We welcome a guest post today from Graham T. Dozier, editor of A Gunner in Lee’s Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter. In May 1861, Virginian Thomas Henry Carter (1831–1908) raised an artillery battery and joined the Confederate army. Over the next four years, he rose steadily in rank from captain to colonel, placing him among the senior artillerists in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Dozier offers the definitive edition of Carter’s letters, meticulously transcribed and carefully annotated. This impressive collection brings to light Carter’s unvarnished opinions of the people and events that shaped his wartime experience and sheds new light on Lee’s army and Confederate life in Virginia.
In today’s post, Dozier shows that visiting Civil War battle sites is not just a pastime for buffs and historians 150 years after the fact. Thomas Henry Carter made a trip just months after the battle to gain insight on the ground at Manassas.
Capt. Thomas Henry Carter, the 30-year-old commander of the recently formed King William Artillery, came to the war in 1861 with a genuine curiosity about people and events. He arrived in northern Virginia that September, and one of the first things he wrote to his wife Susan about was the Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas), which had taken place on 21 July. Specifically, Carter told her what soldiers in the Confederate army thought about the way the battle had ended. “The opinion of the army,” he reported, “is that a tremendous mistake was made in not advancing on to Alexandria immediately after the Bull Run fight.” Clearly this notion troubled Tom Carter deeply. When he considered who was responsible, Carter pointed his finger in one direction. He explained to Susan that “[a]ll admit it now & the blame is put on Davis’ shoulders here. Politicians will ruin us forever.”
Carter did not stop with the assignment of blame. He went further and attempted to draw some lesson from the event. keep reading →