Share the glory
I truly enjoyed Chris Howland’s article “Foiled at Fort Wagner” in the November 2013 issue. I was sad to see, however, that there was no mention of the activities of Col. Edward W. Serrell’s 1st New York Engineers. This famous regiment was responsible for building the “Swamp Angel” battery and digging the approach trenches leading up to Fort Wagner. Without the efforts and achievements of the men of the 1st New York Engineers, including my great-great-great-grandfather, Sgt. Andrew Jackson Varian, the casualties would undoubtedly have been greatly higher.
Howard E. Bartholf
“Foiled at Fort Wagner” appropriately underscores the historic and brave—though unsuccessful—charge of the 54th Massachusetts against Fort Wagner on Morris Island the evening of July 18, 1863. However, by simply stating that the other regiments engaged in the assault met a similar fate glosses over the heroism of the 48th New York and 6th Connecticut, who fought their way over the rampart on the seaward salient of the fort and continued the vicious struggle inside the walls of Fort Wagner for some three hours.
“Perry’s Saints” of the 48th New York suffered 58 percent casualties, including 14 of its 16 officers and 54 killed in action; the 54th Massachusetts lost 42 percent, including 34 KIA. Not only did Sergeant William Carney of the 54th Massachusetts earn the Medal of Honor at Fort Wagner, but so did Private Joseph Hibson of the 48th. All three lead regiments of George C. Strong’s brigade in particular deserve to be remembered not for ultimately being repulsed at Fort Wagner but for their incredible valor against insurmountable odds.
Richard A. McGeary
P.S. My great-granduncle, Sgt. John Abbott, Company D (“The Die-NoMores”), 48th New York, was mortally wounded during the Fort Wagner assault.
We’ll take Alex
Abraham Lincoln was a poor speller, like the vast majority of Americans at that time. That wasn’t so hard to say, was it? So why on earth did you publish a lengthy screed, dripping with manufactured outrage, about a wrong answer on Jeopardy!?
The whole diatribe was just silly. Alex Trebek does not rule on answers. The judges, in fact, do have the final say. The show does distinguish between misspellings and wrong answers, and it is a fine line. But they walk the line with consistency, and to do otherwise is an injustice to all other contestants. The contestant’s age is irrelevant. And, had the show accepted his answer, he still would have lost the game.
Bottom line: It’s their show and their rules. You don’t like it? Don’t watch. I really don’t “get” the article. Has Harold Holzer run out of ideas to write about?
“Lincoln in Jeopardy” missed the point. The boy’s error was in phonetics, not spelling. If the boy had said, “Emanciptation,” he would have been ruled incorrect with much less, if any, controversy. The show tends to be strict on phonetics, and smaller errors than that have proved costly. In “Final Jeopardy,” the answer is written. Judges usually accept misspellings as long as the meaning and phonetics are correct (except in formal titles).
Thus, “Immancipation” might have been accepted, since people often pronounce the first syllable as a short i. But “Emanciptation” is too far over the line.
Martin A. Selbst
Custer lookin’ good
Old “Crazy” George Custer (November 2013) was one of my boyhood heroes, and now that I am an old man and see for the first time how he must have been really, in person, is a marvel of modern methods. I know something about old George, having tasted battle in WWII. I was an infantryman with the 34th Infantry in Italy and lost a leg at Cassino during the opening battle for the monastery in January 1944.
Thank you for the unbelievable photo of George A. Custer as he really was. Your entire package was a wonderful surprise.
Richard W. Squeri
The McClellan effect
Regarding the article “Patriot’s Act” in the November issue: There’s a letter in the archives of the Westtown School here in West Chester, Pa., that touches on General George McClellan’s impact on the enlisted men of the Army of the Potomac. A young student, Margaret Gummere, wrote to her mother of a conversation she had with a paroled Union prisoner of war captured at Gettysburg and being held nearby: “One of them told me that when they went into that battle they all thought Genl. McClellan was leading them and that they would not have fought half as hard if they had not thought he was at their head.” One wonders if a rumor was deliberately spread among the troops hurrying to Gettysburg in order to enhance their fighting spirit?
West Chester, Pa.
Originally published in the March 2014 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.