Data deprived reader speaks up

I was looking forward to reading Gold and Freedom: The Political Economy of Reconstruction but the hinge in this book seems to be a data-driven construction of "regionalism." Well and good except that we cannot look at the data below the the top level, essentially the summary level. In other words, like global warming, the core data is off limits to the curious public.

I do hate black-box statistics.


Premature planning for the postwar

You may have noticed in your readings that the Radical Republicans began quarreling over the postwar disposition of the defeated South from the very start of the Civil War. The very start.

Chalk it up to overconfidence.

But then, in WWII readings, one notices FDR and Churchill dividing up the post war world in 1942. More overconfidence?

Recently reading Notes of a Plenipotentiary, here come Russia's Prince Trubetskoi and the Allies dividing up the Hapsburg empire in late 1914 and early 1915.

This starts to look like an historical tendency. How to describe it? How to classify it?

One side is getting the stuffing kicked out of it; victory demands immense thought, planning and coordination plus time-time-time. Instead of buckling down, the losing side spends uncounted hours gaming the post war settlement.

I call that an historical problem of the first rank. Worth a study, certainly.


These generals

"You see, Stanton, the problem is that many of our generals are bobbleheads."


Introducing Ramblin Spokes, Civil War author

Well, hello, everybody! My name is Ramblin Spokes and I am a seasoned Civil War author. I will be dropping in here occasionally to pull back the curtain on how we Civil War authors make our magic.

In a forum like this, I can also test my out my new writing on Civil War book buyers like yourselves.

You know, every Civil War book needs some powerful theme to put across that this whole thing is a lot more than who-shot-john and here we go with yet another darn battle.

To that end, I have crafted a phrase that I think captures the deeper meaning of the war. Notice how I use it in these different passages:

(a) "Frederick Douglass saw the Civil War as the inevitable consequence of man's inhumanity to man."

(b) "It’s man’s inhumanity to man, and to a race, that makes Black History Month so important, so necessary."

Have you spotted my turn of phrase yet? Here's another clue or two:

(c) "Sadly, the war produced any number of examples of man's inhumanity to fellowman."

(d) "The memories of man's inhumanity to man are imbedded in its soil."

Haven't got it yet? You're not tryin'!

(e) "No one could have predicted that it would become the Civil War’s greatest example of man’s inhumanity to man."

(f) "Colonel Virgil S. Murphy would write in his diary: '...an unholy ground that exemplified man's inhumanity to man.' "

There is no harm in repeating your core theme. In fact you must do so, lest the reader put the book down.

You see, man's inhumanity to man is what will make my book worth buying and reading. It captures the total war experience in a nutshell. It's almost a kind of branding, it's just that powerful.

So go forth and find you own inhumanity as you write your own Civil War history.


Newspaper reviews

One thing about any of James McPherson's reviews for the New York Review of Books has been his spending at least two-thirds of a piece relating those events covered by the book itself. Every one of his reviews becomes a little history survey.

The experienced reader or even the literate generalist can get very frustrated very fast under this treatment.

But there can be worse. Make the whole review a recap of events, just a recap, as with this New York Times piece by Thomas Ricks, for instance, and it will tell nil about the book reviewed.

Who was this man Sherman? Why was he famous? What is this "Civil War" of which you speak? Well, thanks to this "book review" I now know! Have heard the name but was never sure when he lived or why he mattered.

And so you wonder who the hell reads the New York Times. Back in 1959, Harper's had an answer:
There come to mind all those high-school English teachers, those faithful librarians and booksellers, those trusting suburbanites, those bright young men and women in the provinces, all those who believe in the judgment of the Times and who need its direction.
So little change since then! Likewise,
The flat praise and the faint dissension, the minimal style and the light little article, the absence of involvement, passion, character, eccentricity — the lack, at last, of the literary tone itself — have made the New York Times into a provincial literary journal, longer and thicker, but not much different in the end from all those small-town Sunday “Book Pages.”
In the period in which this complaint was being registered, there were still some good reviews being written for a general audience. Here's a snippet from a New York Review of Books piece, April, 1964: it addresses three books about the conquest of Mexico.

It does not bother to explain where Mexico is located, nor does it enumerate the conquerors, nor does it provide historical dating, nor does it relate those past events to events of today and burnish their importance. The reader is expected to be at home in foundational Mexican history.

The review begins with a single paragraph of literature survey then plunges into a brief historiographic essay preliminary to analyzing the individual books. This is a book review for adults.

If Civil War book reviews continue on their trajectory, and as they get shorter, they will soon read like TV program listings.


Republican armies

This looks like an interesting book reviewed by Andrew Wagenhoffer. The First Republican Army: The Army of Virginia and the Radicalization of the Civil War - the sooner we get rid of the ideas of an apolitical Union army and meritocratic Union promotions, the sooner we can get the real Civil War story told.

Seen at a Virginia gun show

Sometimes you wonder just what an artist is trying to say...


Civil War plagiarists, an endless supply

An alert friend of this blog noticed that newer book reviews like this one were failing to make mention of the plagiarism committed by James Lee McDonough earlier in his career.

The problem is even worse than that - trying searching for "James Lee McDonough" and "scandal" and you will not easily or quickly find traces of this professor's crime.

The victim was Richard McMurry and if you like dark humor, search for both names. You'll find them sometimes named together, named in tandem, as equivalent experts on certain topics.

Here is a taste of what caused McDonough's book to be recalled and destroyed (click to enlarge). This clip is from a college anti-plagiarism guide, no less:

McMurry, reviewing McDonough's book, encountered his own work and complained. That seems to have been the beginning and end of it.

Former cat burglars are not employed in jewelry stores. Ex-bank robbers find no work in banks. How then is it that so many Civil War plagiarists find continuous employment?

My sense is that Civil War authors are taken no more seriously than entertainers. Our favorite actor is out of rehab - can't wait for his or her next starring role. Hey, the star linebacker served his 60 days in jail - can't wait to see him play in the next game.

Plagiarists benefit greatly from the lighthearted way the public views historians. Historians, meanwhile, don't stick together and they don't much care about plagiarism, either. The field gets the respect it deserves.


What happened?

A number of kind souls have checked in to see if I am okay and I am. Much of my absence came of reading less ACW history.

In the last year my Civil War projects (if they rise to that level) have included:

  • Collecting material on McClellan's employment of Lincoln on railroad business
  • Reevaluating the potential of the militia in the Civil War
  • Pondering the 1990s doctrine of effects based operations and its applicability to the ACW.

There will be some intermittent catch-up in 2017. Thanks for your continued interest.


1814 and 1862

The American reader experiences a mild shock when reading into the ACW history of 1862 to see that Lincoln and Stanton at one point assumed military command in directing the armies, strategically and operationally. In our culture, this is just not done.

But the precedent was set in 1814, when the Russian and Prussian monarchs travelled with their campaigning armies, directing their movements and making all important military decisions. The Austrians, cooperating in the advance, lacked the advantage of an equal counterweight and had to suffer a certain amount of court politicking at HQ. (From Dominic Lieven) Field Marshal Schwarzenberg had this to say about Allied headquarters:
[I am] surrounded by weaklings, fops of every sort, creators of eccentric schemes, intriguers, idiots, chatterers and fault finders.
That's our presidential entourage in a nutshell, by the way.

Those interested in pursuing this compare-and-contrast should pick up Mikaberidze's The Russian Officer Corps in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1792-1815.The first sixty pages are filled with interesting data such as percent of officers owning serfs, officer literacy, social standing, etc.

My feeling is that the example of Napoleonic war affected the shaping of the role of General-in-Chief and the ability of civilians, such as Thomas Hart Benton, to contend for the role.


Are we not all Fremont Republicans?

What is the alternative?

Is not Lincolnian Republicanism a disgraceful letdown to Fremont Republicanism?

Compared to a Fremont Republican, is not a Lincoln Republican a total embarrassment?

Is not Lincoln's hounding of Fremont a political vendetta of the morally inferior against his moral superior?

Submitted for your consideration by a Lincoln critic and Fremont fan.


Downton Alexandria

PBS is piggybacking on its Downton Abbey import with a domestic Civil War drama, Mercy Street, starting in January.

Barnaby Furnas 3



ALPLM digitization

Missed this item:

Lincoln papers, presidential library in critical condition

Again, this is an institution with a director, a chief of staff to the director, and two librarians.

Barnaby Furnas 2

Antietam II


Barnaby Furnas I


ALPLM makes changes

When the Illinois kakistocracy inserted a knighted NPR talk show host as head of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, it looked as though a veneer of independence was attempted.

Now, Eileen Mackevich, OBE, has resigned:
Mackevich wanted the institution to be independent. She's said she resigned because [Gov.] Rauner had a different vision for museum management.
Apparently, the idea is that
The Lincoln library and museum would become a separate state agency, governed by an executive director and advised by an 11-member board.
It would seem a semi-independent director would answer to a larger and therefore more patronage- friendly board. The governor has gotten enough of his own appointees onto the existing board to now make the changes he wants.

And so ends another chapter in this absurd comic opera of an institution. A director with a chief of staff and a library with two librarians.


Sword has died

SWORD, Winfield Wiley Age 77, of Suwanee, GA passed away Monday, November 9, 2015. Wiley was born in Mexico, Missouri on December 7, 1937 and lived there until the age of 7. He was a Civil War historian and published author who greatly enjoyed traveling and lecturing. Wiley was also an avid golfer, but nothing meant more to him that this family. He said his family was his greatest accomplishment. A memorial service for Wiley will be held on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 1pm at Johns Creek Baptist Church with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Wiley's name to Pamplin Historical Park - Wiley Sword Collection, 6125 Boydton Plank Road, Petersburg, VA 23803. Online condolences may be expressed at www.crowellbrothers.com. Arrangements by Crowell Brothers Funeral Homes & Crematory, Norcross/Peachtree Corners, GA; (770) 448-5757.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 11, 2015


"Author Earnings"

If you are an author with an interest in ebook sales, do visit Hugh Howey's Author Earnings website. The data is a black box extrapolation but interesting for being indicative.

Note also the lengthy discussions appended to individual reports - well worth the extra reading time.


Grant Under Fire

Grant Under Fire: An Exposé of Generalship & Character in the American Civil War at 798 erudite, well-researched pages, delivers a profound, perhaps unforgettable reading experience.

This revision of Grant’s biography delivers it in a narrative form packed with 103 pages of notes, 37 of bibliography and an historiographic essay. Author Joseph Rose says
The investigation of various controversies in Grant Under Fire may look positively one-sided , but this is an exposé. In earlier biographies, much of what passed for evidence and argument on General Grant’s behalf was improbable, strained, and often downright wrong ... Mostly, Grant’s blunders and unpleasant personal characteristics have been ignored, misconstrued, distorted, or denied. This work subjects both the primary sources and these earlier interpretations to a fine scrutiny. The arguments presented here identify the historiographical weakness of the previous works and offer a more reasonable analysis, based on a wide range of available sources.
This is done with great force and also humility:
... there are so many sources still unconsulted and so many of the extant sources contradict each other, information is sure to come to light modifying or overturning many of the facts and conclusions stated here. [...] I do ask the reader to point out any and all mistakes and make suggested corrections, as appropriate, on the website grantunderfire.com.
My own disadvantage in reading works like this is that I lack grounding in the primary sources of late war controversies; however I can say that Rose’s evidence handling impressed me as did his grasp of the material. We are in the hands of a fair, informed and intelligent author who delivers a compelling read. Some controversies here are a thinner than others, however the general picture is consistent, thorough and credible. Grant seems nothing like what the current consensus makes of him. As Brooks Simpson pointed out in Let Us Have Peace, Grant had highly developed political sensibility; some of that is on display here, but so is the political bubble constructed around him by Elihu Washburne and others and that bubble was needed to preserve the general from repeated errors of omission and commission -- one might almost say from a self-destructiveness.

This was my summer reading and hard to put down. Highly recommended as an antidote the general Centennial consensus and as a fine piece of historical research and writing.

Update: Harry has an interview with Joseph Rose.


Historical sterotypes

I was touring Montpelier Saturday with a Midwestern group.

Tourist:  Why should Dolly Madison be considered the first "First Lady" when Abigail Adams preceded her in the White House?

Guide: Abigail Adams hung her laundry to dry in the White House parlor!

Tourist: Well, she was a New Englander!

[Oh, the soft prejudice of lower expectations...]


Political generals then and now

Reading a newspaper article today on a couple of sitting generals (called in the report  "toxic," and pawns of the White House) got me thinking about a difference in types.

Our modern chateaux generals are creatures of specific politicians with no political force of their own. There are a number of Civil War generals who were political in just that same, simple, one way.

However, most of the political generals labeled as such in the Civil War were political figures in their own right and although many advantages of appointing them are beginning to be discussed, one thing they delivered is never mentioned.

Years ago, going through the Democrat papers of that day while in Boston's main library, I was struck by the obsessive amount of reporting on Ben Butler's little commands and their doings. Every day brought a substantial report, often outweighing the combined war news of other commands. All operations were painted in the most favorable light and overshadowed news of any contemporary battle elsewhere.

This kind of hometown bias gave Lincoln's Administration a glow in newspapers that would be ill disposed to him otherwise. The ongoing publicity payoff for these kinds of appointments must have been much higher than for appointing Cabinet officials from this or that place.

Does any newspaper follow the doings of a general today? The generals are disposable, anonymous salarymen, from nowhere, going nowhere. Their political utility is simply that of delivering political outcomes and complementing politicians' analysis and aims.

A president might do well to appoint actual politicians (or celebrities) to some high commands, following Lincoln in this.


The McDowell Papers: A special one-time offer to readers of this blog

It has been a long time since regular readers of this blog have received a free offer. The time has come to repay loyalty and sustained interest with this very special opportunity.

If any of you will locate the McDowell papers for me, I promise to write a fair-minded, informative, very useful biography -- the first ever -- of this major Civil War figure.

On the other hand, if I have to find these papers myself, I will write a cranky, opinionated, unreadable biography out of an abundance of irritation. You know I am capable of that, so spare yourselves by putting in a little research and elbow grease now to avoid crushing disappointment later.

You know how to reach me or you know someone else who knows how. Find the papers, belay your excuses and get to it. Claim your free prize!


Here are two clues to help you find the McDowell papers.

Clue no. 1 Harry Smeltzer pointed me to this remark:
I was long in hopes of getting access to some papers left by General McDowell which are said to contain information of importance as to his relations with the authorities at Washington; unfortunately, I was unable to persuade those who have charge of them to let me see them.
That is from Robert Matteson Johnston in his 1913, Bull Run; Its Strategy and Tactics, a damn good read, btw. What is Johnston referring to?

Clue no. 2 This is a nugget from my failing memory. Tom Rowland once told me (IIRC!) that his own McDowell bio was stymied because the McDowell daughters had burned their father's papers. Believable, yes. But true?

Claim the prize!

This is a limited time offer and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If I had graduate student assistants, you, the general public, would never even have a chance at reaping these generous rewards. Act now and I will throw in, absolutely free, some meager scraps of my own research.

What are you waiting for?


FDR as Lincoln? Well, define "Lincoln"

Thirty years after enjoying Nigel Hamilton's three-volume Montgomery bio, it was a pleasure to meet him in the flesh at the Army & Navy Club where he spoke of his new book last night.

This is a revisionist presentation of FDR and it appears Stimson and Marshall, among others, are going to take some hits.

I only mention this social affair because in the Q&A, perhaps three of the six questions pertained to the Civil War.

Those questions came from an entirely non-historical mindset. They were questions from ACW literature, not history, they were based on fanciful memes and Hamilton, and actual historian who does research and tries to solve problems, adamantly pushed back against them.

My regret is that he pushed against the memes themselves rather than the mindset that reads history this way. As a polite man and as a guest in a special setting, perhaps he needed to hold back a little.

The questioners were trying to understand FDR against the notion of Lincoln finds a general. One fellow actually broached the name of T. Harry Williams.

Hamilton vigorously countered that in no way was FDR a passive, hands off president looking for someone to carry major decisions for him. (I do like the implicit Lincoln criticism here!) He gave many counter examples to this. It seemed the questioners were a little disconcerted by his repeated assertions on this point.

Hamilton seemed familiar with the ACW literature (at least the Centennial stuff). He also shared with us some nice first-hand Monty and Churchill anecdotes.

I could have tied things up with a query of my own: Do you think Churchill indulged Monty out of the Prime Minister's personal conviction that Lincoln had done an injustice to McClellan?

That particular ACW question would have been too arcane for the occasion.


The Union League of Philadelphia

I had the pleasure of staying in the country's number one city club this weekend and discovered more ACW paintings than a military museum might have.

Like its sister clubs in New York and Chicago, the Union League of Philadelphia was formed during the Civil War by ardent Republicans and it retains its Republican character to this day with an emphasis on its origins, founders, and famous past members. It seems you cannot even descend a staircase without running into history-writ-large.

The blurred photo below shows Reynolds and a more obscure Pennsylvania general in attention-getting spots.
You pass them to approach a very large (here out-of-focus) George Meade.
But this is just a warm-up because when you reach the bottom of these particular stairs, you will have passed the great proto-Republican, Whig Henry Clay, standing almost a storey high (in frame and normally in focus). The halo is not part of the painting proper.
I am recreating here - in part - an actual walk from my room to my dinner inside the club, where I was destined to encounter Admirals Foote ...
... and Du Pont (photographed badly) ...
... and Generals Burnside ...
... and Halleck, his visage gracing the business center.
This is but the smallest sample of all the ACW portraiture, which collection is bound to include almost all of your Northern favorites.

I was looking for my own favorite among all the Pennsylvania notables and was a little baffled at not finding him when it suddenly occurred to me - but of course, McClellan was not only a Democrat, he was THE Democrat of the war. It took a little time and a little Kremlinology to figure out this omission.

Having mentioned "museum," note that the League has its own and the exhibition in place now is called "1865: Triumph and Tragedy." The public is admitted to the museum (only) two days per week.

I did not happen to visit the League's own golf club (Torresdale) and cannot vouch for historical contents of that location.

The city premises do boast a smoking bar, however, with windows overlooking Broad Street and this statue of a member of the 1st Pennsylvania, recently outfitted at Banana Republic. Enjoying my smoke at the window, watching the street and the statue, a few tourists happened by to take both of our pictures (mine inadvertently).

The nicest bar feature was this painting done with a sense of humor.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Cheers!


Is Civil War history doomed?

We had this understanding in our family (growing up in a medical community) that American doctors (high achievers) had gained just enough culture to get through school beyond which they might only glean this or that odd bit from TV or newspapers. So we might tell David Gelertner that his complaint is not new:
I’m a teacher of college students. I’m lucky to be at one of the best colleges in the world, at Yale. Our students are as smart as any in the world. They work very hard to get here. They are eager, they’re likable. My generation ... we always thought we knew everything about every topic, our professors were morons...

My students today are much less obnoxious. Much more likable than I and my friends used to be, but they are so ignorant that it’s hard to accept how ignorant they are. You tell yourself stories; it’s very hard to grasp that the person you’re talking to, who is bright, articulate, advisable, interested, and doesn’t know who Beethoven is. Had no view looking back at the history of the 20th century – just sees a fog. A blank. Has the vaguest idea of who Winston Churchill was or why he mattered. And maybe has no image of Teddy Roosevelt, let’s say, at all. I mean, these are people who – We have failed.

... [A]nyway how did we get to this point today when my students know nothing? They know nothing about art. They know nothing about history. They know nothing about philosophy. And because they have been raised as not even atheists, they don’t rise to the level of atheists, insofar as they’ve never thought about the existence or nonexistence of God. It has never occurred to them.
...we have second-generation ignorance [that] is much more potent than first-generation ignorance. It’s not just a matter of one generation, of incremental change. It’s more like multiplicative change. A curve going up very fast. And swamping us. Taking us by surprise.
We might add to his list a lack of curiosity. But I don't think Yalies or other strivers are much of a threat to culture generally or to publishing or history specifically because they've never been part of the serious reader demographic.

For example, by the 1980s, Princeton, the school,  had been overrun by strivers and the town itself was inundated with relocated businessmen. Browsing the Princeton University Bookstore one day, I asked a clerk if the store stocked a certain author. This clerk was one of the town's old timers who worked to get out of the house, wore fine clothing, pearls and heels on the job. She gave me pained look and whispered. "all they can stock here are New York Times best sellers."

And it wasn't even the kids buying that stuff, it was the newly headquartered corporate folk.

Civil War history attracts autodidacts. As long as we have those - and they are all readers - there should continue to be a market for interesting histories.


Speaking of cigars...

Speaking of cigars, no one in the ACW ever smoked a Grant but some may have smoked a Henry Clay which Wikipedia tells us was marketed first "in the 1840s." Naturally this cigar name would offend Democrats (Business plan: "I think I'll go for half the market").

I bought a Henry Clay tonight (in Union Station) and pictured Abe Lincoln of Illinois surrounded by his Whig cronies lighting one up outside the courtroom.

This compilation from Wiki is incredible:
English writer Rudyard Kipling mused, "There's calm in a Henry Clay," in his 1886 poem "The Betrothed."

Mentioned in English occultist Aleister Crowley's 1918 poem "Absinthe: The Green Goddess": "Here, too, sat Henry Clay, who lived and died to give his name to a cigar."

The brand is mentioned in Irish writer James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses: "Long John Fanning made no way for them. He removed his large Henry Clay decisively and his large fierce eyes scowled intelligently over all their faces."

In Russian and Soviet poet, playwright, and actor Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky's 1925 poem Блек энд уайт/Black and White portraying issues of racism and capitalist exploitation, the setting is a Henry Clay and Bock, Ltd. cigar factory in Havana: "В Гаване все разграничено четко: у белых доллары, у черных — нет. Поэтому Вилли стоит со щеткой у «Энри Клей энд Бок, лимитед»."… "И надо же случиться, чтоб как раз тогда к королю сигарному Энри Клей пришел, белей, чем облаков стада, величественнейший из сахарных королей."

Reference is made to Henry Clay as a London grocer's "finest cigar" in the 1929 Alfred Hitchcock film "Blackmail."

Mentioned in "Die Matrosen" tango from German playwright Bertolt Brecht's 1929 play "Happy End"

Belgian novelist Georges Simenon in the 1931 French-language novel Pietr-le-Letton/The Strange Case of Peter the Lett. "...un Henry Clay aux lèvres".

The character of Claire Zachanassian in Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Der Besuch der alten Dame/The Visit (1956) smokes Henry Clays.

Mentioned in the poem "A Busy Man" by British-Canadian poet and writer Robert William Service: "And now I'll toddle to the garden/And light a good old Henry Clay."

Maurice Leblanc's gentleman thief Arsène Lupin was noted to have used a Henry Clay cigar to conceal a reply to an invented associate as a part of his escape from jail in "Arsène Lupin in Prison".
Per Service, I did toddle to the garden this evening and the Clay was good enough to inspire this addition to the literary canon.


This "plan" is a varmint that won't stay dead

The John Batchelor show featured a talk about The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-63: Leadership Lessons by Kevin Dougherty.

Q: "...Why is that [the so-called Anaconda Plan] a good example of leadership...?"

A: "The Anaconda Plan, named after the snake that kills its victims by strangling, is the original plan that Scott brought forth to the Federal side to defeat the Confederacy by limited war. Scott did not want to lose a lot of casualties either on the Federal side or the Confederate side, he had kind of a conciliatory approach to warfare that he practiced in the Mexican War and his plan was to build up a massive army, to blockade the Confederate coast, and to cut them off from the rest of the world, and to split the Confederacy in two by getting control of the Mississippi River. And although that plan was rejected because it was perceived as taking too long, and the country wanted to get on with victory, it ended up being the way that the Federals did eventually win the war."

Assertion: It was "the original plan..."
Response: It was not a plan. Several disparate ideas presented at different times were fabricated by the press and historians into a make-believe "plan".

Assertion: "...he had kind of a conciliatory approach to warfare that he practiced in the Mexican War."
Response: He waged conventional war against Mexico and when the capture of Mexico City did not bring surrender, he negotiated with the enemy.

Assertion: "...his plan was to build up a massive army..."
Response: His idea was to send 60,000 men down the Mississippi (in a separate source he suggests up to 80,000). He opposed creation of a massive army.

Assertion: "...that plan was rejected because it was perceived as taking too long..."
Response: There was no plan, there was no presentation, so there was no rejection. Scott's separate suggestions of a blockade and or a river campaign were discussed when they came up conversationally but there is no record of their pro forma acceptance or rejection.

Assertion: "... it ended up being the way that the Federals did eventually win the war."
Response: Preposterous, unless "the Anaconda Plan" is anything you want it to be.

For more details, see my series here, here, here, and here. The second and last posts are most important.

Ladies and gentlemen, before referring to something called "the Anaconda Plan," check your primary sources. You will save yourself embarassment.


Taking our worst failings seriously

Working through the McClellan controversies and the way they are treated, it eventually occurred to me that there is a much larger Civil War history problem of which McClellanology is just a small indicator.

Further, I have come to understand that this problem goes beyond Civil War history and permeates the culture.

A couple of weeks ago I commented to my brother on how wretched science has become in the same way as Civil War history and how very carefully we have to treat any claims by scientists, doctors, pharma, and so on.

Now, here comes The Lancet.
In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. [...] The good news is that science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously. The bad news is that nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system.
The leading Civil War historians will deny there is any problem in our little world. We have yet to confront "worst failings."


"Writing through"

An instructor long ago rejected a history paper of mine with the comment, "You are trying to write your way through what is an historical problem."

I was not arguing from evidence, I was stylizing and applying tricks and tropes to press a weak point.

See if you think this author is doing the same.


The point of Memorial Day

If it is the point of Memorial Day to honor all of the war dead, is it not wrong to honor only a portion?

With 364 days a year to honor the Civil War dead, why can't reenactors pause for a short while to honor the fallen of their own generation and others?

If reenacting is part entertainment, can't we postpone the entertainment for a day or two?

Some readers will counter that many Memorial Day programs include a little bit of this and that. Let's put an end to "this and that." Memorial Day is for remembering all.

Local officials must show decency and strength by denying permits for these kinds of events on this particular holiday.