No strategies please, we're politicians

The irritation of this political blogger reminds me of my reaction to Lincoln in the Civil War:
I continue to find myself frustrated by lack of understanding of the reach of the War on Terror. I have yet to hear any offical explain the stragety of the war, and unfortunately the Administration has been reluctant to lay it out as they are afraid of being labeled "War Mongers".

He runs off the rails with "War Mongers," but this pretty well captures how I felt first reading through the cycle "General X submits plan" + "Lincoln fails to comment on plan." I'm not talking about battle plans or campaign plans, I'm talking war-winning strategy.

However, it's not entirely a Lincoln thing. Any administration has ample disincentive to "lay it out." Aside from "security" matters, we can count the inhibitors by analyzing the Civil War experience:

* You don't want the public measuring and judging your progress.

* You don't want commit in advance to a multi-election-cycle plan.

* You don't want to relinquish the freedom to make a large number of ad hoc decisions.

* You don't want people analyzing inevitable political tampering with what they perceive as a purely military plan.

* You don't want your political opponents proposing a concrete and better overall plan.

* You don't want your generals managing you by holding results hostage to men, supplies, etc.

* You don't want anything that smacks of timetable - not in any form, direct or implied, ever.

Those are seven unlucky breaks for national strategists.

Lincoln's aversion to strategy was a function of his political sense.

Handheld scanners

I've been agonizing for sometime about getting a device that will let me capture both text and images in archival (controlled) situations. I don't want to lug a laptop around and obviously cannot feed ancient manuscript pages into a sheet scanner; neither can I use a tiny beam/flashlight type scanner favored by my brother-in-law to go through rare books line by line.

This seems to be the answer and it seems to have no counterpart in the market. Have a look.

September books

The list below closes out what I know about September books. Let me place at the head of the list, Bugle Resounding: Music And Musicians Of The Civil War Era by Bruce Kelley and Mark Snell.

For comic relief, there's Civil War Fantastic by Martin Harry Greenberg (editor), a collection of short stories about the Civil War by writers of science fiction.
SEPTEMBER BOOKS | These books have been or will be published in September: John Brown's Body: Slavery, Violence, and the Culture of War by Franny Nudelman * Lincoln on Democracy by Mario M. Cuomo, Harold Holzer * Loyalty and Loss: Alabama's Unionists in the Civil War and Reconstruction by Margaret M. Storey, T. Michael Parrish * Scalawags: Southern Dissenters in the Civil War and Reconstruction by James Alex Alex Baggett * The South Since the War: As Shown by Fourteen Weeks of Travel and Observation in Georgia and the Carolinas by Sidney Andrews * The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement Richard M. Valelly * Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero by Michael Korda * Zeb Vance: North Carolina's Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader by Gordon McKinney * The Other Gettysburg by Creighton * I Hope to Do My Country Service: The Civil War Letters of John Bennitt, M.D., Surgeon in the 19th Michigan Infantry * Affectionately Yours * Confederate Submarines and Torpedo Vessels 1861-65 by Angus Konstam * American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 by Sally Denton * Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from 1790s through the Civil War by Melvin Patrick Ely * Great South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 1871-1872
by Lou Falkner Williams * The Reconstruction of Southern Debtors: Bankruptcy after the Civil War by Elizabeth Lee Thompson * Civil War and Reconstruction by William E. Gienapp * The Confederate Dirty War by Jane Singer


A new opera featuring Ulysses Grant?

Count me in. See you there, January 28th.

A roundtable fairytale come true

"The 40 amateur historians who made up the Bucks County Civil War Round Table knew as much about charter member Frederick W. Holzwarth Jr. as they knew about each other. He was a fan of Abraham Lincoln and a font of battlefield knowledge from Fort Sumter to Appomattox. But who among them wasn't?"

"What they didn't know was that the quiet bachelor from Richboro was wealthy, generous, and devoted to his beloved group."

"When Holzwarth died in April 2002 at age 73, members were shocked to learn that he had left the round table nearly $1.6 million - and a list of instructions on how to use it."

Quite a story: registration may be required.

Private park teaches heritage toursim

The privately funded National Museum of the Civil War Soldier near Petersburg seems to have wowed a group of visiting Spotsylvania County officials. Have a look:

What supervisors saw there impressed them and opened their eyes to the direction of historic tourism. "The era of being able to attract people by having an empty field is over," said board chairman Robert Hagan.

(Hagan pushed for the recent Tricord deal at Chancellorsville. The deal will feature an empty field.)
NEWS | History dept. seeks McPherson replacement * Group says lack of money threatens Saint-Gaudens site * CSA supply ship featured in TV show * Tennessee colonel's home damaged by fire


Historic VR tours - long overdue?

One cannot believe that this idea is just now breaking out:

E-motion, a Springfield-based Web design company, recently launched www.springfield-vr.com, which features "virtual-reality" tours of the Lincoln sites and other local tourist hot spots.

It's like something from 10 years ago:

The site has VR tours for nine tourist sites, including the two state capitol buildings; the Lincoln home, tomb, depot and law office; the Dana-Thomas House; Vachel Lindsay Home and New Salem.

You can get your own favorite battlefield on line for the price of a pair of football tickets:

For $300, Edwards' company will shoot and post a single 360-degree photograph. It'll cost another $300 for each additional VR of another room or area.

See the article here.

As thick as academic thieves

TV celebrity Lawrence Tribe, the Harvard Law professor whose plagiarism was exposed on Saturday, has been defended by his Harvard colleague Charles J. Ogletree, a man also bedeviled by plagiarism charges. Ogletree called the discovery of Tribe's plagiarism "nonsense."

Embarassingly for Ogletree, Tribe has admitted wrongdoing today and apologized, by letter, to his victim.

Commenting on Tribe's admission, another Harvard Law professor and plagiarist, Alan Dershowitz, said "I think Larry may be overreacting."

Caught red-handed, with stolen passages published in a national magazine, Tribe's admission and apology "may be overreacting" to someone teaching law at Harvard; may be "nonsense" to others. Very pretty. And there's a pattern:

Last fall, Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz also battled plagiarism charges. And in 2002, Harvard Overseer Doris Kearns Goodwin admitted that she had accidently copied passages from another scholar in her bestseller The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.

Tribe, who was named one of Harvard’s 19 University Professors last June, defended [historian] Goodwin against plagiarism charges two years ago on the grounds that her work was “closely documented with something like 3,500 footnotes.”

By the way, whatever has happened to Goodwin's planned book on Lincoln? That famously honest president?

Tip of the hat to the Crimson.

Franklin re-enactment re-located

This is a strange development, considering the planning that has gone into the event.

Because there's not enough room in Franklin or Nashville, the re-enactors are staging their exhibitions a few miles south on a farm in Spring Hill.
NEWS | Maryland crewman identified from submarine * Plumb monument unveiled * Tower rises on South Mountain


Pesky grad students get another prof in trouble

I was at a party a few years ago with some Chicago advertising people and was introduced to a young woman who, I was told, had developed the "Got Milk" campaign. I was impressed for about a year until I encountered more authors of this campaign. Taking credit for "Got Milk" turns out to be an in-joke in the industry.

In the academy right now, we have the opposite phenomenon: people denying they wrote their own books.

The new standard plagiarism defense for professors authoring nonfiction is, "my grad students did it." The latest "victim" is the insufferable commentator/professor Lawrence Tribe and the newest manifestation of the problem is a full-time Harvard University plagiarism blog.

I mentioned a friend once asking a London grad school if professors would be appropriating his research; the answer came, "This is not the States, sir. We do our own research here." You can imagine how strongly, therefore, I disagree with law professor Glenn Reynolds when he says,

Getting together a bunch of research assistants and outsourcing a book to them, with the product of their work appearing under one's own name, isn't exactly immoral -- but it isn't scholarship, either.

For any person self-defined as a scholar, these are the most immoral acts I can imagine. This is a corruption so extreme as to completely negate the perpetrator's definition of life, work, and self.

Look at the sick-think being penned by this pathetic victim of the system, a Harvard student:

... he [Professor Ogletree] just got unlucky enough to have research assistants who accidentally messed up and screwed him over. This is bad for academia; it says bad things about the way people write books today.... I think [Dean] Velvel is right that Ogletree's assistants probably did a substantial deal more than assistants might do in a world with the highest standards of honesty and integrity. But I think Velvel's wrong to say that it means ... Ogletree wasn't competent and diligent without saying that it probably means everyone else isn't competent and diligent either, and Ogletree just got unlucky.

What was that, plain talking by a law student? Or the grotesque rationalizations of someone whose ethics have been damaged by the "norms" of Harvard research?

Plagiarism is a firing offense.

Plagiarists need public shaming.

Involuntary ghost writing is intellectual serfdom.

We knew we had a problem when McPherson's AHA colleagues publicly defended Doris Goodwin's "mistakes" and urged acceptance of her statement of non-apology. Now we have yet another PBS talking head - Tribe - scrutinized for plagiarism.

Would it not profit an editor or publisher to ask the author of a work to certify authorship of the work? If the plagiarism lawsuits would aim for the deeper pockets of the publisher, if the penalties and settlements imposed on publishers were stiff enough, we'd get a level of policing that purges nonfiction of both plagiarism and the secret labor of exploited grad students.

Monocacy documentary slated for release

The Battle of Monocacy documentary is a wrap and due out at Christmas.

"We try and get the human interest," Richards said. "We are covering the civilian situation at the time and the evacuation of Washington, D.C. They feared for their lives, it isn't strictly a war movie."

The company raised its half-a-million dollar budget by subscription and through private investors.

Calling all uniform specialists

If you are a Don Troiani-type ACW buff with a goodly reserve of uniform and accoutrements knowledge, here is a controversy you won't want to pass up.

Is the New Hampshire soldier in this monument dressed as a Rebel or as a Spanish-American War infantryman?

A couple of possibilities were missed by the controversialists: (1) a Union uniform with a slouch hat in lieu of kepi (2) An early-war regimental uniform.

What say ye?
NEWS | Re-enactment captures Shakers' Civil War compassion * Civil War-era diary printed * Lectures to address Civil War, Montpelier * Canadian city's Civil War ties to be honoured


Fallacies of abundance - conclusion

SATURDAY In lieu of the McClellan poetry feature normally posted on Saturdays, I thought I'd wrap up some thinking on Sears and the Lost Dispatch.
On Friday, I criticized Sears' argument that Lee did not know McClellan found the Lost Dispatch, Special Orders 191, based on my reading of Sears' Landscape Turned Red and Controversies and Commanders (he does not raise the subject in his McClellan biography.). I felt that no conclusion could be reached on this matter, that the meagre evidence was contradictory - that to reach a gratuitous conclusion and then build it into your narrative was a "fallacy of abundance."

After I made the point , a friend emailed "The Twisted Tale of the Lost Order" by Sears from North & South, Vol. 5, No. 7 (Oct., 2002), pages 54-65.

In Friday's postscript I misleadingly said that Sears had shifted his position in this article: actually, he has not. What he has done is present much more evidence on both sides of the question and try to deal with all the additional data presented so as to be able reach the same conclusion as previously.

This article puts him in the position of arguing away three explicit postwar statements by Lee that Stuart brought word that McClellan found the Lost Order. Overall, with the new information, his denial is somewhat less extravagant than before, but it is still superfluous and checkmated by contradictory sources.

I took some hours to outline the evidence referred to in Sears' three pieces, but it created an unbloglike list of dubious worth in amplifying this matter. Let me take the shortest section of my list, which is an outline of Sears' evidence and arguments listed in his essay in Controversies and Commanders. This is exhaustive in representing the views as set forth in that book:

(1) Sears says Lee received a (one?) report from Stuart that a civilian saw McClellan receive a paper, get excited, and say "Now I know what to do!" This was followed by HQ bustling. [Note: Harsh has identified two reports as received by Lee. There is no physical record remaining of these communiques.]

(2) Sears says Lee long after the fact mistakenly injected SO 191 into news of the civilian's report. He was a victim of hindsight and a bad memory. [This is Sears' surmise.]

(3) The spy himself, Sears says, could not have known McClellan received SO 191 because no Union soldier would tell such information to a civilian, particularly one from Maryland.

(4) Union discretion "evaporated" the next day, says Sears, when Union staff talked to the New York Herald, which then published news of the find in the morning edition of 9/15/62. [Sears allows for newspaper leaks but adamantly disallows the spy getting what the reporter got.]

(5) Lee did not see the news reports because he had "outrun" his Southen sources for Northern newspapers, Sears says. [Sears has not cited this surmise.]

(6) Lee's ADC, Marshall, says that Lee learned of the find from McClellan's report in March, '63. [We do not know which report Sears is referring to.]

This is the whole kit and kaboodle in an essay entitled "Last Words on the Lost Order" and I think it suffers from being published in hardback, where the publisher's editors have no ACW knowlege to ride down Sears' excesses and simplifications, nor to force him to confront all the data surrounding a controversy. To a trade publisher, Sears is the expert. The North & South article clearly benefits from placing Sears under knowledgeable supervision, and is therefore two or three times denser and richer that it would be had Sears been left to himself. (See his books on this topic if you disagree.)

So, Sears more reasonably argues his points from more sources. The question remains intractable, however. A little less so than in 1999, but to derive an opinion from this, convert that conclusion to "fact," and then to make that "fact" critical to your interpretation of events is still a fallacy.


Cherbourg - now on the ACW heritage trail

This is an interesting story:

The northern French port of Cherbourg on Thursday was declared the first official US Civil War site outside the United States, in honour of the spectacular naval battle off its shores in 1864.

Everybody wants our heritage tourists.
UPDATE: I'm currently topping four pages of outlined Sears positions and am becoming confused as to whether a clean point can be salvaged from this exercise. Will try to digest this and return to the subject tomorrow in lieu of Saturday's usual fare.

PREVIOUS POST: At about 5:00 pm. I'll take a tour of Sears' positions over the years ast to whether Lee knew of the discovery of his Lost Dispatch. Thanks for visiting.
SEPTEMBER BOOKS These books have been or will be published in September: Classic Civil War Stories: Unforgettable Tales about the War Between the States by Lisa Purcell * Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run 1861 by David Detzer * Fire on the Water: The USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama by James Gindlesperger * Gleam of Bayonets: The Battle of Antietam and Robert E. Lee's Maryland Campaign, September 1862 by James V. Murfin * Grand Old Man of Maine: Selected Letters of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 1865-1914 by Jeremiah E. Goulka * Great Maps of the Civil War: Pivotal Battles and Campaigns Featuring 32 Removable Maps by William J. Miller * In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 by Edward L. Ayers * Some titles may represent reprints. To be continued...


Fallacies of abundance

In our historic fallacies thread, we noticed Thomas H. Carpenter making faces at Robert Graves.

Carpenter is someone who looks at Greek pottery, mosaics, and all sorts of ancient bric a brac, in order to see how mythological story elements are depicted; by going beyond the standard texts this way he ends up with a much broader view of the content of mythic narratives.

He reads a study of myth by Robert Graves and finds with dismay that Graves has tied up all loose ends and filled in all gaps; Carpenter accurately notes that this activity seals off the reader from the truth.

In Civil War history the surest way to know you are in the presence of a Gravesian storyteller is to note the neatly tied knots and completely filled in gaps.

Consider the question of whether Robert E. Lee knew during the Maryland campaign that McClellan had found Lee's SO 191 ("the Lost Dispatch"). There are few sources that directly address the question. First, there is a report that Lee learned of the Union find the very evening of the discovery thanks to a tattling civilian. Second, there are reports that Lee learned of the find through McClellan's published Report at the latest or through his Congressional testimony publicized after the campaign.

These items are irreconcilable without additional evidence ... and the historian is in no way obliged to reconcile them. The adventurous can weigh the sources and set them against circumstantial considerations, but the prudent course here is to not know whether Lee knew.

Now, the storytelling of Stephen W. Sears admits of few loose ends and Sears has taken sides on this matter in every book he has ever published that touches on Maryland. Sears feels that Lee did not know and that the campaign could not have unfolded as it did if Lee knew.

When you attach this kind of unnecessary scaffolding to an available and solid factual structure, when you rivet it onto the narrative, that might be called a fallacy of abundance. It arises from a feeling that there are not enough facts and that we can make something like facts through well-founded speculation.

Why manufacture facts?

Because the historical personalities in Sears' books have not simply been demoted to dramatic characters, they are made method actors, whose motivation and psychology must constantly be in view to be understood by Sears' readers: Why is Lee behaving this way? What is McClellan's motivation at this point? Etc.

By supplying construed motives flowing from sweeping personality judgements, Sears presents Gravesian myths, all tidied up, all blocking our way to truth. He supplies abundances of speculative, unnecessary, pseudo-historical information in order to advance a narrative and heighten drama.

Another fallacy of abundance: both Sears and Bruce Catton, his editorial mentor at American Heritage magazine, make a great deal out of Lee reading the enemy's newspapers. In the information-starved front lines, everyone would read any newspapers available, of course, but Sears and Catton mention Lee's readings as noteworthy. In the role of Wise and Cunning Adversary, the Lee character is gaining Significant Advantage over his enemies through this Apparently Simple but Effective measure. The business of Lee reading newspapers is nothing but misplaced emphasis to create another story-advancing "fact." It is a fallacy of abundance.

A few years ago in the Savas periodical, Civil War Regiments, a discovery was announced in volume six, number two dedicated to the Maryland Campaign. Sears had already published an article in the glossies: "Last Words on the Lost Order." In "Last Words," anthologized in his Controversies and Commanders, Sears strongly defended his speculations about this business. ("It has to be" and "I cannot imagine otherwise" convey the tone of the material.)

In the Savas publication, attorney Scott Sherlock presented "The Lost Order and the Press," announcing that the Lost Dispatch was reported in Union hands on the second page of the Washington Star newspaper on September 15, 1862. On the next day, the Star's item was picked up and run verbatim by the Baltimore Sun.

Knowing what Sears has invested in this, familiar with the Catton/Sears Lee-reads-newspapers factoid, Sherlock spends the bulk of his article anticipating the bad effects of his find on Sears' storylines instead of analyzing historic consequences and meaning.

Sherlock spends hundreds of words actually downplaying his own discovery to dissuade readers, trained in Lee's newspaper habits, from concluding Lee read the Star or Sun before Antietam. Sherlock observes: "As Stephen Sears pointed out, if General Lee had been aware his orders were in the hands of the federals, he never would have fought at Antietam."

Abundantly clear, Scott. Sears has spoken on this; you wish his to be the last word.

To justify discovering and publishing this information in defiance of conclusions already reached, Sherlock invites us to savor a literary delicacy - irony. "... the newspaper reading public of Washington and Baltimore knew critical information about a Federal intelligence coup profoundly pertinent to the Confederate military leadership that General Lee was not aware of as he prepared for battle..."

Sears' vigorously defended, extra-historical notions are not disturbed, and we get a tidbit that enriches a story we love. A point of historic interest is converted to emotionally satisfying fluff. Another loose end is dealt with. The reading public is served.

Postscript: A reader has brought to my attention since this was posted that Sears wrote another article on the Lost Order in 2002 slightly modifying earlier positions. I plan a review of his position on the matter of Lee knowing.

Civil War Adventure Camp

I understand that re-enactment is driving at something experiential, the deeper the better. But why does anyone need a drive-through re-enactment "experience"? One that lasts from 3:00 pm until 10:00 am, uniform provided?

... Civil War Adventure Camp at Pamplin Historical Park will give visitors a unique feel for the conflict. It will do that by having them live it as a soldier for a day, in an encampment where the mattresses are lumpy, the evening stew is served from an iron kettle and the fire in the stove may be cold, come morning.

As an ex-infantryman, I don't go camping; I don't understand camping on any level, except that it has to be voluntary to be enjoyed. Pamplin doesn't expect many volunteers. The victims of this "living history" camping adventure will be draftees - "The park, which hasn't publicly announced the new attraction, expects that schools and Scout troops will make up a large part of the Adventure Camp participants." Shame on A. Wilson Greene.

Also in the works for the park: a new, edgy movie that will try to accurately portray the savagery of war...

Read about the whole, misguided project.
NEWS Warring soldiers rest together in cemetery * New sign reveals true Civil War story behind cemetery * Wilson's Creek battlefield to have buffer against development * Civil War relics bound for Gettysburg * Masons rebuild wall at Fredericksburg


Aggregating reductive falllacies

We've seen how certain reductive fallacies become collapsed into very compact statements or images, giving as possible examples, "Grant was apolitical," "Grant didn't bother about what the enemy was doing," and "Grant had a fine working relationship with Lincoln." We've noticed that arrays of these fallacies can then be held in specially designed containers, like "Lincoln finds a general."

We now want to give a name to this kind of container: the master narrative.

Rhetoritician Andrew Cline uses this concept to explain what happens in political coverage:

The news media cover the news in terms of "stories" that must have a beginning, middle, and end--in other words, a plot with antagonists and protagonists. Much of what happens in our world, however, is ambiguous. The news media apply a narrative structure to ambiguous events suggesting that these events are easily understood and have clear cause-and-effect relationships.

Think of pop history while you let that sink in.

Good storytelling requires drama, and so this bias often leads journalists to add, or seek out, drama for the sake of drama. Controversy creates drama.

And drama requires good guys and bad guys.

... narrative bias leads many journalists to create, and then hang on to, master narratives--set story lines with set characters who act in set ways. Once a master narrative has been set, it is very difficult to get journalists to see that their narrative is simply one way, and not necessarily the correct or best way, of viewing people and events.

Substitute "pop historian" for "journalist" and the statement applies as well. This is also helpful.

No matter the source, a master narrative is generally constructed this way:

* A pattern of behavior is noticed.
* The behavior is characterized, i.e. given a name.
* The character is portrayed as part of a plot, i.e. a set course of actions, consistent with the character, beginning with a central tension and leading to a climax and denouement.
* The [actor's] words and actions are analyzed by comparing them to the character and the plot.

Thus the narrative defines the [actor].

In the excerpt above, I replaced the word "candidate" with "actor." The dynamic is the same. And "Lincoln finds a general" is a master narrative.

Fully developed master narratives address every aspect of the ACW; these are policed by the marketplace, by the prize committees, by authors, and by societies like the AHA.

I said yesterday that in new studies disclosing new discoveries, some authors come to grief attempting to integrate their anomalous material into the master narratives of their fields. Now that we have a name for the fallacy container, we'll get into specific examples of this.

Software for social network analysis

Wretchard, over at the Belmont Club, has a good post today on social network analysis freeware. Highly useful in my mappings of political patronage to ACW military careers (currently all on index cards); you'll find it helpful also for literary detective work, such as tracking themes from Republican editorials from the 1860s as they resurface as original insights in today's prize-winning nonfiction.

You could even work it to construct orders of battle, detachings and rejoinings.

Here's one linked list of products. I'll let you know the software I select.

CVBT praises Tricord deal at Chancellorsville

The president of Central Virginia Battlefields Trust has a letter in the Fredericksburg paper today commending Civil War Preservation Trust for its deal with Tricord on land next to Chancellorsville.

On a lot of levels, CVBT is an admirable organization, one which CWPT needs to emulate: it publishes its members' names as they join the organization; it publishes a newsletter and makes it available online; it lists transaction specifics where it takes action on properties; and it invites feedback. CVBT celebrates transparency, unlike the secrecy nurtured at CWPT. Look at these wonderful records maintained on the Internet: here's the list of CVBT deals, here is an example. It would take a lawsuit to get this kind of information onto CWPT's website. I like this, too:

We (CVBT) have always prided ourselves on being able to claim that any donations sent to us would be used for dirt and grass, not paid staff.

Could they be talking about another organization, here?

All this to say how disappointed I am in CVBT's letter to the editor. The notion that "this hallowed ground so much a part of our history and heritage, was saved, forever, thank you," is both misleading and erroneous. The idea that CWPT "simply refused to give up their dream of saving this hallowed ground," follows from the CWPT's error of refusing to buy it in the first place, then antagonizing the seller, and finally paying covenant money to help a developer buy it for nursing home purposes.

CVBT - what nice people. And how wrong they are in this matter.
NEWS | Man offers plan to save Resaca Town Hall * Vandals deface CSS Neuse II * Indians recall their Confederate connections


Civil War fallacies: Fischer, Sebba, Fellini, Carpenter

Continuing this thread, we have David Hackett Fischer, in Historians’ Fallacies, cautioning us against the reductive fallacy, which he relates to temporal/causal sequences that have been unduly compressed: The kingdom was lost for want of a horseshoe nail, etc.

Then we have Gregor Sebba telling us, in an essay, that historical myths are reductions of historical reality - not necessarily causal or temporal - into a few facts that "everyone knows" – that they are unassailable because the few facts they rest on are solid, and that this distortive compression has the additional benefit of being "emotionally satisfying."

Which took us into pop history, where job one is satisfying emotions through storytelling. Remember how the plagiarist Stephen Ambrose confronted an accuser demanding sources: "I tell stories!" (Translation: What am I supposed to be, a scholar or something?) Federico Fellini says "I don’t think that anyone who has chosen this profession [filmmaking] or who has a calling to tell stories can distinguish it [truth]. From the moment he creates his own little universe, that creation is absolute."

It is made absolute in Civil War history by setting up mutually-reinforcing Sebba type myths arranged into patterns that make sense only as literature. I gave as examples of possible Civil War myths some summary judgements about Grant: he was apolitical; he was unconcerned about enemy capabilities; he had a fine working relationship with Lincoln. One year ago in this blog I noted how great strings of such myths can then be arranged into incredibly compact formulas that act as a tokens for large streams of argument, e.g. "Lincoln finds a general."

The expression "Lincoln finds a general" is meaningless historically but voicing it triggers images of hirings and firings, defeats, victories, disappointments, and eventual triumph. It triggers a replay of a particular line of argument that has been accepted as truth. It's almost as dense a term as "Trinitarian theology." How historians get to Lincoln finding a general is nicely explained in another context. An anthropologist named Carpenter, reviewing a Robert Graves work, once made these points about Graves’ pop-history tendencies [emphasis added]:

Graves, not incidentally, has "corrected" Greek mythology in two volumes, eliminating contradictions, adding omissions, arranging lineally, and generally "straightening out." What I am getting at is that they [such as Graves] first turn these myths into what they are not; by arranging symbols [read Sebba’s myths] they create "content": then they pigeonhole these various "contents" and come up with "archetypes."

I read this passage with the best-selling ACW "historians" in mind, of course, and fell out of my chair; it’s from a McLuhan essay, of all things. Carpenter sums up:

… they [such as Graves] direct their attention to a most important problem and … build humorless, watertight systems … that instead of answering the problem or even illuminating it, block access to it.

In ACW history, the blocking has been terrible and even in new studies disclosing new discoveries we find self-censorship as the authors attempt to integrate their anomalous material into the generally accepted interpretive framework. This week and next I’ll give some extraordinary examples of this self-blocking.

Carpenter’s builders of airtight historical systems are more about the art of literature than information discovery. Fellini, again:

Art, on the other hand, is something that comforts us, reassures us, tells us something about life in terms that are extremely protective.

Extremely protective of the readers’ sensibilities - without "Lincoln finds a general," we have an ugly, chaotic string of events, not to mention good men who died in vain. And "Lincoln finds a general" is just one container for hundreds of reductive fallacies. There are many more containers besides.

Franklin Battlefield: the shaming argument

More from the struggle to convert a country club to battlefield land:

Until now Franklin’s lack of preservation and appreciation of its history has been a blemish on its very soul. Until now. The frustration of years of being ignored and overlooked in the name of rampant development has been bottled up and is now surfacing. It only took a spark. It only took one city official to show some interest, some understanding of what is at stake for a battlefield park to happen. And happen it will.
NEWS | NC man tries to save Confederate sword forge * Grant to enable OU study of Underground Railroad * Franklin Battlefield Association invites ironclad to re-enactment benefit * Dartmouth to honor ACW MOH winner


The Grant revival continues

.. with two new books, each an "appreciation," each under 200 pages.

I think this year's production (add Bonekemper and others) is outstripping demand, rather like the crush of Lewis and Clark books.

If you use the search term popularity tool at Overture, and enter Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, you'll see what I mean.

The Lee/Grant search ratio now, at about three to one, is way down from five years ago, when it was easily six or seven to one, so things are looking up for Grant in the popular culture.

Nevertheless, you don't want to exhaust an early, tentative public taste in the subject with low-content, high style, non-fiction calories.

The academy remembers Fischer's Fallacies

There was a funny reference on HNN to a 1970 book we've been talking about here for the last week:

...historians will treat Hoffer's book much like our mentors treated David Hackett Fischer's Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. We will glance at the packaging, take it to our offices, close the door behind us, and check to see if our names appear in the index.

We'll return to reductive fallacies and ACW mythmaking tomorrow.

Historiography is back in the news

Crimes against history are publishing news this season (tip of the hat to History News Network).

The Ambrose, Goodwin et al cases will be revisited in an October release, Scandals and Scoundrels: Seven Cases That Shook the Academy. It's by a history professor who

... makes the case that, contrary to popular imagery, we're not living in particularly deviant times and there is no fundamental flaw permeating a decadent academy. Instead, Robin argues, latter-day scandals are media events, tailored for the melodramatic and sensationalist formats of mass mediation. In addition, the contentious and uninhibited nature of cyberdebates fosters acrimonious exposure.

It's just a media circus. People doing their job are suddenly whacked with acrimonious exposure.

Off in Australia, the big story in histoiography over the last 18 months has been a new book that focuses on sloppy, ideologically motivated aboriginal studies by establishment historians. "How could anyone survive when the mass media was in on the [debunking] conspiracy?" was discussed at a recent historians' conference in Newcastle.

Another October release looks fairly interesting: Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Frauds - American History From Bancroft And Parkman To Ambrose, Bellisles, Ellis, and Goodwin. The publisher's description suggests that some history writers are victims of "the broader context of the professionalization of history, the battle between academic and popular history, and professional standards."

Author Peter Hoffer is "a member of the American Historical Association's professional division, which audits the standards of academic historians' work." That should set off sirens and lights. The AHA is not only the pop history haven founded by Allan Nevins as a reaction to "dry-as-dust-history," it was also home to disgraced pop mega-star Goodwin.

Let me be crude: in a professional body dedicated to popularizing historical nonfiction, the standards are not going to be that high. I speak as an experienced reader of good books. If you wave your position on an AHA standards body as a credential to comment on the misdeeds of your dear AHA colleagues, allow me a laugh or two.

Professor Richard Jensen looked at the AHA's guidelines on plagiarism and found that Ambrose had not violated even one of Peter Hoffer's standards. This points to a standards deficit, whether Jensen is correct or not.

Meanwhile, it appears that Hoffer is not vetting the press releases of the AHA's president James McPherson. Here is his recent intemperate, almost blog-like outburst against Bush and Rice for using the term "revisionist historian" publicly in a caustic manner. The tone of the piece is partisan, defensive and completely unworthy of a professional society of historians.

But that tone is one we saw at AHA during the Goodwin/Ambrose flap; it's eating up the Australian HA; and it makes me suspicious of two books on a topic necessary and timely.

Chancellorsville: do the math

Sorry to say, no new details of the Chancellorsville/Mullins deal have emerged in stories over the weekend.

Meanwhile, newspaper editorialists, not having analyzed the deal correctly, rummage through stocks of cliches for something bright and cheerful to sew onto this disaster:

From NC: On Wednesday, another victory was forged over the battlefield at Chancellorsville ... While the agreement wasn't the crushing defeat to developers for which the preservation trust had hoped, at least it was both a moral and tangible victory. [...]

From VA: Mr. Hagan, backed by his associates, helped broker an unprecedented deal among preservationists and developers, traditional co-antagonists, that has accurately been called "win-win-win." [...] Developer Tricord Homes, which aims to sell the 140 acres to the trust, gains in the long term... Forward, march.

Note the basic error: Tricord is not selling 140 acres to CWPT, it's selling a restrictive covenant. Here is another piece, this one original reporting, that makes the same mistake: "Under proposed terms of the agreement, the trust will pay a developer, Tricord Homes of Spotsylvania, $3 million for 140 acres near Fredericksburg."

As the CWPT has said in its own press release, this is "a proposal to preserve 140 acres" and "an agreement that permits Tricord to build age-restricted housing on 87 acres of the farm in exchange for the protection of the remaining 140 acres. CWPT is contributing $3 million toward the purchase of the preserved land."

Again, CWPT is helping a developer buy battlefield land to build upon it. It will not own anything in this deal.

In talking to the press about land owner John Mullins, and how talks broke down and how unreasonable the man is, "preservationists" (CWPT speaking off the record) often cite Mullins' $40 million asking price for his 800 acres. This is given out as a show-stopper: "Preservationists said Mullins at one point asked for $40 million for the entire 800-acre farm, which was assessed at $5.6 million."

The quote appears in story after story: "preservationists continued trying to buy the farm to stop development but said they were thwarted when owner John Mullins demanded $40 million for land assessed at about $5.6 million."

But do the math.

(1) Tricord and CWPT have teamed up to pay $12.5 million for 227 acres.
(2) Toll brothers bought 570 acres for an undisclosed amount. If Toll Brothers paid the same per acre amount as Tricord, that would be over $30 million.
(3) There are at least three acres in over 800 not yet accounted for in news stories, possibly not sold.

Mullins' $40 million asking price appears to be less than what he has made so far. CWPT, bargain hunting for battlefields, estimated the deal at something over $5.6 million - an error of gross technical miscalculation. The bargain was in paying $40 million.

If I were CWPT, I would keep very quiet about walking away from a discounted asking price and then coming back to pay $3 million for a mere easement on a fraction of the land.

Franklin battlefield preservers tell their story

Here's the link to their website.
NEWS | Civil War nurse honored * "Regimental band" gives concert in Hagerstown * Anesthesiologist practices Civil War medicine


McClellan poetry: Melville's paean

SATURDAY | After a quiet period of almost 10 years, Herman Melville was moved, by the fall of Richmond, to pen his poetic impressions of the war into a book. He is said to have written to please himself mainly; the reviews were bad and only recently has his poetry been regarded as "epic" and comparable to Whitman's.

Melville was a certain kind of conservative, drawn to the other outstanding conservative intellectual in letters at that time, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and sympathetic, perhaps, to McClellan. If not drawn to his politics per se, Melville might have at least noticed the literary quality of the tragedy of his wartime career.

Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War remembered Ball's Bluff, Malvern Hill, and emphatically Antietam. Despite the clamor against McClellan, Antietam was not, even by 1865, demoted to a draw in popular imagination, nor was McClellan in Melville's view, guilty of giving up a total annihilating victory against Robert E. Lee.

In his various Battle Pieces, there is a persistent and deep melancholy. "The Victor of Antietam" is excepted, being something like a paean. It is the only piece in his collection devoted to a victorious general, the "unprosperously heroic" McClellan.

The Victor of Antietam

When tempest winnowed grain from bran;
And men were looking for a man,
Authority called you to the van,
Along the line the plaudit ran,
As later when Antietam's cheers began.

Through storm-cloud and eclipse must move
Each Cause and Man, dear to the stars and Jove;
Nor always can the wisest tell
Deferred fulfillment from the hopeless knell—
The struggler from the floundering ne'er-do-well.
A pall-cloth on the Seven Days fell,
Unprosperously heroical!
Who could Antietam's wreath foretell?

Authority called you; then, in mist
And loom of jeopardy – dismissed.
But staring peril soon appalled;
You, the Discarded, she recalled—
Recalled you, nor endured delay;
And forth you rode upon a blasted way,
Arrayed Pope's rout, and routed Lee's array,
Your tent was choked with captured flags that day,
Antietam was a telling fray.

Recalled you; and she heard your drum
Advancing through the glastly gloom.
You manned the wall, you propped the Dome,
You stormed the powerful stormer home,
Antietam's cannon long shall boom.

At Alexandria, left alone,
Your veterans sent from you, and thrown
To fields and fortunes all unknown—
What thoughts were yours, revealed to none,
While faithful still you labored on—
Hearing the far Manassas gun!
Only Antietam could atone.

You fought in the front (an evil day,
The fore-front of the first assay;
The Cause went sounding, groped its way;
the leadsmen quarrelled in the bay;
Quills thwarted swords; divided sway;
The rebel flushed in his lusty May:
You did your best, as in you lay,
Antietam's sun-burst sheds a ray.

Your medalled soldiers love you well,
Name your name, their true hearts s well;
With you they shook dread Stonewall's spell, [6]
With you they braved the blended yell
Of rebel and maligner fell;
With you in shame or fame they dwell,
Antietam-braves a brave can tell.

And when your comrades (now so few,
Such ravage in deep files they rue)
Meet round the board, and sadly view
The empty places; tribute due
They render to the dead – and you!
Absent and silent o'er the blue;
The one-armed lift the wine to you,
And great Antietam's cheers renew.


Fischer and reductive fallacies

Over the past two days we've seen David Hackett Fischer try to define the reductive fallacy in history as a series of lineal, contingent events that are over compressed or otherwise abused to produce an erroneous conclusion.

I happened to be reading Gregor Sebba this weekend, an essay of his directed at college students written a few years before Fischer's. He was talking about something he called "historical myth" - it is actually something quite specific, a reductive fallacy in another guise.

Moreover it is not necessarily linear or dependent on contingent events. Sebba says "historical myth" is an understanding "reasonably consistent with the facts" although these facts "are but part of the very large picture," and that picture is not part of the myth. Hence my characterization "reductive." Myth thrives on a reader's "inability to see - much less to analyze, least of all to understand ... historical development." Historical myth satisfies the desire for a view of history in which the "unchallengeable facts" are not challeneged by other, irreconcilable facts.

This is tremendously close to the predicament of Civil War history, where a master narrative has been composed of literary elements which are inherently non-linear and even ahistorical and which can be combined in different ways to produce "history" that "everyone knows" and which is "unchallengeable." In the first year of this blog I spent some time on the myth "Lincoln finds a general," which is reductive, ahistorical, and yet to many readers "unarguable."

Take a few "facts" for example.

"Fact:" U.S. Grant had little use for intelligence and felt the enemy should worry about him, not vice versa. (Note that this is a conclusion that informs interpretations; alternatives are explored in a new book that argues the contrary.

"Fact:" Lincoln and Grant had a great working partnership after a string of generals disappointed the president. (Another qualitative judgement, non-linear, that informs interpretation. Alternative: Lincoln and Grant had a stressful relationship that replicated many of Lincoln's problems with earlier generals.)

"Fact:" Grant was apolitical, which made it easier for him to work with Lincoln. (Yet another conclusion that can be read into unfolding narratives. Alternative: Grant had extremely keen political sensibilities and talents and he used them.)

You can imagine, then, even this meager supply of just three "facts" could form the basis for reading and interpreting wide-ranging and complex events to produce similar conclusions. The spectacle we encounter, as long-time, serious readers is watching waves of the newly curious, launched into this field through contingency-rich movies or novels, hungry for Gettysburg-like what-if speculation, dashed against the deterministic, reductive work of Nevins, Catton and McPherson and their followers.

Those readers who stay in the field after exposure to these dominant treatments are rewarded - well rewarded - with a view of the war that is both unchallengeable and rich in reductive, non-historical literary elements that can be endlessly recombined to generate self-reinforcing interpretations no matter what bit of the ACW is being read.

Some readers may be thinking I'm off-topic, that this is a monologue about something that might better be called "the fallacy of the self-reinforcing interpretation." But building block conclusions, such as "Grant was apolitical" represent individual reductive fallacies arrived at much as was "The kingdom was lost for want of a nail in a horse's shoe." Put rafts of these reductive fallacies together in "approved assortments" and you are looking at the most successful books in Civil War publishing.

The summary Sebba gives for his "myth" covers Fischer's reductive fallacy as well:

Historical myth, then, is an incomplete historical rationalization that resists rational criticism because it is emotionally satisfactory and because the few historical facts it uses are accepted as a guarantee of its historical truth.

The construction of reductive, incomplete, emotionally satisfying rationalizations has dominated Civil War nonfiction for over 50 years.

If in Shepherdstown, WV tonight...

Tonight in Reynolds Hall on the Shepherd Campus a musical program of Civil War music begins at 8 pm, followed by a wine reception at the Conrad Shindler House... this to celebrate a new Mark A. Snell and Bruce C. Kelley book, Bugle Resounding: Music and Musicians of the Civil War Era.

More details on Chancellorsville deal

The Fredericksburg daily has done some additional, original reporting on CWPT's Chancellorsville land deal to supplement the material that went out on the AP wires yesterday.

It confirms that $3 million of developer Tricord's final $12.5 million purchase price being paid to landowner John Mullins comes from contributors to Civil War Preservation Trust. An amazing turn of events, this, the purchase of battlefield land for nursing home development using donations from people trying to save battlefield lands. Again, according to its most recent tax filings available to the public, CWPT had $15 million plus in assets from which to pay Mullins' his $12.5 million price for the Tricord land - to buy all the land directly from him, instead of paying Tricord $3 million to help them buy it and then getting a restrictive covenant on part of the land bought with CWPT money.

The new article says, "Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Hagan, who played a key role in brokering the deal, would like to see a museum on the property."

I don't think this gentleman understands restrictive covenants: the land belongs to Tricord and is private property. This confusion extends to the writer of this article who imagines "Preservationists will now control the fate" of the underlying property.

The extravagant press releases issued by CWPT seem to have taken root in the imaginations of reporters and officials.
SEPTEMBER BOOKS | Published this month .... Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories by Ron Coddington * Brothers One and All: Esprit de Corps in a Civil War Regiment by Mark H. Dunkelman, T. Michael Parrish (Editor) * Civil War and Revolution on the Rio Grande Frontier: A Narrative and Photographic History by Jerry D. Thompson, Lawrence T. Jones * Civil War St. Louis by Louis S. Gerteis * Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6 1864 by Gordon C. Rhea * This list may include reissues. More September books next week.


Fischer on the Lost Order, part 2

In his 1970 book, Historians’ Fallacies, David Hackett Fischer tried to classify the error represented by the old notion of a kingdom being lost for want of a nail in a horse's shoe.

He begins his essay explaining that all history involves the construction of causal strings and that falsity is more a matter of degree than anything else - a question of excess, really. He gives as an excessive example Churchill's remark (and it was only a comment) that "A quarter million persons died of that monkey's bite," referring to a king dying from a bite and thereby giving way to a successor who started a war.

Personally, that does not look like an extended causal string to me. Oddly enough, Fischer gives this expanded Civil War example as a more positive case:

[Lee's Lost Dispatch entered] the hands of the Union general George B. McClellan. A few Union special orders were then promptly issued, and there was a fight which the North called Antietam and the South called Sharpsburg ... It was the bloodiest day of the war, and a black one for Confederate arms. When it was over, General Lee was forced to retreat into Virginia. It is often said that Antietam was the decisive battle of the war. Many historians believe that it ended all chance of European intervention... Some are also of the opinion that this victory permitted Abraham Lincoln to gain a critical measure of control over his domestic opposition. Moreover, a few days after the engagement, Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. 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? The answer depends upon the causal model which is at hand. There is, I think, no prima facie case against the validity of such a causal interpretation, if it is understood that everything depends upon the acceptance of a contingent-series model of causality, and if the question at hand can be fairly and fully met with such an explanation.

These are interesting arguments, and the problem is interestingly named by Fischer "the reductive fallacy." Note that the type of contingency here depends on connections between activities or events.

There's a different kind of reductive fallacy much more prevalent in Civil War history that I want to talk about tomorrow.

Winfield Scott: chess player and sore loser

I've mentioned before that in my generation, every chess-playing kid studied the games of New Orleans phenomenon Paul Morphy and watched the rising career of Bobby Fischer. The Civil War ended Morphy's playing.

I had no idea that Winfield Scott had ever played Paul Morphy. (Thank you, Internet.) He did not play well enough to make the list of notable Morphy opponents and according to this, he reacted badly to being beaten by a nine-year-old.

Wonder if "Old Fuss 'n' Feathers," a physical giant, scared the child with his demonstrations of wrath...

Chancellorsville deal made with Tricord

The Associated Press is reporting that a deal has been struck in Chancellorsville between Civil War Preservation Trust and local developer Tricord. A long version of the story is here; this link gives a short version but contains an aerial photo of the surrounding mess. CWPT's press release is here. A letter from CWPT to the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation gives additional information.

The outline of the deal is as described previously in this blog. CWPT is contributing $3 million dollars to Tricord to help Tricord buy what CWPT calls "core battlefield land." In addition, Tricord will receive special government permission to build higher density housing than the law currently allows (a nursing home or something like it is planned). In exchange for CWPT's $3 million and the government's higher density zoning, Tricord will "set aside" 140 of its acres (no details), "preserving" it from additional construction. The acres will remain in Tricord's possession.

CWPT's comments on the deal are worth parsing. From the release:

"Two years ago, few believed that the Mullins Farm could be saved," remarked CWPT President James Lighthizer. "Now, thanks to this unusual partnership, an irreplaceable part of Chancellorsville Battlefield will be protected for future generations of Americans. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the most significant battlefield preservation victory in a decade."

Two years ago, CWPT antagonized the seller by mobilizing public opinion prior to opening land price negotiations. CWPT might have bought outright the entire tract of land ("Mullins farm") if it had behaved prudently and negotiated a market price (CWPT holds over $15 million in assets, according to its IRS tax filings, and has an income stream of millions per year). Instead, we now have two projects going up on that land, on what CWPT calls "core" battlefield. The first is a done deal - Toll Brothers residences. The second development project - Tricord's - will be partially financed with CWPT's own $3 million dollars, if the county board of supervisors approves the deal. CWPT is paying Tricord to put high-density housing up in exchange for preserving some land from additional new construction. More from the CWPT release:

"Tricord is able to build quality housing for seniors, the county is getting open space for its citizens, and preservationists are getting a battlefield of enormous historic significance."

Absolutely no details for this set-aside (undeveloped) land have been announced, so one cannot say "preservationists are getting a battlefield." It could be that nursing home residents are getting a lawn. And the idea of CWPT helping finance "quality housing for seniors" on battlefield land is quite an interesting twist on their public charter, one that their members need to consider very carefully before making another donation to this group. From the CWPT release:

"Tricord recognized early on that preserving the battlefield was the path, not the obstacle, to a deal at the Mullins Farm," [CWPT] stated.

This suggests to me again that Tricord could not have built on battlefield land without the financial help of CWPT, nor without CWPT's influence over the zoning board. Another clue comes from CWPT's letter to Spotsylvania preservationists:

Once Tricord learned about the historic significance of the Mullins Farm, they became a enthusiastic partner in our efforts, as eager as the preservation community to see the most historic parts of the farm protected.

They saw that they could receive $3 million dollars and get a rezoning to enable them to construct facilities on expensive battlefield land. They couldn't have done it without CWPT, is how I read that passage.

Meanwhile, in the history department, we seem to have some ambiguity about "core" battlefield land. From the AP:

Although the 140 acres are outside the boundaries of Chancellorsville National Battlefield, preservationists say parts of it are nonetheless historically significant. [...] Russell Smith, the park's superintendent, said Tuesday the land provides "a green gateway to the battlefield."

Could lukewarm historic significance provide the key to understanding this half-cocked preservation push?
NEWS Civil War documentary will be shot in Hagerstown * Battle of Atlanta re-enactment canceled * Tricord and CWPT reach deal over Chancellorsville Battlefield


Fischer on the Lost Order and historical contingency

Determinism versus contingency. This is not something we worry about very much in the field of ACW studies because this is one arena in which you expect a lot of contingency historians. They seem to drift in on the waves of “what if.” The determinists, few as they are, cluster at the “outcome of the war” level.

Or do they?

In the aggregate of events that are named, classified, and stored in memory as battles, the fun for an ACW buff is isolating the events to a level of granularity where one event can be identified as the winning or losing moment. The assumption is one of multiple possible outcomes up to that point.

And at that point, this harmless contingency analysis crosses a dangerous line: a search for discovery of the irreversible point, the point that determines an outcome, regardless of later developments.

In his 1970 book, Historians’ Fallacies, David Hackett Fischer called this the reductive fallacy and illustrated it with the classic example of the "legendary battle that was lost for the want of a horseshoe nail." He also develops the loss of Lee’s Special Orders 191 to illustrate this fallacy.

More on which tomorrow.

3D map for battle analysis

This looks like an interesting product that can do a lot of good at ACW battlefield centers. It's not clear whether the item is already deployed at any. This author says he saw Sharpsburg displayed via such a 3D map, but the company is rather close-mouthed, as you can see from their website.

Civil War publishing put in the shade

Civil War publishing, famous for being prolific, may be outdone this year by a strange publishing frenzy for Lewis and Clark. And for their dog, himself subject of five titles this year. Meanwhile, no one is buying these books.

Franklin Battlefield: a defender speaks up

There is a fine new - perhaps even inspiring - letter in defense of Franklin battlefield plans from a "mere" Civil war buff. Note this part, which seems to make discussion moot:

In reference to the current efforts to purchase the Country Club of Franklin, one member has suggested current club owner Ron Heller is bluffing when he says he will sell the land to a developer in two years. People like Heller do not bluff on business deals, even if history is something that is close to their heart.

In failing to adequately defend and explain their plans, by leaving the best public communications to "mere" buffs, the preservationists and their allies in government are sowing the seeds for permanent future discord over what is really a fait accompli.

The public handling of this battlefield acquisition has been a disaster. It is past time for damage control.

James K. Polk has his fans

And they are celebrating the centennial of his monument. Not enough Polk events to commemorate, perhaps.
NEWS Dixie governors discuss tourism as 'nonexportable' industry * Shiloh veteran's Civil War memoirs to be auctioned on Internet * Carradine's Gettysburg material to air on PBS


Damn those grad students!

A Harvard Law School (HLS) professor admitted that six paragraphs in his newest book came almost verbatim from another professor’s work, in a mistake he attributes to two assistants.

ACW authors, on the other hand, tend to write their own stuff. More from Harvard Law School:

Bok told the Boston Globe last Thursday that the use of Balkin’s material appeared to be an accident, partially caused by publisher W.W. Norton’s insistence on a “very tight deadline.”

Grad students and publishers' deadlines, my, my. Which reminds me: about 25 years ago, an American friend was interviewing for a graduate program in War Studies at a school in London.

Friend: Are your professors going to use my research to further their own reputations?
Administrator: This is not the States, sir. We do our own research here.

Here's the story.

Briton combines football with ACW spoof

For a Briton to tackle two American institutions in a single satire seems risky:

Sony has come up with a playstation game called Gettysburg Gridiron. ... For starters, Southern QB Robert E Lee, regardless of instructions, will go down the middle.

Humor, unlike love, is not an international language.

Monuments of other people's civil wars: Mostar

We don't usually break for non-American civil war news, but as there is so much trouble with the forms of American memorial, it might be encouraging to take note of other people with the same problem.

In Mostar, in the former Yugoslavia, Croats and Muslims tried to settle on a unifying symbol, a monument to peace. A 4,000 pound sterling (cost) bronze statue will be erected to Bruce Lee. "Lee was chosen over rival nominees, including the Pope and Mahatma Gandhi."

Does this set a useful precedent in Virginia for all things named "Lee"?
NEWS Pharmacist becomes Civil War surgeon on weekends * Fnord hits ACW monument in Portland * Mason and Dixon remembered *


Franklin Battlefield: Pizza Hut defenders deploy

The fix is in, but forces futiley opposing the creation of Franklin Battlefield are still sounding off:

... my son Frank works at the Pizza Hut on Columbia Avenue. He has been delivering pizza for them while working his way through college. Thank you goes out to the Pizza Hut for providing work for him, as well. Oh no, don’t tell me the mayor wants to tear it down!

(The threat, so far has been to the golf course, but defenders of the country club have pointed to the injustice of allowing Pizza Hut - on real battlefield land - to stand.)

The comments section for letters on this newspaper's site is finally active after two quiet weeks:

When will the Mayor and Board of Aldermen begin to listen to the citizens?

And this:

[Preservationists] all are toasting "fine wines and libations", and eating salmon puffs [at fund raisers].

Jesse James: criminal or victim of the ACW?

Jesse James attracts tourists in Missouri:

Townspeople don’t condone criminals, says Tison, but many sympathize with the Confederate raiders-turned outlaws. “Jesse was a product of his times,” she says. “He became how he was because of the Civil War.”

There's quite an elaboration on this theme in "Ride with the Devil," although I don't recall whether James was a character in this 1999 film.
NEWS Virginia Military Institute seniors retrace Civil War path * ACW soldier honored in Hero, PA * Williamsburg's Civil War years ACW years remembered


McClellan Poetry: Barbara Fritchie

SATURDAY The most famous verse of the Maryland campaign, especially for the older generation of reader, is John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "Barbara Fritchie."

Some history behind the poem is here and makes the point that Whittier was fooled by a tale circulating immediately following events. His poem, though not historically accurate, was immensely popular. (There was also a popular play on the subject by Clyde Fitch.)

There are two kinds of Fritchie houses in Frederick: commercial and "historic." Unfortunately one has no more reality that the other, the historic unit having been "created" in 1927 for heritage tourism purposes.

Whittier was an avid abolitionist with some personal antipathy toward McClellan, but his imagined Fritchie events well captures the tension that would be released in jubilation during McClellan's entry into the city a few days aftter the imagined confrontation with Jackson. It provides a fanciful counterpoint for a real display of patriotism.

For all the extravagant emotion attending McClellan's entry into Frederick, the townsmen remembered the day by naming an alley after him. It's not a bad alley, but it's not much of a remembrance either. Maybe it started off as a boulevard and then shrunk over time.

On the edge of town, some suburban developer seems to have given name to "McClellan Drive," a reminder of vestigial Union sentiments post-Barbara Fritchie.


The second battle of Chancellorsville

It may be worth taking a little walk through the Chancellorsville battlefield mess as there is now a lull in the conflict.

The story begins with county planners allowing for rapid commercial and residential growth in their jurisdiction over a number of years. As a popular backlash begins to form against these policies, a local would-be-developer and Spotsylvania funeral director, John Mullins, gives up on his own development plans and begins to sell off parcels of land he has accumulated over the years. This is the so-called "Mullins Farm." Some of the land is Chancellorsville battleground.

Mullins becomes the lightning rod for anti-growth sentiment. A sympathetic letter writer makes these important points:

"… one would think that John Mullins had invented growth in Spotsylvania. […] Mullins is not responsible for the unrealistic growth approved by past and present boards," and "No one should have to go through what the Mullins' family has with regard to property they own and wish to sell."

Have a look at this, which sets the stage.

Civil War Preservation Trust, on learning or assuming that Mullins would sell his land, began talking publicly about buying the land. In other words, it began acting on public opinion and local officials so as to soften any future Mullins negotiating position. This is a high-risk, aggressive negotiating ploy. "Mullins has said he never received a firm offer from the preservationists and grew tired of seeing them quoted in the newspaper saying they wanted to buy his land."

Note that CWPT, with 2003 assets of over $15 million and a members' mandate to buy battlefields, takes great pride in broadcasting its ethic of never "overpaying" for battlefield land – a boast that is a recipe for disaster in this case and in every other case. (As a land buyer, you want your reputation to be that sellers are more than satisfied in their dealings with you.)

This article gives good background information on Mullins' property.

Toll Brothers then bought some Mullins land and optioned additional acreage. Toll Brothers' options seem to have lapsed, so Mullins is selling another of his parcels to a developer called Tricord. Tricord appears willing to sell a restrictive covenant agreement to CWPT; Tricord would build its complex on battlefield land and then leave some green space around their development, in exchange for a negotiated sum. The Tricord green space would remain private property.

According to this editorial, the county has stepped in to threaten Mullins with a withholding of sewer and water connections if he does not come to terms with CWPT (and Tricord).

I agree with the letter-writer (first link, above) who said, "If the Mullins Farm was rezoned to allow county hook-up, then it should remain so."

This looks like CWPT using local politicians to play hardball in order to buy a worthless easement on land slated for development – a total lose/lose situation. It is transparently nasty. John Mullins has collected his go-to-hell money and that should make him pressure-proof. The local editorial writers can sense the underlying reality of this situation but are loath to accept it:

If Mr. Mullins cuts a deal with preservationists, the county, and developers of the more sensitive sort that safeguards significant historic acreage, he will get water and sewer privileges for his commercial visions; if he balks, he may not. How this ad-hoc tit-for-tat would hold up in court in a property-rights state is anybody's guess.

Nonsense, the expected outcome favors Mullins.

In the botched attempt to preserve this piece of Chancellorsville battlefield, the only questions are about Mullins’ hassle threshhold and level of anger. Whether he capitulates depends on how he feels about paying legal fees.

CWPT facilitating Tricord building on Chancellorsville battlefield is a little out of line with its mission. The facilitation works like this: the negotiated price Tricord eventually pays Mullins has factored into it the cash payment Tricord will receive from CWPT in exchange for selling CWPT an easement on the property. In other words, paying for an easement allows Tricord to bid higher.

There is no accountability for Mullins outside of his own conscience and standards. Nor is there accountability for CWPT, whose contributors appear content with the Trust's present management.

The comical note struck in this tragedy comes from CWPT's spokesman, who says "We're certainly not a cash cow, but the money's there for this deal." The money was there to pre-empt the original Toll Brothers deal by buying land and it was there to pre-empt the new Tricord deal by buying land. The money is there now - not just to buy an easement from Tricord - but to buy out Tricord lock, stock, and barrel after it makes a deal with Mullins.

The money is there, has been there, but where is the will?
NEWS | Guns lifted from turret of Civil War ironclad Monitor * Civil War grave duty helps MI Boy Scout earn his stripes * Franklin budget committee supports golf course purchase


Designing guidebooks for virtual battlefields

The South Mountain story (posted earlier today) reminds me of that problem which "virtual battlefields" pose for flesh-and-blood tourists. How do you visit them?

Virtual battlefields evolve out of deals made by Civil War battlefield preservationists (and governments) who buy easements - restrictive covenants on land use - instead of the underlying battlefield land. The result tends to be a patchwork that can be made to look like a battlefield on a map but which cannot be visited by tromping around on private property.

Furthermore, preservationsists, very confusingly, tend to run down their finances by buying easements near battlefields to preserve open space. This is certainly an interest of Civil War Preservation Trust, if you read their literature closely, and the Franklin Country Club controversy smacks of this kind of cart-before-the-horse activity.

Well, leave it to architecture buffs to point a way through the easement mess. The houses they want to visit are private property, often in inaccessible places. Terry Teachout notes that William Allin Storrer’s The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog contains "illustrated entries for all 433 pieces of 'built work' by Wright, plus road maps showing how to find them. The maps are legible and accurate — I can vouch for them. In addition, they clearly indicate which buildings can be viewed from "publicly accessible property" (i.e., they can be seen from the street).

That's the missing piece - and with that bit we can write the definitive guide to virtual battlefields. "Stand on your car roof or hood and look along a 27 degree azimuth until you see a large sycamore tree about 200 yards off the road. The brush under and around that tree roughtly conforms to Captain Jones' last known position."

Heritage tourism can still be served. Thank you, William Allin Storrer, for showing us how.

South Mountain Civil War properties

Yesterday's news section linked this Hagerstown Herald-Mail news story about Maryland's purchase of two properties near South Mountain; readers browsing the report noticed that there were few deal details, with only the governor being mentioned as a principal in this action.

Some additional information emerged from yesterday's Frederick News-Post (the story does not seem to be online). The report appears in the Regional section and is by Liz Babiarz.

The Hagerstown story says "The 31-acre Robertson property and the Ceres Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church will become part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' South Mountain State Park, which includes the battlefield, Ehrlich's office said in a news release."

Sounds like they are transforming their patchwork of easements from a virtual to a real battlefield park. However, the Frederick story cites Natural Resources as saying the properties will become "part of the newly developed Civil War Trail, 'Lee Invades Maryland.'"

Maybe those are not contradictory missions, but I wonder which is mission one.

The Frederick News-Post quotes an official of the State Highway Administration (which granted the money to acquire the properties) as saying the governor and his transportation secretary made "the final decision on what lands would be protected." There was some sort of list involved: "They selected seven tracts for preservation." This paper also credits Delegate Rick Weldon who "personally advocated" the two selected sites.

"Something" is happening here and it would be nice to know exactly what .
NEWS | "CSA" film gets release date in January * Collector brings his stuff to ACW visitor centers * Re-enactors note decrease in ranks


Muslim outrage and the ACW

If you want to understand equivocal Muslim American responses to terrorist outrages, you need look no farther than your own Civil War history markers, argues Irfan Khawaja. "It’s futile to expect Muslims to come to terms with their past" he writes, until we can talk bluntly in public about the meaning of the ACW.

Seduced and abandoned by nonfiction publishers

This article is for those planning their very own Civil War book:

It’s difficult to fathom, but nearly 175,000 books were published in 2003, a 19 percent increase from the previous year, and a mountainous climb from the 45,000 published in 1991...

Those who have published already know:

Editors no longer edit. The art department doesn’t care whether the exploding grenades on the proposed cover undermine the themes of your book. And your publicist is not going to lift even a pinky to help you, especially not if he or she is also responsible for promoting books written by star authors like, say, David Sedaris (or even, as in Sullivan’s case, Newt Gingrich).

Great article, by way of Terry Teachout, who adds:

Anyone who writes a serious book with the expectation of making a lot of money and/or becoming famous is a fool. If you can’t afford to write a book in your spare time for its own sake, you’re in the wrong business.
NEWS | Properties to be added to South Mountain State Park * Unusual Arkansas battle flag featured in re-enctment * Some 19 buildings condemned in Richmond ACW district


Gettysburg boycott threat remains

Despite Gettysburg College's modification of its Confederate flag "lynching" show into a static display and the failure of its key performance artist to show up to perform the "lynching," some Sons of Confederate Veterans are still talking town boycott.

Jennings said his chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans would be boycotting Gettysburg in protest. "I haven't even dropped a Lincoln penny on the ground since I've been here, and don't plan to," Jennings said.

Meanwhile, harken to the children:

Many of those standing in line to see the exhibit were college students, including Stephanie Davies, 20, of Wilton, Conn., a junior psychology major. "It's kind of weird to have something like this happen on our campus," Davies said. "A lot of people don't really understand the point of it."

Does that speak well of her college?

Correction on South Mountain

A reader pointed out to me this deterministic error I made in the post High-Water Mark, part seven:

There would have been a battle of the gaps at Fox's and Turner's whether or not McClellan found the Lost Orders – they would have flowed from a meeting engagement and from Longstreet's orders. They would have happened about when they did due to the tempo of McClellan's advance prior to finding Lee's dispatch.

Sorry for the verb agreement problem; more importantly, this should read, "There would have been a battle of some sort in or more likely beyond the gaps flowing from a meeting engagement." General Hill was not, as was pointed out to me, obliged to cover Longstreet's march to Hagerstown by defending South Mountain.

I'll write a little about historical contingencies later this week.

Study of Antietam casualties published

In April '03 , this curious post appeared on an Antietam discussion group. I clipped and saved it:

Many of you know that for the last 6 years I have been indexing every single Federal casualty at Antietam by name, and in many cases have the wound, hospital etc. I'm done, and have over 12,600 names. I have also found virtually every Federal field hospital site-about 130. And I have the documentation; now I'm looking for a publisher! (Wish me luck-most publishers want text, not statistics). What am I doing now? Going after the rebs! I have over 5000 so far...Just wanted to update this info, for those of you who remember this effort...John Nelson

What great work, I thought. Today I see that Nelson's material has been released on CD.

His total Federal casualty count for Antietam: 12,651. The National Park Service estimates 12,400. Nelson generously compliments Gen. George B. McClellan's early estimate of 23,000 combined losses.

Why go through eight years of research to prove estimates are close to reality? That is a question only a round-numbers person could ask. Let it be known that there are readers who despise estimates and hate round numbers. This blogger is one of them and John Nelson is another.

The tragedy of round numbers is that the rounding never stops; the contexts are trashed and apples tend to get mixed into oranges. This compote is then read for sweeping moral and professional judgements. That process applies to battle estimates; I think it fair to say that on the casualty side, the Civil War reader simply does not care about the last few hundreds or thousands. Casualties do not advance the story. And as to desertions and shirking, the ACW reader tends to be utterly and willingly blind.

Numbers. The stories are in the numbers; the better the numbers, the better the stories. And ultimately an actual personality, a soul, is linked to every number.

Two weeks ago, a correspondent asked me why I could not be satisfied with the figures given in the OR. I picked myself off the floor and swore to remember the general aversion to counting.

Nelson is travelling down the noble and lonely road blazed by Fox and Livermore. Tip of the hat to him.

Franklin battlefield controversy continues

Today's letter to the editor of Franklin's local paper continues the attack of the golfers. Referring to local battlefield land, per se:

... do something with land already owned for this purpose (Georgia Boot site), or purchase the Pizza Hut and/or Dominos on Columbia Avenue [...] These parcels of land are directly across Highway 31 from The Carter House, where the Battle of Franklin was centered!

This critic has zeroed in on the preservationists half-plan. But the nub of the matter is this:

Exactly three days after closing on my little “retirement” property, it was announced that the course was for sale and whomever could fork over many millions of dollars could buy it. Soon afterward, it was purchased by a wealthy businessman, a descendent of the McGavock family, and then subsequently offered to the “preservationists” and the city of Franklin for $5 million.

I don't believe an owner interested in making a deal with preservationists will walk away from creative financing, if the battlefield interests fall short financially. Just in case, however, the golfers should be raising funds for a counteroffer. It's a free market in property.

If its members lose the country club, they could buy Pizza Hut and offer an exchange of prisoners. (Pizza Hut might be bought for well under $5 million.)

And in the world of ACW battlefield preservation, that kind of screwy dealing would be par for the course.