Editors Letter: Tribute to Wiley Sword • Action at Dalton, GA
Tribute to Wiley Sword
Wiley Sword was a good friend and confidant, and I am proud to have been his editor and publisher on numerous projects. His passing in November was a shock and surprise. Recent heart surgery had been successful and he said he felt the subsequent complications had been resolved. I figured a brief lapse in communication was because he was back on the golf course, or writing, collecting war letters, and just enjoying life. He will be missed.
Wiley’s first “General’s Tour” feature for Blue & Gray was in 1993 on the Battle of Nashville. There were two other features by him, on Lookout Mountain and, more recently, during the Civil War’s 150th commemorations, a feature on the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Collecting guns was a passion early in Wiley’s Civil War interest. He also became a collector of Civil War correspondence—not just by well known figures, but also poignant letters by common soldiers. His “War Letters” series for Blue & Gray is a very popular column and we have published nearly 50 of them.
In Wiley’s Missionary Ridge feature in 2013, I included an anecdote of his remarkable career in my Editor’s Letter. He had told me that when he was writing his book, now a classic, Shiloh: Bloody April (1974), he met combat historian Brig. Gen. S. L. A. Marshall by chance on a Michigan golf course. The general thought his name was too perfect—surely a pen name—and asked what his real name was. Wiley assured him it was his name.
In the Foreword to Wiley’s book, Gen-eral Marshall wrote, “Though it is said that the pen is mightier than the sword, that is not a whole truth. All depends on who is wielding either. In this novel instance, however, in which the Sword wields the pen, much comes forth that military professionals and scholars, and probably the critics, should delight to ponder.”
It was an honor to reprint Wiley’s book on the 1864 Tennessee Campaign, Embrace An Angry Wind: The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah—Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville, in 1995. His “War Letter” by Maj. Henry Rathbone, who shared the Ford’s Theatre box with the Lincolns that fateful night in April 1865, and the description of the Deringer in Wiley’s possession that is “almost an exact duplicate” of the one used to kill the President, was a fitting topper for our 1865 Commemorative Issue, and I am grateful to him for preparing it especially for us.
I will miss Wiley’s friendship, his easy way of speaking, advising, and assisting on projects, and his valuable contributions to Blue & Gray over many years. I also extend my condolences to his wife Marianne and the Sword family.
Action at Dalton, Georgia
Robert D. Jenkins, Sr., author of this issue’s “General’s Tour” feature, is making a name for himself in Civil War circles. His first book, The Battle of Peach Tree Creek: Hood’s First Sortie, 20 July 1864, was published in 2013. His second book, To the Gates of Atlanta: From Kennesaw Mountain to Peach Tree Creek, 1-19 July 1864, was published in 2015, and also received good reviews. Now he’s working on the part of the Atlanta Campaign that started, literally, in his own back yard (Union troops had set up camp there).
Bob, an attorney by profession, is a longtime Civil War history devotee; his office is virtually next door to Joe Johnston’s Dalton headquarters. Bob enjoys the speaking circuit and is an entertaining fellow in multiple roles and venues. He portrays General Johnston (above), a Union infantry soldier, even Elvis, and has a fine singing voice and writes his own songs.
Bob is very active in preservation. His important message on preserving Dalton’s battlefields and other historic sites in the area is on Pg. 18. There are many sites on Rocky Face Ridge that are so pristine they could have been erected yesterday. This is because they are rock fortifications built by the Confederates over the winter of 1863-1864, after their debacle at Missionary Ridge in late November 1863. That setback led to the concentration of the Army of Tennessee moving from the Chattanooga area to Dalton in North Georgia.
Access to the Rocky Face Ridge earthworks currently is limited to an appointment basis, but Bob and his fellow preservationists remain highly accessible and are anxious to share the historic ground they have worked hard to save. Use the phone number and email address Bob included in his preservation message.
Other area Civil War sites are also accessible by appointment. At Mill Creek Gap, the sites include one of the culverts the Confederates used to dam the creek in order to flood the gap as Sherman approached Dalton, and the site of a post-battle Block House built along Mill Creek to protect the railroad. Sites on the east side of Rocky Face Ridge and in Crow Valley can also be viewed with a guide by making an appointment. A donation to the Save the Dalton Battlefield’s ongoing preservation efforts would surely be appreciated.
David E. Roth