Friday, May 29, 2009


Non-fiction, illustrated, maps, bibliography, index, 231 pp., 2008. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA, $35.99 plus shipping.

The thoughts of shipwrecks bring feelings of mystery, intrigue and adventure to individuals no matter what age you are. During the War Between the States, the Southern ports were blockaded by the Union forces. Daring business men choose to try to run these blockades, some were successful and others were not. In addition to private boats, the navy for both sides commanded different vessels to help protect strategic points of military location. During the course of the war, many crafts were “sunk, scuttled, burned, grounded, lost, capsized, missing, blown up, collided with another vessel or object and sank, or was made generally unusable,” or more romantically referred to as shipwrecked.

Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks looks at more than two thousand shipwrecks during 1861 to 1865. Although the author W. Craig Gaines states that this may not be a complete listing, he feels confident that within the pages of his book he has the vast majority. Many of the vessels’ names are familiar, like the CSS Alabama; while others are so obscure the official name is lost to time.

The book is divided into geographic location by state, country, or body of water. Then the vessel is listed by its last known name, with any additional names the craft might have been known by following. The author also lets the reader know to which government the ship was connected. Some entries have an abundance of information, while others are limited; however, each is concise and supported by many sources.

While this is not a publication to read from cover to cover, the amount of information within its pages is invaluable to research. Maps help the reader to better visualize where the vessel was shipwrecked. The only facet this book was lacking was the need for more illustrations and images. Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks is superb, and addresses a topic that is rarely discussed or studied.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow


Book Review for Stories of the Confederate South
by Rickey E. Pittman
Fiction, 94 pp., 2007. Pelican, 1000 Burmaster Street, Gretna, Louisiana 70053. 12.95 plus shipping and handling.

It is essential in today’s society to have books that tell the story of the Confederacy to a younger audience. To do so successfully, the writer must be witty, entertaining, yet relate the truth about the time period, even in fiction books. Stories of the Confederate South is such a book that has a menagerie of different accounts pertaining to the War Between the States. This publication is perfect for middle school aged children.

Stories of the Confederate South contains ten short fiction stories that deal with varying details of the war. One narrative gives the reader a glimpse of the war against Southern women, while another tells of a present day bias for a Southern boy in the North. “From the senseless death and suffering of children to the strength of Confederate women, Pittman recounts the events of the Civil War from the unique and unforgettable perspective of a Southerner” as stated in a promotional leaflet for this publication.

Author Rickey Pittman does an outstanding job once again in his writings. Mr. Pittman is also the author of the children’s book Jim Limber: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Non-fiction, pictures, notes, index, 220 pp., 2007. Pelican Publishing Company, 1000 Burnmaster Street, Gretna, Louisiana 70053, $24.95 plus shipping and handling.

“In war, as in peace people remain civilized by acknowledging bounds beyond which they must not go,” observed historian Richard Weaver. In today’s current conflict in Iraq, the media publicizes when civilians are injured or killed in cross fire. It outrages the public that innocent lives are wasted. In a civilized conflict, the understood agreement is that the causalities of war should be confined to combatants when possible. F.J.P. Veale states “…that an enemy civilian does not forfeit his rights as a human being merely because the armed forces of his country were unable to defend him.”

However, this was not the case in the War Between the States. War Crimes against Southern Civilians explores how the United States deliberately subjugated the citizens of the Confederate States on countless occasions. Walter Brian Cisco uses primary sources, including but not limited to official records, newspapers, diaries, and personal letters, to expose the Union’s deliberate practice to crush the population living in the South. “Shelling and burning of cities, systematic destruction of entire districts, mass arrests, forced expulsions, wholesale plundering of personal property, even murder became routine (for the Union during the war,)” according to Mr. Cisco. Historian James McPherson estimates that fifty thousand Southern civilians perished in war-related deaths. This is a staggering number by anyone’s standard.

So when and were did these tragedies take place? Each chapter in War Crimes against Southern Civilians delves into the facts surrounding many incidents were local residents are persecuted by the Federal army. Some of the occurrences Mr. Cisco writes about takes place in Missouri, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Each has supporting documentation that helps tell of the mayhem that takes place.

The complete and utter disregard to human rights is appalling, and to know that it took place just shy of 150 years ago on Southern soil makes the degradation even more distressing. “In waging war on civilians he (Lincoln) returned to the barbarism of the past, but he also dealt a blow to limited, constitutional government from which America has yet to recover. That all Americans are less free today, and live in a more dangerous world, are among his legacies,” as per Mr. Cisco.

This book is not recommended to those who are faint of heart. The indiscretions committed against the Southern civilian population are real and in some cases graphic. But this part of history is sometimes disregarded, no matter how authentic the accounts are. War Crimes against Southern Civilians does an astonishing job telling the truth about the wrongdoings of the United States government and its officers.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow


Non-fiction, pictures, maps, bibliography, index, 110 pp. Heritage Books, Inc., 1540E pointer Ridge Place, Bowie, MO 20716.

The military actions of Col. James W. Starnes, who served under General Nathan Bedford Forrest, are rarely considered by historians. He began his military career in the Mexican War by serving as a Regimental Surgeon. Afterwards, he returned home to practice medicine and manage his lands. When rumors of war began to circulate, Mr. Starnes choose to enter the military as a Confederate cavalry commander and began organizing a company of mounted men. This company would voluntarily attach to Forrest’s troopers while in Kentucky.

Forrest’s Forgotten Horse Brigadier offers a historical account of Col. James W. Starnes and his men’s involvement in the War Between the States. The detailed writings of tactical maneuvers offer the reader a step by step description of their engagements. This military book shows the precision movement required for the overall victory of a battle. Orders must be considered, given, sent, received, and carried out on the field.

According to H. Gerald Starnes, author of Forrest’s Forgotten Horse Brigadier, “While the bravery and tactical instincts of General Forrest in combat are without question, there is a descernible absence of mention or information on the sub-commanders who executed the general’s strategies and orders.” General Forrest, like most officers, must rely on his corp. commanders to carry out his wishes in a timely and accurate manner while attacking and defending against the enemy.

Col. Starnes proves he is capable of following the commands of his superiors; yet, his ability to think while in battle shows an intellect and courage few posses. Through this, Starnes and Forrest would develop a mutual respect and friendship for one another. Mr. Starnes states, “Forrest and Starnes had in common a total disregard for their own personal safety, and an eager willingness to fight even though seriously outnumbered. Otherwise, the contrast in their personalities and demeanor showed striking differences.”

In the Chattanooga Daily Rebel on Tuesday, July 2, 1863, an editorial about Col. Starnes, who died on June 30, 1863 from a wound received in the Tullahoma Campaign, states, “Many of his exploits are wholly unrecorded and numbers of them forgotten amid the confused turmoil of war, and its crowded canvass of events. After the most useful career as an independent commander, Col. Starnes was attached to a regular cavalry service, and has gained a rare, though not noisy reputation in the service for courage, reliability, and skill.” Through his in-depth study of Col. Starnes, Mr. Starnes provides a glimpse of this man forgotten by the annuals of history. Pvt. Harris remembering Col. Starnes states, “He was a kind hearted man, and could lead brave man farther than most men, while Forrest could make a coward fight.”

This publication includes a brief genealogical account of Col. Starnes’ family lines, with numerous photos of persons mentioned. Maps help the reader to understand the complicated tactical maneuvers discussed in this book; however, there is a need for more detailed illustrations to help visualize the troop movement. Many pictures of the locations written about are difficult to see, virtually being just a black box.

Forrest’s Forgotten Horse Brigadier is well researched and provides an excellent insight to skirmishes seldom mentioned. This book is for the person who enjoys military maneuvers and troop movement. It is written in an attempt for the reader to feel as if they are a part of the battle, knowing exactly where each commander is and their actions. The personal recollections of the soldiers offer a human perspective to the story that unfolds.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow

Saturday, May 23, 2009


By Tom C. McKenney
Pelican Publishing; 394 pages

Reading the inside flaps of this book I had gotten really excited. By the description it seemed to be the combination of the movies “The Patriot”, “Outlaw Josey Whales” and the Jimmy Stewart movie “Shenandoah” rolled all into one. In a way it kind of was. All of the core events based in those movies had a place in this book.


What I found was a wonderfully researched and documented lecture on the life and times of Jack Hinson. It was very detailed, which for me drew me away from the story, time and time again.

Maybe it was just me but the main character of the story seemed to get lost in the telling. For me there was too much descriptive writing that elaborated too much on the non-essential part of the story. Just to give you an idea on page 222, where Jack was saying goodbye it took 13 lines and a complete paragraph to tell that small section. The main intent I believe was to invoke emotion, however for me it had the opposite effect.

So while thinking of the review of this book I had to ask:

Was it well researched? Absolutely.

Was it historically accurate? Yes

Did it have enough supporting evidence and references? Yes

Did this book read like a dissertation? Yes

The story base is a great one and I think it would make a great movie. If you enjoy detailed oriented reading in a case study or lecture format you may like this book.

If you are a reader who prefers a flowing historical story and one that holds your attentions I would suggest looking elsewhere.


Monday, May 18, 2009


By John Robert Slaughter
Zenith Press, 288 pages

Folks, let me tell you. I read a multitude of books each year and maybe, just maybe there are a handful that makes it to my hands that will forever stay on my shelf. This is one of those books. Don’t get me wrong, I have read some good ones and have enjoyed many of them. However, I am talking about a step above the betters.

What really drew me into this book was the personal and genuine way that this story was told. I actually felt that I was sitting and talking, just Bob and myself. A story that I would imagine that is told to children and grand children to remember who he was and he wanted to pass it along. It may sound strange but I did feel a part of the family.

The book covers so much more than the war itself. From Bob’s childhood, family and friends to the makings of a soldier who did not know what he was getting himself in to and to his life now. The amazement of travel and the candid pranks and trouble he got into. It’s all there for you, just pull up a chair and sit a while.

The war years express a deep feeling for his friends he fought with and knew and the horrors of events that we all hope will never be seen again. Omaha Beach and Beyond: The Long March of Sergeant Bob Slaughter should, and I hope later on it will be in audio form as well. You will not be disappointed in the read I promise.

I know I did not go into detail chronicling the book itself and there is a reason for it. It is like trying to explain the most adrenaline filled moment you have ever had and then turn the page and experience the lowest you have ever been. That may sound like a negative but I assure you it’s not. It is a genuine, heartfelt and personal experience that was a pleasure not only to read but also to be a part of the legacy. Thanks Mr. Bob.

Craig Anderson
Our History Project


Published by Greybird Publishers, 196 pages

Butch Holcombe the owner of “American Digger Magazine” and Co-Host of In “The Dirt with American Digger” every Saturday online, has not missed with this gem of a book. It is fast passed and full of information that every metal detectorist needs to know. It covers every aspect of the hobby from choosing the right machine for you use to choosing the right spot in the woods for other reasons.

So, in one since it is a how to book, on the other side of the coin, you don’t know that you’re learning anything. The information is so masterfully entwined with humor that the knowledge seeps in without you even knowing about it. Kind of like sleeping on a book, you wake up and there it is – “Instant knowledge.”

Butch Holcombe is the only one to date that has brought humor to this side of recovering the past. It is a must read, even if you don’t metal detect you will find yourself laughing just because it’s funny. This is a book for the library (either one), the rocking chair, the sharing with the kids. It truly is a no miss book. If you have someone that is hard to by for and they have a sense of humor at all you will not go wrong with this one.

The book is available online at, Amazon or a host of other retailers.

Craig Anderson
Our History Project

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Non-fiction, pictures, foot notes, bibliography, index, 223 pp., 2006. Cumberland House Publishing, Inc, 431 Harding Industrial Drive, Nashville TN 37211. $20.95, plus shipping and handling.

Shelby Foote stated, “Academic historians seem to think the facts are the story; the facts are only the bare bones of the story.” Many historians know about the “facts” of Thomas Jonathon “Stonewall” Jackson’s life. Some are content with this limited knowledge, while others seek to find more information about Jackson, a man who, in his own right, has become a hero of the South. Richard G. Williams explores an aspect of Jackson’s “story” in Stonewall Jackson, The Black Man’s Friend that few historians have broached.

“Tom Jackson was the poor, orphaned young mountain boy who would, by sheer determination, graduate from West Point; the shy, backward, stammering young man who would become an influential speaker, educator, and leader in Lexington; the strict Calvinist deacon who questioned predestination; the fearless Confederate General who would weep over one of his slaves’ deaths; the slave owner who would risk criminal prosecution and social ridicule by teaching slaves and free blacks to read and to seek the same Savior who had redeemed his own soul.” Williams shows in this one sentence the many different aspects of Jackson’s life that the readers may or may not know. His book explores the statements pertaining to Jackson’s Christianity and his treatment of blacks by using documents, interviews, historical resources, unpublished letters and photographs. “Jackson fervently believed that all of God’s children, regardless of color, had an equal right to seek the kingdom of heaven,” states James I. Robertson, Jr. in the foreword of Stonewall Jackson, The Black Man’s Friend.

This book mainly examines the influence Jackson had in the black community before, during and after the war. It is amazing that his influence is still found in Lexington, Virginia today. In one chapter entitled, Stonewall Jackson and Lylburn L. Downing, Williams looks at the connection of these two men, who never meet. Ellen Downing gave birth to Lylburn a little over a year before Jackson’s death. Even though Downing was born into slavery, he was taught the Word of God through Jackson’s Sunday-school class, like his parents. Eventually Downing is called into the ministry to lead others to God. Williams brings to light an article on Downing appearing in the May 10, 1936 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch that states, “The little colored boy was much impressed with the accounts of the life and work of the great soldier and teacher. As he grew older and studied the life of this hero of his own community he came to regard Stonewall Jackson not only as one of the greatest military geniuses of all time, but also as one of the best friends the Negro race had ever known.”

Downing always wanted to honor Jackson, “the man he credited for his family’s Christian heritage.” After nurturing a small congregation, Downing built a church in Roanoke, Virginia. He raised the funds to place a stained glass window inside the church that “honored Jackson for his dedicated and literary and gospel work among slaves and free blacks in the Lexington area.” The window can still be seen in this black church. The reader is able to see how Jackson’s influence was felt even after his death through this story and others presented by Williams.

An in-depth look at the relationship between Jackson and Jim Lewis is also presented. Williams gives a well researched point of view about a part of Jackson’s story that many know little about. Henry Kyd Douglas of Jackson’s staff states, “The faithful fellow has become historical by reason of his association with General Jackson, to whom his devotion was a kind of superstition. He became important and was aware of it and never denied an anecdote told him, however incredible, if the General was in it. He was a handsome mulatto, in the prime of life, well-made and with excellent manners, but perhaps altogether true only to the General.” This friendship will live through history as an example for the future generations.

The death of Jackson was devastating to the South, but most especially to those who loved him most. Williams details the last days of Jackson’s life with vivid imagery from those loved ones who were with him until the end. The reader is able to relive the pain felt by those present during this traumatic, but final episode in the General’s life. Anna, Jackson’s wife, says about Lewis’ grief, “Tears were shed over that dying bed by strong men who were unused to weep, and it was touching to see the genuine grief of his servant, Jim, who nursed him faithfully to the end.”

The final chapter takes the reader to the funeral of General Jackson. A nation was mourning a man who had unknowingly written his name in history books forever. “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” John 15:13

Williams does a fantastic job in telling a part of the life of General Stonewall Jackson. Not only does he investigate Jackson’s relationship with blacks, but he tells about Jackson’s death and funeral. There are many books that review Jackson’s military genius, but a limited few that examine his “lasting and positive impact on Southern blacks.”

Richard G. Williams, Jr. has written for many Southern periodicals, including the Southern Partisan. He has also authored The Maxims of Robert E. Lee. He currently resides in Stuarts Draft, Virginia.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow

Friday, May 15, 2009


Non-fiction, pictures, maps, appendix A and B, notes, bibliography, index, 432 pp., 2006. Hill and Wang, A division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 19 Union Square West, New York NY 10003.

There were many battles, small and large, fought during the four years of the War Between the States, but not all of these conflicts were on land. The Confederate States Navy, although small due to its infantile state, was effective. Most people think of the struggles that took place within the harbors and on the rivers of the South. An example of such an engagement was the CSS Virginia versus the USS Monitor in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The CSS H.L. Hunley has earned its place in history as the first submarine to sink an enemy warship. There are numerous other accounts of Confederate ships engaging the enemy.

However, one aspect of the Confederate Navy that goes unnoticed is the warships that roamed the international waters in order to destroy United States merchant ships. One such ship was the CSS Shenandoah. This 222-foot steamer left London under the guise of a merchant ship Sea King on October 8, 1864. Once off the shore of Madeira, the ship was rechristened and outfitted as a man-of-war. During its thirteen month voyage, the CSS Shenandoah earned the distinction of the being the third most successful commerce raider. Her crew and she covered 58,000 miles, destroyed 32 vessels and their cargo, ransomed six others, and took 1,053 prisoners. The estimated value of the merchant ships and their wares that was demolished was $1.4 million in 1864 standards. Although all of these feats are considerably difficult, the CSS Shenandoah will be remembered as the only Confederate Naval ship to circumnavigate the world.

In the book Sea of Gray, The Around the World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenabdoah, Tom Chaffin does a wonderful job presenting a chronicle of events from the point that Commander James Bulloch, chief Confederate Naval operative in England, prepares to purchase a shop to the final voyage. To tell the story, Mr. Chaffin uses original documents, intimate ship journals kept by officers, and a wealth of other primary sources. The reader is able to see first hand how the crew felt toward their officers, or officers toward the captain. Everything was not always “smooth sailing” for the crew and officers during this historic voyage.

An interesting fact presented in Sea of Gray is that the CSS Shenandoah and her crew did not surrender until November 6, 1865 in Liverpool, England. Cornelius Hunt recalls on that day, “We got clear of the bar and steamed up the river toward the city, with the flag that had accompanied us round the world flying at our peak for the last time. The fog shut out the town from our view, and we were not sorry for it, for we did not care to have the gaping crowd on shore witness the humiliation that was to befall our ship.” He continued to observe Lt. Whittle, as he was standing on the steamer’s poop deck, looking up at the Confederate ensign that was still waving from the steamer’s stern, “turned away least anyone see the tears rolling down his face.” The flag was hauled down by the quarter master and the folded banner was presented to Lt. Whittle, who in turn gave it to Capt. Waddell. The ship was not surrendered to the United States government, but instead the formal surrender was to Royal Navy Commander, Capt. James A. Paynter, of the Donegal. A letter of surrender written for the British foreign minister was given at this time. The letter explained that Capt. Waddell did not find out that the war had ended until August from another ship, but he doubted it until he verified it in the next English port. “I am without a government, and surrender the ship with her battery, small arms, machinery, stores, tackle and apparel complete, to Her Majesty’s Government for such disposition as in its wisdom should be deemed proper.” Capt. Waddell goes on to say in the letter, “The last gun in the defense of the South was fired from her deck.” After much consideration, the British government freed the crew and turned the ship over to U.S. Consul Thomas Dudley. The CSS Shenandoah was ultimately auctioned off in Liverpool by US Consul Dudley. She was purchased by Nathaniel Wilson who immediately sold her to the sultan of Zanzibar, who made her a merchant steamer. She would strike an uncharted reef and sink in the Indian Ocean in 1879.

Commander James Bulloch, who purchased the Confederate fleet from the British, was the uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt. Commander Bulloch would never return to live in the United States, but his nephew would visit him many times in England, especially when he was researching for his book Naval War of 1812. During his time with “Uncle Jimmy”, Teddy encouraged him to write his memoirs The Secret Services of the Confederate States in Europe. Ironically, Commander Bulloch was never pardoned and dies in 1901.

This book is a must for anyone who would like to know more about the Confederate States Navy, and more importantly the CSS Shenandoah. It explores the internal political turmoil in England over the support of the Confederate States of America. Numerous photographs of the officers, images from newspapers and charts create a visual appeal for the reader. The fast pace story reads as an epic fiction, but is a vital part of Confederate history.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Novel, illustrated, 1994. Philomel Books a division of The Putman & Grosset Group, 200 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, $16.99 plus shipping.

Over the years, many books have become favorites of history teachers to help students better visualize a specific period of time. Pink and Say is used by many elementary and middle school teachers to discuss the War Between the States. Though it is listed as fiction, many educators try to state it is factual. With the sesquicentennial on the horizon, it is imperative to make sure what is being taught in the classroom is accurate and true.

The setting for Pink and Say is somewhere in Georgia after an unknown “fierce” battle in an unidentified year. The key characters are Pinkus Aylee, better known as Pink, a slave from Georgia, and Sheldon “Say” Russell Curtis, a young farm boy from Ohio. Both are fighting for the US Army. Pink stumbles upon Say, who had been wounded, in a “blood-soaked pasture” while in search for the 48th Colored Troops. Thus begins the story.

According to the author, Patricia Polacco, this account has been handed down through her family generation after generation and is true. Like with any folktale, there are elements based on fact, but much more is altered with time till the legitimacy of the account is questionable.

The first discrepancy in this publication is that the 48th Colored Troops were on garrison duty in Vicksburg, Mississippi. This regiment was organized on March 11, 1864. In reality, this regiment was never stationed in or near Georgia during the War Between the States. Additionally, General Sherman was against colored troops, so there were never any black regiments under his command. Upon future research, there is no documentation of a soldier by the name of Pinkus Aylee in any regiment in the Union Army according to the National Park Service. In considering the above facts, a shadow of doubt is put on the authenticity of the character of Pink.

Ms. Polacco states that Pink was owned by the family of Aylee from Georgia. His mother still lived in one of the slave homes on the plantation, but the master’s home was destroyed during the war. According to the 1860 census, there was no family in Georgia by that last name. Moreover, in searching the entire United States in the 1860s census there is no one with that last name either. In reviewing the similar variations of spelling of last names, none of the families met the criteria set up by the author to be Pink’s owner.

The other main character, Say, has some inaccuracies as well. Ms. Polacco states he was with the 24th Ohio Regiment as a color bearer because he was too young to fight. With some investigation, no one by the name of Sheldon R. Curtis served in this regiment; however, this name does appear on the roster of Company M, 6th Michigan Cavalry. Furthermore, the only veteran with that name listed in the 1890 Veterans’ Census verified the above information.
An age inaccuracy causes some misgivings about this character also. According to Ms. Polacco, Say is only 15 years old, but the soldier mentioned above was around 21 years of age. In fact, Mr. Curtis was married on May 10, 1860 to Miss Abigail M. Barnard in Ionia County, Michigan. With this fact being uncovered, this reviewer examined the possibilities of two people with the same name. However, no other solider could be found in the ranks of the US army with Say’s given name. Besides, Ms. Polacco supports Mr. Curtis’ history after the war in her book. This leads to the consideration that the soldier in the 6th Michigan Cavalry is the same as the one in the book.

Near the end of the tale, Pink and Say both are taken to Andersonville as captives of the Confederate Army. In Camp Sumter’s prisoners’ roster, it states that the person by the name of Sheldon R. Curtis in the Company M, 10th Michigan Cavalry was captured in Chancellorsville, Virginia on June 12, 1864. This is a deviation from the regiment listed on the soldier’s service record. There is no notation of anyone by the name of Pinkus Aylee ever being held in Andersonville. Per the story, he was hung; yet he is not listed among the dead.

It is important to note that Say was shot when running away from his unit, or better described as deserting. He does not desire to return to his regiment when Pink was eager to leave. He even discusses this with Pink’s mother. The author sugar coats it and states that it is because he is so young that he fears the war. In truth deserters were shot, branded or sent to prison for their cowardliness.

Pink and Say has won publication awards and has a curriculum written for teachers to use in the classroom; nevertheless, this book is not recommended to be used in any setting, much less a classroom. There are more inaccuracies within the pages of this publication, but for sake of time and space, the most significant factual errors are covered. This publication is truly a fiction book and should never be considered anything more.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow


Non-fiction, pjotos, maps, bibliography, notes, index, 479 pp., 2008. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640, $75 plus shipping.

From its discovery, Ship Island has been intricately involved in the history of the United States. Ship Island, Mississippi: Roster and History of the Civil War Prison relates the saga from 1699 when the French explorer OPierre Lemoyne d’Iberville used the island as a base of operation to its current tourist status.

Probably the most sinister history pertaining to Ship Island is when it was used by the Union as a prisoner of war camp. It is interesting that the South abandoned this island thinking that New Orleans was sufficiently defended with Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip at the mouth of the Mississippi. This golden opportunity was realized by the North, and the island was seized to first be used as a base of operations in the Gulf. Once the objectives of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Natchez were achieved, Ship Island was converted into what many inmates called “hell in the Gulf.” Maj. Gen. “Beast” Butler was the first to send prisoners to Ship Island. A note worthy point is that these prisoners were citizens of New Orleans, not soldiers. Later Confederate soldiers would be subjected also to the harsh environment of the small island. “A combination of blistering sun, a lack of fresh water, and rampant disease all contributed to sending the death rates of the prisoners to frightening levels,” states Mrs. Arnold-Scriber in the Introduction of this publication. The graves of these individuals have been claimed by the Gulf of Mexico long ago, but their name is remembered in the pages of this book.

Included in Ship Island, Mississippi is not only the well chronicled history, but the rosters of the men imprisoned there. “Organized first by the state in which the soldier enlisted and then by the company in which he served, entries are listed in alphabetically by last name and include information such as beginning rank; date and place of enlistment; date and place of capture; physical characteristics; and where possible, the fate and postwar occupation of the prisoner.” In addition to this, there is a roster with the citizens who were imprisoned at Ship Island.

As with previous books, the Scribers have done a superb job in researching and compiling crucial information. The meticulous history is worthy of any history book, yet the rosters provide invaluable sources for individuals to explore their family history. Detailed maps allow the reader to visualize the information being given, while photos give a glimpse at people and places. Overall, Ship Island, Mississippi is a creditable publication to be a part of any War Between the States collection.

Written by: Cassie A. Barrow


Novel, illustrated, maps, notes, bibliography, 544 pp., 2000. Edgehill Books, P.O. Box 1342, Orange, VA 22960, $27.99 plus shipping.

Marching Through Culpepper is a novel written by Virginia B. Morton, who like Margaret Mitchell is a fist-time author. Marching Through Culpeper takes place from the vantage point of Culpeper, Virginia, which is situated between the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers and is on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Both the North and the South considered this a key location for their troops to invade or protect Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley. With this in mind, the citizens of Culpeper saw first hand “the movement of more troops than any other locale in the nation.”

This story is based on Constance Armstrong, the daughter of a wealthy and well-respected judge from Culpeper. The diary styled novel begins on July 3-5, 1860 and ends on April 24, 1865. You read about lives of the people of Culpeper as they witnessed the horrific bloodshed and hardships during the four years of the War Between the States. Character and story development allow you to love, hate, hurt, rejoice and suffer with the characters. Some notable characters that grace the book include Jeb Stuart, William "Extra Billy" Smith, A.P. Hill, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Judson Kilpatrick, and George Armstrong Custer. The reader witnesses the battles of Cedar Mountain, Kelly’s Ford, Brandy Station, Culpeper Court House, and other small actions in the area.

Marching Through Culpeper is a love story commingled with the harsh realities of war. Constance has several attentive beaus including the gallant Major John Pellham, Major Robert Beckham and a Yankee office, Aaron Ames. Her best friend and confidant is none other than Frank Stringfellow, an actual scout for Jeb Stuart and John Mosby. Her strength and ability to survive in such deplorable conditions are continuously evident. Constance is affected by the deaths of many people she loves at the hand of the despicable Yankees; yet she is drawn to the kindness of Aaron Ames no matter what his military tie is. Her life is inevitably changed by the war that rages around her and her home. A definite page-turner, you will want to experience the next victory or defeat of this spunky young lady who matures before your eyes.

Although this book is fiction, the author has spent much time and effort to research the events and people she has intertwined into this story. Mrs. Morton is a thirty year resident of the Culpeper area and is a local tour guide. A bibliography supports the facts and endnotes reveal where names may have changed since the 1860’s or other vital information. There are maps to review and pictures of individuals throughout the book. Although the initial edition contained a number of erroneous typos, this has been corrected in subsequent editions.
This book is a love story for the ladies, and war novel for the men and a wealth of information for historians of The War Between the States. Mrs. Morton stated, “Marching Through Culpeper is a story of the human spirit. I believe that same irrepressible spirit is with us today because it pulses through the veins of many of you." David Johnson, General Manager of Strategic Vision, a marketing firm in Atlanta declared, “Move over Margaret Mitchell and Michael Shaara…make room for Virginia Morton. This book will succeed." Marching Through Culpeper encompasses the human side of the atrocities Southerners experienced during the War Between the States. It is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about what took place on the home front and how the political power struggle with the Lincoln administration affected even civilians. Every library in the South should have a copy of this book on its shelf. I agree with Mr. Johnson, this book will succeed.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow


Non-fiction, notes, 60 pp., 2004. Thompson Publishing, 625 Dorothy Street, Metter, GA 30439.

Text Books, especially history, have changed drastically with in the past twenty five years. They have become thicker, but contain less information. Pictures replace dialogue on most pages, while large type setting and margins give the illusion of a page filled with facts. Today’s text books are written at a lower reading and vocabulary level then those from the past and include diverse learning of different races, genders and ethnic groups.

Once heroes of our youth, men, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, are maligned. This multi-billion dollar industry is providing the material to teach our children not be proud of their heritage and history, especially if they are a white Southerner.

When did this occur? Why would history text books be a concern to any one? Gordon Thompson looks at these questions and more in his book It’s not What You Know, The Battle to Control How You Feel About History. Mr. Thompson spent thirteen years teaching Georgia and US history. Through his teaching experience, he saw the decline in the quality of text books. Due to this, he began to research the history pertaining to the past hundred years of the text book industry. Mr. Thompson exposes when the changes began to occur, but the topic he concentrates on most is “Why?”
Mr. Thompson states, “What has happened to text books is that they have become key weapons in a cultural war being waged in our country.” This book details many of the radical steps that have been taken by revisionists, especially James Lowen and Howard Zinn, to influence the current trend of history books. “In the last century, text books have been under the increasing control of liberal revisionist who want to control how children think about America.”

While this book is small, it contains valuable information that all parents and school teachers need to know. Many people do not understand the word “revisionist.” Mr. Thompson defines it in his book as, “An attempt by current scholars to incorporate into historical record, the new facts, information, evidence and interpretation that recent academics work has uncovered.” He goes on to say later in his book, “Students should always understand that they will probably be expected to learn both lies and truths, but the lies will probably be the answers to test questions.”

Mr. Thompson gives ideas and suggestions as to what parents can do in their child’s school. He also encourages people to give life to history by telling or writing family stories. By doing this, you are combating the revisionists influence in your home.

Whether a parent or a teacher, It’s Not What You Know will enlighten you as to the why’s of the drastic change in text books. Consider giving this book to your child’s history teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week. It may astound them and encourage a more in-depth study of what he or she is teaching our future.

Book review by Cassie A. Barrow


Novel, illustrated, 28 pp., 2007. Pelican Publishing Company, 1000 Burmaster Street, Gretna, LA 70053, $ plus shipping.

Throughout history there are incidents and events that are forgotten or overlooked by time. Jim Limber Davis is one such story that few people would recognize. There are ample primary sources to support his account with the Davis family, but many politically correct historians say he is only a legend.

Rickey Pittman, author of Jim Limber Davis, A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House, weaves the tale about this young boy who was a member of the Davis family until the Union army removed Jim by force from his loved ones. Due to the fact that the author takes liberty to add dialogue to this story, the publication is considered a historical fiction; yet, the story line is completely factual. Details such as the President Davis registering Jim as a free black child and becoming Jim’s legal guardian can be proven.

Mr. Pittman allows the chronicle of Jim Limber Davis’s story to come to life for the reader. The story is captivating and informative. The book also contains detailed pictures by Judith Hierstein to help its young audience visualize what the words are portraying. One such illustration is of the First Lady, Varina Davis, reading a night time story to her biological children and Jim. Even though this book is primarily for elementary aged children, any aged reader would find the story fascinating.

Mr. Pittman ends the book with an Epilogue to Parents by stating, “Jim Limber Davis’s disappearance remains one of the great mysteries of the War Between the States. The Davis family searched for Jim for many years, but they never found him. Many scholars and historians have continued the search, but they have failed to discover the fate of Jim Limber, a black orphan in the Confederate White House.” Even though Jim’s life may have been left out of history books, he should never be forgotten. Jim Limber Davis, A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House keeps his memory alive in an informative yet fun way.

Written by Cassie A. Barrow

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Non-fiction, notes, maps, pictures, bibliography, 314 pp., 2006. Pelican Publishing Company, 1000 Burmaster St., Gretna, LA 70053-2246. $24.95 plus shipping and handling.

Many people question the events surrounding the lost Confederate battle order 191. There are speculations as to how such an important order was lost or if the knowledge of its contents changed the future. Capt. Donald R. Jermann explores the details and facts pertaining to this event in Antietam, The Lost Order.

Capt. Jermann states at the beginning of chapter one, “In order to understand the events in Maryland in mid-September 1862, it is necessary to have some understanding of the nature of the war in America at that time.” By detailing the many differences and similarities of the two armies in play, he sets the stage for the reader. He covers many topics, such as different tactics used, who was an alumnus of West Point, communications available, transportation of supplies and troops, intelligence, etc. The reader is able to visualize the players of this saga, and determine their strengths and weaknesses.

Once this is achieved, Capt. Jermann then begins the story on Tuesday, September 9, 1862. He exposes the reader to the struggle between General McClellan, a West Point graduate, and President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Lincoln’s and Stanton’s main concern was that the Confederacy would attack Washington; therefore, they prevented many of McClellan’s plans and ultimately did not give him the support to lead the Army of the Potomac effectively. This struggle of power would play a part in this unfolding tale.

Capt. Jermann gives his accounts of the individuals leading the Confederate army, yet the whole of this book is more from the Union perspective. This aspect does not take away from the drama, but allows the reader to gain an insight that will offer conclusions in the end.

Special Order 191 was conceived on September 9, 1862 between General Robert E. Lee and General Jonathon “Stonewall” Jackson. The purpose of the order was the capture of the garrisons at Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry. Capt. Jermann states “Like other Lee-Jackson plans that resulted in resounding successes, its success was premised on the calculated stupidity of their opponents.” These opponents were General McClellan and Colonel Miles. Capt. Jermann states, “The plan contained in Special Order 191 violated just about every maximum of warfare. All in all, Lee must have considered that his opponents were incredibly stupid or that one Confederate was worth two Union soldiers, or a combination of the two.”

Capt. Jermann details the events from the conception of the order until it was found and given to McClellan on September 13, 1862. The information is very concise. Actual orders and correspondence help to tell the story. Maps help the reader to see the troop movement and understand the terrain. This allows the reader to understand where everyone is, and why, when the order is found.

When McClellan read the order, he stated “Here is a paper with which if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee, I will be willing to go home.” Capt. Jermann responds, “He couldn’t and didn’t.” Time was of the essence for the McClellan to be able to use the information given to him; yet, Capt. Jermann points out that military strategy is not as simple as “Charge!”

By detailing the events that come next, Capt. Jermann allows the reader inside the developing plan. From September 13 to September 17, 1862, troop movements of both armies are recorded for the reader. The players are preparing for the climax of the saga – Antietam. “This date was to have the dubious distinction of being the bloodiest day on the North American continent – and this includes the events on September 11, 2001,” per Capt. Jermann. In a single day, the Union casualties were 12,469, about 14% of the men present, and the Confederate casualties were estimated to be around 11,000, a staggering 31%. Yet, McClellan failed to destroy the Confederate army before it reunited.

Due to the disgrace, a commission to investigate the events and people was formed by Secretary of War Stanton. Four officers were place under arrest until the investigation was complete and the responsibility of the failure placed on someone. The four officers were General White, Colonels Ford, D’Utassy and Trimble. Capt. Jermann uses actually testimonies to allow the reader to form his or her own opinion of the situation about whose fault it was. He also looks at other participants and their contributions, or lack thereof.

Capt. Jermann explores if having Special Order 191 made a difference or not and who lost the order. Many “what ifs” are explored and tested by using facts and details of the day. Although we may never know unequivocally who lost the order or answers to other questions, Antietam, the Lost Order allows the reader to explore many possibilities and ideas.

By reading the official orders and correspondence of the parties in this drama, the validity of the situation is seen through the eyes of the participants, not of an author almost 150 years later. This fast-paced book is a wonderful reference tool for either the players who held a part in the play or the events that transpired before and after.

Review Written by Cassie A. Barrow


Non-fiction, illustrated, maps, notes, bibliography, index, 371 pp., 2008. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640, $55 plus shipping.

For genealogists, ancestors become more than a name on a family tree, but an individual who lived with ideas and dreams, someone who helped to create the individual researching his/ her past. To find a book that describes what your Confederate ancestor endured while serving for his country is always exhilarating. The Fourth Louisiana Battalion in the Civil War, a History and Roster is one such book that can give a glimpse into the activity of this particular battalion from Louisiana’s secession to the final surrender at Gainesville, Alabama. Yet, the account does not just chronicle the movements of the 4th Louisiana Battalion, but this book goes into great detail to record all of the activities during the battle.
The authors utilize primary sources whenever possible to help narrate the saga. Letters, journals, newspaper articles, and other correspondence are used tirelessly. This section of the manuscript offers the reader an easy but informative examination of what took place before, during and after the battle. The siege at Vicksburg, the Battle of Chickamauga, the Atlanta Campaign, and other significant battles are explored within the history section.

At the conclusion of each chapter, an “Order of Battle” is listed. In a quick glance, the reader can ascertain who was in charge of the Union and Confederate forces, and what corps, brigade or division was involved. Maps and pictures are also utilized to help the reader to visualize the actual movement of a certain battle, or its devastation to an area. Many tools are employed to simplify the complexity of the unfolding battle.

The second section of the book is a biographical register including commanding officers, staff, color bearers, and soldiers who served the battalion. “The biographical register for the citizen soldiers of the Fourth Louisiana Battalion Infantry has been designed to provide an accurate record of each soldiers’ Confederate military service, pensions and land warrant applications, veterans’ census, civilian life, spouses, children, and death and burial information. The information on some of the men is far from complete.”

The Fourth Louisiana Battalion in the Civil War is a worthy addition to those interested in the history of the men from Louisiana who served. This book is a must for all genealogy libraries and collections. It is an invaluable research tool for those in search of their ancestors’ legacy.

Review Written by: Cassie A. Barrow

Sunday, May 3, 2009


“The Last Confederate General: John C. Vaughn and his East Tennessee Cavalry” by Larry Gordon

This was a very unique read from several angles and the ways it hits you, from first impression to the final page it is also unique. First I was drawn to the book by its simple and elegant cover, but upon opening it up for a glance the small type, a lot of pages and maps, it made me wonder what I was getting into.

I started the book and was surprised that I was engrossed enough not to have noticed three hours had elapse. I for one want and like stories that flow and while I am a historian, in my pleasure reading I do not want a ton of statistics thrown at me. It is supposed to be fun right?

Larry Gordon seemed to have nailed both recreational reading and historically accurate statistics in one read. For me the story flowed well and I found I could keep the story and go back later to get the statistics. It was written so that the main story was not broken or bogged down with the later. It was very simple to navigate and with the titles and topics clearly defined it was unbelievably easy to go back and study the material from an educational stand point.

The book drew me in because not only was it a fascinating story of courage, determination and self worth, but it spoke of dignity , sacrifice, love and hope as well. It tells the personal story of someone who we all aspire to be in terms of standing for what we believe and have the convictions to carry on even when it is not the popular choice.

From John C. Vaughn’s ideas of adventure when young, to his actual adventures in Mexico and California the story does not disappoint. You can see the transformation yourself in this story as the youth turns to adulthood and a very hard and rough time during combat and banishment in the later years.

Truly the Forest Gump of the Civil War John C. Vaughn was indeed everywhere and had a hand it seems in almost everything. “The Last Confederate General: John C. Vaughn and his East Tennessee Cavalry” is a fine read for anyone: Action, adventure, love, drama, war and perseverance. What more can you ask for in a book. Five stars for Larry Gordon for a job well done.

Craig Anderson
Our History Project

To hear an interview with Larry Gordon on “The Last Confederate General: John C. Vaughn and his East Tennessee Cavalry” please go to . The book interview is on the end of show #1 The Kenan Research Library at the Atlanta History Center. It can also be found on any popular pod-hosting sites such as iTunes, Zune Marketplace, Twitter, Podbean and more.