The devil’s in the details
Hit the dusty trail
While I agree with Gordon Berg’s movie review of Santa Fe Trail in the May 2011 issue, it does contain an error. If you watch the movie again, you will note that Colonel Lee sent the “band of brothers” to Fort Leavenworth, not Fort Laramie.
Mill Creek, Wash.
Fanning the flames
Something is amiss in the timeline of events in Dennis Frye’s article “Jackson, Johnston and Conflicting Interests” (May 2011). A caption states that Union troops burned the Harpers Ferry armory on April 18, 1861. The text of the article states that Virginia voted to leave the Union on April 17, and seized the armory within 24 hours of the vote, and that its capture “was a godsend.” The article further states that two-thirds of the machinery was moved to Winchester by early May, and a rifle pictured is described as “among those seized when the Confederates captured the armory.” How could all this have happened if the armory burned on April 18?
James M. Kefauver
Dennis Frye replies: Harpers Ferry had both an armory, where weapons were manufactured, and an arsenal, where weapons were stored. The arsenal comprised two buildings, both of which were completely destroyed on April 18. That is depicted in the article. The armory comprised 20 buildings, only two of which were consumed by the flames that night. Jackson’s men removed the machinery from the remaining buildings and shipped it south, and surviving weapons were seized by the Southerners. Johnston ordered the empty armory buildings burned on June 14, 1861, as part of the Confederate evacuation.
As a Civil War lecturer and a member of the 5th New York Duryee Zouave living history group, I must disagree with your article “Mosby’s Magic” (January 2011), which claims Brig. Gen. George A. Custer executed seven of Colonel John Mosby’s men in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864. I understand that even though Mosby found out later that Custer did not order the executions, he never retracted his accusation that Custer murdered his men. This was a war and Mosby was a partisan, but Custer’s war record shows him to be a soldier, not a murderer.
Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight
In his letter in the May 2011 issue, Mr. Blackerby states, “not all Southern soldiers fought a conscious battle to maintain slavery.” If the greater majority of Confederate soldiers “had neither the desire nor the means to own slaves,” were they duped into fighting for the wealthy few who did? Was the encouragement of the Southern population to blindly take up arms a sham? The advantaged proclaimed slavery “a right and a necessity,” while successfully recruiting the population to do their fighting for them and thus maintain their lavish lifestyle. The Civil War, like many wars, was about greed. What it rendered was humiliation, mistrust and a shameful loss of life. Its repercussions are still with us today.
Victoria, British Columbia
Sharp-eyed reader Thomas K. Tate, of Orefield, Pa., noticed that the machine pictured on p. 36 of the May 2011 issue was misidentified as a gun-stock lathe. It is actually a “Sine Bar” rifling machine, now on display at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. We have it on good authority that the cutter in the machine was used to make Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” Magnum.
Originally published in the July 2011 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.