Thursday, January 18, 2018

Fortifications at Fort Blunt

Several weeks ago, I received the latest edition of The Chronicles of Oklahoma and was pleased to see an article about "Fort Blunt Civil War Fortifications" by Robert Cole who is described as "an avocational historian and archaeology enthusiast." I've long been curious about fortifications built at Fort Gibson (renamed Fort Blunt in 1863) during the War. Cole's twenty-nine page study is based on an extensive on-ground survey coupled with an examination of a wartime map drawn by Captain William Hoelcke, military manuals, the Official Records, and various other primary sources. Although ultimately concluding that the Hoelcke map was probably a preconstruction plan, the map still proved useful in locating some fortification remains in a residential area as well as some near the Neosho River. Why weren't more remains discovered? Cole noted "that shallow, not easily penetrated bedrock hindered the main earthworks construction almost from its inception and effectively placed the project on hold until the spring of 1864. Concurrent with the earthworks construction stoppage in late April and early May 1863 was the building of interim lines of defense, presumably along the same route as the eventually erected earthworks. The nature of interim fortifications is not known, but there is some suggestion these defenses may have been of earthen construction, utilizing soil overburden above the shallow bedrock in the northeast arm of the fort" (327). The article is a well-illustrated piece of detective work and certainly the most detailed examination of Fort Blunt's fortifications that I've read.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Henry Rifle and the Battle of Prairie Grove

The Battle of Prairie Grove was fought 155 years ago today, and one of the participants was Major Albert C. Ellithorpe of the First Indian Home Guards. His regiment consisted primarily of refugee Seminoles and Muscogee Creeks from the Indian Territory and were part of James G. Blunt’s Kansas Division. This division arrived on the battlefield after soldiers from Francis J. Herron’s division had launched several bloody and futile attacks on Confederates from Thomas C. Hindman’s army. Ellithorpe’s regiment gave a “war yell” after positioning itself to the right of Herron’s Twentieth Iowa Infantry, and then the two regiments advanced toward the enemy. Ellithorpe had purchased a Henry rifle earlier in the year. This repeater had a sixteen-shot magazine and fired a .44 caliber bullet. Ellithorpe proudly wrote a month after the battle that, “my ‘Henry’ has done its work well I emptied 32 shots from it at the Battle of ‘Prarie Grove’ at a very short range. I think the gun has done good service.” The Major was so taken with the weapon that he asked for permission “to raise a battalion of sharpshooters” that would be equipped with the Henry rifle. For reasons unknown, his request was never granted. Were any other soldiers equipped with the Henry rifle at Prairie Grove? If any Henry bullets are ever excavated from the ground where the First Indian advanced, then they were probably fired by the redoubtable Major Ellithorpe.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Battle Flags of Minnesota

All of Minnesota's Civil War units, with the exception of the 1st Minnesota Infantry, served in either the Western Theater and/or in the trans-Mississippi. The Minnesota Historical Society is to be commended for creating a website that features photographs of surviving battle flags, short histories of each regiment and battery, and artifacts associated with different units. Conservation efforts are highlighted with a short three minute video. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Upcoming Presentation

This Thursday, I'll be speaking to the members and guests of the Civil War Roundtable of Central Louisiana on "A Constant School of Excitement: Albert C. Ellithorpe and the Border War." I'm looking forward to my trek into Louisiana and the opportunity to share information about the trans-Mississippi war to an interested audience!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

How Important Was the Trans-Mississippi?

Today,  I picked up the most recent issue of Civil War Times magazine from a Barnes & Noble store. As I've been arguing for several years, the trans-Mississippi theater was more significant than traditionally believed.

One of the "traditionalists" is the esteemed Civil War historian, Dr. Gary W. Gallagher, the Director of the John Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia. Author and editor of many books and a popular professor at The Great Courses Company, Dr. Gallagher "dismisses recent scholarship on the Civil War West and is most derisive of scholars working on histories of the Southwestern theater and the Pacific coast, arguing that the military, political, and social histories of these areas between 1861 and 1865 are irrelevant to Civil War history," according to Dr. Megan Kate Nelson. Her abridged column, "The Civil War West Mattered" is in the hot-off-the-press December 2017 issue of Civil War Times magazine. Dr. Nelson is best known for her well-received book, Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War but her latest, Path of the Dead Man: How the West was Won--and Lost--during the American Civil War, will be published in 2019. To read her unabridged column, go to the History Net website, which also has links to Dr. Gallagher's recent pieces relating to the West.

Friday, September 22, 2017

New York Battle Flags

It’s been several years since I’ve highlighted websites that feature the flags of the trans-Mississippi. Since that time some websites have been extensively updated and some new ones have appeared. This series will feature websites of trans-Mississippi State flag collections as well as websites that depict flags of regiments that served in the theater.

The New York Military Museum andVeterans Research Center has constructed a well-organized website with histories of every unit that served in the Civil War plus hundreds of photographs of New York flags. Many people don’t think of New York having much of a connection to the war west of the Mississippi, but soldiers of the 6th New York Infantry, the 114th New York Infantry, the 116th New York Infantry, and the 21st Independent Battery served in Louisiana for part of the conflict. The website is well worth checking out, and I noticed a couple of colorful posters for sale too.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Founders Award One More Time

On July 19, 2017, I attended a lovely banquet given by the American Civil War Museum to accept the Founders Award and to witness the presentation of the Jefferson Davis Award to Dr. Chandra Manning. Our certificates are quite unusual because the red wax seal was made by the original Great Seal of the Confederacy. We were told that the Great Seal was rarely used during the Civil War and has been used many more times on the certificates for the Founders and Jefferson Davis Awards. Dr. John Coski served as the master of ceremonies and shared some trivia with us about the awards. For example, my book has the longest title and is the first to deal with Indian troops. I have to confess that the title of my book is so lengthy that I sometimes can't remember all of it!

Recently, I've been planning some future postings and will be starting a series soon after a miscellaneous posting or two.