Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Latest Book

I am pleased to share that my latest book, Remembering Virginia's Confederates, is in the final stages of editing and will be released to the public on January 11, 2010. It is also now available for pre-order on sites such as and Barnes & The book is part of a larger series with Arcadia Publishing that includes works on North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Arkansas. My book is a 128 page, 200-plus captioned photograph volume that chronicles the wide range of Virginians who served the Confederate cause in military and/or political capacities during the Civil War (including those who served in the Confederate Navy). It highlights many of the high-ranking generals and politicians, but also provides a compelling sampling of junior officers and enlisted men. The book also touches on the important work of Southern women (the wives, daughters, and sisters of Confederate veterans) in preserving the memory of the Confederacy in the decades after the war. Overall, the book is meant to provide a non-biased, analytical look at what motivated these individuals to serve this particular cause.

The photographs for this book came from a variety of sources, including Virginia Military Institute, the Library of Congress, Gettysburg National Military Park, and from private collections. Staff from the Museum of the Confederacy also provided valuable guidance and consulting support for this project. Further, I am particularly grateful to my friend Col. J.E.B. Stuart IV (the great-grandson of famous Confederate Cavalry General J.E.B. Stuart) for writing the book's foreword. For more information on Remembering Virginia's Confederates, please visit, Barnes &, or the Arcadia Publishing website.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Interview with a Former CNU President

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. James Windsor (shown here), who served as Christopher Newport University's president from 1970 to 1980. The interview was part of an assignment in one of my doctoral classes at William and Mary. I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Windsor before on other projects and am very fond of him and his wife. He is highly regarded at CNU and considered by many to be the university's "elder statesman". During Dr. Windsor's presidential tenure, he was instrumental in guiding Christopher Newport toward independence from William and Mary. CNU (then CNC) was until the mid-1970s a two-year division of W&M. Dr. Windsor and his allies in the community felt that it was important that Christopher Newport achieve independence as a full-functioning four-year public college in order to continue evolving and determine its own destiny. It took a great deal of work and determination, but CNU officially became independent in 1977, and is still Virginia's youngest public higher education institution.

Apart from Dr. Windsor's service at CNU, he has also had a distinguished career as a faculty member and college administrator. Joining Christopher Newport in 1962, he founded the psychology department as well as the student counseling center. He also served as Dean of Students and established summer and evening class programs. Prior to his work in higher education, he also served his country as a U.S. Marine during the Korean War. As a non-commissioned officer, he led anti-tank assault platoons and saw extensive combat while laying and removing mines and other explosives. Overall, Dr. Windsor serves as an excellent role model for those of us who serve in higher education. For more information on him and his service at CNU, please refer to my book, "Christopher Newport University" (2009, Arcadia Publishing).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Knights Templar and Holy Grail in America?

I just watched a really amazing show on the History Channel called "The Holy Grail in America." The premise was that there is circumstantial evidence indicating that exiles from the Knights Templar explored America over 100 years before Christopher Columbus made his 1492 voyage. The Knights Templar had been outlawed by the Pope in 1307 and many were slaughtered as a result. Legend has it that other groups of the Templars (who were rumored to possess the Holy Grail - known possibly as the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper) fled to far flung locations including Scotland and Portugal to escape the Pope's armies. Some claim that a few groups of Templars actually traveled to North America to hide a grand treasure. The chisled stone shown on the left is known as the Kensington Runestone. It was discovered in 1898 in Minnesota, and the stone's inscription indicated that it was written in 1362, hundreds of years before any other Europeans explored the area. Further, the inscription was written in a language including characters widely used by the Knights Templar. Experts have debated widely over the accuracy of the stone, but geologic testing has indicated that it indeed dates to the 14th century. More circumstantial evidence also suggests that other Templar Knights explored the New England coast in the late 1390s, leaving behind several carved stones with writing similar to that found on the Kensington Runestone. Some people also claim that the Holy Grail is possibly hidden somewhere in North America! One suggested location is Oak Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia. Some claim that a major treasure was hidden by Knights Templars deep underground in a booby-trapped island. For decades, people have tried to discover this treasure but have failed because of the booby-traps. Further, some scholars calim that Christopher Columbus was himself associated with the Knights Templar (via family connections), and found his way to America in 1492 because of directions handed down by the Templar Knights! This theory is based partly on the fact that Columbus used Templar symbols in his writing. While a lot of this is all highly debatable and unproven, it certainly gives us all a lot to think about! Kudos to the History Channel for providing such fascinating programming!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The British Invade Hampton Roads

Many Virginia Peninsula residents know about the fight against the British at Yorktown during the American Revolution. However, fewer know about a second British invasion of the region that occurred in later years. During the War of 1812, the British invaded Hampton Roads. Although the Americans scored a victory outside of Norfolk, the British later ransacked and burned Hampton. General Sir George Cockburn (shown here) led the British forces.

From Wikipedia - "Admiral Sir George Cockburn commanded a British fleet blockading Chesapeake Bay. In early 1813, Cockburn and Admiral Sir John B. Warren planned to attack the Gosport Shipyard in Portsmouth and capture the frigate U.S.S. Constellation. Brigadier General Robert B. Taylor commanded the Virginia Militia in the Norfolk area. Taylor hastily built defenses around Norfolk and Portsmouth, but he had no intentions of letting the British penetrate as far as those two cities. Instead Taylor commandeered several ships and created a barrier across the Elizabeth River. He next built fortifications on Craney Island at the mouth of the Elizabeth River near Hampton Roads. Since the Constellation was already penned up in the Chesapeake because of the British blockade, the ship's crew was used to man some of the redoubts on the island. In all, 150 Americans were defending the fortifications on Craney Island.

On the morning of June 22, 1813, a British landing party of 700 Royal Marines and soldiers of the 102nd Regiment along with a company of Independent Foreigners came ashore at Hoffler's Creek near the mouth of the Nansemond River to the west of Craney Island. When the British landed, the defenders realized they were not flying a flag and quickly raised an American flag over the breastworks. The defenders fired, and the attackers began to fall back, realizing that they could not ford the water between the mainland and the island (the Thoroughfare) under such fire. British barges manned by sailors, Royal Marines, and the other company of Independent Foreigners then attempted to attack the eastern side of the island. Defending this portion was a company of light artillery under the command of Captain Arthur Emmerson. Emmerson ordered his gunners to hold their fire until the British were in range. Once they opened fire, the British attackers were driven off, with some barges destroyed, and they retreated back to the ships.

The Americans had scored a defensive victory in the face of a larger force. Norfolk and the Gosport Navy Yard were spared from attack. Having failed in their attempt to attack Norfolk, Admirals Warren and Cockburn moved north for actions in the Chesapeake Bay, including an attempt to attack St. Michaels, Maryland, in August.

Two days later, the British crossed the Hampton Roads from Craney Island to take revenge on Hampton, Va. — the town was burned and left in ruins. Most of the atrocities were committed by men of the Independent Companies of Foreigners, former French prisoners of war recruited from British prison hulks. While they were renowned for indiscipline, their actions at Hampton were not entirely unprovoked. During the landing, a boat containing 17 men of the Independent Companies became stranded on a shoal off shore, and the men were massacred by the American defenders despite their attempts to surrender. Enraged by the merciless treatment of their comrades by the Americans, the remainder of the Independent Companies ran amok when they landed. A British officer recorded the result in his diary: "Every horror was perpetrated with impunity — rape, murder, pillage — and not a single man was punished."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

W&M's OTHER Confederate General

Following my last post about Brig. Gen. Edwin G. Lee, I was asked about the identity of the OTHER William and Mary alumnus who served as a general in the Confederate Army. His name was William Booth Taliaferro (1822-1898), and he was a Gloucester County, Virginia native who served as a military officer, attorney, judge, and state legislator during his long career. General Taliaferro is shown here in a Civil War-era photograph. The following is some biographical information on him from Wikipedia:

"William Booth Taliaferro (who pronounced his Italian surname as "tah'-liver") was born in Gloucester County, Virginia, to a prominent family of English origin who settled in Virginia in the 17th century. He was the nephew of James A. Seddon, who would become Secretary of War for the Confederate States of America under Jefferson Davis. Taliaferro attended Harvard University and William and Mary College, graduating from the latter in 1841.

Taliaferro joined the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War, fighting in both the 11th and 9th U.S. Infantry regiments. After the war, Taliaferro entered public life, serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and as a prominent backer of James Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1856. He also continued his military service as commander of a division of the Virginia state militia; he commanded at Harpers Ferry following the raid of that town's arsenal by John Brown.

Taliaferro became commander of Virginia's state militia following Virginia's secession in 1861; he later took command of the 23rd Virginia Regiment as a colonel. He fought several engagements in 1861 and by the end of the year had ascended to brigade command, where he led Confederate forces at the Battle of Greenbrier River, in what is now West Virginia.

Taliaferro's Brigade came under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's command at the end of 1861. He remained with Jackson for some years, rising to division command in 1862. Taliaferro was seriously injured at the Battle of Second Bull Run (Second Manassas), but returned to the field in the time for the Battle of Fredericksburg, his last battle under Jackson.

Taliaferro was a strict and aloof commander who alienated many of his troops. There is at least one known circumstance when one of his troops actually assaulted him, though Taliaferro was unscathed. Taliaferro chafed under the command of General Jackson, complaining to his political colleagues in Virginia about Jackson's tactics and treatment of the men. Jackson later protested Taliaferro's promotion to brigadier general, while Taliaferro was still under Jackson's command; however, Jackson respected Taliaferro's leadership and military ability and did not continue to stand in his way. Jackson later would select Taliaferro for temporary divisional command in specific engagements.

After Fredericksburg, Taliaferro was given command of the District of Savannah. In this capacity he led troops at the Battle of Fort Wagner on Morris Island, a battle that has since been depicted in the movie Glory. Taliaferro was commended for his service in that battle.

In 1864, Taliaferro was given command of all forces in the Eastern district of Florida, which made him the overall commander at the Battle of Olustee that February. He subsequently returned to South Carolina, where he was made commander of all forces in that state. Taliaferro was still in command when Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman entered the state from Savannah. Taliaferro returned to Virginia when the Army of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida surrendered later that year.

After the war, Taliaferro lived in Gloucester County. He served again in the state legislature and as a judge and sat on the board of the College of William and Mary and the Virginia Military Institute. He died at his home, "Dunham Massie", aged 75, and is buried in Ware Church Cemetery, Gloucester County, Virginia. His collected papers are located at the College of William and Mary's Swem Library."

Monday, August 31, 2009

W&M's Confederate General..... the OTHER General Lee

The College of William and Mary counts among its alumni at least two men who served as generals in the Confederate army during the Civil War. One of these men was Brig. Gen. Edwin G. Lee, who was a second cousin of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

"Edwin Gray Lee was born in Jefferson County, Virginia on May 27, 1836. He attended school in Alexandria and graduated from William and Mary College in 1852, and earned his law degree in 1859 from Washington College.

Lee is reported to have practiced law in Shepherdstown (in what is now West Virginia). He entered the Confederate Army with the Virginia Infantry, and following the Battle of Bull Run, was promoted to major and then lieutenant colonel. Lee was involved in the Seven Days battles, Second Manassas and Cedar Mountain. He was captured at Sharpsburg. Paroled on September 26, 1862, he rejoined his unit and led the Virginia Infantry at the Battle of Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862. He resigned soon thereafter due to his bad health.

When his health recovered he rejoined the Confederate cause as a colonel where he served on the staff of Gen. Robert Ransom Jr., who was in charge of the defense of Richmond. In late spring, 1864, he took up command at Staunton and with troops he recruited for the defense of the Shenandoah Valley, he fought at the Battle of Piedmont, June 5, 1864. For his efforts at Staunton, Lee was promoted to brigadier general on Sept. 23, 1864. He then served with Gen. Rosser, but his health again failing, Lee and his wife made their way to Canada where he lived in Montreal until the spring of 1866.

Lee found no cure for his persistent lung disease and he died at Yellow Sulphur Springs on Aug. 24, 1870. He was 34 years old. He is buried at Stonewall Jackson Cemetery."

[This biographical sketch was drawn from Bob Driver, "Brigider General Edwin Gray Lee," The News-Gazette, Dec. 13, 2002 and is used here with the gracious permission of The News-Gazette]

NOTE: While multiple historical sources place General Lee in Canada during the Civil War's closing months, to this day no one is exactly sure what he was doing there. The gossip at the time was that he was doing top-secret espionage work for the Confederate Government. Lee is definitely a figure who merits further study!

TRIVIA QUESTION: Brig. Gen. Edwin G. Lee was referred to as one of two W&M alumni who went on to serve as a Confederate army general. Can anyone identify the second general?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A tribute to former CNU president, Dr. John E. Anderson Jr.

This past Wednesday, Christopher Newport University lost its 3rd president, Dr. John E. Anderson Jr. (shown here), who died at the age of 77 due to complications stemming from a long illness. Anderson served as CNU's president from 1980 to 1986, and then remained at the university as a faculty member and department chair until his retirement in 2003. An Ohio native, Anderson earned his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Akron and a PhD in psychology from The Ohio State University. He taught at several colleges and served as interim president of Georgia's Columbus State University before joining CNU in 1980. He was married to Joyce Querry Anderson for 53 years and had three children as well as multiple grandchildren.

Dr. Anderson led CNU (then CNC - Christopher Newport College) during a challenging time in its history. It was still growing into its identity as an independent public college after seperating from the College of William and Mary in the mid-1970s. An economic recession at the time also froze state appropriations and severely limited CNC's abilities to expand academic and building infrastructure. However, Dr. Anderson ably led the institution through these turbulent times and did achieve key goals in spite of funding limitations, including constrution of the Science Building and a reorganization of the college's academic organizational structure.

As a CNU faculty member, I had the privilege of working with Dr. Anderson over the last couple years of his life, while he graciously assisted me in the development of my book Christopher Newport University (2009, Arcadia Publishing). Dr. Anderson was a true "character" - one of the funniest people I have ever met! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all of his amusing stories (he was a master story-teller), and he never failed to reduce me to side-splitting laughter! He was also always blunt and to the point - calling things the way he saw them. I am honored to have had the opportunity to get to know him before his passing. While CNU is soaring under the presidency of Paul S. Trible Jr., the foundation for that growth was laid in part by those who came before him, including Dr. Anderson. Thank you, Dr. Anderson, for your service to CNU and American higher education - rest in peace.

- Sean M. Heuvel

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Interesting portrait I just discovered: This is believed to be a portrait of Massachusetts native Joshua Loring Jr. (1744-1789), who was an officer and prison administrator in the British Army during the American Revolution. Through my mother's family, he is apparently a distant cousin of mine through his mother, Mary Curtis Loring. His father (Joshua Loring Sr.) was a commodore in the British Navy during the French and Indian War and was later an adviser to Massachusetts Royal Governor Sir Thomas Gage. Joshua Loring Jr.'s wife, the highly attractive Elizabeth Lloyd Loring, apparently had a close "friendship" with General Sir William Howe, who was the top British commander in America during the Revolutionary war's early stages. Some patriots at the time jokingly claimed that Elizabeth unknowingly helped them win the war because she kept Sir William so "busy" in Boston that he couldn't focus on his work! The Lorings were later forced to leave America after the patriots gained the upper hand in the war. They later resettled in England and several of the family descendants went on to distinguished careers as captains and admirals in the British Navy. This is definitely a family I would like to research further!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Robert E. Lee's Top Secret Cave

This is a really incredible story I learned just recently. Apparently, in the early stages of the Civil War, the Confederates ran a top-secret mine in a West Virginia cave known as "Organ Cave." Under the guidance of Robert E. Lee, Confederate troops mined and processed nitre/salt peter, which is critical in the manufacturing of gun powder. Most of the processing equipment is still there. At one point, this cave provided the majority of the Confederacy's salt peter supply! Since the cave is quite large, Confederate officials also occasionally held Sunday church services in the cave, attracting hundreds of Confederate troops. Most incredibly, although Union forces were later camped on top of this cave, they had no idea that the Confederates were there mining below them. The cave was later abandoned around 1863 after its personnel were drawn away to participate in a nearby battle. The U.S. Government knew nothing about it until after the war! Shown here is a photo of the cave (photo by Valerius Tygart). For more information about the cave, go to It provides a good historical overview about the cave and information about visiting it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Revolution in My Backyard: The Battle of Green Spring (July 6, 1781)

Holding true to my blog's name "Tidewater Historian," I thought I would focus on a little known but interesting Revolutionary War battle that was fought in Williamsburg not too far from where I live. The Battle of Green Spring was fought on July 6, 1781 in the vicinity around Jamestown. It was a minor British victory on the road to their ultimate loss at the more well-known Battle of Yorktown. Shown in the image on the left is Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne, who was a top American commander at the Green Spring engagement. Below is a short narrative on the Battle from the National Park Service. I find these little-known battles around Hampton Roads to be quite fascinating and hope that us historians can shed some more light on them in the future.

"BATTLE OF GREEN SPRING. On July 4, Cornwallis broke camp at Williamsburg and moved toward Jamestown Island, the most convenient point for crossing the James. He sent some troops immediately across the river, but ordered the bulk of the army to encamp on the "Main" a little beyond Glasshouse Point, within sight of Jamestown, as a precaution in the event Lafayette should attempt to hinder the crossing.

Cornwallis was right—Lafayette did intend to strike the British at this unfavorable moment. On July 6, Wayne, commanding the American advance unit, made his way slowly toward the British encampment. Lafayette, cautious and not wanting to be deceived about the enemy strength, went with him to make personal observations. The young general quickly decided that Cornwallis was laying a trap, as indeed he was, but before he could call in his scouts and advance units, action had been joined.

The engagement at Green Spring, sometimes called the "Affair Near James Island," was a direct prelude to the struggle at Yorktown. The same forces later faced each other over the parapets on the York. Actual military victory, as at Guilford Courthouse, rested with the British. The most significant result of the encounter, however, may have been the stimulating effect on the Americans of the bravery and courage displayed by soldiers and officers alike. It was another good test of training and discipline—a detachment of American troops had confronted Cornwallis' main force and again they had fought well.

THE BRITISH MOVE TO YORKTOWN. Following the action at Green Spring, Cornwallis continued his move across the James River, and, on July 17, he was able to report by letter to Clinton that the troops which the latter had requested were about ready to sail from Portsmouth. Three days later, Cornwallis learned that all plans had been drastically changed. Clinton now instructed him to hold all of his troops and await further orders. More detailed instructions reached Cornwallis on July 21, including strong words about the necessity for holding a position on the peninsula—the area between the York and James Rivers. Clinton it seems, now thought that Yorktown was a good location for a naval station, offering protection for large and small ships—a vital necessity."

My New Blog!

Welcome to Tidewater Historian! My name is Sean Heuvel and I am a faculty member at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA, where I teach in their Department of Leadership and American Studies. I specialize in American history (Civil War), higher education studies, and leadership studies. Over the years, I have seen friends and family start up blogs to showcase personal or professional interests. As an active writer and scholar, I thought this may be a good way to share my professional activities and interests with friends, family, and interested visitors. Most of the content on this site will center around my writing/research projects and my interests in higher education, Virginia history, and the Civil War. However, I will also include content about my everyday life and times. My better half, the beautiful and vivacious Katey Cunningham Heuvel will also be featured prominently, too! Thanks in advance for your interest and support and stay tuned for regular updates!