The merry month of May

I have been doing some traveling again, and a good trip it was. I got to meet old friends, make some new ones, do a little research, and talk ACW.

Last Wednesday, March 12th, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio (very near the birthplace of William Starke Rosecrans) to talk to the Central Ohio CWRT. Check out their new website, by the way, here…

http://centralohiocwrt.wordpress.com/

I spoke on Bragg and Rosecrans, contrasting their command styles and performances. Several members of the Round Table are regular attendees – hardy, if somewhat waterlogged souls – of our annual March “Seminar in the Woods” trips to Chickamauga.

I drove, as I usually do, since that gives me so much more flexibility to do research or just play tourist. On this trip, I stopped at the Indiana Historical society to look for material on Tupelo and Tullahoma, as well as spend some time determining the titles of Civil War Era newspapers held by the Indiana State Library. All in all, success on all fronts.

I arrived in Columbus around 3:30 p.m., and Mike Peters chauffered me from there. We visited a great bookstore – always a treat for me – had dinner, and then on to the meeting. A few of the Ohio lads like to tip a few, so we had a beer and some good conversation afterwords.

The next morning I did my usual dawn patrol, leaving early to drive to Tennessee. On the way, I spent Thursday afternoon doing some field work exploring sites for the Tullahoma Campaign. I visited Hoover’s and Liberty Gaps, Belle Buckle, Watrace, and Fairfield (such as it is.) In recent years, a number of markers have been placed in the area identifying aspects of the campaign, but the area is still largely unmarked. The most priminent site is literally right off Interstate 24 at exit 97, where one can find the Beech Grove Confederate Cemetery, and also a number of markers and monuments to the fighting at Hoover’s Gap.

Then it was on to Chattanooga. I checked into the Read House on Thursday night and then had dinner with fellow members of the Western Theater Civil War Historians group, who were holding their annual conference this year at UT Chattanooga.

I look forward to this group’s annual meetings. Here’s a link to their website.

http://www.westerntheaterhistorians.org/whoweare.html

Please note that while the site is badly in need of updating, it does offer up some background on who the group is, philosophy, etc. Just as importantly, this year’s meeting found a new volunteer to upgrade the site, and we can expect more current information and content to appear shortly. I urge interested folks to keep it marked for future reference.

Attendees included a number of noted historians. Pictures speak louder than words, so I will let this link tell the story:

http://oneweb.utc.edu/~Kit-Rushing/Western%20Historians%202010/

Friday was a day of discussion. The morning session focused on Unionism in the Confederacy, which proved fascinating. There was general agreement that dissent in the Confederate states ranged from ferver for the old flag to something more akin to draft dodging. No single definition fit, and the subject would benefit from some detailed regional studies defining different degrees of dissent.

After lunch we discussed how the West’s geography effected the war in that region, which quickly led to a lot of talk of logistics, and ended up with a dissection of Jeff Davis’s difficulties as War President.

The final session of the day was an overview of current literature, including the state of scholarship in the Western theater, and what everyone was working on. With so many distinguished scholars in the room, it’s clear that some very interesting work is likely forthcoming in the next couple of years.

For me, a non-academic historian of the war, participation in this group is invaluable, as well as great fun. Discussion helps me to hone my focus and broaden my own work, gaining some professional insights into the work of ACW history that I am otherwise struggling to find. I am very pleased that it is open to individual, non-academic scholars as well.

On Saturday, we went for a tour of Sherman’s fighting at Chattanooga on November 25th, 1863. It was led by Jim Ogden, park historian, who as anyone who comes in March knows, is supurb on a battlefield tour, bringing clarity without sacrificing detail.

On Saturday afternoon I left for home, my brief ACW interlude over. Until next time, that is…

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