About Me

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I am a lifelong student of military history with particular interest in the Battle of Antietam. I work for the federal government in Washington DC and have two teenagers who I love very much. I currently volunteer at the battlefield and devote much time to the study of this battle and the Maryland Campaign. I enjoy collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam. These words often add a degree of color and character not found elsewhere in their stories. A feature of this blog is the presentation of some of these quotes. My perspective comes from a 28 year career in the U.S. Army. Travels took me to World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific where American valor ended the tyranny of Nazism and Empire. But our country faced its own greatest challenge 80 years earlier during the Civil War. And it was the critical late summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign that fortune could have gone either way. It is an incredible story of drama, carnage, bravery, and missed opportunities that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg MD. So join me as I make this journey South from the North Woods.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Our Boys Did Nobly by John Hoptak

Today, I picked up my copy of John Hoptak's new book Our Boys Did Nobly - Schuylkill County Pennsylvania, Soldiers at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. John, a ranger at Antietam National Battlefield, is a tremendously gifted writer and the author of several other Civil War histories. As a volunteer at the park, I have gotten to know him well over the past two years. The book is turning out to be a great read and while the focus is on three Pennsylvania regiments with roots in John's hometown of Schuylkill County, it does a great job as well in narrating the overall story of the Maryland Campaign and these two pivotal battles. John's command of the subject matter is impressive and he tells the story in in a compelling but readable style. I will have more to say about it soon but get your copy today. It is at the Antietam Bookstore and available here at Amazon.com.

Friday, August 21, 2009

2009 Antietam National Battlefield Anniversary Schedule of Events and Hikes

Appearing at the top left column of this blog are links to the National Park Service's recently released schedule of events and hikes for Battle Anniversary Week running from Friday, September 11 through Thursday, September 17. This posting will reside there until the conclusion of the week of events. For your convenience, the event link is also available here and the hike link is here. I hope to see many of you there sometime during the anniversary week programs.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On Jackson…Quotes By and About the Man


I recently finished reading James I. Robertson’s classic Stonewall Jackson The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, 1997). To my mind, this mammoth work is the best biography of Jackson out there. Over 160 of the quotes in my database come from this book alone. Below are some of my favorite Jackson quotes, a small sample of the over 100 Jackson quotes now in my database. Some are by Jackson himself, but all others are from contemporaries who either knew him or observed him in action. It is by no means a comprehensive or all encompassing list below but quotes that nevertheless resonate with me.

The First Battle of Bull Run where Jackson first came to national prominence:

"Look men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer! Follow me!" Barnard Bee’s immortal words to his men at the First Battle of Bull Run that earn Jackson the immortal nickname Stonewall; July 22, 1861

Jackson’s profound genuine faith and trust in God and his introverted nature are essential components of the man:

"To attempt to portray the life of Jackson while leaving out the religious element, would be like undertaking to describe Switzerland without making mention of the Alps." Moses D. Hoge, a noted Presbyterian scholar and Jackson friend made this observation

"The General is a great man for praying at all times. But when I see him get up a great many times in the night to pray, then I know there is going to be something to pay, and I go straight and pack his haversack. Because I know he will call for it in the morning." Jackson's servant Jim Lewis commenting about Jackson penchant for praying before a major action; August 8, 1862

"Through God's blessings the advance [on Harpers Ferry] which commenced this evening, has been successful thus far, and I look to Him for complete success to-morrow." Thomas J. Jackson’s message to Robert E. Lee the night of September 14, 1862

"He divides his time between military duties, prayer, sleep and solitary thought. He holds converse with few." Charles Blackford describing Jackson at the start of the Second Manassas campaign; July 1862

"Jackson is a very plain and simple man having little conversational power, and only two elements of greatness-implicit self-reliance giving great imperturbility of temper and feeling and never-yielding Faith. I like him very much." Thomas R. Cobb after his first meeting with Jackson upon Cobb’s arrival at Fredericksburg; December 1862.

Jackson often triggered extreme reactions, both positive and negative from those he worked with:

"I tell you sir, he is as crazy as a March hare! He has gone away I don’t know where, and left me here with some instructions to stay until he returns…” Richard Ewell in a conversation with Colonel James Walker of the 13th Virginia; May 12, 1862

"Do you remember my conversion with you at Conrad’s Store when I called this old man an old woman? Well, I take it all back! I will never prejudge another man. Old Jackson's no fool. He has a method in his madness." Richard Ewell talking to Thomas Munford after the Port Republic battle; June 8, 1862

"I suppose I am to vegetate here all winter under that crazy old Presbyterian fool…” A. P. Hill to J.E.B. Stuart; November 14, 1862

"The Stonewall Brigade reserved to itself the exclusive right to cuss 'Old Jack.” John Newton Lyle after fist fights between men of the Stonewall Brigade and William Loring’s command; January 23, 1862

"It is a great pity sir, that General Jackson has not bitten some of his subordinates on furlough and affected them with the same sort of craziness that he has himself." Alexander Boteler, long time Jackson friend and supporter responding to one of Loring’s officers who states that Jackson is insane; January 1862

"I must admit that it is much pleasanter to read about Stonewall & his exploits than to serve under him & perform those exploits." Andrew Wardlaw of the 14th South Carolina in a letter to his wife; October 5, 1862

"He wore a faded uniform coat, pants and cape, somewhat round shouldered and looks on the ground when he walks as if he had lost something;” William Ellis Jones first sees Jackson at the Battle of Cedar Mountain; August 11, 1862

"He complained that one arm and one leg were heavier than the other, [Jackson] would occasionally raise his arm straight up, as he said, to let the blood run back into is body, and so to relieve the excessive weight." Dabney Maury

Some of Jackson’s own views on battle and other subjects:

"Reserve your fire until they come within fifty yards! Then fire and give them the bayonet! And when you charge, yell like furies.” Thomas J. Jackson battle command to his brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run July 22, 1861

"I am obliged to sweat them tonight, that I may save their blood tomorrow” Thomas J. Jackson talking to Colonel Samuel Fulkerson before the Battle of Winchester; May 24, 1862

"Wait until they come a little nearer, and they shall either scare me or I shall scare them!" Thomas J. Jackson response when James Longstreet jokingly asked Jackson whether he was scared of the Yankees massing in front of the Confederate positions at Fredericksburg; December 1862

"There are but few commanders who properly appreciate the value of celerity." Thomas J. Jackson in a “conversation” with Maxcy Gregg from A.P. Hill’s division just before Jackson places Hill under arrest; September 4, 1862

"Do you know why I habitually abstain from intoxicating liquors? Why sir because I like the taste of them. When I discovered this to be the case, I made up my mind at once to do without them altogether." Thomas J. Jackson in a conversation with Alexander Boteler on May 31, 1862

Jackson’s last days:

"We didn’t know what he was worth, Mac, till we lost him." Sandy Pendleton to Hunter McGuire upon the wounding of Jackson; May 3, 1862

"Give General Jackson my affectionate regards, and say to him: he has lost his left arm but I have lost my right arm. Tell him to get well and come back to me as soon as he can." Robert E. Lee to Jackson's chaplain Beverly Tucker Lacy after Lacy gave Lee an update on the deteriorating condition of Jackson; May 7, 1863

"Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees." Thomas Jackson’s last words; May 11, 1862

And finally, West Point classmate and fellow artilleryman John Tidball, made the following perceptive observations about Jackson:

"His chief characteristics as a military leader were his quick perceptions of the weak points of the enemy, his ever readiness, the astounding rapidity of his movements, his sudden and unexpected onslaughts, and the persistency with which he followed them up. His ruling maxim was that war meant fighting and fighting meant killing, and right loyally did he live up to it. Naturally taciturn, and by habit the keeper of his own designs, it was as difficult for his friends to penetrate them as it was easy for him to deceive the enemy...In any other person this would have been taken as cunning and deceit; but with him it was the voice of the Lord piloting him to the tents of the Midianites." John C. Tidball a West Point classmate of Jackson in his unpublished memoir "Getting through West Point".