So after some major delays because of snow, Eric Campbell and President of the Kernstown Battlefield Association, Gary Crawford and myself were all able to get together. We met on Monday, February 10th at the Park’s Headquarters in Middletown. Mr. Crawford actually remembered me from I program I gave to him and his wife a year ago, and was excited to see that I was the Ranger leading the tour on the 24th.
Once we got talking, the three of us started to iron out some details for the upcoming program. First, Gary filled us in on the programs taking place at the Kernstown Battlefield the weekend before my program, Saturday July 19th and Sunday 20th. In an attempt to bring in visitors on the weekend prior, KBA has organized numerous programs during this weekend to commemorate Early’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign and the Second Battle of Kernstown. Historian Scott Patchan will be leading a day long bus tour of the Valley on Saturday, ending his tour at the battlefield. The National Park Service is also going to loan out Civil War era artifacts to be exhibited this weekend. After some discussion, Eric decided that since I will be involved with the 150th Anniversary program, I will be in uniform with the flat hat and all manning this exhibit. I will be responsible for answering questions from visitors and possibly presenting a program relating to the artifacts. This is a win win for both organizations. KBA will get the presence of a National Park Ranger and everything that comes along with that, including the flat hat that visitors tend to flock too. Also, on our end, I will be able to do interpretation as well as promote my upcoming special program the following week, as well as the slew of Sesquicentennial Programs the park will be holding in the fall.
We also discussed some logistics for my program come July. We decided that a 4:00pm starting time would be suitable for all parties. This allows people who work, and really want to attend, to take a half a day of work and get the program on time. Also, during this time, the sun will not be as powerful as say noon or 1:00pm. I will run my program for about an hour and a half. Gary presented us with a great opportunity. He offered to open up the Pritchard-Grim house following the end of my tour! The house, which is owned by the KBA was the home of the Pritchard family during the war. This will be a great segway following my program to allow folks to see this beautiful cultural resource not usually open to the public.
The three of us decided that on Monday, April 14th, we will all conduct a site visit of the battlefield. Gary will take us around showing us certain aspects of the battlefield as well as the suggested walking routes during my tour.
In an attempt to compile more primary resources on the battle, I reached out to Gary himself to see if KBA or he had any archives pertaining to the battle. He said that I would need to contact historian and author, Scott Patchan.. As he has conducted extensive research on the battle and the summer 1864 campaign, Gary figured he would be a great resource for me. He emailed me his contact information and I will be in touch with him this week.
Also, I spent some time in the park’s library scouring some primary source materials. This included the memoirs of CSA Generals Jubal Early and John Gordon. Early’s memoirs are well known to be littered with Lost Cause vocabulary. So, with this in mind, I found the segment he left on the Second Battle of Kernstown. He describes the whole battle in a page and half. Mentioning the morning attack and flank movement of Breckenridge’s men, he gives credit where credit is due in this aspect. However, as Early tended to do, he blames his cavalry for not routing the fleeing Federals further north than he did. Unfortunately, Gordon’s colorful memoirs neglected to mention Second Kernstown.
I then moved to the commander of the Union forces at Second Kernstown, George Crook. In his autobiography he leaves fewer words on the battle than Early. Two paragraphs! As he lost the battle, it is not a surprise that he left so little. For what they it was worth, his memoir was of little help at this point in my research.
The next source I checked was Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. This four volume series is well known in the Civil War community. Following the war in the 1880’s there was a newspaper that published primary accounts from veterans about campaigns and battles. After they were all published over a series of years, they were compiled into this series. This is a great resource for any Civil War historian to have, so I checked to see if there was an article on Second Kernstown. Unfortunately, there was not. There was a account of Early’s Raid to D.C. by Early himself, but it concluded with him passing back into the Shenandoah Valley. The next chronological article was written by Gen. Wesley Merritt. His detailed account of the fall 1864 campaign begins with the appointment of Philip Sheridan to the Valley on August 6th 1864. Once again leaving out Second Kernstown.
One place I knew I could find primary evidence was in the Official Records. I found the volume pertaining to this time period and geographical area, Vol. 37. I was able to find the official after battle reports from George Crook, Joseph Thoburn and Col. Wells among others. As these were written immediately following the battle, they offer a great insight to the happenings of the battle. Also, the individual reports of Colonels give highly detailed accounts of their individual regiments during the battle, helping pin point men and units.
As next week quickly looms, I wish to compile a list of major objectives I want to cover in my program. Sort of an outline of my outline. What big ideas do I want to convey? What information do I want visitors to leave knowing? What are some details I can leave out?
Hours Completed this week: 8
Total hours: 43