Monday, September 20, 2010

Recent Book Purchases on Washington-Area Civil War History

Not long ago I went to the annual used book sale of the McLean branch of the American Association of University Women.  (I mentioned this sale in a previous post.)  Last year, I found a Civil War-era book for only fifty dollars.  While I did not stumble upon such a treasure this year, I did discover Old Roads and New Insights: Adventures in Discovery by Winslow R. Hatch. This book, published posthumously in 1985, contains a wealth of information on the history of the roads around McLean and Great Falls, including the Georgetown Pike.  Although the book was printed from a typewritten draft, along with hand-drawn maps, don't let the quality of the publication distract you from the content.  This book offers incredibly detailed insights into local history.  Hatch endlessly explored and meticulously recorded the location of old roads in Fairfax County.  Of particular interest to Civil War enthusiasts is the chapter on Camp Griffin and the hospital at Benvenue, subject of a previous post.  (Incidentally, Hatch was one of the prior owners of Benvenue.)  I even learned that Kirby Road, not far from the entrance to the GW Parkway in McLean, existed at the time of the Civil War.  One end of the road fell within Confederate lines, while the Union soldiers occupied the part closer to McLean, and both Union and Confederate officers drank at Charles Kirby's home.

Another purchase along similar lines is Forgotten Roads of the Hunter Mill Road Corridor, by Jim Lewis over at the Hunter Mill Defense League. Although not exclusively focused on the Civil War era, this booklet explores the many old roads around Hunter Mill Road that still can be seen today, including the original Lawyers Road that led to the Fairfax County Courthouse, located near present-day Tyson's Corner in the mid-18th century.  (I recently took an HMDL tour that visited some of the roads featured in the booklet.)  Jim used the 1862 McDowell map of Northeastern Virginia as his starting point, and as to be expected, there are plenty of sites for Civil War buffs.  Jim, for example, has located Clarks Crossing Road, down which the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry fled from the 1st North Carolina Cavalry in November 1861.  This skirmish was J.E.B. Stuart's first encounter with his Northern counterparts.  The Washington Post recently took a look at Forgotten Roads and the efforts of the HMDL.

On the recommendation of Drew over at Civil War Books and Authors, I also purchased a re-print of The Confederate Blockade of Washington, D.C., 1861-1862 on Amazon.  Drew blogged about this work a few years ago.  (See here.)  This book details the Confederate efforts to cut off Washington through the placement of batteries along the Potomac River.  Lincoln eventually became anxious to lift the blockade and ordered the Army and Navy to work together to reopen the river.  I look forward to reading this book, which promises to shed some light on a little-known aspect of Civil War history in D.C.

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