Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Review: Kentucky Raider by George Karvel, Ph.D

Author: George R. Karvel, PH.D.
copyright 2016
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

The subject of my next book review is another book that discusses Kentucky in the Civil War. Even though this volume is not specifically about Kentucky, the story it tells is of a Kentuckian and of raids and battles throughout the Commonwealth, focusing on the raids of famous Confederate General, and Kentuckian, John Hunt Morgan.

Commodore Perry (C.P.) Snell, the great-great grandfather of the author joined the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, under Morgan's command, in mid-1862. He served for the next three years, surviving Morgan's Christmas Raid, Great Raid and Last Kentucky Raid, as well as two instances of being captured. He was able to escape his captors and return to his unit both times, though his name confused Federal soldiers who thought "Commodore" was a title not a name. Snell apparently provided a false name as "Charles P. more than once, perhaps to avoid this confusion. His name shows up as this "nom de guerre" in more than one official U.S. form. (The author does a good job of explaining the background of Snell's name and how the original Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry had inspired people to name children, including C.P. Snell, in his honor, early in the book.)

This book briefly describes each of the raids in which Snell took part. It is not an in-depth look at the details of these invasions, but that is not its goal. The synopses the author provides of these raids do give good  background information about Snell's experiences and make this book better.

The book is well-written and organized. I did not notice any proofreading errors and the writing style was very readable. It is a quick, informative work.

After discussing Morgan's capture in 1864, the book reaches the heart of this story, the order book that Morgan had captured from Union General Edward Hobson the day before his (Morgan's) capture. It then publishes each entry from this book. Most are short, usually a sentence or two, which makes for rather choppy reading, but this provides real examples of how such officers wrote their orders. Additionally, the author adds good descriptions for these orders. These clarifications explain the orders and the military situations. This was a very helpful and valuable part of the book, adding an understanding of what the officers were doing and why.

Karvel addresses Snell's military career and his parole at the end of the war,  and then describes  Snell's post war life as much as surviving evidence allows. He tells that Snell found a new love interest during the war, despite already being married, and how he soon divorced his wife when he returned home. He notes that 1870 census records and Snell's will show that Snell had enjoyed good financial success and discusses how this may have happened. He mentions some rumors and family stories that may explain Snell's prosperity, as no official revere seems to provide answers. This was an unexpected and fascinating section of this book.

The book includes footnotes listing sources and six appendices of background information on Snell's family history and family military background, a glossary of terms and other information. It also features several helpful maps at appropriate places in the text.

This book is a good, quick read and recounts an interesting story about the captured order book, what information it contained and how it came to the author's family. Morgan and his raids are popular topics for books and discussion, but George Karvel has found a new story to tell about this part of Kentucky's Civil War history. I gladly recommend this book.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Book Review: Wild Wolf: The Great Civil War Rivalry

Author: Ronald Wolford Blair
Copyright 2015
Acclaim Press
Kentucky in and after the Civil War is a topic that has really caught my attention in recent years, and several books I have read and reviewed have added to my understanding of that era in my home state.

That is true of my latest finished book, Ronald Wolford Blair's Wild Wolf: The Great Civil War Rivalry,  about the author's great-great uncle, Union Colonel Frank Wolford of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, a.k.a. The "Wild Riders."

Serving as a biography of the author's ancestor, the book starts by featuring the story of Wolford's military career, especially his many dealings with famous Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, before moving onto discussions of Wolford's polical and social beliefs and how he clashed with the goals and actions of President Abraham Lincoln.

The detailed overview of Wolford's military career iincludes his accomplishments as a leader and discusses how his folksy leadership style and manner of giving orders helped him earn his men's admiration. He was certainly no martinet, but earned his men's respect with his manners and fair discipline. His troops fought throughout eastern and central Kentucky and northern Tennessee, including clashes against Morgan's men, before embarking on a long chase of the famed Confederate during his "Great Raid" of 1863. After helping capture Morgan and many of his men, Wolford's troopers fought in the East Tennessee campaign, including the Siege of Knoxville, where they dealt with the usual trials of combat as well as the rugged terrain and bitterly cold weather.

As the war moved into the middle of 1864, the story transitions to one of Wolford's political battles and arrests, as the author describes in great detail Wolford's disputes with the Lincoln administration especially his opposition to emancipation and the use of African-American soldiers. Blair also shows how Wolford fought for civil liberties (particularly his own) such as free speech and speedy trials. Wolford was blunt, forthright and honest in his speeches and letters, not caring to whom his remarks were made or know they might be interpreted as aiding the enemy or hurting the Union cause. These political battles started late in the war and continued in the post-war years as he tried to help return life to how it was in ante-bellum days, particularly in the racial hierarchy in Kentucky society. The book frequently notes that Wolford's attitudes and opposition represented those of a majority of Kentuckians at the time.

Wolford was an intense and determined soldier and showed the same traits in his non-military fights as well, though he kept his focus solely on events in Kentucky. He may not have appreciated the progress the Union war effort had made nation-wide in 1864 and felt that a re-election of Lincoln would lead to more years of bloodshed. Wolford was, understandably, primarily concerned with the situation in his home state and area ("all politics is local" so goes the cliche) and strongly supported George McClellan in the 1864 election because of the way Steven Burbridge and the Lincoln administration were treating Wolford and his fellow Kentuckians.

This work is another valuable look at the complicated, twisted history of Kentucky in and immediately after the Civil War, showing that even a man who made personal and physical sacrifices to help preserve the Union also expressed many sentiments that clashed with his own government in terms of the treatment of slavery and African-Americans as well as interpretation of Constitutional rights and responsibilities. He focused on the civil rights of white Kentuckians, men and women.

The story in Wild Wolf is  similar to the one told in For Slavery and Union, describing how an individual soldier could fight for the Union but end up opposing some of the Union's political goals. It explores Wolford's political career after the war, as he served as a lawyer, state representative, Congressman and held other official positions as he tried to restore the pre-war social order. He also helped veterans and their families receive government pensions decades after the war.

This book is a good study, certainly informative and a great addition to my library, but it is not perfect. The proofreading could have been better, as several grammatical of punctuation mistakes, misspellings and missing words are evident throughout the text. None were huge deals by themselves, but they were minor distractions and there were enough of them that each reminded me that I had seen others previously.

Also, the writing at times seemed to jump around from one topic to another and the flow was not always as smooth as it could have been. Perhaps breaking the chapters down in sections might have helped this, though the complicated nature of Wolford's life, career and rivalry with Morgan is a difficult story to tell and there is much more good than bad in this book.

Despite my nitpicking, this is a fine book. It does include endnotes and has two large sections of appropriate photographs and maps, which add much to the work. The research that went into this volume is impressive and the amount of material it covers is equally so.The book also includes three appendices publishing Wolford's most controversial speeches and his letter to Lincoln. These were smart additions to this volume.

I am pleased to have read this book and do recommend it to Civil War students, especially those interested in Kentucky, cavalry, John Hunt Morgan and/or political dissent on the Union side of the war. It is a good study of a mostly unheralded and unknown cavalry officer and influential political figure in the native state of both Civil War Presidents, showing another example of the complex and confusing nature of war and politics in Civil War-era Kentucky.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sexy Abraham Lincoln Statue?

In the last few years, I've had a lot of interest in the story of the Abraham Lincoln statue in Lyle Park, downtown .Cincinnati. What especially has intrigued me about it are the various controversies around it, starting from the commissioning of the project through the unveiling of the finished work and the idea of sending a copy to London. A lot of people, especially Robert Lincoln, thought this statue to be ugly, undignified, and even inappropriate as an image of the former President. Some people liked it, but many did not.

Author's picture, Lytle Park

In this link I have posted some other pictures I took of this monument as well as a link to my previous stories about it. I also gave a presentation to a local group about this issue, covering the same material.

Recently, and thanks to social media, I saw an article about a different Lincoln statue, a "sexy" or "hot" Lincoln. This is certainly different, especially the reactions mentioned in this story from near Chicago. The statue is over 70 years old, but apparently this view of the attractiveness of it is fairly new.

I have, of course, not seen the statue in person, but from what I've seen in the few pictures in the article, I'm not impressed. It does not look much like Lincoln to me at first glance, similar to some of the reactions in the story. It uses the young and beardless version of Lincoln as is seen in Cincinnati, but not the same pose or overall image.

The face looks too smooth, even for the younger man, and even too shiny, though that may be a photography issue. The hair somehow seems wrong as well. The shirt being open until the middle of his chest also looks inappropriate, though I admit I'm no expert on the fashion trends of the day, especially for someone doing farmwork. Maybe he wore clothes like that, including the rolled-up sleeves, to be cooler while he rested. The sleeves seem more reasonable to me than the open shirt.

He also appears to have a slight smile or smirk on his face, which photographs at the time did not use, but as the statue was designed to show him resting after doing work, who is to say that is not accurate? He probably was happy to sit down and pick up a book, though the look on his face is not familiar to us. The bare feet are a nice touch and seem realistic.

Ironically, the statue in Cincinnati became mockingly known as the "stomach ache statue" because the artist George Barnard Grey had placed Lincoln's hands over his abdomen, leading some viewers to believe Lincoln looked ill. On this statue, the hands at first appear to be in a similar position, but the seated pose and the book he is holding makes that less apparent.

His clothing is also much less wrinkled than in the Cincinnati statue and I do wonder if they would look so nice after a few hours of work outside.

I don't mean to criticize the statue too much, especially just judging by a few photographs. It is different than others and is not unrealistic, though I still find the face and head to be barely recognizable as Lincoln. I'm not sure I can explain it, but that part just seems to be wrong. The side angle picture in the article is especially noteworthy to me as it appears to be any man, not specifically Lincoln.

From the linked story at

From eBay 

Perhaps the statue is fine and the issue is my own personal image of Lincoln. As asked in my previous stories, who owns his memory or determines his image - the artist, the audience, or someone else? Is it just "beauty/image is in the eye of the beholder?" This is just another example of how different people produce different images or have varying memories of a historical figure, even someone as famous and as photographed as Lincoln was. Maybe the lack of photographs from Lincoln's youth affects this, though there are images of the unbearded man that help us see his pre-presidential looks. With that said, I just do not see a good image of Lincoln in this statue, especially the facial features. For this beholder, the beauty is simply not there.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Cynthiana Tour June 10, 2017

Earlier this month, I took a tour of the local town of Cynthiana and some of the sites involved in the 1864 Civil War fighting which took place in the area. 

Thank you to  Darryl Smith for leading the tour for the Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation (CBF.)  I enjoy his tours at Perryville and thought he did a fine job yesterday. This is a much different situation than at a state historic site or park and requires a different style of tour.

One reason I joined the CBF was to learn more about the events in Cynthiana, and history his tour helped greatly with that goal. I still have much to learn, but have started in the right direction, at least regarding the 1864 battles. It is generally considered one battle, but consisted of three fights and some people call it three battles even though the "official name" seems to be the "Second Battle of .Cynthiana." We explored each site  and it was very enjoyable.

I will, of course, need to make more visits and do more reading on this fighting, as well as on the 1863 battle, but I thought I gained a lot of good perspective about this fighting and certainly improved my knowledge of it. It was a wonderful tour that I am glad I took and they I gladly recommend. There will be a tour of the 1862 battle on July 15. I hope to be there.

Below is a link to all the pictures I took during the tour and the memorial service.

After the tour, we held a brief memorial service st the Confederate Monument in Battle Grove Cemetery, including lighting luminaries at each Confederate gravestone.


I'll put a few in this post.

Where /Edward Hobson's men fought Morgan's

Where railroad depot was in 1864

Courthouse - some Union troops hid in it 

New Rankin House hotel - was under construction in 1864

The covered bridge was behind this now wooded area

Confederate monument, Battle Grove Cemetery

Confederate section, Battle Grove Cemetery 



Luminaries and sunset

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Happy 225th, Kentucky!

I have not written for a while, but wanted to take some time to commemorate the 225th anniversary of Kentucky's statehood. Kentucky is not the oldest, biggest or most famous state, but it is my home, always has been and likely always will be. My ancestors first came here in the 1820s, so that is almost 200 years of direct association with the state.

Kentucky has a lot of natural beauty and history. Even as I focus this blog on the Civil War, I hope it, anfpd my other social media activities, helps spread the word about this wonderful state.
here is something I wrote for the website of the new Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation, which I have mentioned before.

Most of the books in this article have been mentioned on this blog already, usually in formal reviews, but it does not hurt to mention them again, especially today. They focus on Kentucky's association with the Confederacy and its reputation as a Confederate state, even though Kentucky has never left the Union since becoming a state June 1, 1792. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Centennial of Lincoln Statue in Cincinnati

In late 2015, I wrote a series of posts on a statue of Abraham Lincoln that sculptor George Grey Barnard had created. It was revealed and dedicated in a ceremony on March 31, 1917, one hundred years ago from today.

Here is a link to the 3rd story I wrote about this in late 2015. It has links to the first 2 in it.

I recently gave a presentation about this statue and found more details than are in this link, but I have not yet found a way to format that presentation for this blog. The linked stories give a good overview of tbis monument and the controversies surrounding it. Perhaps I will write a more detailed and update version in the future, but this link will be good on this anniversary date of the dedication

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Robert Good, Co. I, 4th Ky Cavalry

This, I hope, will be an interesting story to read. It certainly has been a fascinating one to research and write. I recently found an old piece of ephemera that really intrigued me, so I discussed it in a previous post

The form allowed the payment of a soldier's salary to his wife because he was a prisoner of war. 

The soldier for whose wife it was prepared was Corporal Robert Good of the 4th Kentucky Cavalry, and this post will tell his story that this form uncovered.

According to his file on, Robert was either 34 or 54 years old (more on that later) when he enlisted as a private in Company I of the 4th Kentucky Cavalry on October 16, 1862 for a three-year term, mustering in on October 30. The 4th Kentucky Cavalry was organized in Louisville in late 1862. It stayed in the Western Theater, frequently in Tennessee, and saw action at Chickamauga and in the Atlanta campaign

Robert had been born in Ireland, stood 5'11" tall and had blue eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion.

Once in the army, he led a career that was far from routine, with experiences such as charges of desertion, possible court-martial, capture, hospitalization, and perhaps even imprisonment in the most infamous Civil War prison of all, Andersonville. Various documents provide insight into some of his adventures, though ther remain some holes requiring speculation and interpretation.

In his file, his story begins with forms reporting that he "deserted at Louisville before 10 Feb 1863," and "deserted, rec'd $27 bounty." Then another form, covering the period March 1 to June 30, 1863, reported he was under arrest, awaiting a general court martial. 

Another document explains the cause of and resolution to this issue, saying his "charge of desertion removed; was while sick permitted to leave camp at Louisville, Ky., on or about Dec. 25, 1862, and go to his home in Louisville, until he recovered; was sick with erysipelas and unable to travel until May 28, 1863 when he left to join his command."

Documents for late 1863 now listed him as "absent, missing in action September 21" and continued showing that through 1864. 

Other records show this was because he had been "captured near Crawfish Springs" (Chickamauga) on September 21, 1863 and taken to a Confederate prison. Exactly how his time as prisoner went is uncertain. The paperwork is confusing and some of the writing is not legible. It appears he was taken to Richmond on September 29 before moving to Danville, Virginia or Americus, Georgia (Andersonville) on December 12, 1863. The form then mentions Andersonville, but "no date given." One word on this form is, unfortunately, illegible. 

He had $5 of U.S. money taken from him. Per a discussion on, he carried this money on him when captured, and the prison quartermaster confiscated it and other personal possessions, keeping a record of these items, at least of the money. They likely offered to trade him Confederate dollars for his U.S. money, as Confederate dollars would be the only money prisoners could use to purchase items like food inside the prison. It also benefited the Confederacy since a Federal dollar was worth more than a Confederate one outside the prison.

I found a second form on that also mentioned the $5 - the microfilm from which this record was taken included "Federal Prisoners of War Confined at Andersonville, Ga, 1864-65" in its title, adding evidence that that was where he was confined. 

Contrary thinking of the location of his imprisonment may be worth the effort, however, as the National Park Service's list of Andersonville prisoners does not list his name, though those records are incomplete per the service's Andersonville website. Unfortunately, the records at Andersonville National Park, available only at the park, also fail to list him, per the response to a research request I sent. (I forwarded them the forms I found and other circumstantial evidence and they said they would look further into it.)

I also found one site showing prisoners in Danville, and his name did not appear on it either. It is hard to know what records of prisoners were kept, and, especially, which ones survived, so his absence on these lists does not necessarily mean he was not there. 

Another issue is that Andersonville did not exist at the time of his capture. Per the Civil War Trust: It was built in early 1864 after Confederate officials decided to move the large number of Federal prisoners in and around Richmond to a place of greater security and more abundant food. During the 14 months it existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure to the elements. It did not receive prisoners until February 1864, so where was Robert from mid-December until then? Richmond seems likely, though the mention of Danville confuses things. (That description also makes his survival, if he was there, more remarkable.)

Despite this, it still may be true that he was at Andersonville. More evidence that he possibly was there is in the timing and place of his release. The prison exchange cartel between the USA and CSA had generally broken down, with occasional exceptions, but in August 1864, the two sides agreed to exchange sick and injured men, with the trade taking place on the Savannah River near Fort Pickens starting in mid-November. Robert was paroled on either November 14 at the Savannah River or November 18 at Savannah per his paperwork (two forms have different information), so the timing and location make it seem likely that Robert was indeed part of this exchange. If not, it would be a huge coincidence for him to have been paroled at the same time and place as prisoners from Andersonville.

Craig Swain has a good discussion of this exchange here, noting that the exchanged United States prisoners had originally moved away from Andersonville as part of this process.

After his release, and having served more than a year as a prisoner, Robert was admitted to hospital division number 2 in Annapolis, Maryland on November 25, though the same form states "no later record." Some of his paperwork is again confusing and hard to read, appearing to say his name was not on any hospital rolls, but the specificity of the other forms (naming the hospital ward where he went), the muster rolls and his time in prison lead me to believe he was hospitalized, likely along with many of his fellow ex-prisoners.

A surprising note is in a report of the exchange. Thanks again to Craig for finding it. Lieutenant-Colonel John E. Mulford reported: "I have the honor to inform you that I have up to the present time received over 3,000 of our men. Their physical condition is rather better than I expected, but their personal is worse than anything I have ever seen–filth and rags. It is a great labor to cleanse and clothe them..."(Official Records, Series II, volume 7, p. 1149.) That does not quite fit in the usual picture of emaciated and near-death men leaving Andersonville though some, including Robert, were possibly at least in somewhat poor health.

Muster rolls then reported Robert as "absent, sick in hospital, rec'd 6 months pay" for January and February 1865. The mention of pay presumably refers to the money paid to his wife on the form described in the previous post.

In March, April, May and June, he was listed as "present."

Another form says "July 1865 - Correll Guard" but I have no information as to what that may be.

He mustered out with the regiment on August 21, 1865 at Macon, Georgia. 

When he mustered out, he was now a corporal who had been last paid to February 28, 1864. He owed the government money, apparently $35, though it is barely legible, for "arms, equipment, etc." He apparently had lost one saddle blanket.

On the other hand, he had received $25 in bounty money, but was still owed $75. How much had the promised bounty motivated him to enlist, or how did other factors like patriotism, a search for adventure or his political beliefs also influence his decision? Perhaps his motivation was a combination of the above or something completely different. 

KY Cavalry Marker at Chickamauga, courtesy 

As for his post-military career, the age on the document in his file is the key to what information is available. It appears to be 54 at first glance, but may be 34. It does not look like other "5s" on the same page, but is not a perfect "3" either, though it could be a "3" with the top section not completed. I posted it online and asked friends for help. Some thought it said "54" and others thought "34," so there was no consensus. I've included it here so readers can form their own opinions.

If he was really 54, I can find no further records of him, so I am going to proceed under the assumption (yeah, I know) he was 34 when he enrolled in the final quarter of 1862. This may be wrong, but I did find some information for a Robert Good who was born about 1827 and will use that to add to this story. If I come across information that confirms or refutes this Robert Good being the same as on that document, I will update this blog.

The  only census on which I can find him, that of 1880, shows a Robert Good in Louisville, age 53, giving him a birth year of 1827. It also shows his wife  "Mary," age 40. 

His headstone photo on a find-a-grave shows he was in his 58th year when he died on August 11, 1885, matching the 1827 birth date as estimated on the census, close to the 1828 based on the above form. The headstone lists his wife as "Ellen" on top, underneath his name, but the bottom of the marker shows "erected by his wife Mary." It says Ellen was in her 47th year when she passed away on August 3, 1876. The brief biography on the same page states he married Mary Walsh on December 13, 1877, so Ellen was his first wife and Mary his second, meaning the form, census and graveyard records agree with each other as the form that began my request lists his wife's name name as "Elenora," which is probably the formal name for Ellen. I have not found any record of Mary's burial.

Headstone in Saint John's Cemetery (aka German-Catholic Cemetery) Louisville, courtesy

He was born in Ireland, immigrated to a new country, joined the army to defend that new home and survived imprisonment - Robert Good may not have lived the longest life, or found fame and fortune, but his life certainly did not lack for change or challenges.

Rest in peace, soldier.