Luckily the rain held off long enough for an enjoyable tour of the Five Forks battlefield with historians Keith Bohannon and Peter Carmichael. We concentrated mainly in the area along White Oak Road and managed to locate and follow Pickett’s refuse line on his left flank. The terrain is difficult to interpret given the height of the trees, but the area around the Gravelly Run Church, which served as the jump off point for Warren’s April 1 attack, gave me a sense of the rolling landscape and a better understanding of just how vulnerable Pickett’s division was along the White Oak Road. From there we headed on over to the Five Forks intersection where we met NPS historian, Tracy Chernault. Tracy was kind enough to take us over to the new visitor center building which is slated to open in the next few months. It’s a marked improvement over the little shack that is currently being used at the intersection. That building will be demolished and the two monuments will be moved to the visitor center. From there we explored the Confederate right and drove to the approximate spot where Warren was relieved of command along with the field where Custer’s cavalry saw some heavy fighting. Finally, we stopped at Sutherland Station and Fort Gregg.
Keith and Peter did a first rate job of explaining the ebb and flow of battle to me. One can’t help but be impressed with their level of knowledge and their passion for battlefield interpretation. Click here for additional photos.
I‘ve never been to the Five Forks battlefield. Luckily for me, today I am spending the day with two historians who know the battlefield well. See you on Wednesday with a report and photographs. Let’s hope it’s not a total washout.
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It’s reasonable to wonder how the public discourse might have been different had James Loewen and Edward Sebesta bypassed the ridiculous idea of petitioning the president not to place a wreath a the Confederate monument at Arlington and instead add a wreath to the African American Civil War Memorial in downtown Washington. Two things would have been accomplished. On the one hand their letter would have raised awareness of the history of the Arlington Monument and its symbolism and it would have highlighted an aspect of the Civil War that continues to fly under most people’s radar screen when it comes to our memory of the Civil War. Instead Loewen and Sebesta provided just one more forum for the crazies who spend their days clogging up message boards with their reactionary neo-Confederate hogwash. Just look at the comments section at HNN.
Luckily President Obama followed his instincts and/or good counsel and sent an additional wreath to the African American Civil War Memorial. Such a suggestion from Loewen and Sebesta would have diffused most of the outrage and perhaps would have served to educate that many more people.
Finally, it’s not clear where Obama got the idea to add a wreath. I’ve read a few references to Kirk Savage’s recent piece in the Washington Post, but that came out after my blog post and link to Caitlin Hopkins at Vast Public Indifference who suggested doing just that.
A historian friend of mine recently decided that he needs to add another 22 ft of shelf space to his library. To achieve this he decided to unload some back issues of the old Civil War magazine and asked if I was interested. Of course, I jumped at the offer and within a short period of time I found myself with issues going back to the mid-1980s. I don’t remember the magazine when it was known as Civil War Quarterly, but I am quite impressed with the quality of the writing. One issue in particular stood out, which featured an article on Lee at Gettysburg by Kent Masterson Brown and a painting of Lee that I have never seen before [Jan-Feb 1993]. The painting is titled, “Forever Marching” and was done by Ed Murin. I tried to find some information about Murin, but came up short. Since I couldn’t find an image Online I took one with my camera which you can see here.
I’ve never seen anything quite like this image of Lee. I would place it on the extreme opposite end of those silly prints of Lee reading to a child or praying with Jackson. [How about the jigsaw puzzle version?] As far as I can tell the closest image to Murin’s is L.M.D. Guillaume’s “Gen. Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville.” Lee appears bloodthirsty as he sends his men into battle and over what appears to be the graves of their comrades. What I find so striking is Lee’s eyes, which seem utterly lifeless.
Is this what James Longstreet meant when he noted in his memoir that at Gettysburg “Lee’s blood was up”? And is this a side of Lee that we would rather not be reminded of?