Posted by: ushistoryfiles | September 18, 2013

Battle of Chickamauga

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My friend has come out with a new book on the Battle of Chickamauga.  I have not read it yet, but having worked alongside Lee for nearly 5 years I can predict an informative and enjoyable read.

In addition, today also marks the beginning of ranger guided tours in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga.  More information can be found here.  If you are in or near the area you might want to check them out.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | September 11, 2013

Book Review – Counting Coup

counting coup


This week I have another western to review.  Counting Coup: The Odyssey of Captain Tom Adams by Bob Stockton.  I reviewed Bob’s other book, Fighting Bob, here.

Counting Coup tells the story of recently discharged Union Army officer as he makes his way out west seeking information on his hero Kit Carson.  Along the way he encounters a host of characters, some comical such as Norton I, Emperor of the United States of America and protector of Mexico (based on a real Norton I), and some more dangerous, but most based loosely on actual personalities.  Reminiscent of the early western “dime” novels, Counting Coup is a fast paced, action packed, adventure.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | September 6, 2013

Guest Blogger – Steven W. Kohlhagen

Steven W. Kohlhagen

Steven W. Kohlhagen

Steven W. Kohlhagen has been kind enough to present us with some of the history that inspired his new book Where They Bury You:

On January 3, 1862, General Henry H. Sibley led his Texas Volunteers into the Arizona Territory to attack General Edward R.S. Canby’s Union Army, the Colorado Volunteers, and Colonel Kit Carson’s New Mexico Volunteers. His plans, blessed by President Jefferson Davis, were to take the Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado Territories for the Confederacy, and then to march to California and conquer it as well.

The Civil War had come to the western Territories.

The Apaches and Navajo, previously fighting the Army, now found themselves almost back in time, raiding the Mexicans, the Utes, the New Mexican settlers, and each other now without any  interference from the white soldiers. Cochise’s Chiricahua Apaches, tragically, had been at peace up until the year before. But a newly minted Lieutenant, George Bascom, blundered amateurishly into forcing the Chiricahuas back to war with the whites across the Arizona Territory.

Also at this time a group of con artists, with Canby’s own aide de camp, one Lieutenant Augustyn P. Damours, at its center, was in the process of embezzling tens of millions of today’s dollars from the Army, the Territorial Government, and the Church. Like the Indians, the local outbreak of the Civil War, presented the scam artists with new opportunities.

Sibley’s Rebels won both major battles in the Territories, at Valverde and at Glorieta Pass. But in the process, they left their supply train, stolen from the Yankees at Cubero, essentially unprotected. Major John M. Chivington of the Colorado Volunteers, more known for his infamous massacre of the Cheyenne people at Sand Creek two years later, stumbled onto the vulnerable train. By destroying it, he ended Sibley’s dreams of a Confederate West.

Canby elected to let the Texans retreat back to Texas, starving and harmless and unmolested, and then turned his attention back to the Apaches and the Navajo.

He assigned this task to Carson. Despite Carson’s continued attempts to retire, General James H. Carleton insisted on having him carry out Canby’s orders when Canby was reassigned to Washington, D.C. Carleton decided to have Carson move the Mescalero Apaches and Navajo to eastern New Mexico, to a desolate spot he called Bosque Redondo.

Canby unwittingly took Damours, the thieving aide de camp, with him to Washington. One month after they left Santa Fe, in the midst of Carleton and Carson’s Indian wars, Damours’ massive thefts came to light. In a bizarre twist, Carleton sent Major Joseph Cummings, also the Provost Marshal of Santa Fe, to apprehend Damours in Washington. Cummings was a known womanizer and gambler in the Territory, and, astonishingly, a gambling associate of Damours.

Not surprisingly, Cummings returned from Washington empty handed. Historians completely lost sight of Damours when he went AWOL from Canby’s office in the War Department on November 5, 1862.

Upon his return, Carleton and Carson then entrusted Cummings with part of the Army that was to hunt down and apprehend the 9,000 Navajo. On August 3, 1863 Carson put Cummings in charge of the scorched earth policy to try to bring in the Navajo who the Army was failing to even locate.

On August 18, 1863 Cummings was found dead in an arroyo from a lone bullet wound to his abdomen near Pueblos Colorado (near the site of today’s Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona). He had $5,031.78 in cash and valuables in his saddle bags (between $700,000 and $1,000,000 of today’s dollars). Hampton Sides Blood and Thunder reports this on p. 341, as the “only” casualty of Carson’s Navajo campaign. Certainly an odd choice for the Navajo’s only killed soldier in their roundup.

Where They Bury You ends with that murder. But, of course, the Civil War and the Apache and Navajo Wars continued.

History always does.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | September 4, 2013

Book Review – Where They Bury You

Book Cover

I find it interesting how authors find their inspiration for the books that they write.  Author Steven W. Kohlhagen‘s new book, Where They Bury You, found its inspiration in the 1863 death of one Major Joseph Cummings.  During one of Kit Carson’s raids / campaigns, Cummings charged ahead of the main column (according to Carson) and was found dead on the canyon floor when the main body finally reached him.  The big mystery was why Cummings had $4,200 in cash on his person.  (See Hampton Sides’, Blood and Thunder, page 341 for a brief account.)

Kohlhagen has taken this event and woven an interesting, fast paced, historical novel that combines Civil War New Mexico / Arizona, white Americans, Native Americans, and Mexicans sticky relationships to one another.  Along the way we meet con artists and card sharks; historical figures such as Kit Carson, Cochise, Geronimo, Kit Carson, and others.  Not to give away the plot, but this is a Western that tells the tales of hostage taking, Indian wars, and gamblers’ who come up with a scheme for getting rich.  A gripping Western told on the eve of the Civil War in the Arizona and New Mexico Territories.

The book is a good, quick read.  While it is a historical novel, the history serves as a background for the events of real (and no so real) life people.  The historical details add color, there is no “data dump” here.  Kohlhagen does an excellent job of placing the “smaller” story in the context of the larger picture.  So if you are looking for a fun read, I highly recommend Where They Bury You.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | August 15, 2013

Periodic Presidents

A periodic table of the Presidents of the United States?  Who would have thought of it?  PJ that’s who:


Posted by: ushistoryfiles | August 14, 2013

An Unexpected Hiatus: or How I Spent my Summer Vacation

It has been about 4 months since my last post.  I had not planned on taking a hiatus from blogging here, but sometimes life has other plans for you.  Not that I was totally unproductive, I read several books (and owe a few people a review or two), started a class at AMU, was involved in a move (not mine), tweeted a bit, was saddened by the loss of 2 well respected historians (Edmund Morgan and Pauline Maier), took a day trip to Petersburg, Va and got rained on, worked, searched for that all illusive full-time teaching job, and even started a more personal blog here.  So that is how I spent my summer vacation.  How about you?  Anyone do anything fun / thrilling / exciting?

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | April 18, 2013

Bunker Hill & A Random Thought


Greetings Everyone,

My review copy of Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution arrived today.  This is the book featured in our giveaway that I wrote about last week.  There is still time to enter the contest – it is open until April 21, 2013.  Details can be found here.

Random Thought

1.  Anyone else out there suffering from allergies?  This year I’ve got it bad.  I know moving to a new location often means subjecting ones-self to new allergens, but all I want to do is sleep.  The allergy medication does a good job of keeping away the weepy and itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and such so I am lucky there.  Hopefully, the sleepy-time will come to an end soon.

Our forefathers had to suffer from allergies.  Diary accounts where someone is always sick with a head cold is a good indicator – especially if that “head cold” pops up at the same time every year.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | April 10, 2013

USHistoryFiles Book Giveaway!

I have been offered a copy of Nathaniel Philbrick’s  new book, Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution, for a giveaway on USHistoryFiles.  First about the book:

Now about the contest:

It is open to U.S. Residents only.

To enter do any of the following:

1.  Follow USHistoryFiles on Twitter and tweet “@USHistoryFiles #book #giveaway”.  And add a link to this post. – OR –

2.   Share this post via, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc…  MAKE SURE you post in the comments section below that you shared this post.  – OR –

3.  Sign-up to follow USHistoryFiles via email AND leave a comment on the bottom of this post.

The fine print:

1. There are 3 ways to enter (see above).  Each individual is allowed only one entry (you do not get 2 entries for sharing via Twitter AND Facebook – I’d like the exposure, but I don’t want you to annoy your friends/followers).  <grin>

2.  You must have a valid US mailing address to receive Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution.

3.  Entries will be accepted until 11:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time) on April 21, 2013.

Good Luck!

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | March 28, 2013

Zebulon Vance Birthplace – Update

Last week I wrote about the possible closing of the Zebulon Vance Birthplace in North Carolina due to the governor’s budget.  This week I thought I would give an update.  Putting my money where my mouth is, I emailed the 3 House representatives from Buncome County where the Vance Birthplace is located.  They are Susan C. Fisher, Tim D. Moffitt, and Nathan Ramsey.  Of the three Nathan Ramsey did respond to my email indicating that he was opposed to the governor’s proposal and was working with the Asheville Chamber and the Town of Weaverville to come up with an alternative.  (In fact, he responded about an hour and a half after my email, around 11 PM, from his iPhone!)  The other two representatives did not bother to respond.

In addition, some folks have started a petition here that you can go sign if you are so inclined.  I am heading over there now to sign.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | March 21, 2013

Ah, It’s Only History

Ever since sequester started my personal Facebook news feed has seen daily posts about how budget problems are impacting National Parks and Historic sites.  Hours are being cut, park buildings are being closed, and even campgrounds (one would think a money maker) are being effected.  In the all to rampant panic over the budget, history and nature are starting to take a beating.

Sadly, budget problems are not limited to the nation’s capital.  The Asheville-Citizen Times reported that the governor’s proposed budget would close four historic sites in North Carolina including the birthplace of Zebulon Vance.  A couple of years ago, the state of Georgia took a whack at the budget of New Echota State Park and the Chief Vann House.  The Cherokee Nation even offered to help.

So what are we – those who love history and love visiting these places to do?  Well, unless you happen to be Bill Gates, Waren Buffet, or Oprah, financially probably not much.  However, whenever we see such a story, we can make our voice heard.  Even if it is only to ask representatives to look a little longer and a little harder at finding the money elsewhere.  People spoke out on behalf of the Loudoun Museum in Leesburg, Virginia and made a difference (see more here).

If you are interested in trying to make a difference you can contact the North Carolina General Assembly and let them know how you feel.

NOTE: This is not a “this or that party is evil” post, but rather a “how can we as the history loving type” (I assume you are at least interested in history or you wouldn’t be reading this blog) get a say in this process.  There are plenty of lobbyists in Washington and State capitals and I’ll bet none of them represents the interests of the historical community.  Now wouldn’t that be something – a History lobbyist!

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