Crisis in Pensacola

m2My latest profile in the Civil War News Faces of War series is Confederate navy officer William Thomas Morrill. An excerpt from his story:

By early January 1861, mechanic W. Thomas Morrill, pictured here, and other employees of the Pensacola Navy Yard in Florida were caught in a humanitarian crisis. They had not been paid for two months—the result of civil unrest that disrupted the flow of money and materials to military outposts in the Southern states as the country drifted towards civil war. Hunger became a real and present danger.

Morrill had a wife and two infants to feed. Many of his fellow workers also had families to support and no relief was in sight. On January 8, the workers rallied at a mass meeting at a Masonic hall in Warrington, a village outside the walls of the Yard.

They appointed a committee who promptly met with the commander of the Yard and requested that provisions be issued in lieu of pay. The sympathetic officer in charge, Cmdr. James Armstrong, acted promptly to relieve their sufferings. Flour, sugar, rice, coffee and butter were distributed on January 10—the same day Florida legislators voted by a wide margin to secede from the Union.

Read the rest on Medium.

 

Captured on Patrol

beville-collageFrancis Bartow Beville of Savannah, Ga., suffered a severe wound that ended his combat service at the First Battle of Manassas. Still willing to serve, he joined the Confederate navy and wound up enduring great privations as a prisoner of war. His story was just published in the Civil War News. An excerpt:

On July 21, 1861, during the First Battle of Manassas, Bartow was shot and killed as he led a desperate charge against a Union battery. Casualties in the Eighth were heavy, and they included Beville. A minié bullet struck him on the right side of the chest below the collarbone. His comrades carried him from the battlefield and a surgeon operated to cut the Yankee lead out of his back. Beville recuperated from his wound in a private home in Richmond. Nerve and muscular damage limited motion to his right arm and hand, and he received a discharge from the army before the end of the year.[i]

No longer able to perform in combat but still eager to serve, Beville found a way back into the military and a return to his Savannah home: In early 1862 he received an appointment to the navy as a midshipman and was assigned to the formidable casemate ironclad Atlanta. Here he received basic training on active duty—the Confederacy would later establish a naval school ship in Richmond for this purpose.

Meanwhile, the Union blockade choked the life out of the Southern economy and slowed the flow of supplies to the Confederacy military. Savannah was no exception. Desertions by soldiers and sailors increased, including one trio that escaped into the marshes below Savannah on or about March 14.

Read his full story.

Surviving Andersonville

landonThe story of James William Landon of the 5th Iowa Cavalry is the subject of my latest New York Times Disunion post. An excerpt:

“During the daytime we hid in the brush and swamps and during the night we would travel,” Landon explained. “About five days of this kind of retreat elapsed when I was wounded by a rebel. We were crossing over a ridge pursued by four men in rebel uniform. They were anyhow four hundred yards behind when one of them fired the shot that wounded me. Though we knew that the enemy was after us we did not know that they were so close until the report of the gun was heard.”

Read the full story.

Reflections on the New York Times’s “Disunion” Blog

Disunion will come to an end in 2015, according to Clay Risen, who edits the popular New York Times blog. This is perhaps the biggest news item announced during the panel held Friday afternoon at the Southern Historical Society’s 2014 meeting in Atlanta, Ga.

IMG_4382Organized by Blain Roberts of the California State University at Fresno, the panel included her husband, Ethan J. Kytle, also of the California State University at Fresno, Clay Risen, Staff Editor, Op-Ed, New York TimesSusan Schulten of the University of Denver, Kate Masur of Northwestern University and me.

The two-hour discussion started with brief presentations by the panelists, followed by a Q and A from the live audience and twitter (#sha2014). Subjects ranged from basic questions about the blog and thoughts about how scholars can benefit by this format to a strong plea by historian Masur for Disunion to continue on and examine the Reconstruction era.

Megan Kate Nelson, writer, historian, culture critic, and author of the blog Historista, tweeted the panel. She accurately summarized my role in Disunion:

Not tweeted but mentioned in my opening remarks is the importance and relevance of the portrait photographs of the Civil War period to the country’s visual record.

10626295_966761333352034_7770915906265575458_oI thoroughly enjoyed my visit and was honored to participate. My stay in Atlanta was brief but active. One of my favorite moments was catching up with Bob Brugger of The Johns Hopkins University Press. Bob is my editor, and he was manning the Hopkins Press booth in the exhibitor area.

I will miss Disunion after it wraps up next year, and am very curious to know how Risen will bring it to a conclusion.

Book Talk at the Atlanta Cyclorama

Derek Williams and MomThoroughly enjoyed visiting Atlanta Cyclorama yesterday to talk about African American Faces of the Civil War! I could not have felt more welcomed at the home of the historic painting, and am deeply in debt to everyone involved for their support and enthusiasm.

Anthony Knight made all the arrangements, and kept me up to date on developments and details prior to my arrival. He was the perfect host. Monica Prothro made sure the facilities were set up. Beverly Williams was at her post at the bookstore. Derek Williams (pictured here with my mom, Carol, who came along to see her son speak about the book for the first time) gave us an abbreviated but highly engaging tour of the painting.

Mom and I were spoiled: The event included a table of wonderful hors d’oeuvres from Epicurean Drama Events.

My biggest thanks for all who attended, including Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs Director Camille Russell Love, Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation author Michael N. Henderson, Michael K. Shaffer of the Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center, James A. Yancey Jr. of the Georgia Civil War Commission, Metro Atlanta chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society President Emma Davis Hamilton, Executive Director Rob Williams of The Sable Arm in Acts of Valor, and my Marla San Miguel (we were at the University of Georgia together, and it was great to catch up!).

Book sales were strong, and I am thankful for everyone’s support. Among the books I signed was one for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

It was a wonderful day, and I only wished my stay could have been longer.