1/30/2004

It helps to hear directly from stakeholders in the heritage wars:

[W]hy don't we bulldoze the thousands of simple white tombstones with only a number where a name should be, close the museums, tear down the monuments, build subsidized housing on all the battlefields, take down the street signs, burn all the history books, and do away with tourism altogether?

Let's wipe the Civil War from the face of the map, forget 600,000 men and boys who died. Let's just build a slavery museum and forget the rest.


This is the crux of the matter:

I have a right to honor my ancestors ... [You have] no right to try to obliterate my history.
NEWS | Cedar Creek battlefield gets funds * Signed first-edition GWTW brings $2,750 in Vermont * Legal loophole enables felon purchases of Civil War firearms

1/29/2004

Burnside's reputation as a McClellan creation is undeserved. He made a great splash in Rhode Island politics as the head of a prewar "high tech" manufacturing concern, and he reaped political, if not financial capital, from this venture.

Burnside went to war a politically-wired celebrity. He was assiduously sponsored by William Sprague, the influential governor of Rhode Island who spent much time in D.C. and who married political diva Kate Chase (daughter of Salmon Chase, the radical head of the Treasury Deaprtment).

One wonders if Burnside's failure as an arms manufacturer affected the war - and in how many ways. According to this article there are still a few '54 Burnside carbines out there.
NEWS | Confederate license plate goes on sale * Jefferson Davis Middle may lose its Confederate connection * SCV sues to restore plaques removed from Texas Supreme Court * Reparations lawyers will soldier on

1/28/2004

Baltimore is moving forward with a Heritage Trail and it will be multi-themed (unlike Boston's). Fort McHenry, not included. See it here.

Civil War content is mixed in with War of 1812 stuff, which is all right - tourists need variety. And there is no hint (yet) of a single overarching theme, developed by public historians and then approved by politicians. The National Park Service having no presence in the city is another huge plus.

So far, so good.
Has Lincoln's memory come down to this?
They say the foremost Lincoln impersonator of our generation is too short.
NEWS | Movie biz gives Cold Mountain a cold shoulder * UDC honors Lee, Jackson * Montana city loses Civil War cannons

1/27/2004

Misery loves company and given the state of ACW publishing over the last 60 years, it's interesting to look across the aisle at antebellum social histories and see troubles there as well. If a John C. Tidball can get his ACW biography before Irvin McDowell, then there is a reference point, a sanity check for the fact that ...

Amazingly, until this year, the most recent adult biography of [Harriet] Tubman appeared in 1943, written by a left-wing labor organizer named Earl Conrad.

In other words, since 1943 no acquisitions editor had sought an author for a Tubman bio project; no author had sold a Tubman bio on speculation; and no academic in the field of antebellum American history noticed anything wrong to the point of wanting to do something about it. “Suddenly, three new books written by academic historians have appeared.”

What is odd about this is that there was no Tubman "establishment" whose interpretations would have been threatened or whose work would have been superseded.

One of these "academics" is actually a financial services worker who went into history late in life, following her enthusiasms. Kate Larson “thought she would eventually discover why no one had ever applied rigorous scholarship to Tubman's story. Ten years later, she has produced the most thoroughly researched account of that life … Nonetheless, Larson still can't quite fully answer her original question.”

Note that the point is not to discover some individual's error that caused this biographical void. The point is to ask whether there is a systemic problem in the field of antebellum social history. This is a great question to be asked in a mass medium like newspapers and the article's author does well to pursue it.

Would that it were pursued across the aisle to Civil War history, where the voids are as awful.

[P.S. Let me add that Larson is published by Ballantine, a trade (mass-market) house – thus leapfrogging the academic presses with a large first run; this is a very unlikely event absent pent-up demand. Market tastes and lack of interest in Tubman cannot be blamed for this publishing failure.]
NEWS | Judge dismisses reparations case * Editorial - Virginia * Town plans 305-foot statue of Lincoln

1/26/2004

From time to time I have touched on the problems of modern people adjusting public history to avoid pasts they hate, or at least cannot own. The most striking U.S. example for many years has been that of New England, where Puritans are personae non grata, at least in public memory, and where their descendants are free to celebrate their heritage in the darkest recesses of absolute privacy.

The state flag controversies marked the beginning of a similar effect in the Southern section of this country. As noted previously, the next step in Dixie (based on New England's example) is to move the clock forward to a starting point that comforts modern voters by eliminating historiographic controversy.

In making this comparison between the South and New England, reference has often been made here to Georgia's revision of its American history high school curriculum. Here is an fresh summary of the content of that history:

* 2-3 weeks on the founding of the Republic
* Fast forward to 1876 for the rest of the course

As the columnist in the link explains, the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater: Lewis & Clark, the Underground Railroad, and even Honest Abe. Maybe the Georgia colonists appear in another course.

Is this a bad thing? Yes ... if you expect students will learn nothing outside the classroom before and after matriculation. It's certainly a strategy I expect to be copied in many more states and it will be interesting to see where the start dates are set, case by case.

Georgia is also starting its world history course with the Renaissance. This means Georgia high school graduates will be equipped to ask, "Rebirth from what?" as well as "Reconstruction from what?"
Vice President Cheney travels the country with a duffel bag full of military histories, according to this. He seems to be a Civil War buff, too:

On a recent morning, Cheney is standing in his West Wing office, a fire burning in the fireplace. He is showing a reporter a map hanging over his desk that was researched and commissioned by his daughters, Liz and Mary. It details the battles fought by his great-grandfather, Samuel Fletcher Cheney, a company commander in the 21st Ohio Infantry during the Civil War.

"That was my 60th birthday present," Cheney says. "So, about 10 days after we were sworn in, Lynne and the girls organized a luncheon over here. In my ceremonial office. Had the president and Laura over. And presented me with that." He points up at the map and declares, "Great gift."

"This is where General Thomas earned his nickname, the Rock of Chickamauga," Cheney says. "Put up a hell of a fight. The 21st Ohio was one of the key two or three regiments. That was their moment of glory, so to speak. About half the regiment was captured. Fortunately not my grandfather. Ended up in Andersonville (a Confederate military prison). Lot of them didn't survivethis."
NEWS | Veterans groups raise money to make replica of monument 'lost' in Kentucky * Restorers come to Fort Pickens' defense * Future CSS Neuse home dedicated * Publisher readies first-ever scholarly edition of papers of a female slave

1/23/2004

A number of publishers have been increasing their line of Civil War titles since I began paying attention in 1998. Kent State University is one such and the editorial judgment used in selecting its projects is impressive, going far beyond the battle books that are the staple of this publishing niche.

I notice The University of Georgia Press is doing more Civil War and, as with KSU, exercising superb care in its title selection. I have just received what promises to be a terrific read in ACW historiography… Never Surrender: Confederate Memory and Conservatism in the South Carolina Upcountry by W. Scott Poole. "The mystagogy of Confederate religion …" Language like that makes me pine for the glory days of the Voegelin movement in the 1960s, when the "eschaton" was "immanentized" for the last time. (I'm being arcane but not ironic.)

Another superb offering, due in May, has reached me in proof form: Chickamauga: A Battlefield History in Images by Roger C. Linton. The title is misleading, as this is a kind of guidebook to the battlefield with old and new images … not a guidebook that says "Turn left on Route 123," but one in which excerpts from accounts of the battle are mapped to diagrams and photos, some of the photos being of utilitarian value (picturing terrain) and some of purely nostalgic worth. This is a very different kind of book in a field hostile to innovation.

Congratulations to University of Georgia Press; thanks, too, for trifling with some of the rigid publishing conventions that limit our enjoyment of ACW history.
NEWS | Smithsonian reenters war history arena * Carthage NY seeks funding for ACW monument work * Citizens organize to save ACW-era cemetery in Michigan * Rangers contend with souvenir hunters at Civil War battlefields

1/22/2004

As you went from assignment to assignment in the Army of my day, the officially sanctioned nicknames of companies repeated endlessly: Charlie Company was always Chargin' for instance. It got a little better at battalion level, where the peculiar nickname of a regiment (a formation long absent from Army rosters) attached to its surviving battalions. There was no mistaking Buffalo for Tomahawk or Manchu.

As you now drive the country, you notice the self-applied nicknames of FM radio stations repeat endlessly and meaninglessly: the River, the Eagle, the Rock, Easy.

So we know from life that names repeat and we would laugh at anyone stepping forward to claim to be from the "original" Chargin' Charlie Company or the first staion to call itself "Easy" one-oh-something.

As history readers, however, we are very fond of "the," as well as "the first." The success of a pop history author like Alan T. Nolan with a single subject, "the" Iron Brigade, can corrupt truth simply through his own success and our expectations of originality and uniqueness. I was reminded of this when author Timothy Reese pointed me toward an article by Tom Clemens called, "Will the Real iron Brigade Please Stand Up."

Nolan did not pretend that his Iron Brigade was the only one in the Civil War, but his commercial success ensures that we associate "Iron Brigade" with black hats and Westerners. The effect is that of his success corrupting our memory and judgement. Not a fair deal, that.

Clemens points out a number of units adopting the "Iron Brigade" moniker - I read the article twice and still lost track of the total. And here is a website boosting the "real" Iron Brigade (claimed for a New York outfit described by Clemens) based on precedence. Reading Clemens, we understand that claims of a"first" Iron Brigade can be difficult to establish, if that's what makes a nickname "real."

It is not just Nolan's success that has corrupted us. Consider "the" ironclads (Monitor and Virginia), "the" baloonist (Thaddeus Lowe), "the" Civil War sub (Hunley) and "the" end of the war. All are false constructs, as listed here.

"The Antietam campaign," the whole phrase, is an atrocity born of commerical success, as Reese might point out himself.

You might even consider "the" South and "the" Union as worth further inspection.

If we shake off other people's success, details start to reveal themselves and history is in those details. Certainly, my own enjoyment of it is.
NEWS | Thieves steal Civil War relics from Wilson's Creek * Director to shop new epic "Civil War" love story * New work examines Lincoln/Whitman connections

1/21/2004

Here's more on the vandalization of Confederate monuments in Richmond, with a good photo.

By the way, what is the point of having a statue so high on a pedestal that passersby are gazing at the underside of a horse?
If you read this list by the National Parks Conservation Association, you learn that the Underground Railroad system of sites has been "stymied by financial neglect" and that "Without adequate funding the opportunity and ability to illustrate this important history with sites, stories, and artifacts is being lost forever."

On the other hand, this editorial, while decrying pinched finances, alludes to $3.1 million in funding since 1998.

These are 149 separate sites covered by a federal program with no federal funding. Presumably they raised $3.1 million individually or independently and collectively.

Is history being "lost forever" or is that fundraising hype? And the business of joining an unfunded federal program - is that to stave off local politicians and their developer friends or was it a mistake?

I would humbly suggest focusing on one or two neglected sites within the system and raising cash for those rather than for the entire system.

"Being lost forever" is what should happen to the hard sell in fund raising.
They named children after McClellan and Grant and Sherman; apparently after Rosencrans, too. Here is Sgt. Fayette Rosencranz King on the frontier in the 1880s.
NEWS | Vandals attack Lee and Jackson statues * Supporters of 1956 Georgia flag rally again, demanding new vote * Walking tour recounts Civil War battle in 'Cold Mountain'

1/20/2004

If you are looking for a little help understanding the military component of some ACW book or article, you could do worse than to refer to this brief primer. Especially useful are the paradigms for operational modes, although these do not represent a consensus:

* offensive combat persisting
* defensive combat persisting
* offensive combat raiding
* defensive combat raiding
* offensive logistic persisting
* defensive logistic persisting
* offensive logistic raiding
* defensive logistic raiding

We'll get back to a look at sources abuse tomorrow.
A Crampton's Gap web site is open for business ... it is certainly the last word, web-wise, on all aspects of this topic: the battle's place in history, the dire park situation, and all related matters. Have a look.
NEWS |
Early Rebel battleflag sells for $48,000 * Civil War cannon finds home at museum * Production company specializes in ACW documentaries

1/16/2004

In too many old film comedies there is a stock scene of some drunk arguing with an inanimate object. I think of this scene when I see an editor arguing with dead sources.

Consider Allan Nevins’ book, A Diary of Battle: the Personal Journals of Colonel Charles Wainwright, 1861-1865. Colonel Wainwright was writing a private diary and given the license he might have allowed himself, his entries are remarkably restrained and readable. He could not, of course, anticipate that the legendary Civil War historian and inspiration for Columbia University’s Allan Nevins Chair in history might someday be commenting on his private thoughts.

The subject is managing your sources and our teacher is Dr. Nevins.

Wainwright: “McClellan’s object in coming by the York instead of advancing along the James was to effect his junction; but for a week past the camp has been full of rumors that McDowell did not want to come, and was raising all sorts of difficulties.” (71, Da Capo edition, 1998)

Nevins: “It was not true that Washington’s orders for the disposition of troops had constrained McClellan to advance by the York instead of the James…” [Note: Wainwright mentions no such orders.]

Wainwright: “Every man thinks that he is conferring a favor on the government by being here at all, and commences to pout and hang back so soon as [the] government fails to furnish him with everything he is entitled to. I do not know that this can be remedied in so free a country.” [117] “As to shooting deserters and cowards, whether men or officers by court martial, that is out of the question, as all such cases have to go to Washington and Mr. Lincoln always pardons them.” [118]

Nevins: “Wainwright’s readiness to have cowards and deserters shot, and his hostility to press correspondents, shows that he had an imperfect grasp of the conditions under which the American democracy had to wage war.”

Wainwright: “He [Fitz-John Porter] may have been guilty of everything charged against him, or he may have been perfectly innocent, of this I know nothing; his condemnation was a foregone conclusion.” [161]

Nevins: “Wainwright’s statement is highly unjust to the judges who tried Fitz-John Porter…”

Wainwright: “The news contained in them [New York City newspapers] is little if any more reliable than that in the Washington Chronicle …” [207]

Nevins: “Despite Wainwright’s disparaging remarks, the Chronicle was widely regarded as the best newspaper in the capital.”

Wainwright: “Her people [Virginia’s] have not only poured out their money and their blood without stint, but from this state have come all the greatest and best men: Lee, Sidney Johnston, and Stonewall Jackson…” [330]

Nevins: “Wainwright’s belief that Albert Sidney Johnston had been a Virginian was as gross a misconception as his notion that the fighting at Shiloh, Stones River, and Chickamauga was somehow less fierce than at Antietam and Gettysburg.”

This picture is a little one-sided. Sometimes Nevins weighs in with endorsements of comments made by Wainwright.

Nevins: “It was true Hooker was generally piqued…” [432]

(But Wainwright was recording a letter from a certain Major Reynolds who was piqued and who was a Hooker fan; he did not say that Hooker himself was piqued.)

Nevins: “Wainwright’s animadversions upon Burnside were just and his criticisms are fairly stated.” [151]

Wainwright: “Very little is said about Burnside, but neither officers nor men have the slightest confidence in him.” [149] “[Marsena] Patrick tells me that has Burnside consulted him or allowed him to know anything as to what his plans were, he could have explained to him the exact lay of all that land.” [150]

(Those two remarks represent the entire catalog of animadversions and criticisms. )

Sometimes Nevins just wants to be helpful instead of contentious.

Nevins: “Wainwright’s statement as to Meade’s council of war [before Gettysburg] requires amplification.” [260]

(Wainwright made no statement of his own about the council, he simply relayed Wadsworth’s account of the meeting.)

Here is more helpfulness.

Wainwright: “[I have] Indistinct visions of some occasion on which I might gallop half a dozen batteries into position at the decisive moment, as General Senarmont did at the battle of Friedland, and so to save the day.” [471-472].

Nevins has footnoted this. He has something important to say.

(Think of the old comedy film. The drunk is now tired of arguing with the lamp and the broom and begins to wax philosophical to no one in particular.)

Nevins: “Wainwright had read French military history.”

A toast to the great Civil War historians and their unruly sources!
NEWS | Thieves take valuable historic guns from battlefield museum * ACW monument planned in Michigan * Ex-slaves found a Colorado town in new play

1/15/2004

If you are a new reader of American Civil War histories, let me warn you about the number one problem in the genre: sources. Sources will lie, sources will obfuscate, and worst of all and sources will often say ignorant things. It is truly sad when a gullible reader believes some contemporary source or other without mediation by a trained specialist. Some of the more brazen sources, the ones that openly contradict – even defy – an author's thesis actually have to be escorted out of the pages of a book, lest they disrupt the reading public's enjoyment.

The people contemporary with events of those days were not malicious, necessarily; they simply lacked the benefit of the hard work of thousands of later Civil War historians who made sense out of events. They could not foresee Nevins, Catton, Williams, Williams, Sears, McPherson and the editorial directors of American Heritage magazine settling every single Civil War controversy with finality and elegance. We cannot be too hard on them.

It is thanks to the recent golden age of Civil War historiography that the field has moved entirely beyond sources, making them almost irrelevant. Who could have anticipated such a breakthrough? The great themes, the narrative structures, the insights, the storytelling, depend very little on sources; more about the intuitive application of literary gifts - and about what sounds right and seems right. Yes, there is the odd source that provides a colorful anecdote, or that moves the story (or thesis) along, but we now live in largely a post-sourcing era, one in which, if sources are to be used at all, they must be managed with great care, and vigorously, publicly abused should they step out of line.

I thought of all this while reading an article in which an historian, recounting a letter written by a farmer near Sharpsburg, corrects the farmer's name for a local bridge. This, I thought, is an excellent display of controlling an ignorant and careless source. I then thought of Allan Nevins' masterful editing of the Charles Wainwright's diaries (A Diary of Battle). Anytime Col. Wainwright of the AoP strayed from the American Heritage editorial line in describing events or personalities or in offering opinions, Nevins was on him with an extensive clarifying comment, often sympathetically rationalizing the colonel's lamentable prejudice or pathetic ignorance.

Sources were useful in the earlier, legalistic days of scholarship, when all the evidence was examined and weighed to reach a single conclusion about a single event. Now that the underlying patterns of truth have been recognized and the storylines developed, sources are irrelevant, though some writers still opt to use them. It may therefore be worth reviewing, in the next few days, how some great names in Civil War history master unruly sources – to protect their readers from being misled by the fool's gold of contemporary testimony.
Based on yesterday's letter to Delegate Richard Weldon by Tim Reese, some of you may wish to email the good legislator about Crampton's Gap. Try this:

Richard_Weldon@house.state.md.us

If you have not yet read the letter, please scroll down.
NEWS | Civil War cannon buy sparks dispute *
Stonewall's maxims collected in new book *
Early Rebel flag goes up for auction

1/14/2004

Continuing with yesterday's topic, here's a letter to a Maryland representative by author Timothy Reese laying out the issues surrounding Crampton's Gap battlefield. It's a long post in terms of this blog, but it clearly tells a sad and complex story. I've bumped the news section to make way for this and urge you to write your own letters to Delegate Weldon. The letter starts below:

November 12, 2002

State Delegate Richard B. Weldon, Jr., Subdistrict 3B
Lowe House Office Building, Room 324, 84 College Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401-1991

Subject: Recommended “Crampton’s Gap State Battlefield Park Amendment” to House Bill 1183, Subtitle 18, South Mountain State Battlefield, 2000 Regular Session

Honorable Delegate:

On 1 October, 2000, the Maryland General Assembly enacted the above cited legislation creating South Mountain State Battlefield. Though welcome and long anticipated, this bill by definition reveals fundamental flaws which confuse and subsume a salient portion of this new entity lying within your subdistrict, namely the Crampton’s Gap battlefield.

House Bill 1183 was the direct outgrowth of an initiative launched in the Summer of 1998 by two Crampton’s Gap advocates, Mr. William van Gilder and myself. We approached then serving Delegate Bruce Poole (Hagerstown) for his opinion of the feasibility of converting Gathland State Park—embodying approximately 30% of the Crampton’s Gap battlefield—into “Crampton’s Gap State Battlefield Park” with minimally restored staff and funding, what would have been a seminal, independent creation. This concept was based upon the measured majority of increasing Gathland visitation, as well the site’s overriding historical significance.

Delegate Poole unwittingly allowed this initiative to be usurped and subsumed by a Task Force impaneled exclusively by advocates for the South Mountain battlefield lying six miles north of Crampton’s Gap, hence an imprecise, misleading definition of the State Battlefield. I offer the following clarifications for your consideration.

H.B. 1183, Section 1. Subsections A & B: Whereas The Task Force discovered that the State of Maryland owns 2,600 acres of land on South Mountain where the Battle was fought and has purchased conservation easements for an additional 1,400 acres of land relevant to the Battle of South Mountain....In order to preserve the land where the battle was fought and to provide the public with access to appreciate the land where the battle was fought....The South Mountain Battlefield shall encompass the Property Owned by the State...

Though the State of Maryland does indeed own some 2,600 acres of mountain forestry land, an overwhelming majority of battlefield lands lie outside State boundaries. In fact a far greater proportion of State battlefield lands are to be found at Crampton’s Gap than at either Fox’s Gap or Turner’s Gap segments of the South Mountain battlefield. Gathland State Park lies wholly within the Crampton’s Gap battlefield. The South Mountain battlefield lies almost entirely outside State ownership. Conservation easements obtained through Program Open Space, Maryland Rural Legacy Program, have largely forestalled battlefield development, but offer no broad-based mandate for fee-simple acquisition of these same core battlefield properties. Furthermore, enactment of H.B. 1183 in no way provides “access” or opportunity to “appreciate” a majority of private battlefield properties by the visiting public in like manner to battlefields owned by the U.S. National Park Service as is strongly suggested. At this time, “access” and “appreciation” would require flagrant, State-inferred trespass, clearly a premature assumption.

Ref.: Mr. William van Gilder, P.O. Box 42, Rohrersville, Maryland 21779-1215, 301/416-2970; 2000 Boundary Survey, South Mountain Recreation Area, Md. F&PS; “Take-Line” Survey Map of same; Mr. H. Grant Dehart, Program Open Space, Md. Dept. of Natural Resources, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401, 410/260-8425; Mr. Ross M. Kimmel, Supervisor, Cultural Resource Management, State Forest & Park Service, E-3 Tawes Building, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401, 410/260-8164.

H.B. 1183, Section 1. Subsection B: ...Consistent with the historic significance of the Battlefield...

By erroneously grouping the Crampton’s Gap and South Mountain battlefields together under the latter title, historical significance becomes skewed and disproportionate, a point readily discerned by many visitors. In the documented strategy, words and actions of both Union and Confederate army commanders, Crampton’s Gap clearly stands apart, to wit:

I have now full information as to movements and intentions of the enemy....My general idea [at CRAMPTON’S GAP] is to cut the enemy in two and beat him in detail. I ask of you, at this important moment, all your intellect and the utmost activity that a general can exercise....You will readily perceive that no slight advantage should for a moment interfere with the decisive results I propose to gain. — Gen. George B. McClellan to Gen. William B. Franklin, 13 September, 1862 (U.S. War Dept. War of the Rebellion...Official Records, 19/1:45-46, 51/1:826-827)

Learning later in the evening that CRAMPTON’S GAP (on the direct road from Fredericktown to Sharpsburg) had been forced, and McLaws’ rear thus threatened, and believing from a report from General Jackson that Harper’s Ferry would fall next morning, I determined to withdraw Longstreet and D. H. Hill from their positions and retire to the vicinity of Sharpsburg, where the army could be more easily united. — Gen. Robert E. Lee to Pres. Jefferson Davis, 16 September, 1862 (U.S. War Dept. War of the Rebellion ... Official Records, 19/1:140)

Information was also received that another large body of Federal troops had during the afternoon forced their way through CRAMPTON’S GAP, only 5 miles in rear of McLaws. Under these circumstances, it was determined to retire to Sharpsburg, where we would be upon the flank and rear of the enemy should he move against McLaws, and where we could more readily unite with the rest of the army.
— Gen. Robert E. Lee to Confederate Adj. Gen., 19 August, 1863 (U.S. War Dept. War of the Rebellion...Official Records, 19/1:147)

That night [14 September] Lee found out that Cobb had been pressed back from CRAMPTON’S GAP, and this made it necessary to retire from Boonsboro [Turner’s] Gap, which was done next morning and position at Sharpsburg taken. — As told to William Allen by Robert E. Lee
at Washington College, Lexington, Va., 15 February, 1868

CRAMPTON’S GAP, where McClellan should have gone in person, as that position was the key point of the whole situation. — Edward Porter Alexander (Lee’s Chief of Ordnance), Military Memoirs of a Confederate (1907)

Grouping these two battlefields as one, disconnected by six miles, confuses and misdirects the visiting public. It also lends the appearance of State ownership at South Mountain when in fact more is the case at Crampton’s Gap (Gathland State Park). All wartime documents, postwar participant chroniclers, and virtually all modern historians acknowledge that Crampton’s Gap and South Mountain were and are two wholly separate though concurrent engagements, fought independently by autonomous wings of both armies for wholly distinct campaign objectives. In his acclaimed Taken at the Flood, Prof. Joseph Harsh expressed his firm belief that Crampton’s Gap by itself might very well warrant “major reevaluation” by scholars.

Ref.: Mr. Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus, U.S. National Park Service, 1126 17th Street South, Arlington, VA 22202, 202/343-1177; Mr. Ted Alexander, Historian, Antietam National Battlefield, P.O. Box 158, Sharpsburg, MD 21782, 301/432-5124; Mr. Mark Snell, Director, The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Shepherd College, Shepherdstown, WV 25443, 304/876-5429, 304/876-5399; Timothy J. Reese, Sealed With Their Lives: The Battle for Crampton’s Gap, Burkittsville, Maryland (Balto.: Butternut & Blue, 1998); Joseph L. Harsh, Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 (Kent, O.: The Kent State University Press, 1999) p. 549n77; U.S. War Department, War of the Rebellion...Official Records, Volume 19, Parts 1 & 2 (1887).

Gathland State Park/Crampton’s Gap Battlefield
Gathland State Park was created and opened to the public in 1958 by the Maryland State Forest & Park Service. It embodies the former Crampton’s Gap estate of George A. Townsend which was purchased in 1949 by a consortium of the Chamber of Commerce and Historical Society of Frederick for $3,500. This consortium immediately deeded the derelict property to the State for $10 with the condition that it be converted into a public park. Two of Townsend’s remaining buildings were rehabilitated for park use. The vast majority of the abandoned estate had mostly fallen into overgrown ruin. Townsend himself admittedly came here because it was a battlefield he wished to depict in a novel, Katy of Catoctin or The Chain-Breakers (1885).

Maryland Forest & Park Service coined the title Gathland by hybridizing Townsend’s pen name “Gath” with his estate title, “Gapland,” the source of never-ending visitor confusion to this day. Throughout its existence Gathland has served mainly as a day-use park with minimal facilities. In 1990 a severe State budgetary shortfall prompted drastic reorganization of Maryland’s park system. State holdings on South Mountain were joined into a larger administrative entity labeled South Mountain Recreation Area. For three years Gathland remained closed, the last ranger posted there retired, and the site became all but abandoned.

Since 1994 Gathland has been intermittently re-opened by a “friends” volunteer group solely tasked with minimal tourist operations primarily confined to the Townsend epoch. Visitation has nevertheless markedly increased, principally Civil War enthusiasts by the bus-load. On-site Maryland Park Service personnel are no longer assigned to Gathland. As it now stands, South Mountain State Battlefield does not in fact constitute a “park,” rather an officially acknowledged historical resource superimposed onto two existing state parks: Gathland and Washington Monument. The latter serves double-duty as headquarters for South Mountain State Battlefield. Only Gathland liberally embraces battlefield land. How coldly ironic that the title South Mountain State Battlefield has been affixed to neglected Crampton’s Gap.

It is now self-evident that Townsend visitation has been dramatically superseded by spiraling Civil War tourism, rendering the park’s present identity obsolete. Therefore the Townsend epoch more accurately constitutes a lesser adjunct to the Crampton’s Gap battlefield, much the way the Eisenhower Farm constitutes a lesser though value-added attraction to Gettysburg National Military Park in comparison. A thoughtful change seems in order.

Ref.: Frederick County Land Records, Liber GBO86, Folio 503 - Liber JGW260, Folio 395 - Liber STH267, Folio 367; Timothy J. Reese, “One Man’s Battlefield: George Alfred Townsend and the War Correspondents Memorial Arch.” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 92, No. 3 (Fall, 1997), pp. 356-385; Mr. Ross M. Kimmel, Supervisor, Cultural Resource Management, State Forest & Park Service, E-3 Tawes Building, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401, 410/260-8164.

“Crampton’s Gap State Battlefield Park” Amendment to House Bill 1183

As a periodic Gathland volunteer and interpreter for twenty-seven years, a Burkittsville resident for seventeen, historical interpreter (seasonal) for South Mountain State Battlefield, and as author/historian for the Crampton’s Gap battlefield, intimately familiar with the site, its history, and tourist appeal, I suggest that the time is long overdue to rename Gathland State Park as “Crampton’s Gap State Battlefield Park” in simple recognition of its fundamental historical significance and its principal tourist attraction and marketability, a concept repeatedly voiced to me by the visiting public for many years. The title Gathland should be deleted as being inaccurate, uninspiring, confusing and obsolete.

To that end I recommend and propose that you consider a “Crampton’s Gap State Battlefield Park Amendment” to House Bill 1183, to be submitted to the General Assembly to further clarify the legislation’s original language and intent, in keeping with the park’s primary historical significance. No additional State funding is required for this alteration. Rather a further specification of nomenclature and site appeal should be made apparent. This battlefield park would go forward, as at present, under existing funding through current mandate of H.B. 1183, South Mountain State Battlefield, to be defined by pending master plan. Additional funding can only be applied through legislative review and audit. The Crampton’s Gap and South Mountain battlefields must evolve jointly, but distinctly.

Crampton’s Gap interpretive signage recently created and installed, September, 2002, at the expense of the Blue and Gray Education Society, 2002 signage by the Maryland Civil War Heritage Trails initiative, as well historical markers erected by the Athens (Georgia) Historical Society (1992), greatly facilitate, enhance and encourage this localized nominal upgrade.

Ref.: Ms. Marci Wolff Ross, Manager, Destination Resources Development, Office of Tourism Development, Maryland Dept. of Business & Economic Development, 217 East Redwood Street, 9th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202, 410/767-6286, 1-877-209-5883; Mr. John Fieseler, Executive Director, Tourism Council of Frederick County, Inc., 19 E. Church Street, Frederick, MD 21701, 301/228-2888; Mr. Len Riedel, President, Blue & Gray Education Society, P.O. Box 129, Danville, VA 24543, 1-888-741-2437

In summary, South Mountain State Battlefield can only evolve efficiently if it reflects clear historical accuracy, identifies multiple attractions based on historical fact, and provides clear labeling for all facets of the resource. Often characterized as the “aperture to Antietam,” the Crampton’s Gap battlefield must re-emerge with its singular identity intact, acknowledged by many as the more strategically significant of the two engagements, thereby reinforcing this battlefield park concept.

In closing permit me to relate a minor incident. I made this point about the pivotal significance of Crampton’s Gap in a 1996 slide lecture given in Frederick before the National Civil War Round Table Association. At lecture’s conclusion, Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus for the U.S. National Park Service—without doubt the most revered and respected historian in the field today—emphatically declared to me, “Tim, I’ve been trying to get that point across for thirty years.” To this I responded, “If someone of your stature has been unable to get that point across after thirty years, what chance have I?” The answer to this worrisome question I leave to you.

Thank you for your time, attention and consideration.

Sincerely,
Timothy J. Reese

cc: State Senator Alex X. Mooney, District 3, Miller Senate Office Building, Room 428, 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401-1991; all above referenced individuals

1/13/2004

"Red-headed stepchild" conveys a lot. Can there be a red-headed stepchild among public battlefields? If so, consider Crampton's Gap.

Crampton's Gap is not allowed to operate under its own name, the name of the battle that was fought there. The piece of it under public (Maryland) ownership is multipurposed: it's a shrine to a now unknown Civil War journalist; it's a mountain park recreation center; it honors news reporters slain in Iraq; and oh, and it's got something to do with the Maryland Campaign of 1862.

Did I mention it has been closed due to lack of funding? That it is sprinkled with historically inaccurate signage? And that its public meaning in the campaign has been subordinated to the South Mountain battles, due to the interpretive decisions made by politically influential historians? It's as if the state has too many Civil War destinations already and needs to cut back or consolidate.

Don't laugh. The states have marketing professionals to deal with tourism issues, and believe me, they are following "best practices" playbooks whose contents are unknown to us.

Take the marketing concepts of "branding," "strong brands," "weak brands," and "diluting your brand." What can it mean in where Antietam (strong brand) is surrounded by weak brands (Crampton's Gap, Fox's Gap, etc.) and by middling brands (Harper's Ferry)? Do you protect your strong brand at the expense of the small fry? Is that a no-brainer in the world of marketing?

The picture requires even more market-mindedness in deciphering the proximity of two strong brands: Gettysburg and Antietam. Creating a regional Civil War Trails organization and motif may actually hurt the "weak brands" further by focusing visitors on the drivability that makes Gettysburg plus Antietam a one- or two-day trip. In a regional promotion, the only protection for the "weak brands" might be if care is taken to arrange multiple destinations into day trips of their own, and I'm not aware that this has happened in Maryland. But I'm not a marketing guru. I don't have the answers.

Nor do I need those particular answers just yet, because we need to start at the beginning, the simple things. Let the government call a thing by its name. Then disentangle events at Crampton's Gap from the synthesis of a notional South Mountain composite battlefield. When these basic steps have been taken, then we can look at marketing dynamics and public responsibility.

Thanks to author (Sealed with their Lives) and Crampton's Gap activist Timothy Reese for bringing this information to my attention. Tomorrow, I'll post a letter he has written to a Maryland legislator to try to correct the situation. If you agree with the material after reading it, please write one of your own.
It's interesting where people look for ideas. Jazz musician James McBride is reading about Jews in the Civil War for inspiration.
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1/12/2004

When your level of generalization becomes impossibly high; when history becomes a collection of glittering generalities divorced from incidents, processes, and personalities; when sources become specks on a landscape 20,000 feet below, then you are ready to lecture on all wars, everywhere, at all times and to discern their Greater Historical Meaning. It was all James McPherson's idea. "I can see we've conducted a war of attrition," joked Harvard's Charles Maier, as he watched his fellow association members quietly but steadily get up to leave.
Twitchellmania seems to be irresistible. See for yourself. Here's more.
"When an adult asks why all Civil War battles were fought in national parks, it really makes me wonder." Me too.
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1/11/2004

WEEKEND POST | I am a day late and will probably be a few compliments short of what I promised Sears on Friday. Here they are, nevertheless:

(1) Sears has pointed to a lot of manuscript sources in his George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon, more so than any other McClellan biographer.

(2) He has done yeoman’s work in making sense of many manuscript items and their relationships to each other.

(3) He has succeeded in making the reading public understand that McClellan was at least of equal importance to the Union effort as Grant or Sherman.

(4) His transcriptions of McClellan’s writing tend to be excellent and I have had sometimes to correct my own transcriptions against his.

Part of the frustration with any McClellan project is that there is in fact no editor of the McClellan papers; one has to do all the primary research before getting into the meat of the effort. Given the amount of McClellan material involved in the production of Young Napoleon, one would have hoped that Sears might actually step back from the sources and become what the field needs … the editor of the McClellan papers, a sources specialist, an umpire, an advocate for the publishing of all of the McClellan papers. Instead, he did what everyone before him has done: perform the research, then take sides. He had a chance to be that monumental scholar associated with a major historical personality but he does not have the disposition for this.

Where prolonged exposure to the primary sources of even a hated historic figure might induce circumspection in the treatment of said figure, Sears became more strident and one-dimensional in his interpretations, which were essentially those of Nevins, Catton, Williams, and Williams. They, however, had the advantage of arriving at the same opinions with far less research than he performed.

As time passes, Sears' distance from his subject can be measured by a micrometer. He has called McClellan the "Captain Queeg" of the Civil War. Thomas J. Rowland, writing about overkill among McClellan critics is a "recent McClellan apologist." The great Lincoln scholar J.G. Randall formed mistaken opinions about McClellan because he simply "looked no deeper" into matters than McClellan’s posthumous autobiography. Biographer Warren G. Hassler presented favorable views of McClellan "by careful and selective use of sources and documents." Biographers Conrad and Eckenrode "in all cases" simply took McCellan's account of events. And the Princeton scholar William Starr Myers exhibited "naivete" in dealing with McClellan’s politics. (These items are from Controversies and Commanders.)

The street runs two ways, however. The insightful and scholarly Archer Jones called Young Napoleon more flash than substance. This touches on the essence of the career of Stephen Sears: trading the treasure of vast researches for a tinsel crown of cliched insights and blog-level venting.

Errors and omissions | Last week I said that Sears took the same citational style along with him from publisher to publisher. Perhaps not. If we distinguish between a conventional style (one fact or conclusion per endnote per citation) and Sears' style (long strings of facts and conclusions assigned a single endnote with multiple citations), then a partial breakdown would look like this:

Young Napoleon - Ticknor & Fields, reprinted by Da Capo, Sears' style
Landscape Turned Red - Houghton Mifflin, Sears' style
To the Gates of Richmond - Houghton Mifflin, Sears' style
Controversies and Commanders - Houghton Mifflin, Sears' style
Gettysburg - Houghton Mifflin, Sears' style
Civil War Papers of GBM - Ticknor & Fields, reprinted by Da Capo, conventional style

So he did use a conventional style at least once. Maybe the publisher makes him misbehave this way.

On to another error. On Friday, I gave a list of Prime's excisions from George and May McClellan's notes in texts reprinted in Sears' Civil War Papers of GBM. I forgot to mention that I produced the excised copy myself by comparing the two sources, Prime (McClellan's Own Story) and Sears (Civil War Papers). The reader might have thought that Sears himself in someway highlighted the restored edits. It was another missed opportunity to add value.

1/09/2004

(We've been looking at Pulitzer winner Stephen Sears' evidence handling and citational habits this week: please scroll down to Monday to start reading if you are joining us late.)

The story so far: we have these documents carelessly referred to as McClellan's "letters" to his wife; we know that they are not letters at all, but notes McClellan made from a source never seen; we know that his daughter augmented her father's notes from the same source, but we don't know the form of that augmentation; we know that McClellan's literary executor, W.C. Prime, transcribed both sets of notes, father's and daughter's, and created composite "letters" to Mary Ellen McClellan but we don't know his method of doing this; and we know that Stephen Sears, styling himself "the editor of the McClellan papers" has done the same. Additionally, we have Sears' word that Prime "severely censored" both sources and that he has restored Prime's cuts; that Prime made transcription errors, which Sears has corrected; and that many missing dates in these records have now been supplied by Sears.

My intention was to look at a long "letter" to identify any value added by Sears. I think, instead, that it would be more useful to look at a random group of "letters", 10 in all, for the same purpose. The documents chosen for this drill appear between pages 230 and 256 of the 1992 Da Capo edition of The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan. Prime's corresponding "letters" are derived from an Easton Press facsimile of the first edition of McClellan's Own Story.

The first thing one notices in reading Sears' Civil War Papers is that the forms of address that would open any letter ("Dear Nellie," "Dearest Wife," etc.) are missing and that there is a uniform "To Mary Ellen McClellan." This should be enough to alert even a careless reader, one who skipped the introduction, that something odd is afoot. So it is probably a good thing – as long as we are sure this was a letter sent to her. Since we cannot actually be sure of that, some kind of alternate notation is needed, perhaps a comment, an asterisk, or a different way of starting the document.

The second thing we notice is that brackets are deployed in the dateline. Sometimes we see something like: [City name] July 19th [1862]. Sears has supplied the bracketed information and the document presumably bears the unbracketed data. This is the inference we are allowed to draw. No explanation from our editor, though.

I have not, after a cursory look, found any "letters" shown this way: [July 19, 1862], which would indicate that Sears supplied the whole date. Although he claims in the introduction to have supplied dates, what he mainly does is give us the missing year, which does not add a lot of value because the context gives us the year. Another service he supplies is to insert dates into the body of the "letter" where the "letter" is said to have been written after midnight. If, in a document bearing a time of 1:00 a.m., McClellan says "yesterday," Sears brackets a date two days earlier to show what "yesterday" refers to. Again, this is small help compared to the claim of having supplied missing dates.

We really need to know more about the dates attached to these notes; did they appear on McClellan's original note? Did they appear on May McClellan's material (much of which is dateless)? Were they added by Prime or Sears based on some surmise? What surmise? Did Sears accept a Prime date that was construed from the material? There are no indications from the self-styled editor of McClellan's papers. One would have to bypass this editor and go to the papers directly for an answer.

Sears is good enough to mark each "letter" AL copy (which means notes copied by McClellan) or AL copy; copy (which means the "letter" is a blend of George B. and May McClellan's notes). However, there is nothing in the text to show which component was sourced to which note taker. This is an egregious, student-level mistake that could have been corrected with the use of brackets and notes.

On to the 10 "letters." Half of them are sole-sourced ("AL copy") to McClellan's own notes, and half are sourced to both father and daughter ("AL copy; copy"). None of them have an entire date supplied by Sears; three have years supplied by Sears, the rest have both a year supplied along with the place the letter might have been written from.

Of the five father/daughter notes (starting on pages 235, 241, 243, 249, and 256 of Papers), four include additions to Prime's text and one does not. Aside from the additions, there are no substantive changes to Prime's text by Sears.

On the matter of transcription errors, Sears appears to have made only one fix. In one document about siege work (starting on page 249 of Sears' book), Sears renders a word "boyau" where Prime rendered it as "tuyau." One meaning of the French word tuyau, aside from pipe or tip, is "un canal de communication." A boyau is a zig-zagging trench forming a path (channel) of communication. There is not a lot of value in this transcript "correction."

Sears has again done well to restore some of Prime's deletions. Here are some extreme examples of Prime's redactions from one document ostensibly dated April 19 [1862]:

* "I have a little over 100,000 men, including Franklin's Division"
* "- the more there are in Yorktown, the more decisive will the results will be"
* "and am quite confident that with God's blessing I shall utterly defeat them."
* "Wade" was restored to the comment "Never mind what such people as … say"
* "I telegraphed the Presdt. last night requesting that McDowell might *not* again be assigned to duty with me."

Looking at the five stitched-together father/daughter documents: the first shows no Prime deletions restored by Sears; the second shows one restoration ("and then woe betide the guilty ones."); the third shows three restorations; the fourth was analyzed above; and the fifth shows one deletion restored by Sears and one deletion made by Sears from Prime (where Prime explains a reference to "Kentuck" as being to a horse; Sears lets us wonder about Kentuck).

I leave it to the reader to decide how censorious Prime's omissions are.

We have a collection of "letters" with dates of mysterious provenance, abstracted by two note takers and then stitched together using methods unknown. Shall we use these "letters" to build and validate timelines? To convey McClellan's moods at any exact moment? Or should they be handled with caution until a bona fide editor of McClellan's papers can go through the materials and create a properly annotated record?

A few words in Sears' favor tomorrow.
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1/08/2004

(Note: the thread for this post began on Monday; please scroll down if you are joining late.)

We saw yesterday that author Stephen Sears publicly styles himself the editor of George B. McClellan's papers based on his book The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan: Selected Correspondence, 1860-1865. His own count in the introduction gives the number of letters in the volume at 813, a very small harvest given the total number of papers out there, even considering his editorial limitation (self imposed?) of only printing letters fromMcClellan, not to him.

He further notes that 260, "nearly a third," had not been published before; and if you invert the form of his statement, nearly two-thirds of the book has appeared previously.

His great point of pride in the introduction is his re-editing of McClellan's letters to his wife, which - with Sears' citantional habits - is the subject of today's blog.

If you have never carefully read the introduction to The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan, you have no chance of understanding what these letters to the wife are. And that's a problem, because so many writers use these letters to cast light on McClellan's character, motives, intentions, etc., not least of whom is Sears himself.

It may therefore surprise if I say that no one living has seen these letters; what we regard as McClellans letters to his wife are actually reconstructions from other sources, occasionally collations of undated materials. The situation, from a scholar's point of view, is this ugly:

+ McClellan borrowed his own wartime letters from his wife and wrote out detailed, verbatim extracts leaving ellipses in some parts where he skipped parts - so says Sears. (I accept Sears' explanation but it troubles me. This material, which I have seen, looks like a running log of letter drafts to be written in final form and then sent. I also have trouble believing that note taking for your book would cause you to carefully transcribe full sentences instead of extract factual data in sunmmary form.)

+ Many of these McClellan notes lack dates. And although Sears assures us the ellipses must refer to personal stuff, no one can know that for sure.

+ W.C. Prime, when editing McClellan's Own Story, asked McClellan's daughter May to add detail to some of the notes her father made from the letters. Prime did not see the letters himself. (May McClellan's additions are part of the Library of Congress's McClellan Papers collection. Many are undated. I have not seen them yet and do not know if they are snippets to be added to her father's extracts or longer extracts that stand alone. Sears does not tell us in his books.)

+ Prime augmented the general's notes with his daughter's notes, although we don't know exactly how this was done.

+ Sears, in The Civil War Papers, accuses Prime of leaving out certain material from McClellan's own notes and his daughter's notes. He "severely censored them."

So our situation, as readers and as scholars, is dire. We have these Frankenstein documents derived from a source never seen, some dated, some not, combined by a literary executor, retranscribed, re-edited, and dated by Stephen Sears.

Sears refers to "dates [he] corrected or supplied." Well and good if these practices are noted for each entry. But they are not.

He says, "Where May McClellan copied more of a particular letter than her father had included, the letter has been reassembled based on content and on McClellan's usual pattern of writing."

What on earth does that mean? There is nothing noted in connection with any entries in this book to suggest how a particular "letter" was assembled or dated.

Here's what we have passing as McClellan's "letters." (1) Notes copied out by McClellan, stored with his papers. (2) Supplementary material prepared by his daughter from the same source as McClellan's notes. (3) A combination of these, made by Prime which omitted some of McClellan's material and some of May's material and which (according to Sears) also included errors in transcription. (4) A new combination of these made by Sears from new transcriptions, which involved assigning dates and exercising editorial judgement in how to assemble individual letters "based on content and on McClellan's usual pattern of writing."

The letters, then, are not even letters; and the scholars quoting them as such without caveat have erred, especially where relying on them for issues requiring certainty, dates, timelines, etc.

Here is what Sears says about McClellan's "letters" to his wife in his biography George B. McClellan (1988):

Other quotations are from GBM's letters to his wife to be, preserved in the form of excerpts copied by their daughter, May, after GBM's death; most of the excerpts do not bear dates ...

Here's how he refers to one such "letter" in his Landscape Turned Red (1983): "Letterbook, McClellan Papers, reel 63."

And here's how he does so in To the Gates of Richmond (1992): "McClellan to wife, Apr. 8, McClellan Papers, pp 232, 234"

So he has indeed become the editor of McClellan's papers - simply be designating his own book, McClellan Papers! (see yesterday's post on this.)

The broader point is we have these mysterious patched up documents whose sources are unrecoverable: how do we treat them? What do we call them, aside from "letters"? How do we indicate an added date or the stitching that put two pieces together? Or the material previously omitted by Prime?

For answers, we'll look at a Frankenstein "letter" tomorrow and see what Sears has done with these weighty editorial and scholarly issues.
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1/07/2004

Accidents happen when citing sources, of course. Those who wonder if Stephen Sears suffered an accident in Landscape Turned Red (as described yesterday and Monday) are encouraged to reach for the nearest Sears work and to go through the endnotes as I have in this example. The strongest correlation between references and text occurs in his biography, George B. McClellan, after which the connections weaken. His Antietam (Landscape) and Peninsula books (To the Gates of Richmond) offer citational problems as extreme as the one I have highlighted.

There is also the matter of bibliographies. What are they for? The implication readers draw from the presence of a bibliography is that of "sources generally consulted" unless otherwise noted (e.g., "for further reading"). In his McClellan biography, Sears includes a bibliography listing many books whose facts and conclusions differ widely from his own. These are not books cited anywhere in his text; they are not books whose data or conclusions he calls attention to in notes or asides; they are simply books in a list and they seem to say, "See, I am aware of these materials that contradict me." In Landscape Turned Red and in To the Gates of Richmond, Sears stops doing even this; he ceases the listing of bibliographic items that contradict his facts and conclusions. Professionalism, ethics: do these play any role in the management of bibliographies?

This leads to a broader question of how the historian views himself (herself) in relationship to data and how much historical sensibility is at work in any particular writing project. (Remember Ambrose's tart retort to critics of his citational habits: "I tell stories!")

Sears gives us a clue to his attitudes in his preface to Controversies and Commanders published in 1999 by Houghton Mifflin (who brought out his Antietam and Richmond works). He says,

Because of my close connection with McClellan - as his biographer, as editor of his papers, as a chronicler of his two major campaigns – I have as a matter of course evaluated what historians have written about the general in the last century or so.

Until this book came out, he never really shared his thoughts on "what historians have written about the general in the last century or so." He had a long career in which to do so. Instead, he ignored views counter to his. As we have seen there are codes of professional conduct that require acknowledgement of and dealing with contrary evidence and conclusions.

Furthermore, we have, in this self-description, a good gauge of Sears' relation to data. "Because of my close connection with McClellan - as his biographer, as editor of his papers…"

The "editor of his papers" looks like a syntactical slip. Of course he is not the editor of McClellan's papers, there has never been one. Later in the book, he repeats this precise formula, "editor of his papers."

John Simon is the editor of Grant's papers. He has thus far published over 20 volumes of these. The project goes on. Sears is the editor of one book of commonly available letters. He compiled this abbreviated book of what he correctly called "selected" wartime correspondence, the bulk of which previously appeared either in the OR, McClellan's Report, or McClellan's Own Story. There is minimal context supplied, very few notes, and all of the correspondence is one-sided being from McClellan not to him. Not much of an editing job, even for a selection wartime papers.

Some of McClellan's papers, specifically the collection at the Library of Congress, were indexed for microfilming over 30 years ago. Everything we know about these particular "McClellan papers," their organization, content, etc., comes from the work of anonymous LC and microfilm archivists, not from Sears. The large number of McClellan papers in the New Jersey State Library that I personally have handled have never even been indexed, much less edited by Sears (and some of them contain important information on topics he wrestled with in George B. McClellan, the Young Napoleon).

Calling one's self the editor of the McClellan papers is resume padding and it suggests a carelessness with the facts.

Tomorrow we'll look at fundamental, student-level errors Sears made in editing The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan: Selected Correspondence, 1860-1865.
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1/06/2004

Look again at yesterday's excerpt from Sears. The incident, as I excerpted it, is about Franklin's proposed attack on Rebel lines at Antietam. It begins with Franklin's arrival on the field and ends with "a staff man" going to McClellan with news that Sumner forbade an attack. As shown, Sears covers this span of events with a single endnote, citing an article Franklin wrote long after the war. And, as shown, the article contradicts some of his text and fails to support some of his assertions, although it does source one Franklin quote Sears uses.

This incident is also covered by Mark Snell in his 2002 book From First to Last: the Life of Major General William B. Franklin. Snell uses a conventional and ethical citational style, assigning one source for each major piece of information. We can actually break down the elements comprising the incident and see where the information came from. Here's a rough summary:

* Time departed for the field – Franklin's report of Crampton's Pass and Antietam (OR)
* Weather conditions – A veteran quoted from a certain master's thesis
* Time Smith arrived on the field – Franklin letter to wife Anna
* General Hancock detached from Smith's command – A magazine article
* Time two of Slocum's brigades arrived on the field – A bio of Gen. WF Smith.
* Smith charges a rebel brigade – Ditto
* The arrival of Slocum's third brigade with Gen. Sumner – Franklin's congressional committee testimony
* The deployment of Slocum's command for assault -- Franklin letter to wife Anna
* Sumner forbids the assault – ditto
* Hammerstein reports to McClellan - Franklin's congressional committee testimony

Snell uses 6 sources in 10 places to cover the same ground as Sears, without including (relying on or needing) the Battles and Leaders article. And he adds many details missed by Sears.

Some readers will object that Snell was writing at greater length than Sears, hence the detail. This is nonsense: Sears was writing an account of the battle and Snell was writing a biography of Franklin's entire life. The burden of detail was on Sears. The question is one of bad history practices and sloppy work.

Snell is aware of Sears' awful Landscape Turned Red, and he does not point out Sears' errors in describing Franklin's role at Antietam. He does not correct Sears on the point of the "argument" between Franklin and Sumner. He does not correct him on the notion of a two division attack versus a two brigade attack. He does not correct him on the 1:00 p.m. time given, or on the 10,500 figure for VI Corps strength. He simply and graciously acknowledges a certain psychological insight about Franklin, that

"Perhaps, as Stephen Sears has noted, 'shedding the responsibility of independent command apparently restored his confidence.' "

Snell has identified the sum total and worth of Sears' contribution to our understanding of this matter -- a single psychological observation based on false and incomplete data.

Subtlety in damnation is something I need to learn. I think I've found a teacher.

More on Sears' citational habits tomorrow.
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1/05/2004

Last week I linked to a dissection of Michael Bellesiles' use of sources conducted by Clayton Cramer; I wanted readers to get a sense of citational behavior gone completely wrong.

This week, I would like to look at the citational behavior of Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen W. Sears, which though not as outlandish as the activity Cramer documents, is completely beyond the bounds of acceptable scholarship.

Here is a passage from Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam (Hought Mifflin, 1983, pb edition, p. 271):

"The timidity that had marked William Franklin’s generalship at Crampton's Gap and in Pleasant Valley evaporated when he rejoined the main army that day; shedding the responsibility of independent command apparently restored his confidence. At about one o'clock, as the Bloody Lane fighting died out and General Burnside captured his bridge, both of Franklin’s Sixth Corps divisions were at the front. He proposed an immediate attack on the West Woods by Smith's and Slocum's 10,500 fresh men and notified Sumner of his plan. Sumner was appalled at the thought. 'General Sumner rode up and directed me not to make the attack,' Franklin wrote, 'giving as a reason for his order, that if I were defeated the right would be entirely routed, mine being the only troops left on the right that had any life in them.' The two men argued the question with some heat, and Franklin sent a staff man hurrying off to the general commanding to plead his case."

This is one of five paragraphs given a single endnote number, 22. The endnote appears on page 396 and includes five citations. Mapping the citations to the text, the paragraph given above corresponds to Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. II, p. 597.

Turning to B&L, we see that Sears has referenced one page of an article written by General Franklin himself. In the course of normal history reading, you would expect that most or all of the data referenced is derived from Franklin’s account. One passage, given one citation, covers all of what is in the passage or at least all that is novel or striking. In this case, the only thing in the source that matches Sears' passage is the direct quote.

Here are the differences between Sears’ paragraph summary and the source he cites as authority:

(1) At about one o’clock … Franklin gives no times.

(2) both of Franklin’s Sixth Corps divisions were at the front … Franklin seems to suggest he had the idea for an attack sometime after Smith's division was committed to fighting at the Dunker Church and while he was waiting for Slocum’s division to come to Antietam battlefield. The two divisions were NOT both at the front when the subject of an attack is taken up in Franklin's narrative.

(3) He proposed an immediate attack on the West Woods by Smith’s
and Slocum’s 10,500 fresh men …
Franklin does not give the number 10,500 or any other figure. He does not propose an immediate attack because (in this passage) one division is committed and the other has not come up yet. He notes that eventually two of Slocum’s brigades arrived on the field and that he proposed to attack with these when the third could come up and act as a reserve. Franklin’s attack, then, is to be of two brigades only, certainly not one involving the entire corps, whether it numbers 10,500 or not.

(4) Sumner was appalled at the thought…. No. Franklin does not characterize Sumner’s reaction in any way, he merely conveys the gist of Sumner’s words.

(5) The two men argued the question with some heat … There is no trace of this in the source. Franklin’s text tells us that as the attack was about to be made, Sumner came up and forbade it. The next thing he records is, McClellan’s ADC Hammerstein being near, Franklin asked Hammerstein to tell McClellan that his attack has been forbidden and that he thought it should be made. There seem to be no words exchanged with Sumner; the sequence given is that Sumner quashes the attack and Franklin turns to Hammerstein.

Let's inventory our goods. We have an author attributing all these to a source: a time for an incident where none is given; a plan of action that is contradicted by the text; a strength number absent from the text; a characterization (appalled) not in the account; and an argument nowhere alluded to. Are we in Bellesiles territory yet?

Tomorrow we'll develop the sources under this citation a little further than Sears has to come closer to the truth of the event being reported.
Now, here's a very different kind of Lincoln dinner and speech.
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1/02/2004

Great mumming yesterday, and what good use for a nearly dormant major holiday!

Meanwhile, Camden, sister city to the mumming capital of the United States, appears set to revive yet another dormant holiday, the great Juneteenth celebrations originally organized by black Americans after the Civil War. If Camden can get this right, the Juneteenth movement will get a little more momentum.
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1/01/2004

Well, I'm off to an elaborate living historic tradition this morning - a working class one at that - and how many of those are left? It's called mumming and in Philadelphia it has just been made street legal again after a few years indoors. (Cynics say it was an election-related ploy, this authorization of their parades outdoors.)

There is no Civil War connection. Mumming was outlawed on pain of imprisonment in 1808 until revived in 1903. Now, the Philadelphia mummers cannot get a TV channel to carry their New Year's parades after 2004, so before the tradition disappears entirely I'd like my daughter to experience it.

Here's an English description of Mumming, and an alternate take as well.

This is the best summary I've seen of the origins of Philadelphia's mumming. Skip past the Greek and Roman parts!

What is it with the music, though? It seems to me that the mummers seized hold of the pop music prevalent at the time of their revival and never let go: I'm looking over a four-leaf clover, and all that.

The weather is fine. It'll be a great day to live some history.
What?

Filming for a Civil War reality show begins at the Landon House in Urbana (MD). The show, produced by Landon House owner Kevin Dolan, immerses professional actors in the lifestyles of Civil War soldiers and sympathizers. Dolan hopes to sell the program to a television network in 2004.

That's the whole item - here's the source.
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