We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


Fleetwood Hill Preserved!

Through the hard work of large group of people, not the least of which are Eric Wittenburg and Bud Hall, Fleetwood Hill on the Brandy Station Battlefield has been preserved. Governor Bob McDonnell announced yesterday that the Commonwealth of Virginia conveyed over $700,000 to the Civil War Trust to complete the funding for the acquisition of the 58 acres owned by the Troilo family. Eric’s post on it has many more details and is well-worth the read.

There is a brief mention in the Washington Post….

H/T to Craig Swain, who was also a vigorous participant in the fight.

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His horse was not his best friend
21 June 2012, 18:09
Filed under: Veterans | Tags: , , , ,

Today, in my email, I got one of the regular notification emails from Gatehouse Press, which publishes Morningside Books and Gettysburg magazine. Needless to say, I think they’re marvelous folks, but I’m not writing today because of that, but rather because I found there email and the associated story immensely amusing.

John Opie served in the Confederate cavalry and saw action in the major Virginia campaigns. His memoir A Rebel Cavalryman with Lee, Stuart, and Jackson is a light and humorous narrative on the life of a cavalryman. I’m guessing from the excerpt that Andy Turner published in his blog, that Mr. Opie must have been a hit whenever people gathered to hear stories of the war. It seems that his horse was not quite the gentle, loving companion that one always imagines when day-dreaming about being a cavalryman. In a few short chapters, Opie details how his seemed hell-bent on killing Opie, or, failing that, getting Opie killed. I’m not going to steal Andy or John’s fire, so  click on over and read all about it.



Optimism is a force multiplier

In reading the Washington Post this morning, I came across a story of a group of Naval Academy midshipmen who spent their spring break following in the footsteps of “Stonewall” Jackson. Dr. Joe Thomas, a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel, teaches leadership at the Academy and led the group on the hike last month. Near dusk on Day 3 of the hike, having covered 55 miles already, Thomas reminded the midshipmen of one of the great truths of leadership, “Optimism is a force multiplier.”

In the Shenandoah Valley, just northwest of Swift Run Gap where they’d hiked that day, lay the battlefields of Cross Keys and Port Republic. In both battles, aggressive optimists defeated larger forces. Looking at General Jackson’s career, you can see many instances in which his aggressiveness, optimism and force of personality determined the outcome of the battle. Jackson was no giddy cheerleader brandishing slogans, but a supremely eccentric and socially awkward man who had an incredible talent and great confidence. Despite having been branded “Tom Fool” as a professor at VMI, at First Manassas, he earned his nickname for standing like a stone wall and allowing others to rally on the Virginians.

L’optimisme est un multiplicateur de force

En lisant Washington Post ce matin, j’ai trouvé une histoire d’un groupe de officiers aspirants d’Académie Navale qui ont dépensé leur coupure de ressort suivant dans les marchepieds de « Stonewall » Jackson. Dr. Joe Thomas, un lieutenant-colonel Marin retiré, enseigne les qualifications de leader à l’académie et a mené le groupe sur la hausse le mois dernier. Près du crépuscule le Jour 3 de la hausse, ayant déjà couvert 55 milles, Thomas a rappelé les midshipmans une des grandes vérités de la conduite, « Optimisme est un multiplicateur de force. »

Dans la vallée de Shenandoah, juste le nord-ouest de la Course Rapide Passage où elles avaient augmenté ce jour, étendent les champs de bataille des Clefs en Travers et de la Port République. Dans les deux batailles, les opportunistes agressifs ont défait des forces plus grand. Regardant la carrière du Général Jackson, vous pouvez voir beaucoup d’exemples dans lesquels son agressivité, optimisme et force de personnalité ont déterminé les résultats de la bataille. Jackson n’était aucun slogan brandissant de majorette étourdie, mais suprêmement un excentrique et un homme socialement maladroit qui ont eu un talent incroyable et une grande confiance. En dépit de l’marquage à chaud « imbécile de Tom » comme un professeur à École militaire de la Virginie, chez le premier Manassas, il a valu son surnom pour se tenir comme un mur en pierre et permettre à d’autres de se rassembler sur les Virginians.



Weekend Wanderings, Columbus Day Weekend 2011

If you stood in the right field near Le Muy in southern France or near Sainte-Mère-Église in Normandy, you could have seen paratroopers rain down upon you in 1944. This week, I felt as if I was having a similar experience with paratrooper books.

  • Jim Broumley’s The Boldest Plan is the Best: The Combat History of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion during WWII just arrived on Amazon and I’ve ordered my copy. I’ve been trying to find a copy of Stand in the Door: The Wartime History of the Elite 509th Parachute Infantry Batallion by Charles Doyle and Terrell Stewart, but there are few copies available, so the prices are exhorbitant. Broumley draws the extensive veteran recollections included in Stand in the Door and adds a great deal of material from other sources. He’s blogging, so you can catch up with his activities any time. Since he’s in Pennsylvania, maybe we can get him to drive down for the Dragoon event next year (2-5 August 2012).
  • On Tuesday, I got my much-delayed copy of LIONS OF CARENTAN, THE: Fallschirmjager Regiment 6, 1943-1945, which I’m very excited about. One of the challenges for me in studying WWII has been that I’ve read so little that comes from the Axis perspective. In my studies of the American Civil War, I’ve looked at both sides, examining the available forces, the tactical and strategic decisions and the aftermath. That allows a level of understanding that examining only one side can never give you. The Lions of Carentan is one of the ways I’ve been expanding my knowledge so that I can understand both sides and relate the events more effectively.
  • In the steady collapse of Borders bookstores, I often raided the sales. It was perhaps the most liberating book purchasing experience I’ve had as, with prices slashed, I simply gave a book a brief once-over and put it in my stack to buy. Normally, I take hours and read multiple reviews before committing my hard-earned cash to purchasing a book. So, I purchased a book titled “Overlord: The Illustrated History of the D-Day Landings”. It’s honestly a great book. It uses a lot of images from the Osprey series to di splay uniforms and equipment in action while providing some truly excellent maps. In each sector of Normandy, it also lists the order of battle and commanders (down to regimental level). None of the Allied-centric works I’ve read provide that information, so I find it immensely useful.
  • There’s a new American Civil War magazine out, The Civil War Monitor. It has an experienced editor (Terry Johnston, who had edited North and South for many years) and comes highly recommended (by Eric Wittenburg).


New motto for preservation group: Do whatever you want
26 May 2011, 18:52
Filed under: Preservation | Tags: , ,

The Brandy Station Foundation is a 501(c)-3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the natural and historic resources of the Brandy Station area of Culpeper County, Virginia. It used to actually make efforts in that regard. Then, Joseph McKinney became the President of the organization. Now, the organization has published a position statement that states that it is “generally not productive to officially oppose common property improvements”.

I cannot imagine why anyone would bother with a preservation organization that has no interest in preservation of land that is privately owned.

I regularly read Eric Wittenburg’s Rantings of a Civil War Historian and first learned of Tony Triolo’s wanton destruction of the Brandy Station battlefield there. Things got worse with the rains we had here in Virginia, but fortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers got involved at that point, since he was damming a creek to expand a pond in the midst of the battlefield and there is massive erosion occurring.

Newly expanded pond with much over-turned earth

I like to think it’s surprising, but perhaps it is not surprising at all, that landowner Tony Troilo is a friend of BSF President Joseph McKinney.

Craig Swain, who served a year on the Board of the Foundation, notes that it is effectively no longer a preservation group and has renounced his membership. It is a sad day when preservation groups become unconcerned about preservation.




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