Lincoln, Scott and Mac - reunited

Speaking of McClellan at Gettysburg, how odd is it that the most prominent name on Lincoln Square in Gettysburg is McClellan's Tavern?

How odd is it that it was called "The McClellan House" when Lincoln visited the square in 1864? And isn't it strange that the place was originally Scott's Tavern, "McClellan" replacing "Scott"?

Scott's has been revived such that Lincoln Square is now home to McClellan's Tavern and Scott's Lounge.

But where are the Hookers? Perhaps at the casino.

Lincoln for everyone

The ruler of Qatar was visiting the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. Asked for a comment on the facility, he gave an answer that shows how to squeeze lemonade out of any kind of lemon handed you:
"This museum demonstrates that America does not forget a president united the country."
Translation: no emirate should forget an emir united its tribes. (That's a complete political philosophy in 13 words or less.)

Note that the emir's comment seems to rank President Lincoln above Citizen Washington. In that, at least, the emir stands with most American historians.

Print-on-Demand, Macmillan style

Print-on-demand (POD) technology has been a positive thing for authors and has taken some of the "vanity" out of "vanity publishing," as noted here recently. (See The evolution of publishing technology.)

POD has given rise to mini-publishers like Xlibris who give an author a marque (or imprint); an ISBN; a short run of books; a path into Amazon, B&N and the distributors (Ingram and Baker & Taylor); and a tiny bit of marketing. The author retains all rights and can do whatever with the book without bothering over the publisher's rights.

In the United Kingdom, Macmillan is pioneering its own use of POD in the new novel arena, and the picture is not pretty. It's created an imprint for its POD novels, called, "Macmillan New Writing," and certainly if this is successful it will carry over to nonfiction and the USA.

According to this article in the New York Press freesheet, "With Macmillan, you pay them nothing. You also get paid nothing. And the rights aren't yours."

This is rife with bad potential for the author whose mini-edition has failed and who wants to shop the book around for a second chance. Some quotes from the Press article:

"This is a large publisher just trying to own as much content as they can," said Susan Driscoll, president and CEO of I-Universe, one of the internet's most respected POD publishing houses. "Authors need to see through this. It's criminal. Their rights [the rights to their work, including reprints, paperbacks, film rights, everything] would be tied up forever. And they'd never see any money."

"It seems strange that they would compete [with us]," said X-Libris' Athena Catedral. "It's an attempt to own the whole market, while treating writers like idiots."
For Macmillan to seek the whole roster of standard publishing contract rights for itself while delivering minimal commitment, is a frightening development. Here's hoping this project fails.
NEWS | WV man claims ancestor's medal from state * Restored monument returns to MI city * Sons of Union Veterans chapters spread across South * Utah re-enactors gather at Camp Floyd * SD man plumbs mysteries of CSA grave


Decoration Day

All nations have days sacred to the remembrance of joy and of grief. They have thanksgivings for success, fasting and prayers in the hour of humiliation and defeat, triumphs and paeans to greet the living laurel-crowned victor. They have ossuaries and eulogies for the warrior slain on the field of battle. Such is the duty we are to perform today [...]

Such an occasion as this should call forth the deepest and noblest emotions of our nature - pride, sorrow, and prayer; pride that our country has posessed such sons; sorrow that she has lost them; prayer that she may have others like them; that we and our successors may adorn her annals as they have done, and that when our parting hour arrives, whenever and however it may be, our souls may be prepared for the great change.

George B. McClellan,
June 25 1864,
Remarks given ex tempore to a crowd gathered to see him at the Fort William Henry Hotel on Lake George, New York


Weekends are for reruns and sources are hell

Emory defines fraud - Fraud includes "the omission in publications of conflicting and/or non-conforming observations of data." Can your favorite ACW author pass that fraud test?

The strange citational habits of Pulitzer-winner Stephen W. Sears * Sears' treatment of sources vs. Mark Snell's

McClellan's so-called letters to his wife: How fraudulent are they? * Historians "add value" to GBM's "letters"

Welcome to ACW history, where we have moved completely beyond sources! Sources lie, sources distort, sources misrepresent; you had better abandon sources.

Got source trouble? Watch Columbia's master storyteller rough up an impertinent source.


Mac and Strong Vincent at Gettysburg

Nick Korolev, of the McClellan Society, was good enough to hunt up another Mac at Gettysburg story, and it's a good one with a rumor attribution given to General Barnes. When it rains, it pours!
Alice Trulock in her Chamberlain biography IN THE HANDS OF PROVIDENCE describes the same scene on pages 124 - 126 "When darkness fell and the full moon rose, the bands struck up and the colors were unfurled again. Farmers and townspeople came out of the houses and to the roadside, hailing their deliverers and bringing water and food. Young women, all made to seem beautiful by the soft light, sang and waved handkerchiefs, and flirted with young staff officers, who lingered to talk in low, hurried tones and sometimes, perhaps, bent down from their horses to steal a kiss. A group of girls by the wayside began singing "The Star Spangled Banner", and Strong Vincent, inspired by the most magical mood, looked at his country's flag. Baring his head he, declared to those riding with him:"What death more glorious could any man desire than to die on the soil of old Pennsylvania fighting for that flag?"

"As the columns marched on, a staff officer appeared from the shadows and whispered a few words to the leading officers. Vincent announced a message from General Barnes that the still popular McClellan was at the head of the army, after which cheer after joyous cheer exploded from the throats of the men and the pace picked up. Catching the enthusiasm, Vincent raised his hand in a wave and exclaimed, "Now boys, we will give 'em hell tomorrow."

Stealing from the National Archives

Tom Rowland once told me how difficult his research was in the federally-held McClellan papers, those documents having become severely disorganized.

What brought this to mind was Ethan Rafuse's heavy citations of the microfilm edition of GBM's papers in his new book, McClellan's War (more on which next week). I think this means we passed the point where the actual source documents can even be used.

Today brings news of the sentencing of a thief who has systematically been stealing ACW materials from the National Archives and selling them on eBay. And how was he found out? By an alert researcher on eBay, not by the National Archives.

The National Museum of Iraq watches eBay attentively and works with law enforcement to arrest sellers. The National Archives, meanwhile, seems to busy itself with other matters.

How much history has been lost this way?

The price this man will pay for his crimes is just two years in prison. I view that as a deep cultural statement, the government commenting through its courts on the value it places on this nation's history.

Discovering virtual battlefields

I had linked earlier this week to Mitch Hagmaier's post on his struggle to locate the South Mountain gaps. I forgot to repeat to the reader that these hard-to-find sites are (on paper) state battlefield parks, with none other than Civil War Preservation Trust claiming much credit for "saving" this "hallowed ground."

In a new post, Tim Reese reviews Mitch's route with him - a must-read if you ever plan to visit the place. Please see also my "dialog" with Reese on the botched acquisition strategies for South Mountain battlefield land.

(Check out Mitch's thoughts on McClellan at Gettysburg, as well - they are worth a ponder.)

Friday housekeeping

Some points of administrative interest.

(1) You can link to any post directly by clicking on its datestamp (at the bottom). Click on that and the post comes up in its own window with its own unique URL, which can be cut from the address line and pasted anywhere.

(2) This blog runs Mon - Fri. If nothing has been posted on a weekday, check into http://cwbn.blogthing.com. That's our emergency broadcast system.

(3) I'm a reader, you're a reader. This is a consumer site concerned with "product" quality. It's also concerned with the product quality of "public history" in its various guises.

(4) Readers who have sought me out have been impressive and supportive. However, my fear of the general Civil War readership - of getting time-wasting input from ardent story lovers - keeps my contact info off this site. There are plenty of clues around as to how to reach me if you wish to and I thank those who have taken that trouble.

(5) Being free of restricting associations and social calculations, my criticism can be overdone. I regret any unnecessary harshness. Bad history is not necessarily produced by bad people.

Thanks for visiting.
NEWS | National Civil War Museum explores history of 'Taps'* Archive thief gets sentence * VSU to host Conference on African Americans and the Civil War * Ford Motors to feature in Gettysburg Museum


What are they up to?

Viking re-enactors? What do they tell their friends at work about the weekend? Are there wounded and dying monk re-enactors?

Do they re-enact the blood eagle?

These buffs have a name converter that designated me "Wartooth."

Look out. Chomp chomp.

Mac at Gettysburg - postscript

A McClellan Society member was good enough to email me this:

Concerning McClellan at Gettysburg, Bruce Catton mentioned it in his book The Army of the Potomac: Glory Road. On pages 266 and 267 he wrote: "In various moving columns that evening staff officers galloped up in mock frenzy and shouted the news: 'McClellan is in command again!' The boys cheered and tossed their hats and for half an hour the business was a sensation, yet it appears that something about the news failed to ring true, and most of the soldiers were not greatly deceived."
A very queer passage: "The boys cheered and tossed their hats and for half an hour the business was a sensation, yet it appears that something about the news failed to ring true and most of the soldiers were not greatly deceived." As with much Centennial history, we have an event, we have an observable effect, and then we have "expert interpretation" to prevent us from drawing the "wrong" (obvious) conclusions.

My correspondent adds,

He gives the following sources in his footnote: "Henry Wilson's Regiment" pg 331; "Army Life:A Private's Reminiscenes", pg 101; "The Old Fourth Michigan Infantry" pp21-22; "History of the 9th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry", pg312; "History of the Sauk County Riflemen", p 70; "Battles and Leaders, Vol III", p301.

So Catton encountered this McClellan event across multiple regimental histories, none of them duplicating my own finds. Amazing. Thanks Kay, and I'll see you all at the interlibrary loan desk.

Do keep those McClellan-at-Gettysburg sightings coming.

The biggest Civil War summer read

I notice that reviewers like and are talking about a novel based on Carrie McGavock, scheduled for release in August, The Widow of the South. It seems to be making all the summer reading list previews.

The Widow McGavock collected the fallen around Franklin battlefield and buried 1,481 dead on her estate. The 100th anniversary of her death was commemorated in February.

The preorders have not taken hold, however, and the book's Amazon rank remains very low.

A Warner Books product. Hmmm, is this to be our next big-budget Civil War movie? Sales will tell.

Public trust and public decency


Is it okay to be irritated at a battlefield's administrators when they wait 20 years to to replace a broken history tablet?

How about when they collect outside money to make a replacement tablet - after two decades - and then hold off for a year before re-installing the tablet? So they can make a ceremony for their fund-raising programs?

Can I be irritated that they callously use elementary school students to perform their own core duties?

Should I donate additional money to a federally funded National Park Service that lavishes high salaries on senior staff while schoolkids replace historic tablets?

Public decency is expected of public servants - the NPS should get some.
NEWS | 'Friends' oppose Gettysburg casino * Illinois program will honor Civil War soldiers * Elementary schools help battlefield pay for routine maintenance


McClellan at Gettysburg, part two of two

And so one day, feeding my compulsion to look up Irish unit histories and their references to McClellan at Gettysburg; having gone at least four years without a find in this line; knowing that the references were out there somewhere and expecting nothing once again, I pulled from the shelf an esoteric title by the excellent small press Morningside - A Party of Mad Fellows: The Story of the Irish Regiments in the Army of the Potomac. In that, author Frank A. Boyle writes regarding Gettysburg,
The repulse had lifted the morale of the Philadelphia Brigade considerably, and later that night General Webb raised it even higher by announcing that on the morrow McClellan would be operating on Lee's communication line with 40,000 men.
This was not just a hit for me, it was a new (fourth) type of McClellan Gettysburg story: McClellan off the battlefield with an independent force.

This was followed by a friendly email from novelist and painter Nick Korolev, who reached for his copy of The 20th Maine by John Pullen and the chapter on Gettysburg:
Of their march from Hanover towards Gettysburg the night of July 1st Chamberlain reports, "At the turn of the road a staff officer, with the air of authority, told each colonel as he came up that McClellan was in command again, and riding ahead of us on the road."
Private Theodore Gerrish wrote,"Men waved their hats and cheered until they were hoarse and wild with excitement." No one knew how the rumor got started, but for a time the intensly keyed up men marched believing their beloved McClellan was once again leading them into battle.
I hope I've extracted that passage correctly from his message. It does look like I'm on a roll here.

Before you dismiss this post an an pointless exercise in ACW esoterica, let me disagree.

Our Civil War histories have been so purged and cleansed of the soldier's milieu of half-truths, rumors, and inaccurate news reports, that their "truth" becomes a ridiculous lie. Was the Philadelphia Brigade emotionally whipsawed by McClellan rumors for successive nights? If so, that is an immensely "true" part of their experience and its removal from any history - on grounds that the rumors were untrue - begets a falsehood of its own.

A very senior librarian wrote some time ago that she could not believe how little use Civil War historians make of contemporary newspapers. Well it's simple: they are innacurate. Filled with noise. Lots of crazy rumors. Got to keep the story straight, you know.

And yet in war, at every level from private to general commanding, lies and half truths are an immense component of the day-to-day reality. Compile every story of McClellan at Gettysburg and lay it on a timeline; plot it unit by unit. The breadth of this meme will surprise, I am sure. More important, it will act as a weathervane pointing to the much vaster body of information (true and false) making up the soldier's world: Why are we here? Where are we going? Who's in charge? What's happening in front? There's a lying answer to every question that is a true part of the daily grind.

As I collected soldiers' anecdotes about "our George" from letters and newspapers I came to understand that the Civil War soldiers and officers experienced much of their service as what we call "folklore" and hearsay and that historians were not interested in it.

I don't see that changing. Once in a blue moon, someone compiles an anthology of the stuff - together with poetry and funny anecdotes - keeping it strictly separate from "fact." Which destroys "fact."

Seek your McClellans at Gettysburg and you will enjoy a richer, truer Civil War history reading experience.

Commemoration revisionism

This new book looks quite good - Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation.
Neff contends that the significance of the Civil War dead has been largely overlooked and that the literature on the war has so far failed to note how commemorations of the dead provide a means for both expressing lingering animosities and discouraging reconciliation.

Has he lost interest?

It seems that a certain director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies has lost interest in the Civil War.

His latest nonfiction is ranked 8,642 on the B&N sales chart. It was brought out by a mighty trade house. It is sequel-ready and can be milked for as many more pop history dollars as follow-up volumes can be produced.

His top three bestsellers at B&N have no ACW content.

It's not that he's a renaissance man. He's a prolific professional writer making a dollar. As Publisher's Weekly notes about his latest, it is long on story while "adding little new research."

A Centennialist suffers burnout and removes himself from the field of Civil War doctrine. This clears the way for new thinking.

Nothing wrong with that.

"Always be skeptical of narrative"

Andrew Cline makes a good point at Rhetorica:
Readers should always be skeptical of narrative structures. Narrative denies its own rhetoricity, which is academic jargon for: stories persuade without seeming to persuade. Bykofsky's advice boils down to this: When you encounter a neatly tied plot and well-formed characters [in nonfiction], be skeptical.
Be very skeptical!

Day-to-day, Cline concerns himself with the truth-bending effects of narrative structure in journalism. We ourselves have identified our own distorting master narrative in Civil War nonfiction ("Lincoln finds a general"); Cline seeks out the nefarious master narrative informing each news cycle:
Narrative bias: 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. 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. Journalists often seek out the opinions of competing experts or officials in order to present conflict between two sides of an issue (sometimes referred to as the authority-disorder bias). Lastly, 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. [Emphasis added.] 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.
This comes very near to defining the core problem with Civil War history.


- an unsuccessful novelist. (H. L. Mencken)
NEWS | Stones River museum closes for maintenance * Civil War painting to be rededicated in MA * County's Civil War flag going on display for first time in 100 years


McClellan at Gettysburg, part one of two

Research tics. Do you have them? Here's mine: when I visit an unfamiliar library, the first thing I check is the Civil War section for Irish unit histories. I then scour these for accounts of McClellan at Gettysburg.

There is a story behind this compulsion.

One evening in '98 or '99, I was in the New York Public Library. The main branch is organized for monumental effect with actual books tucked into little crannies where the architecture permits, some in cages guarded by staff. (The highest drama comes when someone at the end of a marble labyrinth summons books from the basement on a dumb waiter.) I used to have a hard time remembering where I had found what and how to get back there.

This particular night, I was researching a regular feature for the McClellan Society newsletter, as was my monthly habit. We had a series of soldierly anecdotes about "our George." Easy stuff to collect - just open any biography or unit narrative relevant to the time and place and the material awaits.

This time I had grabbed an armful of Irish unit histories, whether from some shelf or by virtue of ordering them up from the special collections, I don't know. There were six or so books, none of them published much past the last century. I got comfortable and began skimming them, one by one.

Every book had McClellan references for Gettysburg. Not being a Gettysburg buff, I took the reality presented by those books as part of the common lore of that battle. How else could it be if every randomly picked title had such a story? There were three categories for such tales.

In the first type, someone sees GBM on the battlefield or near it. Word spreads and the troops go wild.

In the second type, the high commanders, wishing to generally motivate the troops for the battle ahead, intentionally spread the rumor that McClellan has taken command. The troops go wild.

In the third type of story, some specifically named low-level unit commander tells a brigade or regiment that McClellan has taken over for some specific short-term benefit, e.g. because a unit is wavering.

I made my notes, returned the books, and wrote my piece. Sometime later my hard drive crashed taking about 20 newsletters with it. Society member Moe Daoust and I were setting up the first McClellan Society discussion board at the time, and I decided not to revive the newsletter in hardcopy form, nor to retrieve the lost data.

My notes were lost and the illusion continued.

After publishing the newsletter with its Gettysburg stories, I got a letter from a member who said, oh of course, McClellan at Gettysburg, and by the way you forgot a story, here it is.

Then, not long after, I gave a speech to the Meade Society near Philadelphia and I mentioned the oral traditions of Mac at Gettysburg in a social moment after the talk; everyone was of the mind, "Yes, of course, we've all heard these, etc." So I had no idea that I had partaken of something alien to the common readership.

The odd review copy of some new Irish unit history would come my way in those days and I would check it for more anecdotes and there would be no mention of McClellan at Gettysburg. That happened often enough that at some point I became worried that the meme "McClellan at Gettysburg" could not be reconstructed from sources at all. So the compulsion began.

There are dreams you have where you awaken, determined to write down something important; a little voice tells you to go back to sleep and write it in the morning. In the morning you cannot remember what was so interesting or important. The NYPL incident was like that. Or maybe it was more like walking away from a winning streak at the blackjack table thinking, "I'll take the rest of their money after dinner."

Try as I might, I could not reconnect with anything hinting at McClellan at Gettysburg. Not in bookstores, not in libraries. Not for years. I tried revisiting the library (having moved away) - nothing worked.

A few weeks ago I visited the Frederick public library for some Bruce Catton vs. Jean Smith quotes. But first I tended to my compulsion - the Irish unit histories. There was exactly one such book on the shelf. And it had a solid McClellan at Gettysburg story.


(Continued tomorrow.)

Of gaps and Gaths

Mitch Hagmaier was self-guiding himself through a tour of the Maryland Campaign gaps when he encountered the horror called Gathland.

It's what you get when governments manage your battlefield parks. Sample his reaction yourselves.

You see, a certain journalist decided to use the battlefield to commemorate himself and his friends. His constructions on the site are now old - which implies historic - and who could sensibly expect any government to ever make a decisions to give primacy to one old thing over another? Isn't it all history?

"What is truth?" a civil servant once asked.

In days of yore, New Jersey's capital city did a gutsy restoration of William Trent's house (originally finished in 1719). The restoration consisted of tearing down additions to the building made in George Washington's time.

Someone knew the difference between ephemera and historical meaning. Those days are over. Welcome to Gathworld.

*** *** ***
Tim Reese, expert on all things Cramptonian, hosts a panoramic photo of the gaps Mitch visited here.

Blog notes

A good historiography blog has been operating for some time - I just found it - and this one has military overtones: Irregular Analyses. Thanks to their blog team member Anthony Cormack for the kind words.

Irregular Analysis has some interesting links on its pages. One is to "Making a military historian" by T.C. Jones. I like his style: see especially, "David McCullough and why Academics hate military history." He writes that "McCullough’s work distills American history into a page turning dramatic novel. Although this makes for good reading, it also makes for terrible history." May the sun shine warm upon your face my friend.

Via Irregular Analyses, I noticed that Mark Grimsley had been experimenting with a Civil War blog - missed that - but he has folded that project into his main diary. Another blog retirement seems to grip our friends at Journeying West Before 1840.

A tip of the hat to newly minted law school graduate Chris Cross for recommending my weekend post to his readers. Sorry his Judge Advocate General Corps appointment did not work out. I would have hated the appointment for myself and think he actually lucked out.

And in other bloggy news, I myself will be pulling month-long guest stints in June at Darren Rowse's Personal Finance and his Search Engine Optimization Tips during his summer vacation. I'll bring the ruminative style with me but there will be little ACW content. I'm not sure who will be running his ProBlogger, but it is well worth looking at anytime if you blog or are thinking of doing so.

None of this guesting will affect the frequency of posting here, at Civil War Bookshelf.
NEWS | Ellsworth descendent to sell family's ACW cannon * Restored "Sunken Road" to be rededicated * Kentucky celebrates Civil War era houses


Hackworth and history

It's interesting to see the forces of history - and publishing - at work on an strong, public personality such as the late David Hackworth's. Hackworth died last week.

Indulge me a little and I'll bring this around to the ACW.

In the early 1970s, Col. Hackworth and I shared an enemy, with almost the same result. Hackworth had left the service in 1971 and published a bitter autobiography in which his last combat commander, one Col. Franklin, was lambasted for his bad judgement and petty tyranny. It was clear from Hackworth's book - which sold well and was available in any PX - that the dispute with Franklin had crippled Hackworth's career; his retirement acknowledged as much. When I met Franklin three years later, it was also well known in the Infantry School (that employed us) that Hackworth's book had broken the spokes in Franklin's own wheel of promotion. He would not make general.

When I ran into him, Franklin was still on active duty, he was head of the Weapons Department and other colonels were afraid of him. One day he entered our offices in a foul mood looking for my chief, who was out to lunch. He was behaving badly, as bull-necked, shaven-headed colonels are sometimes wont to do, and I began berating him in front of the civilian staff. Juniors can do that to seniors who are out of line - the military has that much over civvy street. Not wanting to get into it with a lieutenant, he wandered off after a little mumbling. Not long after the backslapping and handshaking ended, I was transferred out of Franklin's way. That was when I took up Hackworth's memoir and found we had a mutual acquaintance.

Hackworth's autobiography seems to have been retooled in the 1980s or 1990s, because his obituaries state this:

Disillusioned with America's conduct in prosecuting the Vietnam War, the active-duty colonel offered a harsh critique of the conflict on the ABC-TV news show "Issues and Answers" in 1971. The maverick colonel became an overnight media sensation, but he incensed Army officials, who tried to discredit him by charging him with violating regulations in Vietnam. Before he could be court-martialed, Col. Hackworth was forced to resign from the Army. [From the Seattle Times]

It was one of the first times a senior officer had publicly spoken out against the Vietnam war, and the army unceremoniously retired the man who had been told a few months earlier that he was virtually assured promotion to brigadier-general. [From The Herald, UK]
Look at those two paragraphs. We have gone from a half-truth to what appears to be a summary that makes the half-truth into a lie.

Anyone who read the first edition of Hackworth's memoir understands that his career was killed in Vietnam by Col. Franklin. The decision to go public with TV criticism of the war was with nothing to lose. I interpreted it at the time as personal sour grapes. His "assured" promotion (there are no assured promotions at that level, BTW) might have been "vouchsafed" to him before Franklin issued his efficiency report. After that, all was lost.

The man was fired for speaking out against the war - who would have thought? And so history is made.

Hackworth, in his later incarnation, scattered his substance: on one show, he'd be all about foreign policy; on another about military leadership; on a third, about coverups by the brass. He took a gadfly temperament and developed it into a career as military critic. But his criticisms lacked an underlying theme and a tangible destination. He continued to flit about, gadfly-style, instead of creating a coherent body of criticism. TV loved him. There were small victories. There were tactical wins where grand strategy was needed.

Victorious Union officers after the Civil War purged civilians and instituted a regime of professionaism that permanently marginalized non-West Point officers. Hackworth could have developed a positive alternative notion of military leadership - his life was an emblem for the popular Civil War idea of native (unschooled) military genius. A lost opportunity.

Despite the demobilization, the victorious Union officers after the Civil War instituted a grotesquely top-heavy Army command structure; this was further distorted by the two-and-a-half war fighting doctrine adopted after WWII. Hackworth sniped at this target using counterproductive language and images, making it "personal" for a lot of people on the inside. Another lost opportunity.

The care of the common soldier was a constant Civil War theme in the North and Hackworth made this issue his own. Unfortunately, so did the Pentagon, to the extent that (for instance) Basic Training is now virtually failure-proof. Hackworth attacked the softy stuff while at the same time lambasting soldier abuse. One did not get a clear sense of the relationship of hard war and tender care. Hackworth's soft and tough sides followed an emotional schema not obvious to his friends and potential supporters.

And that's where we are today. Hackworth tried and succeeded in some simple things, like embarassing SecDef Rumsfeld into signing his own death notification letters. He had the capacity to advance a reform agena that could fix much more of our broken Army, but that would have required making allies of reformers like Rumsfeld.

A good part of Army reform will be remaking our officer corps, stuck as it is in a mesh of outdated Civil War beliefs, doctrines, and a counterproductive "professional" ethos. Hackworth put his hand to the plow but his maverick tendencies worked against him and ultimately against us, we who so badly need efficient armed services.

Perhaps I shouldn't blame anyone one for following their own lights as idiosyncratically as I follow mine. Maybe he deserves more credit than I am giving him.

*** *** ***
p.s. Never underestimate the personal payback dynamic. I see from this that the friends of Col. Franklin are having a last laugh:

A Memorial Service for Colonel David H. Hackworth, Infantry, United States Army (Retired), will commence on Tuesday, 31 May, at 11:00am EDT at the Main (new) Chapel, Ft. Myer, Arlington, Virginia. This service will last somewhat less than one hour, since services for another individual are scheduled to start at 12:00 noon in this same chapel.
*** *** ***
p.p.s. I see that Hackworth's friend, Maj. Don Vandergriff (a living link to Col. John Boyd's reform movement) has his own website. Have a look.

He wasn't micromanaging the war, but ...

Come July 9 you can tour Lincoln's battlefields, where, for instance:
Abraham Lincoln vied with Stonewall Jackson as the famed 1862 Valley Campaign played out. Securing Harpers Ferry to block Jackson’s northward thrust, Lincoln ordered two armies into the Shenandoah Valley to cut Jackson off from escaping deep into the Valley. We will visit sites at Front Royal, Middletown and Winchester central to the military chess match between Lincoln and Jackson.
It's part of "Abraham Lincoln, Commander-in-Chief - A Field Tour of Sites related to Lincoln as the War-Time President."

"Lincoln as field commander" is more than implied and the organizers seem to like that idea. See for yourselves.

Hat tip to AL Online.

The sons of the ACW are among us

Students in Peoria have been corresponding with about 60 sons of Civil War veterans. These letters are being collected for publication.

That's how close we still are to the war.

You have angered my crimson sun

A fine sample of Civil War "history" raging out-of-control:

Author Robert G. Elliott imagines a lanky 18-year-old ancestor resting against a tree stump by a riverbank during spring, with "a crimson angry sun casting a brassy glow up on the waterfront."

Imagined historical details are the very best.

In his book, Elliott describes how [he imagines] "wisps of steam and smoke puffed from the vessel's tall funnel," as the iron monster floated safely through the "snapping and crackling of small arms fire" from Union gunners.
It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a shot rang out. A bloodcurdling cry filled the night air as another history project fell dead, victim of that sadistic killer called "Literary Pretense."
NEWS | Man honors ancestor at Civil War memorial * MI residents restore graves of Civil War soldiers * Emancipation Proclamation draws hundreds to museum


Grimsley on the uses of pop history

I look at the types and myths of popular Civil War history and feel anger. Mark Grimsley - Civil War author, military historian - looks at types and myths and sees important social and cultural functions: "... maybe when people get interested in military history it's just a form of Walter Mitty escapism. But maybe it isn't."

He writes: "Some years ago, historian Michael C.C. Adams wrote, in a review of Ernest B. Furgurson's Chancellorsville, The Souls of the Brave:
It is peculiar that Civil War writing does not seem to be held to the same scholarly standards as other areas of the discipline, where knowledge of recent works is expected and where detailed reference to sources is essential. It is almost as though the war functions as folklore, the epic tradition of male culture, much as Beowulf and Roland functioned for the warriors clustered in the mead hall. What matters is a rattling good accounting of the grand old story rather than a serious contribution to historical understanding. [The American Historical Review, Vol. 98, No. 5. (Dec., 1993), p. 1687. ]
That was Grimsley quoting Adams - and readers of this blog have seen those sentiments here before. Grimsley:
I would say that Adams got it absolutely right, not just for Civil War history but for much of military history. And I think he is correct to imply that in important ways this hobbles the field. But I think the way out is not to ridicule what might be called the mythic dimension of military history but to give it respectful attention.

"Beowulf and Roland functioned for the warriors clustered in the mead hall." In what way? To call attention to the warrior ethos, to gird them to plunge into battle, to confront the foe, to live life courageously and look death in the face.

There must be, I think, an equivalent function for the warrior ethos in the life of the 400-pound man I saw at the book store. In your life. My life. All of us.

Beautifully expressed. Let me take a day off from my usual carping to allow this point to stand.
NEWS | Wheeling sees design for national ACW memorial * Last Civil War Veteran to be buried in Memphis * Civil War adventure camp offers re-enactment * Tennessee group tries to raise ACW awareness


Making pop history

Those Australians really do a lot of historiography. Hats off to them.

I just found this 2003 interview on the subject of how one academician down under (Iain McCalman) collaborated with his American trade house (HarperCollins) to convert a scholarly study into a work of pop history.

Ever wonder how that happens? Why an ACW book is story-driven, filled with caricatures, and plot devices, and simplistic finality? Why your North/South tome reads like it was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs? Have a look:
My kindly New York editor sent back the first draft of The Seven Ordeals with the words, "Now, here is Iain McCalman’s eighth ordeal: to turn a rich study into a compelling story."
The editor knows what he wants:
In order to realise a complete historical world for my readers, he said, I must learn to paint word pictures as if I’d actually witnessed the events. To achieve a complete suspension of disbelief, I must avoid soaring into abstract analysis or assuming prior knowledge in the reader, or casting doubts on the reliability of my sources. I must work chronologically rather than thematically; I must produce a rounded historical life, however complex or haphazard that life might have been, yet I must never be boring, repetitive or anti-climatic. Suspense must be sustained until the very last page. Most disquieting of all, I must speak, it seemed, with the certainty of a god-figure who knew exactly what had happened in the past, even though the past is, at many levels, completely unknowable.
I'm surprised he went on with the project after asking himself these questions:
The cost of popularising seemed too high. Did I have to gloss over history’s inevitable partiality and incompleteness? Did I have to give up representing the numerous perspectives that are always present in any historical account? Did I have to lose my sense of the contingency and uncertainty that surrounds human motive and behaviour?
As the central figure of his book is known only through the reports of his enemies, the author decides to structure parallel narratives from the viewpoints of those enemies:
In the end, my American publishers accepted my unorthodox structure but not without resistances, which brought home to me some of the perils of popularising. They were troubled by my ambiguity and pressed me to make a more emphatic commitment against Cagliostro [i.e., against the central historical figure of this book]. They ... retained a persistent confusion as to whether I was writing history or fiction. They didn’t seem to understand that my dialogue and descriptions were taken strictly from primary sources, and they couldn’t be altered to improve the story. They were baffled when I refused to change quoted words...
That was my emphasis added.
And though it was exhilarating to be connected to a giant public relations and marketing machine of the largest press in the world, I quickly discovered some brutal realities. ...my New York editor failed to persuade the marketeers in his own company that [the project was] worthy of serious investment. They cut the US print run in half, withdrew it from the big book chains and insisted on a title change to The Last Alchemist that made nonsense of my structure. They then came up with a matching cover image of the wizened alchemist with a long white beard.
At the trade level, the sales and marketing staff have a major say in project budgets, of course.
The message was clear: whether in books or films, the mass market shuns originality and difference. Afraid to jeopardise its investment, it seeks out the well-trodden path, the previously confirmed winner. This is the harshest lesson that a would-be Australian populariser must learn.
That anyone can learn. And that may be why the grossly inadequate Centennial histories of Williams, Nevins, Catton, Sears, and McPherson are endlessly repackaged into new projects that try to tell the same story better.

Lincoln Museum poll

The popular political blog, Daily Kos, ran a poll asking its readers "Would you visit the new Lincoln Museum?" The min-sample responded Yes by 13 to 4.

Some of the comments, appearing on the same page, are intriguing:

* The whole purpose of visting a history museum is to get an idea of how people of that era experienced events, not to create some sort of mock reality event that is dumbed down for contemporary sensibilities.

* ... is the audience lazy for enjoying this? I think it's a way of adding a perspective, specifically a popular modern perspective... but it is tacky.

* ... heaven forbid this museum should actually teach people anything they didn't already know.

* Historians need to teach an appreciation for the separateness and distinctiveness of the past. These museum designers seem to have surrendered to the idea that the only way the past can be interesting is to make it seem like the present.

NEWS | Lincoln-Davis debate to highlight Buffalo festival * Battle flags being moved to state's Military Museum * Teacher digs history, amassing Civil War trove


The blue crab effect

There is a monumental 1978 Mary Ann E. Mears sculpture (Red-Buoyant) in Baltimore on Pratt Street. It’s about two stories high and marks the end of an era for this kind of large abstract. Kids climb on it, smokers sometimes sit on it and it evokes that time when cities required builders to reserve part of their budget for sculpture or other public art.

I noticed the Mears piece sharing its space yesterday. Someone had dropped off a cast-molded concrete blue crab and positioned it at arms length in front of the abstract. The crab was self-consciously painted to evoke cuteness. It cues its public for the appropriate reaction, thereby reviewing itself, which is the very definition of kitsch.

The crab is Abe Lincoln’s cousin. Not President Lincoln but rather those specially painted Lincoln statues positioned around Springfield to emulate the cow effect. Remember the cows? Those that were especially painted and then placed around New York and Chicago and wherever? Someone thought this makes a city tourism friendly.

Looking at the crab unbelievingly, looking at another such up the street, I wondered what the hell must they have been thinking to place this item in front of a major piece of sculpture.

The crab itself answered my question directly. Placed there by the city’s parks and/or rec department no doubt at the behest of the tourism office, the crab had this to say:

(1) You are looking at the arts equivalent of how parks and tourism are also managing your historical sites.

(2) Enjoy, because this is actually an example of parks and tourism functioning at a higher-than-normal level. Your expectations should normally be lower.

(3) The crab is multipurposing the space. Increasing the “richness” and “density” of an arts destination. Appealing to wider audiences. Attracting the eyes of those broad masses that would not have noticed the Red-Buoyant.

(4) Multipurposing is the best use of public property from a tax and resources standpoint. All hail multipurposed artspace, parks and battlefields.

The kitschy crab reminded me of what lies in store for battlefields turned over to government control. And also how driven some preservationists are to turn battlefield lands over to the care of the blue crab tenders.

I’d like to take some preservationists on a blue crab tour of Baltimore: those who have not already committed to multipurposing, easements, and public ownership of hallowed ground.

The unbearable burden of history

When speaking with heritage tourism officials, keep it simple, very simple. Here are a few choice comments recently addressed to such functionaries:

Civil War battlefields are not just national treasures ... Each one is also a treasure trove of benefits for its neighboring community.
History - not as worthless as you think. There are loads of crazies out there who get their kicks visiting historical sites.

Millions of Americans are willing to spend their money to visit these historic shrines — as long as local officials have the wisdom not to pave them over.
Money and shrines, shrines and money. Are you picturing the widow tossing her last mite into the temple treasury? That mite could be yours, my dear local official.

A battlefield is a powerful magnet for the most desirable tourists in the marketplace.

How many mites are we tossing into that treasury, you ask. "... every 702 out-of-town visitors to a battlefield translated into a new job in the community. [...]The average visitor spends about $54.87 per day."

You are going to need a lot of $20 per night motels to house the influx of $54.87 per day visiting widows. But assuming they are day trippers, at 702 visitors that would equal $38,518.74 in spending per diem - almost enough to feed one highly compensated battlefield consultant. Or it could put an entire squad of political hacks on the patronage rolls.

There's more from this sales effort, a report called "Blue, Gray, and Green" here.

History is such a burden, so alien to the people who live amidst it and such a general hindrance to progress I wonder if even the ancient formula of shrines= pilgrims = money will avail the preservationists.

And if this argument fails to grab their attention, where is the next lower rung on this ladder?

Virginia's ACW history in school texts

Virginia seems to be having trouble with its textbooks:
My kids' elementary school textbooks all skipped the Civil War. To gain Virginia school board approval, they went straight from the 49ers to the cowboys.
Which is worse, that or this:
My junior high schooler's text is even more interesting. It covers the succession and details Confederate victories up to Fredericksburg. It then skips to Reconstruction. Not a word about Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta, or the Wilderness. No explanation of how Confederate victories connect to Union military occupation. If the chapters weren't numbered, I'd think one was missing.
Keep that up and your kids will wind up reading and writing stuff like this.
NEWS | Monument protesters snubbed at Oktibbeha board meeting * Graphic designer gives talks to groups on Civil War-era medicine * Fort Monroe slated for closing


Our friends abroad

Can re-enactments be attracting visitors from Poland? That's what this listing suggests to me.

Nice also to have this blog linked by a Civil War site in Poland.

Here's an ACW discussion board in Czech.

Believe it or not - Civil War publishing

I have started pulling the Spring list of Civil War titles together to update Civil War Book News and noticed that there are already over 450 ACW listings for this year (2005) on Barnes & Noble. More forthcoming books will be posted to the B&N site as we approach December; add to this the stuff that does not make it into their purview, and we are looking at a total well north of 500 by year's end.

When I started my list in 1998, a year could yield, with some hunting and checking around, news of about 200 titles.

Another rogue preservationist

Here's a fellow in Kentucky who got tired of living on an Indian mound and declared it a Civil War fort.

See if you can find anything like historic proof or reasoning to support such a conclusion in this article.

Believe it or not - Shelby Foote

He said it: "You don't need to go back [to primary sources] ... they have all been gone over."

Amazing. (Hat tip to Brooks Simpson, who remarked on this at Usenet.)

Believe it or not - ACW baseball

From the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star:
In a telephone interview, Kirsch, a professor of history at Manhattan College, said a Christmas Day 1862 game between Union soldiers in Hilton Head, S.C., was watched by 40,000 troops.
Would that include ex-military, militia, firefighters, and multiple expeditions in transit to somewhere?
NEWS | Battlefield visitors get taste of Civil War-era occupation * Last soldier killed in ACW is honored * Civil War draft dodgers gave Honey Island its name * MI Township to honor Civil War vets


The Gettysburg casino

Civil War Preservation Trust has gone public with its view of a Gettysburg Casino: "Gettysburg is such an inappropriate location for a casino it is hard to believe that the proposal is receiving serious consideration."

It's hard to believe at Usenet, too: there, the talk is that this casino proposal is a stalking horse intended to sap antidevelopment resources and thus set up other commercial and residential projects on the same land.

Bierce movies and fairytales

KC filmmaker Don Maxwell is set to shoot "One Kind of Officer," based on a Civil War story by Ambrose Bierce.

His take on Bierce is 180 degrees out of phase, however. He says, "Bierce's unique contribution is the idea that war is always bad and that it turns everything upside-down. Truth becomes lie, black becomes white."

Bosh. Bierce favored the cause he fought for (war was not "always wrong"), but this war gave him his first chance to see human interaction in crisis . What he learned of the human condition in those circumstances he set in his war stories - gingerly I think - and much moreso in his non-military writings.

As someone who has read a lot of Bierce, I find his Civil War stories almost mainstream. The mixture of gall and vinegar we associate with the man is concentrated in civilian subjects.

Maxwell says "A cynic is usually a disillusioned idealist. Bierce's concern for human beings never flagged, otherwise he'd have never written these stories."

How uplifting. May I suggest, as an antidote to this, H.L. Mencken's account of Bierce at the funderal of critic Percival Pollard?

Pollard believed that American literature was broken; he attacked the problem at its root, the reputations of the poseurs writing best-sellers. That was the kind of friendship Bierce could enjoy. Asked what should be done with Pollard's ashes, he told Mencken that they should be molded into bullets and fired at publishers.

"Bierce's concern for human beings ..." Strum that harp, talespinner. Bierce is laughing so hard at this, the devil has to cover his ears.

The ugly truth behind heritage tourism

The naked truth is ugly.

Meet Lynn Minges, the executive director of the N.C. Division of Tourism: she's interested in developing Civil War interest in Goldsboro, NC. Lynn is one plain-talking political functionary:

"When tourism does well, dry cleaners do well," she said.
The history of your town, your state, your forefathers comes down to that. And this, too (my emphasis):

"Every day, visitors spend $33 million in North Carolina, and then they go away. We don't have to educate their kids. We don't have to take care of them."
To anyone whose ancestors built this place and bled for it - spend and get out. To anyone interested in ACW sites: bring your dirty laundy. Come visit, we specialize in history for suckers. North Carolina: taking you for all you are worth .

Minges may be saying what her colleagues everywhere are thinking - for that we thank her.
NEWS | Man pleads guilty to possessing stolen Civil War-era handguns * Lee's retreat remembered * Ceremonial Civil War sword returns to Winona, MN * VMI cadets reenact Civil War march, battle


Civil War talk radio

Believe it or not, ACW talk radio has arrived, thanks to Prof. Gerald Prokopowicz. Archived shows appear here.

I had considered pitching just such an idea to my favorite TV channel of the late 1990's, Josh Harris's Pseudo.

Prokopowicz's past and future guests triggered some immediate thoughts:

"Frank J. Williams is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, a member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and author of Judging Lincoln." Williams was also at the center of a plagiarism scandal that split students of Lincoln.

"Thomas Schwartz, Illinois State Historian." He is the anti-Williams.

Will the host get these two to talk about each other?

"Keith Poulter, publisher of North & South magazine." To my McClellan Society co-founder, who shall go unnamed, Poulter sent an email baldly stating that he would never publish an article arguing the military competence of George B. McClellan. Love those glossies.

But don't mind me, I'm just free-associating.

The sound of the shows is a little odd - it seems like the host and guests are in a conference call being recorded at the studio. The guests are given too much free rein - they need stricter management. But all in all, it's a great start.

(News by way of this great Lincoln site.)

So you want to be a tour guide?

The private guide certification papers for Antietam Battlefield are here. (Hat tip to Tim Reese.)

Take note of the sample test questions at the end.

These questions would be better, I think:

(1) Do you physically molest strangers?

(2) Have you ever comitted a felony?

(3) Do you assault people during violent arguments?

(4) Do you tire easily?

(5) Have you personally visited every point of interest on this battlefield?

(6) Can you point visitors to the lavatory?

(7) Can you read historical markers aloud without stumbling?

(8) Where's the nearest place to get a drink?

(9) Can you resist an argument?

(10) Are you willing to take out-of-town checks?

The African American CW Memorial Museum

... will be celebrating its founder's day starting on May 19. Have a look here and here.
NEWS | Cemetery tours dig in to Civil War history * Soldiers ready for day of Civil War in Cape Coral * Emancipation Proclamation arrives at African American Civil War Memorial Foundation *


Rafuse's McClellan's War

... is actually on the shelves now (hat tip to Brooks Simpson for the alert).

Rafuse has set himself the goal of integrating "civil" with "war" in McClellan's case, with special emphasis on McClellan's inner political world. And contrary to his public image as arch Democrat, it was "McClellan's Whig outlook [that] colored his perspective on the sectional conflict and shaped his approach to the war..."

This is important because, "even if he never read [Clausewitz's] On War," McClellan "never lost sight of the fact that military operations are not conducted for their own purposes but to achieve political ends not attainable by other means." Or, more emphatically, "McClellan consciously shaped his actions during the war with an eye on the connection between military means and political ends and how the battlefield, the seat of government, and the home front interacted to shape the aims for which a war was fought and the means of attaining them."

This McClellan Whiggery sets upsome problems that I am interested in seeing Rafuse manage as I go deeper McClellan's War. Meanwhile, I am very glad to have prepped by reading the Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party.

Spring break for the Phantom Professor

As I've said, history blogs by professors tend to run too much to topics about academic life and to political psychosis and to a great, unseemly smugness (Mark Grimsley excepted).

But there's nothing at all wrong with a blog specifically devoted to academic life, especially if it's written from that gutter inhabited by the underclass known as adjuncts.

This adjunct, the "Phantom Professor," was recently found out to be a blogger and fired by her institituion. (Grimsley, previously, had been urging colleagues to overcome their fear of being fired in connection with blogging!) This Phantom has an outsider's eye for the hilarious. Try her post, Campus Crime Alerts:
Last year a law school professor was charged with maliciously and intentionally running down pedestrians with an SUV. [...] Maintenance crews working in the basement of the music building found a fully operating methamphetamine lab in one of the practice rooms. [...] A professor in another department was discovered over the long Christmas break to be living in her office. ... Janitors reported her status as a squatter after noticing a large number of catfood cans and empty vodka bottles in the trashcan outside her office.

Here's another one, featuring "Things students have said in my office during one-on-one conferences":
"The third time I got a DWI, I realized I had a drinking problem." "The company offered me $30K -- and with what my father gives me that's only $60K a year. Who can live on that?" "I haven't been in your class for two weeks because my doctor diagnosed me with a disease... (dramatic pause)... acid reflux."
Good luck to the Phantom Professor in her new job search. Meanwhile, there is a scaffold being prepared for the day the English instructor "Professor Shade" is found out.

The problem of rogue preservationists

What do you do with preservationists who have no historical sensibility whatsoever?

The thought occurred while reading this article about an old Maryland cabin. An enthusiast, living near the cabin, decided to research it. I read the article and found nothing to fix the structure's identity or use, but the neighbor seems determined that this be known as a slave cabin.
"I think there's an irony here, where you have a slave quarters that will be restored and surrounded by top-tier, predominantly African American buyers, executives who are looking for the large estate homes," he said.
Your imagination inhabits slave quarters, my friend.
"It's a very simple little building," he said. "But I think it's going to be a very important little building in how it's interpreted."
Interpretation cannot substitute for research. Get back to your research.
NEWS | Fifth graders outsmart Civil War author * Collector gives ACW letters to Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History * Antebellum house saved from demolition in Indiana


Story types in ACW history

Christopher Booker, cofounder of Private Eye magazine, has written a book proposing that there are just seven story types.

That would not interest us, except that Civil War history is so polluted by storytellers that story structures and archetypes constantly come into view in this genre.

For instance, the Centennial interpretation of the war in the east - encapsulated in the formula "Lincoln finds a general" - I have long felt to be a grail myth. It's the story of Percival; the knights in his party fail due to personal shortcoming and Percival succeeds based on personal strengths; King Lincoln assigns the quest, which is ardulous and unfolds over many years and through all sorts of travail.

Booker recognizes "the Quest" as a story archtype.

Sears' rendering of McClellan's biography is, of course, a pastiche of various Shakespearean tragedies. For those too dull to get it, Sears even uses the word "tragedy" repeatedly in referring to McClellan's character and circumstances.

Booker recognizes "the Tragedy" as a story type that (in the words of one reviewer) "portrays human overreaching and its terrible consequences."

The question for us is not whether seven types can accurately cover all story cases, nor is it whether this or that Civil War biography more closely matches this or that standard storyline. The matter is one of "Waiter, there's a fly in my soup," i.e. "What the hell is this story type doing in my history book?!"

If you can lay a standard narrative template over your nonfiction reading, your author has failed you. Life, unlike art, is vastly variegated; mix up the patterns of public service, war, bureaucracy, friendship, estrangement, treason, loyalty, abandonment, ambition, intrigue, and destruction and you should be able to view rainbows glowing with near infinite combinations of color.

Booker has spent 34 years of his life on this 736-page essay, The Seven Basic Plots, and I look forward to reading it. I don't relish his book reminding me of all that bad history I've read during those 34 years.

Civil War and American Society Seminar

Mark Snell and staff are pulling together their annual Civil War and American Society Seminar, June 23 – 26, 2005 at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV. Have a look.

I see from the draft program that Tom Clemens has received his PhD ("Dr. Thomas Clemens"). Clemens, a student of Joe Harsh, is rumored to be preparing the Ezra Carman papers for publication. (These are at the root of every major Antietam study that has appeared since the war.)

Am expecting great things from Clemens - not to slight Mark Snell (whose Franklin bio is essential) or Ethan Rafuse, another seminar speaker (whose revision of the McClellan legend is coming out in a few weeks). The complete lineup is well worth seeing. And a Civil War era musical concert is included in the price.

Confederate Memorial days roundup

Here's a handy state-by-state roundup of when each Southern state marks its Confederate memorial day.

Love this journalistic vim: "Like Memorial Day, the origins of Confederate Memorial day — where it started and when — are murky." This is slacker murk since we actually can look up the dates on which the commemorating legislation was passed in each state. That would at least give us statutory origins.

Why, I could do so myself on the Web if it were'nt time for a stretch and some coffee.

Progress in Lawrence

The ghost of a Civil War paymaster kept riding the hotel's elevator, so they got rid of the elevator. There's still the problem of Room 505, however: "the apparitions entered the hotel through the old cornerstone in Room 505."

Well, one step at a time. It's still progress.
NEWS | CT museum loans Ford flag to Lincoln Museum * Banks face sharper questions on slavery * Contents of 1836 NJ mansion slated for auction * Parson's Brigade memorial to be dedicated


Re-enacting: great way to meet sweaty guys

Groovyvic no longer re-enacts but remembers "yes, those guys do get hot in the wool uniforms. Stinky hot."

She recalls an encounter with Brian Pohanka:
I have to say that when I met him I was looking quite fetching, with my hoop skirt and pretty hat, and my favorite day dress. But this was an event for the dedication of the Strong Vincent statue, so I was prettied up. (Yes, Strong Vincent, of Little Round Top fame, I don't care what others tout about the damn 20th Maine!)
She also met her husband re-enacting:

We even got engaged in Gettysburg, as "regular people" not as reenactors. But that's where he put the ring on my finger. Yep, right in front of the cemetery. Things that make you go hmmmmm...
They've given it up for children. "I think my husband and I are burnt out on the Civil War right now. It's not the priority it used to be!"

Reading is a less taxing way to partake of the ACW than spending weekends meandering through brambles in hot clothing. Less risk of burnout. At the same time, one retains the option of reading while stumbling through the brambles in hot clothing, should the urge strike.

Reading is lot less social, though.

The ultimate (re-enactment) gambit for meeting prosperous female singles would be to start an ACW cavalry school at one of the better local riding academies.

A free piece of advice for any single male re-enactors amongst you.

The History Channel's "Secrets"

I'm looking at the content of the programming planned for the History Channel's "Civil War Secrets Week" (May 22-May 26) and not seeing many secrets.

Sherman, marching to the sea? Well, his destination was secret in any case.

Wild West technology? I notice that this episode is going to reveal that "There were more than 2,000 Civil War battles fought west of the Mississippi..." - a secret to me.

"Battlefield Detectives: Antietam (May 25 at 8 pm): Experts from the fields of archaeology, geology, weapons technology, and pathology investigate this uniquely horrific moment in American history-the bloodiest single day in the Civil War."

And so it goes.

Unfortunately, this kind of programming cloaks events in hype and nonsense: "General William T. Sherman launched a military campaign with the objective to destroy the Confederate's infrastructure and ability to make war." I think that's an after-the-fact rationalization. Rather, the march seemed intended by Sherman to be a psychological warfare stunt to discredit the Davis government and hurt Southern war will.

"He [Sherman] is considered today to be one of the foremost architects of modern warfare." We see this claim often attached to that march.

But I was in the Elizabethtown (Kentucky) museum in the fall of 1986, far from the sea, and read a touching letter there by one of the local farmers to distant relatives. She was commenting on the contending armies criss-crossing her neighborhood, destroying structures, and plundering. Her frame of reference was Germany in the Thirty Years War, almost 250 years earlier.

Unlike Sherman's victims, this Elizabethtown woman had (at the time of writing in 1863) endured three "marches to the sea." There were no exclamations of novelty in her mail. This was the Thirty Years War of her upbringing, of her Protestant imagination.

This post is overkill, I admit it, but a Civil War reader can go mad looking at history packaged by television producers and museum curators. Let me propose my own "Secrets" programming ideas:

* The secret of keeping a farm family alive with the father at the front for years, with what little pay might be sent home, amidst raging inflation and shortages.

* The secret destiny of thousands of Civil War orphans.

* The secret of famous personalities, like Alfred Pleasanton, dying in utter poverty.

* The secret of surviving as a propertyless freed slave in a war zone.

* The secret Cotton trading papers issued by Lincoln.

* The secret fortunes made in the North by trading with the South.

* The secret life of thousands of convalescents who never returned to their units.

* An infantryman' secrets for avoiding combat when a battle breaks out.

* The secret of the muster roll - how absentees get paid every month.

These are just a few secrets that I'd like to learn more about, and I'd even suffer TV writers and producers to do so.
NEWS | ACW film to shoot in Indiana in June * Funds raised to fix Sievers statue in Loudon * Group to restore historic mill near Manassas


Speaking of plagiarism

This is extreme plagiarism.

From civilwar.com:
It was the greatest war in American history. 3 million fought - 600,000 died. It was the only war fought on American soil by Americans, and for that reason we have always been fascinated with The Civil War.
From http://projects.edtech.sandi.net/king/civilquest/introduction.htm:

It was the greatest war in American history. 3 million fought - 600,000 died. It was the only war fought on American soil by Americans, and for that reason we have always been fascinated by the Civil War.
From http://www.framingfox.com/civilwarlinks.html

The Civil War. . . 3 million fought... 600,000 died... It was the only war fought on American soil by Americans...
From www.stud.u-szeged.hu/Brasnyo.Zoltan/essay.htm

The Civil War was the greatest war in American history. 3 million American soldiers fought and 600,000 died in the huge battles. It was the only war fought on American soil by Americans, and for that reason we have always been fascinated with The Civil War.
And so it goes for 48,900 Google hits on the search term 3 million fought and 600,000 died. One for the record books.

Hat tip to the Virtual Professor. He uses Google for plagiarism detection and suspects the first citation (at the top of this page) to be the original source.

Civil War book reviewing

Last summer, Civil War Book Review published some interviews on the theme "whither ACW publishing."

In one interview, ex-editor-in-chief Sylvia Frank Rodrigue, formerly of the Louisiana State University Press, made some interesting observations. (Louisiana State University Press has consistently published a strong list of ACW titles year after year.)

Her thoughts, as of 2004:

"Many earlier conclusions are being challenged by recent scholarship..."

"... competition for slots on publishers' list is tighter than ever ..."

"... more [diaries and letters] are available than could ever be published profitably"

"No one book or type of book will please or interest all Civil War readers."

This is the best bit, however [my emphasis]:

We must learn the truths and analyze the complexities to attain a real understanding of battlefield conditions, the humanity of those involved, the war's ccomplishments, and the sacrifices made for the rebirth of our nation. The way to do that is to continue to encourage new scholarship on all aspects of the war, and to publish, read, and discuss the results of new research and analysis.

With all due respect to Civil War Book Review and other such outlets, critics are doing an awful job of tracking the newness Rodrigue calls for. Reviews tend to be pick-up gigs or chores knocked out grudgingly.

I can't remember when I last read an ACW review profitably, deriving a sense of what is new or special about the work.

A strange conservatism besets otherwise interesting authors once they begin a review. Consider this amazing display by Russel Beatie and see if you can find in it a single hint of why he would write his own history of the Army of the Potomac.

Reviewers, focus please: new research and analysis is what it's about.

"Surprised" by opposition to a statue

Oktibbeha County Supervisor Orlando Trainer says he hopes the controversy that followed the placement of a Civil War monument on the courthouse grounds will help open a dialogue about race relations. [...] "I don't think my board members realized that it was going to be a bone of contention," Trainer said. "It never dawned on me that way."
Oh, come on.
NEWS | Purported slave block vandalized * Cobb’s Battery monument targeted for renovation * Walkway yields ACW headstone * Pemberton house to be restored at Vicksburg


Our Civil War military in Iraq

When we think of the deficits in Abraham Lincoln's strategic thinking we often fail to consider, as I have mentioned before, that strategy is death to political control of the military. This creates friction and disapppointment when such as McClellan or Grant have to deal with civilian contingency-lovers and their endless ad hockery.

I sometimes mention the insight by Civil War historians Jones and/or Hattaway, that the ideal Civil War "strategy," from the point of view of Northern politicians, would have been to have a series of incremental victories of increasing magnitude with these wins tallying up to a final triumph by draining off the enemy's political support and will. Thus, under this fuzzy logic, victories could be anywhere and lead to nothing, strategically. They would still have delivered steadily increasing public support for the war while decreasing enemy support; they would generate political capital through favorable headlines one battle at a time while draining the enemy administration of its goodwill; and they would demonstrate superior war management skills by the civil leadership. Matters of policy and spoils-of-victory could also be better managed on an extended timeline.

Today's de-professionalized officer corps has internalized the anti-strategic confusion of its civilian masters. Thus, recently, Colonel John Boyd's student William Lind observed while attending some Iraq war talks that "the assumption behind almost all the [military] briefings was that if we can only accumulate enough tactical victories, we are certain to win strategically as well." [Emphasis added.]

If Lind was dismayed then, he seems to be embracing incrementalism now.

In a new column, while talking to some Marine officers, he tells them:

There are two basic ways to design a strategy. The first is to set a single strategic objective which, if you attain it, is decisive. However, if you fail to attain it, you lose.
You are "McClellanized," to use Grant's term. But Lind is mixing up meanings. An objective is not a strategy.

Lind continues,

An alternative type of strategy is one where you have a series of objectives, one maximalist, but others that yield partial successes or at least avoid outright defeat. [...] My recommendation to the Marines was that they attempt to devise a strategy of this second type for the U.S. in Iraq. ... [T]he current all-or-nothing strategy, where the only acceptable outcome is a "democratic" Iraq that is an American ally, is likely to leave us with nothing.
But the Union had an all-or-nothing strategy, to force the surrender of every rebellious state. The preferred means of its politicians were victories incrementing over time. The ambitious aim can co-exist with anti-strategic means.

Politicians, however, set that kind of aim, not generals. And the cost of this sort of war is higher, of course, much higher.

Meanwhile, our Iraqi enemies strive, like Jeff Davis, not to win with a string of successes but to deliver one or two morale-shattering blows that will force a peace on their terms.

Because we think Lincoln was always right about everything and because it all worked out just fine, don't you know, we are fighting in Iraq with a Civil War officer corps that has no Civil War memory of the effects of an absence of strategy.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

P.S. They seem to be casting about for advice in the oddest quarters: James McPherson was recently booked to give senior soldiers advice. He compared Iraq with Dixie [my emphasis added]:
But the [Southern white] insurgency was potent and took more than 1,000 lives. Along with the Ku Klux Klan, there were underground groups such as "The White Brotherhood" and "The Knights of the White Camellia," determined to preserve the old regime’s power. White insurgents staged bloody riots in Memphis and New Orleans in 1866. The rebels also drew support from the remnants of irregular Confederate units such as Quantrill’s Raiders, which spawned the outlaws Frank and Jesse James. [...] By 1877, says McPherson, the North essentially gave up.
*** *** *** *** *** ***

P.P.S. I just noticed that Chris Cross already addressed this McPherson talk. I think McPherson's insights come across as happy hour talk at the officers' club. (Do they still have officers' clubs?) The take-away seems to be "Persist!" - as ignorant as the Radicals' "Attack!."

Meanwhile, Jay Winik is making a bundle of money month after month selling a book that reverses McPherson's conclusions: April 1865 - The Month That Saved America. Its point is that the losers laid aside their guerilla options and nothing like "white insurgency" followed the breakup of Davis's government.

Given the military's appetite for history, and given that Winik has been outselling McPherson's Battle Cry for a long time now, a few people in this audience must have been suffering "cognitive dissonance" during this talk.

(Which reminds me to do a post about the phenomenal sustained sales levels of Winik's book. As for the idea that we are served by a Civil War officer corps, that is explored here, here, and here.)

First ever critics conference

A first-ever critics conference has been organized for later this month in Los Angeles.

As nearly as I can tell from this site, book critics are not invited to attend, although such will speak to the assembled art, dance, music, and theatre scribblers.

Imagine paying $75 to hear a book reviewer speak.

Bull Run road hearings continue

... with no clear sign of where this is heading.
NEWS | Ironclad school to open in Kinston * Illinois POW gets memorial * Another NY village is embroiled in cannon flap


Buchanan Dying

Before Gore Vidal's Lincoln, there was John Updike's Buchanan Dying.

What a satisfying sequence.

I encountered Buchanan Dying yesterday at lunch, exploring a new (one-year-old) antiquarian bookshop in Baltimore. This obscure 1974 play (that's what it is) skimmed terrifically but was priced for collectors, this instance being a first edition of the UK issue. I let it be for now.

The language is marvelously bombastic and makes me want to memorize lines for shouting around the house:
Let us force no event that gradual causes will in time render inevitable.
The Internet delivers us a project website for Buchanan Dying. Enjoy.

Jean Smith and Grant (conclusion)

Today's readings are taken from Bruce Catton's Grant Takes Command (Little Brown hardcover, 1968/69), pages 232-233; and from Jean Smith's Grant, page 355.

Catton: "Grant saw more of the fighting here than he did in the Wilderness because the country was more open."
Smith: "Grant was able to witness more of the fighting at Spotsylvania than in the Wilderness because the terrain was more open."

Catton: "During the afternoon he saddled up and rode out to several points where he could watch the fight for the tip of the salient."
Smith: "During the afternoon he ordered his reliable pony Jeff Davis saddled and rode out to several points where he could observe Hancock's troops fighting at the tip of the mule shoe and Wright's assault on the west angle."

Catton: "It seemed to him that on balance things had gone well and that evening back at headquarters he sent Halleck a wire summing up his impression [quotes wire]."
Smith: "On balance, Grant thought things were going well. Back at headquarters that evening he wired Halleck [quotes and paraphrases wire]."

Catton: "On the evening of May 11 Grant had sent Julia an optimistic message [quotes message]."
Smith: "Later he wrote Julia he was well and full of hope [quotes message]."

Smith seems to have used the Catton material as an outline - as with McPherson's stuff discussed yesterday. Some of the phrases break through verbatim, some are rearranged, and some are elaborated upon while preserving Catton's (and McPherson's) storytelling sequence.

Smith's pupils are subject to this Marshall University rule: "It is the student's responsibility to clearly distinguish their own work from that created by others. This includes the proper use of quotation marks, paraphrase and the citation of the original source."

This school now needs a policy on faculty plagiarism; the publisher Simon and Schuster needs a policy for authorial plagiarism; and Amazon is to be commended for allowing the plagiarism charges against Smith to remain on its website.

If Civil War readers don't give a damn, however, it's all moot.

(Thanks to the reader who pointed me to these passages.)
Here are links to previous Jean Smith plagiarism posts: 1, 2, 3, 4.