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Sunday, January 24, 2010

June 23, 1863 Cashtown bushwacking

This Friday, I have scheduled my first trip to Gettysburg of the new year. I have been working, for the past several weeks, on the script for what will be the audio supplement to my latest book (with Steve Stanley), The Complete Gettysburg Guide. I need to make a trip to Gettysburg to lay out a detailed driving tour for a tour that will be included in the audio supplement - the June 23 bushwacking incident in the Cashtown Pass west of Gettysburg. This event is discussed briefly in the book, but there was unfortunately no room to include a tour of it. There has never been a tour published of the event, but friend and Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Gary Kross discussed it in a past issue of Blue&Gray Magazine (it's a great piece, but a few of the details of the incident are incorrect).

The bushwacking incident is one of those extremely obscure, little-known events of the Gettysburg Campaign. On June 23, a week prior to the battle, a company of the 14th Virginia Cavalry was conducting "reconnaissance" activities in the area of Caledonia. Many of the southern cavalry in Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins' brigade had been scouting, taking horses and mules, and many other provisions, all around the Chambersburg area since entering Pennsylvania a few days prior. After taking a few dozen horses and mules in the Caledonia area, the Virginia cavalrymen continued east toward the Cashtown Pass.

Just as they reach a set of thick woods at the pass, the Virginians saw a roadblock of trees and other debris. After charging and scattering some Home Guard militia and cavalry stationed there, the Virginians cleared the road and pressed on toward Cashtown. They didn't get very far, however, before a shotgun blast came out of the brush alongside the road, and one of the Virginians in the lead, Pvt. Eli Amick, caught lead in his abdomen and yelled, "I'm shot!"

Amick, a 42 year-old veteran of the Mexican War, was taken back to the Greenwood area (a few miles east of Chambersburg), where he soon died. Amick, then, was the first Confederate to be killed during the campaign so close to Gettysburg (but not the first in Pennsylvania). According to local story, a Cashtown-area resident, Henry Hahn, was the ringleader of a small group of men who waited to ambush the Confederates along the road, and was the self-admitted trigger-puller after the war. Ironically, Amick was known among the Federal food-chain as a "notorious guerilla and bushwacker" himself.

Especially since Amick suffered the distinction of being the first southerner killed so close to Gettysburg during the campaign, I have long found this episode very interesting. I've been collecting every bit of information I could find on it. It will be fun including the first-ever detailed tour of this incident in the audio supplement, and this Saturday I will be shooting the mileages and spots for the tour. The very historic corridor along old Route 30 west of Gettysburg to Cashtown is chock-full of historic sites and things to see, and I'm looking forward to this road trip.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Park Service puts Bob Kirby at Gettysburg's helm

According to a blurb on the Gettysburg Times website today:

National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis R. Reidenbach has
named James Robert (Bob) Kirby as the new superintendant of Gettysburg National
Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site.

Kirby replaced John Latschar who was reassigned to Frederick.

Kirby, currently superintendant of Petersburg National Battlefield in
Virginia, will assume his new post in March. Acting Superintendant
Mel Poole will return to his position as superintendant of Catoctin Mountain
Park in Thurman, Maryland.

Well, there you have it. I don't know Bob personally, just of him, and that he's been very effective at Petersburg. He has a lot of ahead of him, that's for sure. I and everyone wish him the very best.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

No, I haven't disappeared...

My apologies for not posting at all for the past five weeks or so... I basically took an unintentional sabattical over the holidays. After a whirlwind, busy summer, a month-long illness, and many family obligations in preparation for the holidays (and not having anything of value to post, admittedly) I just haven't had the urge to blog - until now.

It's a new year, and there's lots to look forward to. Except for a joint article with Eric Wittenberg that is in the new issue of Blue&Gray Magazine, I really haven't written anything of substance since the summer. (The B&G article came out really nice, by the way - it's based on the July 4, 1863 Monterey Pass battle chapter from our book One Continuous Fight, and publisher Dave Roth did a great job with the new maps.) I did a narrative piece on the actions of Gettysburg's South Cavalry Field for the No Casino Gettysburg and No Casino Adams County folks that is seeing a lot of public exposure right now (in opposition to the damned proposed casino along Rt. 30 only 2700 feet south of the Park boundary).

But there is a lot to report on the The Complete Gettysburg Guide front. We had to keep it quiet until this week, but all five of the major book clubs - including the History Book Club and the Military Book Club - picked up the book as a selection! It is quite an honor for Steve Stanley and I. Anyone considering purchasing the book through the club needs to know that the quality of the club edition is the SAME high quality as the regular prints - the clubs "piggy-backed" on the print run by publisher Savas Beatie. Very same book. Same heavy gloss paper, same cover boards, same cover, same everything.

During the holiday, I began serious work on the script for the audio supplement for the Guide. This audio, which will be available as a CD package, and an internet download, will feature my voice narrative of the battlefield tours from the Guide - and will include an additional tour not in the book. The additional tour is that of the June 23, 1863 civilian ambush of a company of the 14th Virginia Cavalry that took place in the Cashtown Pass. During the ambush, a Cashtown civilian named Henry Hahn shot and mortally wounded a member of the 14th. There has never been a detailed tour published of the incident, and to my knowledge it has never been mapped. The supplement will contain that map. Please note, also, that this audio guide will NOT simply be a reading of the book - it will be completely different, and will point out many sights, places and events that do not appear in the book, and will leave out some that are in the book - in other words they are quite different indeed. We hope folks will see the value in both and will desire both. If all goes well, the audio guide is scheduled to be available to the public sometime this coming April.

We are very humbled by the wonderful reviews that the book has received. Besides the great print reviews, as of this date there are 28 reviews on Amazon, all of them 5-star. We can't express out gratitude for that adequately, and we are so heartened that folks enjoy and learn from the book so much! And even though the book has just been made available by the book clubs, as of last night when I checked their website, the Guide was already the #7 top-selling volume on the History Book Club's Civil War Campaigns list.

Although I haven't written much over the past several months, I have been actively gathering primary materials in preparation for beginning to write the next volume in the Guide series - the one for the 1862 Maryland Campaign. I expect to start cracking on the text later this month. Release date for it is expected to spring 2011, which give Steve and I the bulk of this year to put it together. Many Antietam/Maryland Campaign students and experts - Ted Alexander (who will write the Forward), Steve Recker, John Hoptak, Mannie Gentile, and Brian Jordan, just to name a few and leave many out - have signed on to help. I have always loved the campaign - South Mountain, Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Shepherdstown - every bit as much as Gettysburg, and I can't wait to get started.

Also during the year, I will begin work on a solo scholarly book that I've been wanting to do for a long time. It's a book I feel has been needed for a long time, and I've spent much of my research time over the past couple of decades gathering material needed for it. That's all I'll say for now, and more will be forthcoming on it next year.

Well, that's all I've got to say for now. Western Pennsylvania is in the midst of another big snow storm right now, which I'm watching out the windows of my new home office/library. Snowblowing and shoveling cuts into my writing time! But winter, I have found, is a great time to write - hot chocolate at the ready, dog snuggled up at my feet.

Let the words flow... and try to grab the good ones.