This post contains a movie ending spoiler


The other day I decided to take a break from reading Civil War books and watching civil war movies, so I picked an old dark house murder mystery from 1941 to watch over at the Internet Archive figuring that was as possibly far from Civil War history as I could get…  I was wrong.

It was called Murder by Invitation, and was based on a group of relatives trying to get their wealthy, crazy Aunt committed to insane asylum so they could get at her money – all three million dollars.  The Judge deems her sane, and she invites all of her relatives out to her country house (with secret passages and everything else spooky) for the week, and she tells them the money is hidden in the house somewhere and she'll give it to the one of them she likes best at the end of the week…  and they all start dropping like flies and everyone thinks it's crazy Aunt Carrie doing her relatives in for revenge for trying to get her committed.

I think she was crazy because she decides to burn the house down to see who'll run back in for the money… which she had offered one of her guests (but he wasn't a relative) 10,000$ to hide for her.

They catch the murderer, and when she goes to pay the guest for hiding the money, we find out that she was one of the Original Denhams, a "First Family" of Virginia, and her money was all in CONFEDERATE DOLLARS!

WHAT A TWIST!  WHAT A HOOT!  I tell you I never saw that coming.

Aside from the DELIGHTFUL, DELICIOUS ending, I really liked that movie quite a bit.  It was original, suspenseful, funny, well-acted and kept my interest.  I highly recommend watching it if you have an hour to spare.

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Good Book: Civil War Experiences by Henry C. Meyer

There are so many Civil War diaries out there, all different.  I've read a few, and have tried especially to read Mary Boykin Chesnut's Diary from Dixie THREE TIMES now, and never getting very far and having to return it to the library.  I know it's online, but I like the tactile experience of turning pages.  I like the book just fine, but the copy at my library has such small font, and Mary was quite verbose and no matter what volume you read they're all tomes.

Anyway, I check Gutenberg every morning to see what new books have been posted, and this morning I saw another Civil War diary – Civil War Experiences under Bayard, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Custer, Raulston, and Newberry, 1862, 1863, 1864 – and took a look as I always do.  They're usually dull and boring, but not this one.  The content is as full and rich as the title is bone dry.

I was captivated before the end of the first sentence.  I'm not yet on page 5 and I had to start this post as the book is so engaging I just knew I was going to post about it.

It is written in such a delightfully easy conversational tone, I can almost imaging him saying it out-loud – here are some samples:

*"That night I went to my home, at Dobb's Ferry, on the Hudson River, and reported what I had done, intending to leave for Washington the next morning, when I was promised transportation. This interview with my parents was quite unpleasant, as my father was very angry and my mother in great distress. At that time both my father and his friends regarded my action as worse than foolish and almost as bad as though I had done something disreputable. Indeed, as I was afterwards informed, one gentleman remarked, "Well, that is too bad; that boy has gone to the devil, too. 

*"The following morning I bade my parents good-bye, feeling that if I were wounded or crippled I should not care to return home for them to take care of me. Subsequent letters from home, however, removed that feeling."

WOW.  That's some deep sentiment.  And then he speaks of the beginnings of his trip to meet his regiment, and the part inbetween about his filling out his own enlistment papers and the armless man entering the recruiting station were amusing too, and then there was this part about him selling his civilian clothes and the buyer deserting… and we aren't even on page 7 yet and I can't post everything he wrote, but this part about the pickles and ice cream made me chuckle.

*"On landing at Walnut Street wharf I went into the soldiers' refreshment room, maintained by the citizens of Philadelphia, which was open night and day, and at which all soldiers passing through the city were fed free of charge. It was about two o'clock in the morning, very hot, and I was tired and depressed. Hence, when invited to partake of some refreshments, I was unable to do so but contented myself with eating a few pickles."

*"On arriving in Baltimore I walked to another part of the city to take the train for Washington. Meanwhile I wanted some breakfast. Going into a place which I supposed was a restaurant, I found that the only thing they could offer me was ice-cream. I thereupon ate some, and soon after took the train for Washington. In a few moments the Philadelphia pickles, the hot night, and the Baltimore ice-cream produced most severe cramps, and I was in a very distressed state of mind, fearing that I would never be able to reach the front, but would have to submit to the mortification of being returned home."

And I just know there's a joke in there about keeping your nose to the grindstone somewhere….

*"On this raid the regiment destroyed considerable property, and many of the men carried away all sorts of things for which they had no use. Indeed, I heard Colonel Kilpatrick laughingly remark that one fellow, in his zeal to have something, actually had a grindstone on his saddle in front of him. After carrying it about a mile he concluded, however, that he had no further use for it, and dropped it in the road."

That's most of chapter one, and if I haven't sufficiently piqued your interest nothing in chapter two will.

*Book excerpts taken from Project Gutenberg's copy of Civil War Experiences under Bayard, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Custer, Raulston, and Newberry, 1862, 1863, 1864 by Henry C. Meyer.

If you enjoyed this book, or just like Civil War diaries I highly recommend Alf Burnett's Incidents of the War: Humorous, Pathetic, and Descriptive; and I do have a particular favorite, but I am saving that one for a post of its own, so I'll mention Sarah Dawson Morgan's A Confederate Girl's Diary instead.

And I am going back to reading chapter two now…

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Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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John Hunt Morgan of the Confederate Cavalry Surrenders

I don't want to get to into the history of the automobile, because, if truth be told, I just don't care.  But, I do know cars were not around during the Civil War.  Those soldiers had to walk or ride horse-back everywhere they wanted to go.

I am pretty dependent on my car, I couldn't image how I would have made it across the country the three times that I have if I had to take the train, walk or ride a stagecoach or on horse-back.  I can't imagine what it must have been like to not even KNOW OF cars.

I did have a horse when I was in my teens though.  I can imagine what it might have been like to ride him everywhere.  But entering into battle on his back?  I admit, that is beyond my imagination.  I once rode a rather high-spirited Palomino that took off with me at a full-on gallop of five thousand miles an hour, I can not even begin to conjure in my mind what it would have been like to have been riding that fast with the enemy charging me with bullets and swords flying every which way.

I read something this morning (on wikipedia) about how if you were in the Cavalry you had to furnish your own horse and if it became lame or was killed you had 60 days to go home and get another and return to camp, or you'd be "demoted" to the infantry.  You had better have hoped that you could even make it home and once you got there that your home and stables weren't pillaged in your absence… and then that you could make it back to camp without being captured or killed.

And what it must have taken to feed, saddle, bridle and shoe all of those horses, not to mention all of the mucking out that must have been done.

But it's that unfortunate ride on that Palomino that gives me my present day appreciation for what it took to be in the Cavalry.

Which brings me back to my point, The Confederate Cavalry.

It was on this day, July 26, 1863, that John Hunt Morgan surrendered to Union troops after his unsuccessful foray into Southern Indiana and Ohio, known as "Morgan's Raid".

I really have to make a better habit of bookmarking things, I know I just saw a movie or a video recently about Morgan's ride into Ohio, I really wish I could recall what it was so I could share it with you.  It's maddening because I can vividly see a particular scene where "they" are looking at the map of the proposed ride…

And I know I either read or saw something about his escape from prison after being captured.  I am not helpful at all, I know….

I do recall a great juvenile fiction series book I read by Byron A. Dunn called Raiding with Morgan.  It was a very enjoyable read and I recommend it highly.

I'll let you know when I find that video clip….

Photo of Morgan's Raid map used withOUT permission from

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Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 11:04 pm  Comments (1)  
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5 short Civil War videos

I have not come across much worth posting recently.  I've been reading lots lately, and one of these days I'll post a reading list…

Until then, watch some videos at the Internet Archive.

Civil War Overview:

Encyclopaedia Britannica Films – The Civil War (15 minutes)

A House Divided (30 minutes)

Southern Life Overview:

The Plantation System in Southern Life (10 minutes)

Life in Old Louisiana (10 minutes)

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

Nor Long Remember (15 minutes)

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Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Civil War Movies (at the Internet Archive)

I think I found them all now…

Short Films:

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp.  (Sing along w/no sound.)
Plantation System in Southern Life.
Life in Old Louisiana.
Nor Long Remember.
A House Divided.
The Civil War.
Blue and Gray at the 75th Anniversary of Great Battle.
One Step Beyond: The Executioner.

Silent Films:

The General.
Birth of a Nation.

Feature Films:

Hearts in Bondage.

Kansas Pacific.

Arizona Kid.

Southward, Ho!.

Drums in the Deep South.


Abraham Lincoln.

Santa Fe Trail.

Hoosier Schoolmaster.

It’s a Joke Son.

Judge Priest.

Curse of Demon Mountain.


Renegade Girl.

Colonel Effingham’s Raid.

The Bushwackers.

Young Bill Hickok.


American Empire.

Abilene Town.

Honorable mentions:

I’m from Arkansas.

The Klansman.

The Proud and the Damned.
The Southerner.
Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 2:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond (The Executioner)

Out of three seasons and ninety-eight episodes, only one episode of ONE STEP BEYOND was made about the Civil War.

"The Executioner", a Confederate soldier and his dog get captured by Union troops and tried for alleged war crimes by a despicable despot of a Union General.  It's One Step Beyond, so you know it has a twist

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Published in: on July 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Table of Contents alone makes for OUTSTANDING reading

A Pictorial History of the War for the Union, Volume 2, by Ann Sophia Stephens has an amazing FOUR PAGE table of contents which alone is well worth reading.

Volume One is well-written, easy to read and interesting, but the Table of Contents from Volume Two is really quite REMARKABLE….

Four years worth of Civil War history boiled down to four pages, remarkable – I say.

I am so impressed with this volume that I am going to let the fact that she dedicated the book to that so-and-so General William T. Sherman slide…

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Vicksburg, Mississippi

You've heard of Mississippi.  Well, I have a boy cat and I call him Mister Ssippi, because he sure ain't no "Missis".

Everyone, myself included, goes on about Gettysburg every Fourth of July.  However, I don't feel that Gettysburg could possibly have had as deep or profound effect on the residents of the Cumberland Valley as did what the people of Vicksburg had to endure being surrounded and cut off the way they were for such an extended amount of time.

So, today I want to give a nod to Vicksburg because what the citizens there went through deserves recognition.  If you want to know more about it there are tons of pages out there about the Siege of Vicksburg.

I found an incredible book of photos from 1902 called VICKSBURG VISTAS chock full of lovely B&W photos.  Unfortunately, you can't rotate the pages so you have to either hold your computer sideways or turn your head to an awkward angle.

If you don't feel like doing that, here's one (of nine) panorama(s) from the Library of Congress.  It has no restrictions on publication, but the copyright claimant is listed as the Haines Photo Company of Conneaut, Ohio.

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Published in: on July 3, 2010 at 4:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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You Are There: The Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863

You Are There was a 1940s radio program that “blended history with modern technology, taking an entire network newsroom on a figurative time warp each week reporting the great events of the past“.

This episode was first broadcast in February of 1948, but imagine that radio existed in 1863.

This is what you would have heard as you were sitting in the front parlor with friends and family, listening in awe to a first person play by play account of the battle action at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

Sources: wikipedia, internet archive.

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Published in: on July 2, 2010 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Possible Shameful Family Secret

Quite possibly, my Great, Great, Great, (Great?) Grandfather was a Sergeant in Pennsylvania’s 116th Infantry Brigade…. until he (allegedly) deserted at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.  147 years ago, TODAY!

Well, at least a man with the same first and last name and from the same place as my Grandfather’s Father and Grandfather hailed from was… But William has always been a popular name.

At about 26 years of age, William joined the Union Army on July 7, 1862 as a Sergeant in Company H, and transferred to Company D on January 26, 1863.  Records show that he deserted somewhere near Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 – the first day of fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg.  He was summarily demoted to Private for his actions, and dishonorably discharged by Special Order No. 182 by the Army of the Potomac on December 12, 1863.

But how do they know exactly that he ran?  Did someone see him high-tailing it?  How do they know he didn’t get his head blown apart by a Minie Ball thereby becoming unrecognizable and was laying dead on the battlefield somewhere?  Civil War soldiers didn’t wear dog-tags, so how did they know who was who?

Ok, given what I know of my family history – he probably did desert.  And I bet that’s how that side of my family ended up in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, as the mountains of Monroe county are chock-full of hills, dales, valleys and ridges in which to hide-out.  Couple that with an article I read not too long ago about my hometown being a haven for deserters…

The local Historical Society posted an article about a dedication in May 2009 of some Civil War Canons in our town and had this to say:

I would say that Monroe and Pike are the only counties in the entire Union, north of the Mason-Dixon Line that don’t have memorials,” Werkhiser said.  The reason was simply politics.  This was a haven for deserters.  In 1863 Lincoln went to the draft and you had people coming here.  There was a really strong anti-war sentiment.

I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for him, deserter or not…  So, who am I to judge?

I often wonder when I look at photos of the Gettysburg dead if one of the dead, bloated and headless soldiers lying on the field isn’t him.  Then, I have this fantasy that he was captured by the Confederates and went in the opposite direction, and headed South.  There was a soldier with the same name in an Alabama Regiment.  I like to think he turned sides since my heart is Bonnie Blue, but given how defective and dysfunctional my family is it’s a fair bet he skipped out.

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

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Published in: on July 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment