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The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone (Hardback)

Soldier, Surveyor, Pasha, Engineer

All Westholme

By Blaine Lamb
Imprint: Westholme
Pages: 276
ISBN: 9781594162329
Published: 25th January 2016

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In the winter of 1861, as the secession crisis came to a head, an obscure military engineer, Charles Pomeroy Stone, emerged as the rallying point for the defense of Washington, D.C. against rebel attack. He was protector of the newly elected president and right hand man of the army’s commanding general, General Winfield Scott, under whom he had served with distinction during the Mexican–American War. Nevertheless, in just a year, this same hero sat in a military prison accused of incompetence and possible treason.

Like other Union officers, Stone had the misfortune to run afoul of radical politicians in the nation’s capital who sought to control the war effort by undermining the professional military establishment. Their weapon, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, applied a litmus test of commitment to abolition, loyalty to the Republican Party and battlefield success for the retention and promotion of army commanders. Stone, a democrat who did not see the conflict as a crusade against slavery, and who lost his only battle, failed on all counts.

Readers of Civil War history know Stone best for his mistreatment at the hands of the Joint Committee. When his name appears, it is almost always in connection with the battle at Ball’s Bluff, Virginia, during which a close associate of Lincoln’s was killed, and its aftermath. His story, however,goes far beyond that engagement. In The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone: Soldier, Surveyor, Pasha, Engineer that ranges from the Halls of the Montezuma to Gold Rush California, and from the pyramids of Egypt to the foot of the Statue of Liberty, historian Blaine Lamb brings to light the many facets of Stone’s remarkable life and career. He weaves into the narrative such characters as Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Abraham Lincoln, Winfield Scott, Alexander von Humboldt, Thaddeus Lowe, Chinese Gordon, Khedive Ismail, and Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. But the center of this tale of nineteenth-century adventure, exploration, war and intrigue remains Stone himself, a man of honor, steadfast loyalty, and tragic innocence.

In The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone: Soldier, Surveyor, Pasha, Engineer that ranges from the Halls of Montezuma to Gold Rush California, and from the pyramids of Egypt to the foot of the Statue of Liberty, historian Blaine Lamb brings to light the many facets of Stone’s remarkable life and career. He weaves into the narrative such characters as Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Abraham Lincoln, Winfield Scott, Alexander von Humboldt, Thaddeus Lowe, Chinese Gordon, Khedive Ismail, and Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. But the center of this tale of nineteenth-century adventure, exploration, war, and intrigue remains Stone himself, a man of honor, steadfast loyalty, and tragic innocence.

Civil War Book Review

I was not familiar with General Stone other than at the Ball's Bluff fiasco. I found his story to be amazing. To travel to California, Mexico and Egypt in the mid 1800's was quit an adventure. His story was captivating as Stone mixed success and failure into many fazes of his life but after all his ups and downs continued to great triumphs. A story of the human twill to succeed not a Ciivil War's soldiers tale.

Amazon Review

The author did an outstanding job of introducing a true American patriot. General Stone lived an extraordinary life, but in many ways he was like most Americans. He failed. He succeeded. He failed and succeeded again. He found opportunities and accepted risks. He was the essence of resilience. Civil War buffs will enjoy this book because Stone's path crossed those of many well-known figures. However, Stone's tale also provides interesting glimpses of antebellum California, Egyptian modernization, and the Statue of Liberty. Political scientists will recognize the extreme measures taken by a
war-time President and Congress. Historians will increase their knowledge of Mexico. Evidence of the author's thorough research is apparent. The author did take the liberty to speculate on Stone's activities to fill the gaps, but this was clear to the reader. The narrative is easy to follow. Good work Mr. Lamb!

Amazon Review

...Despite the short length, Blaine Lamb does a great job of telling the story, almost always giving just as much detail as the reader could want, without getting bogged down in minutiae. (I wish he had dropped in more reminders of Stone’s age at various points, but this is a minor quibble.) His prose is clean, clear and easy to read, and I often found myself reading for longer than I meant to in a given sitting.

So, all and all, a fantastic work of history. Charles Pomery Stone may not be one of the great players of the 19th century, but his life is extraordinary and deserves to be remembered. Blaine Lamb has done an admirable job of bringing his story out of obscurity. Recommended!

The Renaissance Troll – Joe McCullough

About Blaine Lamb

BLAINE LAMB received his PhD in history from Arizona State University. An archivist for the state of California, he directed the completion of the Golden State Museum, now the California Museum, in Sacramento. At the time of his retirement, he was the Chief of the Archaeology, History and Museums Division of California State Parks. His publications include articles in California History, Western Historical Quarterly, and Journal of America’s Military Past.

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