Advances from publishers

ACW writers may want to check out the money advanced by publishers to scifi and fantasy authors in this article: How Much Does a Science Fiction or Fantasy Writer Make?

Thought they wrote for pleasure. Didn't know they got paid at all.

The rap on Beatie

A couple of readers who bought Beatie's Army of the Potomac have registered complaints with the book; I wanted to publicize these complaints as valid. Here are the issues:

Item: "Beatie is just not a good writer. More than that he is sloppy."
Comment: I think he is an okay writer, but I will accept some people not having a good reading experience. I am comfortable with bad writing, being an information hound; my payoff is in this or that revelation, new source, or suchlike.

Item: "Typos, typos, typos."
Comment: Indeed and they follow a very interesting pattern: the ones I spotted were all homonyms. This suggests Beatie was dictating and someone was transcribing. In this modern age, publishers have put their editing burdens on authors, but I hold the publisher ultimately responsible for typos.

Not that Beatie would have been terribly helpful to the publisher. Here are some remarks he made about criticism of Nosworthy's Bloody Crucible of Courage:
The usual perfunctory plaudits graced this effort at the beginning of the review, but they quickly disappeared in a blistering series of meaningless but vituperative gripes about middle initials, first names, and other irrelevant mistakes having nothing to do with Nosworthy's historical theory. At the end the reviewer reached the tired old conclusion used so often to crucify young lawyers in large firms for the "typo:" if the proof reading has mistakes (if Nosworthy has incorrect initials), the content must be deficient, especially the analyses and conclusions...
Item: "Conclusions are not clear."
Comment: Beatie is introducing a lot of content into a narrative format and readers looking to follow a storyline are not sure what new "characters" represent thematically or developmentally; nor is Beatie consistently "judgemental" (a la Sears), thus leaving some readers wondering "why did I spend time on that?"

It is possible that these "literary loose ends" will be tied together in future volumes, but I think not. The loose ends I think represent rich military arcana - "So that's why the defenses of Washington were constructed that way!" - tossed out for deep readers. One blogger rated Beatie's work at one star for novice readers and five stars for "experts." That's a pretty good way to decide if you will enjoy this material.

Item: Some conversations are "reconstructed" (albeit noted as such).
Comment: That was/is a horrible idea. I am currently making a count of these monstrosities and expect the total to be quite low. Nevertheless, you cannot launch major revisions to the canon and be taken seriously if reconstructed dialog adorns your book.

This error in judgement flows from a much larger mistake, the decision to cast the work in narrative form. This should have been a collection of essays, each repudiating some nonsensical aspect of AoP history.

Both readers who addressed these complaints to me were ultimately happy with their AoP purchase, despite the criticisms. (One exchange occurred on USENET here.)

When I recommend books, please be warned that (a) I dislike narratives and am crudely indifferent to literary shortcomings in a production; the good writers of bad history have taught me to hate good ACW writing (b) I wallow in arcana.

That's not something Da Capo will want to paste on Beatie's blurb sheets, but they are welcome to it. Meanwhile, do attentively read Army of the Potomac. Put it at the top of your lists.

ACW baseball, the new re-enactivity

I'll run this verbatim:
Interested in playing Civil War Era baseball? Come join the Essex [Mass.] Base Ball Club and the Lynn Live Oaks for an open scrimmage Saturday, April 16 (rain date April 17), 1 p.m. at Endicott Park, Danvers. All are welcome to pick up a ball or bat and play a few innings of 1861 base ball. For more information contact Brian Sheehy at 978-790-5707 or historyball@yahoo.com, or on the Web at http://www.essexbaseball.org/.
A kinder, gentler path to re-enactment.
NEWS | Marine, 20, laid to rest by Civil War re-enactors * Lowell cannon, statue may be restored * Maryland consider plans to re-create the Civil War-era House of Delegates chamber


A cautious hello

I have been hanging my laundry at blogthing today, awaiting the technology to behave on this platform. Have alook at our home away from home.

Things seem to be working here better just now (see timestamp below), but if you do not see a post after this one, bad things are happening again and you should make your way back to Civil War Bookshelf II, our little survivalist shelter.

I want to deal with complaints regarding Russel Beatie tomorrow; I have also been reading yet another new tome debunking modern financial theory. It has a lot of criticism of false historic consciousness with direct application to our Civil War reading.

Thanks for visiting.

The sins of Beatie

Now that Mitch H. at Blogfonte has splurged on Russel Beatie's Army of the Potomac I had better get to that post I've been meaning to write.

People have told me they are glad they bought his books but are disappointed because Beatie is substandard in certain respects.

I'll recap tomorrow.


If this site has not been updated...

... please repair to Civil War Bookshelf II.

Blogger is having software problems that make it difficult to post (and edit posts) on a daily basis.

Once Blogger's software upgrade finally stabilizes, I will resume publishing regularly here (at this URL) and will decommission Civil War Bookshelf II. Thanks for your patience.
NEWS | Civil War battlefield cleanup planned * Washington County included in N.C. Civil War Trails * Quilting at heart of Civil War novel


To validate one's place in the universe

Brent Nosworthy says, "If the urge to simplify reduces the type of information the historian is willing to explore, the desire to validate one's place in the universe insidiously influences evaluation processes."

This behavior has a lot to do with why, after decades of new discoveries and bold revisionism, we are still mired in an inadequate and dishonest Centennial-era interpretation of the Civil War. Thus,

* Most regimental historians try to give context for unit history borrowing big picture elements from the master narrative.

* Most biographers of this or that personality give context also by borrowing from the master narrative.

* Most revisionists undertake to "fix" a comparatively small element of the master narrative while leaving the edifice intact.

The Civil War master narrative generally represents an aggregation of reductive fallacies. (I recapped the history of the Centennial master narrative in 2003. Here are parts one, two, three, four, and five. And here is one definition of "master narrative.")

This means your regimental history or biography, which is rooted in concrete historical events, events that can clarify and improve the overcompressed, synthesized and generalized material, is subordinated to the very same dubious, high-level generalizations and surmises.

This "desire to validate one's place in the universe" really hits home when I read piecemeal revisionism like Steve Newton's Joseph E. Johnston and the Defense of Richmond. His premise is that we largely misunderstand Johnston. As far as his arguments are rooted in Johnston's particulars, Newton's book is a great read. In those scenes where McClellan shows his face, he is whacked hard with the Centennial stick, suggesting that Newton's sympathy goes only so far. One of the oddest features of this work is its general deference to the Lee legend. How could you struggle through a Johnston re-look without fresh eyes reviewing everything connected with that general?

In the McClellan Society, some good souls are awaiting my redo of the Nevins-Catton-Sears-McPherson canon with a book-sized adjustment of GBM's reputation. But the problems with McClellan historiography point to a larger analysis being unsound. Re-examining McClellan while preserving the master narrative of Centennial orthodoxy is doomed by internal contradictions.

When we understand, to take just one important example, that the Grant/Lincoln relationship was very difficult (see especially Brooks Simpson and John Simon), the results of that analysis affect everything touched by the "Lincoln finds a general" meme.

Some authors will get right in your face with their "place in the universe". Kathleen Ernst, in her Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, offered a specialist study that could have illuminated some airships of popular synthesis from ground level. She veered into the big picture business in a couple of places, not to survey the military-civil policy from army heights, but to vigorously and emotionally condemn McClellan's pace of campaigning! Showboating is a way to demonstrate that you have internalized the consensus view.

Other specialist works, if they don't celebrate the received wisdom directly, show that the master narrative has instilled a certain numbness toward novelty; I often see authors ignoring their own discoveries. I'm thinking, for example, of Priest's Before Antietam and to a lesser extent, Schildt's Roads to Antietam. In the course of tracing units' movements through this campaign, there appear both circumstantial and direct evidence that McClellan issued orders throughout the day on which the Lost Order was found. I compiled over a dozen of these instances from these two books. But consensus tells us this is impossible and neither author seems to notice what the unit movements are telling him historiographically.

John Hennesy, in his Return to Bull Run, returns to the field so effectively covered by John Ropes a century ago in the Army under Pope - without mentioning John Ropes. And in recounting the many captures of enemy orders during Pope's campaign, he scatters the stories throughout his narrative without pulling the tally together: it was five times in 26 days the generals read each others dispatches. You would think a pop historian would have an nose for gee-whiz nuggets. Not where they embarass pillars of the establishment, who have said that McClellan's discovery of Lee's orders was unique in the ACW:

Gary Gallagher: "No other commander on either side during the Civil War enjoyed a comparable situation." "The Maryland Campaign in Perspective," Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign, Gary W. Gallagher, ed.

Stephen Sears: "Even the great Napoleon himself had never been presented with such an opportunity..." Landscape Turned Red.

James McPherson actually maintains that never in history had such an event occurred as McClellan's discovery of Lee's orders. See Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. (Don't miss his praise of Hennesy's Return to Bull Run in the notes.)
I won't go into the biographies or regimental histories, except to say to any authors contemplating such work: if your editor tells you to use the ACW master narrative to put readers in the picture, answer that you are developing a whole new context for future generalists to synthesize. Tell them that your material is the picture.

And tell them that it is the treatment of specialist material by generalists that will validate (or invalidate) the generalist's own place in the universe.

Meanwhile, if in your reading you keep an eye out for "insidious influences," you won't be disappoined.

They brought forth a mouse

A mountain was in labour, sending forth dreadful groans, and there was in the region the highest expectation. After all, it brought forth a mouse. — Phædrus: Fables, iv. 22, 1.

Quite an amusing article in the Springfield State-Journal Register. A 16-year-old youth and his exchange-student buddy got a sneak peek at the new Lincoln museum:
Ben admitted telling his mother that, before arriving in Springfield, he and his friend could not stand visiting yet another historic site. The presidential museum tour changed the boys' attitude. "Definitely," said Ben, 16. "It's really neat."
Sounds like edutainment is teaching a couple of callow youths. But wait:
For Ben, much of the information in the museum was not new. Farid, however, learned that Lincoln was assassinated while he was at a theater.
And how many millions were spent to deliver that insight?
NEWS | Home & Garden Television features ACW home * Lincoln condemned in mock trial * Missouri re-enactment features Kuenstler prize


Inkspots and muster rolls

If you like the work of Edward Tufte as much as I do, particularly his celebration of the graphic display of complex information, you'll love this history of Confederate strength in a diagram.

It's amazing and its antecedents are here and here. Tip of the hat to Tim Reese.

Whigs and Democrats and deja vu

There comes a point during The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War - 1840, in fact - when author Michael Holt springs this on us:
Increasingly, Democrats portrayed Whigs as bigoted and self-righteous religious fanatics intent on imposing their ethical values on others. Whigs retorted that Democrats were immoral deadbeats or dangerous radicals bent on destroying the very fabric of society - property, morality, education, and the rule of law.
I wonder if he is projecting into the past.
NEWS | One-woman play focuses on Civil War * Saving Civil War sites: Stafford moves forward * Toppled Civil War marker concerns Michigan official


Nosworthy and ACW history

Napoleonic combat expert Brent Nosworthy's has issued a large volume constructively trying to reground Civil War military historians in the "big picture" of international military theory/practice as it was in the mid-19th Century and to reground the practice in the particulars of American armament and tactics during the ACW. I would call it a massive debunking effort except that it is so much more concerned with supplying missing information and perspectives than with picking apart minsconceptions.

I want to deal with this criticisim of ACW military historians in another post.

Here are some of his comments about Civil War history in general that I hope resonate with you as much as they did with me:

Molded by the received wisdom that permeates the Civil War literature we unquestioningly accept the traditional view of the Civil War and its place in history. [But] many commonly accepted beliefs about the Civil War are largely unfounded.

Unfortunately, the very universality and longevity with which these views have been held appear to make them unassailable. Intuitively, it is difficult to accept analyses and conclusions contradicted by hundreds of other works, no matter how thorough the research or meticulous the treatment.

These biases [of the ACW writer] generally fall into two broad categories: the urge to simplify and the desire to validate one's "place in the universe."

Seeking an understanding with the least amount of effort, the human mind tries to reduce complex, multilayered phenomena to easily digested "bite size" units of "high concept."

If the urge to simplify reduces the type of information the historian is willing to explore, the desire to validate one's place in the universe insidiously influences evaluation processes.

Unfortunately, he [the ACW historian] has also demonstrated a proclivity to immediately abandon or deflect the research the moment the clues lead into literally or metaphorically foreign territory.

At this stage of military history [i.e. historiography], the challenge is less in finding completely new repositories of historical information than in learning to interpret the vast storehouse of available data more accurately.

The tale of a sword

The brass hilt has darkened with age. A filigree of twisted wire wraps the sharkskin grip. The steel blade curves gently to a point, etched with vine leaves and grape clusters and the letters "USC," for U.S. Cavalry. At the bottom of its scabbard is a brass fitting. On each side is engraved a name: E.D. Morrill.

My great-grandfather.

It was the sword he carried through the Civil War, and it was finally coming back to his family. Until five years ago, I didn't know it existed.
This is the personal story of a genealogist encountering history. Unfortunately, it does not seem to move beyond family and objects.

The ironclad that nobody wants

Money was found to construct a model of the CSS Neuse - now, nobody wants the model.

What a remarkable development.
NEWS | Mansfield Battlefield at center of mining fight * Park to mark Glorieta battlefield * Virginia to deploy new historical markers


Volatility scales

In his repudiation of modern financial theory, Benoit Mandelbrot (the inventor of fractal geometry) deploys the controversial idea that "volatility scales."

He was referring to price volatility when he wrote that, but I think this gem has broader application. The observation hit me hard this week when I encountered it; I immediately thought of enormous volatility in my infantry operations so many years ago and the upward scaling of that volatility. That was in the day when our mission was "to close with and destroy the enemy." Do they even use language like that anymore?

I happened to be reading Brent Nosworthy's Civil War opus, the Bloody Crucible of Courage in tandem with Mandelbrot, specifically Nosworthy's chapter 14, "The Psychological Basis of Tactics." In that essay, Nosworthy does a finely nuanced job, arguing from vivid anecdotes, that the Civil War charge (or rush) and the Civil War panic or route originated from virtually the same psychological state.

Mark that. Volatility anyone?

And he showed, anecdotally, how the contagion spread (both attacking and fleeing) and the measures taken to both induce the underlying psychological state and then to channel it. I especially liked his analysis of British attacking psychology (calm, controlling), French attacking psychology (inducing high emotion in the attackers), and the Dutch approach (complex control to overwhelm defenders psychologically).

I'm not sure how the volatility scaling argument will end on Wall Street, but "volatility scales on the battlefield." You could make that a motto to be learned by junior leaders.

More on Nosworthy later this week.
NEWS | NC company auctions Lincoln materials * Group tries to save Mosby Heritage Area * Neuse II ready for public tours


Pop mags, pop reviewers

One reader recently wrote privately, another posted to Usenet, on shortcomings in Russel Beatie's Army of the Potomac. As a Beatie admirer, I want to acknowledge these in a future post soon.

My correspondent says, "I read John Hennessy's very harsh (overly harsh, IMO) review of [Beatie's] vol. 1 in CWTI/America's Civil War..." He also remarks that the same glossies previously set Geoffrey Perrett to reviewing - beating up - Brooks Simpson.

Is America's Civil War having pop historians review the work of scholars? Are the editors even aware of the distinction?

The glossies pack a lot of aggravation for the buck.

booksXYZ signs up Center for Louisiana Studies

books XYZ, the nonprofit "open-platform" bookstore has added The Center for Louisiana Studies to its publishers roster, and the center has a section on The Civil War.

"Open platform" means "Publishers may sell through us, or list their books with us for free, and link to them elsewhere." Awhile back, booksXYZ was claiming links to 1.2 million titles.

If you are an author or run a small press, have a look at these details.

They're just writers - they can't help themselves

Terry Teachout has a nice quote today from James Gould Cozzens' Pulitzer-winning novel, Guard of Honor:
Nathaniel Hicks said: "Look, Bill. I've worked with writers for years. I know a lot about them. When he writes, Edsell ... just sees a situation he thinks he can write a story about. Then he dresses it up and twists it around to make it a story. That's what they pay him for."
That little squib covers an awful lot of pop history.

Lincoln to be tried by CSA

Here's one for the alternative history crowd:
[Liberty University's 2005 Civil war Seminar] theme is "If the South Had Won the Civil War: The Trial of President Abraham Lincoln," and it’s an intriguing premise. As Rowlette explains: "The seminar will explore what might have transpired if Grant had never survived the seige of Vicksburg, if ... Lincoln and the U.S. capital had fallen into Southern hands. Using 1860s legal jurisprudence, the seminar will explore legal and moral aspects of Lincoln’s controversial actions from 1861 up to and including the summer of 1863."
At least they are not acting out the trial. Close call.

Sunken history

Eads' ironclad, the Chickasaw, was discovered in the Mississippi over a year ago but will not be raised. I didn't know that:
Archaeologist Christopher Goodwin said there's not much chance any of the shipwrecks will be raised because the cost would outweigh the ships' historical value.
His firm submitted a report on a major discovery in the river, Eads' craft among the finds:
Among the discoveries documented in a two-volume report prepared for the corps by R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates are the remains of a tall-sailed schooner, several river or ocean-going tugs, a number of work and derrick barges, and at least two ferries that once traveled between Algiers and the Walnut Street wharf.
They've been covered in crushed rock, except for the Chickasaw, which is protected but will not be raised.

Veteran's daughter remembers her dad

... he served in the Third Mississippi Battalion, Pat Cleburne's Division, Joseph E. Johnston's Army. "I saw a great deal of hard service," he wrote, having been in several battles including Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and Kennesaw Mountain where he was captured and taken to a Union prison. The accommodations almost killed him. "I was paroled because I got scurvy so bad I had to walk on my knees and elbows."

Here's the link.

NEWS | Dispute over Meade's horses head is settled * Re-enacting Rebel retreat to Williamsport may overwhelm locals * Chickamauga Park Day slated April 2


Lincoln Corridors and dialecticians

There's a new heritage-trail type project out there somewhere called the Lincoln Corridor. If you search for it, you get hits from Lincoln [transportation] Corridors in Nebraska and California. Mention is made of it here.

The same (linked) article contains another puzzle: "the Dialectic Society, will [place a Lincoln statue] on the lawn of the Livingston County Courthouse." "The Dialectic Society"? Those would be Hegelians and/or Kantians, no?

Lincoln was anti-Kantian. Dialecticians are better off erecting a statue to Calhoun.

That's what I take from Harry Jaffa, and I believe him.

Gettysburg's new Vistior's Center - superfluous?

Tim Reese weighs in on the Gettysburg Visitor's Center thread at Usenet:
We're not talking about a new VC strictly within agency requirements, are we. Rather it's a matter of prostituting a government-run site for profit via commercial partnership, this done under the aegis of public shortfall offset by private economic involvement with open-ended entanglements.
Bullseye. And as to purpose:
For years the battlefield struggled to rise above the town carnival. Now it eagerly matches it.
Good stuff intermingled with cries of anger from fans of the forthcoming Center.
NEWS | Historic Civil War cannon sold by New York officials * Civil War symposium to cover W.Va.'s birth * Tribute to Civil War history advocate * Famed labor historian looks at Civil War-era influences


Gettysburg: the case for a new visitor's center

A Usenet poster has objected to the tone of this piece I wrote on Gettysburg park and its priorities:
For years people have been decrying the conditions under which the relics and archives are kept in the current visitor's center. The current VC is a hodgepodge of add ons to the original Rosensteel home, which was doneted, complete with its collection of artifacts and documents from the battle, to the NPS in the early 1960s.

The building is old, sees the traffic from millions of visitors every year, and leaks like a seive. If those artifacts and archives are to be saved, they need a new home. Hence the new visitor's center. That need, along with the five year plan to restore much of the battlefield to its original condition allowed the NPS to make the plans for the new visitor's center big enough to house the collections, administrative offices, Cyclorama painting, museum, bookstore, cafeteria, and electric map. It also allowed them to get the current building and its neighbor, the Cyclorama center (that hasn't worked since right after it opened), and remove them, and their parking lots from the area of Zeigler's Grove, a very important area of the battle.

The new VC will go down in the hollow where the ponds were at the old Fantasyland Amusement Park south of Hunt Avenue between Taneytown Road and Baltimore avenue. A new entrance road will be cut off Baltimore south Kinzie's knoll.

The new VC is NOT superfluous, Dimitri, and frankly, I resent your characterization of it as such.
Duly noted. You ask questions, you get answers. Internet = good.

I will be circling back to address the Park Service's $49 million maintenance deficit, in a future post.


The current bestselling Civil War title on both Barnes & Noble and Amazon is a novel called March which "imagines the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women."

Which sounds as contrived as any novel by Harry Turtledove.

Direct from the Iraq Museum International

I'm not sure why this blog (the one you're reading) was ever linked by the Iraq Museum International, nor am I sure why its link was dropped, but what a nice display of ACW sites linked from this Baghdad-based open directory.

Here's one page they missed that I think they need.

What the Internet was intended for...

... or maybe not. This Japanese page uses extravagant amounts of computational processing power to collect book cover images from the web and arrange these into words. See the word "Civil War" as a mosaic. Some images are linked.

Type your own word in here.

Have I mentioned it's Friday?
NEWS | Company offers to sell land near Civil War battlefield to national park * National Park Service urges restraint on Bleeding Kansas sites * New play features Civil War setting


Mark Grimsley is doing it

ACW historian Mark Grimsley is blogging up a storm and urging the history-minded to do likewise.

... He is promising to open a book review section on his site to the public.

... He is raising the historiographic content at HNN...

... While flogging one of my favorite hobbyhorses: "The refusal to speak out against bad history..."

Join in, you lurkers.

The Bancroft prize, post-Bellesiles

Columbia University's Bancroft Prize has been awarded for 2004. This might be a good time to shower the recipients with praise and good wishes but I would like to look at the prize itself.

You'll recall that the Bancroft was enmeshed in the Bellesiles controversy in 2002. Bellesiles received the prize apparently without having had a peer review, or (more important) an end note review. His notes were studied only after the fact by outraged readers, one of whom is named Clayton Cramer.

We have no idea if the Bancroft people learned anything from this scandal, for their awards process is cloaked in fog: "the Bancroft is awarded annually by the Trustees of Columbia University to the authors of books of exceptional merit in the fields of American history, biography and diplomacy."

It is awarded by the trustees but who selects the winners? A quick visit to the trustees' page gives us access to their resumes. This is the list I used to compile the following list of occupations:

Lawyers: 4
Educators: 3
Judge: 1
Financier: 6
Dotcom CEO: 1
Property manager: 1
Scientist: 1
Lobbyist: 1
NBA commissioner: 1
Fortune 500 VP: 2

I don't think that this crew is reading Bancroft nominees; not one of them; not one book; not for one minute, not before or after the prize is awarded. This is a group of ribbon cutters.

There must be a prize jury but we have no idea of its workings. There were only tiny leaks associated with the Bellesiles blowup. Cramer, for instance, wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education that
the concerns about fraud were directed to Columbia's history department before the Bancroft Prize was awarded. Eric Foner's response, reported in the popular newspaper coverage of this scandal, suggest that it wouldn't have mattered anyway. At least one of the journalists who interviewed me along the way tells me that she was allowed to contact one of the members of the Bancroft Prize jury and his reaction was that it didn't much matter if it wasn't true, because it would promote debate on the subject.[My emphasis.]
The National Review managed to find the head of the 2001 jury: "Arthur Goren, professor emeritus of Columbia, then chair of the prize committee, said ... 'We reviewed 150 books over a four month period.'"

How many jury members reviewed 150 books in 120 days? Is this a good process, professor?

National Review also produced a quote from professor Eric Foner which may be the one Cramer referred to in the Chronicle: "We assume a book published by a reputable press has gone through a process where people have checked the facts. Members of prize committees cannot be responsible for that."

Not at a pace of one book to read per day; no sir, you cannot.

Eventually, Columbia did the right thing and rescinded Bellesiles' prize. Is the problem fixed? We don't know.

Whatever the rationale is for a secret selection of winners, we know what the results are. Bellesiles is one outcome. Here's another - call it an attitude:
Academic prizes are seen as rewards for your friends or fellow travelers. As one European intellectual told me, "The law only exists to be applied to your enemies."
Call that my attitude, too.

Let a public jury publicly award the prizes. We, the readers, want to see one hand washing the other.

Spotsylvania motives laid bare

We were all baffled when Civil War Preservation Trust decided, in naming its list of 10 most endangered battlefields, to place an entire county there, as if it were one site. My comments on that are here.

The news today puts it all into perspective. I understand what this is about. Kick me, I'm dense. A deal was made.

You'll recall from CWPT's Mullins Farm/Chancellorsville fiasco, that events played out like this:

At Chancellorsville, the seller, John Mullins, was faced with Civil War Preservation Trust trying to scoop up his property for farmland prices in a public campaign denouncing his sellers' offers; he was also publicly portrayed as venal. Mullins' response was to break off dealings with CWPT. He would not sell to preservationists, which is how we arrived at the convoluted deal in which Mullins sold to Tricord, then Tricord tries to sell some [battlefield] pieces to CWPT.
After being frozen out of the land sale, CWPT turned to the local government for help in forcing Mullins to sell to them at their desired price. The deal with Tricord was a compromise, patched together with local government help: the county promised zoning support and then delivered it.

Political deliveries carry price tags, of course.

After the Tricord deal was announced and the rezoning effected, CWPT's friends in local government toured Virginia Civil War attractions outside the county. Their heritage tourism religion was deepened and enriched.

From today's news, I would conclude that a deal was struck, CWPT leveraging its considerable PR resources to boost Spotsylvania tourism programmatically. "Our whole county was a battlefield!"

The first part of the program was "endangered battlefield" status for all of Spotsylvania. ("Come see it before it's gone!") The second delivery is now made, a major spread in National Geographic:
Magazine adds perspective to debate over key Civil War sites in Spotsylvania. National Geographic magazine has put Spotsylvania County on the map...
Jim Campi, a CWPT spokesman, said the story marks the beginning of a joint effort by the trust, National Geographic and the National Park Service to create online resources and maps for visitors to Civil War sites. "We see this generating tourism while bringing international attention to the plight of Spotsylvania's battlefields, and how [preservation] decisions are being made locally."
And that seems to be the deal.
"It's a great honor being recognized by [National Geographic], said Spotsylvania Supervisor Hap Connors. "Again, it's a two-edged sword that highlights the challenges and the opportunities" facing local officials.
The "sword" is wielded in every election; the sword cuts deals off at the knees. And when sentiment swings against this current majority of county incumbents, Civil War preservation will be discredited in Spotsylvania County.

Is it reasonable to ask for non-partisan preservation organizations? For honest appraisal of danger to battlefields? CWPT's members have an opportunity to decide this every time they renew their membership.

P.S. CWPT has convinced Spotsylvania County to drink the easement Kool-Aid. "The county recently enacted a purchase-of-development-rights program and is looking for ways to fund it." Paying your friends (or friends of your party) hundreds of thousands of dollars not to build a mall on their three acres is a truly excellent bit of patronage, but it is not the best long-term conservation policy. See here and here.

Preserving mistakes

They are going to preserve Sherman's mistake at Chattanooga.
NEWS | Scuttling of the CSS Neuse remembered * Fort Morgan study proposes facilities to draw more visitors * Re-enactors, specatators expected to crowd Bentonville


Osprey expanding Civil War line

Osprey, a publisher focused on hobbyists, has written to point out that they are expanding their line of Civil War titles: their ACW titles even have their own Osprey page, in fact.

The red-themed covers (see link) indicate a subseries of summary analysis and overview. They are not scholarly monographs but rather work for hire* and generally well written - given the compression required to cover a war or a campaign. Nevertheless, those I have picked up have set aside some of their meager space to wisecrack and sneer at failed commanders - as is mandatory in even the lengthiest pop history work.

Osprey could do a great thing with these redcover series: outline the events and then summarize all relevant scholarship.

Meanwhile, their authors should stay with the facts and leave conclusions to readers.

*(Osprey might counter by saying McPherson's Battle Cry was also work for hire though in an Oxford University Press series. Indeed it was. Interestingly, McPherson's recent conversion of this work into a picture album moves it closer to a classic Osprey title: summary text plus loads of illustrations. Convergence.)

Battlefields in National Geographic

The April issue of National Geographic will feature an article on Civil War battlefields. A good sense of the tone of the piece can be gotten from its description of the head of Civil War Preservation Trust as "a combination of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant -- two of the Civil War's most legendary commanders."
NEWS | Re-enactors, specatators expected to crowd Bentonville * Residents irate after town sells Civil War artillery piece * House hearing held at Gettysburg


Civil War Historians Need Not Apply

There has been an interesting discussion on H-Net this month: "Civil War Historians Need Not Apply" - or why academia rejects Civil War history as a discipline. Here are a few thoughts:

"Civil War historians often treat the war as an end--they read American history as a way to understand the war and not the other way around. … hobbyists and descendents-turned-biographers have commandeered the printing presses." [LINK]

"There is an entire human drama underlying the American Civil War that no history department worth its salt would ignore. But that doesn't mean classical military history is the best way to convey the overall struggle." [LINK]

"From 1960 onwards, Civil War scholarship has been dominated by what might be termed the 'civil rights generation': Eric Foner, James M. McPherson, David Donald … etc. They put slavery and race back in the center of the war. […] But we've had trouble moving on [beyond McPherson et al]; we look like generals who want to keep refighting the same tired old battles over and over again." [LINK]

Teetertottering at Gettysburg battlefield

Would you believe it? "Budget shortfalls have put needed repairs at the Gettysburg National Military Park on hold. The tally for unfunded maintenance needs: $49 million."

What kind of maintenance are we talking about, you ask: " The 1820s Patterson House on the Gettysburg battlefield is in danger of collapsing. A barn that served as a Civil War battlefield hospital is crumbling. Cannon carriages are rusting in a barn, and bronze swords are missing from historic monuments."

Serious stuff. And at what point would one raise the mismanagement flag? At $50 million in unfunded maintenance needs? "The park is only receiving 53 cents for every dollar it needs to meet its normal expenditures," said Joy Oakes, director of the National Parks Conservation Association. "

Meanwhile, a superfluous vistor's center (new, improved) with a new museum is the subject of a $95 million fundraising effort by "friends" of the park.

The news reporter who developed this sad story had the presence of mind to ask about priorities. He got a nice piece of officialese in response: " "Visitation figures indicate impact upon the park, but the primary factor is the condition of the resource," someone said.

That means " … deciding on where to spend money is often a balancing act between providing visitor services and preserving resources."

Balancing act is not a good metaphor. Balancing acts kill incompetent acrobats. This is a balancing act of seesaw quality, in one seat the woeful federal park bureau which cannot even paint a barn without private volunteers; in the other seat, a private group with an agenda to attract more park visitors and shake them down for their 53 cents per dollar of operating costs.

That's quite a business plan. Here's the story.

Postscript: this post elicited some counterpoints. Read them here.
NEWS | Shiloh gets new monument * Parks advocates say lack of money still a problem * Government may invest millions in Five Forks


The national Civil War monument

Whoever is setting these types of expectations is programming a huge backlash against heritage tourism funding in the future:
Officials in Wheeling believe the city could attract as many as 250,000 tourists each year by becoming the home of the National Civil War Memorial, especially if construction is completed by 2011, the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the war.
Those 250,000 would be visiting (get ready) "a lot of stone and bronze in a circular structure 85 feet in diameter."
The estimated cost is $8 million to $10 million, which Casteel hopes will come mainly from private donations. He said the commission wants congressional recognition for the memorial but not federal funding, because such funding could lead to influence over what should be displayed."We're not looking for a politically correct story," Casteel said. "We're looking for the true story."
They have one thing straight, in any case.

Franklin aldermen move on land purchase

Here is the account we've been waiting for from the Franklin aldermen's meeting:
... aldermen voted this week to go find $2 million — most of the money it'll need to help preservationists pay for the property.

Sherman's General Williams

The turn-of-the-century newspaper columns of Brevet BG Reuben Williams have been compiled and are coming out in what is sure to be an obscure book marked for Indiana distribution only.
He was connected with the important operations and engagements of armies in the Southwest, including the siege of Vicksburg; Jackson, Miss.; Kennesaw Mountain; Mission Ridge Atlanta; Jonesborough; Brentonville; and scores of skirmishes.

He began the war as a lieutenant colonel and ended it as a captain.

He was captured three times by Confederates, always pardoned [paroled] after signing a document indicating he would never take up arms against the Confederacy again. He didn’t mean it. Williams always came back to Indiana, recruited more men and headed back to the front lines.

Incredibly, he returned home after four years of service without a scratch.

Sounds like a very interesting new title.

Margaret Leech, good enough for modern readers?

When a book like Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War appears, you immediately wonder what the author, Ernest B. Fergurson, has against Margaret Leech and her Pulitzer-winning Reveille in Washington: 1860-1865.

At least one reviewer picked up on the issue - really, anyone who has delighted in Leech's book would - and he concludes that "I disagree with Fergurson that his book really adds to the historiography. But I do believe that his more modern telling of the story would be more accessible to the general reader."

Odd call. It's hard to imagine a more accessible book than Reveille.
NEWS | Wisconsin re-enactment sees funding cut * Mass. teachers attend ACW seminars * Indiana man maintains definitive Hoosier ACW photo collection


A serviceable ethics policy

Attention AHA:

The first law for the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice.Marcus Tullius Cicero

Can your members live with that? They will accept guidelines, but not laws, you say?

(Toga-clad curtsy toward Tim Reese.)

Blog them out of their Stone Age, Mark

Civil War historian Mark Grimsley has renamed his blog ("Blog them into the Stone Age"), redesigned it, and moved it to a new address. He's attracting attackers as well as defenders.

I am hoping that Mark's blog does not follow the path of other historians' blogs, spotlighting contemporary political comment, academic politics, anecdotes, personal revelations, observations about students and colleagues, etc.

The historic sensibility (and subject matter) at History News Network, for instance, is apallingly low. Its posters cannot seem to stop writing about national politics, general academic lifestyle issues, and off-topic personal interests. I say this with humility: at HNN I feel as though I am reading the blogs of teenagers who have finally been given their voice.

Of course blogs do give us all voice and there's an exuberance unleashed by sounding off. The problem is focus and interest.

So good luck, Mark Grimsley. And since you currently have HNN's attention, please show them how to blog history. They need a positive example.

Lack of interest in preserving Early house

It seems that the group trying to restore Jubal Early's deteriorating home can count on private persons only:

Most donations have come from individuals. Corporate donations and government grants have been much more difficult to come by. It's just not a politically correct project, he said, but it should be.
I'm not sure that nails the problem. Based on my analysis of Civil War Internet term searches (1999-2000), apart from Lee and Jackson, no Rebel general registers as a significant search term, which I take as an expression of lack of interest. Put another way, in my research, any second or third tier Union general attracted thousands of searches compared to just hundreds for a Bragg, a Johnston, a Stuart.

This Trust needs $1 million and has raised about one-tenth of that, according to this article.
NEWS | Last Union casualty to be honored in Indiana * SCV in turmoil * Center will tell three sides of Civil War


An association does its members proud

I remain intrigued by the American Historical Association's new "Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct" despite having commented on it earlier.

If you were trying to instill norms of decency into the minds of hardened, dull-witted felons, this is pretty much how you would do it:
Historians should not list among the completed achievements on their resumes degrees or honors they have never earned, jobs they have never held, articles or books they have never written or published, or any comparable misrepresentations of their creative or professional work.
Got that? Now don't pretend you didn't know later on when the press catches you out. Furthermore:
Historians should not misrepresent their sources. They should report their findings as accurately as possible and not omit evidence that runs counter to their own interpretation. [...] They should oppose false or erroneous use of evidence, along with any efforts to ignore or conceal such false or erroneous use.
Sorry about that passage. I like quoting it but it's way too esoteric for an AHA audience. Let's get back to the basics:
An undetected counterfeit undermines not just the historical arguments of the forger, but all subsequent scholarship that relies on the forger’s work. Those who invent, alter, remove, or destroy evidence make it difficult for any serious historian ever wholly to trust their work again.
See that, historians? Your undetected forgeries are creating problems for others. What an ethical dilemma. But at least those "others" can retaliate by not sourcing your fraudulent works in their studies. Or can they:
Plagiarism violates the historical record by failing to reveal the secondary sources that have contributed to a given line of argument. It is a form of fraud, and betrays the trust on which the historical profession depends.
"I didn't know I was betraying the trust on which the historical profession depends. I was just writing real fast and my notes got lost."

I picture this membership reading the guidelines and saying, "Now, as of today, I promise to stop suppressing and misusing sources, to stop plagiarizing, to stop forging and/or destroying evidence, and to stop falsifying my own personal history. For I am the proud member of the American Historical Association and I'm turning my life around!

"Just ask my parole officer."

A desperate hope named "tourism"

This is over the top:
In a meeting that lasted less than 30 minutes, the [Pittsfield, Ill.] council voted to pay $4,500 to buy 12 transmitters that will turn 12 historic sites in Pittsfield into "Talking Houses"
Most of the 12 are notable for having a Lincoln connection. Think about that: Lincoln in Pittsfield. Is that a lost work of Carl Sandburg?

Here's something to keep in mind when touring Pittsfield: you cannot enter these houses. People live there.
The "Talking Houses" concept is a new one. A transmitter, which closely resembles a thin VCR, will be placed in each historically significant location. Visitors will be able to pull up in front of those structures, tune their radios to an AM radio frequency, which will broadcast an approximate five-minute history and/or significance narrative of the building.
We are at the cusp of a heritage tourism bubble. Watch for the burst.

Franklin news...

... is a bust. We have a letter to the editor, but no report of the aldermen's meeting.
NEWS | Citizens complain that development bulldozed Harrisburg ACW earthworks * Iowa dedicates highway rest area to ACW * Rockers revive interest in local ACW hero


Franklin battlefield - no news

No story from last night's aldermen meeting has been filed with the local newspaper yet. Maybe tomorrow.

The spiked helmet at McClellan's elbow

I was looking at this daguerreotype of the Delafield Commission, and where Mordecai (left) and Delafield (center) have shakos on their knees, McClellan seems to have a spiked leather helmet at his left elbow. I know American units wore these after the ACW, and I assume this one belongs to the unidentified foreign officer in the photo.

But the Crimean War seems to be a bit early for this kind of headgear, even for Europeans.

The Internet being what it is, there has to be a website devoted to the subject - and there is. Get a load of this undated photograph of the American "pickelhaube."

Meanwhile, the shape at Mac's elbow is a problem to be solved later.

Libertarian panic and the Civil War

Adrian Vermuele, a law professor, has written a very interesting paper reversing the Libertarian movement's paradigm for the diminution of civil liberties. This paradigm is the one Libertarian Party idea that has achieved the widest mass acceptance in American society and is routinely used to interpret the Lincoln Administration's incursions against the prevailing civil order. He describes it this way:

... the history of civil liberties is characterized by a series of security panics. A range of mechanisms ... cause periodic panics in which aroused publics demand repressive measures to curtail the civil liberties of perceived enemies of the nation, particularly noncitizens or other outsiders. Government officials may themselves panic, or will at least supply the panicky measures that constituents demand.
Vermuele argues that

Even if that model is right as far as it goes, it is fatally incomplete. My central claim is that the mechanisms underlying security panics have no necessary or inherent pro-security valence. The very same mechanisms are equally capable of producing libertarian panics: episodes in which aroused publics become irrationally convinced that justified security measures represent unjustified attempts to curtail civil liberties. I will suggest that libertarian panics have been a regular occurrence in American history, and that we may be living through one now, in the form of a widespread and thoroughly irrational, even hysterical, reaction to small legal changes adopted after 9/11.
Unfortunately, his "regular occurrence in American history" is based on a too-short list of historic recapitulations and does not reach the Civil War. It's an interesting paper, nonetheless, especially if read in light of the Democratic Party's war-long critique of the Lincoln Administration.

My problem with this paper is that you do not get closer to historic truth by reversing paradigms; paradigms are inherently non-historic.

Here's the link. Hat tip to The Volokh Conspiracy via Glenn Reynolds.
NEWS | Rebel flag falls in fight at cemetery * Bentonville celebrates 140th anniversary reenactment * Soldier's ACW quilt sells for $82,250


Franklin aldermen meet tonight

Franklin aldermen and residents will tonight discuss authorization of $2 million in bonds for open space in connection with the purchase of the Country Club of Franklin. After a long dry spell, we should have some Franklin battlefield news tomorrow.

Faust in the bivouac

Yesterday's post on the Goober Peas school of musical historiography inspired author Tim Reese to point me towards this opera-tinged passage from his out-of-print 1990 book Sykes' Regular Infantry Division, 1861-1864:

Somehow amid all the hubbub the band of Hudson’s 14th U.S. [Inf.] never received the order to return to depot, remaining with the army long after first blood had been drawn. The musicians were seasoned campaigners by now and had endured as much as their comrades of the line, never losing sight of their primary business of making music:
When [Band Leader] Adkins came back from his visit to New London, he brought some music from the Opera of Faust, then quite new, and I well remember the strong impression it made on me by its great beauty and originality. The band was now so reduced in numbers that it was not easy to play well, and the First Cavalry band was in about the same plight, but had members who played the parts we lacked; so we played together, making a very good band.
Adkins’ youthful charges eagerly absorbed the rudiments of Gounod’s popular score, the words of the “Soldiers’ Chorus” ringing hauntingly close to home:
Hail to the heroes of long ago,
Men who courageously met the foe.
We fought as you for the cause of right,
Our spirit is high, our honor is bright.
For you, dear native land,
Let our banner fly,
At your call and command,
We will gladly die.
So add Gounod's "Faust" to your Civil War songbooks. Thanks, Tim.

Boston and the face of heritage tourism

Boston has launched its headphones and tape walking tour:
"Boston: City of Rebels and Dreamers" tour, [is] narrated by charismatic Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.
Tyler, a Massachusetts resident with deep roots in Boston, weaves the stops together. "He is someone really connected to the place, someone with a real passion for the city" ...
Am I neurotic to want to associate history with history? Wouldn't Tyler be the better choice for narrating a walking tour of Boston nightspots? Or mob rubouts?

Tourist officials are telling us something important: it's all just entertainment to them.

Civil War militia hosts open house in Cleveland

The Cleveland Grays still exist and recently hosted an open house at their armory. They say this may become an annual affair.

Have you read their book?
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Escape from "Goober Peas"

Give the "Camptown Races" a break:

The repertory of American sheet music was enlarged in the first decades of the nineteenth century by the songs of English-born musicians living in America (Benjamin Carr, James Hewitt, Raynor Taylor), by popular airs from ballad operas, by Irish songs, and by songs arranged from favorite Italian operas of Donizetti, Bellini, and their contemporaries.

See for yourself:

This song begins with dramatically declaimed text against an arpeggiated accompaniment, continues with dramatic recitative on the words "Is my Father coming? tell me, Has our army gain’d the day?," and moves to an arioso-like treatment of the text beginning with "Is he well, or is he wounded?," and would not be out of place as a small scena in an opera by Donizetti or one of his contemporaries. Even the details are right—the dramatic punctuation of the text with chromatic chords, the pause on a note just before the final chord. Music in the style of Italian opera in the context of the American Civil War? Once one knows what to listen for, there are many examples.

I'll say one thing in favor of the school of "Goober Peas" Civil War music. Actually, I'll take it from the cited article (with my emphasis added again):

Most music published during the war—and all the music in this album—appeared as single pieces of sheet music, as songs for solo voice and keyboard (or occasionally guitar) accompaniment. This was music for performance in the home, by people of modest musical ability.
"Camptown Races" music represents very modest musical ability - is it not fair to represent the body of Civil War musical tastes driven by these "people of modest musical ability"?

No, I think not. Consider what you just read. In the 1860s, modest musical ability embraced certain operatic conventions. The modest musical ability of today is painfully modest by comparison.

"Camptown Races," etc., are songs at the absolute bottom end of the reading and technique scale. Kid stuff. For the real Civil War stuff, seek out the arpeggiations and dramatic recitatives.

The tourniquet conundrum

The infantry no longer carries tourniquets. When did that happen?
"What was available in the Civil War, correctly applied, would have been quite adequate here," said Dr. Howard Champion, a senior trauma adviser to the military and one of the nation's leading trauma specialists. "Unfortunately, they were left with less than that. [...] many of the nation's soldiers - tens of thousands, some doctors and Army medical officials estimate - continue to enter battle without tourniquets. And some bleed to death from battlefield injuries that would not be life-threatening if a proper tourniquet were available
Civil War soldiers carried them.
The standard-issue "field dressing" bandage - a gauze pad with cotton straps that was singled out by the 2003 report as inadequate - remains the only piece of medical equipment the Army routinely issues to each of its soldiers.
Have a look.
NEWS | Va. man designing Civil War memorial for Wheeling * A.P. Hill is coming home * Civil War camp will teach history


A few words about the Stevens Battery

Outside of naval tech history books, one tends to encounter the Stevens Floating Battery (sometimes just "Stevens Battery") in Sears' Young Napoleon, at that point in 1867 where George B. McClellan is picking up a sales contract to peddle this weapons system in Europe.

Sears doesn't say much more about McClellan's involvement with the Stevenses, except that McClellan did not sell the system in the late 1860s. He could have written more. Some years ago, I found extensive correspondence between McClellan and and the Stevenses (or their representatives) among Governor McClellan's letters in Trenton, 1878-1879. They were still, at that late date, transacting "battery" business.

To my regret, I did not copy out the letters. The writing was cramped, the letters long and I barely had time to inventory McClellan's correspondence.

In the papers of Joseph Henry, there is a letter (document 119) dated to 1861 in which Henry apparently writes a report to McClellan about the Stevens Battery; that would establish an earlier McClellan/Stevens connection than Sears' 1867.

I never had a clear idea of the battery, however.

Sears did give a competent thumbnail description of the thing as it was, but despite his help I pictured it as maybe a score of cannon resting on a floating log raft with some iron protection around the guns. Really trademark-worthy stuff. Ridiculous me.

In my reading this week, I was surprised to see Brent Nosworthy, in his Bloody Crucible of Courage, classify the "Floating Battery" as a persistent and pernicious nomenclature error. Nosworthy says this was a very advanced ironclad design from the first (1840) for which the Navy had no terminology. The "floating battery" contract language stuck and it must have hurt: images of the Royal Navy towing rafts of cannon through Crimean waters, and all that.

Scroll down for a look at these drawings of the system as they appeared in the August 31, 1861 edition of Scientific American.

Nosworthy points out that this Scientific American article attributes the current (1861) Stevens technology to the first versions of the project twenty years previous.

By December, 1861, Harper's Weekly had its own Stevens battery article in print, building further on a "wonder weapon effect" that resulted in rumors and sightings. For instance, by May, The Richmond Dispatch had the Stevens Battery "one mile and a half below City Point, cautiously and slowly advancing" with the Monitor and Galena.

A year earlier, in April 1861, in the combat at Sumter, Harper's Weekly had reported that "the Stevens Battery was silenced, and the Floating Battery half shot away."

The problem with the system is that it was what software people call "vaporware." It had been started but not finished, which resulted in variant views of what the final product might look like.

This project went through starts and stoppings and redesigns; it outran its government cash and private investment; ultimately it fell into the hands of the State of New Jersey.

In the late 1960s, I moved next door to the Marie H. Katzenbach Scool for the Deaf. It's a major (pleasant) feature of what is called "West Trenton" and it had started out by taking over what had been a home for Civil War orphans.

The Katzenbach school was established in large part through a state grant of $58,793.58. That money came from the scrap sale of the unfinished Stevens Floating Battery.

I think McClellan was involved: if I had copied out those Stevens letters, I'd know for sure. I'd have a nice ending to wrap up this tale.

Don't be as lazy as this blogger.

And if you have some free moments, please write a book about this fascinating project.
NEWS | Deathbed to be featured in Lincoln killing exhibit * Center for Civil War History is started in Rappahannock * Easement for Sherman HQ in SC * Civil War dress collector gives talk


New ACW images via the NY Public Library

A collection of 275,000 images including maps, Civil War photos, illuminated medieval manuscripts and historic menus will be accessible online starting Thursday, the New York Public Library announced.

The photos are here.

Here's a picture of Rosie with Sheridan.

(Note that the site servers are overloaded and images are building slowly.)

Blind men and the elephant

A professional public relations executive interprets Lincoln:
Mr. Holzer said that Lincoln grasped the power of images and "how important image making is to political success and a place in history."
And my barber was saying how Lincoln grasped the importance of being well groomed for all those photographs.

My shoe repairman said he has always admired Lincoln's choices in footwear.

Mere coincidences or fundamental elements of greatness? You decide.

Vidal's ACW play

The previews and reviews are trickling in for the recent reading of Gore Vidal's new Civil War play:

The young Vidal read letters in the attic sent from family members in Atlanta when that city was under siege.

The people I cared about in this conflict -- my own ancestors -- aren't depicted in this journey.

Vidal chose to write about the Civil War because no such play exists. "The Civil War never ended. We never put a finish on it," he said. "It’s our Trojan War—the only thing that makes this country interesting."
NEWS | News break today


Pennsylvania, the world's antislavery leader

A forgotten anniversary:
On March 1, 1780, the government of Pennsylvania became the first in the world to pass a law against slavery, affirming that no child born after that date could be permanently enslaved. The British, who did not form their first antislavery organization until seven years later, are usually credited with this accomplishment ...

The origins of anti-Lincoln rhetoric

A Civil War reader is well steeped in the North's anti-Lincoln rhetoric; it follows certain themes and favors certain phrases.

I've recently met these "old friends" as I began wending my way through The Anti-Federalist Papers. What a surprise! In The Anti-Federalist Papers, authored during the twilight of the Confederation, you might say the language is Jeffersonian (i.e. Democrat) and surprisingly close to the formulations deployed against Lincoln in the ACW.

In parallel, I've started The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, a book I needed to read years ago.

The anti-Lincoln catchphrases and concepts are here too - in spades - not only in Democratic Party oratory against federalist greed and privilege, but in Whig formulas attacking Democrat "tyrrany."

It's pleasant, time travelling with friends. I'll let you know who else I meet.

Civil War-in-the-West center to open in Kentucky

Western Kentucky University will soon be acquiring a state-of-the-art Civil War research collection that will focus on the War in the West, battles primarily in Kentucky and Tennessee. The center will also contain information about battles in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri.

The Center for the Study of the Civil War in the West, to which the university has agreed to fund $300,000 over four years, will contain the nation’s largest collection of letters, diaries, unit and regimental histories and other information on microfilm and microfiche.

The collection, which will be housed in the Kentucky Library, will also contain “service jackets,” which were cards carried by every soldier who fought in the Civil War detailing where they had been and what happened to them.

The collections will be open to the public ...
The full story is here.

Private ACW photo collection to go public

Very interesting developments in New York state. These photos may be accessible soon:

Frederick Hill Meserve, who lived in New York City, began collecting the photographs in 1897, initially to illustrate his father's Civil War memoirs. He bought his first package of about 100 photos for $1.10 in an auction. In 1902 in New Jersey, he acquired an important collection of Mathew Brady glass negatives, including several of Lincoln. [ ... ] Eventually his collection numbered more than 200,000 items ...

Kenneth T. Jackson of Chappaqua, a professor of history at Columbia University ... said the collection is extraordinarily rich, but hasn't been as accessible as some of the other great troves of historical photography because of its unusual history.

"CSA" moviemaker speaks

Black filmmaker Kevin Willmott made a film about an America in which the South won the Civil War, "Confederate States of America." He spoke recently in Kansas:
It's also important to remember the Civil War wasn't solely about slavery. It was indeed about politics and economics as well, he said.

Willmott said he had actors and executives afraid to work on the project because it deals with such a sensitive subject.
NEWS | Event to commemorate Little Round Top * Links to Lincoln discovered at train station * Charleston to reopen slave mart museum next year


Does this point to a rising McClellan tide?

I can't believe my eyes.

This, on the other hand is a little more predictable.

Washburn(e)s in the ACW

I've had a little project in mind for some time to to try to fathom each individual connection between the various Civil War Washburn(e)s.
Former Vice President Hannibal Hamlin said of Patty Washburn, "Rome in all her glory never produced such a woman as the mother of the Washburns." Patty had high expectations of her children ... seven sons and three daughters includ[ing] four men who served as congressmen, two of whom also were governors. Their oldest son, Israel Washburn Jr., was elected governor of Maine in 1860.
So, they were all brothers.

Hat tip to the new small press offering, ISRAEL WASHBURN JR.: MAINE'S LITTLE-KNOWN GIANT OF THE CIVIL WAR.
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