What’s in a name?

December 29, 2016

I’ve been on a short hiatus; the season has been busy. But I have some things lined up that should be appearing soon. until then, a bit about naming…


If you’ve heard of Chickamauga (and if you haven’t, how did you get here?) then I bet that t he very next phrase you saw or heard was “River of Death.” One follows the other, it seems, like day after night. Or maybe not.

No one really seems to know. But today I saw this article, written by Chuck Hamilton:

“Chickamauga does not mean “river of death”, or “bloody river”, or “dwelling place of the chief”, or ‘the stagnant stream”.  It is definitely not Cherokee, even the Cherokee themselves have always said that, nor is it likely Muskogean.  It almost certainly came from the closest allies of the Cherokee in the wars of the later 18th century, the Shawnee.”

Here’s the whole article, via The Chattanoogan.com

I find this sort of local history fascinating.

Side trip to Sunbury

November 8, 2016

Recently, I was coming back from North Carolina, and stayed the night in Columbus Ohio. I got up early on a Monday morning, headed back home to Chicago, but I was determined to run by Sunbury first, to visit with General Rosecrans.

Rosecrans was born near Sunbury, in 1819.  The stone below marks the site of his boyhood home.

Rosecrans birthplace At Sunbury Ohio

A couple years ago, however, Sunbury decided to honor Rosecrans with a full equestrian statue, placed downtown on the town square.


The light wasn’t great (I’m not the guy you ask to handle your wedding pictures in lieu of a professional photographer, either – that didn’t help) but I did get a few images of the General. He looks pretty good.


A Bit on Volume 3

October 8, 2016

Layout 1

This morning I dropped the last signed pre-order for The Chickamauga Campaign, Volume Three: Barren Victory in the mail. With every new release, I have a batch of books that need to be signed and sent off – I take it as a great honor that readers will pay that bit extra for the personal touch.

This year I shipped 60 books – 51 copies of Barren Victory, and 8 or 9 copies of older titles. Interestingly enough, this is about double each of what I signed and packaged for Vols. I and II.The trend line is positive.


Here is a picture of that shipping process, just commencing. Note all the boxes on the back wall, by the window; I’ll be needing warehousing soon. Also, the maps you see on that table beneath the books are of Moccasin Bend. I have been hard at work drawing troop movements for the next project, the Maps of Chattanooga. Need to speed that one up.


This year I sent off books to three distant lands (four if you count Texas – just kidding) Norway, the Philippines, and the UK. The gentleman from Norway has ordered the previous volumes, as well; I assume he has a connection to Union Colonel Hans Heg, a native of Norway who was mortally wounded at Chickamauga. There is a statue of Heg in Lier, his birthplace, some distance southwest of Oslo. I’ve always been unable to successfully download a good picture of that monument, so instead, here is one from Madison Wisconsin, where the good Colonel stands guard over the capitol.


Those overseas books cost a pretty penny to ship, by the way – I am doubly impressed by the effort those folks made to obtain my work.

I trust that the sharp increase in signed-book order volume bodes well for overall sales. I know we did a brisk business at the park.

My thanks to all who ordered.


CCNMP Study Group 2017 Seminar in the Woods.

September 25, 2016

 It’s that time of year again…









Mission Statement: The purpose of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Study Group is to create a forum to bring students of the American Civil War together to study and explore those events in the fall of 1863 that led ultimately to the creation of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, as well as explore other nearby Civil War-related sites.

Tour Leaders:  Jim Ogden and Dave Powell

Date: Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11, 2017; By bus and car caravan.

All tours begin and end at the Visitor’s Center.

By Bus:

Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00: Battle of Resaca, May 14 – 15, 1864

On Friday we will expand our horizons to explore the nearby, brand new battlefield park at Resaca. We will move through Snake Creek Gap, and following McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee, and will subsequently examine the fighting that raged across Camp Creek Valley, the area now west of modern Interstate 75.

Friday evening, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Q&A Panel with Jim Ogden, Dave Powell, and Lee White.

 Site: Constitution Hall, 201 Forrest Road, Fort Oglethorpe, GA

 Last year we held our first-ever free-form Q & A session. It was a success, one which we shall repeat going forward.


Car Caravan – Saturday Morning, 8:30 to Noon: Breckinridge Repulsed!

 On Saturday Morning we will explore the Union counter-attacks that drove Breckinridge’s Confederate infantry out of the north end of Kelly Field, restoring the integrity of General Thomas’s Union position there, and consider the impact that action had on the rest of the Union army.





woods-division-20th-pm-146Car CaravanSaturday Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Breakthrough

 On Saturday Afternoon we will explore the conditions that created the infamous “Fatal Order,” sent by William Starke Rosecrans to divisional commander Thomas Wood; the roles of Generals Thomas and McCook in that order, as well as examining the advance of Fulton’s Brigade, Johnson’s Confederate division through the resultant gap in the Union Right.






 Friday’s Tours will be by Bus. Pre-registration and Fee required: $45, due by February 1 2017.

 Sign-up after February 1 or on-site Fee (based on space available): $50 

 Saturday: no charge.

Fees raised in excess of our costs (as well as any donations) will be used to support the causes of battlefield preservation, interpretation, and renovation.

 In 2016 the Study Group donated $450 to the Civil War Trust, helping to preserve battlefield land around Dalton, Georgia; and $450 to the Jewell Monument fund, run by the Friends of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, for maintenance and restoration needs.

 Send to (and make checks payable to):

David Powell

522 Cheyenne Drive

Lake in the Hills IL 60156

This fee is NON-REFUNDABLE after February 1st, 2017. Once we are committed to the bus, we will be charged the booking fee, no matter what.  

Please note that everyone is responsible for their own lodging, meals, snacks and incidentals.

Thank you, see you in March.


Home again…

September 18, 2016

Here was my work station on Friday and Saturday:


We sold a lot of books. I think everyone was happy.

I made it home about noon today, after a comfortable drive. Hope to see all my North Georgia friends again in March.

Signing Barren Victory at Chickamauga

September 16, 2016

Chattanooga from the Cravens House

I will be signing books today at the Chickamauga Visitors Center, Fort Oglethorpe Georgia. 153 years ago today, Confederate troops were marching north from LaFayette, and Union forces were coalescing around Lee & Gordon’s Mills.

I will be here to help commemorate the fateful battle of Chickamauga, in attendance on today, Friday, September 16, and tomorrow, Saturday September 17.

I will be signing all of my books, including Barren Victory, volume 3 of The Chickamauga Campaign, brand new at this venue.


The trilogy completed

The Chickamauga Campaign cover low res

The cover of the Harwell Award-winning Volume 2 of The Chickamauga Campaign

Upcoming Events

September 10, 2016

Volume 3 is here!


All three volumes, side by side: complete at last!

On Tuesday, September 13, I will be at the Atlanta Civil War Round Table to accept the Richard B. Harwell Award, and to speak about Chickamauga. Please join us, if you are able.

About the Round Table

I will also be signing copies of all my books at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Visitor’s Center on Friday, September 16 & Saturday, September 17 – in conjunction with the 153rd commemoration of the battle of Chickamauga. We will be debuting Volume 3 there, as well.

Commemoration information

Volume 3 looks great, by the way. It runs to 379 pages, and is (in my humble opinion) jam-packed with information. The detailed breakdown of strengths and losses is extensively footnoted, and should be especially useful to any researcher of the battle.

I can’t believe that this rock has finally been rolled all the way to the top of the hill.



A Pursuit: Two Views

September 7, 2016

Braxton Bragg’s many critics, in the years that followed Chickamauga, would argue that his failure to follow up his victory with a pursuit ultimately doomed the Confederacy. Lafayette McLaws denied this. After all, McLaws argued he knew there was a pursuit – he commanded it.

On September 22nd, McLaws, Nathan Bedford Forrest (and some Yankees) had an encounter just outside Chattanooga. What transpired between the two men? Here are two very different views on the matter:


Forrest and his Escort, charging, from the Tennessee State Library and Archives         

Sometime after 1:00 p.m. Colonel Holman tested the main Union defenses. Dibrell had left Holman with orders to proceed up the Rossville Road “as far as possible in the direction of Chattanooga.” He pressed to within a half-mile of the place until he came upon Union entrenchments manned by elements of Thomas’s XIV Corps. Holman dismounted both regiments and probed the forts. His first effort was rebuffed with loss. To support this thrust, Captain Morton unlimbered his four guns and opened fire. Holman’s line pressed forward once more, but soon came tumbling back. These Federals were more than just a mere rearguard.

Holman was contemplating his next step when “Forrest came dashing up at full speed, followed by his escort, and asked impatiently (emphasizing the questions with an oath) ‘What have you stopped here for? Why don’t you go on into Chattanooga?’” The corps commander was in his usual lather, and still convinced Rosecrans was in full retreat. Momentarily stupefied by the sudden appearance of his superior and the series of rapid-fire queries, Holman hastily explained that “the enemy in considerable force was strongly entrenched not more than two hundred yards in front.” Forrest scoffed, adding that “he believed he could take Chattanooga with [just] his escort.” True to his nature, Forrest accepted nothing as fact until he had seen it demonstrated with his own eyes, and so proceeded to test the theory personally. “Putting spurs to horse, he and a portion of his escort galloped in the direction of the enemy,” leaving Holman to watch in dust-covered astonishment. Within minutes they were back, having suffered a “hot fire” that cost Forrest yet another mount—this one also shot in the neck—and left several empty saddles among the escort.

A short time later, General McLaws appeared up the Rossville Road, at the head of his division. McLaws’s march had not passed without incident. After broaching McFarland’s Gap, he reported, his column “became constantly engaged . . . sometimes with quite large organized bodies, but they gave way after some fighting.” The “organized bodies” consisted of Federals from Minty’s rearguard, which skirmished with Brig. Gen. William T. Wofford’s Georgians at the head of McLaws’s column. Conspicuously, McLaws made no mention of seeing any Rebel cavalry until he encountered Forrest and his men somewhere on the Rossville Road. Wheeler’s Corps, which should have been equally active in the Chattanooga Valley supporting his movement, had yet to put in any notable appearance. At the Watkins farmstead, where the Moore Road branched off from the La Fayette Road to turn toward Missionary Ridge, Forrest and McLaws conferred.[1]

Descriptions of this meeting contradict one another. Forrest’s biographers insist that Forrest was still full of fight, remaining convinced that every hour lost was a disaster for Confederate arms, and that Rosecrans must be attacked before he escaped the trap of Chattanooga. Accordingly, “Forrest . . . proposed that they should venture an attack in the still demoralized condition of the enemy.” According to their pens, McLaws refused. His orders, he insisted, were to merely picket the roads into Chattanooga.[2]

McLaws recalled the encounter very differently. According to the Georgian, once Wofford “drove the enemy into the works about town, of course my further advance was checked, as my force was entirely too small to risk an assault.” Instead, McLaws deployed his main line astride the intersection at the Watkins House, seized Watkins Hill as an artillery platform, and ordered his men to throw up defensive works of their own. While in the process of doing so, continued McLaws, Forrest rode up. Just moments earlier, with Holman, the big cavalryman was all afire to pursue, heedless of caution, until he led his escort forward toward the enemy lines. Now—at least according to McLaws—he was just the opposite. “Gen. Forrest joined me with a small body of cavalry,” recalled McLaws, “and told me that I was risking the loss of my command, as the rest of the army was not within seven miles of me.” (This was not entirely accurate, for Frank Cheatham’s division was even then occupying Missionary Ridge at the Sutton house, but Cheatham’s troops were at least two miles distant, and the bulk of the army was indeed much farther away.) As McLaws related the tale, Forrest now counseled immediate retreat. “I told him it was not my intention to retire unless driven back,” insisted McLaws. Forrest next offered to scout McLaws’s right flank, where there was a gap between his infantry and Cheatham’s men. “He was gone perhaps half an hour, when he re-appeared riding a broken-down horse and with but two or three men. . . . [H]e had not gone over half a mile,” recalled McLaws, “when he came upon a considerable body of infantry . . . who ordered them to surrender. The only reply he gave was for his men to charge, he leading it.”[3]

The Confederate pursuit had been thoroughly blunted. It was clear to McLaws, if perhaps not to Forrest, that only a well-prepared large-scale assault could capture Chattanooga. Accordingly, McLaws determined to hold his ground and wait for reinforcements. Cheatham left his troops and made his way forward to visit McLaws about 10:00 p.m. that night. Cheatham “told me that he had been ordered to report to me with his division,” recalled McLaws, “but on crossing Missionary Ridge, had encountered such a large force of the enemy . . . that he deemed it wise to return to the ridge.” McLaws ordered Cheatham to stay where he was, and “to hold his command in readiness to come to my assistance” should the Yankees attack. No support was needed. The Federals were content to rest and strengthen their earthworks.[4]

[1] Lafayette McLaws, “Chickamauga,” Cheeves Family Papers.

[2] Jordan and Pryor, Forrest’s Cavalry, 353.

[3] Lafayette McLaws, “Chickamauga,” Cheeves Family Papers. McLaws may well have been relating a version of the same incident described by Holman.

[4] Ibid.


Where does the money go?

August 29, 2016

Last March, the Chickamauga Study Group raised $900 towards Civil War preservation. Every  year, at some point, I ask those present where they would like to see the money go. Truth be told, there are always more causes than cash.

In 2015, we donated approximately $900 to the Civil War Trust’s appeal for Brown’s Ferry.

This year, many of us were aware of a similar appeal being readied for land purchase at Rocky Face Ridge, outside of Dalton Georgia. That appeal was made public a couple of months ago.


But some on the bus raised a good point – that money raised by the Chickamauga Study Group should be going to efforts to help Chickamauga, as well. I agree with this. Also, I am increasingly concerned with the growing maintenance backlog at our National Parks – we save lots of land, but who will interpret it, preserve it, repair the monuments, and the like?

In order to support both causes, I have decided to split the donations.

$450 went to the Civil War Trust, for their Rocky Face Ridge appeal; that money will be leveraged with a 15 to 1 match. Great news.

$450 also went to the Jewell Memorial Restoration Fund, managed by the Friends of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, for the purpose of repairing and restoring monuments.

Here is the Friends website:


and the link directly to the Jewell fund information


Thanks to everyone who contributed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

August 25, 2016

Some of you probably know that I am a member of Emerging Civil War, the group of historians who both blog and write on all aspects of the war. Sometimes deciding where to post something is a bit of a toss-up: should it go here, or there?

Recently I have begun a series of posts over on ECW that ties in well with this readership and subject, as well.

In order to keep current without too much spamming, I thought I would link posts between the two sites.

Here is the first of those, over on Emerging Civil War:

Longstreet goes West, Part One: Machiavellian or Misunderstood?