Rules for Comments

I like to consider this blog as a virtual extension of my home.  As commenters, you are invited into my virtual home.  Just as anyone would have expectations of their guests, there are some expectations for guests in this virtual home.

1.  Please don’t insult other commenters.  Everyone should feel welcome.  If another is acting badly, it’s my responsibility to deal with them.  I wouldn’t insult another guest in your home and I hope you feel the same.  As I also wouldn’t insult you in your home, I appreciate it if you kindly refrain from insulting me here as well.

2.  Please don’t insult my friends.  I wouldn’t insult your friends in your home, either.

3.  Please refrain from modern politics, unless it is germane to the post upon which you’re commenting.  Value-laden comments about specific modern politicians or political parties/groups should remain unwritten.  Comments about religion and politics are sure ways to offend others and start arguments.  Such would distract from the historical discussion.

4.  Please do not use profanity.  I would like this site to remain family friendly.

5.  Disagreement is fine and encouraged.  I do request more than just a counterclaim, though.  Sources are appreciated.

6.  Please advance the conversation.  The two of us repeating ourselves ad nauseam is not a discussion.  Each post should add to the conversation.  So I would expect new information, new sources for support, or a new interpretation.  Likewise, I don’t want to repeat myself.  If I’ve already addressed something I don’t want to have to address it again unless from a new aspect or considering new evidence.

7.  Trolls are not welcome and will be banned without hesitation once it becomes obvious to me they are trolls.

8.  I don’t engage in blog wars.  If anyone would like to know my views on a specific issue, they can ask me about it here.  I’m not going to answer anyone else’s blog posts directed to me.

9.  Evidence trumps opinion.  If you want to convince me, provide credible evidence.

10.  I reserve the right to edit comments.  I won’t allow profanity or insults.  My goal is to ensure that people visiting this site are not subjected to crude language or a flame war among commenters.  I hope you won’t feel insulted by this, because no insult to you is intended by this, but editing your comment allows us to have the conversation without the objectionable material.


  1. Al as a bluebelly do you really feel safe? I do know a good psychiatrist in Knoxville,TN. Your 10 rules are quite silly. I don’t know how I ran across this untrue crap, but I’ll make sure not to come back unless maybe someone has enough money to debate me? Or better yet maybe we could have a duel?

    1. I feel very safe from the cowardly keyboard warriors. I don’t doubt you know a good psychiatrist in Knoxville. I suggest you make another appointment soon. I will assume by “duel” you mean an intellectual duel of wits. If not, I’m sure the Tennessee State Police would be interested in threats of violence. If so, I don’t duel with unarmed men. As you’ve now identified yourself as merely a troll who is unable to participate in an adult, intellectual discussion, this will be your last communication to this blog. Have a nice holiday.

  2. I found your blog from your comments on The Daily Show and Judge Andrew Napolitano. I appreciate your posts; thanks for sharing them. I like your Rules for Comments; I can imagine that a topic like The Civil War brings out particularly bad behavior.

    1. Thanks very much for your kind words. It’s true. The Civil War is politics and religion and family all thrown together. It has to be heavily moderated.

  3. A question rather than a reply: I understand counterfactual history is distained by many-so let me engage in it now: not to in any way insult the 20th Alabama but–would not an equal force of the French Foreign Legion or the Coldstream Guards (or from Garabaldi’s One Thousand) have kicked Chamberlain and his forces back to Maine?

    1. We’ll never know.

  4. Pat Eakin · · Reply

    I have been debating the causes of the Civil War for over 12 years. So far my Southern opponents cannot explain the following:
    Tariffs were a major concern, but Georgian Howell Cobb never complained about it when he was the Sec of Treasury for Pres Buchanan.

    Lawrence Keitt insisted that slavery be the reason for South Carolina’s secession.

    The South had a majority on the Supreme Court. So if tariffs were unfair, why didn’t they challenge them in the Court?

    Why no mention of tariffs in the Crittenden Compromise?

    I was thrown off of a pro Confederate cite, and another simply ignores my questions.
    I am Pat Eakin on google+ where I defend history from myths.
    Patrick Eakin

    1. I have an almost completed series on why various states seceded. You can search by state to see each one. I’ve completed all seven of the lower south plus Arkansas so far.

  5. Pat Eakin · · Reply

    Al, I see that you have posted the seceding states’ reasons for secession. My question is, why do so many modern day defenders of the Confederacy choose to ignore those reasons, and prefer instead to make up reasons of their own?

    I know this site has strict rules about not insulting or degrading fellow members, and I will respect that rule. With that in mind, I would like to know if it is reasonable to expect a site that relies on historical research to obey the basic rules concerning the presentation of historical arguments?
    For example, if someone posts that a tariff was the reason for why a state chose to secede, shouldn’t that person have to provide some verifiable evidence to substantiate his/her claim?
    The reason teachers and professors assign term papers is to teach students of history how to prepare a valid argument. I know this site isn’t a school, but wouldn’t it be a much better site if we followed the basic premises of preparing an argument that we learned when we were in school?

    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree proponents of a position should support that position with factual, verifiable evidence. Modern day neoconfederates, in my opinion, have a lack of knowledge of actual history, a lack of logical thought, and/or a lack of intellectual integrity. To me, that is the only explanation. True, I don’t want others to hurl insults. If anyone is going to take hits for insulting others, I’ll take those hits. But I think my opinion is an accurate description. I haven’t seen anything yet to disprove it.

  6. Christopher Luhn · · Reply

    Just FYI: the link for the “Dunning School” is either broken, corrupted, or obsolete. But, this may work until fixed:

    1. Thanks for letting me know. I think I’ve fixed it, provided I correctly identified the post to which you were referring.

  7. Ryan Rosenthal · · Reply

    I too would like to be a student of the civil war and have noticed you on a lot of ranger hikes around a certain national park just above the Mason Dixon line. Do you have any advice on how to really expand my horizons beyond maybe the ordinary. The ranger walks are always informative and the rangers always top notch.

    1. I do go on plenty of ranger walks. The NPS does a fantastic job, and I’m a big proponent of learning from the rangers. There’s no substitute for putting in the time reading good books by outstanding historians. I also think lectures by great historians are another great resource, and part of that includes conferences and symposia such as the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College and others. I’m readying a post on a Civil War course by an acclaimed historian that will be a great resource. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to learn.

  8. Just an interesting note related to the Civil War. Winslow Arkansas Summit Lodge 530 was overrun/entered/robbed during the Civil War and Union soldier(s) took the founding charter of the lodge. Recently a descendant of this Union soldier left instructions in his will to return this Charter. Summit Lodge 530 is now unique with two founding Charters. Freemasonry does not condone slavery and never could though this Union soldier perhaps thought all Southerners must. I am a member of Winslow Arkansas Summit Lodge 530 though I will soon be changing towns.

    1. And yet a number of Freemasons in the South were slave owners. Even George Washington, a Freemason himself, was a slave owner. So perhaps it’s not as all-encompassing as you thought.

      1. Freemasons owned slaves but ALL “involuntary servitude” is contrary to founding principles of Freemasonry. Priests would not be expected to be pedophiles, but many were/are.
        No Freemason has ever been an atheist but all Freemasons are sinners and perhaps especially me.

        1. So perhaps there might have been justification for Union soldiers believing Freemasons in the South to be proslavery?

  9. Not particularly. Freemasonry is extremely rare and has always been one of, if not the most exclusive of honorable fraternal societies existing. This will always remain true but still; pro-slavery idealization would be a fault leading to ceasing to be allowed as an honorable Freemason.

    1. Perhaps today, but apparently not in the Antebellum and Civil War-era South.

  10. Roger Davidson · · Reply

    Keep up the Blogging and teaching. While at Va. Tech., did you get a chance to take Civil War History from Bud Robertson?

    1. Thank you.

      Yes, I did. In fact, you can blame Prof. Robertson for the existence of this blog. Before I took his class I had little interest in the Civil War. It just shows the power of a great teacher.

  11. Stuart Richter · · Reply

    I am very interested in learning more about my grandmother Lydia Leister and the struggles she faced. I find it interesting that she moved into reverend Dobbins house after the war. What great story. We find today that the words of Abraham Lincoln are put to test more than ever and this battle field represents the sacrifices of so many that we must learn from our past to have a future
    if not for this hollowed ground where brother fought against brother and were willing to die for what they believed to be right.

  12. Bill Lawrence · · Reply

    I consider myself a student of the Civil War. I’m certainly no scholar, but I think I can hold my own in most conversations on the subject. But, as in all things, the more I learn, the more I find out how much more I don’t know.

    The more I contemplate and study the Battle of Gettysburg, the more perplexed I become. I am not a military man and so know nothing of military strategy and tactics, So I come to a dead end when I contemplate the situation there. Two armies, one roughly 20,000 men stronger than the other. The larger army is dug in on high ground, in a good defensive position, with the shorter line and interior lines and to get at them you have to cross a half mile to a mile of open ground. The larger army also has the advantage of fighting on it’s home turf. What on earth would make any commander of the smaller army think he can attack them head on with any hope of success? How could he not know they would do to him what he did to them at Fredericksburg?

    And that fiasco on day 3 misnamed “Pickett’s Charge”, I have heard educated people say that actually was a plan that might have worked. Well, take 12,000 men and attack the center of an army of probably by that time 60,000 effectives and expect to defeat them? That makes my head hurt. How could he not know he’d lose half of them just getting there? And if they did get there and break through, what was the follow up plan? Was he then going to pour the rest of his army through the gap and split the federal army? Or expect the maybe 6000 remaining troops of the attack now smack dab in the middle of 60,000 men to make the 60,000 retreat?? This makes me mumble to myself.

    Thanks for listening. Sincerely
    Bill Lawrence

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Let me make two observations. First, “home turf” is highly overrated. Only a small part of the Army of the Potomac was on their home turf. Certainly the New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, etc. troops weren’t on their home turf. And of the Pennsylvania troops, only a few were from Adams County.

      Second, there is considerable evidence there was a second wave of troops planned to exploit a breakthrough. Longstreet, seeing the initial assault was going to fail, held it back.

      1. Bill Lawrence · · Reply

        Thanks for your reply. By “home turf”, I mean they were now back on their side of the line and in the position of repelling the invader. Some rebel soldier who had been through both Sharpsburg and Gettysburg remarked “The damn Yankees shoot straighter when they’re up north”. “Home turf” also carries with it the implication of more reliable line of supply and local civilian sympathy. At least that’s the way I see it.

        That second part makes sense. We know Longstreet was against the whole thing from the beginning, and he was notoriously slow. I understand troops in the middle of that assault were looking back over their shoulders crying out “Why don’t they come?”. Apparently expecting reinforcements. They must have felt hung out to dry. Or die.

        As a native born Virginian, I have always revered Robert E Lee, and consider him one of the great commanders of all time. So when the question arose “Who was the better general, Lee or Grant”? my immediate reaction was “Who would even dare to ask such a question? Give Lee the same numbers and resources and see who comes out on top!” Then someone pointed out both men made mistakes, but Grand never made the same mistake twice, and Lee did. I had already come to the uncomfortable realization that “Lee’s Folly” AKA “Pickett’s Charge” came one year and two days after Malvern Hill. Did he learn nothing from that? Or from Fredericksburg? I still consider him one of the greatest ever, but I get uncomfortable contemplating those questions.

        Thanks again Bill L

        1. The best explanation I’ve heard came from Scott Hartwig, who was a ranger at Gettysburg. He quoted an unnamed Union soldier who said the Army of the Potomac was an army of lions led by jackasses. At Gettysburg, there were fewer jackasses.

          The AotP’s supply was just as reliable in Virginia. In fact, it took some last-minute engineering heroics from Herman Haupt to establish the AotP’s supply line in Pennsylvania. Also, while they received more reports from civilians in the North, they also received intelligence from blacks and Unionists whites in the South.

  13. Bill Lawrence · · Reply

    Thanks again. I love that quote. It sounds like something Mark Twain might have said. Thanks also for pointing out a couple of things I hadn’t thought of. But on the flip side of the supply question, unless I am badly mistaken, the one option Lee did not have was standing still. He HAD to move because he had outrun his supply line and had to rely on foraging. Whereas I understand Meade was receiving massive amounts daily by rail. ( Evidently thanks to Haupt ) Wasn’t Lee’s primary initial target when he moved north Harrisburg, because of a large Union supply depot there from which he could feed his army for awhile?

    I have an image in my head, accurate or not I have no idea. Ewell had made it to the outskirts of Harrisburg, but there was a river between him and the town, and those sneaky yankee varmints has burned the bridge. So he was standing there on river’s edge trying to figure a way to get across when word arrived to turn around and get down to Gettysburg ASAP because a little “problem” had developed there. The rest is history.

    Bill L

    1. You’re right about Lee’s needing to keep from staying in place for too long [He did stay in place from July 1 to July 4 without much trouble, but that was probably close to his limit]. Lee was looking at Harrisburg because it was the capital of an important Union state. While not as critical a target as Washington, D.C., it was close to that important from a political standpoint.

      Actually, the two bridges across the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg weren’t burned. The Union defenders established a couple of forts on the West Shore, and confederates and Union soldiers fought the Battle of Sporting Hill, the northernmost fighting elements of the Army of Northern Virginia engaged in during the war. The battle was a draw, but it helped protect the bridges from being taken. Ewell spent time on June 30 observing the Union defenses and determining his plan of attack.

      1. Bill Lawrence · · Reply

        This is why I so enjoy engaging in these kinds of discussions. I had never heard of the Battle of Sporting Hill. That adds another piece to the puzzle. Thanks so much. Thanks. Bill L

  14. Chris Babka · · Reply

    Hi Al, here is another history source,, the chronicles of the American civil war, see Apr 11, 2019 podcast with Peter Carmichael on his book. I found on ITunes first. He was also on cspan 3 recently. We’ve met many times. Last on Culps Hill on Saturday Apr 13. I am the lady with the tan Gettysburg cap. Your blog looks interesting. Have a nice day.

    1. Thanks, Chris. I may well have a blog post coming up regarding this past Saturday.

  15. SnowBoarder SLC · · Reply

    I thought I would alert individuals to an excellent article I came across. Much has been made of Horace Greeley’s comment “go in peace” statement as a support for a unilateral right of secession. However, the following article shows this could not be farther than the truth!

    Thomas N. Bonner, “Horace Greeley and the Secession Movement, 1860-1861.” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, (Dec., 1951), pp. 425-444.

    1. Thanks for sharing the article.

  16. ROBERT CAIN · · Reply

    Nice try, but extending the idea of slave ownership to include spouses, sons, and daughters just won’t wash. These secondarys did not “own” the slave in any meaningful sense. I presume you counted all free whites in the household. Say the “patriarch” had ten children, all of whom might have inherited a slave or three from Dad. That’s a whole lot of “slaveowners” by your methodology.

    That said, I enjoy reading your posts.

    Robert Cain, Raleigh, NC

    1. Every member of the family exercised the privilege of ownership over their enslaved people. An enslaved person given an order by the son or daughter of the slaveholder could not say, “I don’t have to listen to you because you aren’t my owner.” They had to obey. Having said that, though, the point is not that they were the owners, but that they had a personal stake in the perpetuation of slavery. Sons and daughters stood to inherit enslaved people on the death of the slaveholder, and daughters could expect to receive enslaved people as a “gift” on their marriage.

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