Ewell’s Favorite Concoction

The excellent article “Second-Guessing General Ewell” (August 2010) at long last places the history of Richard Ewell’s actions at Gettysburg in an accurate and most appropriate light. A very fine presentation.

I have lived in General Ewell’s postwar home for 30 years, and still hear echoes of his pegleg at night—as though he’s roaming around on the wooden floors. He lived here with his wife and her son Major Campbell Brown for seven years after his release from prison in Boston Harbor until his death in January 1872.

Letters he wrote his wife Lizinka following his capture at Sailor’s Creek in 1865 requested that she send him a supply of Lactopeptine from the New York Pharmaceutical Association. It contained pepsin, ptyalin, pancreatine, lactic acid and hydrochloric acid, all making up the supposed deficiencies in his stomach’s acid content. In 1979 I found a corked, labeled and half-full bottle of Lactopeptine (similar to the one shown at right) under the old floorboards in a room just off the front stair landing.

Walt Brown

Ewell Farm

Spring Hill, Tenn.

Mostly Happy With Gallagher

I greatly enjoyed Gary Gallagher’s article on Robert E. Lee in the February 2010 issue and agree with his assessment that Lee’s strategy extended the war’s duration by bolstering Southern morale while lowering Northern morale and raising the possibility of foreign intervention. I quibble, however, with his contention that Fredericksburg was Lee’s masterpiece. Not so.

Fredericksburg was the only single day during the war in which Lee could have been destroyed and the war ended. By remaining on the strategic defensive, Lee allowed Ambrose Burnside the opportunity to seize the initiative. Had Burnside been able to cross the river, he could have ensconced himself on Marye’s Heights, the same spot that Lee occupied, placing himself between Lee and Richmond and forcing Lee to attack up the very same killing field. Furthermore, by remaining on the tactical defensive, Lee missed a prime opportunity to attack an enemy divided by a major river and destroy the nearer portion piecemeal.

Joseph McKeown

Augusta, Ga.

Unhappy With Gallagher

Gary Gallagher’s article “Reevaluating Virginia’s ‘Shared History’”(August 2010) has me somewhat miffed. Gallagher openly states that the Civil War was about slavery. I know, however, that Virginia’s decision had nothing to do with the slavery issue. Virginia’s state legislature seceded on the belief that it was a moral wrong for a president to invade what he considered still part of his country with armed force.

The war could not have been about slavery for the simple fact that slavery was never brought up by the United States government until the end of the third quarter of 1862. The Emancipation Proclamation was not put into effect until January 1863.

Gallagher uses the same Unionist propaganda that has been shoved down our throats since 1865. I will not object to secession being about slavery in part. What I do object to is the claim that the war was about slavery.

Also, slavery was dying out in the South in the same natural way that it had done in most of the North. So to say that the Civil War was about slavery is an inaccuracy that should never have been allowed to see print.

Travis Collins

Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Editor’s note: The relationship between slavery and the Civil War is a complex topic, not easily summarized in a sentence or two. It’s worth noting, however, that there is no evidence that slavery was “dying out.” Rather it was expanding into other areas. Read Bond of Iron: Master and Slave at Buffalo Forge, by Charles B. Dew, for an excellent look at how slaves were used in manufacturing in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Revisiting Blame for Slavery

In his letter in the October 2010 issue, Everette Ellis says it wasn’t the South’s fault that they had slaves, but the African tribal leaders who captured African people in order to sell them to Europeans, who then sold them to the South. Then again, the South could have said they didn’t want to own people as slaves, but no, they were happy to buy them and have “free” labor. Of course the Civil War was about state’s rights: the right to enslave people!

Joel Veldheer

Grand Rapids, Mich.

Everette Ellis wrote, “No slave has ever been documented to have entered a Southern port or transported on a ship of Confederate registry.” Well, Charleston, S.C., was a major receiving port for slaves before 1808. The slave trade was abolished in 1808 (53 years before the establishment of the CSA) by the simultaneous independent action of the U.S. and the British governments; the navies of both governments subsequently worked assiduously to suppress the shipping of slaves.

Saran Jonas

New York, N.Y.

Canadian Takes on Gallagher

In Gary W. Gallagher’s column “Reevaluating Virginia’s ‘Shared History,’” he writes that Union General George Henry Thomas (above) ranks as the fourth greatest commander, preceded by U.S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan. General Grant cannot be displaced as the leading hero of the Union cause. But I believe it is a great error that General Thomas is not ranked as No. 2 in the list of Union Civil War heroes.

General Sherman’s tactics, while ultimately successful, were nothing short of a 19th-century version of domestic terrorism! In this post–9/11 world, how would his actions against the American populace be viewed? Just ask the Southern people who suffered from Sherman’s destructive forces. Opinions of his greatness are not universal among Americans.

Phil Sheridan was little more than a thug and mass murderer. His vainglorious and maniacal conduct during the War Between the States speaks for itself. If you need further proof, just look at his postwar actions against the American Indians.

General Thomas conducted himself with as much civility and honor as possible during the war.

Gregory P. Cufaro

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

MacArthur vs. McChrystal

Dana Shoaf’s October editorial reminded me of what I saw happen during General Douglas MacArthur’s “Welcome Back” parade. The sidewalks were crowded with people as he passed by, but I didn’t hear a peep! I think the people were showing overall respect but disapproval of his disagreement with President Harry Truman.

Charles E. Dills

San Luis Obispo, Calif.

General Stanley McChrystal and his staff ridiculed authority, but they were doing their president’s bidding. Take away McChrystal’s off-color remarks and you will find an officer who was working hard for his president and his nation. George McClellan’s and MacArthur’s sins were not just off-color remarks, but outright disobedience to orders.

Daniel Crotty

Boiling Springs, Pa.

Finding Fort Pillow

In the article “Until Every Negro Has Been Slaughtered,” by Kevin Levin in the October 2010 issue, Fort Pillow was referenced as being in Mississippi, but it is actually located in Tennessee.

James deBerry II

Collierville, Tenn.

Editor’s note: Thanks for setting the record straight.

Identifying With Susannah Ural

Just like Susannah Ural, who commented on it in her October 2010 interview, I was torn between studying the War Between the States or WWII, and decided to go with the former because I had an extensive library on the subject. And as she suggested, I will consider using Footnote.com for research purposes.

Stuart McClung

Hagerstown, Md.

From Our Facebook Page

When I was an extra on the movie Gettysburg, our artillery crew used one of Charlie Smithgall’s original 12- pounder Napoleons for the bombardment scene before Pickett’s Charge. It was amazing to be on the battlefield at Gettysburg, firing an original Napoleon.

Jeff Giambrone

Editor’s note: Giambrone is referring to the portfolio on Charley Smithgall’s cannons in the October issue.


Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here