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25 November 2020


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The Twisted Genius

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow correspondents. I'm taking a day off from my housewrighting to cook a meal for my family and heal the wounds of the trade. It was a serendipitous coincidence when soon after I read Colonel Lang's account of Thanksgiving in the field, I also received a Thanksgiving greeting from RPI referring to Thanksgiving and the Civil War. Here's the pertinent passage.

"While the early history of Thanksgiving in the United States is well known — including the celebration in 1621 of the Pilgrims’ first harvest in the New World, alongside the Native Americans who had taught them survival skills — what is less well known is that Thanksgiving was celebrated only intermittently until the Civil War. In 1863, after several important victories by the Union Army, President Abraham Lincoln established a national precedent that continues today, by proclaiming that the last Thursday in November be set apart for all Americans to celebrate the country’s bounties and blessings. Although President Lincoln originally delineated the observance to be on the last Thursday of November, the date of celebration was changed by Congressional resolution, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in December 1941, to the fourth Thursday in November.

"The remarkable proclamation, which is believed to have been drafted by Secretary of State William Seward, acknowledges the suffering caused by the Civil War. However, it also recognizes “fruitful fields and healthful skies,” the peace preserved with other nations despite internal strife that they might have seen as an invitation to aggression, the progress of industry despite the costs of war, the increase of the population despite the wasted lives on the battlefield, and the expectation, despite the nation’s wounds, of a “large increase of freedom.” In its enumeration of reasons to be grateful amidst turmoil, it is inspirational."

As I commented several years ago, Thanksgiving is a special time for soldiers. It's when we officers don our dress blues, or whites in my time with the 35th Infantry, and man the mess hall chow line to serve the Thanksgiving meal to our troops. I would not be at all surprised if much of our current Thanksgiving emotions and customs are rooted in the experiences of generations of soldiers.

Another note on Civil War soldier towns here in Stafford. We lost a treasure this year in our county. D.P. Newton, founder and curator of the White Oak Civil War Museum passed away after a two year fight with cancer. He was the most knowledgeable gentleman there was concerning the soldier towns of Stafford.


The Twisted Genius

Looks like ole Jeff beat ole Abe to the punch.

"...Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, do issue this, my proclamation, setting apart Thursday, the 18th day of September inst., as a day of prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the great mercies vouchsafed to our people, and more especially for the triumph of our arms at Richmond and Manassas; and I do hereby invite the people of the Confederate States to meet on that day at their respective places of public worship, and to unite in rendering thanks and praise to God for these great mercies, and to implore Him to conduct our country safely through the perils which surround us, to the final attainment of the blessings of peace and security. Given under my hand and the seal of the Confederate States, at Richmond, this fourth day of September, A.D. 1862"

English Outsider

Looking forward to seeing the book published. It will have the feel of the times, and all the right details of the times, which these days is not that common with historical novels. It might be my imagination but I also found in the extract that haunting sense of something lost that should not have been lost, which marks your other writing on the subject.

The extract set me to looking what lessons the European observers took away from that war. The war was the first in which railways played an important part, apart for the Crimean war in which it was found necessary to lay a shortish stretch of railway to the front line to get much needed supplies up. The First World War can properly be called a railway war, so important were lines of various gauges for logistics. Perhaps not so much the Civil war. The Confederate railway lines at least were not best placed. So perhaps the European observers didn't learn that much useful about logistics. Did they learn anything else?

Grubbing around I found one observation about that war that wasn't to do with logistics or ways of using formations. It was a brief observation to the effect that the real driver of the war was a group of Northern industrialists who had great influence on Lincoln and his administration. Does that sound right?



"Death Piled Hard" is available for sale. All three books in the trilogy are available. "Something lost?" With the fall of Virginia's government to alien political control, what was lost is finally and forever lost. the foreign observers were here to judge the chances of confederate survival.

English Outsider

Stupid of me, Colonel. Only saw later that it was part of the trilogy, which I must get. The historical novel sequence I've gone in for has been the O'Brien sequence, which I seem to remember you also like. Though sometimes O'Brien goes gloomy, and for very long periods. Hope you don't.

What was haunting was "Something was lost .." , written a while ago of Picketts Charge, that presaging the eventual losing of the war. Though just what was lost must be difficult to define.



What was lost was the possibility of strictly limited self government to the taste of the governed.


Regarding Roosevelt: He politicked for three years to move Thanksgiving Holiday to the third Thursday in November. But he finally conceded in 1941 and signed the Bill officially making it the fourth Thursday.

And I recall an elementary school teacher telling us 70 or so years ago that a National Thanksgiving Day was established by Congress after the victory at Saratoga in 1777. Must have been the Continental Congress, which is why it did not end up as intermittent for so many years.


"What was lost," and your earlier reply to my lament -- "Watch what happens now as the whole commonwealth of Virginia is subjected to "sensitivity training" by the radicals " things, ineffable things are still being lost.

The geography itself is changing.
My first trip south of Arlington was to take my sons to camp in Gainesville. It was wide open country in the mid-90s; now, bedroom suburbs for DC.
I still enjoy the drive through Culpeper and into Madison County, and when Florida is my destination, Rt. 29 is my route -- not all is lost.

The excerpt you posted is seductive. Can one purchase your trilogy directly from you? I prefer to avoid Amazon.



You can buy them from Barnes and Noble or iUniverse.


Thank you for posting Happy Thanksgiving


Your re-post of “Thanksgiving in the Field” and mention of Rappahannock Station brought to mind my Great-Great Grandfather’s capture at that place after the sacrifice of his regiment in hopeless defense of the bridgehead. He spent the rest of the war in the not-too comfortable confines of Johnson Island Prison. I will have to read your novel some day.

I truly enjoy checking in periodically on your blog since I think you have a unique point of view based upon your professional experience in service of our country. I don’t always concur with the opinions expressed and I have no problem ignoring some of the wilder posts made by some of your regular featured commentators, especially the gentleman who recently accosted me by a direct, ad hominem, and vitriolic email for what I thought was a pretty innocuous comment on my part aimed at his opinion piece. Anyway, I considered it a humorous experience and chalk it up to his wearing his tin hat too close to the microwave.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Better days must lie ahead.





Don't bother It can't be very good. I wrote it. Nevertheless, this book, "Death piled hard." contains an account of Rappahannock Station. Was your great grandfather in one of the Pelican regiments? He must have been an officer if he was sent to Johnson's Island.

Anthony Bell

There was a British Army officer, Lt. Col. Arthur Lyon Fremantle, who fought in Africa and did come to the U.S. in 1863 to observe the American Civil War. He was freelancing. He was so impressed General Robert E. Lee and Lee’s high command that he became a Confederate sympathizer. Fremantle traveled from Texas to northern Virginia observing and recording campaigns. I have his book.

But I like the idea of a French officer as my two biggest heroes are French— St. Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse of Lisieux (I have a 2nd-class and 3rd-class relic of the latter). https://www.ncregister.com/blog/french-soldiers-tell-how-st-therese-helped-and-protected-them-in-world-war-i


Anthony Bell

Fremantle is an interesting man. He said of Lee's infantry that they were "God's finest creatures." He makes an appearance in my novel "The Butcher's Cleaver."



"Death Piled Hard" is entirely my work.



I am uninterested in whether or not you agree with material posted. If some of the guest authors want to fight with you that is their business and yours.

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