July 25, 2010

Four Years With General Lee

I would imagine that most serious readers of Civil War books are familiar with Walter Herron Taylor’s (1838-1916) Four Years with General Lee, which is a cornerstone book of Army of Northern Virginia literature. A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, Walter H. Taylor was only 23 when he joined Lee as an adjutant in 1861. For the next four years, Taylor would serve as Lee’s principal staff officer. Following the war’s close, Taylor returned to Richmond with Lee where he was able to pose with the general and Lee's son Custis in the famous Brady photograph. He then returned home to Norfolk and began a long and successful business and political career. According to James I. Robertson’s introduction to the 1961 edition, “Walter Taylor was ‘first to last the closest’ of all staff officers to General Robert E. Lee, and his intimate relationship with his commander gives Taylor's writings signal importance in any study of Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.” Among the many firsthand reminiscences are descriptions of all the major eastern theater battles from the Peninsula Campaign through the 1864 campaigns as well as discussions of Lee’s opinions regarding various commanders. In a history.net review, Peter Carmichael writes that Taylor’s recollections “never violated Lost Cause dogma, but he also never celebrated it. This is what makes Four Years With General Lee so refreshing to read. While most Confederate veterans attacked one another with the aggressive spirit that they had once reserved for the Yankees, Taylor rose above petty disputes. He wrote a relatively objective history of the Army of Northern Virginia that dissects the war without any particular agenda.” Considered a classic, Four Years with General Lee was first published in 1877 by D. Appleton and Company and was already a collector's item by the turn of the century.

What I was not aware of was that Taylor published a second book of reminiscences in 1906 titled General Lee, His Campaigns in Virginia, 1861-1865: With Personal Reminiscences. This work was published by the Press of Braunworth and Company is somewhat of a reworking of the first book with additional material. The extra material consists of more personal observations and reminiscences which, critically, is why this volume is considered the superior of the two works.

As a further note, Taylor’s wartime correspondence titled Lee's Adjutant: The Wartime Letters of Colonel Walter Herron Taylor, 1862–1865 was published by the Univ. of South Carolina Press in 1995.

Pictured copies offered here and here.

July 11, 2010

More Digitizing of ACW Primary Sources

MALVERN, Pa., June 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Accessible Archives, Inc., an electronic publisher of primary source full-text historical databases, has signed an agreement with the University of Iowa to preserve in digital format a number of primary source publications from the Civil War era. The major public research university located in Iowa City counts among its holdings various Civil War memoirs, pamphlets, and regimental histories, which up to now have been available only for those with access to its Special Collections Department. Once the materials have been digitized and made fully searchable, they will become a new portion - an additional part - of The Civil War, a collection from Accessible Archives that has been well received by university and public libraries....

Full story here.

July 10, 2010

The Radical Republicans: Lincoln's Vanguard for Racial Justice

No, this isn’t the latest left-wing screed that rails against the Conservative right. Rather, it is author Hans Trefousse’s (1921-2010) classic 1969 work that tells the story of the US Senators and Congressman known as the “Radical Republicans” who fought for racial reform in America before, during and after the Civil War. In addition to their early desire to see black men in the ranks of the US army, they also wanted a very firm and vigorous prosectution of the war with stern treatment of Rebel prisoners and civilians.

A recent obituary for the late professor states that after he wrote biographies that defended Benjamin "Bluff" Wade and Thaddeus Stevens, two detested radicals, “Trefousse wrote arguably his best book, The Radical Republicans: Lincoln’s Vanguard for Racial Justice, tracing radicalism from its late 1840 beginnings to its decline in Ulysses S. Grant’s administration. For a generation, radicals ‘had been in the political struggle for human rights’ and were the driving force within the Republican Party, liberating slaves and guaranteeing black males the right to vote. Trefousse maintains that the radicals ‘laid the foundation’ for the subsequent achievement of their goals.”

The 1969 first edition was published in hardcover by Alfred Knopf in a 5 ¾” x 8 ½” trim size and must say “First Edition” on the copyright page. The blue dust jacket should have the $10.00 price tag on the bottom right of the jacket’s front flap. As you can see here, first editions are not uncommon though as is the case with any 40-yr-old book, condition can be trickier. Pictured copy offered here.

A highly recommended work that is built primarily upon then-unpublished manuscript sources and a must for anyone interested in Northern politics during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

July 9, 2010

Civil War Artifacts - Auction Results

Confederate Battle Flag Of Gen. Lloyd Tilghman Brings $59,750 As Top Lot In $1.16 Million Civil War Auction

Rare artifacts relating to famous Sons of the South proved both popular and valuable with the more than 780 bidders who competed for almost 900 lots in Heritage Auctions' $1.5 million June 25 Signature Arms & Militaria Including Civil War auction, with the Presentation Flag of Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, along with the Inscribed Sword and Sword Belt he was wearing when he was killed in battle at Champion's Hill, leading the way with a $59,750 price realized. All prices include 19.5% Buyer's Premium.

"This was the very first time that this flag, along with the entire set, has ever been offered," said Dennis Lowe, Director of Arms & Militaria Including Civil War Auctions at Heritage, "and collectors took very close notice. All three of these pieces have descended, uninterrupted, through Tilghman's family for almost 150 years. This beautiful and moving piece is simply steeped in American history."

Tilghman was born in Maryland and graduated from West Point in 1836. In 1847 he saw action in the Mexican War and, at the outbreak of the Civil War, commanded the Kentucky State Guard, assuming command of the 3rd Kentucky Inf. on July 5, 1861 and being promoted to Brig. Gen. on Oct. 18 of that same year.

Tilghman oversaw the construction of Forts Henry & Donelson and was subsequently captured at Fort Henry on Feb. 6, 1862 before being imprisoned at Fort Warren for six months. On Aug. 15 of that year he was exchanged for Union Gen. John Reynolds. Nine months later he was killed in action at the Battle of Champion's Hill, on May 16, 1863.

One of the most hotly anticipated lots of the auction, a Matthew Brady Half Plate Ambrotype featuring "The Gallant Pelham," Lieut. John Pelham, circa 1858, was the subject of much pre-auction buzz, and did not disappoint as it brought $41,825. Pelham is one of the most highly romanticized figures of the American Civil War.

"This important original image, while copied countless hundreds of times," said Lowe, "was presumed lost for more than a century before it was discovered to have descended in the family of Pelham's sister for the last 100 years."

Civil War Battle Flags, as evidenced by the top lot in this auction, are among the most highly desirable artifacts from the War Between the States, especially if they are specifically associated with important figures from the war. However, flags without specific association, but important and unimpeachable provenance are also very much coveted by collectors, as seen by the $50,788 final price realized for an early Civil War prototype Confederate National/Battle Flag manufactured for the cause in Georgia.