Avenging Baltimore’s Patriotic Gore

When I introduce Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, who died 157 years ago today, as the “first Union casualty” of the Civil War, I get a twinge of consciousness. He was not the first casualty. Four soldiers who lost their lives changing trains in downtown Baltimore were the first. Their names are Corporal Sumner Henry Needham, Private Luther C. Ladd, Private Addison Whitney, and Private Charles Taylor. Say their names.

Baltimore had never been particularly welcoming to Unionists, including the President-elect. Maryland contained several large secessionist enclaves. It had been the site of a contentious Democratic convention that finally chose Stephen Douglas as the Democratic presidential candidate (although no vice-presidential candidate was decided upon), but these groups remained a minority.[1]Baltimore itself was home to the country’s largest population of free people of color, numbering about 25,000 and many Baltimoreans were supporters of the Union cause. There were regular clashes between pro-and anti-South as well as clashes concerning slavery and secession.[2]

Add to this an odd ordinance concerning the railroad in the city confines. Apparently, no steam rail line was allowed to be constructed through the city, so in order to switch trains at the President Street Station on the east side of town, passengers had to travel the one-mile journey to the Camden Street Station on the west side in horse-drawn rail cars. This had already proved an issue in February 1861, when Lincoln was to go through Baltimore on his way to Washington. Little had changed. On April 18, 1861, Baltimore Mayor George W. Brown, a southern sympathizer, sent a strong letter of warning to President Lincoln:

            The people are exasperated to the highest degree by the passage of troops, and the citizens are universally decided in the opinion that no more should be ordered to come. The authorities…did their best to day [sic] to protect both strangers and   citizens and to prevent a collision, but [in] vain….it is my solemn duty to inform you that it is not possible for more soldiers to pass through Baltimore unless they   fight their way at every step.[3]

To which Secretary of War Simon Cameron replied:

            The President is informed that threats are made and measures taken by unlawful combinations of misguided citizens of Maryland to prevent by force the transit of U.S. troops across Maryland on their way pursuant to orders to the defense of this capital.[4]

Volunteers initially arrived from the northeast, responding to Lincoln’s call for a 75,000-man militia to serve for three months issued on April 15, 1961. Massachusetts was one of the first states to send men to the capital, but to get there, they had to travel through Baltimore. On April 17 the 6th Massachusetts Militia left Boston. They traveled through New York and Philadelphia among cheering crowds, and by April 19 were headed toward Baltimore. The Massachusetts men were aware of the city ordinance and already anticipated some slowing in their trip to Washington. They were aware that their rail cars would have to be pulled by horses along Pratt Street to the other side of the city.[5]However, sometime between leaving Philadelphia and arriving in Baltimore, the 6th’s colonel, Edward F. Jones, received information concerning the probability of resistance during the Baltimore transfer. According to his later report Col. Jones gave the following order to each car of volunteers:

            The regiment will march through Baltimore in column of sections, arms at will. You will undoubtedly be insulted, abused, and, perhaps, assaulted, to which you must pay no attention whatever, but march with your faces to the front, and pay no attention to the mob, even if they throw stones, bricks, or other missiles; but if  you are fired upon and any one of you is hit, your officers will order you to fire. Do not fire into any promiscuous crowds, but select, any man whom you may see aiming at you, and be sure you drop him.[6]

As the militia transfers were taking place, a large mob of plug-uglies*, anti-war supporters, and Confederate sympathizers blocked Pratt Street and attacked the train cars. When it was obvious that the transfer of men could no longer continue as planned, four companies (about 240 soldiers) exited their cars and, marching in formation, attempted to continue through the city. The mob followed the soldiers, causing damage to storefronts and attempting to block the Massachusetts men from reaching their destination. The rear companies of the 6th were attacked with “bricks, paving stones, and pistols.”[7]In response, and under orders, several soldiers fired into the crowd, beginning a giant street brawl referred to by Harper’s Weekly as “The Battle of Baltimore” that involved the 6th Massachusetts, the Baltimore police, and angry Baltimoreans.[8]

Battle of Baltimore Harper’s Weekly

By the time the soldiers got to Camden Station, the police had been able to block the crowd. This was not, however, in time to prevent several fatalities. Four soldiers and twelve civilians were killed in the riot. The soldiers were Corporal Sumner Henry Needham (Company I) and privates Luther C. Ladd, Addison Whitney, and Charles Taylor, (Company D).

Corporal Sumner Henry Needham

Corporal Sumner Henry Needham is considered to be the first casualty of the war, although civilians in a Union state killed him. He was thirty-three at the time of his death, and according to a Massachusetts history blog, he died from head wounds inflicted by a blow from a paving stone.[9]He died eight days later, on April 27. He was born in Bethel, Maine but resided in the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts for twelve years before he was inducted into the 6th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. At the time of his death, he was a corporal in Company I, having been a member for five years. On May 3 his body was brought back to Lawrence. He lay in state in the City Hall, where thousands of mourners passed by his coffin. The funeral ceremony was conducted by local clergy, and Needham was interred in what would become Bellevue Cemetery under a granite monument inscribed:

            By the City Government of Lawrence this monument is erected, to endear t0 posterity the memory of Sumner H. Needham, of company I, Sixth Regiment, M.V.M., who fell a victim to the passions of a Secession mob, during the passage    of the regiment through the streets of Baltimore, marching to the defense of the nation’s capital, on the memorable day of 19th of April, A.D., 1861. Aged 33. A loyal North, in common with his widow and only child, mourn his loss.[10]

Private Luther C. Ladd

Private Luther Crawford Ladd was only seventeen years old when he was killed. He is considered to be the first to fall, although there are some who disagree. His injuries included a fractured skull and a fatal bullet wound that severed an artery in his thigh. He was born in Bristol, New Hampshire and was the son of John Ladd. He lived with his family on their farm south of Fowler’s River until 1853, when young Luther and his father moved to nearby Alexandria, New Hampshire so that Luther could attend a public school. In 1860, at age sixteen, Ladd left Alexandria for Lowell, Massachusetts where he obtained employment at the Lowell Machine Shop. He worked there until April 1861, when he answered President Lincoln’s first call for 75,000 men by enlisting for three months in Co. D (The Lowell Guards) of the 6th Massachusetts Militia. His remains were returned to Alexandria, New Hampshire and interred in the Alexandria Village Cemetery. He was later disinterred and reburied beneath the Ladd and Whitney Monument in Lowell, Massachusetts.[11]

Private Addison O. Whitney

Private Addison O. Whitney, a friend of Ladd’s, was also a mill worker at the Lowell Machine Shop. He is also a candidate for being the first death among the four men. Ladd was taken to a nearby infirmary where he bled to death from his wounds, but Whitney was shot in the chest, expiring almost immediately. Lowell, Massachusetts’s historian Richard Howe, Jr. cites evidence of this when he claims that the final-breath quote, “All hail the stars and stripes,” was uttered by Ladd, indicating that Whitney was already deceased.[12]

The remains of Ladd, Whitney, and Needham reached Boston on May 1, 1861. They arrived by train and the “relics of our brave and patriotic soldiers,” were met by Massachusetts Governor John Andrew. At this time, other than Needham, they had not been definitively identified. The bodies were then taken in flag-bedecked hearses to King’s Chapel Church at the corner of Tremont and School streets, where friends and relatives were finally able to positively identify both Ladd and Whitney. A funeral was held in Lowell for the two men, and Whitney was buried in Lowell Cemetery the next day.

That leaves Private Charles A. Taylor . . . about whom little is known. He joined Company D in Lowell the morning it left for Washington. He had still not been issued a uniform by the time his unit reached Baltimore and there is some mystery as to the actual whereabouts of his remains. Some believe that he was mistaken for a civilian and buried in an unmarked grave as no friends or family ever came forth to claim his body. Even newspaper articles pleading for information turned up nothing. There the story stopped until June 17, 1865. On this date, a large obelisk, the Ladd and Whitney Monument, was dedicated. Ladd’s remains were sent from Alexandria to Lowell to join his friend Whitney’s, and both were reburied in Monument Square in downtown Lowell. In a news article written for the Civil War Sesquicentennial about the deaths of these men, writer David Pevear interviewed Lowell Historical Society Martha Mayo concerning Charles Taylor, whose name was added to the monument around 1908. There is no conclusive trail leading to Taylor’s remains, but Librarian Mayo feels, “I don’t think they would have added the name unless they found something . . . a belt buckle, some bones, something.”[13]Taylor’s plaque on the Ladd and Whitney Monument states that he was among “The First To Fall In Defence (sic) Of The Union.”

The Ladd & Whitney Monument in Lowell, MA from “Lowell Politics & History” June 17, 2015

It seems like a mere drop of blood–four men–hardly enough to fill Leroy Pope Walker’s handkerchief, but they were the beginning of what would become a deluge. Nevertheless, they were the first.

Say their names.


* Baltimore-ese for men who were seen as ferocious street fighters. There is more to it than just that, but it can wait for another post.

[1]Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to U.S. Elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc. 1985. pp. 45–46, 169.

[2]Harry Ezratty, Baltimore in the Civil War: The Pratt Street Riot and a City Occupied, Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2010, 31.

[3]OR, Series 2 – Volume 1. Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894: 564.


[5]Ezratty, 47.

[6]OR, Series 1 – Volume 2. Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1880: 7.

[7]Civil War Harper’s Weekly, May 4, 1861, 279. (online version available at http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1861/may/battle-of-baltimore.htm).


[9]Queen City Massachusetts, “Needham, Sumner Henry (1828-1861),


[11]David M. Rosen, Child Soldiers: A Reference Handbook, ABC-CLIO, April 23, 2012, 147-148 and Social Security Death Index.

[12]David Pevear, “The first of so many to fall: Lowell soldiers’ death 150 years ago marked start of a nation’s epic struggle,” lowellsun.com, http://www.lowellsun.com/ci_17867658 (accessed May 5, 2018).



Remembering Sergeant Carney

One hundred and eighteen years ago today—May 23, 1900—William H. Carney received the Medal of Honor for actions in July 1863 during the Civil War.  President William McKinley, who issued the Medal in the name of Congress (hence the oft-used misnomer “Congressional Medal of Honor”) was himself a Civil War veteran, having enlisted in the 23rd Ohio as a private in the war’s early days and rising to the rank of major by war’s end.  Hundreds of Medals of Honor were awarded to Civil War soldiers in the decades after the war.  In fact, some of the Civil War’s most famous recipients of the Medal did not receive it until many years later.  For example, Daniel E. Sickles and Joshua L. Chamberlain both received the award for actions at the July 1-3, 1863 battle of Gettysburg.  But Chamberlain did not receive the award until 1893, and Sickles waited until 1897 for his.

So Carney receiving his award decades after his action was not at all unusual.  What was somewhat out of the ordinary, though, was that Carney was African American.  In fact, because his action preceded those of other Medal of Honor recipients, Carney is considered the first African American to receive the nation’s highest award for military valor.


William H. Carney later in life and wearing his Medal of Honor.  (Howard University)

William Carney was born into slavery in Norfolk, Virginia in February 1840.  It is not entirely clear how he escaped slavery, but most think he used the Underground Railroad to make his way to Massachusetts.  His father was already there, and other family members who purchased their own freedom or became free upon the death of their owner soon joined them in the North.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and among other things the proclamation allowed African Americans to be recruited to fight for the Union as soldiers and sailors.  Probably the most famous all-black unit was the 54th Massachusetts, whose exploits were the subject of the popular 1989 Hollywood film Glory.  Carney enlisted in the 54th in March 1863.

On July 18, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts led the assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina (the attack depicted in Glory’s climactic scene).  As the regiment advanced, the color sergeant went down and Carney scooped up the colors.  He continued to advance despite being wounded several times, eventually planting the flag on Fort Wagner’s parapet.  Ultimately, though, the attack did not succeed, and the 54th Massachusetts was forced to withdraw.  Sergeant Carney carried the colors back to the safety of Union lines.  Weak from his wounds and blood loss, Carney turned the flag over to another soldier of the 54th, supposedly telling him, “Boys, I did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground.”


The popular 1989 film Glory dramatized the exploits of Sgt. Carney’s 54th Massachusetts Infantry.  The film, directed by Edward Zwick, starred Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, and Morgan Freeman.  Washington won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Glory.  (MoviePoster.com)

Carney survived but was discharged due to his wounds in June 1864.  He returned to his adopted hometown of New Bedford, Massachusetts and worked for a time maintaining the city’s streetlights and then for thirty-two years as a postal worker.  He married and had a daughter and became well-known in Massachusetts for telling the story of the Fort Wagner assault to schoolchildren.  He always ended his presentations with his now-famous phrase “The old flag never touched the ground.”

The Medal of Honor citation Carney received on this day 118 years ago reads as follows:  “When the color sergeant was shot down, this soldier grasped the flag, led the way to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon. When the troops fell back he brought off the flag, under a fierce fire in which he was twice severely wounded.”

William H. Carney died at age 68 on December 9, 1908 following an elevator accident.  He is interred in his family’s plot in New Bedford’s Oak Grove Cemetery.  He received a Medal of Honor tombstone from the federal government.


Tombstone of Sgt. William H. Carney in Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, Massachusetts.  (FindaGrave.com)

Sergeant William H. Carney served his country nobly and deserves recognition not only as the first African American to perform an action deemed worthy of the Medal of Honor, but, simply, as a veteran.  Though he did not die in battle, he is still worthy of remembrance this coming Memorial Day weekend.  That he and nearly 200,000 other African Americans volunteered to fight for the Union demonstrates not only their own courage, but also the truly personal stake each of them had in the outcome of the Civil War.

Symposium Spotlight: The Twisting Turns of the Election of ’64—The Point of No Return


Rea Andrew Reddby ECW Correspondent Josh Svetz

Rea Andrew Redd has loved the Civil War all his life. Starting with reading Life magazine’s six-part series on the Civil War as a kid, Redd gets as much of a thrill from delving into the Civil War now as he did then. A hobby concerning the ghosts of the past may confuse some. Intrigue is one thing; obsession another. But Redd’s wife gave him some insight, at least, the closest thing he can think of to explain the fascination.

“I have the Civil War DNA,” Redd said. “When you find a hobby you’ve loved since nine years old, where does that come from? I guess I was just born with it.”

Redd will get to showcase his love for the Civil War Aug. 3-5 at the Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge in Spotsylvania, Virginia. 

Redd’s presentation will explore his chapter in ECW’s Turning Points of the American Civil War, “The Election of 1864: The Point of No Return,” will explore the pivotal presidential election between Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan, how Lincoln won the election and the impact of Lincoln’s win on the Confederacy and its ultimate demise.

Redd, the director of Eberly Library and an adjunct history professor at Waynesburg University, had attended previous Symposiums, but never got the call to present, until this year.

Redd’s friend and a fellow author at ECW Kris White nominated Redd to provide a chapter when ECW needed a fresh take on Lincoln. Redd, a civil war reenactor since 1993, who usually plays the part of Lincoln, fit the bill.

“I’m a Lincoln hobbyist,” Redd said. “I don’t have Lincoln bobble heads, but I have plenty of books. You get me in the right mood with the right lighting and I can pull off a decent Lincoln.”

Outside of Redd’s tendency to become the former president that fascinates him, he knows quite a bit about Lincoln’s biggest struggles, especially in 1864. Redd’s read through countless books, documents and essays all to answer one question: Was the election of 1864 the turning point of the war and did it doom the Confederacy? But answering such a question can’t happen without understanding the stakes.

In 1864, Lincoln’s popularity was low. Hundreds of thousands of Americans had died, families were starving and the American people wanted the war to be over. Lincoln went up for re-election against McClellan, one of his former generals. If McClellan had won, Redd said he planned to finish the war with an armistice, leaving the Confederacy intact.

“Everything goes back to 1860,” Redd said. “The slaves are still the slaves. If there’s no surrender by the confederacy there’d be no emancipation proclamation, probably no new amendments. Slaves that Lincoln declared free would go back to being slaves. Things would be different.”

In fact, Redd said there’d be a good chance that the Confederacy could exist to this very day.

“All the way through the 1900s’ there’d be two parts of the United States, the Union and the Confederacy,” he said. “Every once in a while they’d get together and fight over the west. They’d fight over, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California would be split in half, northern California for the Union, southern California for the Confederacy. The Confederacy really could have survived the war if McClellan wins.”

But putting revisionist history aside, there were some interesting stories that came from this chaotic time for Lincoln and the America, one in particular involving an envelope.

“Lincoln writes a letter, seals the envelope and passes it to his cabinet and tells them to sign it,” he said. “They sign the envelope and Lincoln puts it in his desk drawer. What the envelope says is that if Lincoln loses the election we, his cabinet, will do everything that’s possible to end the war before McClellan is inaugurated.”

But the cabinet had no idea the stakes contained in that envelope, until Lincoln actually won.

“Once Lincoln wins the election, he takes out the envelope and lets his cabinet read it. They realize if Lincoln had lost they would have had to try and end the war as quickly as possible because they unknowingly took an oath to do so. That’s a 90-day period to try and turn the heat up on the confederacy. It would have been crazy.”

While Redd, a two-time author, is excited about his presentation, he’s just happy to be included with many great minds and enthusiasts of Civil War research.

“I’ve written books before, so I’ve gotten past that thrill,” Redd said. “But for a jury of my peers to cosign me, to let me be published with them, it feels pretty good.”

As for his talk, Redd said to be prepared for a fun and informative time.

“I’m not just going to get up and read my chapter,” Redd said. “I’m searching for new information. I want to make this worthwhile.”


Tickets for the Symposium are $155 each and are still available. For more information about the line-up of events, Aug. 3-5, click here.

The Other Beauregard Monument

Pierre G.T. Beauregard

Welcome back, guest author Sean Michael Chick

For Civil War historians living outside of Louisiana, Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard is a colorful figure. For many, he is an underrated commander. For others, a figure who is exotic and comical, particularly given his overly dramatic statements and pronouncements. In Louisiana though he is something more, one of the state’s most famous natives. His roots go back to the founding of the colony.

Beauregard’s family were the Toutant-Beauregards. The French Beauregards married the last survivor of the Toutant family, Welsh refugees from Edward I’s conquest of Wales (1277-1283). The first to arrive in French Louisiana was Jacques Toutant-Beauregard, who led a convoy that brought supplies to Louisiana during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). Jacques brought back timber to France and won the Cross of St. Louis for his actions. He moved to Louisiana after the war.

In 1766 the Spanish took possession of Louisiana after France gave the unprofitable colony away in the Treaty of Fontainebleau. Louis, Jacques’ son, allied himself with the Spanish and became a wealthy planter in St. Bernard Parrish. He also became an officer in the Spanish army. In 1779, Élie Toutant-Beauregard, a relative of Louis, ran supplies to the Americans during the American Revolution. This assistance was one reason P.G.T. Beauregard was accepted into West Point.

Beauregard’s mother was Hélène Judith de Reggio, descended from the illustrious Modena family. His father, Jacques Toutant-Beauregard, was the master of a profitable Toutant Nord sugar-cane plantation in St. Bernard Parish. Although Louisiana had been American since 1803, St. Bernard was still thoroughly Creole in culture and language. Beauregard was born at Toutant Nord on May 28, 1818. The plantation was eventually dubbed Contreras, in honor of Beauregard’s role in the battle in the Mexican-American War.

In 2017 New Orleans’ removed a grand statue of Beauregard at the entrance of City Park. Of all the removals, it was the most divisive given Beauregard’s local accomplishments as an engineer, civic leader, and businessman. Yet, it is not the only monument to the general in the region. Tucked away on the edge of the state, in a place closer to the Gulf Mexico than it is to New Orleans, is a pyramid dedicated to Beauregard. It is also dedicated to his family, naming his children, first wife, parents, and grandparents.

The Monument

The monument was designed by Earl Desselles, sometime after World War II but before Richard Nixon became president. It was subsidized by Judge Leander H. Perez. He was a controversial figure, an ally of Huey P. Long who ran Plaquemines Parish with a tight grip and was willing to defy anyone who trampled on his truf. During the fights over de-segragation in Louisiana, Perez took a hard-line. He infamously threatened to jail Civil Right activists in Fort St. Philip. One of the only things he did that drew wide support was the restoration of Fort Jackson, which was a museum until it suffered major flood damage in Hurricane Katrina.

I wanted to find the monument but was unsure exactly where it was located. Instructions were vague and merely placed it on Bayou Road. I also wanted to find the grave of his first wife, Laure Villeré, and his son Henri, who served on his staff during the Civil War. Along with Andrew Simoneaux, an old friend and photographer, we set out down river, passing Arabi, the Chalmette Battlefield, Meraux, and Violet to St. Bernard, the oldest community in St. Bernard Parish.

I was not sure of the exact location of the St. Bernard Cemetery. Google Maps placed it behind the St. Bernard Church. Find A Grave had it on Kenilworth Street (which is actually Drive). It was instead across from the church. The cemetery is among the oldest still active in Louisiana. We very quickly found the grave of Laure. On the tomb, and in French, was Beauregard’s heartfelt farewell: “Spirit from Heaven you have returned. Sleep in peace, daughter, wife and dear mother.”[1]

Parents’ Grave

The surprise across from the Laure/Henri tomb was the tomb of Beauregard’s parents, Hélène and Jacques. I had found Jacques’ short obituary, but I found nothing for Hélène’s death. The tomb indicated that she died on October 5, 1848. Also buried there, with a worn down plaque, were Hélène’s parents.

While Andrew took pictures I stopped in the St. Bernard Church to ask a few questions. It is a small and simple structure. The inside was quiet and quaint. Unfortunately, there was no rector, despite the office hours posted. I was wondering if we would find the Contreras monument as easily as we found the resting place of Laure and Henri, and hoping the rector could help.

Driving down Bayou Road, we saw a road closed sign. An earlier one had forced us to a detour, but just there at the end was the Beauregard monument. It is intimate, if lacking in the artistic grandeur of the New Orleans one. The spot is now a private park. The flag poles have been abandoned, but there are benches and some of the most lovely oaks I have ever seen, one of them sprawling on the ground and creaking as the breeze brought much needed cool air. Confederate monuments have been coming down, mostly in America’s big cities and universities. Yet, tucked away in the small town and the countryside are places where removal is unlikely to ever happen, due both to money and memory. Sadly, it reminds one of the general drifting apart in contemporary America.

Once a fire pit, now a trash pit…

Contreras is a desolate space, fenced off from private property with barbed wire. A nearby fire pit is filled with trash, including beer cans that have been blown away by shotguns. I found shotgun casings nearby and one road sign had been used as a target. Looming overheard were vultures. I was reminded of the closing of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias.”

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

We left the monument and grabbed snowballs, a New Orleans favorite, from a small roadside stand. We had just enough time to photograph the home of René Beauregard, the general’s older son. During the war he commanded an artillery battery. After it he became a judge, historian, and quixotically a Republican. His home, which is at the Chalmette Battlefield, can be visited but is currently closed for repairs. Thus ended a day of accomplishment cut with a streak of melancholy.

[1] Leon, Beaux, Belles and Brains of the Sixties, 293.

Symposium Spotlight: An Overview of Turning Points


Dunkerly@Podiumby ECW correspondent Lucas Sperduti

Historian and award-winning author Robert M. Dunkerly will start off the 2018 Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge as the first speaker to take the stage.

Dunkerly holds a degree in history from St. Vincent College and a Masters in Historic Preservation from Middle Tennessee State University. “I always liked history. I could read it and understand it. The books just felt right,” said Dunkerly. 

In school, history was his favorite subject. Dunkerly knew that was going to be his career path, he just wasn’t sure how to make that a reality heading into college. Teaching was something that never really appealed to him. “I just knew I didn’t want to be in a classroom,” Dunkerly said.

As a senior in college, Dunkerly took road trips with some of his friends to historical sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. They specifically went to a few national parks. “National parks have some of the best historical sites,” Dunkerly said. “That’s when I realized, that was what I wanted to do.”

After graduation, Dunkerly was “full in” on being a historian and working as a Park Ranger at historical sites. Currently, he is a Park Ranger at Richmond National Battlefield, but in his career, he has worked at nine historical sites and visited over 400 battlefields and 1,000 historical sites worldwide. He’s written nine books and more than 20 articles, and his research interests includes archeology, colonial life, military history and historic commemoration.

Dunkerly takes pride in his work as an active participant in historical preservation and research. Sometimes the lack of information or sources can make historical research challenging. Other times, it’s just the opposite. “There might be so many accounts or so many records that it can sometimes be impossible to sort through it all,” said Dunkerly.

The theme for the 2018 ECW Symposium is Turning Points. As the first speaker, Dunkerly will present an overview of turning points of the Civil War.

“People tend to gravitate towards turning points because they help make sense of what happened,” he said.

His opening presentation will focus on many intertwined events that played a huge impact on the Civil War. Dunkerly will also look at the military’s impact away from the battlefield. While battles are important, Dunkerly said, his presentation will pay closer attention to political events, social changes and economic fluctuations. “One thing influences the other, and they all play into how something happened,” Dunkerly said.

The Turning Points theme will offer a different perspective than traditional topics and even more room for educational debates.

“Sometimes it’s fun to hear what other people have studied and also things you might not have considered,” said Dunkerly. “A good historian changes his opinion from time to time. That’s how you learn,” he added.

“Hopefully I can offer something unique for the people.”


The Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge will be held August 3-5, 2018, in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Tickets, $155 each, are available here.

J.E.B. Stuart and the Question of Corps Command

JEB Stuart

In the days after his victory in the Chancellorsville Campaign, Gen. Robert E. Lee faced a number of critical decisions, among them the reorganization of his Army of Northern Virginia. The death of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson on May 10, 1863 had left a void at corps command. There were a number of officers, including Maj. Gens. Richard Ewell, Ambrose Powell Hill and Richard Anderson in the running to replace Jackson. Another name which may have been the most intriguing was the commander of Lee’s cavalry division, Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart. Over the course of the last month or so, I’ve been trying to locate primary evidence regarding Stuart’s consideration for corps command. The search is far from over, in fact in may never be over, but I wanted to share what I have found so far and offer my thoughts on the matter. I also invite our readers to share any primary sources on the subject for additional research.

When Jackson fell victim to friendly fire on the night of May 2 at Chancellorsville, command of his Second Corps eventually fell to Stuart. The cavalry chief turned in a splendid performance the following day and his efforts eventually led to a Confederate victory. Stuart returned to command of the mounted division on May 6. Following Jackson’s death on May 10, rumors regarding his replacement began to circulate through the Confederate ranks.

Stuart’s own headquarters was not immune to such innuendo. Captain John Esten Cooke, a relative of Stuart’s wife, Flora, and member of his staff recorded in his journal a brief discussion he had with the gray cavalier. According to Cooke, Stuart related a story told to him by Col. Thomas L. Rosser, the commander of the 5th Virginia Cavalry, “that Jackson on his death bed had expressed a desire that he…should succeed him in the command of his corps.” Stuart then told Cooke that he “would rather know that Jackson said that, than have the appointment.”

Interestingly enough, Rosser  did not visit Jackson during the final six days of his life. Additionally, the statement from Jackson has not been corroborated by those who were with him as he passed away his last hours in Thomas Chandler’s plantation office near Guinea Station. That isn’t to say those that were closest to Jackson were not impressed by Stuart’s performance. Jackson’s cartographer, Jedediah Hotckiss, praised Stuart for his actions at Chancellorsville in a letter to his wife written on May 19. Hotchkiss, however, does not mention the potential of Stuart taking over Jackson’s corps. Stuart also mentioned the camp rumors in a letter to Flora. “There has been a great deal of talk of my succeeding General Jackson,” he wrote, “but I think without foundation in fact.”

On May 20, Lee wrote to President Jefferson Davis to propose a reorganization of his army. This restructure revolved around the creation of a third corps. Stuart’s name is not mentioned either as a replacement for Jackson or as a new corps commander. It does appears from a letter written by Lee to Stuart on May 23 that Stuart offered his thoughts on who should succeed Jackson.

That’s not to say Stuart did not covet a third star and a promotion to Lieutenant General, a grade synonymous with corps command in Lee’s army. Stuart stood fourth on the seniority list of Major Generals behind Ewell (January 24, 1862) Hill (May 26, 1862) and Anderson (July 14, 1862). Such a promotion, vaulting Stuart over three other officers, could create discontent and friction within the army. Lee was in the midst of planning his second Northern invasion where cooperation and cohesion among his subordinates would be critical to the operation’s success.

Still, rumors regarding Stuart’s consideration for command persisted. It appears one of the chief purveyors was Brig. Gen. William Dorsey Pender, a brigade commander in Hill’s division. “I hear that Gen’l Jackson is thought to be in very serious condition”, he wrote to his wife, Fanny, on May 9. “He has pneumonia…he will be a great loss to the country  and it is devoutly hoped that he may be spared to the country. Some think in his absence Stuart will be made Lt. General, but I hope not.” In another letter two weeks later, Pender wrote, “it is rumored that Stuart has tendered his resignation because they will not give him this corps, but I cannot think him so foolish.”

Stuart’s elevation to the corps level had the potential to upset Pender’s own rise within the army. Pender’s direct superior, A.P. Hill, was Jackson’s senior division commander and stood to receive the Second Corps. If Stuart were given Jackson’s corps, Hill would remain at the division level. On the other hand, Hill’s elevation would create a vacancy for his division. Pender,  stood second on the seniority list among Hill’s brigadiers behind Henry Heth. It should be noted that Pender shared his appointment with fellow brigade head James Archer. Heth, however, presented problems of his own.

“If A.P. Hill is promoted, a major general will be wanted for his division,” Lee wrote  in the aforementioned letter to Davis. “Heth is the senior brigadier in the division. I think him a good officer. He has lately joined this army, was in the last battle, and did well. His nomination having been once declined by the Senate, I do not know whether it would be proper to promote him.” In the subsequent reorganization, both Heth and Pender were promoted to Major General and received a divisional command.

But at end of the day, the discussion may be a moot point. In August, 1863, Lee recommended that Stuart’s cavalry be restructured as a corps. Davis approved the measure and Stuart finally received his corps command in September. It should be noted that Stuart was not promoted to Lieutenant General upon the reorganization, which might be worth looking into at some point as well.

All things considered, there appears to be little evidence that Stuart was a major contender for an infantry corps after Chancellorsville. Still, the search goes on and the process continues.