Archive for July 2009
The highlight of the first five chapters of Two Great Rebel Armies by Richard M. McMurray was hands down the lesson on geography. This is, I fear, an area that receives too little emphasis in our study of the war. Particularly interesting was the reference to the Shenandoah Valley (Valley of Virginia) and the advantages and disadvantages it presented to those who chose to maneuver in it. It helps me to actually “see” a map of the area and I found a collection that you might find helpful if you’ve not already discovered it. It is the Hotchkiss Collection on the Library of Congress site here. The collection consists of 341 sketchbooks, manuscripts, and annotated printed maps, the originals of which reside in the Library of Congress’ Geography and Map Division. It also provides two essays including a biographical essay about Hotchkiss. Not to be missed is the Map of the Shenandoah Valley which was considered a masterpiece.
Major Jedediah Hotchkiss (1828-1899) was considered the cartographer of the Army of Northern Virginia. He was a topographic engineer in the Confederate Army. Most of the works in the collection are of the Shenandoah Valley and certainly some would have been used by Lee and his commanders.
The letters of Jedediah Hotchkiss are available on the University of Virginia’s excellent The Valley of the Shadow digital history project here. This exceptional collection is well worth the read and covers the major’s war experiences from 1861 – 1864 as conveyed to his family.
[am-buh-skeyd] noun, verb, -cad⋅ed,
1. an ambush
–verb (used without object)
2. to lie in ambush.
–verb (used with object)
3. to attack from a concealed position; ambush.
1575–85; < MF embuscade, alter. (under influence of OF embuschier) of MF emboscade < OIt imboscata, fem. ptp. of imboscare, v. deriv. with in- of bosco wood, forest < Gmc *bosk- bush
Related forms: am⋅bus⋅cad⋅er, noun 
As used by Joseph L. Harsh in Taken at the Flood…
On this occasion, Jeb Stuart justified his reputation for alert reconnaissance. Almost instantaneously he perceived and reported to Lee the enemy’s rapid withdrawal. He also ordered Hampton to pursue and harass the Federal column retiring from Flint Hill toward the Chain Bridge. Into the hours of darkness, Hampton closely pressed the Federal tail under Sedgwick, lobbing shells into the panicky main body until the heavy casualties suffered by the 1st North Carolina Cavalry in an “ambuscade” laid by the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry bought breathing space for the retreating Federals. Meanwhile, in the center of the line, where Stuart had only Fitz Lee’s tired troopers, the Confederate horsemen pressed more gently and permitted Hooker to withdraw through the county seat virtually unscathed. Heros von Borcke, Stuart’s Prussian chief of staff (see his memoir online here), planted the Confederate colors on the courthouse green, while deliriously happy Southern sympathizers mobbed the troopers, and damsels showered Stuart with kisses. Jeb even found time to visit his friend and “spy” Antonia Ford. 
 ambuscade. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ambuscade (accessed: July 25, 2009).
 Joseph L. Harsh, Taken at the Flood : Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 / [book on-line] (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1999, accessed 25 July 2009), 19; available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=102364729; Internet.
The book continues to generate debate.
The Wall Street Journal posted a chapter in their books section here and Michael B. Ballard’s review of the book appears in the WSJ here. Authors Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer provide a response/rebuttal to that review on July 17th in an article titled “The State of Jones Was Real, and Ahead of Its Time” available here. The debate continues to be fascinating.
OK back to Taken at the Flood.
I’m thrilled to be finally reading Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Clearly I must obtain copies of the other books in this series.
There is a fascinating debate afoot on the new book The State of Jones I mentioned in a post on June 23rd here. Authors John Stauffer and Sally Jenkins respond to the three part review by Vicki Bynum. I suggest that interested readers begin with Dr. Bynum’s review (Part III here) and then make your way over to Kevin Levin’s blog post where the majority of the debate is captured here.
The folks at the Berkeley’s public affairs office confirmed for me today that Kenneth M. Stampp died. His book The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South (1956) is required reading in my program and rightly so. The view into slavery was groundbreaking.
A full obituary will be posted shortly on Berkeley’s news site.
Condolences to his family.