What a fine new website, launched this week:

Regular Infantry Division
The United States Army during the American Civil War

Another beauty from Tim Reese, creator of the Crampton's Gap site, author of Sykes' Regular Infantry Division, 1861-1864: A History of Regular United States Infantry Operations in the Civil War's Eastern Theater and Sealed with Their Lives: the Battle for Crampton's Gap.

It's rich, deep, accurate and made with that secret ingredient, love of subject. Take time out to visit the Regulars today.
Glad to see the Lincoln Cat is blogging again.

The blog is named after a riff by the incredible '50s wordsmith "Lord Buckley" (stage name) on the Gettysburg address.

I shall translate in the modern somatic of the hip,
this new zig-zag somatic,
his beloved Gettysburg Address.

Check it out. If it bothers you, think of it as Lord Buckley's address instead.
"You create a connection with a soldier from Leominster who served 100-something years ago," said David Wilson, a Historical Society trustee...

Can this Historical Society count past 100? Or is this more like a pop history society, where they don't sweat the details?
NEWS | Philly ACW museum seeks new venue * Confederate symposium slated for April 5 * Neighborhood intervenes to rescue Civil war era house in Durham * Heritage society rehabs Confederate gravesite


Maryland-based Civil War Preservation Trust is conspicuous by its absence from several battlefields, most notably Crampton's Gap. Perhaps this is because the Trust is staffed by former political aides and the political powers in Maryland have decided that there never was such a battle; that it was all of a piece with something called "the South Mountain battles."

There is a Crampton's Gap related event every year: "The Engagement at Burkittsville," a rolling tour with re-enactors staging battles in a small-town setting.

Word from the good people who stage this event is that over half of any profits earned this year must go to Civil War Preservation Trust, a non-sponsor, non-organizer, non-helper of many years standing.

How did that happen? Why?

CWPT are everywhere, raising money they don't need, to not save battlefields and with a maximum amount of self-glorification. We looked at their tax records a few weeks ago; their annual land transactions can generally be lumped together in merely four to six entries, each carefully labeled to prevent anyone from knowing who benefited financially from the transaction and where exactly the land is. We saw also that they are sitting on assets of $16 million and that their income far exceeds their expenses.

They don't need the money. There are battlefield lands here that need to be protected that they have resisted protecting. The preservation organizations staging the event in Burkittsville need the money but are giving a major portion away to CWPT.

It's crazier than the turns of a mountain creek. And as long as they are allowed to operate in absolute secrecy, we'll never know the how or the why.
With Wesley Clark's withdrawal from the 2004 presidential contest, you would think the McClellan analogies would stop. But no, here's a fellow who wants to match Mac's 1864 run to Kerry's current predicament.

This year, editorial page readers have learned a lot about 1864 election. Little of it has been sound, however.
Last week, in remarking on the planned 300-ft tall statue of Honest Abe in Lincoln, Illinois, this should have occurred to me:

Your heart has to go out to a town of 15,400 that has its economic hopes pegged to a scheme like that.

Homer was transplanted to Cold Mountain. Euripedes, in a college stage production, was recently set in Reconstruction Dixie. Now, Strindberg is moved from Sweden to magnolia land.
NEWS | I-81 plan makes Valley anxious * Professional moviemakers replace 42-year-old Chancellorsville slide show * Cavalry re-enactors prepare for the season


If today's Army is Jominian rather than Clausewitzian, does this mean that its higher-level doctrinal development is steeped in the Civil War? I think so. Mahan, at West Point, rooted Jominian theory and practice in the minds of a generation of young soldiers, McClellan and Halleck among them.

Yes, the Army talks up Clausewitz and lives up Jomini. Any serving officer could tell you.

In its history texts and teachings, for instance, it reveres Lee and Jackson at the expense of McClellan and Meade. (Lee, Jackson = Clausewitz. McClellan, Meade = Jomini.)

In actual practice, it manages to out-McClellan Mac from day-to-day and war-to-war; at least in terms of what the Republican radicals imagined McClellan and other West Pointers to be. In actual practice, any officer, encouraged to admire Lee and Jackson who then imitates them will have a career of less than one fleeting moment. (I'm thinking not of clever strokes but of naked, hungry and shoeless troops; the summary execution of stragglers; the withholding of operational plans from subordinates; the repeated arrest of senior subordinates; high rates of desertion; frontal assaults on fortified positions while outnnumbered, and similar failings ad nauseum.)

What the Army says it likes and what it does can contradict each other, because a system of rewards and punishments make its real values clear to its members. The war colleges can teach Clausewitz without a downside, because Army life is nurturing and rewarding Jominians.

The disconnects, however, can be viewed from afar with a certain humor. Colin Powell opens the first Gulf War publicly criticizing McClellan and promising never to be like him (or like his pop history persona); our Saudi allies later reveal their continuous complaints to Powell about the excessive time building up before the attack; and they criticize U.S. estimates of the Iraqi army's size as wildly excessive.

The U.S. Army’s doctrinal application of the theories of war at the tactical and operational levels shows that, at its core, it is a Jominian institution.
While leaders of the Army and self-proclaimed civilian experts of military thought prefer to quote Clausewitz when describing current and future operations, it is to the comfort and optimism of Jomini that the U.S. Army continually returns.
This is one way to do heritage tourism; it takes the guided city tour to the state level. The Civil War battlefield sites in a border state like Kentucky may not be connected in time or by campaign, but this offers an nice supplement to self-guided multistate touring.
You thought they were interring the remains of the Hunley sailors, but they were honoring sediment found in the submarine. Someone must have concluded "same difference."
NEWS | Medford (MA) Historical Society stages major ACW photo show * Private group offer's tour of Shy's Hill, Nashville * Charleston forts suffer erosion * Heritage Committee wages war against trees at Fort Duffield (KY)


SATURDAY | McClellan poetry day! And I'm off on the wrong foot with a lyric I should have presented last week in honor of St. Patrick's Day: We'll Fight for Uncle Sam. It's set to a drinking song, "Whiskey in the Jar" (MP3 here). Use the link, and you can actually sing the song.

Now, if there's one thing worse than doggerel, perhaps it's doggerel written in dialect. May be worth slogging through to get to couplets like:

And, once again, the Stars and Stripes will to the breeze be swellin’,
If Uncle Abe will give us back our darling boy McClellan.

The music link will support a slow connection and the tune is a good one.


I am a modern hairo; my name is Paddy Kearney;

Not long ago I landed from the bogs of sweet Killarney;

I used to cry out : Soap Fat! Bekase that was my trade, sir,

Till I ‘listed for a Soger-boy wid Corcoran’s brigade, sir.

CHORUS: For to fight for Uncle Sam;

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!,

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!

To save the Stripes and Stars.

Ora, once in regimentals, my mind it did bewildher.

I bid good-bye to Biddy dear, and all the darling childher;

Whoo! Says I, the Irish Volunteers the divil a one afraid is,

Bekase we’ve got the soger bould, McClellan for to lade us.

CHORUS: For to fight for Uncle Sam,

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!,

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!

To save the Stripes and Stars.

We soon got into battle: we made a charge of bay’nets:

The Rebel blaggards soon gave way: they fell as thick as paynuts.

Och hone! The slaughter that we made, bedad it was delighting!

For, the Irish lads in action are the divil’s boys for fighting.

CHORUS: They’ll fight for Uncle Sam,

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!,

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!

To save the Stripes and Stars.

Och, sure, we never will give in, in any sort of manner,

Until the South comes back again, beneath the Starry-Banner:

And if John Bull should interfere, he’d suffer for it truly;

For, soon the Irish Volunteers would give him Ballyhooly.

CHORUS: Oh! they’ll fight for Uncle Sam,

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!,

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!

To save the Stripes and Stars.

And now before I ind my song, this free advice I’ll tender;

We soon will use the Rebels up, and make them all surrender,

And, once again, the Stars and Stripes will to the breeze be swellin’,

If Uncle Abe will give us back our darling boy McClellan.

CHORUS: Oh! we’ll follow little Mac,

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!,

He’ll lade us on to glory, O!

To save the Stripes and Stars.


"I think we're just about all agreed that Lincoln and Speed did not have a homosexual relationship," says Donald.
That Georgia curriculum that would start U.S. history with Reconstruction is under attack by local college professors.
Received a "who are you?" kind of email yesterday. This is not something that has come up before.

I am a member of the reading and bookbuying public.

Don't work in teaching or publishing, not affiliated with a university, not a member of any preservation group, re-enactor unit, restoration project, conservancy, board of directors or advisors, nor lineage society.

Once had a boss who would draft some piece of marketing text and pass it around for comments and suggestions. He would always remark (curiously), "I want you to play the role of outraged reader."

Given the forlorn state of Civil War publishing today, I play the role of the outraged reader.
NEWS | Civil War memorial needs repairs * Town decides fate of Colonial hotel that hosted Sherman * Re-enactors have a blast at "Siege of Fort Pemberton"


We'll go with a preservation theme today. Have a look.
Prince John Magruder's Peninsula HQ at Lee Hall is getting some new neighbors. It's a tragedy in three acts.


City officials want hundreds of millions of dollars worth of construction around two historic attractions -- Endview Plantation and Lee Hall Mansion -- to boost real-estate tax revenue and to offer higher-income families bigger, newer houses that are hard to find here.

Supporters say the city should move while interest rates are low and developers are interested.
"These conditions will not last forever," said Allen Jones, chairman of the city's Economic Development Authority. "Business is cyclical. We must act now."


Development opponents, who spoke during a night meeting, were disappointed that council members had decided in the afternoon to end talk of preserving the land as open space.

"It was a done deal before we came here," said resident Ray Steveson, a Civil War re-enactor.


Each developer has spent more than $100,000 to this point, Frank said. Vice Mayor Charles Allen considers that kind of spending a flaw. Allen had wanted the city to hire experts to draft its own plan. He said that plan would have been defined foremost by the city's interests, not the developer's profits.

"There's no turning back when you have people spending this kind of money," Allen said. "We have to pick somebody because of the way this process has gone about.

The fellow who put that statue of Lee up near Sharpsburg is back in the news. In addition to his Antietam farmland, he owns and is refurbishing Francis Scott Key's home. Now we learn

A well-known Anne Arundel County family plans to purchase Tulip Hill, the 18th-century Georgian mansion considered one of the region's most historically significant homes.

It's Chaney again and he plans to live there. Whether you think Chaney is a force for good or ill, there is a great lesson to learn looking at his activity. He's a millionaire, but he holds or owns fewer millions than the Civil War Preservation Trust. He acts decisively. He gets what he wants.

Preservationsists, in their current mode of action, with their predeliction for sharing out bits and pieces of easement activity, tending to move slowly and in unison with other groups, stand no chance against any moderately wealthy individual determined to buy up any sorts of battleflield land for any weird purposes. (Not to suggest Chaney is a kook).

I had a social chat Sunday with a friend who sits high in the planning ranks of Loudon County (Mosby country, Ball's Bluff and more). I asked her if I bought land with restrictive covenants on it, restrictions placed by private contract or county planning, whether I could get those off again after buying such restricted land. She did not hesitate for a moment. "Absolutely. It happens all the time."

There is no substitute for owning "endangered land." Chaney understands this. Preservationsists do not.
It has been a week filled with bad news for preservation and I would draw your attention especially to the Chestnut home story in the news section.
NEWS FROM CHARLESTON | Civil War secession banner back in Charleston * Home and land of Mary Boykin Chesnut to be cut up for housing development * 140th anniversary of Charleston Riot to be commemorated


Another day, another exercise in self-parody: Creekside Developers Mix Conservation, Commerce. Yes, a shopping strip has been placed next to Kernstown battlefield in the Valley.

“It’s good to be able to say you’ve developed something right next to a battlefield and everyone seems happy with it,” said Al Graber, the Winchester developer who began working in the area almost 30 years ago.

Indeed, it must be sweet. The conservation part of this - are you ready? - is that if you stand far enough away from the stores, they look like a little, uniform brick village (with no houses or trees and loads of parking).

“The property was originally zoned residential, and there was some movement on squeezing eight or 10 houses in there,” said Larry Duncan, Kernstown Battlefield Association president. “Knowing Mr. Graber’s ... history of doing top-notch commercial development, it was a relief to know he had acquired the property.”

It hadn't occurred to me before, but these battlefield preservation societies can actually provide cover for developers. All they have to do is pervert the meaning of preservation. And take contributions from "interested parties."

Let's check back in 10 years when the stores are boarded up because of the ebb and flow of commerce.
Ripon, Wisconsin, is celebrating the GOP's 150th birthday - it's where the party was born, and it's a remarkable story.
NEWS | Chef works to revive antebellum low country cuisine * Brown mulls paying slave reparations; Princeton to follow? * Author seeks publisher for novel about black aide to Burnside * Civil War rail station undergoing private rescue in Petersburg


Lincoln, Illinois, is taking the offensive, nonsensensical aspects of the Lincoln Library and Museum to the next level:

... civic boosters have proposed building an Honest Abe theme park, capped off with a towering 30-story statue of the man himself. They envision animatronic displays of Civil War history; a working model of a 19th century frontier farm; a water park; a toboggan run; miniature golf; bumper cars; and stovepipe hats aplenty.

There would be nothing degrading about this," [theme park developer] Art Schutte said. "It's a great idea. It's called edu-tainment.

"Can you just quote my laughter?" asked Richard Norton Smith, director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is under construction 30 miles south, in Springfield.

Don't laugh, Dr. Smith. You're running a competing edu-tainment center down the road.

(Story here: requires elaborate registration.)
An Illinois newsman has died and we find this in his obit:

[Gov.] Blagojevich credited Neal with giving him suggestions about the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, such as naming Richard Norton Smith as director and asking former Gov. Jim Edgar to serve as president of the fund-raising arm of the facility

Naturally, a political operator at Blagojevich's level needs no help with patronage suggestions, but will reach out when looking for some respectable face to front a special venture.

We know that Smith publicly declined the job, which was offered by Blagojevich's predecessor. Blagojevich's predecessor had "the Smith idea" or got it from someone. Crediting journalist Neal with suggesting Smith for the job only makes sense on this level: that Neal told Blagojevich to go back to Smith after he refused the Republican offer.

Nothing about the Lincoln Library and Museum appears simple or straightforward.
Here's an idea for a "concept album." The concept seems to be about making money.
NEWS | Alleghany Arsenal disaster recalled * History's spotlight shines on seaman, Civil War sub * Author sees similarities between Jackson, Lincoln


SUNDAY | I'm looking at this article and and wondering: "Regional effort stirring to mark the 140th anniversary of Civil War's Overland Campaign."

The writer says that "historians" call the Richmond campaign of 1864 "The Overland Campaign." I think that means "park historians." They are at it again with their marketing-driven nomenclature games.

Here in Maryland, the battles of Fox's Turner's and Crampton's Gaps have become "South Mountain" to help destination marketing and grant writing; and, inevitably, a few agreeable non-park historians have been rolled out to validate this abomination.

What makes "The Overland Campaign" noxious is that 1864 represents the first attempt after 1862 to make a main stroke against Richmond by water. Justus Scheibert, conveying the lessons of the Civil War to the Prussian general staff maintained during and after the war that Grant's 1864 campaign was nothing more than attempt to execute McClellan's 1862 strategy. He was wrongly adamant on the point "nothing more."

We must agree with the view that this was a land/sea campaign, even if we don't go as far as Scheibert did. We understand that the landing of the Army of the James is not a footnote to the campaign of 1864 and it is in no way incidental to Grant's plans. "Overland Campaign" can only be justified if it refers to the movements of the AoP, in which case the Park Service needs to broaden its view of the war,

It's an Overland Tourism Campaign. You drive your car from park to park. You eschew ferries. You avoid getting bottled up at Bermuda Hundred.

If the occasional authentic (non-park) historian wants to use "Overland Campaign," let the choice be justified. Meanwhile the Park Service must leave off determining campaign names and stick to guiding tours.


SATURDAY | Another McClellan poetry day! This selection is a lyric set to a song called Bruce's Address. It's called McClellan's Address to His Army:

Men who have with Sigel bled,
Whom Heintzelman has often led,
Who with Banks your blood have shed -
On to victory!

Now's the day and now's the hour!
See the front of battle lower!
See approach the rebel power -
Based on Slavery!

Who will be a traitor knave!
Who can fill a coward's grave?
Who to fear will be a slave?
Hireling! turn and flee!

Who for Union and for Law,
Willing sword will strongly draw,
Look on death, yet feel no awe?
Comrade! on with me!

By our brothers' woes and pains,
Prisoners in cruel chains,
We will draw our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the cruel dastards low!
Wretches fall in every foe;
Union is in every blow!
Forward! do, or die!

The music for Bruce's Address is here and the underlying poem, by Robert Burns is here: Bruce's Address at Bannockburn. The two may have comprised the Scottish national anthem and the author of this piece did MCClellan no favors by following the work as closely as this:

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour:
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and slavery!

That was Burns, who was only a little easier on the exclamation points.

McClellan gave a remarkable - and lyrical - address at West Point in 1864, but none of its themes appear here.


Self parody is becoming a major new form of self-expression. Look at this:

Civil War Battlefield Becomes Commuter Haven

That's not a slam, folks. It's a realtor's pitch to those of you who want to live on top of Manassas field.
It would be interesting enough to have a book attacking heritage tourism, as does Gettysburg: Memory, Market, and an American Shrine. It becomes more interesting when the book is reviewed by someone lauding commercial development of Gettysburg, as this fellow does.

Weeks makes a convincing case that Gettysburg owes its special status to the marketplace. Nationalists might not like to hear it, but the shrine that prompts so much flag waving and solemn devotion is also a major moneymaker. PBS viewers, enchanted by the epic struggle portrayed in Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, might also want to reflect on the assorted capitalists that kept the shrine in business in the dark days before public TV. It takes elitism of one form or another to revere Gettysburg while reviling the market that has helped shape its meaning.
NEWS | Teachers attend ACW "training camp" * Coalition asks for South Mountain tower to be denied * July opening eyed for Corinth center


Speaking of Civil War Sci Fi, Hollywood is getting ready...

A Princess of Mars, from the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs series (11 books in this one!) that mixes Civil War-era adventure, space travel and exotic monsters and damsels. "After Lord of the Rings, this is probably the last well-known fantasy classic yet to be made," says Spy Kids' Robert Rodriguez, who is attached to the $100 million Paramount project.

Well-known fantasy classic? I never met any other kid who read those books. (Spoiler: it's a Union man that goes to the red planet.)
I'm still stunned by the news from the Lincoln Library and Museum.

If I want to make a computer-driven hologram of Charlie Chaplin, one that will scratch its head and give "scholar approved" answers to schoolkids' questions, I will be stopped by his estate. The characters created by Chaplin, W.C. Fields and many others are protected from such tampering by their estates.

Lincoln's memory is protected by no one. It can be desecrated by any fool with something to sell; it can be trampled under any tourism-generating scheme; and Lincoln scholars (over 100 according to yesterday's story) have lined up to help make his memory a doormat for tasteless, ignorant and idly curious vistors to Springfield Illinois.

The great enabler in projects like this is that "history" is supposed to be such a powerful good that anything goes in trying to expose the public to that good. In fact, this kind of "historical experience" (read entertainment) is an end in itself, a dead end. People don't go from conversing with a Lincoln hologram to reading Jaffa or Burlingame. They've done their history. They've "experienced it." They are in the market for sensation, not for study.

A great role or mission for any public-minded sort of Lincoln library and museum in the future would be to maintain a staff of lawyers to bring actions against organizations like The Lincoln Library and Museum and Dr. Richard Norton Smith. One can dream, at least.
NEWS | MS ACW parks okay despite national "underfunding" * Jefferson Davis imprisonment site may get historical marker * Sewage to cover ACW graves on Morris Island? * Fredericksburg to receive $1.2 million to restrict building on Rapahannock and Rapidan * Hagerstown mulls accommodating Civil War Heritage Area Management Plan


The latest news from the Lincoln Library and Museum crosses the line into self parody.

* Remember the animatronic Lincoln figure at the 1964 World's Fair? It failed to communicate Lincoln's presence, as any robot would. It was a foolish display of gratuitous technology.

* Remember the late 1960's Philip K. Dick novel We Can Build You? A couple of instrument salesmen commission a NASA engineer to program a Lincoln robot, which escapes and has to be recaptured.

Now we have the Lincoln Library promising this:

This is no still-life sculpture of young Lincoln or a mechanized mannequin. It is a moving, talking, interactive Abraham Lincoln, brought to life through lasers, computer imaging and holograms. Historians had no photographs of Lincoln as a child to work from, so a forensic scientist created the childhood figure of Abe based on images of the president as an older man.

Throughout the museum, visitors will be able to ask up to 100 questions of the president, and he will stop what he's doing, stroke his beard (in his later years) and slowly answer the question in words agreed upon by numerous Lincoln scholars.

This is hilarious.

But that's not all. Visitors will be able to watch Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather deliver television reports on the 1860 presidential election and even attend Lincoln's funeral in 1865.

Reality trumps fantasy once again.

The whole story is here, but may require your registration to read. So let me highlight a few mundane but interesting bits from the same article:

The library and museum will be managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, with no input from the National Archives and Records Administration or any other federal agency.

Translation: despite federal money used, it will provide a pure state-level patronage nest.

And what has become of Richard Norton Smith? What has become of the director who refused appointment by Republicans out of fear of patronage abuse but who later accepted his directorship from a Democratic governor?

"He is now responsible for coordinating the finishing touches at the Lincoln Museum, which should open in stages beginning in late summer."

Is that a demotion or a sidelining? And what else do these finishing touches include?

Visitors are drawn into the violence of the Civil War through a three-dimensional moving battlefield as muskets fire, cannons explode and men scream in agony.


A floor-to-ceiling screen shows the movement of battles over time, from north to south. A ticker in the back of the exhibit keeps count of the casualties as the war progresses.

I'm doing my history at the Lincoln Library and Museum, baby.
NEWS | Huge crowds likely at burial of Hunley crew * Tennessee license controversy: AG slams legislature decision * MD county votes to allow Douglass monument on courthouse lawn


A reader has kindly pointed out to me that I failed to notice a potential conflict of interest in commenting on South Mountain preservation stories.

A local story, previously linked here, contained these passages, which I failed to associate and interpret:

… the Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved $237,207 in state, federal and private funds to purchase conservation easements for two crucial parcels on the battlefield. […] Of the total [36.6 acres], about 25.6 acres known as the Wilson property was the headquarters of Union Gen. George McClellan … according to a statement from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. […] The Civil War Preservation Trust, the department's Program Open Space and the Maryland State Highway Administration's Transportation Enhancement Program supply funds for the easement purchases.

Assuming that the easements payment was divided equitably, the Wilson property owners got 2/3 of $237,000, or about $152,000 and the right to keep the property. Some of that was Civil War Preservation Trust money, most was government money.

So who are these Wilsons owning "the Wilson property?" CWPT rigorously guards the identities of the beneficiaries of its purchases but my correspondent suggests that there is a defunct bed and breakfast on the site at one time owned by the executive director of the Central Maryland Heritage League, someone whose name, accidentally or not, matches the circumstances.

If this is true, are we looking at backsratching? Or worse? Doesn't CMHL team up with CWPT to get state funds for easement buying?

Who generally are the various recipients of CWPT- and CMHL- arranged easement payouts? Might they be allies, associates, friends of family, board members, state regulators? The only sure way to know is for CWPT (and CMHL) to disclose exactly who has received its payments and what their past and potential relations are with each body.

With all due respect to the personalities involved, the CWPT is headed by a former political appointee sitting on $16 million in potential deal and patronage money that can be handed out without declaring the identities of any of the recipients. We have, in this blog, even looked for names in the tax filings of CWPT, only to be stymied.

As a charity susceptible to abuse, Civil War Preservation Trust is in a truly frightening position. Donors should demand full disclosure of the Wilson deal as a beginning.
The first multi-management super-park concept is taking shape in the Shenandoah:

With 3,500 acres, the park stretches across Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties and recognizes the SVBF, the Cedar Creek Foundation and Belle Grove Plantation, and a developing Shenandoah County park as independent organizations within the park’s boundaries.
NEWS | College to consider paying reparations for slavery * Monitor and Virginia restage battle in Georgia * Civil War cannon-building becomes profitable hobby * Neely to speak about Civil War prisoners


A reader has brought to my attention a brand new book, a regimental history of the Union's 10th Missouri Cavalry. You really can't have enough Missouri/Kansas theatre books. That material is always, inevitably "as fresh as today's headlines" and speaks to us most compellingly about the normal course of civil wars in the world.
Russell F. Weigley died last week and was erroneously remembered as a Civil War Historian. His history interests were actually much broader, as this list shows.

Weigley would take seemingly dry topics – Montgomery Meigs or Morrisville, N.J. – and try to breathe life into them, in a pop history way. For example, it may strike you as odd if I say I read straight through his administrative and doctrinal history of the U.S. Army - as if it were a novel. That is because he dealt with it in a narrative framework instead of its natural topical or analytic form. (The book was a failure, but I have kept it for 34 years as a kind of half-reference.)

This eye to entertaining never did win him a mass audience, but he developed a following among the pop historians themselves and he became this minor leaguer that the big money guys always took an interest in.

He died swinging for the bleachers with a one-volume history of the Civil War. It was a representative failure – his fans among the pop historians gave him the Borritt Prize and generously blurbed his dustjacket. But his publisher was not a trade press, and lacked the marketing power to deliver him the audience he craved.

People recognized the scholar in him – I think it intimidated some pop historians – but the scholar in him could never win out over the popularizer and he expired as this strange hybrid.
When the blurbs are flying and the marketers are overwhelmed with work, nuance is lost and comedy appears in the juxtapositions.

Read this Herman Hattaway endorsement closely:

"Weigley's A Great Civil War is the finest, most complete and insightful, and historiographically up-to-date, large-scale one volume military and political history of the U.S. 'war for the Union' now in print..."

It's hard, really hard, to miss the slight against James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Nevertheless the Indiana University Press issued a release with Hattaway's quote immediately above this one:

"The scale and sophistication of A Great Civil War put(s) it on a level with James McPherson's epic Battle Cry of Freedom."

Dissonant, eh? And I like the fact that the fellow polishing McPherson's halo can't make his verbs and nouns agree. (A mere coincidence? Or are McPherson's picture books dumbing down his next generation of fans...)
NEWS | College to hold conference on impact of the Civil War * Letters tell tale of Civil War romance * Study reveals funding needs for Harpers Ferry


SUNDAY | The noted American artist Garnet W. Jex did a series of Harper's Ferry paintings whose whearabouts have been obscure. Land conservators should take note that he stipulated they forever be kept out of the hands of the National Park Service.

Now that's a restrictive property covenant I can get behind.


SATURDAY | Yes, it’s McClellan poetry day. The first of many.

The striking thing about Civil War poetry is the ironclad will to rhyme coupled with frequent indifference to meter.

Most of the Civil War poems one sees, even in literary magazines like Harper’s, fit this inferior mode. In his landmark study of Civil War literature, Patriotic Gore, Edmund Wilson hardly bothers with pop poetry.

Here’s an example of failed verse:

Arouse! Fellow freemen, respond to the call.
And rescue our land from political slavery!
From “Straimonium” swindlers and rail-splitters tall.
From “wide awake” noodles and “higher law” knavery.
Come route the vile host, who now “rule the roost”;
And have wrought desolation from centre to coast,
Then all to the rescue our country to save,
From political panders and anarchy’s grave.

The author (“J.C.”) has lost his rhythm, offers no imagery, forces rhymes, and presents us no tricks of language or art. Any joy to be derived lies in the political references and in the rhymes.

Nevertheless, such popular poetry of the Rebellion period has many points of interest. Consider the political viewpoint being presented above and below:

Time was we had our free discussion,
With the press, the tongue, the pen,
Nor had we learned to ape the Russian
With his spies and dungeons then.
But now unless one sings the praises
Of the Lincoln-Stanton crew,
Some bastile yawns as quick as blazes,
And the poor soul is lost to view.
There is dreary liberty,
Our rights are all a sham;
Sure this must be a kingdom coming
In the days of Abraham.

Consider the vivid imagery:

.. the face of our country, neath the hot breath of battles,
Where our heroes have struggled is blistered to graves

Sometimes, a civic poem written for rhetorical effect can nevertheless deploy poetic arts for its purposes: think of Houseman or Kipling and look at the Kipling effect in these two stanzas:

McClellan Campaign Song


No jokes from his lips when our whole land is sodden
With blood that has burst from the hearts of our braves;
When the face of our country, neath the hot breath of battles,
Where our heroes have struggled is blistered to graves,
Then up with our banner! Emblazon upon it,
“We will give to our country the man that she craves.”


We don’t label him “honest” – experience teaches
That trumpeting trademarks but cover deceit.
No rebuke from his lips of his senseless detractors;
His glorious record all falsehood can meet,
Then up with the banner for George B. McClellan!
Our hopes and our honors we throw at his feet.

Overall, the effect is not sustained. The whole poem can be viewed here.

Thanks to a kind reader for sending me the link.

Next week: some exceptional McClellan verse from a lyricist.


I've mentioned it before, but here's more evidence that Gary Gallagher is passing into the ranks of historiographers. He's defining himself out of pop history and is now actually commenting on it.

Let's welcome him and hope there are more "conversions" among his colleagues.
On the 7th, I had mentioned the seemingly cryptic title of this talk:

Structures of Meaning in Civil War Imagery from the Sublime Theaters of Battle to Picturesque Places of Remembrance.

A reader was good enough to email a translation yesterday:

I'm no art historian, but I recall once going through an exhibit (probably at the National Museum in DC) that centered on the depiction of sublime vs picturesque in 19th C art. IIRC sublime refers to depiction of nature untamed by man (think of imagery of American forested landscapes) while picturesque refers to nature heavily influenced by man (think of English Victorian era formal garden landscapes).

Thanks. If I can use this in another context, the conservation goals of the Civil War Preservation Trust are picturesque at Mine Run and Gettysburg and sublime at South Mountain.
I confess to being a little baffled by this easements story re: Fox's, Turner's, and Crampton's Gaps ("South Mountain" geographically speaking).

Puzzler the first: "Last week, the national Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) released its annual report on the most threatened battlefields in the country. South Mountain State Battlefield ­, 2,500 acres of public property straddling the Frederick-Washington county line ­, is the only Maryland site to make the list this year."

A "State Battlefield" (lovely designation) is not to be confused - ever - with "State Battlefield Park." It's the virtual deal.

This "2,500 acres of public property" exists on paper, perhaps, or in someone's mind. Perhaps they are factoring in the nature hiking trails around Gathland park (should be named Crampton's Gap park, but Gathland speaks to so many more people, doesn't it?).

Puzzler the second: "The trust named South Mountain to the list because of the possibility that private property not protected by preservation easements could be lost forever to developers' shovels."

How is private property lost forever? It is sold and resold. Land is only lost forever when an immortal entity like the state buys it and then warehouses it; or when a state multipurposes a battlefield as has tragically happened at Crampton's Gap. It is also lost when covenants mandate the land be kept in a non-battlefield state (such as farm or nature preserve) and when covenants permit visitors be kept off.

Puzzler the third: "...when you get up into to the foothills of the South Mountain area along Frostown Road, Mount Tabor Road and Reno Monument Road, the zoning would still permit additional houses."

So will covenants, based on how they are negotiated.

Stop buying easements. Get serious and buy the land. Make a battlefield.
NEWS | More easements bought on South Mountain * Arizona commemorates Val Verde and Glorieta Pass with annual re-enactments * Cleburne Day celebrated with Civil War flavor *
Derringer collection slated for auction


Saturdays are hereby proclaimed McClellan Poetry Days - for the near future, anyway. Check in the day after tomorrow for the first installment of some earnest jollification. (And thanks to the reader who sent me the link to a treasure trove of '64 campaign doggerel.)
I don't normally run press releases verbatim, but this one merits special treatment:

The Kent State University Press is pleased to announce that 2004 marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil War History journal. Since its inception in 1955, Civil War History has provided a forum for groundbreaking scholarship about the Civil War era. It has been and continues to be the preeminent journal in the field.

We are celebrating this milestone with special anniversary features throughout the 2004 volume year, including articles from former CWH editors James I. Robertson and John T. Hubbell and a piece by advisory board member Drew Faust, “Why Do We Care About the Civil War?” The final issue in volume 50 will include reprints of the best articles from the past 50 years, selected by Civil War History’s editorial advisory board, and introductory comments from eminent historians. All in all it will be a grand occasion in celebration of Civil War scholarship. We invite you not to miss out by subscribing to the journal today!

It's not a cheap subscription (see link, above), but Civil War scholarship is terribly rare and this is a journal - an actual academic journal in a field grossly contaminated with the worst that pop culture has to offer. (Is that too harsh?) Here's a link to a representative article, one which I enjoyed very much: McClellan and Halleck at war: the struggle for control of the Union war effort in the West, November 1861-March 1862.
If I told you Greenville recently honored a black Confederate cavalryman and there is a web page dedicated to Lincoln's dog, you'd wonder if I'd gone to a Civil War Museum bourbon tasting. And you'd be wrong, this time.
NEWS | Veterans pack hearing on Douglass statue * Demand grows for slavery artifacts * Stage play features women reenactors


As reported here last week, CWPT claimed to have rescued 45 acres of East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg in 2003. (They did so in all seriousness and with no caveats.) This week additional details of the deal became available through this news account.

According to the story, there were five groups involved, not counting the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service: the Land Conservancy of Adams County, the Conservation Fund, Adams County Agricultural Land Preservation Board and Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg, and CWPT. Together, they bought an "easement" on 45 acres for $93,950 after the feds kicked in $56,200 of that. If they were splitting the check evenly among themselves, these five big spenders would have paid just over $7,550 apiece for the non-federal part of the bill.

Forgive me a little guesstimating, but there are 45-acre farms for sale around Gettysburg for about $300,000 fee simple. I was shopping for one last year. A serious preservationist could have offered a decent price and gained control of the place, if it truly meant anything.

Meanwhile, this property owner has been paid a windfall to stay put. Meanwhile, these conservation groups have been given a role in keeping battlefield land (if that is what it is) operating as a farm – one where trespassing is prohibited. Meanwhile, Civil War Preservation Trust can claim victory without having spent more than pin money.

The whole operation is nicely summarized in a paragraph from the linked piece:

The groups' ultimate goal is to secure additional farmland conservation easements at other cavalry battlefields related to the Gettysburg Campaign and then to connect those sites to form a cavalry battlefields driving tour.

A CWPT driving tour. The perfect way to experience your virtual battlefield! The sites are "connected" by roads and to see over the corn, just pull your car onto the shoulder and stand on the hood. (Visitors to Antietam know whereof I speak.)

If the good people supporting Gettysburg reclamation want a taste of what the CWPT holds in store for them, they need to visit Fox's and Turner's gaps in Maryland. As CWPT itself notes, 6,000 acres of land has been "saved" by using federal funds to buy easements on South Mountain. You have battlefields with no public facilities, no public access (except those wonderful roads), and not one spot you can lawfully park your picnic blanket. You have a tremendously happy group of homeowners who bought on South Mountain to get away from it all – bought cheap – and whose property values have risen because of easements and whose continued privacy is ensured "in perpetuity." They have every disincentive to sell – but who's buying, anyway, except for other people who want to get away from it all.

And CWPT is fine with this - it spells success to them. What bothers CWPT about the Gaps is that there may be housing developments started well to the east of its easements complex. See the South Mountain page of their recent report. Unreal.

And speaking of unreal, if CWPT's land budget is $7,550 per deal, the virtual battlefield is truly the battlefield of the future.

Are you contributing money for driving tours of virtual battlefields? Is that your own idea of saving historic property? If not, look very carefully and any battlefield preservation society before you donate.
They are planning to rehab Fort Negley: ''I can imagine someone coming from France and coming to Fort Negley and there are no cannons,'' Lillard said. ''I think we'd be remiss if we didn't have some cannon represented. I can't imagine an interpretive fort without cannons.''

Good one, two points in the unintended irony department.

Actually, no French tourists will succeed in "interpreting" the fort by looking at some cannons and the usual crummy brochure.

Take a cannon break, folks, and commission a substantive pamphlet-sized history. Set an example for other ACW site stewards.
NEWS | Fort Negley gets 'status' * Gettysburg mansion slated for sherriff's sale * Cardinal's new stadium: built over slave pens?


About once per publishing season comes a Civil War title rife with what strikes me as impossible causality. Here's one that really bugs me: Where the South Lost the War - An Analysis of the Fort Henry - Fort Donelson Campaign. It's a good read - I prefer analysis over narrative anytime - but here's this naive title (and naive conclusion).

There is, at the heart of the title the question of whether the Union could have prevailed without these victories.

We do love our what-if in Civil War history, but notice how people play what-if. They want to change one variable (say Donelson/Henry) and freeze the others in order to imagine an outcome. Doesn't that strike you as cheating? What if all the variables were back in play?

Single-variable what-if seems to come from military wargaming: What if the Red Force arrives on this terrain one hour later, everything else being equal? The Donelson book's author is a military academician, so he has an alibi for thinking this way.

I hoped to better understand my own aversion to causality dogmas like "Where the South lost the war" so I turned to David Hackett Fischer's old Historian's Fallacies. In discussing an error he labels the reductive fallacy, he cautions us against compressing causality to the point where the answer is "dysfunctional" with respect to the question. That's a little vague, so he gives an example, the kingdom lost for the want of a horse, the horse's shoe lacking a nail. Then he gives an counter example of allowable causality in the chain of events associated with McClellan finding Lee's orders in Maryland.

Are we to conclude from this story that the cause of Northern victory in the Civil War was the loss of Special Orders no. 191? [...] There is, I think, no prima facie case against the validity of such a causal interpretation, if it is clearly understood that everything depends upon the accpetance of a contingent-series model of causality, and if the question at hand can be fairly and fully met by such an explanation.

Well, well, another Civil War buff who wants his what-if.

I'll revisit this issue when I can find a better ally.
The great Ralph Wilson, an Internet marketing guru from pre-bubble days, is also a bit of a Civil War buff.

He tests products for his readers and recently looked at a business idea analyzer based on the premise that he (Wilson) intended to sell uniforms to re-enactors via the Web.

The numbers with high KEI in this table represent search terms that people often use but which produce few useful results. The KEI for "civil war uniform" was 34,506, which is a through the roof rating.

Wilson is not going to start a uniform business; he simply needed an example. This points to an opportunity for someone else, probably a re-enactor who believes in business analyzers and Web commerce.
I missed this talk yesterday: Structures of Meaning in Civil War Imagery from the Sublime Theaters of Battle to Picturesque Places of Remembrance.

Wonder what it was about.
NEWS | Sunken Road closes for archaeological work * Shenandoah visitor center planning moves forward * New bill would help preserve 'Bleeding Kansas' history * Matthew Fontaine Maury inspires high-tech intelligence endeavors


Today is Confederate Navy Day in Maryland.
I had wanted to present to you on Saturday an entirely notional battlefield park, one that, constructed entirely of easements, exists on paper in a title company office somewhere. It sounds like sci-fi but it's our "reality" in Maryland. We'll close out the battlefield preservation topic for awhile on Wednesday with a "virtual" visit to that huge mess, one made by preservationsists pursuing the wrong objectives with the wrong tools, hitched into alliances where they worked at cross-purposes.
Here's an interesting new book with an impossibly specialist title: Damn Dutch: Pennsylvania Germans at Gettysburg. It deals, through a collection of essays, with the Pennsylvania Volunteer regiments made up of native-born German speakers. And although there is a great deal of military content concerning those formations, the really interesting stuff is about the tensions between the American Pennsylvania Deutsch and German immigrants in uniform. Certainly, their politics could not be further apart, the Pennsylvanians being conservative Democrats.

I should note especially for the militarty historians, that there is a major re-examination of the 11th Corps' performance at Gettysburg in light of this distinction between "native" and "foreign" Germans.

Bottom line for these authors: the Civil War had a dis-integrating effect on society, with the Germans becoming a more inward-looking subculture as a result of the conflict.

If you see the title, have a browse.
NEWS | Battle of Pea Ridge commemorated * Pieces of Monitor and Virginia brought together for display * Sharpsburg Heritage Festival may fold


SUNDAY | It will come as a shock to many, but the keystone of battlefield preservation programs, the obtaining of restrictive land covenants - easements - takes advantage of a relatively new legal landscape.

One hundred years ago and into the 1930s, one could not encumber land with the restrictions currently engineered by farmland rescue bodies, by wildlife conservators, or by CWPT. Most states had laws against it - it was in part both a reaction against deathbed giving to charities and a reaction against those who would take land for housing off the market.

The people of that time called the creation of development restrictions in perpetuity "mortmain" (dead hand) contracts. The term lives on in law. And when the public had enough of mortmain, they swept it away in almost all of the Unites States with new laws, at the state level, passed with simple majorities.

You may think a battlefield easement is perpetual, but it's as fragile as the outcome of the next state election. And any strategy that creates easements for those battlefields in those areas subject to the greatest housing pressures invites a replay of the great backlash against mortmain that once swept this country.

There is no substitute for owning the land - none - and for the owning organization itself to be under a restrictive development charter with broad oversight from its civic-minded members.

Does that describe Civil War Preservation Trust?


SATURDAY | About this time every year the Civil War Preservation Trust issues its report called America's Most Endangered Battlefields. It usually gets a lot of press, especially at the local level (where a particular battlefield is local).

The report is a picture-laden brochure; each of 15 pages addresses a particular battlefield and each battlefield gets about 220 words of commentary. (A page of typewriter script would run about 350 words).

The commentary for a site is divided between battle history and current news. The history in these recaps is not particularly good and the threat analysis in the news is foggy, generally lacking key data like local planning info, decisionmaking schedules, legal status, and grassroots contacts. Instead of modern battlefield maps showing parcels they are trying to save, the Trust has filled its brochure with cutesy antique battle diagrams.

Here's some "helpful" language from the Wilson's Creek entry:

If approved, the 2,333-acre development would encroach on battlefield land southwest of the park. [How and where?] In addition, the project will likely serve as a magnet for further sprawl west of the battlefield. [So what? Is the CWPT spending money outside battlefields to stop sprawl? By whose authority?]

How does these little nuggets add up to land being "most endangered?" What are the criteria? There are none. The threats are not analyzed - there is no framework for that. Nor are endangered sites ranked by threat - they are listed alphabetically.

* Why has rescue failed up until now?

* What will it take to succeed?

* How do we define success?

* Which local groups have websites?

The inadequacy of CWPT's annual report is almost unbelievable. As you work through the material you get the sense of an organization going through the motions to secure enough legitimacy to enable its management to do what it wants to do, on the battlefield or off.

I see the Trust's management is organizing members to clean up its land holdings on March 27. Suggestion. Clean up your management first, then police the land.


The story so far: in an effort to donate money to the Civil War Preservation Trust, we have been searching their website for financial info, wanting to know how donations and membership fees are used. We are also looking for details on complex land transactions that the Trust has engaged in that have been reported elsewhere.

It appears that anyone wondering how the Trust is spending money has to go outside the CWPT's own website to find out. Fortunately, there is a link on the site to GuideStar Plus, a charities database. Within that site, the Trust's IRS Form 990s are available for our review. (Registration required).

These IRS 990s paint an interesting picture. First, the numbers.

CWPT's net assets at the end of 2003 were $16,251,940. Much of that seems to be in land holdings and it appears from these records that a single contribution (presumably land) of nearly $11 million was made in 2001, radically changing the nonprofit's fiscal profile. Membership dues brought in $1.40 million (up from the year previous) . Combined with grants and other income, total revenues were $5.40 million and expenses were $3.62. That's nearly $1.8 million in operating surplus ("profit"). It more than offsets $1.4 million in dues.

What this means is that CWPT has, financially, outstripped any need for members (i.e. participants, supervisors, electors), except that members can act as a mailing list for additional donations. CWPT can choose to be one of those organizations made up entirely of its own management. If it hasn't chosen already.

Furthermore, if its $16 million in assets were liquidated and invested to fund operations with perhaps 5% targeted for return, the CWPT's staff and overhead could be scaled down a little to live within those means in perpetuity. It could then completely dispense with any human donors, collecting grants from other organizations and using government programs to accomplish its mission.

What I mean is this: CWPT can continue its job of facilitating the investment of other organizations' money in land purchases and in buying restrictive covenants (easements) from owners without any member help or input and without individual donations or oversight.

Look at the transactional addenda to the IRS 990s, linked above. To prevent the public or its members from knowing exactly what its annual transactions are, the Trust frames all of its descriptive addenda in this language:

Description: Land

Name of Buyer: Various

Helpful? It's absolutely pervasive - no exceptions. Good luck decoding the transactions.

The Trust's members and potential members either don't care about its operations ("Gotta save some battlefield land somehow!") or they have already been written off by management.

Neither scenario makes me want to join or contribute.
NEWS | Truck crashes into Gettysburg monument * Ohio park for Civil War battery possible * Penna. re-enactors salute Col. Charles Taylor


Yesterday, we were trying to donate money to the Civil War Preservation Trust, after a precautionary first step of analyzing its accomplishments. Looking around its website we found no financials, no executive profiles, no case studies of successful actions, no priorities identified, no methodology for doing its work, no annual report, no letter to members, no clearly stated principles – just some feel-good generalities about needing to save hallowed ground. We found CWPT used a studied ambiguity in communicating with the public; but we did locate a press release on its website that summarized wins in 2003.

In looking at this release, and in searching the Web for corroboration, we made these discoveries:

The Trust took sole credit for joint wins without naming its partners and it took sole credit for wins in which it had minor supporting roles. It used other people's money to buy land and then sold easements for that land to non-Civil War groups, realizing very pure profits for its own accounts. (We'll take a look at CWPT's income, expenditures, cash flows, and reserves tomorrow.)

In reviewing the outline of one complex land swap and easement deal and in reviewing news stories about the organization, we also discovered the way CWPT defines "winning." According to the Trust, Civil War battlefield land has been saved if any of the following occur:

* Land is purchased outright for future sale or donation to an existing battlefield in the indeterminate future. (Land status after purchase: limbo).

* Land is not purchased but easements are obtained from owners. It does not matter in the least what kind of easements. (Land status after easement purchase: keep off the property.)

* Land is purchased and easements are sold to non-Civil War groups for their management. (Land status: farmland, wetland, nature preserve, bird sanctuary, whatever.)

In sum, the Trust generously defines victory such that any transaction involving battlefield land and CWPT is a win. The deal goes through = the deal is successful.

Donors to such groups as CWPT define victory another way: walking the battlefield. Re-enactors would add "discharging firearms on the land."

Farmer Jones and his family chasing me and mine out of his fields for the next four or five generations is hardly my idea of heritage tourism. Nor is it that of a nature conservancy stringently restricting my battlefield movements to little paths (or banning me completely). A millionaire's countryside housing compound, made more valuable by surrounding battlefield easements, protected from commercialization, and itself under an easement as it dominates a battlefield view, is no kind of win except to the property owner and the next potential buyer.

Try this on. The Trust secures 100% outside funding for the purchase of an easement that allows current owners to carry on what they are doing, sell to anyone, and – if they like – build additional non-commercial structures on their property. That's a real-life Western Maryland easement situation and that's also a "triumph" for CWPT. Enjoy your battlefield, folks. You can see it through these binoculars standing on this highway. Mind the trucks.

Why not buy easements? Because this half-stepping produces "virtual" battlefields that have park status but need not contain one square foot of land on which you can legally place your foot. I'll present such a sham battlefield on Saturday.

Why not take outside money? Because outside organizations have non-ACW agendas that may dictate land use.

Why not make money for the organization through careful and clever land transactions? Because it frees the executives of the organization from member funding and member control. As we'll see tomorrow, CWPT has reached a point financially where it can laugh at its members.

CWPT and other battlefield preservers need comprehensive definitions for completing actions, e.g., the "win" is not an opening of the procurement process, it is the closing of the process that converts land to battlefield park use -- the win occurs when tourist boots hit the sod -- not before. These definitions need to be imposed by members or potential donors on recalcitrant executives. They will not go quietly down that path.

For by declaring victory at the mere purchase of an easement (and with other people's money!), preservation groups can adopt a new mission, the very pleasant duty of acting as multi-generational co-stewards of half-baked land deals. That's sweet if you are on salary in these organizations, if you like coordinating strategy, and if there are a lot of easements in your portfolio. Income without producing results ... it's a dream come true.
A note on "easement." CWPT uses easement to refer to land agreements that restrict future use; it does not refer to easement as right of way or someone's use of anothers' property. Easement in the common meaning of public pathways, etc., does not apply in these battlefield land deals and therefore it makes this a misleading synonym for restrictive covenants, for in no case is the public getting use of private property battlefield land. The term "easement" is widely used within land preservation organizations for these types of agreements, which may be one reason why Maryland-based CWPT uses such language.

This battlefield preservation thread will continue through the weekend, on days this blog is not normally published. My analysis of CWPT's endangered battlefield list, promised for today, will go up then.
Symposium slated for Red River campaign * Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation grant supports slavery research * SCV regrets retirement of Georgia's Confederate flag, vows new heritage initiatives


Received a very nice email from Bruce Bump heading the Winds of Valor, a for profit Gettysburg project. His website has a very clear statement of where its charitable funding goes - this statement might serve as a model for non-profits who need to explain their disbursements.
Civil War battlefield preservation – where do you start?

I'll start where many of you did, as a contributor who made up his mind to donate to the Civil War Preservation Trust. As marketers might say, it's the outfit with "mind share." Need to save a battlefield = want to contribute money = Civil War Preservation Trust. Some 50,000 people like me have already jumped to that conclusion. Stupid, sloppy thinking, but that's how too many of my own decisions get made.

Visiting the website to look for a PayPal button I can't help but read stuff. And the red flags are going up. First, they are not selling me. They are not telling me why they will use my money better than the local preservation society. Second, there is no clear mission statement. Look.

"The Civil War Preservation Trust is America's largest non-profit organization devoted to the preservation of our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields." That's the broad language found in all corporate charters – nobody manages from that.

Here they take another stab at it – "There is only one national organization working to save all of these [endangered national] battlefields: The Civil War Preservation Trust."

Not good enough. Even this nebulous statement or this one is better.

Well, there are always some press releases available, filled with aims and accomplishments.

First, the top ten endangered battlefields (the report is linked on the right).

Bad choice. The report is a disaster, an intellectually lazy, sloppy piece of work designed for journalists with no substantive or motivational content for Civil War buffs, more on which tomorrow.

Next stop, PRESIDENT’S BUDGET INCLUDES INCREASED FUNDING FOR BATTLEFIELD PRESERVATION. This is good news, but why is the Trust repackaging a federal press release? There is nothing here on what it specifically means to the Trust or its members.

Let's try CWPT ANNOUNCES RESCUE OF 2,100 ACRES OF HALLOWED BATTLEFIELD LAND IN 2003. This is going to have to work, because we're now ALREADY out of press releases.

This piece opens with a bold claim. "The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), the nation’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, announced today that it saved 2,110 acres of hallowed ground in 2003."

We get a little smidgen of HOW: "Money donated to CWPT for land acquisition is leveraged with funding from federal, state and local conservation programs." Hmmm. Pooled resources. Okay, doesn't that mean shared glory, too? Tell me more. (There is no more.)

We get a little detail on WHAT: "Among the battlefield properties rescued by CWPT in the past twelve months were 105 acres at Fort Donelson, Tennessee; 45 acres at East Cavalry Field in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; 211 acres of battlefield land and earthworks at Hatchers Run, Virginia; 685 acres at Mine Run, Virginia; and 62 acres at Richmond, Kentucky." That's absolute language. No shared glory there. And we are a few acres short of 2,110. Where's the rest? And what are the details? Tell me more. (There is no more.)

The hunt begins.

(1) Donelson. My work is partly done here, because a reporter tracked down the Trust and asked questions:

Approximately 105 acres south of Dover was purchased in three tracts by the trust in December for about $350,000, said Jim Campi, director of policy and communications for the preservation group based in Washington, D.C. Half the money to purchase the land came from the trust; the other half came from the $50 million federal Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act, signed into law by President Bush in December. Campi said the purchase includes the 48-acre Bogard family tract east of Forge Road in Dover. ''It was where 70% of the Union casualties occurred during the battle and where Nathan Bedford Forrest broke out of the Union lines."

That's pretty clean. The Trust did what we expect it to when we donate. It bought land. It did not share the win with U.S. taxpayers in its press release, but that doesn't bother me too much. More disturbing is the reference to Forrest, because the president of the Trust is a huge Forrest fan with a picture of that general hanging over his fireplace. Public money for private agendas?

(2) East Cavalry Field. Here we have a problem: another organization claims to have saved it. "The GBPA was founded in 1959 as the first public/private partnership at Gettysburg. Over the years, the GBPA played a continuous role in purchasing endangered battlefield land. Such properties, like the Meals farm, Timbers farm, Wolf farm, Taney farm, the Colgrove tract, the Willoughby Run tract, the East Cavalry field tract, and other parcels have been saved from urban development and commercialism."

To find out what this means, we turn to the local press and locate this story: "The nonprofit group Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg worked with several other groups to secure a conservation easement on the 45-acre Shea farm, which lies east of Gettysburg and adjacent to Gettysburg National Military Park's East Cavalry Field." Suddenly we have a new manager in acombined rescue operation. "The Friends snagged the easement with help from the Land Conservancy of Adams County, the Adams County Agricultural Land Preservation Board, the Civil War Preservation Trust and the Conservation Fund, a private revenue stream for preservation projects." The Trust was a helper. It got honorable mention. Did the Trust overstate its role its own press release? What was that role? Tell me more. Please.

Mine Run. This is the goriest deal of the three I have time to examine. The details are here and I will summarize:

• The Trust bought 685 acres at "bargain prices" using federal funds (!)
• The Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Piedmont Environmental Council bought an easement from the Trust on that 385 acres of land bought with federal money(!)
• The Trust donated another easement on other parts of the land.
• The VOF and PEC will forevermore manage these conservation easements, great Civil War societies that they are.

(Don't step on the grass please. You are disturbing the wildlife, sir.)

I used to report on third world loan syndications and I'm getting a familiar feeling. The Trust does a lot of these deals.

Where is our money supposed to work in these arrangements? What good does it do? You can turn the website upside down and shake it, you can read the Trust's reports and statements, and you will not find out.

More tomorrow.
NEWS | Country music stars to release Civil War album * Monument to Connecticut 29th Colored Infantry will not be funded * Gen. Hoke to feature in keynote speech * Mary Lincoln memory inspires First Ladies National Historic Site


A couple of days ago, I linked (in the News section) to the latest endangered battlefields list from the Civil War Preservation Trust. You might reasonably think that an organization with a name like this would have the sweeping mission of either monitoring or saving all ACW battlefields or at least drawing attention to their plight.

This is quite far from the case. The Trust generally concerns it self with name brands and top drawers. It also has other filters it applies to battlefields to determine their worth. Although it maintains what appears to be a rich website, the Trust's conception of its own mission is not transparent. To get at it, we will have to decode their press releases, their lists - which contain an element of falsehood - and news items about the group.

Let me stress that this is an organization highly rated as an efficient charity and one that does good work. If you contribute to it, your money is well spent, as long as you understand what the Trust's mission is and as long as you understand what they intend to do with monies collected. We'll go into that over the next few days.
John W. De Forest | I have no time to analyze the the interesting feelings of free-born Yankees under this searching despotism. I can only say that the soldiers hated their colonel because they feared him; that, like true Americans they profoundly respected him because, as they said, "he knew his biz;" that they were excessively proud of the superior drill and neatness to which he had brought them against their wills; and that on the whole, they would not have exchanged him for any other regimental commander in the brigade. - Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty
NEWS | Re-enactors embroiled in hearing loss lawsuit * Novel about black slave owner up for prize * Re-enactor band from Pittsburgh plays both sides * Tennessee group needs helpers to care for battle monument


When last we left the Lincoln Library, an ex-governor had been appointed to the fundraising arm of that body and we asked ourselves, is this a sweetheart deal or will he actually have to raise money? The latest news has the current governor carrying some water for him in a meeting with Illinois federal representatives: "The Governor is seeking federal help to transform the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum into a fitting tribute to one of the greatest leaders in our nation’s history."

Was this actually the game?

* Put an acceptable face on the Library: Richard Norton Smith,
* Load the Library with recipients of your political favors,
* Have the feds pay the bills for your patronage outlet.

Pretty slick. Kind of like the Big Dig, but with no ending dates and no deliverables. Illinois reps may best their Mass counterparts in the political arts.

Lincoln spent a lot of time on patronage; perhaps the writer (linked above) has this in mind when he refers to "a fitting tribute."
Do you spruce up an ugly Lincoln statue, just because it's Lincoln?
John W. De Forest | No; Colburne did not speak French, nor any other modern language; he did not draw, nor sing, nor play, and was in short as destitute of accomplishments as are most Americans. - Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty
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