Monday, October 10, 2011

My Upcoming Book!

Tidewater Historian is back after a bit of an unexpected hiatus! Several positive things occurred this Summer and early Fall that kept me from posting as much as I would have liked. For one, I was very busy with writing. A couple of magazine articles that I wrote appeared in leading historical publications (more on that later), and I also spent most of the summer working on a book manuscript with a co-author (more on that later as well). I have also been hard at work completing courses toward my doctorate at William and Mary. However, the biggest event this Summer was the birth of my son, Sean M. Heuvel, Jr. (a.k.a. "S.J.") on July 7th! S.J. is now an active and healthy three-month old who keeps his parents quite busy! We are blessed to have him in our family!

Another major development in recent weeks has been the final tweaking of my upcoming book, Life After J.E.B. Stuart: The Memoirs of His Granddaughter, Marrow Stuart Smith. The cover design for the book was just finalized the other day and I have posted a picture of it here. I am very excited about this work, which tells the story of the Stuart family in the post-Civil War era through the lens of one of its most interesting members, artist and educator Mary Marrow Stuart Smith (1889 - 1985). Marrow was Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's eldest surviving grandchild as well as the oldest child of J.E.B. Stuart II and his wife, Josephine Phillips Stuart. It is a very neat family history as well as a fascinating life story and I believe that those with an interest in the Stuart family, Southern History, Virginia History, and/or the Civil War will really enjoy reading it. The book will be released early this December - more details to come! If you are interested, the book is currently available for pre-order through such online book vendors as and Barnes and Noble. When you get on their websites, just search for "Life After J.E.B. Stuart."

As time permits during this busy semester, I will plan on posting a bit more frequently about my current research projects, ranging from the American Revolution through the Civil War. As always, thanks for your interest and support!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Upcoming W&M Alumni Magazine Article!

I am excited to announce that I will be writing an article for the William and Mary Alumni Magazine about the Civil War service of the College's students, faculty, and alumni. The article is part of a three-part series that explores William and Mary's role in the Civil War. My article (part two of the series) will be released in the magazine's Fall 2011 issue. The Summer 2011 issue (cover shown here) examines what happened on the William and Mary campus before and during the conflict. The text and photography are both very well done and I recommend the piece highly to those who are interested in the topic.

Examinding the role of William and Mary's people during the Civil War is a subject near and dear to my heart. I have spent several years researching the topic and wrote my master's thesis about it when I was a graduate student at the University of Richmond. What fascinates me most is that despite William and Mary's rich Civil War history, the topic is very little known, even to William and Mary alumni. My sense is that there are possibly two reasons for this. First, the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg in the 1920s immersed the community (including the College) deeply in its colonial history. In the opinion of many, that leaves little room to interpret other periods of the community's history, including the Civil War era.

Second, since the Civil War was such a dark time in the College's history (considering all of its physical, emotional, and financial destruction), perhaps people purposely wanted to forget about it. People tend to prefer remembering the "good times," which could also explain the focus on Williamsburg's colonial history (when the College and town were both in their prime).

Whatever the reason, the time has come to better remember and commemorate William and Mary's Civil War history. As the South's oldest college, William and Mary produced several people who played instrumental roles in shaping the course of the Civil War. I hope that my upcoming article can help facilitate interest in the topic. Within the next few months, I also hope to make a big announcement about an ongoing project related to this topic, so stay tuned!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Upcoming Magazine Article on General Heath

Tidewater Historian is back after a bit of a hiatus! For the past several weeks, I have been busy working on a book manuscript, which has consumed a great deal of time. More importantly, my wife and I are expecting our first child to be born within the next few weeks, so we have also been busy preparing for that! Anyways, I wanted to post a quick update about my ongoing research on Maj. Gen. William Heath (1737-1814) - shown here - who was a top commander in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Since most of his wartime work was done in the administrative and diplomatic realms, he is not nearly as well known as the likes of Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, and Daniel Morgan. Nevertheless, his wartime service was highly significant and worthy of greater attention and recognition.

My interest in General Heath stems from a family connection I have with him - he and I are distant cousins (third cousins, nine times removed to be exact). As such, I enjoy learning about his Revolutionary War career and his specific contributions to American Independence. Fortunately, an article I wrote on General Heath will appear in the upcoming September/October issue of Patriots of the American Revolution Magazine. I have published a piece with them before (on Maj. Gen. Edward Hand) and really like the magazine's format and commitment to chronicling Revolutionary War history. The article on General Heath will appear in the "My Patriot Ancestor" section of the magazine.

While General Heath is not a well-known Continental Army commander, his battlefield leadership during the Battles of Lexington and Concord, his work lobbying state governments for troops and supplies, and his diplomatic leadership working with the French during the war's later stages certainly played important roles in securing a successful outcome for the Patriot cause. I look forward to seeing the article in print and thank the staff at Patriots of the American Revolution for running it!

Friday, April 15, 2011

William & Mary in the Civil War

I had the pleasure recently of being interviewed for an article in The Flat Hat, The College of William and Mary's student newspaper. Written by W&M student Jill Found, the piece (entitled "War! Forgotten in Williamsburg") explored the College's role during the American Civil War, and why that aspect of its history is not better remembered. The article in its entirety is posted here.

I have spent years researching this era of William and Mary's history and find it to be quite fascinating. Unbeknownst to many, several historically prominent individuals who had a significant impact on the war (Winfield Scott, John Tyler, John C. Crittenden, James Murray Mason, etc.) were all William and Mary alumni. Along with alumni, William and Mary students and faculty served in several different military or political capacities during the war, mostly for the Confederacy.

I wrote my master's thesis about the Civil War service of the College's students, faculty, and alumni when I was a graduate student at the University of Richmond and have written and published at different times on the topic. In the coming months, I will also hope to provide updates about future plans to publish material in this area. In the meantime, thanks to The Flat Hat and to Jill Found for putting together such a great article!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Long Lost Uncle

I recently purchased a genealogical book that traces my family's history (through my maternal grandmother) back to colonial New England. I already knew a great deal of information, but I wanted this book since it provided sources to validate the various family trees. It was apparently written by one of my distant cousins in the late 1960s after spending nearly twenty years doing research, and traveling throughout New England and England itself.

Anyways, I was excited to get validation for what I already knew, but was even more excited to learn some new things about my family history. One major surprise centers on my seventh great-granduncle, Jonathan Curtis (1708-?) of Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was a twin brother of my seventh great-grandfather, John Curtis. In 1740, Jonathan likely enlisted in the 43rd Regiment of Foot to fight in what was later called the War of Jenkin's Ear, which lasted from 1739 to 1748 - though the major operations largely ended by 1742. The war pitted the British against the Spanish in the Caribbean and was essentially caused by trade disputes and accusations of piracy. New England men like Jonathan Curtis were recruited to serve in the 43rd Regiment based on appeals to their patriotism and promises of extracting great wealth from the Spanish. A drawing of a soldier from the 43rd Regiment of Foot is shown here. Jonathan (who was unmarried) was known to have drawn up his will around 1740 before leaving with the rest of the regiment for the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, according to this genealogy book, Jonathan was never heard from again. He was later declared legally dead on November 25, 1747. I can only imagine how traumatic the experience must have been for his family. After doing some research, my (educated) guess is that Jonathan went with his regiment to modern-day Columbia where a large battle was fought against the Spanish, known as the Battle of Cartagena de Indias between March and May 1741. The battle ended in absolute disaster for the British, and many of their soldiers (including several from the 43rd Regiment of Foot) also died from disease. Therefore, I suspect that Jonathan was either killed in battle or died from yellow fever while he was in Columbia.

Like I wrote earlier, I knew nothing of this before reading it in the genealogy book. I feel fortunate to know at least this much about Jonathan, but wish I knew even more. Anyway, I felt that it was fitting to honor him here with this posting. I look forward to learning more about this conflict, as well as the 43rd Regiment of Foot in the near future!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ulysses S. Grant's Last Great-Grandson Passes Away

I just saw a reference to this Kansas City Star article that was posted online earlier today by J. David Petruzzi. The last great-grandson of Ulysses. S. Grant (Ulysses S. Grant V) has passed away. I have spent a lot of time researching the namesake descendants of prominent Civil War figures, so to me this is quite significant news.......

Last Great-Grandson of Ulysses S. Grant Dies

The last surviving great-grandson of Ulysses S. Grant has died in a southwest Missouri home brimming with artifacts from the nation's 18th president and commander of the Union forces in the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant V spent part of his youth in the home of his grandfather, Jesse Grant, who was the late president's youngest son. Jesse Grant's wife, Elizabeth, is credited with helping to save the artifacts.

As an adult, Grant V became a custodian to the items — including his famous relative's letters, his will, his China and even the flag said to have flown over the Appomattox Court House when Robert E. Lee surrendered. Some of the items have been sold in recent years.

"It was everywhere growing up," said Grant V's grandson, Ulysses S. Grant VI. "It was an everyday part of our life."

Grant VI said his grandfather died Wednesday at age 90 at his home near the Springfield-area town of Battlefield, which received its name for its proximity to a Civil War clash. He had suffered a stroke previously.

Grant VI said Grant V was "proud of his heritage" and "the smartest man I ever met." He said they had a special relationship because he was born on his grandfather's 50th birthday.

Grant V called him Sam — a nickname the late president's West Point classmates gave him because his initials, "U.S.," reminded them of "Uncle Sam." In reality, the general was actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but the congressman who submitted his name to West Point mixed it up. Grant adopted the new name.

His great-grandson, Grant V, followed in his great-grandfather's footsteps, serving in World War II and Korea. He later owned an avocado-growing operation in California and designed buildings before moving to Missouri to be closer to family.

Keya Morgan, who collects Grant memorabilia and is writing a book and making a film about the general, struck up a friendship with Grant V. Morgan called his death "the end of an era."

"He was a historian," said Morgan, who also is serving as a spokesman for the family. "He kept his family's history intact."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Amber Room Update

Regular readers of this blog will know that along with covering my primary interests of the American Revolution and U.S. Civil War, I like to occasionally post items that cover other periods of history in which I am also interested.

With an interest in World War II, I have long been fascinated by the story of the Amber Room. I posted a news story on it back in October, and it is still the MOST widely read post in the history of this blog.

Below is a second news article by the United Kingdom's Daily Mail on the Amber Room from January 2010 - absolutely fascinating stuff. In it, a historian claimed that he found the Amber Room somewhere in Kaliningrad, Russia, which used to be German East Prussia. I will see if I find an update on this article as well as more current news articles on the Amber Room. Stay tuned!

'Priceless' Amber Room of the Tsars, looted and hidden by the Nazis, is 'found' by Russian treasure hunter

By Allan Hall

The Amber Room of the Tsars - one of the greatest missing treasures of WW2 that was looted by the Nazis during their invasion of the Soviet Union - may have been found.A Russian treasure hunter is currently excavating in the enclave of Kaliningrad where he has discovered a World War II era bunker that the local German high command used in the battle for the city in 1945.If Sergei Trifonov is correct then he has solved one of the greatest riddles left over from the war - and will make himself into a multi-millionaire. He anticipates that he will break into the bunker by the end of the month to find the treasure.

Crafted entirely out of amber, gold and precious stones, the room made of numerous panels was a masterpiece of baroque art and widely regarded as the world's most important art treasure. When its 565 candles were lit the Amber Room was said to 'glow a fiery gold'. It is estimated to be worth around £150million, but many consider it priceless. It was presented to Peter the Great in 1716 by the King of Prussia. Later, Catherine the Great commissioned a new generation of craftsmen to embellish the room and moved it from the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to her new summer abode in Tsarskoye Selo, outside the city.

The room was seized by the marauding Germans during their onslaught on Russia in 1941. Prussian count Sommes Laubach, the Germans' 'art protection officer' and holder of a degree in art history, supervised the room's transport to Koenigsberg Castle in what was then East Prussia.

In January 1945, after air raids and a savage ground assault on the city, the room was lost. Ever since the Amber Room has become the new El Dorado, a quest that enthralled the wealthy and the poor alike. The Maigret author Georges Simenon founded the Amber Room Club to track it down once and for all. Everyone had a different theory of what might have befallen the work. The German official in charge of the amber shipment said the crates were in a castle that burned down in an air raid.

Others think the room sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea in a torpedoed steamer used by the Nazis, or that it was hacked up by Red Army troops and sent home like sticks of rock as souvenirs of their conquest. Historian Trifonov, however, believes he has solved the riddle and that the treasure lies in the bunker 40 feet down in the soil of Koenigsberg. 'Believe me or not, it's there, 12 metres down in the sub-soil,' he said, pointing to the entrance of a bunker that sheltered the Nazi high command in the last hours of the Battle of Koenigsberg.

'This place was built in February 1945 with two aims: accommodating the headquarters of General Otto Lasch and storing the treasures of Konigsberg, a city under siege.'Königsberg, in what was then German East Prussia, is now Kaliningrad, the capital of Russia's westernmost region of the same name.

To test his theory, Trifonov has begun to probe the soil under the bunker using a ground-penetrating radar and has started to pump out water. He has already unearthed a brick-lined room. The bunker is 1,000 yards from the site of the castle that demolished in 1967. He says he has 'information' from archives that this is the repository of the fabled room, but he isn't saying where his sources are. The governor of Kaliningrad appears convinced and has provided financing for the dig. But many remain sceptical.

'He's a good storyteller but he can't prove anything,' said Vladimir Kulakov, an expert at Russia's Institute of Archaeology, who has also dug in the soil under the bunker in the search for the Amber Room. Anatoly Valuyev, deputy director of Kaliningrad's History and Art Museum, which takes in the bunker, was more hopeful. 'It's good that people think that the treasure is there. They have energy and the museum gains from this,' he said. 'We still hope that the Amber Room is somewhere in Kaliningrad,' he said. 'There are plenty of underground sites left to explore. If they don't find it here, they'll look elsewhere.'

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Paul Revere's Grandson - Union Army General

Lately, I have been doing a bit of research on Joseph Warren Revere (1813-1880) who was a brigadier general in the Union Army during the Civil War. A grandson of Revolutionary War patriot Paul Revere, General Revere led a colorful life with service in the antebellum U.S. Navy as well as the Mexican Army. Amazingly enough, he was also knighted by the Queen of Spain (Isabella II) for his part in rescuing some distressed Spanish citizens.

However, his Civil War career was less stellar - particularly during the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. Here is some background information on General Revere via the website:

Civil War Union Brigadier General. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he was the grandson of Revolutionary War Patriot Paul Revere. In 1828 at age sixteen, he joined the US Navy, fought in the Mexican American War and achieved the rank of Lieutenant. He resigned from the Navy in 1850, joined the Mexican Army at the rank of Colonel and was honored by the Spanish Government for rescuing of 13 citizens by being Knighted by Queen Isabella II in 1851. At the start of the Civil War, he was commissioned Colonel of the 7th New Jersey Infantry, fought in the Peninsula Campaign and led the 3rd Corps during the Seven Days Battle. For his actions at the Second Bull Run, he was promoted Brigadier General in October, 1862. During the Battle of the Chancellorsville in May 1863, after Major General Hiram Berry was mortally wounded, the command was left to Revere. Revere quickly ordered his men to go rearward to regroup in a three-mile march back off the line, which resulted in he being reviewed for a court martial. President Abraham Lincoln gave him the option of resignation and he took the offer. After his resignation he traveled the world and wrote books.

I look forward to learning more about this court martial process. From what I have read thus far, General Revere (a lifelong Democrat) got the best "deal" possible from a Republican administration concerning the request for his resignation. At any rate, General Revere represents an interesting example of how a family known for its illustrious service in the American Revolution carried on that service through the Civil War.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Picks - Paul C. Nagel Edition

As most readers of this blog know, I have an active interest in studying famous American families - particularly those with members who played a key role in the American Revolution and/or the Civil War. In particular, I find it fascinating to learn how the descendants of famous individuals made their own ways in life - in some cases achieving success in their own right or buckling under the pressure brought on by high expectations.

As I have discussed in previous posts, I also think it is interesting that the descendants of say, prominent Revolutionary War or Civil War commanders, continued (in many cases) the traditions of public service and duty established by their ancestors.

To date, much of my research has centered on the family of Confederate Cavalry General J.E.B. Stuart, which has deep roots in Virginia history. My upcoming book, Life After J.E.B. Stuart: The Memoirs of His Granddaughter (Hamilton Books/Roman & Littlefield Publishing, 2011) explores that family's history through the perspective of General Stuart's granddaughter, Marrow Stuart Smith. In the future, I expect that I will also publish more work on the Stuart family, who have contributed a great deal to Virginia as well as the nation as a whole.

In my research, I have been influenced heavily by the work of Paul C. Nagel, who has published extensively in this "family history" genre. He is well known for his work on the family of President John Adams, and his work Descent From Glory tells the story of the Adams family quite well. Another one of my favorite books (written by Nagel) is about Virginia's illustrious Lee family, appropriately titled The Lees of Virginia: Seven Generations of an American Family. Both of these books have an honored place on my bookshelf and I consult them regularly. For those of you who are interested in this genre of American history, I recommend them highly.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Update on my General Hand Article

While I have not yet seen the final, published piece, I am happy to report that my Patriots of the American Revolution magazine article on General Edward Hand (1744-1802) has been well received thus far. You can find it in the March/April 2011 issue (shown here), which should be appearing on newsstands about now. The magazine staff noted on the "Patriots" Facebook fan page that the article has "already received great praise" from readers.

While it always feels great to get a compliment, I am particularly delighted that General Hand is getting some well deserved attention from American Revolution history enthusiasts. I, along with several good friends who are direct Edward Hand descendants, have been working hard to get his name back in public circulation. In addition, Samuel Slaymaker and the staff at Rock Ford Plantation (General Hand's restored home in Lancaster, PA) also do an OUTSTANDING job of commemorating the general and his many accomplishments.

In my opinion, General Hand is definitely one of the conflict's unsung heroes. You can read about his outstanding leadership and heroics in my article. I sometimes wonder why he has not been better remembered by history - especially considering that he served as George Washington's adjutant general for much of the conflict.

My sense is that since he spent his service as a general pursuing administrative work, it caused him to be overshadowed by other generals (Daniel Morgan, Nathanael Greene) who won acclaim for their heroics on the battlefield. While Hand was also a gifted combat commander, his battlefield service occurred when he was colonel of the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment. As such, his name probably did not get out into public circulation as much as the higher-ranking generals.

At any rate, I hope this magazine article serves as a catalyst for renewed public interest in this fascinating Revolutionary War figure!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Upcoming Magazine Article on General Hand

I got confirmation recently that my article on the Revolutionary War career of Maj. Gen. Edward Hand (1744-1802) will appear in the March/April 2011 issue of Patriots of the American Revolution magazine. I am very excited about this piece because it will bring some attention to one of the unsung heroes of the American Revolution. A native of Ireland who later settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, General Hand enjoyed a distinguished Revolutionary War career that culminated with his service as George Washington's adjutant general during the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. While he certainly ran into some obstacles along the way, General Hand was one of those rare Continental Army commanders who was highly effective as both an administrator and a combat commander. In fact, he helped save the Continental Army from complete disaster on at least two occasions during the war. You can read more about that in my upcoming article!

I am also privileged to count among my friends several of General Hand's direct descendants and had the honor of speaking at their family reunion last Fall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A highlight of that experience was getting to spend time in General Hand's restored home, Rock Ford Plantation, which is now a museum and special events venue. I would highly recommend visiting Rock Ford to anyone who is interested in 18th century American history. They possess an incredible collection of General Hand's personal effects - including my favorite piece - his Society of the Cincinnati membership certificate that was hand-signed by George Washington himself! It is definitely a must-see!

Anyway, I hope that this upcoming magazine article is the first of many publications that I get the honor to draft concerning General Hand's life and career. He is a fascinating figure who deserves to be better remembered by history.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Great Britain's Nazi King?

My wife and I recently saw the new film "The King's Speech," which is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. The acting was superb and the historical accuracy was fairly good (a few issues but nothing major) in my opinion. I have always enjoyed studying British history and took several courses on that topic in college. As such, the movie refreshed my interest in the nation's World War II-era history. It also increased my already immense respect for King George VI, his wife Queen Elizabeth, and the leadership they provided during the war.

At the same time, I was both alarmed and intrigued by how the King's brother, the former King Edward VIII (later known as the Duke of Windsor) was depicted in the film. Not that I thought the depiction was wrong - I thought the actor who portrayed him did a fine job. I was just shocked to see how the Duke conducted himself during his tenure as king. While I have ready plenty about the Duke of Windsor, seeing a visual representation of him on film allowed me to see him in a whole new light - and it was not a good one. While it was not covered in the film, the aspect of the Duke's life that intrigues me most was his supposed relationship with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany. In the late 1930s, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were considered to be pro-Nazi in British political circles and were the cause of great concern for Winston Churchill. Supposedly, the Duchess of Windsor (Wallis Simpson) kept in regular touch with Nazi authorities during the early stages of World War II when she and the Duke were living in France. It is no wonder that he was later appointed Governor of the Bahamas in order to get him and the Duchess as far away as possible from Europe.

Anyway, I did a major research paper on the Duke of Windsor and his supposed pro-Nazi sympathies about ten years ago when I was an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary. After reading some of the major biographies on him and consulting other secondary sources (I did not get into studying primary sources extensively until graduate school), my conclusion was that while he may have displayed incredibly bad judgment during this period - especially during his 1937 trip to Germany with his wife - and while he may have been charmed by all of the lavish attention provided to him by the Nazis, he was in actuality not a full-blown Nazi himself.

However, after reading some more about him and hearing about the contents of recently declassified FBI documents on the Duke and Duchess, I am no longer so sure. He appeared to be very impressed with Adolf Hitler as well as the Nazi Party, and consistently urged reconciliation with that regime during the war. It also appears that the British Government had to suppress the release of interviews he gave during the war (at least on one occasion), because he sounded so defeatist (concerning the British war effort) and complimentary of Nazi Germany. There is also proof that his wife was a keen admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany as a whole.

I look forward to reading more about the Duke of Windsor in the months ahead and want to learn more about his alleged Pro-Nazi sympathies. However, there seem to be a lot more questions than answers when it comes to this topic. In the end, at least it is clear that his December 1936 abdication (while very difficult for the British people at the time) was a blessing in disguise for that nation, as it brought onto the throne the type of authentic, inspirational leaders they needed for the coming war - King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

The Life and Times of George McClellan Jr.

Continuing on the theme of profiling descendants of prominent Civil War commanders, I wanted to highlight the son and namesake of Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan - George B. McClellan Jr. Through the Arlington Cemetery website, I came across this interesting biographical sketch:

"McClellan, George Brinton (November 23, 1865 - November 30, 1940), politician and university professor, was the older of two children and the only son of General George Brinton McClellan and Mary Ellen (Marcy) McClellan. Born in Dresden, Saxony, while his parents were visiting Europe, he belonged to a family whose Scottish forebears had emigrated to New England in the eighteenth century. His grandfather, Dr. George McClellan, was a prominent Philadelphia anatomist and surgeon; his father was the most controversial, if not most effective, Union general in the Civil War. His maternal grandfather, Randolph B. Marcy, was a regular army officer who served as General McClellan's chief of staff from 1861 to 1863.

McClellan's boyhood was spent in New York City, Baltimore, Trenton, New Jersey), and Europe. His early education was entrusted in large part to governesses and tutors, but in 1877 he was sent to St. John's, a boarding school at Sing Sing (later Ossining), New York. In 1882 he entered the College of New Jersey (Princeton). Following his graduation, in 1886, he traveled abroad for two years. Returning to the United States, he became a newspaper reporter, working successively for the New York Morning Journal, World, and Herald. Despite the demands of newspaper work, he found time to attend the New York Law School, and in 1892 he was admitted to the bar.

McClellan's political career began in 1889 with his appointment as treasurer of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge. In the same year he joined Tammany Hall, and by the mid-nineties he was a sachem and one of the organization's most prominent orators. In 1892 he was elected to the presidency of the New York City board of aldermen, and in 1895 he began the first of five terms as a Democratic Congressman. In the House of Representatives he became something of an authority on military affairs, was recognized as a better than average speaker, supported his party's stand on low tariffs and anti-imperialism, and was a member of the Ways and Means Committee. Although McClellan was a man of considerable ability and even distinction, his rapid rise in politics was due almost entirely to Tammany's desire to capitalize on his famous name. For his part, McClellan assured Richard Croker, Tammany's boss in the nineties: "I know that I owe . . . to you . . . everything . . . that I have in politics."

McClellan's career in Congress ended in 1903, when he was recalled to New York by Charles F. Murphy, who had succeeded Croker as boss of Tammany Hall, to run for mayor against Seth Low, the Republican incumbent. He defeated Low with relative ease; two years later he was reelected to a four-year term over William Randolph Hearst, who ran on the ticket of the Municipal Ownership party, and William M. Ivins, the Republican candidate, in one of the closest elections in the city's history. In his first term McClellan was a superior machine mayor who, while making no pretense of being a reformer, was able to keep a restraining hand on the more avaricious members of the organization. Following the election of 1905 he broke with Murphy in a dispute over patronage, and his second term was characterized by a pronounced independence.

Among McClellan's notable accomplishments as mayor was a program of public works that included new bridges across the East River, establishment of municipal ferries, creation of a new and improved system of docks, additional parks and playgrounds, extension of the city's subway facilities, the start of the Catskill water project, and construction of the city's Municipal Building. As mayor, McClellan proved to be an efficient and imaginative administrator, with a wide knowledge of city affairs and an unchallenged reputation for integrity. Even his Republican critics conceded that his intellect and courteous manner gave the office a distinction that it had never known under other Tammany mayors.

When McClellan left City Hall at the end of 1909 his break with Murphy had already precluded whatever chances he might have had for political preferment. For a year he practised law in New York City, but the experience was not a happy one, and in 1911 he welcomed the opportunity to become a university lecturer on public affairs at Princeton. A year later Princeton appointed him professor of economic history. At the outbreak of the first World War he aroused considerable opposition by his outspoken demands for the strictest interpretation of American neutrality. The Heel of War, a collection of essays on conditions in the belligerent countries which he published in 1916, was condemned by most reviewers for what they considered its pro-German bias. Nevertheless, when the United States entered the war McClellan volunteered, became a major in the ordnance department, served overseas, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the armistice he returned to his professorship at Princeton, where he remained until his retirement in 1931.

Throughout his life McClellan was a knowledgeable student of art and history. An incorporator and vice-president of the American Academy in Rome, he was also a member of several organizations of artists and architects in the United States. One of the few Americans of his time who was an authority on Italian history, he was the author of The Oligarchy of Venice (1904), Venice and Bonaparte (1931), and Modern Italy (1933). In addition he wrote numerous newspaper and magazine articles on both current affairs and history.

In 1889 McClellan married Georgiana Louise Heckscher, a niece of the wealthy New York capitalist August Heckscher. McClellan and his wife shared many interests, particularly their affection for Italy, which they visited almost annually. They had no children. Following McClellan's retirement from Princeton they moved to Washington, and it was there that he died. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

McClellan's life was compounded of paradoxes. He was an ultra-conservative in a period of far-reaching reform, an avowed aristocrat who welcomed the chance to become a Tammany sachem, and a cynic who consistently sought the prizes he professed to scorn. He joined Tammany partly to serve his own ambitions, but partly because he felt that citizens of the "better type" should take part in such an organization. As a young man he had been determined to avenge his father's failure in politics, but he too failed. Like his father before him, he never forgave the American people for refusing to bestow on him the rewards that he thought he deserved."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Robert E. Lee's Organ Cave - Revisited

I wanted to share this post that first appeared on this blog back in 2009. It is a neat story about one of the Confederacy's greatest wartime secrets:

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.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Searching for Lt. J.W.J. House, CSA

As a Civil War historian, I feel fortunate to have relatives who served on both sides of the conflict. Through my maternal grandmother's family, I have several great-great-great granduncles and cousins who served in the Union Army (mostly from Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia). I also have a distant cousin who was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army (more on all of them later).

Further, through marriage, I am related to an individual who has fascinated me for quite some time: James Washington John (J.W.J.) House (1833-1924) of North Carolina. J.W.J. is my wife Katey's great-great-great grandfather. Fortunately, my wife's grandparents have had copies of his military records for quite some time, which help to tell a quite remarkable story about his service to the Confederacy.

It appears that J.W.J. was from Edgecombe County, North Carolina, and enlisted in the Confederate Army (30th North Carolina Infantry, Co. F) on August 31, 1861. From there, he saw action with the Army of Northern Virginia in all of its campaigns from the Seven Days Battles (1862) to Cold Harbor (1864). Sometime in either late 1862 or early 1863, J.W.J. was promoted to sergeant and was later wounded during the March 17, 1863 Battle of Kelly's Ford (near Culpeper, VA). After recovering from his injuries, he returned to active service and was later awarded the Confederate Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Battle of Chancellorsville (General Order 131/3, October 3rd, 1863). However, due to a scarcity of metal, no medals were actually awarded. Instead, the honorees names were placed on a Roll of Honor in the Confederate Adjutant & Inspector General's Office.

J.W.J. was later elected a 2nd lieutenant (though some sources claim he ultimately became a 1st lieutenant) on May 24, 1864. After serving with the 30th North Carolina in the Shenandoah Valley, J.W.J. surrendered with the remnants of his regiment and other Confederate forces at Appomattox in April 1865. Somewhere along the way, he had also sustained an injury in his right foot. J.W.J. later concluded his military career as a POW at Ft. McHenry, MD, but was later released in June 1865 upon taking the Union oath of allegiance. Luckily, he went on to live a long and productive life in North Carolina after the war, finally passing away in 1924.

Since he was an individual who witnessed and survived some of the most famous battles of the Civil War, I have long been intrigued by J.W.J. By all accounts, he was an excellent soldier who was highly regarded by his brothers in arms. Anyway, one of my desires over the past few years has been to track down a picture of J.W.J. - preferably one in uniform (if such an image exists). My wife's family has no such images in its possession, and I am currently trying to track down more distant relatives (who are also House descendants) to see if they have any. I like to imagine J.W.J. as looking like the Confederate officer depicted in the attached image - but it would be nice to track down a real photograph.

Anyways, I know that many of the readers of this blog are quite knowledgeable about where to find images of Confederate soldiers, etc. If any of you have ideas or suggestions as to which institutions, websites, or books I should consult to find such a picture, please let me know by posting a comment below. Thanks!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Blue and the Gray meet the two World Wars

Building on my previous post about Stonewall Jackson's great-grandson, Col. Thomas Jonathan Jackson Christian Jr., it is fascinating to study the military careers of other descendants of prominent Civil War commanders. Sadly, a noticeable number were killed in action during the two World Wars. For instance, E. Porter Alexander III (a grandson of the Confederate artillery commander) was killed in France during the World War I (in 1918) while serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

At least three descendants of well-known Civil War commanders were killed in battle during World War II. In addition to the previously-mentioned Colonel Christian, Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. (a son of the Confederate general) - who is shown here - was killed by Japanese shell fire during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. I believe he was one of the highest-ranking American military commanders to be killed in battle during the entire conflict. In a previous post, I discussed how Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest III (the Confederate cavalry general's great-grandson) was shot down over Germany during a bombing run while serving with the U.S. Army Air Corps.

While I am showcasing individuals who lost their lives in battle, there were several other descendants who were fortunate enough to survive their service in World War I and/or World War II. They all brought great honor to their Civil War ancestors by providing outstanding leadership and valor in later conflicts. I will discuss more of these descendants in future posts. While much scholarship is focused on the Civil War commanders themselves, I think it is both useful and fascinating to study the lives and careers of their descendants. As I have mentioned before, the lives these individuals led were often just as fascinating as that of their Civil War ancestors.

Stonewall Jackson's Great-Grandson: WWII Hero

As I have mentioned in previous posts, one of my primary interests as a Civil War historian is to research the life and times of descendants of top Civil War commanders - particularly their namesakes. I find that in many cases, their careers and contributions to society were just as fascinating as that of their Civil War ancestors. Today, I highlight the great-grandson of Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson - Col. Thomas J. Jackson Christian, Jr. - who performed heroic service as a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot during World War II. The highlighted photograph and biographical summary below are from the Texas State Cemetery website:

"CHRISTIAN, JR., THOMAS JONATHAN JACKSON (1915~1944) Thomas Jonathan Jackson Christian, Jr., Colonel in the United States Army Air Force and great grandson of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, was born on November 19, 1915, in San Francisco, California to Thomas Jonathan Jackson Christian, Sr. and Bertha Marguerite Cook.

Christian attended the University of Chicago before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1935. On June 12, 1939, he graduated 45th in a class of 456 and chose to enter the Field Artillery branch of the U. S. Army, his father's branch of service, where he was appointed a Second Lieutenant. Soon after making his branch decision, Christian changed his mind and joined the Army Air Corps.

From 1939 to 1941, Christian was a student in Texas at the Air Corps Primary Flying School at Love Field in Dallas, the Air Corps Training Center at Randolph Field and the Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, both in San Antonio.

After receiving training as a pilot, Christian was assigned to the Philippines, where, after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, he was reassigned to Bataan, Mindanao, Australia, and Guadalcanal. While there, he flew B-17s and was shot down and declared missing in action somewhere in the South Pacific. He was able to return to the base after living with natives in the jungle.

With the 1st Air Group, Christian landed on Guadalcanal on August 15, 1942. While there, he flew more than 60 hours in combat missions and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry.

After being granted leave, Christian returned to the United States, where on January 2, 1943, he married Marjorie Lou Ashcroft, whom he met while in Dallas. Their permanent residence was Sulphur Springs.

While in the U. S., he formed and trained the 361st Fighter Group. They were sent to England in November 1943. In Europe, Christian flew more than 70 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart. In March 1944 he was promoted to full Colonel.

While overseas, Christian became a father. His daughter, Lou Ellen, was born in January 1944, in Dallas.

Having never met his daughter, Christian was killed in action on August 12, 1944, while flying a P-51 Mustang, which was named Lou IV, in honor of his daughter. Colonel Christian was shot down over Arras, France and his body was never recovered."

Upcoming Revolutionary War Magazine Articles

Tidewater Historian is back after a short hiatus! I spent the bulk of November, December, and early January completing some writing projects and tending to my wife (who is pregnant with our first child), so please forgive the lack of posts lately. Anyways, I am pleased to announce that I will have two articles published in upcoming issues of "Patriots of the American Revolution" magazine. "Patriots" is great, up-and-coming publication that fills an important void in the world of magazines devoted to American history. While we have many great Civil War magazines in circulation, there has not been as much out there devoted to the American Revolution, so kudos to "Patriots" editor Tim Jacob and his team for providing this great resource!

Anyways, the first article that will be published is a biographical piece on Maj. Gen. Edward Hand (1744-1802), who served as George Washington's adjutant general during the Battle of Yorktown. General Hand was one of those rare military leaders during that era who could function equally well as either a combat commander or an administrator, so he had a quite eventful career during the war. I have several friends who are Hand descendants, and had the privilege last fall of speaking at their family reunion held in Hand's hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Thus, I am quite interested in doing more research and writing on General Hand and will keep you posted as more of my work on him appears in print.

The second article (that will be published in a separate issue) is a biographical piece on my distant cousin, Maj. Gen. William Heath (1737-1814) of Massachusetts. Like General Hand, William Heath worked closely with George Washington over the course of the war. However, Heath was more effective as an administrator than a combat commander during the conflict, and was best known for the challenging job of managing British John Burgoyne's surrendered convention army following the Battle of Saratoga. As with General Hand, I plan on doing more research and writing on General Heath in the future.

Ultimately, I really enjoy highlighting the work of Continental Army commanders who served faithfully during the conflict, but are not as well known to history as some of their peers (i.e. Daniel Morgan, Nathanael Greene). If you happen to come across "Patriots of the American Revolution" while visiting your local Barnes & Noble or other bookstore, please take a look!