Tar Heels on Our Cover

The October 2012 cover, which featured two Confederate soldiers, made me very happy. And when I saw that their names were John and William Howey and that they were in a North Carolina unit, I was ecstatic! My ancestor, Andrew Pickney Spratt, served in F Company of the 49th North Carolina Infantry. Maybe he knew these Howeys, or maybe they were cousins. The Spratts, Harrises and Howeys are related, as they were from the same area. I would love more information on John and William Howey. Where were they from? Did they survive the war, and how did you get the picture?

I am a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and spent 61⁄2 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. So I not only enjoy history, but strategy and tactics as well. I have enjoyed your magazine for more than 40 years, but the October 2012 issue was the best ever.

Bill Howey

Jacksonville, Fla

Is That for Real?

In the February 2013 issue, is that photo from the Minnesota Historical Society on P. 32 of the Iron Brigade story for real? It’s amazing! Could it be an image of 1950s or early 1960s reenactors taken with a period camera? No one thinks it’s suspect?

George Franks III

Falling Waters, Md.

Editor Dana Shoaf replies: Yes, that amazing photo is authentic. One of a series of images taken while the Iron Brigade was camped near Fredericksburg in the summer of 1862, it hasn’t been seen very often. Note that the men are wearing dark blue pants instead of the usual sky blue trousers.

Correction: The website address for the Atlantic History Center given on P. 43 of the February issue was incorrect. It should be atlantahistorycenter.com

Blaze of Glory Debate

In Bjorn Skaptason’s December 2012 review of Jeff Shaara’s novel Blaze of Glory, he takes Shaara to task for following an “outdated narrative” by writing that Ulysses Grant’s army was caught off-guard at the beginning and the victorious Confederates were ordered to retreat after the first day of fighting. In fact, Shiloh will probably always be a “problem” battle. The current fad is to favor Grant’s and Sherman’s spin on their performances versus other officers’ accounts, but this is a subjective value judgment. Historians have the right to reconstruct events as they think best, but that doesn’t necessarily make them right and Shaara wrong.

In researching Shiloh for my forthcoming book on Ambrose Bierce, I came to a conclusion similar to Shaara’s regarding the April 6 fighting. But his reconstruction of events in his own historical fiction is a matter of judgment, not factual error. I would concede this: While the battle’s first day was unquestionably a Confederate victory, April 7 was Don Carlos Buell’s victory. In the “third” Battle of Shiloh—waged with ink, not blood—Grant has definitely won, at least in most historians’ minds.

Chris Coleman

Nashville, Tenn.

Bjorn Skaptason replies: Shiloh is indeed a “problem” battle. I am happy to concede Mr. Coleman’s points on the subjective nature of interpreting primary sources. The validity of competing narratives will emerge as historians continue analyzing the enormous body of primary evidence on the battle. Some of Coleman’s arguments seem to fall within the “Buell” school of thought, as seen in the essays Grant and Buell contributed to Century Magazine. In Blaze of Glory, Jeff Shaara produced a well-written story in exactly the spirit that he intended. General readers will enjoy it, as will Shiloh aficionados. Congratulations to Coleman on his own forthcoming book. I look forward to reading it, both as a Shiloh nerd and a devotee of Bierce.


Originally published in the April 2013 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.