Research is Really Starting to Build … LOTS to Read

Research is going very well and after talking with Dr. Quigley on the sources I am coming across, he and I are working closely to narrow my original thesis topic question. I have been busy on Worldcat, EbscoHost, American History and Life, and others just to name a few.

I have found multiple journals, diaries, and various letter excerpts. I have also uncovered several theses, which are proving to be a wealth of information on sources, both primary and secondary, which has been very exciting. I have found secondary sources of ship manifests of blockade runners that made it through the Union naval blockade, as well as several books on British imported uniforms, weapons, equipment, and various supplies.

I have also found seemingly endless records and reports located in the National Archives, and all kinds of photographs, which have been digitized in the Library of Congress. There are many different locations which have repositories of original uniforms, weapons, equipment, and gear, which will help to substantiate the research that I am uncovering, going a long way towards helping to dispel that myth I have been chasing…

Current Events that Resonate with My Research Topic and Interests

As many of you may know, or for  those of you that do not know, I am a Civil War reeanctor and living historian. As you read through many of my blog postings, you can see that have a great passion for studying the American Civil War. My research topic for my thesis is based upon dispelling the myth surrounding the “Ragged Rebel” of Southern history notoriety. Obviously, I am not the only reenactor or living historian out there, as there are thousands of people who are serious students of history, that reenact the American Civil War. The opportunity to meet with kindred spirits, who are just as passionate about the study of the American Civil War, who portray both Northern and Southern soldiers, gives us many opportunities to network and fellowship with people who are studying many different aspects of the American Civil War. These reenactors encompass a wide array of professions, such as doctors, lawyers, contractors, students, teachers, college professors, professional historians, truck drivers, real life soldiers, and many others from various walks of life.

I wrote the previous to explain the types of people that you run across at various events in this fascinating hobby. I am writing about several events over the next few months that will give rise to talking with a lot of different people who are experts on many different parts of my research.  For example, I will be attending the North Carolina State Historical site in Newton Grove, NC for the 150th Anniversary commemoration of the battle of Bentonville, the last major battle of the American Civil War in North Carolina. Then I will be attending an event to be held on part of the original battlefield at Sailor’s Creek, VA, where Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia lost over 6,000 men captured on April 6th, 1865, leading to the ultimate defeat and surrender at Appomattox Court House. I will also be working very closely with the National Park Service at Appomattox Court House on the 150th Anniversary commemorative, providing “real time” living history programs for thousands of visitors.

While attending these events, there will be many speakers and lecturers on topics which will help with my overall research. In the past, I have been able to work with park historians, museum curators, archivists, etc to network and work with them on various research topics.

Past and present have a unique way of interacting with each other when you are involved with living history and reenacting. It presents a way of actually experiencing an inkling of what the soldiers themselves did, minus the fleas, lice, sickness, death, fear, hunger, loneliness, homesickness, and any number of other obstacles. However, you do get to experience the sight of thousands of men in formations, under arms, the heat,the cold, the miserable food, the drill, the camaraderie, and yes the wool uniforms.

While experiencing some of these things, you get to meet historians such as Robert Krick, “Bud” Robertson, Ed Bearrs, Chris Calkins, John Heiser, and Rod Gragg, just to name a few, as well as many thousands of people who have an interest and possible research leads into the past and often on your particular topic of research.


Bringing My Focus Statement Into Sharper Focus

Do you believe that Southern soldiers who fought for the Confederacy were barefoot, clothed in tattered uniforms,  and faced the problem of a dwindling supply of uniforms, arms, and equipment, as the war drug out, leading to the emergence of the myth of the “Ragged Rebel” from the American Civil War? Scholars, historians, and history buffs alike, have been led to believe this over the last century and a half. My research includes close scrutiny of period photographs of Confederate prisoners of war, and soldiers killed in action, as well as period engravings, paintings, lithographs, Quartermaster depot records, unit requisitions, ship manifests, letters, journals, and diaries, to paint a very different picture of what the average Confederate soldier was wearing and fighting with throughout the four years of conflict. The significance of this research will lend itself to deconstructing the myth which has been a tenet of the “Ragged Rebel” myth, and in doing so, will show how the Confederate States of America was able to survive for four long and bitter years.

Sources and Work in Progress Bibliography

HIST 5134 – Research Methods

First Draft Bibliography

Kevin “Tiny” Dawson

(I wasn’t quite sure where to place the numbers 1,2,3, as it would have gotten mixed in with the dates and web addresses, but I can explain which items are of what importance.)


*Adolphus, Frederick R., Civil War Sesquicentennial Uniform Series: Volume 1, Imported Confederate Uniforms of Peter Tait & Co., Limerick, Ireland, 2010.

Barry, Craig L., and David C. Burt, Supplier to the Confederacy: Peter Tait & Co., Limerick, Authors OnLine, Ltd. Bedfordshire, England, 2011.

Burt, David, Major Caleb Huse C.S.A. & S. Isaac Campbell & Co.: The Arms, Clothing and Equipment Supplied to the Confederate States of America 1861 – 1864, Author House, Bloomington, Indiana, 2009.

McCluney, Larry A., Jr., Confederate Uniforms: A Case Study in Confederate Supply, MA Thesis, Mississippi State, Mississippi, 1993.

*Wilson, Harold S., Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War, University of Mississippi, Jackson, 2002.


*Heiser, John S., The High Water Mark of an Army: The Characteristics of the Army of Northern Virginia During the Gettysburg Campaign,

*Jensen, Leslie D., “A Survey of Confederate Central Government Quartermaster Issue Jackets, Part I”, Military Collector and Historian, The Company of Military Historians, Volume XLI, No.3, Fall, 1989.

*Jensen, Leslie D., “A Survey of Confederate Central Government Quartermaster Issue Jackets, Parts II &III”, Military Collector and Historian, The Company of Military Historians, Volume XLI, No.4, Winter, 1989.

Digital Images:

The following are just a few links to the types of photographs I intend to use in my research, (These images are found at the Library of Congress Photographs and Prints Section)

A Source, A Source, My Kingdom for a Source…Well, I Guess I Have to Give Up My Kingdom

I have been talking with my adviser Dr. Quigley about places and ideas of places to search for credible resources and information. We discussed the sources at the Library of Congress as well as Confederate Quartermaster records and I began my mining operations. All of my dig sites were planned out in advance, my dig permits were in place, and the machinery was ready to go…, so I just got ready for the adventures and went to work.

This week I spent time mining the databases of the Library of Congress and the National Archives. Both of these massive collections have several very fine finding aids on their searchable websites. I am enclosing the addresses for two of these within this blog. These finding aids were very helpful in the way that they were able to help me narrow my search and with the way that key terms, i.e. names, identifiers, subject matter, etc. were collected together.

I searched both of the sites using the finding aids that were available and found a wealth of information. On the National Archives one, I found records such as Confederate Quartermaster reports, requisitions, returns, and depot supply records. These are part of a much larger collection of records of the Confederate States Government records held by the Federal Government regarding the Confederacy’s role in the American Civil War.
War Department Collection of Confederate Records (Record Group 109) 1825-1900 (bulk 1861-65)

The second finding aid was son the Library of Congress’s website, which led to a plethora of original photographs of Confederate prisoners of war, and Confederate war dead. These photographs tell a very vivid story in and of themselves and by looking under great scrutiny, on can see details about Confederate Government supply systems in the uniforms and shoes that they are wearing, how the equipment and accoutrements are being worn, what type of weapons were found on the battlefields, etc. This is also a way to see the progression of uniformity within the Confederate ranks, especially when taking the date of the photograph into account. Another source that I found within this amazing source, was a prints and art section, showing original sketches and paintings within the Library of Congress’s collection of original artwork.
Library of Congress – Prints and Photographs Section

I had requested an MA thesis from Mississippi State University by a former MA student there, which I was in hopes of getting, to see his sources and findings; that came in and did not disappoint, it was filled with great information and multiple source references.

I also spent time reading through several secondary sources that will be very helpful to the overall success of my thesis. I will include those in my first draft of my bibliography. I have been very pleased with the amount of headway that I have been able to make this week.

Reviewing the Possible Use of Wilson’s Book Confederate Industry


Spring 2015

Kevin “Tiny” Dawson

Wilson, Harold S., Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2002.


For this essay, I choose to write about one of my secondary sources, which was suggested to me by my adviser Dr. Paul Quigley. The book is Harold S. Wilson’s book titled Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War. I feel that after reading through this book, it will be paramount to my research and several of the sources that Wilson utilizes within this work have already led me to sources which I previously had not considered in my research on my topic.

In Wilson’s book, he examines the state and central government manufacturers necessary for the foundation of the Confederate Central Supply Depot System. He also explores the various entrepreneurs and businessmen that went about setting up the necessary facilities, mills, armories, etc. to supply a burgeoning military. His research into both American and foreign/import primary records, help to paint a picture of a very resourceful supply system, With the help of foreign blockade runners, ships designed to bring in much needed military supplies for the South, running through the Union naval blockade of Southern ports, and taking out valuable export raw materials, Confederate supplies were fairly plentiful even late in the war. Wilson is able to examine several different sources, ranging from mill records, Confederate States Quartermaster general records, foreign export records, ship manifests, etc. to show how the supply system operated during the war. His writing style is very engaging and his arguments are thoroughly researched, however, there are more questions that he leaves for future researchers.

The reception of this book in scholarly circles, has been well received, as it has been reviewed and found worthy of the research and time put forth by Wilson. His final work left room for future researchers to take his research and delve deeper to flesh out the lingering questions that were left after the publication. I found several reviews, both scholarly/academic and popular ones that all agreed that the book was very well written, yet some of the more scholarly reviews wanted more, which is why I wrote that there was room to research other aspects of his original work. Wilson’s intended audience, in my humble opinion was to be for both scholarly and popular readers, as was evident in his writing style. He did not seem to want to write down for a popular audience, yet he did not write in such a haughty tone that it was a turn off for hem either. The scholarly audience was also targeted in such a way that the desire for well researched evidence was met.

As for the use of his book in more recent works, I found several instances where Wilson was cited in reviews of other books as well. In several of the other secondary sources that I have investigated, I have found Wilson’s book referenced several times, which shows me that his research bears merit. I plan to mine his sources to see what primary sources, as well as other secondary sources will be available for use to me, as I move forward in researching my thesis. I want to see if any of his primary sources give any evidence of actual issue records of items to units, i.e. jackets, trousers, shoes, leather gear/accoutrements, weapons, ammunition, as well as the evidence of when foreign items began to make an appearance on the scene for Southern armies. I think that the author’s interpretation of the sources and the way that he presents his findings support what I am trying to prove. I feel that with closer scrutiny of the source materials, along with more recent secondary sources and their analysis’, I will be able to prove that as the war progressed, more and better equipment and uniforms were being provided to the soldiers, making them into a more competent fighting force. One thing that cannot be denied however, is that regardless whether the men were getting the needed uniforms, weapons, and gear, there was still a major shortage of food for the fighting men, which led to the description of them being lean and lanky. The lack of food and not the lack of fighting supplies was more of a detriment to the Southern fighting men than any uniform or leather gear shortage.

In short, I firmly believe that Wilson’s book, along with his sources will provide me with several leads for future digging and reading. I feel that his down to earth style of writing may have been what actually drew me into his writing, even after Dr. Quigley recommended the book to me. I am glad that he did so, as I have found this book to be very helpful, even after just reading through the work. I look forward to be able to get further into the reading and source material, as I wait for other books, articles, and manuscripts that I have requested through ILL and ordered off of the internet to arrive. I am getting more and more antsy to get into this project, as it has been a project that I have been thinking about for some time.

Asking the Difficult Question(s) for My Thesis on Dispelling the Myth of the “Ragged” Rebel

Last week’s readings, along with our class discussions and the readings in and outside of class on the topic of forming a solid research question for our theses have been very enlightening.  I found last week’s XYZ exercise on trying to formulate a good research question quite helpful and I hope that I have been able to tackle this first hurdle with a little more confidence than before.

I am writing my thesis about “Dispelling the Myth of the ‘Ragged Rebel’: A Case Study in Confederate Material Culture.” I wish to explore how the Confederate States government could begin supplying the various Southern armies through a non-existent supply system in the early days of the war, in such a short amount of time. Evidence points to (after the implementation of the Confederate Quartermaster Supply depots,) Confederate forces becoming more well supplied/better equipped, even as the war progressed, not the opposite. It has long been argued that the “ragged” rebels were just plain overwhelmed, overpowered, outnumbered and had they been properly supplied, or had more men, then they would have been victorious. This argument was one of the very tenet arguments upon which the “Lost Cause” myth was built.  that as the Union naval blockade tightened its grip on Southern ports, or as Union armies overran supply depots, supplies to the troops, their uniforms, and equipment, became scarcer and the men became more and more bedraggled, tattered, and worn. Close Examination of original photographs, quartermaster records, veteran’s accounts, paintings, sketches, etc, supports the thesis of the troops being better supplied as the war drug on.

With my thesis, I hope to help others understand how this myth was the very foundation of the “Lost Cause” and that without the “ragged” rebel, then it would have been much harder to explain away the Confederate defeat. This part of the “Lost Cause” has been able to remain a major component of the argument for the last 150 years and I feel that it is a disservice to the fighting men of the Confederacy and their opponents, who according to the myth, were just barely able to win the war facing off against a “ragged”, tattered, starving, worn out, army of defiant Southerners.

So, I believe that my first draft of a research question will be as follows:

Dispelling the Myth of the “Ragged” Rebel: A Case Study in Confederate Material Culture. With the predominant idea of Confederate Armies being comprised of “ragged” rebels during the war, what then took the Union four years to defeat them? Did Confederate Quartermaster Supply Depots actually provide a larger amount of uniforms, weapons, and equipment to make much more well equipped Southern armies , than previously understood?

Reflections on New Discoveries

Well this has been a great experience for me this far, as I found  out a lot more information about this great source for research. I had dabbled into WorldCat before, but not with the variations on search terms. I think that I was looking for one set of ideas in my previous search terms, i.e. just Confederate uniforming and the “ragged” rebel myth. I had been finding some information, but after this week’s searching, I began to have my eyes opened, not only open,  but, WIDE open to the possibilities of what might be out there.

I was surprised to find several new sources which really are almost exactly what I have been hoping were out there. I found leads to other thesis’ that might have new source materials, as well as other insights into Confederate uniformology and material culture. This is very helpful in my research and I am very excited about the possibilities in the next few weeks. I have a lot of sources to request on Monday. I am looking forward to getting into these, as well as many others that I have just put on my list of findings.

I started out searching Confederate, uniforms, then moved into more detailed searches, including the terms, quartermaster, requisitions, blockade runners, invoices, imports, shoes, accoutrements, etc. These search terms led me to many different sources, which I hope will lead to support for my thesis, yet if they point to a different finding, well, I guess the “ragged” rebel theory will stand, as it has for almost 150 years. However, I feel that with just reading through some of the new information, (even if it is just cursory look to start with), and combining these new sources with the digitized photographs from the Library of Congress, the myth is just that, a myth.

This evidence is important to me, as this has been a great learning experience for me this week and I am excited about moving forward on this project. These sources have helped to focus my research not only on the Confederate uniforms, but also on the other parts of Confederate material culture, i.e. mills, depots, developing a working quartermaster system from a non – existent entity to a fully functioning system, etc. I am also looking forward to sharing my recent findings with Dr. Quigley and the other faculty who I am considering consulting with on this topic and possibly on my future committee.


Embracing the 21st Century and New Sources of Search Techniques

WOW!… Just WOW! What else can be said about WorldCat? This is a phenomenal source of information, and leads, leads for days! This was such a great source fr searching. I know where I will be searching over the next several weeks … searching … searching … searching. This sources led to many different rabbit trails to explore. I found a thesis written on a topic that seems like it may be very helpful to my research and from this I am looking forward to mining some of the sources that t hey used. I also found several other leads that seem to support my thesis idea and I am looking forward to requesting them and can hardly wait to begin delving into them upon their arrival. I created an account within WorldCat and have created a list to start saving sources from which to draw.

I also began “mining” the America: History and Life site suggested by Dr. Quigley, it too held many new sources within its vast wealth of information storage. I began by searching Confederate uniforms,  which then led to material culture, quartermaster records, supply systems, blockade runners, Confederate woolen mills, Confederate supply depots …, this was something to be very wary of, as I began finding a lot of rabbit trails that led to very interesting topics, but which also could be very distracting from my research time.

I found both of these searches to be very enlightening in such a way that I hope to be able to ultimately harvest a lot of information to support my thesis/argument research. With the numerous resources found, I do not think that it will be hard to do. As I mentioned earlier, I started a list to keep relevant searches available for further reading and research, as I find them.



Trying to Make Heads or Tails from the Citeable Notes Readings

I know that I said that I would blog on my search results this time, but I promise to do so in my next one, I am just so excited about looking at my reading/notetaking/recording in a different light. I am almost overwhelmed at the many possibilities that this now presents… where to start?

For my choice of article to blog on this week, I chose a source, which was partly responsible for my initial idea to set out to disprove the standing history of the “ragged” rebel. This article was first published in 1989 by Leslie D. Jensen. In this series of articles, titled “A Survey of Confederate Central Government Quartermaster Jackets” Jensen provides some startling data drawn from surviving records showing staggering numbers of uniforms, including jackets, trousers, caps, and shoes. These numbers are from later in the war, which support the theory of Confederate forces being better supplied later in the war, more so than earlier in the conflict.

I chose to look at this three part article using the citeable notes fashion described in this week’s readings. In doing so, I found myself almost seeing the information for the first time, as it revealed much more this time around. I started looking at the way Jensen cited his sources, where those sources came from, the details that I had forgotten since I had read this article last, and so on. I started noting many more secondary sources, as before I had been focused on the primary accounts, etc. My article is now a marked up, highlighted, underlined, note laden research tool in itself.

I wanted to start recording my notes, or at least vital information in such a way t hat I could recall where they came from, but I began to notice myself wanting to use almost all of the article(s), especially the portions dealing directly with my research interest, (specifically on the Army of Northern Virginia) as there were too many valuable details to get left behind. This dilemma is one that I wish to bring up in class this week, as I am looking for ideas and suggestions on how to help sort the massive amounts of information found in such a resource wealthy source. I find myself trying to make heads or tails from the citeable sources readings, as I have many more questions about the research I am finding now. This week’s assignment has opened my eyes to a new way of researching and taking note of valuable information, yet, I feel that I now have a whole new source, although I have been aware of the article(s) since 1989.

Dr. Quigley also gave me a secondary source, which has been very helpful; it is a book written by Harold S. Wilson called Confederate Industry. After reading through it, (at least at a first cursory read), I found evidence that also begins to solidify my argument, which Wilson goes into great detail describing in painstakingly well researched information from original sources. (Confederate Industry, Wilson, 2002, ppg. 178-179, – uniforms issued, shoes, material, etc. run through the blockade on 84 steamers, from April – December.) 1864.