by Keith Poulter
Letters to the Editor
Al Nofi’s Knapsack
by Al Nofi
Al Nofi’s Knapsack is a regular column in N&S that focuses on interesting anecdotes gleaned from numerous sources. Among the more interesting posts was one talking about the “boozers” and “teetotalers” in the ranks of Northern and Southern Generals. Nofi makes an interesting point that being a “boozer” or a “teetotaler” had no real effect on the quality of the General. For instance, Grant was known as a “boozer”, but Gen. Bragg was a “teetotaler”. Likewise, James Ledlie was a “boozer”, while Robert E. Lee was a “teetotaler”. Alcohol seems to have affected different men in vastly different ways. The other interesting tidbit was a “Biofile” of MG E.O.C. Ord and his family tree. Apparently many Ords served prior to and long after the General, from the War of 1812 through Vietnam.
Do You Know?
What Caused The Civil War?
by Edward L. Ayers
I’m not particularly interested in the causes of the War or any other antebellum issues, especially when I see the still strong (and sometimes violent) responses these topics engender. Edward L. Ayers wades right in however with a pretty funny Simpsons reference featuring Apu Nahasapeemapetilan (did I spell that right?). Ayers concludes (among other things) that there is no rote, correct answer to his title question, that slavery did not lead to the war “in a rational, predictable way”, but that all of the complex answers you can give inevitably do lead back to slavery in some form. He calls slavery “the key catalytic agent in a volatile new mix of democratic politics and accelerated communication, a process chemical in its complexity and subtlety”.
The Greatest Raid
by William L. Shea
William Shea’s article focuses on BG James Blount’s Raid on Van Buren, Arkansas from Dec. 27-31, 1862 following the Battle of Prairie Grove. Blount, an aggressive fighter, was only in charge temporarily. BG John Schofield had gone north to St. Louis to recover from a serious illness. Blount used his time in command well, taking Van Buren and surprising elements of MG Thomas Hindman’s Army of the Trans-Mississippi. The raid caused the destruction of food and other supplies at nearby Ft. Smith, and it caused serious hardship for the Southern Army in an area and at a time when it could least afford it. As Shea puts it, “if Blunt did not precisely drive Hindman out of northwest Arkansas, he made his departure as embarrassing and as painful as possible, and effectively guaranteed that he would not return”. I’d never read about the raid on Van Buren previously, so I followed this particular article with great interest. As usual, the maps in North & South were superb. In looking over the endnotes, Shea relied pretty much entirely on primary sources, including letters, diaries, newspaper articles, and of course the Official Records.
Civil War Round Table Directory
by Peter S. Carmichael
Social history is also an area I’m not too fond of, so this article wasn’t particularly interesting to me personally. Your mileage may vary. Prof. Carmichael describes the eponymous last generation of Virginia aristocrats, “men born between 1831 and 1843”. This article, based on the book The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion, attempts to explain why these men were such passionate devotees to the Confederate Cause.
Abraham Lincoln, American Hero
by Harold Holzer
Mr. Holzer argues in this article “that well before April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln had already, decisively earned the status of American hero. And legendary modesty notwithstanding, Lincoln worked as hard as any post-assassination myth maker to reach that pinnacle.” He argues that the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation immediately and permanently made him so, and that Lincoln knew this instinctively.
N&S Back Issues
Civil War Society News
Ambush on the Stono
by Derek Smith
Derek Smith’s article concentrates on the ambush of the Union gunboat Isaac Smith by masked Confederate batteries in the Stono River. Apparently Admiral Du Pont and his Southeast Atlantic Blockading Squadron had been making sorties with lone gunboats into the Stono River near Charleston early in 1863. The Rebels had been allowing these sorties with minimal interference, but that was about to change. BG Roswell Ripley came up with a plan to plant some masked batteries during the night and then allow the next Union gunboat to steam past unmolested. When the gunboat reached the last battery, it would open fire. The confederates hoped to disable and capture the ship in this way. It turned out to be a stunning success. The Isaac Smith was hit in the boiler, and after drifting helplessly, it was forced to surrender. Mr. Smith covered this little-known action at Charleston quite well. Although there were no maps, it was pretty easy to follow the fighting.
“Gentlemen, You Have Played This D–D Well!”
by Tonia J. Smith
“Teej” Smith wrote a very interesting article concerning the events surrounding the hanging of Confederates Walter G. Peter and William O. Williams on June 9, 1863 near Fort Granger and Franklin, Tennessee. The Union commander at Fort Granger, Colonel John P. Baird, was fooled by the spies initially. Luckily for him, his subordinates were not as naive. There were some bizarre elements to the story, including Baird’s botched handling of the situation and the prisoners’ request to be hanged without having their hands tied. I’m not normally a big fan of these types of human interest articles, but I thought Ms. Smith did an excellent job on this one.
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