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Letters From Readers - March 2008 - America's Civil War

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: January 04, 2008 
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High Water Mark?

Regarding Steven Woodworth's contention that Gettysburg "signified nothing," ("West vs. East," America's Civil War, November 2007), I guess professional historians don't make their reputations by stating what has been obvious for 140 years. Granted Gettysburg was not a STRATEGIC victory for the Union but a defensive one; it was nonetheless critical and certainly a "high water mark" for the CSA.

It's obvious what Lee's real objective was in going up into Pennsylvania: defeat the Army of the Potomac and he could scoop up Philadelphia, Baltimore and probably even Washington, defended by non-veteran troops. Europe would very likely have intervened and the odds are good that the Northern public, facing Europe and with their biggest army destroyed and their capital in enemy hands, would have thrown in the towel. We'll never know, but at the least it was a prize that was worth the gamble. I'm not sports-minded, but I've heard of games that are "must wins" for a team or they don't make the playoffs. Gettysburg was a "must win" for the Union. If they had been defeated there, Grant's win at Vicksburg would have been simply a footnote in history; the Union would never have capitalized on it.

Gettysburg was the only major battle fought on free soil. It was the only time the South was really able to bring the war home to the North. They got within some 50 to 100 miles above the Union's capital. If that isn't a "high water mark,"what on earth is? To Southerners, Gettyburg was their best chance to win the war; to Northerners, it was a must win fought out on their own soil, the cost of losing it unimaginable. The public instinctively knows this, and that's why millions continue to visit it each year.

Beth Mulgrew
Upper Darby, Pa.

Ancestor's Antietam Legacy

My great-great-grandfather, Colonel John Williams Patterson of the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry, wrote from Antietam:

"They lay in heaps in every direction. Around two pieces of Artillery of theirs, I counted 20 men and 1 officer laying in a space not more than 40 feet square and both pieces utterly disabled. They fought like fiends. This not only shows their bravery but their determination."

Patterson was severely wounded at Fair Oaks, shot through the left chest, and was expected to die, but recovered. He was sent to Libby Prison after the Battle of Salem Church and ultimately was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5, 1864. I am fortunate to have 285 letters that he wrote during the Civil War.

Bill Phillis
Northville, Mich.

Fort Pulaski and Lee

I enjoyed reading the January 2008 issue of your excellent magazine and the article about the reduction of Fort Pulaski by artillery. When I visited the fort a few years ago I was intrigued to learn that the Union Army artillery officers directing the cannon fire had copies of the fort design drawings from the Corps of Engineers files to help them plan the bombardment. The drawings were prepared and signed by the fort's design engineer, a West Point graduate, Lieutenant Robert E. Lee. Keep up your good work with the magazine.

Karl Fritz Beyer
Palo Alto, Calif.

Correcting the Union offensive

I noticed that a factual error has crept into the text of my article about the Battle of Spotsylvania (America's Civil War, January 2008). The fifth full paragraph on page 28 mentions the "Rebels' offensive," while the passage actually refers to the Union offensive having been utterly uncoordinated.

Curtis Crockett
Indian Trail, N.C.

Editors' note: The passage mentioned by Mr. Crockett was inadvertently changed in the editing process.

The Boy Hero of Tennessee

In the January 2008 issue, the article "Memorialized: Sam Davis, Boy Hero," the boyhood home is in Smyrna, Tennessee, not Georgia! Otherwise thank you so much for writing a great piece on Sam Davis.

Anita Teague
Executive Director, Sam Davis Home
Smyrna, Tennessee

Sharpsburg battle losses

In the September 2007 issue you highlighted the losses of William Roulette's farmstead, along with the document that detailed the inventory taken. I have a farm that has been in my family since 1858 near Sharpsburg as well. Dr. Thomas Maddox owned the property during the time of Antietam and the retreat of the Confederate army from Gettysburg to Williamsport, Maryland.

We own a similar document that itemizes the property taken by Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick's command while they were on the property during 1863, and family lore has it that the debt was never repaid by the U.S. government. My question is this: Is there a resource that can be contacted to see if, in fact, this debt was ever repaid? Thanks and I look forward to every issue!

Tom Alexander
Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Editor's note: Check the National Archives to determine whether a claim was filed. The Web site www.archives.gov provides instructions on how to request information.

Looking for Italian connections

I am a 27-year-old America's Civil War Italian subscriber, fond of the American Civil War since my first journey to the USA in 2002.

Recently I visited the Gettysburg battlefield and Richmond, Va., and heard something about the existence of a Northern unit dedicated to Giuseppe Garibaldi. Could you give me more information about the story of that unit and about the offer made by Lincoln to Garibaldi? Are there other links between my country and the Civil War? Could you suggest to me some meaningful books about this subject? Thank you for your good work! I look forward to reading your next issues!

Cosimo Fanfani
Rome, Italy

Editor's note: The Lincoln administration in 1861 offered Garibaldi a major general's commission in the Union army. Garibaldi responded that the only way he could serve would be as commander in chief and if the war's aim was declared to be abolition of slavery. While they failed to reach agreement, Garibaldi later praised Lincoln when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Italians fought for both the North and South in the American Civil War. One Northern unit, the 39th New York Infantry, was known as the "Garibaldi Guard." A useful book is The Italian-American Experience: An Encyclopedia (Kindle Reference Library of the Humanities, 2007).

Send letters to America's Civil War Editor, Weider History Group, 741 Miller Dr., SE, Suite D-2, Leesburg, VA 20175, or e-mail to acw@weiderhistorygroup.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited.



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