As I Remember: A Civil War Veteran Reflects on the War and Its Aftermath
by Lewis Cass White
Joseph Scopin (editor, designer), forward by Benjamin Franklin Cooling
Hardcover: 184 pages
Publisher: Scopin Design (2014)
You never know what you’ll find in a basement or attic. That moldering pile of papers just might be important historical documents that shed new light on one of the most important incidents of the Civil War – the near-shooting of Abraham Lincoln at Fort Stevens on July 12, 1864. That was the situation Joseph Scopin found himself in when cleaning out the basement of an elderly relative. The moldy, waterlogged papers represented a lifetime’s collection of material about the battle by a Union veteran, Lewis Cass White of the 102nd Pennsylvania, one of the Sixth Corps regiments that had participated in the battle. Cass had been there on those two hot July days and after the war even bought a house on the old battlefield. He contacted many of the men who were also there, and their eyewitness accounts add immeasurably to our knowledge of that fateful day.
One of them was the man who was shot that day at Fort Stevens – Surgeon Cornelius C.V. Crawford, who was standing near President Lincoln on the parapet. Crawford’s account, and his diagram of the incident, differs considerably from many of the popular narratives. He was not standing next to Lincoln, but nevertheless the shot, which came from a grove to the east of the pike, did pass close to the president, who was standing behind the parapet. Crawford suffered a severe wound which put him out of action for the rest of the war and troubled him for the rest of his life.
Another man present was Lt. George Jewett, an artilleryman in the fort who was in a position to see and hear much of what went on. His account is also included, as are the reminiscences of several other men. One of the attractive features of the book is that editor Joseph Scopin has included both the transcription and the original documents in the book, so that a reader may compare the two.
After the war White became a government employee and somewhat of a local expert and activist of the Fort Stevens battlefield, which, as he always said was “a small event” with large consequences. What would have happened if Lincoln had been shot? If he had been killed or just suffered a disabling wound like Surgeon Crawford? The war – and history – might have taken a totally different turn.
White, who fought in 24 battles, served throughout the war until he lost a hand at Cedar Creek in the fall of 1864, and his included diary gives an excellent soldier’s eye view of the war in the East, from the Peninsular campaign through Sheridan’s Shenandoah campaign of 1864.
The book itself is handsomely designed, densely illustrated with contemporary illustrations by artists like Alfred Waud and Edwin Forbes, and produced in color by Joseph Scopin, an accomplished designer and journalist. The list price of $39.95 is a bit steep, but much cheaper than having to visit an archive to see these important documents. Unfortunately, there is no index.
Overall, highly recommended not just for the specialist in Fort Stevens but for anyone interested in a first hand account of the war by a Pennsylvania soldier.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book.
UPDATE: Never let it be said that reading TOCWOC is not beneficial. Author/editor Joe Scopin has offered a 25% discount to TOCWOC readers who mention this review. Email him at email@example.com for more details.
UPDATE 2: The email address for Joe Scopin was misspelled, this has been corrected.