150,00 men on both sides choking up as they sang it.

To my knowledge and limited research, this did not happen again during the war.

Similarly in World War I, the Germans and British held an informal Christmas truce at several places along the front, that supposedly started with the singing of Christmas carols. As this article from Time says:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­ two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.

The phenomenon took different forms across the Western front. One account mentions a British soldier having his hair cut by his pre-war German barber; another talks of a pig-roast. Several mention impromptu kick-abouts with makeshift soccer balls, although, contrary to popular legend, it seems unlikely that there were any organized matches.

The truce was widespread but not universal. Evidence suggests that in many places firing continued and in at least two a truce was attempted but soldiers attempting to fraternize were shot by opposing forces.

And of course, it was only ever a truce, not peace. Hostilities returned, in some places later that day and in others not until after New Year’s Day. “I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,” one veteran from the Fifth Batallion the Black Watch, Alfred Anderson, later recalled to The Observer. “It was a short peace in a terrible war.” As the Great War resumed, it wreaked such destruction and devastation that soldiers became hardened to the brutality of the war. While there were occasional moments of peace throughout the rest of World War I, they never again came on the scale of the Christmas truce in 1914.

The Christmas truce of 1914 is far more publicized than what Gwynne relates in his book on the winter of 1862-63. But both should be remembered as signs of hope and humanity during a time of massive slaughter never seen before their times.


Propellers to be restored

National Museum of World War II Aviation

The National Museum of World War II Aviation houses the largest collection of operational (yes, that means flying) World War II aircraft in the world.

National Museum of World War II AviationThat statement alone should get WWII and airplane buffs alike to storm the place. But it is currently small and unpretentious, and a bit hard to find. The Museum sits at the end of a block of warehouses, which in turn are at the end of a dead-end road near the Colorado Springs Airport and Peterson Air Force Base.

The museum is only open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and has docent-led tours at 10am, noon and 2pm.

This place is worth finding, and worth the time. We’ve been to most if not all of the World War II museums: the National World War II Museum in New Orleans; the Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas; and, of course, the U.S.S. Arizona and the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor. All have their strengths, and, as expected, this one in Colorado Springs strength lies with its airplanes.

We had driven down from Denver to stay the night for the Barr Trail Mountain Race, and arrived at the museum almost an hour early for our 2pm docent-led tour. When they told us that the tours ran two hours long, I got excited and my wife restrained herself from slapping me. But our docent, named Phil, not only toured us around but told story after story that kept us interested, entertained and amused.

The current museum consists of three parts: a set of display cases with memorabilia, mainly from local World War II survivors and/or their families; a connected hanger and work area, which houses six or so planes with more display cases; and the adjacent hanger of WestPac Restorations, which has several planes that are either fully restored or are in the process of being restored.

The tour starts in a lecture room, where docent Phil shows a map of the European air theater, describing it as a 1,500 x 1,500 square mile area. He later shows a map of the Pacific air theater, where the same 1,500 x 1,500 square mile area would fit between Midway and Oahu – a small portion of the entire area of the Pacific that saw action.

Display cases – history of World War II

The rows of display cases told the story of World War II. This was not the in-depth, blow-by-blow story that is shown at the Pacific War Museum, but a summary with stories of local servicemen and some excellent items. There is a signed first edition of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” by Pappy Boyington. There is also a Norden Bombsight.

In the case on Pearl Harbor, there is a picture of the U.S.S. Arizona dated December 10, 1941, with the caption “View from ahead, looking aft.”U.S.S. Arizona View From Ahead Looking Aft
There are also several personal stories. As we passed the display case describing Dolittle’s Raiders, Phil told us a story of a visitor to the museum who was obviously a World War II vet who would not identify himself until after the tour. It was Dick Cole, the co-pilot of Dolittle’s plane on the raid. Mr. Cole is one of four current surviving members of the raid.

Attached Hanger

As I mentioned at the very beginning, this museum houses the largest collection of operational World War II aircraft. There was a dead giveaway of this fact in this hanger and in the WestPac Restoration hanger – see the photo to the right. Every plane had an oil pan underneath it to catch leaking oil. Either the engines still leaked oil, or they were going for ultimate realism!

Many of these planes were recovered after being unceremoniously buried in places like Papau New Guinea at the end of the war. With fresh planes available, there was no value seen in keeping these planes, so bulldozers dug trenches and the planes were shoved in. The team at the museum built the business plan for recovery, raised the funds, recovered the aircraft and in most cases restored it to World War II-level operation (or better).

There are about six planes (or pieces of planes) in this hanger, several of the operational. This includes one trainer, the husk of one P-47D-2RE Thunderbolt (which docent Phil said would one day be restored to flying), and several others.Planes in Attached Hangar

On the way out of this part of the tour, we went through an adjacent workroom and into a small restoration area. There, proudly displayed, was a piece of the U.S.S. Arizona. Docent Phil said that the museum curator had procured it on a trip to Oahu. The display had a map that showed what part of the Arizona the piece was from. All were encouraged to touch it, prompted by Phil’s disclosure that soon it would be in a case under a piece of glass. The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is one of the most emotional places to visit, and touching a piece of the ship was surreal.

Piece of the U.S.S. Arizona


WestPac Restoration

The last major part of the tour is reached by a walk across the tarmac to the hanger of WestPac Restoration. The hanger houses several planes being restored, operational planes (like Audrey’s favorite, the B-25), and several unique workrooms for restoring propellers and bending/curving metal for the plane’s housing.WestPac Restoration

The WestPac hanger has a propeller shop and a metal shop, the purpose of both being described as “since you can’t buy World War II props and curved metal off the shelves, we build them here.” There was a set of very warped propellers off to the side that had been recovered; they were to be put into a machine that would straighten them out, and then into another machine that would put just the right angle of twist on them for the planes they were destined for.

Among the restoration projects were two P-38s, one of which had been recovered from Papau New Guinea. You can see details of their restorations on the WestPac web site – the P-38 “white 33″ (as that was the insignia painted on its tail) and the P-38 Lightning.

Audrey’s favorite was the B-25, pictured below. According to the inscription near the tail, this plane had flown off the deck of five aircraft carriers. I’d say that’s the definition of “operational”.

B-25 In The Mood

My wife was looking at a picture in front of the B-25 that showed the plane and its owner, Bill Klaers, and said to me “That guy looks like the man in the picture.” Bill was roaming around the WestPac Restorations hanger on the day of our tour, as he probably does most days. We struck up a conversation with him (I believe he was trying to talk my wife into taking a job there) and learned quite a bit more about the museum from him. Many of the plane are taken out and flown quite frequently, including the B-25 (which had a starring role in the movie “Pearl Harbor”).

We didn’t realize it at the time, but Bill is also the co-chairman of the museum and is co-owner of WestPac Restorations.

Future Plans

As befitting its collection of operational vintage aircraft, the museum has big plans. They have quite a few more planes ready to be added to display as soon as they can work through some legalities. And, to house all this, they are planning a huge expansion, with a building that has a replica of an aircraft carrier deck, with plans to mount a plane from the ceiling like it has just taken off from said deck.

Details for the expansion plans can be seen here.

We will certainly be back to see their new facilities when ready.

The Civil War by Shelby Foote - V1.Chapter 6: The Sun Shines South

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 6: The Sun Shines South

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Previous post - Chapter 5

Volume One: Chapter 6

  1. Lincoln Reappraisal; Emancipation
  2. Grant, Farragut, Buell
  3. Bragg, K. Smith, Breckinridge
  4. Lee vs. Pope: Second Manassas

Trouble at the top in the North

  • From page 526: “For four months now, ever since the abrupt relief of McClellan back in March, the overall conduct of the war had been directed by Lincoln and Stanton – a sort of two-headed, four-thmbed amateur – with results just short of disastrous in the theater which had received their main attention. Stonewall Jackson, for example, had frightened Stanton and decoyed Lincoln into breaking up the combinations McClellan had designed for taking Richmond: so that Davis and Lee, professionals both, had been able to turn the tables on the Army of the Potomac, effecting counter combinations that drove it headlong to the ordinate commanders – on the one hand, Fremont’s ineptness; on the other, McClenllan’s lack of aggressive instincts- but most of it lay with the overall direction, which had permitted the enemy to bring pressure on those flaws.””

Delaying the Emancipation Proclamation

  • Differing opinions in Lincoln’s cabinet
  • From page 540: “Then Seward spoke, having turned the matter over in hid mind. “Mr. President,” he said, “I approve of the proclamation, but I question the expediency of its issue at this juncture. The depression of the public mind, consequent upon our repeated reverses, is so great that I fear the effect of so important a step. It may be viewed as the last measure of an exhausted government, a cry for help; the government stretching forth its hand to Ethiopia, instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the government. It will be considered our last shriek on the retreat. Now, while I approve of the measure, I suggest, sir, that you postpone its issues until you can give it to the country supported by military success, instead of issuing it, as would be the case now, upon the greatest disasters of the war”.”

McClellan sees the writing on the wall; he is asked to “withdraw his troops from the Peninsula” where he is besieging Richmond from the east and southeast.

  • Continuing delays and requests for reinforcements leads to his demise.
  • from page 594: “Halleck was amazed, and went to Lincoln with the problem. Lincoln was not amazed at all. In fact, he found the telegram very much in character. If by some magic he could reinforce McClellan with 100,000 troops today, he said, Little Mac would be delighted and would promise to capture Richmond tomorrow; but when tomorrow came he would report the enemy strength at 400,000 and announce that he could not advance until he got another 100,000 reinforcements.”

And then, after Stonewall Jackson whips his replacement (Pope), McClellan is given the reins again

  • from page 649: “So he went to him and told him to return to the army whose wounded were already beginning to pour into the city. And that afternoon, despite the howls of the cabinet – Stanton was squelched but Chase was sputtering, “I cannot but feel that giving command to McClellan is equivalent to giving Washington to the rebels” – Lincoln had Halleck issue the formal order: “Major General McClellan will have command of the fortifications of Washington and of all the troops for the defense of the capital.” This left Pope to be disposed of, which was done three days later. “The Armies of the Potomac and Virginia being consolidated,” he was told by dispatch, “you will report for orders to the Secretary of War.” Reporting as ordered, he found himself assigned to duty against the Sioux, who had lately risen in Minnesota. From his headquarters in St. Paul, where he was settled before the month was out, Pope protested vehemently against the injustice of being “banished to a remote and unimportant command.” But there he stayed, for the duration.
The Civil War by Shelby Foote - V1.Chapter 5: Fighting Means Killing

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 5: Fighting Means Killing

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Previous post – Chapter 4

Volume One: Chapter 5

  1. Davis Frets; Lincoln-McClelland
  2. Valley Campaign; Seven Pines
  3. Lee, McC: The Concentration
  4. The Seven Days; Hezekiah

“The first national conscription law in American history”

  • From page 394: “Under the influence of Lee, Davis proposed more stringent measures on a larger scale. In a late-March message to Congress he recommended outright conscription, within the same age bracket throughout the Confederacy – to make sure, he said that the burden of fighting did no fall ‘exclusively on the most ardent and patriotic’. Congress debated hotly, then on April 16, after lowering the upper age limit to thirty-five, passed the first national conscription law in American history. They passed it because the knew if was a necessity but they blamed Davis for having made it necessary by adopting the ‘dispersed defensive’, which they said had dampened nation enthusiasm. His reply – that ‘without military stores, without the workshops to create them, without the power to import them, necessity not choice had compelled us to occupy strong positions everywhere to confront the enemy without reserves’ – did nothing to assuage the anger of the States Righters, who saw in conscription a repudiation of the principles for which the war was being fought.”

McClelland continues to frustrate Lincoln by his inaction

  • From page 414: “Amazed to find that McClelland had made mo provision for the capture of Norfolk, outflanked by the drive up the opposite bank of the James, the President decided to undertake the operation himself, employing the fortress garrison under Major General  John E. Wool….As things turned out, no push or support was needed. The Confederates had evacuated Norfolk the day before, leaving only a handful of men behind to complete the wrecking of Gosport Navy Yard.”

Robert E. Lee is given command

  • Johnston wounded in the battle at Seven Pines, Smith is sick “…not from any ordinary fear but from the strain of responsibility suddenly loaded on his shoulders.”
  • From page 450: “The two men road in silence under a sickle moon. Davis was making his choice. If he hesitated, there is little wonder. His companion was the obvious candidate; but he could easily be by-passed. David, knowing better than anyone how well Lee had served in his present advisory capacity, could as logically keep him there as he kept Samuel Cooper at the Adjutant General’s post….Nevertheless, by the time the lights of beleaguered Richmond came in sight David had made his decision. In a few words lost to history, but large with fate for the two riders and their country, he informed Lee that he would be given command of the army known thereafter as the Army of Northern Virginia.”

Stonewall Jackson rides again

  • To relieve some of the pressure on Richmond with a feint north
  • From page 464: “Application of these strategic principals, plus of course the blessing of Providence – particularly in the form of such meteorological phenomena as cloudbursts and hailstones large as hen-eggs – had enabled Jackson, with 17,000 troops, to frustrate the plans of 60,000 Federals whose generals were assigned the exclusive task of accomplishing his destruction. Four pitches battles he had fought, six formal skirmishes, and any number of minor actions. All had been victorious, and in all but one of the battles he had outnumbered the enemy anywhere from two- to seventeen-to-one….Mostly this had been done by rapid marching. Since March 22, the eve of Kernstown, his troops had covered 646 miles of road in forty-eight marching days. The rewards had been enormous: 3500 prisoners, 10,000 badly needed muskets, nine rifled guns and quartermaster stores of incalculable value. All these things he could hold and look at, so to speak. An even larger reward was the knowledge that he had played on the hopes and fears of Lincoln with such effect that 38,000 men – doubtless a first relay, soon to have been followed by others – were kept from joining McClelland in front of Richmond.”

Confederate artillery again no match for Federal

  • In the Seven Days. From page 512: “Half an hour was all the needed. By 2:30, with the whole Union position still billowing smoke and coughing flame – one six-gun battery near the center, for example, fired 1300 rounds in the course of the afternoon – not a single Confederate piece with a direct line of fire remained in action. What had been intended as a preliminary bombardment had been reduced to a bloody farce.”
The Civil War by Shelby Foote - V1.Chapter 4: War Means Fighting....

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 4: War Means Fighting….

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Previous post – Chapter 3

Volume One: Chapter 4

  1. Pea Ridge; Glorieta; Island Ten
  2. Halleck-Grant, Johnston-Beauregard: Shiloh
  3. Farragut, Lovell: New Orleans
  4. Hallech, Beauregard: Corinth

High confederate hopes in the West…

  • From page 293: “Believing in his Union days that the nation’s destiny pointed south and west, he [Jefferson Davis] had engineered the Gadsden Purchase and even imported camels in an attempt to solve the sandy transportation problem.”
  • Same page: “…Control of the former would establish sound financial credit on which the South could draw for securing war supplies abroad, while the opening of Confederate ports along the Pacific Coast would insure their delivery by stretching the tenuous Federal blockage past the snapping point. Satisfying as all this was as a solution to present problems, an even more dazzling prospect still remained. Having forged its independence in the crucible of war, the new nation could then return to the old southern nationalist dream of expansion, acquiring by purchase or conquest the adjoining Mexican states of Chihuahua, Sonora, and Baja California. After these would come others, less near but no less valuable: Cuba, for instance, then Central America, and all that lay between. Van Dorn seizing St. Louis as a base for a march through Illinois to subdue the Middle West, Beauregard dictating peace terms in the White House after the Battle of Cleveland or Lake Erie – glorious as these scenes were to contemplate in the mind’s eye, they were pale indeed in contrast to the glittering light of victory by way of California.”

But Sibley could not defeat the Federal army between the Rio Grande and Albuquerque.

May 4: “As far as New Mexico and the Far West were concerned, the Civil War was over.”

Battle of Shiloh: the numbers just got distressingly large, and it is only April, 1862

  • From page 350: “Union losses were 1754 killed, 8408 wounded, 2885 captured: total, 13,047 – about 2000 of them Buell’s. Confederate losses were 1723 killed, 8012 wounded, 959 missing: total 10,694. Of the 100,000 soldiers engaged in this first great bloody conflict of the war, approximately one out of every four who had gone into battle had been killed wounded or captured. Casualties were 24 percent, the same as Waterloo’s. Yet Waterloo had settled something, while this one apparently had settled nothing. When it was over, the two armies were back where they started, with other Waterloos ahead. In another sense, it settled a great deal. The American volunteer, whichever side he was on in this war, and however green, would fight as fiercely and stand as firmly as the vaunted veterans of Europe.”
  • From page 351: “The battle losses were another matter, providing some grim arithmetic for study. Total American casualties in all three of the nation’s previous wars – the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War: 10,623+6765+5885 – were 23,273. Shiloh’s totaled 23,741, and most of them were Grant’s.”
The Civil War by Shelby Foote - V1.Chapter 3: The Thing Gets Under Way

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 3: The Thing Gets Under Way

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Previous post – Chapter 2         Next post – Chapter 4

Volume One: Chapter 3

  1. The West: Grant, Fort Henry
  2. Donelson – The Loss of Kentucky
  3. Gloom; Manassas Evacuation
  4. McC moves to the penisula

First Army/Navy cooperation occurs on a river?

  • From page 183: “In the lead were four ironclad gunboats, unlike any ever seen before on this or any river.”
  • From page 184: “The turtle-back steamers were not a navy project, the admirals left such harebrained notions to the army. For the most part, even the sailors aboard the boats were soldiers…Once the fleet was launched and manned, however, the navy saw its potential and was willing to furnish captains for its quarterdecks. Having made the offer, which was quickly accepted, the admirals did not hold back, but sent some of their most promising officers westward for service on the rivers.”

Initial victories by U.S. Grant (Hiram!)

  •  Grant takes Fort Henry and Fort Donelsom (with the help of navel river bombardment the first time, and with little bloodshed the second time)
  • The Confederate armies retreat out of Kentucky
  • From page 196: “The congressional appointment had identified him as Ulysses Simpson Grant, when in fact his given name was Hiram Ulysses, but rather than try to untangle the yards off red tape that stood in the way of correction – besides the risk of being nicknamed “Hug” – he let his true name go and took a new one: U. S. Grant.”

understanding Lincoln

  • Having just seen the movie Lincoln, this passage parallels the portrayal of the President as a man who has loyalties only to the cause of saving the Union and putting an end to slavery.
  • From page 247-248: “That was something else he never understood: Lincoln himself. Some might praise him for being flexible, while others called him slippery, when in truth they were both two words for just one thing. To  argue the point was to insist on a distinction that did not exist. Lincoln was out to win the war; and that was alone was out to do, for the president would keep his word to any man only so long as keeping it would help to win the war. If keeping it meant otherwise, he broke it. He kept no promise, anyhow, any longer than the conditions I under which it was given obtained. And if any one thing was clear in this time when treason had become a household word, it was that the conditions of three months ago no longer obtained. McCellan would have to go forward or go down.”
  • At this point, Lincoln unilaterally put forth General War Order No. 1, stating that a forward movement would be launched on February 22, much to McCellan’s chagrin.


The Civil War by Shelby Foote - V1.Chapter 2: First Blood; New Conceptions

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 2: First Blood; New Conceptions

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Previous post: Chapter 1          Next post: Chapter 3

Volume One: Chapter 2

  1. Manassas – Southern Triumph
  2. Anderson. Fremont. McClellan
  3. Scott’s Anaconda; the Navy
  4. Diplomacy: the Buildup

Many early victories for the South, first taste of battle always difficult

From page 93: “Few of the romantic preconceptions as to brilliant maneuver and individual gallantry were realized. Fighting at close quarters because of the short-ranged Confederate flintlocks and muzzle-loading fowling pieces, a regiment would walk up to the firing line, deliver a volley, then reload and deliver another, continuing this until it dissolved and was replaced by another regiment, which repeated the process, melting away in the heat of that furnace and being in turn replaced. No fighting anywhere ever required greater courage, yet individual gallantry seemed strangely out of place. A plume in a man’s hat, for example, accomplished nothing except to make him a more conspicuous target. Nor did the rebel yell ring out on the banks of Wilson’s Creek. There was little cheering on either side; for a cheer seemed as oddly out of place as a plume. The men went about their deadly business of firing and reloading and melting away in a grim silence broken only by the rattling crash of musketry and the deep roar of guns, with the screams of the injured sometimes piercing the din. Far from resembling panoplied war, it was more like reciprocal murder.”

Confederate States had no Navy

  • Early on, three ports taken using mostly naval power
  • From page 120: “Some standard theories were going to have to be revised: the belief that one gun on land was equal to fou on water, for example. Steam had changed all that, removing the restrictions of wind and current and making possible such maneuvers as Du Pont’s expanding ellipse…Naval power was going to be a dominant factor in this war.”

Creation of the “loyal state of West Virginia”

Jeff Davis maintaining a policy of defense vs. aggression would pull in Europe on the side of the Confederacy

  • From page 134: “His critics would have had him strip the troops from threatened points and send the marching forthwith against the North, staking everything on one assault. To Davis, this not only seemed inconsistent with his repeated claim that the South was merely defending herself against aggression, it seemed unnecessarily risk. That was the war might be quickly won, as Beauregard had pointed out; but it also might be quickly lost that way. Davis preferred to watch and wait. He believed that time was with him and he planned accordingly, not yet by any means aware that what he was waiting for would require a miracle. At this state, in Davis’ mind at any rate, nothing seemed more likely, more inevitable, than foreign intervention; as had been shown by his first action in attempting to secure it.”
  • The capture of two Confederate enjoys from an English ship by a Union Naval officer almost succeeded in providing the necessary push, but cooler heads on both sides of the Atlantic prevailed.

Shelby Foote’s narrative is quite enjoyable

  • From the Bibliography of this first volume (yes, some of us do read such things), he cites himself a novelist who combines the job of a historian.
  • From page 815: “Accepting the historian’s standards without his paraphernalia, I have employed the novelist’s methods without his license. Instead of inventing characters and incidents, I searched the out – and having found them, I took them as they were. Nothing is included here, either within or outside quotation marks, without the authority of documentary evidence which I consider sound.”
The Civil War by Shelby Foote - V1.Chapter 1: Prologue-The Opponents

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 1: Prologue-The Opponents

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Next post: Chapter 2

Volume One: Chapter 1: Prologue

  1. Succession. Davis and Lincoln
  2. Sumter. Early Maneuvers
  3. Statistics North and South

Other states and even NYC talked about seceding from the Union;

  • From page 43: “…Lincoln was confronted with division even among the states that had stayed loyal. New Jersey was talking succession; so was California, which along with Oregon was considering the establishment of a new Pacific nation; so, even, was New York City, which beside being Southern in sentiment would have much to gain from independence.”
  • A new Pacific nation would certainly have mad getting the Union back together difficult. An interesting piece for an alternate history.

Interesting “adjustments” in the Confederate Constitution;

  • From page 42: “One important oversight was corrected, however. Where the founding fathers, living in a less pious age of reason, had omitted any reference to the Deity, the modern preamble invoked “the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” Nor were more practical considerations neglected. The President and Vice President were elected to a six-year term, neither of them eligible for reelection. Congress was forbidden to pass a protective tariff or to appropriate money for internal improvements. Cabinet officers were to be given seats on the floor of Congress. Each law must deal with only one subject, announced in its title, and the President had the right to veto separate items in appropriation bills. Instead of requiring a three-fourths majority, amendments could be ratified by two-thirds of the states. While the newer document expressly prohibited any revival of the slave trade, those chattels referred to in the old on as “persons” now became outright “slaved” and in all territory acquired by the Confederacy, slavery was to be “recognized and protested” by both the Federal and territorial governments.”

Fort Sumter somewhat backfired on Lincoln. The South attacked, and Lincoln used this as motive for putting out a call for 75,000 men. The border states did not join in the spirit of “uniting the North.”

  • From page 51: “Telegram after telegram arrived from governors of the previously neutral states, each one bristling with moral indignation at the enormity of the proclamation, rather as if it had been in fact an invitation to fratricide or incest.”
  • Virginia seceded with two days, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee shortly after.
CitationOf36thDivPg1 copy

Letters from World War I – Corporal Ellis Edmond “Dutch” Ketchersid

My Grandfather was in the 132 Machine Gun Battalion in the 36th Division, First Army, sent to France in World War I. He passed away in 1982, and somehow I was the recipient of several of his World War I moments: a 48-star flag; the roster book from his Company “B”; a shell; and an Argentine Mauser, circa 1890s. Through his letters (which I have from my father) and through an excellent article called Panthers to Arrowheads: The 36th (Texas-Oklahoma) Division In World War I by Lonnie J. White, I pieced together much of his journey. I wish I would have asked him more.

Born in October of 1893, he was near his 24th birthday when he became part of the 132nd Machine Gun Battalion, which was formed in October 1917 at Camp Bowie, Texas from the 1st, 2nd and 7th Regiments of Texas Infantry and the 1st Regiment of Oklahoma Infantry. From Mr. White’s article:

Major Preston Weatherred was assigned command of the 132nd, and he would many years later command the Texas National GuardState pride was so great in both Guards that Texas officials sought as early as May, 1917, the permission of Secretary Baker to form a purely Texas division, and Oklahomans in July applied political pressure to have their Guardsmen trained in Oklahoma. The new divisional arrangement was particularly galling to the 1st Oklahoma, the pride of the Sooner state, whose recruits had been promised during the summer enlistment campaign that the regiment would retain its state identity. To make matters worse, the 1st Oklahoma was not to form a separate regiment, but was to be merged with the 7th Texas Infantry to comprise the 142nd Infantry.

Of the Oklahoma officers, the most upset was Lieutenant Colonel Jayne, who complained that there would “be no Oklahoma unit anywhere.” There were “so many Texas regiments” that they cannot lose their identity, merely taking different numerals.” Captain A. H. Drake of Childress, 7th Texas Infantry, perhaps reflected the sentiment of the Texans in his statement that the 1st Oklahomans “will not lose their identity any more than we will.” The 7th Texas would not be known as such “any more either.”

Oklahomans at home felt strongly enough about the matter to seek redress in Washington. Their efforts were to no avail, for Secretary Baker in a meeting with “prominent Oklahomans” on September 29 flatly refused to budge from the War Department’s decision to renumber the divisional units without reference to states. Consequently, Blakely’s order stood, though he was constrained, owing to the furor, to amend it to move back the date for the completion of consolidation and removal of the Guardsmen to their new unit locations at Camp Bowie to October 15.

Jayne was presumably so distressed that he took a 10-day furlough, leaving Bloor as the new commanding officer of the 142nd to deal with the unruly Oklahomans in the best way he could. Fortunately for Bloor, General Hoffman, who had every reason to be as dissatisfied with the rearrangement of units, which left his brigade without a single Oklahoma organization, as Jayne, urged the men of his former regiment in a farewell speech to accept consolidation. Standing on “a dry goods box” on October 12, Hoffman told the 1st Oklahoma troops, who were gathered around him, that orders “were orders, and you are soldiers.” He wanted them “to be friendly to the men of the Seventh” and to accept their new commander whom he declared was “one of the best colonels in the American Army.” Following Hoffman’s remarks, Bloor welcomed the Oklahomans to the 142nd and asked them as “experienced veterans” to assist the green Texans in becoming soldiers. “We want to make this the best regiment in camp.”

The troops began training in trench warfare. In November, a cold front blew in on Camp Bowie, which the camp was not prepared for. Pneumonia, measles and meningitis hit the crowded camp. Again, from Mr. White’s article: (more…)

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