Saturday, May 13, 2017

8.4 pounds of history: Remarkable books on 7th Connecticut

David M. Moore's hefty, two-volume work totals more than 1,100 pages. 

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If you want to know almost everything about the 7th Connecticut, I have just the book for you.

Actually, make that books.

David M. Moore, whose great-grandfather served as a captain in the regiment, has authored the heavyweight champion of regimental histories -- two volumes and more than 1,100 pages of battle recollections and other soldier stories, illustrations, maps, photos and much more.

Author David M. Moore's great-grandfather,
7th Connecticut Captain E. Lewis Moore.
It's a massive achievement -- literally. The privately published books weigh 8.4 pounds on the Banks family digital scale.

Moore grew up in Northern Louisiana in the 1950s, when the Civil War was still fresh in the minds of piney woods residents there. As a son of Dixie, his Civil War allegiance once tilted South. But when he discovered he had a prominent Yankee ancestor, well, let's just say his perspective changed.

In a carefully preserved box bound with twine, Moore's mother kept family treasure on the uppermost shelf of her closet: more than 450 letters Captain E. Lewis Moore had sent home during the Civil War. Initially transcribed in handwritten form, the letters were later transcribed using a manual typewriter and eventually by using a Tandy computer with a 5½-inch floppy disk. (As Moore notes, that's truly "ancient history.")

"As I read some of the initial transcriptions," the author told me, "I became hooked, and so began my quest to understand more about the 7th Connecticut and its role in the Civil War." Moore's interest also was fueled when his mother gave him a copy of an original regimental history, inscribed by E. Lewis Moore’s son to his heirs.

A longtime adminstrator at Virginia Tech, Moore describes himself as "a veterinarian, scholar/academic/teacher, photographer, domestic and international consultant, traveler, family historian/genealogist, triple guitar player in a steel drum orchestra and a devotee of lifelong learning." (Interestingly, he was the vet for the rats and squirrel monkeys that flew on the Challenger space shuttle in 1985.)

Moore recently answered questions about his massive 7th Connecticut history, a remarkable work that took the dogged author/researcher 30 years to complete.

What was the approach to assembling information and writing the book, and how long did it take?

Moore: Over the course of 30 years, I identified sources of letters, diaries and other documents in public repositories and private hands. I traveled to Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina to transcribe documents and to photograph artifacts. As personal computers became available, I created electronic files with the transcripts and quotes/narratives from other reference materials. When the bulk of identified materials had been entered, I then created spreadsheets to cross-reference dates and sources to facilitate drafting the book from initial to final dates. The final organization and drafting of the two volumes, including preparation of the illustrations, took approximately two years.

In this 2002 image taken outside Fort Fisher's pallisades, David Moore holds the sword of the 
fort's Confederate commander, Major James Reilly. Moore's sons, Colin and Zeke, look on. The
 sword was surrendered to Moore's ancestor, E. Lewis Moore, who returned it to Reilly in 1893.
What makes E. Lewis Moore special, besides his family connection to you?

Moore: E. Lewis Moore was the prototypical “Renaissance man” -- a teacher in a private school before the war, a private who was elevated to the rank of captain because of his competency and skills, a private secretary to Joe Hawley when he was president of the 1876 Centennial celebration, a breeder of fancy cattle and an elected state legislator. The author of the original history of the 7th CV noted that Hawley lacked the skills to maintain orderly military paperwork, and said:
With such habits he needed a ‘Fidus Achates,’ one not afraid of hard work, familiar with army regulations, methodical enough to preserve official records with accuracy and care, gifted enough to express Hawley's thoughts in Hawley's way and modest enough to efface himself in the presence of his chief. Moore possessed all these requisites to a marked degree; To one who knew him well he seems to have been the right man in the right place.” 
E. Lewis Moore had the distinction of having Fort Fisher surrendered to him by the then-commanding officer, Major James Reilly. Moore, a loyal subordinate, ensured that the official surrender of the fort was made to his commanding general, Alfred Terry. Moore sought no publicity or acclaim in his role in the surrender.

When General Hawley was ordered to report for duty in General Alfred Terry’s HQ in Richmond in June 1865, he asked that Captain E. L. Moore, A.A.G, be assigned to support him. Their friendship and professional relationship continued long after the war years. Moore’s third child, born a year after the Centennial celebration, was named Joseph Roswell Hawley Moore.

In 1893, E. Lewis Moore sought out Major Reilly, and returned the sword that Reilly had surrendered to him at Fort Fisher. This act of respect and generosity was hailed by Confederate veterans as demonstrating the best qualities of a soldier and a gentleman.

What makes the 7th Connecticut compelling, and why should it be remembered?

7th Connecticut soldiers occupied Fort Pulaski in
Georgia after its surrender in April 1862. Here, a Union
soldier stands in the damaged interior of the fort.
(Timothy O'Sullivan | Library of Congress)
Moore: Lieutenant colonel William F. Fox, noting that there were over 2,000 regiments in the Union Army, listed the 7th CV among the top 300 fighting regiments in the Civil War. The men of the 7th were given the honor of being the first Union soldiers to land on South Carolina soil following the bombardment of Port Royal. The men of the 7th CV were given the honor of occupying Fort Pulaski after its surrender. The officers and men of the 7th CV were routinely praised by commanding generals, and were selected for operations because of their reliability. They were described as first in and last off the battlefield because of their steadfastness and deportment. While this two-volume set is about the 7th CV,  my intent was to provide readers with a picture of regimental life and action that could be found in other regiments from other states. Thus this narrative of the men of the 7th CV serves as a proxy for all of the other brave men who served in the struggle to preserve the Union.

Describe the process for determining what to include in the book and what to exclude.

Moore: My pet peeve with a majority of books written about the Civil War is the encapsulation/brevity of statements attributed to the participants – this probably being a requirement by publishers to keep things short (and thus minimize publication costs), rather than the short attention span of the reader. Rather than an author’s summation of what someone expressed, I wanted to let the actual soldiers express what happened using their own words, even if misspelled or grammatically incorrect, to give readers a more complete understanding of the individual. I was told by one commercial publisher to reduce the book to one-third the number of pages, but to do so would have silenced many of the voices that I thought were vital to the narrative. I also wanted to include maps/illustrations to aid the reader in understanding geographical parameters, to foster an appreciation for the time and distances involved in traveling. I included pictures, sketches and descriptions of the transport vessels the 7th CV traveled on, to further personalize the story for the reader.

As to exclusion, that wasn’t so much as to what I would leave out from the materials/resources that I had, but rather the nagging belief that there were likely an equal number of letters and diaries in the hands of private collectors that are not publicly cataloged. To get on my soapbox, I would voice a plea that some individual or group would seek the coordination and assistance of private collectors in establishing a database of what materials exist, to aid historians and authors in developing the broadest picture of life, times and people during the Civil War.

What's your favorite tale in your books?

Post-war image of Captain Sylvester Gray
of the 7th Connecticut. He led four companies

during the assault and siege of
Battery Wagner at Morris Island, S.C.

Moore: I, as the author, hold a biased opinion that there are a multitude of individuals and their stories that are worthy of highlighting; but, as directed, I will limit myself to one – the parable of Captain Sylvester Gray. His is an allegorical tale, one that is the stuff of great works of fiction, and alluded to in biblical verse – “Man is humbled, and each one is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.” [Isaiah 5:15]

Gray, captain of Company I, who had distinguished himself in the bombardment of Fort Pulaski, who was trusted with command of a special amphibious mission at the Battle of Pocotaligo, seemed to have it all – a position of leadership and authority, a man to be exalted and admired. He was knocked off his pedestal, not by the intrigue of others, but rather by his own feet of clay and his unbridled descent into moral turpitude in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

While in command of Fort Clinch, Amelia Island, Fla., in April 1863, he was arrested, and recommended for court martial, for selling contraband goods, including liquor, to enlisted men in his company and the regiment, at exorbitant rates, for well over a year. From greatness to infamy – his story could have ended on that discouraging note.

But Colonel Hawley selected him to lead one of the four companies detailed for the assault and siege of Battery Wagner, where he distinguished himself with gallantry and bravery, and for his resourcefulness in repairing a rifled cannon that was deemed unrepairable, the loss of which might have greatly prolonged the siege and increased Union casualties. Initial imperiousness – forfeiture and ignominy – a second chance – redemption and restored honor  ... what greater holistic tale of the human condition could be told?

If any of the soldiers you mention in your work were alive today, what would you like to ask them?

7th Connecticut colonel Joseph Hawley.
 A remarkable man, he rose to brigade command 
in September 1864. Hawley served as 
governor of Connecticiut from 1866-67.
Moore: My apologies to the line soldiers, but I would select an officer, the eponymous individual so noted in the book’s title, Joe Hawley, to ask a question. (But with Hawley, who could stop with just one question?) Those who are acquainted with Hawley know that politics were a major influence in his life prior to the war, during the war and after the war. He served as the 42nd governor of Connecticut, was chairman of the 1868 Republican National Convention, and was elected Congressman and later Senator from Connecticut. I would ask him, “General Hawley, what was the primary force that shaped your leadership and direction of the 7th CV – was it military in nature, or was it influenced by your political friendships and affiliations, and a motivation to advance Republican goals and your post-war career?”

Do you have any additional Civil War projects planned?

Moore: Over the past three decades, I have directed my attention to gathering family history information as well as working on the updated 7th CV regimental history. With the latter having been completed, my full attention is now on the former project. With regards to future Civil War-related projects, my ultimate intent is to publish a book of the transcriptions of E. Lewis Moore’s Civil War letters, although such a work may not be commercially viable, but would rather provide an historical reference for other scholars and authors.

How can someone find/order a copy of the two-volume set?

Moore: This two-volume set, a signed limited edition, will soon be listed on Amazon and eBay. However, because of the associated fees on those sites, the set will have to be sold at the list price ($89.98, plus shipping). I have been selling the set at a discounted price to libraries, historical societies and descendants, and would be willing to extend that discount to the followers of your blog ($70.00, plus $7.10 domestic shipping via media mail). Inquiries and order requests may be sent to

Both volumes of David M. Moore's history of the 7th Connecticut.

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