Blaine Lamb on “The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone”
As the secession crisis came to a head in the winter of 1861, an obscure military engineer, Charles Pomeroy Stone, emerged as the rallying point for the defense of Washington, D.C., against rebel insurrection or attack. He was protector of the president and right hand man of the army’s commanding general. Nevertheless, in just a year, this same hero sat in a military prison accused of incompetence and disloyalty.
Like other Union officers, Stone had the misfortune to run afoul of politicians 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 disgrace and imprisonment. His story, however, goes far beyond this unfortunate occurrence — from the Halls of the Montezumas to Gold Rush California, and from the pyramids of Egypt to the Statue of Liberty. In a presentation drawn from his recently published biography, The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone: Soldier, Surveyor, Pasha, Engineer, historian Blaine Lamb weaves a narrative of adventure, exploration, war and intrigue with a cast of characters ranging from the dour William Tecumseh Sherman to the flamboyant Ismail the Magnificent. But the center remains Stone himself, a man of honor, steadfast loyalty and tragic innocence.
A native of San Diego, California, Blaine Lamb obtained his BA and MA degrees in history from the University of San Diego. He then moved to Tempe, Arizona, and entered the doctoral program in history at Arizona State University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1982. Dr. Lamb returned to California and joined the staff of the State Railroad Museum as an archivist and later became a senior archivist at the California State Archives. In 2007, he took the position of Chief of the Archaeology, History and Museums Division of California State Parks, where he remained until his retirement in 2012. Since retirement, he completed work on his biography of General Charles Pomeroy Stone, which was published in 2016.
In addition to the Stone biography, Dr. Lamb’s publications include articles and reviews in California History, Journal of Arizona History, Western Historical Quarterly, Journal of America’s Military Past, Journal of the West, and Overland Journal.