Monthly Archives: November 2015

Presentation on Lee’s Lost Dispatch

On Tuesday the 15th of December I will speak on “Lee’s Lost Dispatch.” The dispatch refers to Robert E. Lee’s Special Order 191 a copy of which was captured by the opposing Union army during Lee’s first Northern invasion. It revealed Lee’s plans and disclosed that his outnumbered army was temporarily widely scattered and vulnerable to decisive Union attack.

Although I discuss the order’s discovery and Union Major General George McClellan’s response, I also analyze the chief mystery of the incident, which is how the order was lost… or stolen

Host: Sarasota Civil War Roundtable
Date: Tuesday: December 15, 2015
Time: 7:00 pm
Where: Adult Education Building
Grace Church
8000 Bee Ridge Road
Sarasota, Florida 34247

The speech is based on one chapter in my Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies, released earlier this year by Westholme Publishing. The book provides twelve stories about obscure incidents and personality conflicts that helped determine the war’s progress and outcome. They range from the Union’s tardy adoption of breech loading and repeating rifles and the Confederacy’s error to embargo cotton instead of hurriedly exporting it for exchange credits, to the possible pre-emption of the war at Charleston harbor in January 1861.

A sample chapter of Lee’s Lost Dispatch is available here at no charge.


My Civil War Books

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated

Slavery and Bribery at Yale University

Yale University students typically board in one of twelve “residential colleges.” One such college is named for John C. Calhoun who was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate in 1804.

Presently, many Yale students demand that the college name be changed because Calhoun advocated slavery. The students correctly note that slavery and racism are immoral. They further insist that such evils are absolute and that Calhoun’s immorality cannot be softened by the accepted attitudes of his lifetime.

But there’s another story to be told in “Yale’s Tale of Two Legacies.”

Upon his death in 1900, railroad mogul Collis Huntington owned an ostentatious New York City mansion at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue where Tiffany & Company is presently located. Huntington’s will stipulated that if his stepson remained childless the mansion – or the proceeds from the sale of it – would be donated to Yale. The stepson was childless and Yale got the home sale proceeds as well as much of the internal art collection. Three years ago the collection was put on display at the Yale University Art Gallery where it has been labeled the “Huntington Murals.”

Collis P. Huntington

Collis P. Huntington

Evidently, since Collis Huntington did not advocate slavery Yale students have no objection to the Murals. But slavery is not the only form of evil. Huntington, for example, paid bribes to protect his business interests. As explained by John Brooks in a June 1977 American Heritage article, “The Businessman and the Government:”

General cynicism…had reduced, or elevated, bribery and corruption to the role of…public entertainment. It was the relished, and protected, pornography of the age. The business leader most forthright on the subject…was the railroad man Collis P. Huntington. In 1877 he explained his philosophy of bribery in a letter to a colleague, as follows: “If you have to pay money to have the right thing done, it is only just and fair to do it. … If a man has the power to do great evil and won’t do right unless he is bribed to do it… it is a man’s duty to go up and bribe the judge.”… At one point in the 1870s Huntington complained with bitter indignation that competitive bribers were causing such inflation in the corruption market as threatened to ruin him. “To fix things” now cost $200,000 to $500,000 per session of Congress: “I am fearful this damnation Congress will kill me.”

If political correctness is to be extrapolated to the Nth degree, Yale might want to ponder renaming the Huntington Murals as well as Calhoun College. The university might want to further examine the uses of Huntington’s financial legacy. For example, the sale proceeds from his home together with their accumulated interest might be removed from Yale’s endowment and distributed to the descendants of the farmers (black and white) who were harmed by the discriminatory freight rates of Huntington’s railroads.

My three Civil War Books:

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated.


Researching the Civil War While Driving

Recently I took a two-day road trip for a high school reunion and afterward made a presentation about my book, Trading With the Enemy, to the local Civil War Roundtable. While on the road I finished reading William McFeely’s Grant biography and started Fredrick Lewis Allen’s Lords of Creation.

Nearly all the reading was while I was driving, but it was as safe as listening to the radio. The books were Kindle versions purchased at Amazon. They were stored on my Apple iPad within the Kindle Application, which is available for free at Apple’s App store.


My “trick” was Kindle’s text-to-voice feature. When I bought my 2015 Toyota Avalon the salesman initialized the dashboard to connect wirelessly (via the BlueTooth standard) to both my iPhone and iPad. The idea was to enable me to listen to music stored on – or streamed via YouTube, etc. to – the iPad or iPhone through the car’s audio speakers. During an earlier trip I listened to a number of YouTube Civil War and author lectures that way. Continue reading