Book Chat
"Harvard's Civil War:
The History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment"
Richard E. Miller

This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 11/09/08 and covered Chapters 9 & 10

11/9/2008 9:05 pm (et) 20thMass: Welcome to to tonight's book chat. We will be discussing Chapters 9 and 10 of Richard Miller's book chat Harvard's Civil War.

11/9/2008 9:06 pm (et) shapbruin: Does anyone have any thoughts on Don Troiani's painting "Fire on Caroline St" which is on the cover of the book?

11/9/2008 9:07 pm (et) 20thMass: I felt bad for Colonel Lee. Poor guy couldn't take it anymore.

11/9/2008 9:08 pm (et) mobile_96: Excellent painting, reflects the description of the fighting in this book.

11/9/2008 9:08 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The painting looks accurate according to Miller's description.

11/9/2008 9:08 pm (et) mobile_96: IMHO

11/9/2008 9:08 pm (et) shapbruin: I've always had an issue with Troiani's work, and this one is no exception

11/9/2008 9:09 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: What issue.

11/9/2008 9:09 pm (et) shapbruin: He NEVER shows any blood. Totally sterile, and thus, in my opinion, totally unrealistic.

11/9/2008 9:10 pm (et) shapbruin: His reputation is built on his dedication to realism, and yet somehow paintings of battle without blood, gore, and trauma still meet that criteria.

11/9/2008 9:10 pm (et) shapbruin: I understand people don't want art that looks like that, but he can't have it both ways.

11/9/2008 9:10 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Never noticed that, but, come to think of it, a lot of civil war art shows no blood.

11/9/2008 9:10 pm (et) 4eyes: Never noticed that sharp.

11/9/2008 9:11 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Am I correct - Norman Hall is the same guy at Fort Sumter in "Allegience".

11/9/2008 9:11 pm (et) shapbruin: LF, you are absolutely right, (though Mort Kunstler does sometimes), which begs the question, should this stuff be painted at all if we can't be faithful to what actually happened?

11/9/2008 9:12 pm (et) shapbruin: LF, you're also right about Norman Hall.

11/9/2008 9:12 pm (et) 20thMass: Yes that is the same Hall. Very underrated brigade commander.

11/9/2008 9:13 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Never made it to Brig. Gen.

11/9/2008 9:13 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The book said he was from the 7th Mich. How'd he get there? I don't remember if that company was in the former book.

11/9/2008 9:13 pm (et) shapbruin: If you read what happened at Fredericksburg in the words of Miller, Abbott, and Holmes, it's pretty clear that Troiani is missing something very important.

11/9/2008 9:14 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Hall should have been promoted.

11/9/2008 9:15 pm (et) shapbruin: Sorry, the painting "Fire On Caroline St" on the cover of the book, depicts the 20th charging through Fredericksburg.

11/9/2008 9:15 pm (et) shapbruin: Sorry for the confusion.

11/9/2008 9:16 pm (et) 20thMass: The street fight was horrific and bloody. Dead and wounded men everywhere.

11/9/2008 9:17 pm (et) mobile_96: Hall was sent to Fort Moultrie in '59. would have been Regular Army at that time.

11/9/2008 9:17 pm (et) Babs: Book says Hall came from the regular army. Maybe he was still a "regular" at Sumter.

11/9/2008 9:17 pm (et) Babs: Yeah, what Mobile said.

11/9/2008 9:18 pm (et) 20thMass: Men being shot at from all sides and out in the middle of the street like it was a shooting gallery.

11/9/2008 9:19 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I have a question re regular army vs volunteers. somewhere in this week's reading, I think I read where the volunteers were preferred for a certain task over regulars. Did the army feel they were more expendable? What was the difference after they became "veterans".

11/9/2008 9:19 pm (et) shapbruin: Difficult too, in that the men weren't trained for that sort of fighting. First they launched the first amphibious assault under fire in US history, then get in a street fight.

11/9/2008 9:20 pm (et) shapbruin: oooh, LF, that's a really good question.

11/9/2008 9:20 pm (et) 20thMass: Volunteers joined and knew there would be fighting while for regulars it was more of a paycheck.

11/9/2008 9:20 pm (et) mobile_96: Officers, or men in the ranks?

11/9/2008 9:21 pm (et) 20thMass: Both

11/9/2008 9:21 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Both, I guess, but certainly the ranks.

11/9/2008 9:21 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Were the volunteers paid less?

11/9/2008 9:21 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Why did they stay in formation? Inexperience in street fighting?

11/9/2008 9:22 pm (et) 20thMass: Inexperience.

11/9/2008 9:22 pm (et) shapbruin: Pvt, yup, thought some men did split off to clear houses and fire pits.

11/9/2008 9:22 pm (et) mobile_96: Miles, correct, American armies had no experience in urban fighting.

11/9/2008 9:22 pm (et) shapbruin: Holmes wrote about Abbott leading one platoon right down the middle of the road, having nearly everyone get shot down, and go back to get another platoon.

11/9/2008 9:23 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The book said they hadn't yet developed a strategy for urban fighting. Shame they didn't have one by Gettysburg.

11/9/2008 9:23 pm (et) 20thMass: I believe they were ordered to go house to house but Macy changed the orders. We now know house to house is the way to do it.

11/9/2008 9:23 pm (et) 20thMass: They did go house to house eventually.

11/9/2008 9:24 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Communication was always a problem.

11/9/2008 9:24 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: They certainly went through the town quickly enough when it came to looting.

11/9/2008 9:25 pm (et) shapbruin: LF, that's pretty hard on them. The same houses they trashed had sheltered men who had killed dozens of their comrades.

11/9/2008 9:26 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I know some of you didn't care for Gods and Generals, but I thought they did a fair job showing some of the townspeople defending their property.

11/9/2008 9:26 pm (et) shapbruin: It's a really difficult issue for me to cast judgment upon.

11/9/2008 9:27 pm (et) shapbruin: Not to mention that Miller doesn't describe men of the 20th participating in the destruction, just burying their dead.

11/9/2008 9:27 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Yeah, I know, but people owned those houses and possessions that had no part in the battle and probably fled from both armies.

11/9/2008 9:28 pm (et) shapbruin: That's a fair and valid point. I think each case of vandalism would need to be evaluated separately, as I don't think too many men of the 20th were involved.

11/9/2008 9:28 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The 20th did participate in the looting. The book describes some of them sending items home.

11/9/2008 9:29 pm (et) shapbruin: But again, not the entire regiment.

11/9/2008 9:29 pm (et) 20thMass: Mark, I believe Abbott took part as did other men. Ropes states that he did not.

11/9/2008 9:29 pm (et) shapbruin: Miller says he did too, hang on, lemme grab something.

11/9/2008 9:30 pm (et) shapbruin: Again, though, remember what he went through. Revenge was a recurring theme for this regiment, no question about that.

11/9/2008 9:30 pm (et) 40 yards: All it take is a few and the whole unit get tarred with the same brush.

11/9/2008 9:31 pm (et) 20thMass: I believe this was the same brigade they faced at Ball's Bluff.

11/9/2008 9:31 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Yes, it was, and that may have had a lot to do with it.

11/9/2008 9:33 pm (et) shapbruin: Neither Abbott nor Holmes refer to looting at all in their letters home.

11/9/2008 9:33 pm (et) 4eyes: The rebs tore apart and ate everything and burned everything at Warrington 4 months earlier.

11/9/2008 9:33 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The author does a good job of describing the attempt to reach the base of Marye's heights.

11/9/2008 9:34 pm (et) shapbruin: Coly, I think I need to add this issue into my lecture.

11/9/2008 9:35 pm (et) 20thMass: This would make a good topic.

11/9/2008 9:36 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Speaking of letters home, shap, does anyone think the men were truthful in describing their performance in the battle(s) or were their accounts inflated?

11/9/2008 9:37 pm (et) shapbruin: Abbott referred to assault as "Nothing but murder"

11/9/2008 9:37 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: That's true. I wasn't thinking of Abbott.

11/9/2008 9:38 pm (et) Babs: Linc, I doubt they were completely accurate. They probably want to spare their parents some details.

11/9/2008 9:38 pm (et) shapbruin: LF, most of what Abbott and Holmes wrote home was usually quite short, sometimes terse. Rarely anything self-congratulatory.

11/9/2008 9:38 pm (et) mobile_96: Most men probably wrote home what they saw.

11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) shapbruin: I agree with Babs. If anything, actual battlefield performance was understated if anything.

11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) shapbruin: Any accounts written after the war are a different story (ie Josh Chamberlain).

11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: OK, good points.

11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) shapbruin: The 20th was lucky to have so many letter-writers

11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) 20thMass: Abbott lost his good friend Leander Alley on Marye's Heights and was torn up about it. He said he felt the same as he did when he lost his brother.

11/9/2008 9:40 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: It took a lot of nerve to go out, find him, and bring his body back.

11/9/2008 9:41 pm (et) shapbruin: I liked Miller's point about trying to reclaim something out of such a disaster. Poignant.

11/9/2008 9:44 pm (et) 20thMass: The casualty rate for the 20th was extremely high at Fredericksburg. In fact it had the highest casualty rate of any regiment at the battle.

11/9/2008 9:44 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I don't see how they had a chance crossing that field. Reminds me of Pickett's charge. Have any of you been to Fredericksburg?

11/9/2008 9:44 pm (et) 20thMass: It was also the 5th or 6th highest casualty rate of any regiment during a battle during the Civil War.

11/9/2008 9:45 pm (et) 4eyes: Wasn't there a company of the 20th raised from Cape Cod?

11/9/2008 9:45 pm (et) 20thMass: I company was made up of men from Cape Cod and Nantucket.

11/9/2008 9:46 pm (et) shapbruin: After such destruction, imagine having to storm the exact same field 5 months later.

11/9/2008 9:46 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: You're probably thinking of the same company, 4eyes.

11/9/2008 9:46 pm (et) 4eyes: Irish guys.

11/9/2008 9:46 pm (et) 20thMass: I have been to Fredericksburg but Marye's Heights is a residential neighborhood now.

11/9/2008 9:47 pm (et) shapbruin: Coly, are you serious!!??

11/9/2008 9:47 pm (et) 20thMass: About Marye's Heights?

11/9/2008 9:48 pm (et) shapbruin: Yeah! That's terrible.

 11/9/2008 9:48 pm (et) cskuzel: What was once the Fairgrounds, or the field where the slaughter occurred, is a residential neighborhood now.

 11/9/2008 9:49 pm (et) cskuzel: Marye's Heights and the Sunken Road has been preserved by the park service.

11/9/2008 9:49 pm (et) 20thMass: The Innes house is still there with bullet holes from the battle still visible and the area where the Confederates has been rebuilt.

11/9/2008 9:50 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I've been to Fredericksburg, but don't remember going up to Marye's Heights, stopped at the stone wall.

11/9/2008 9:50 pm (et) 20thMass: The Lacy House is also there across the Rappahannock river.

11/9/2008 9:50 pm (et) shapbruin: Wonder what the level of awareness amongst the residents of that neighborhood is about the land they own.

 11/9/2008 9:51 pm (et) cskuzel: I wondered the same thing when visiting.

11/9/2008 9:52 pm (et) 20thMass: When I walked Caroline and Hawke streets taking pictures I wondered if people knew why I was taking pictures and if they did if they would be upset about it.

11/9/2008 9:52 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Is the Lacy House the same as Chatham Manor? If so, that's were RE Lee courted his wife?

 11/9/2008 9:52 pm (et) cskuzel: Yes, Chatham is the Lacy House.

11/9/2008 9:53 pm (et) 20thMass: The Nantucket Experience which was co written by Richard Miller.

 11/9/2008 9:54 pm (et) cskuzel: I asked the question about Lee courting his wife while at Chatham ... that may be a myth, as they can't find proof through that Lee courted his wife there

11/9/2008 9:54 pm (et) mobile_96: Coly, more than likely they knew exactly what you were doing, and why

 11/9/2008 9:54 pm (et) cskuzel: Although, they did say it was likely ...

11/9/2008 9:54 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I wish I could go back now that's I've read so much more about the battle. I was a relative newbie to the CW at the time.

11/9/2008 9:56 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The residents of Fredericksburg have probably had so many tourists going through, they can't help but be aware of what happened there. But, can they appreciate it for it's significance?

11/9/2008 9:57 pm (et) 20thMass: If anyone does get to Fredericksburg then you must visit the Lacy House.

11/9/2008 9:57 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Can we move on to the next chapter?

11/9/2008 9:57 pm (et) shapbruin: The United States National Slavery Museum is going to be built there as well.

11/9/2008 9:58 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The Lacy House was closed when we were there, as most historic sites are on Mondays.

11/9/2008 9:58 pm (et) 20thMass: Sure can LF

11/9/2008 9:59 pm (et) mobile_96: Good idea LF

11/9/2008 9:59 pm (et) 20thMass: After Fredericksburg more controversy on who will lead the regiment.

11/9/2008 9:59 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: What do you make of everyone writing all those letters to Andrew. He must have felt like a baby-sitter or a referee.

11/9/2008 10:00 pm (et) shapbruin: LF are you referring to the petition about Lt. Paine?

11/9/2008 10:00 pm (et) Babs: Tough to squeeze each of these major battles into just a chapter each. We have read whole books on each battle.

11/9/2008 10:01 pm (et) 20thMass: Mark, I believe the petition is Chapter11. :)

11/9/2008 10:01 pm (et) mobile_96: Babs, easier when you're trying to deal with only 1 regiment, and not the entire army

11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) shapbruin: Sorry, jumping the gun.

11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) Pvt Miles: I thought the political machinations of some of the "gentlemen" were interesting.

11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) Babs: You are correct Mobile.

11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Not just that, letters of endorsement for appointments or complaints. Just seems as though everyone was trying to lobby for Macy.

11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) mobile_96: Think they were trying to correct an injustice, too bad Andrew didn't consider Abilities, instead of social standings.

11/9/2008 10:03 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: That's what I'm trying to say pvt Miles.

11/9/2008 10:03 pm (et) 20thMass: Dreher was in line for command however he was in no condition too lead and died soon.

11/9/2008 10:04 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I liked how the men tried to clear the field for Macy, then got Revere.

11/9/2008 10:05 pm (et) 20thMass: Mobile, I think Andrew tried to consider abilities.

11/9/2008 10:05 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I'll bet the men never would have accepted Dreher.

11/9/2008 10:05 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Would the men have accepted Dreher if he had been able to assume command?

11/9/2008 10:05 pm (et) mobile_96: Then why holding back Macy.

11/9/2008 10:06 pm (et) 20thMass: Revere was respected but they thought the way he went about taking command of the regiment rubbed them the wrong way.

11/9/2008 10:07 pm (et) 20thMass: With Dreher being a foreigner and against slavery he would had a hard time being respected.

11/9/2008 10:07 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Dreher definitely was a victim of xenophobic attitudes, even though his facial wound, etc hampered him.

11/9/2008 10:08 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Andrew didn't like Macy because of the slave incident (can't remember the name).

11/9/2008 10:08 pm (et) 20thMass: Mobile, Andrew hadn't forgotten the trouble Macy had caused with fugitive slaves about a year earlier.

11/9/2008 10:09 pm (et) 20thMass: LF, whose name?

11/9/2008 10:09 pm (et) mobile_96: True, but...that was a year ago, and Macy had already shown his abilities to lead the regiment.

11/9/2008 10:09 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I wanted to say the fugitive slave incident but had a senior moment.

11/9/2008 10:11 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: By xenophobic attitudes, do you mean class distinction?

11/9/2008 10:12 pm (et) Babs: Aversion to foreigners.

11/9/2008 10:13 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Another interesting thing is that the men loved little Mac and were anti-Lincoln. Ah, thanks, Babs.

11/9/2008 10:15 pm (et) 20thMass: They were hoping McClellan would come back but got Hooker instead. Lincoln would never bring back Little Mac.

11/9/2008 10:15 pm (et) Babs: Mac had two chances already.

11/9/2008 10:16 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: From their position, they couldn't see the bigger picture, I guess.

11/9/2008 10:17 pm (et) 20thMass: The blue bloods of the 20th did not care for Hooker but fresh food and passes to go home changed their mind.

11/9/2008 10:18 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Responding to Pvt Miles comment, it seems like the regiment could fight together, help each other, die together, but the "gentlemen" would always set themselves apart (and over) the others.

11/9/2008 10:18 pm (et) mobile_96: And both were a great incentive to change their minds.

11/9/2008 10:19 pm (et) Babs: Well said, Linc.

11/9/2008 10:20 pm (et) Pvt Miles: LF maybe that would change later.

11/9/2008 10:21 pm (et) 20thMass: These "gentlemen" where young men who were taught this stuff since childhood. It was ingrained in their minds.

11/9/2008 10:22 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Sure hope so, Pvt.

11/9/2008 10:22 pm (et) 20thMass: Colonel Lee and Major Revere had life experience and did not have these prejudices.

11/9/2008 10:22 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Any theory on why the unidentified dead major in the deserted mansion was wearing women's clothing?

11/9/2008 10:23 pm (et) 20thMass: Experimenting :)

11/9/2008 10:25 pm (et) 20thMass: I know alot of soldiers were wearing women's clothing and getting drunk I wonder if he got so drunk he got alcohol poisoning.

11/9/2008 10:27 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Could be, the book doesn't say he was wounded. Goodness knows what he drank.

11/9/2008 10:27 pm (et) 20thMass: The 20th fought at Chancellorsville but did not have the casualties they had in other battles.

11/9/2008 10:27 pm (et) mobile_96: Might have been a heart attack also, remember, some men were running around in women's clothes.

11/9/2008 10:28 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Maybe he had the attack when I looked at himself in the mirror.

11/9/2008 10:29 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: When HE looked at himself. (I'm not quite that old).

11/9/2008 10:31 pm (et) mobile_96: Thought the regiment stayed near Fredericksburg.

11/9/2008 10:32 pm (et) 20thMass: At first it looked like they were going to do the same thing they did in December but fortunately they didn't.

11/9/2008 10:32 pm (et) 20thMass: They did in fact held off an attack by Barksdale brigade.

11/9/2008 10:32 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Boy, I can't imagine being told I have to cross that field again.

11/9/2008 10:35 pm (et) 20thMass: Macy mentions hoping never to fight another battle and just doing provost duty. That tells you it had to be wearing on them.

11/9/2008 10:36 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Up to this point at least, their percentage of deserters is low.

11/9/2008 10:37 pm (et) 20thMass: This was a disciplined regiment.

11/9/2008 10:37 pm (et) mobile_96: Right, but Barksdale was at Fredericksburg, to keep the Left wing from crossing the river and heading for Chancellorsville.

11/9/2008 10:40 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I have a final question. On page 217, the intro to Chapt 10, what is meant by "white gloves and paper collars".

11/9/2008 10:40 pm (et) Harry: Rookies. Band box. FNG's.

11/9/2008 10:42 pm (et) Harry: Usually anyway. Technically, regulation uniforms.

11/9/2008 10:42 pm (et) 20thMass: They were on Provost duty during the winter of 1862-63andI believe they had to be in uniform.

11/9/2008 10:43 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Thanks, Harry. With that answered, I'll sign off, and see you all next week. A great chat tonight, all.

11/9/2008 10:44 pm (et) 20thMass: I believe we will end the chat for this week. Next week we will be discussing Chapter 11which is on Gettysburg.