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Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg

Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg – The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, by Bradley M. Gottfried and Linda I. Gottfried, Savas Beatie, A Tenneessee Valley Civil War Round Table review by Ricardo Jaramillo

In 1863 the Union States that lost soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) agreed to the establishment of the “Soldiers’ National Cemetery” (now known as the Gettysburg National Cemetery). The coordinators invited war-time President Lincoln to make “a few appropriate remarks” for the cemetery’s consecration and dedication. The Commissioners were shocked when Lincoln accepted the invitation. At the Soldiers National Cemetery, on November 19, 1863, Lincoln’s remarks followed the famous orator Edward Everett’s two-hour speech. In 272 words in ten sentences, Lincoln delivered his ‘few appropriate remarks’ in approximately two minutes. One hundred fifty-eight years later, a speech he might have finished composing in his room the night before, President Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address, is well-known throughout the free world.

What is not well known, and what the book’s authors provide, is the logistics and political maneuvering conducted in preparation for the cemetery’s design, consecration, and dedication. The Commander-In-Chief only decided to attend on November 17, two days before the ceremony commencement. In addition, fifteen thousand spectators were planning to attend the momentous consecration ceremony, thus making transportation, lodging, and other necessities scarce for a small town of 2,400 people. The task of creating a cemetery befitting the thousands of Union soldiers who succumbed to the battle and were lying on the battleground was monumental.
Dead soldiers lay all over the battlefield. The carnage also consisted of many dead horses, mules, and other creatures. Fellow soldiers made efforts to bury their comrades on the battlefield during and immediately after the battle. The stench was horrific after just a few days and during the cemetery consecration. However, the task of removing the dead soldiers from the battlefield took months. Finally, the disinterment to bury the soldiers in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery began October 27, 1863, with the last exhumed on March 18, 1864. The authors have captured this often omitted part of the cemetery’s creation.

The authors provided interesting information related to the written Address. For example, is the final edition of the Gettysburg Address, as spoken by Lincoln, what we know today? Even though reporters dictated as Lincoln said it, it differs by what the newspapers printed. The Nicolay Copy, named after John G. Nicolay (Lincoln’s personal secretary), is thought to be the most accurate copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. Also, when and where Lincoln completed composing the Address has been questioned by historians. Some propose that Lincoln wrote it on the train to Gettysburg. Others think he scribbled it out the night before the Address, and several other opinions exist.

I enthusiastically recommend this book for both the novice and well-rounded civil war enthusiast.

A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy, the Fall of New Orleans, 1862

A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy, The Fall of New Orleans, 1862, Mark F. Bielski, 2021 Savas Beatie, 194 pages. A Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table review by Arley McCormick

This volume is a credit to the Savas Beatie Emerging Civil War Series and follows a similar format as previously published books in the series. Mark F. Bielski covers the antebellum years, the advantage of New Orleans as a port to the world, the slave trade, and the debate within the Confederacy’s leadership regarding its importance and defense. He amplifies 1861 as more than the year the war began, but as a year when the reality of conducting a war illustrated the limitations of the Confederacy’s ability to wage war and the constitutional limitations a Commander in Chief possessed to implement any plans approved in Richmond.

There is ample discussion regarding the forts and outer defenses including Ship Island. One annex is devoted to both the Union and Confederate Navy and Army organizations and of course, throughout the book, the characters that played a key role in the establishment of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana, National policy, military decision making, and failures to act decisively.

This is another excellent reference and guide to the numerous locations in and around New Orleans that became targets and points of interest created by the events of the American Civil War.

Grant’s Left Hook, The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, May 5 – June 7, 1864

Grant’s Left Hook, The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, May 5 – June 7, 1864
by Sean Michael Chick, Savas Beatie, A Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table
(July 2021) by Emil L. Posey

After being promoted by President Lincoln to Lieutenant General (at the time
only the second in our history to hold that rank) and assigned to command of all
Union armies, Grant developed and implemented a coordinated strategy to bring
the war to an end. He sent Maj. General Tecumseh Sherman with three Union
armies (of the Tennessee, of Ohio, and of the Cumberland) south from
Chattanooga into Georgia to capture Atlanta and Maj. General George Gordon
Meade’s Army of the Potomac southward from the Rapidan River in northern
Virginia towards Richmond. Grant accompanied the Army of the Potomac. One
of the supporting operations would be conducted by Maj. General Benjamin
Franklin Butler’s Army of the James. It would ascend the James River with
something over 30,000 men towards Richmond and invest the city from the
south. In doing so, it would act as a detached left wing for the Army of the
Potomac, hence the title of this book.

There are two themes in this book. One is a detailed description of the military
operations undertaken by this “left hook,” including the organization, objectives,
performance, and personalities of both sides. Mr. Chick’s analyses of objectives,
maneuvers, and results are meticulous and insightful. The other theme, which I
found even more interesting, is a character study of Butler himself. Of particular
interest is the deteriorating relationship between Grant and Butler, never good
at its best. The first sentence of Mr. Chick’s first chapter sets the tone in this
regard, “In a war noted for contentious personalities, few could compete with
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler.” To use a modern aphorism, Butler was a real piece
of work. While Butler had his moments in the field, overall, he was a mediocre
general officer moved too often by political ambition rather than battlefield
exigencies. He was also unprincipled and larcenous, character flaws to which he
continuously succumbed.

Mr. Chick provides context for events throughout, supported by a large
number of photographs, maps, and biographical profiles of key individuals. He
includes a detailed driving tour for those interested in viewing the ground firsthand,
six appendices on various topics (several of which are authored by
historians in addition to Mr. Chick, and two of which expand on Butler himself),
a detailed order of battle for both sides, and a suggested reading list for further
study.

This is a great read on a topic that is too often treated as a sideshow in Civil
War histories. While not decisive for either side, the campaign was of great
importance to Lee’s efforts in response to Grant’s Overland Campaign. It is a
useful work for both the casual reader and more experienced students of the
Civil War.

Mr. Chick is a New Orleans native with an undergraduate degree from the
University of New Orleans and a Master of Arts from Southeastern Louisiana
University. He is currently a New Orleans tour guide who gives one of the only
guided tours of the French Quarter concentrating on the American Civil War and
slavery. He also volunteers at the Historic New Orleans Collection and writes for
NOLA Defender. His first book was The Battle of Petersburg, June 15–18, 1864.

Your reviewer is Emil L. Posey, member in good standing of the TVCWRT. His work
history spans almost 45 years of military and civilian service to our country. He retired
from NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center on December 27, 2014. He has a
bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Hood College, Frederick, Maryland; is a former
president of the Huntsville chapter of the National Contract Management Association, a
life member of both the Special Forces Association and the 175th Infantry Association,
and a member in good standing of Elks Lodge 1648 (Huntsville, AL). He is a dedicated
bibliophile and a (very) armchair political and military enthusiast.

Unlike Anything That Ever Floated, the Monitor and Virginia and the Battle of Hampton Roads, March 8-9, 1862

Unlike Anything That Ever Floated, The Monitor and Virginia and the Battle of Hampton Roads, March 8-9, 1862, by Dwight Sturtevant Hughes, Savas Beatie, 194 pages, a Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table review by Arley McCormick

This is another instalment in the Emerging Civil War Series that will delight Navy enthusiasts and others. The author, Mr. Hughes, is a former Naval officer and well suited for describing one of the most exciting innovations to America’s sea power. In ten quick chapters he describes the technical aspects of the CSS Virginia and Monitor, the people that dared to dream what was possible, man it in war, and make history.

Contrasts of technology innovation compared to the standard ship of the line, the maneuver limitations and challenges, and the impact of weather and shipmates on the days and hours preceding the fight that has inspired writers for decades is well defined. There is ample discussion of the impact and context of war facing the Confederacy in the early months of 1862 and the administrative decisions and actions that proceeded construction and destruction of vessels in the fight. Excellent narratives detail the fight with supporting maps and topics that aroused the press, military leadership, and future historians and give clear unequivocal clarity to the events of the fight.

Readers will appreciate the abbreviated biographies of many key people who influenced and fought the battle on the water as they represent the character of America’s fighting men of the day. There is ample insight from various participants on the day that illustrate the fear, training, and memorable events. John V. Quarstein provides an excellent Afterword describing events most readers seldom pursue regarding ships, technology, and presidential guidance. And, Annexes provide ample tour guidance and orders of battle.

This is certainly a useful primer from the Emerging Civil War Series to add to your collection.

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