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Captain Camden, reporting for duty, 100 years ago this week

Portrait of Captain Edwin Camden – Volusia County, Florida. 1917. Black & white photo print. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.<;

Here we see a relatively fit Captain Edwin Camden, formerly of the Army of the Confederate States, then aged 75, of Volusia County, Florida, in April 1917. According to the state archives on 6 April 1917 “He put on his Civil War veteran’s uniform and tried to register for the draft on the first day of World War I.”

It should be noted that his grandson reportedly had volunteered for service as well and was accepted.

Note the uniform is complete with the hat device of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) a veterans organization formed in 1888.

Camden, born in Virginia in 1840, raised a company that later became Coy E, 25th Virginia (Heck’s) Infantry Regiment and, captured after being wounded during the Wilderness, became a member of a group known as the “Immortal Six Hundred” because they refused to take an oath of allegiance to the U.S. under duress.

From the Confederate Veteran, the monthly magazine which became the official UCV organ, volume XXXI, January 1923, now in the Duke Library Archives:


When the war came on in 1861, the Camden family, of Braxton County, Va. (now West Virginia), was largely divided on the subjects involved in that fratricidal strife. John S. Camden, Sr., was long a prominent figure in the central western Virginia region, a member of the Virginia Assembly, and colonel of the 133rd Regiment Virginia Militia. Of his five sons, three were enrolled for the South. — Edwin D. Camden, William I., and L. D., the latter two being lieutenants of the 17th Virginia. Of the other two, Dr. Thomas B. Camden was imprisoned in Camp Chase, but was released upon a petition signed by all sides, and subsequently served as post surgeon of the Federal army at Weston ; Johnson N. Camden remained loyal to the Union, and in latter years became a vice president of the Standard Oil Company, United States Senator, and railroad builder. Richard P. Camden, an uncle of Edwin Camden, espoused the cause of the Union and was a member of the West Virginia legislature in 1866 as a loyal man. Another uncle, Lennox Camden, was arrested as a Southern sympathizer and confined in Fort Delaware in 1863. Having married into a powerful Western Virginia family, his release was secured, but not before his physical powers had wasted away, and he died in New York City. Judge Gideon D. Camden, another uncle, was a member of the Confederate Congress, and his son was a major in the Confederate army.

In July, 1861, Edwin Duncan Camden recruited a company of one hundred and twenty men and marched to Beverly, where he was to effect a junction with a command of the Confederate army under Colonel Pegram. In the meantime General Rosecrans had advanced by Clarksburg and Philippi, defeating Pegram in the battle of Rich Mountain on July 11. The men under Camden arrived during the closing hours of this affray, participated in the action, during which General Garnett was killed, and r treated with the Confederates into the Valley of Virginia The men in his charge were mustered in as Company E, 25th Virginia Infantry, and he was commisioned first lieutenant.

After participating in activities in the Valley campaigns in the latter part of 1861, the 25th Regiment became a part of the 4th Brigade, 31st Division, under Col. J. A. Walker, and as such a part of the corps under command of the distinguished chieftain, Thomas J. Jackson. As the celebrated “Stonewall Brigade,” it was ever afterwards the most noted organization in the Confederate service, engaged in deeds and exploits that attracted the attention of the entire world. Among the commanders were Gen. J. M. Jones and Bradley T. Johnson, and several others no less well known.

Company E, as part of the 4th Brigade, engaged in the battle at Fort Republic on June 9, 1862, lost four officers and twenty-five men, and Lieutenant Camden was wounded. Recovering, he rejoined the company and was commissioned captain, a rank held during his period of service.

In April, 1863, the 25th and 31st Virginia were transferred temporarily by General Lee to the command of Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden, to participate in the invasion of Western Virginia. During this month and May following, the celebrated “Imboden Raid” took place, in which Jones and Imboden advanced as far into the present State of West Virginia as Glenville, in Gilmer County, and Burning Strings, in Wirt County. At the latter place vast stores of oil were destroyed, which, as fate would have it, belonged largely to Johnson N. Camden, a brother of Captain Camden. The expedition was not successful in the desired purpose of securing recruits for the Southern cause, but did secure large numbers of cattle and supplies for the Southern army. At Buckhannon, Camden’s company and others lost some men by desertion, because Captain Camden lodged a complaint against a certain element stealing horses from the citizens without authority, need, or pay. This act, however, created a most favorable impression with the better element on both sides.

Returning to Virginia and the old organization, the march was taken up to the memorable field of Gettysburg. Here the company, on July 1, 1S63, engaged in the storming of Culp’s Hill, and late that evening moved into the ” Valley of Death. ”

During Pickett’s charge the division held a position under the murderous fire from Little Round Top. John C. Higginbotham, colonel commanding, on the 21st, in his report to Acting Adjutant Moore, of General Jones’s Brigade, speaking of the actions on the 3rd, says: “It is with pleasure that I can testify to the gallantry and skill of Captain (E. D.) Camden and Company E. I never saw men act better. Seventy men were lost in action.

In May, 1864, began the series of battles of the Wilderness, which led up to the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. The 25th Virginia moved into the ” Bloody Angle” on May 10, and in the next three days followed such scenes of carnage as never before existed in the war. Whole companies were wiped out. Lee and Grant pitted their armies together in the great struggle for what was believed to be the key to Richmond. At the close of the affray, Captain Camden, with a shattered leg and jaw, was left on the battle field, for it was not believed that surgical skill then available could save his life. The Confederate forces were forced to leave large numbers of their wounded in the hands of the Federals, and, after many hours, Captain Camden was removed to a Federal hospital, later sent to Fort Delaware as a prisoner, and, in the face of what was deemed mortal injuries, eventually recovered.

In July, 1864, it was reported in the North, but later found to have been a mistake, that Maj- Gen. Sam Jones had confined Federal prisoners in Charleston, S. C, under fire from the Federal batteries on Morris Island. On August 25, 1864, the Federal commander, General Schoeph, at Fort Delaware, sent six hundred commissioned Confederate officers to Morris Island, with the view in mind, it appears, of an exchange, but this was not done. For a time they were under fire of their own guns, and, though none were killed, they underwent terrible suffering; a number died, and their other experiences are recounted in book and poem as the “Immortal Six Hundred” of the War between the States. Among those from the interior of present West Virginia were: Lieut. T. Tussie, 25th Virginia, Weston, W. Va.; Capt. E. D. Camden, 25th Virginia, Sutton, W. Va.; Capt. T. J. Berry, Bulltown, W. Va., and some fifteen others from other sections of the State.

From Fort Delaware they were transported in August, huddled together on a small steamship called the Crescent, guarded by one hundred Ohio militiamen. Arriving at Morris Island, and failing in exchange, at times shells from batteries on the Island, Wagner’s, and Forts Moultrie and Sumter were passing over them. Forty-five days later they were sent to Fort Pulaski; later to Hilton Head, and then back to Fort Delaware.

From this point those who would take the oath of allegiance to the United States were sent to New York and released. Others who refused were sent to Richmond in exchange for a like number of Federal prisoners. The term of imprisonment was marked by many happenings, one of which had both a tragic and amusing aspect. At Hilton Head an effort was made to escape. By raising a bunk in a section occupied by Captain Camden, a hole was made in the floor and, after a long period of hard work, a hole was made down and under the wall. All arrangements were made for a trip to liberty, but the men inside the walls did not reckon with a moat filled with water surrounding the building. On the way through the basement a barrel of brown sugar was found, and while to us this does not mean much, to a soldier at that time it was the highest of dainties. Tightening belts, shirts and pockets were filled; arriving outside in the darkness, they fell into the water. Wading, scrambling, or swimming across as the need arose, sugar and water enshrouded them in a sticky syrup. The alarm was given and, with such an unusual impediment, all were caught and returned to prison.

Upon his release from service, Captain Camden returned to the little town of Weston, W. Va., along with others of the brave men in gray. Among the local Federals were men with little respect for those who espoused the Southern cause, and it was demanded that the Confederates divest themselves of the faded and worn uniforms. This they refused to do, and a near riot took place, in which Maj. H. H. Withers, of the 10th Virginia Infantry, mounted a horse block and announced that he would shoot the first man that touched a Confederate soldier, an act that endeared him to both sides.

Captain Camden died on May 13, 1922. He was the son of John S. and Nancy Newlon Camden, and was born in Sutton, Braxton County, Va. (now West Virginia), March 30, 1840. When the town of Sutton was burned by the Confederates under John S. Sprigg, on December 29, 1861, the Camden Hotel and store were burned, and his father and mother were forced to retire to Weston with the Federals, both dying within a few months from exposure on the trip. One of Captain Camden’s great-grandfathers was Maj. Frederick Sprigg, of the Upper Battalion, Montgomery County, Maryland Continentals; while another was a member of the “Flying Squadron” in the Revolution. Kinsmen fought in the war with Spain, and a grandson was in the late World War. As a member of the “Immortal Six Hundred,” Captain Camden was one of the honored guests at Confederate reunions, and was probably the last survivor of this famous group. In late years he was appointed as colonel on the staff of J. Thompson Brown, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia Department U. C. V.

He is buried in Summit Cemetery, Braxton County, West Virginia, alongside his wife. On his tombstone, he is recorded as being a Lt. Colonel, possibly a brevet award.

Looking for a rare US&S 1911?

During WWII, Uncle Sam ordered nearly two million Model 1911A1 GI .45ACPs, and the Union Switch & Signal company of Swissvale, Pennsylvania made one of the rarest and most sought-after variants. Now, at least seven have popped up at the upcoming auction

These include an “EXP” marked version– one of approximately 100 pistols made by US&S using preproduction slides, receivers and other components that were presented to company officers and employees and coated in a bright blue DuLite finish.

Another prized example is a factory cutaway or “skeletonized” 1911 used for demonstration purposes. Few of these guns were so modified.

More in my column at

Dad’s Army, Norwegian edition

There are lots of reasons why someone should not mess around with Norway. One is the Norwegian Home Guard (Norwegian: Heimevernet – “HV”) which today consists of some 45,000 part time soldiers.

Here is one of their rapid-reaction forces at work:

Norwegian Home Guard QRF soldiers from Vestfold on a recent training mission. Note the HV shoulder flashes and general “Most interesting man in the world” vibe of its troopers. These guys could ski circles around potential invaders and, when operating with home field advantage, bring the pain.

SOF has an interesting article from a few months back about these guys from a 1980s encounter in which the author bumped into hardlegs still armed with German WWII weaponry but ready to use it.

Norwegian reserve engineers in the 1980s with a P08 Luger and MP40 SMG. Via SOF

This jibes with my own personal Norwegian buddy, a fellow by the name of Kim that I have known for years. Back in the early 1990s he did his national service in Brigade South (also known then as 4th Brigade) and has shown me fading Kodaks of a skinnier/hairier version of him using everything from 1940s vintage M1 Carbines and Walther P-38s to HK G3s and MP5s. He said they learned to use it all and stacked it deep, just in case.

At the time, the Land Home Guard had 470 platoon-sized units stippled across Norway equipped with small arms and man-portable anti-tank weapons such as the Carl Gustav 84mm and  L-18 57mm recoilless rifle– a nice addition to any choke point.

At the end of the Cold War, with a population of 4.2 million, Norway could put up the following numbers:
Army:  19,000 (plus 146,000 reserves)
Navy:  5,300 (plus about 26,000 reserves)
Air Force:  9,100 (plus about 28,000 reserves)
Home Guard:  85,000 reserves.

In short, over 300,000 ready when the balloon went up. Those aren’t rookie numbers.

Today it seems the HV is half the size it was in the tail-end of the Cold War, but you can bet there are probably well-maintained WWII stocks still housed in a warehouse somewhere, ready if needed.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Robert Gibb

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Robert Gibb

Robert Gibb was as Scottish as they came, born in Laurieston, near Falkirk 28 October 1845, and educated in Edinburgh. He studied at the Royal Scottish Academy and exhibited his first of more than 140 works there in 1867. It should come as no surprise that he was one of the great chroniclers of Highlanders in the field.

His first stab at the military genre came with Comrades in 1878, depicting men of the 42nd Highlanders (The Black Watch) in the Crimea.

The original version of this work was painted by Gibb in 1878 and is currently unlocated. The painting became iconic. While reading a life of Napoleon, the artist made a sketch of the retreat from Moscow. The dominant group of three figures in the foreground was then isolated and adapted to form an independent composition depicting a young soldier whispering his dying message to a comrade who seeks to comfort him in the snowy wastes of the Crimean winter. Photo credit: The Black Watch Castle & Museum

The Thin Red Line, oil on canvas, by Robert Gibb, 1881, showing the stand of a handful of the 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment of Foot at the Battle of Balaclava stopping 2,500 massed Russian cavalry. Currently on display at the National War Museum of Scotland, the venue notes “The Thin Red Line is one of the best known of all Scottish historical paintings and is the classic representation of Highland military heroism as an icon of Scotland.”

Saving the Colours; the Guards at Inkerman (1895 – Naval and Military Club, London)

Alma: Forward the 42nd. This 1888 oil on canvas by Scottish artist, Robert Gibb (1845–1932), depicts the Battle of Alma, in Sebastopol, Crimea on the 20th September 1854. Black Watch, in full review order, are advancing towards enemy guns on heights above, with Field Marshal Sir Colin Campbell (later Lord Clyde) shown giving the historic order from which the painting is titled. In left foreground are two Russians, and in distance stretch of sea with fleet in action. The painting was gifted to Glasgow Museums collection by Lord Woolavington in 1923. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Besides the Crimea, he also portrayed the Scots at Waterloo.

Closing the Gates at Hougoumont, 1815. Men of the Coldstream Guards and the Scots Guards are shown forcing shut the gates of the chateau of Hougoumont against French attack, with Lieutenant-Colonel James MacDonell forcing back the gate to the left. The moment of crisis shown in the painting came when around 30 French soldiers forced the north gate and entered into the chateau grounds. Before others could follow, the gates were forced shut again, and the French soldiers still inside were killed. Wellington himself had said the success of the battle turned upon the closing of the gates at the chateau. Photo credit: National Museums Scotland

Late in his life, he also painted the Highlanders in the Great War.

He produced Backs to the Wall at age 84. In this painting, the artist shows a line of khaki-clad Scottish troops standing defiantly at the critical moment, bayonets fixed– with the specters of fallen comrades behind them.

The work was inspired by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig’s famous Special Order of the Day at the time of the Great German Offensive of April 1918.

There is no other course open to us but to fight it out.  Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement.  With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end.  The safety of our homes and the Freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.

Backs to the Wall, 1918, painted 1929 oil on canvas. Gift from W. J. Webster, 1931 to the Angus Council Museums.

Gibb held the office of King’s painter and limner for Scotland for 25 years and was Keeper of the National Gallery of Scotland from 1895 until 1907.  The artist died at his home in Edinburgh in 1932, and he was given a full military funeral with an honor guard provided by the Black Watch.

Many of his works are on display across the UK and are available online.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Of cold steel and brass buttplates

The Enfield P53 bayonet, standard at the time of the Crimean War, and the Enfield L85 (SA80) bayonet, still standard issue today. While the blade has changed the basic concept endures (Photo: Chris Eger)

The Enfield P53 bayonet, standard at the time of the Crimean War, and the Enfield L85 (SA80) bayonet, still standard issue today. While the blade has changed the basic concept endures over the past few centuries (Photo: Chris Eger)

FM 23-25, War Department Basic Field Manual, Bayonet, WAR DEPARTMENT WASHINGTON 25, D. C, 7 September 1943:

The will to meet and destroy the enemy in hand-to-hand combat is the spirit of the bayonet. It springs from the fighter’s confidence, courage, and grim determination, and is the result of vigorous training. Through training, the fighting instinct of the individual soldier is developed to the highest point. The will to use the bayonet first appears in the trainee when he begins to handle it with facility, and increases as his confidence grows. The full development of his physical prowess and complete confidence in his weapon culminates in the final expression of the spirit of the bayonet—fierce and relentless destruction of the enemy. For the enemy, demoralizing fear of the bayonet is added to the destructive power of every bomb, shell, bullet, and grenade which supports and precedes the bayonet attack.


•    a. A determined enemy may not be driven from his position by fire alone. Making full use of cover and concealment, he will often remain in his position until driven out in hand-to-hand combat. The bayonet or the threat of it, therefore, is the ultimate factor in every assault.
•    b. At night, on infiltration missions, or whenever secrecy must be preserved, the bayonet is the weapon of silence and surprise.
•    c. In close combat, when friend and foe are too closely intermingled to permit the use of bullets or grenades, the bayonet is the primary weapon of the infantry soldier.

•    a. The bayonet is an offensive weapon. With it, aggressiveness wins. Hesitation, preliminary maneuvering, and fencing are fatal. The delay of a fraction of a second may mean death.
•    b. The bayonet fighter attacks in a fast, relentless assault until his opponent is destroyed. He takes instant advantage of any opening; if the enemy gives no opening, the attacker makes one by parrying his opponent’s weapon and driving blade or butt into him with killing force.
•    c. As the throat area is especially sensitive to attack by the bayonet, an opponent will act instinctively to protect this area from a thrust. By threatening his opponent’s throat with the point of the bayonet, the attacker will frequently cause him to uncover other vulnerable parts of the body. Other sensitive parts frequently exposed to the attacker’s thrust are the face, chest, abdomen, and groin.

4. DEVELOPING BAYONET FIGHTER From the outset bayonet training will be conducted with constant emphasis on developing proper form, quickness with the rifle and bayonet, footwork, and accuracy. Continued striving for these four essential qualities will develop the coordination, balance, speed, strength, and endurance that mark the expert bayonet fighter. Differences in conformation of individuals may require minor deviations from the prescribed bayonet technique. Those deviations which do not detract from the effectiveness of the individual’s attack will be disregarded.

A young Marine goes into battle with his bayonet and M14. Vietnam, 1965. Photograph by Eddie Adams

With the above in mind, check out the brutal dissection of how the rifle butt is traditionally used as explained by Matt Easton of Schola Gladiatoria:

Kalashnikov CEO wants a 20-ton ‘reconnaissance-strike robot’

Kalashnikov’s BAS-01G Soratnik unmanned vehicle can carry a machine gun and quartet of antitank missiles, but the company’s CEO wants to supersize it. (Photo: Kalashnikov Concern)

Kalashnikov Concern CEO Alexei Krivoruchko told Russian media that the company is developing a pretty big unmanned combat vehicle.

In an interview with state-run media outlet Tass, Krivoruchko hyped the partially-state run factories progress on advanced weapons including the new RPK-16 light machine gun before moving on to the mechanical elephant in the room– unmanned ground combat vehicles. The CEO advised a new 20-ton platform (described as a “робота” — robot) is under development which, when compared to what Kalash already markets, is huge.

The company showed off their current 7-ton BAS-01G Soratnik (Comrade-in-arms) unmanned vehicle in 2016, then last December made it do tricks for the Russian Ministry of Defence while armed with four anti-tank rockets and a machine gun. Alternatively, it can be modified to carry up to a 30mm gun or eight Kornet-EM laser-guided anti-tank missiles. Soratnik can be positioned as a bastion and act autonomously for 10 days as such in a standby mode, waiting to engage a threat.

I covered it over at and am honored that Popular Mechanics picked it up as well.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of The Met

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art very graciously just released 375,000 works into the public domain as Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Universal copyright, the broadest possible. While about 200,000 are online, and as a whole, they represent just a fifth of the Met’s huge collection, there are some interesting pieces in the trove with a military background. These include over 70 plates from Goya’s haunting ‘The Disasters of War’ (Los Desastres de la Guerra) and dozens more from Stefano della Bella’s ‘Peace and War’ (Divers desseins tant pour la paix que pour la guerre).

Here are some pieces I found remarkable.

Deck of a Warship Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (Danish, Blåkrog 1783–1853 Copenhagen) 1833

The “Kearsarge” at Boulogne Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris) 1864

A Bit of War History: The Recruit Thomas Waterman Wood (American, Montpelier, Vermont 1823–1903 New York) 1866

A Bit of War History The Veteran Thomas Waterman Wood (American, Montpelier, Vermont 1823–1903 New York) 1866

The full collection is here.


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