Craziest McClellan replacement idea - your input

Reading about Napoleon B. Buford in these pages, reader Bob Fugate asked for a rundown of McClellan replacements considered during GBM's tenure as G-i-C and AoP commander.
I have my list and am checking it twice. Meanwhile, please send your own ideas and suggestions. Win a prize for the craziest McClellan replacement idea that I never heard of put to the Administration or considered within it.
We're having a contest, would you believe it.
More delays - back tonight. Thanks for visiting.


A brief message from the AAAARGH! department

Have been posting through my cell phone since March. Painful, painful.

Phone company finally ran lines out to my corner of suburbia - time elapsed, six months from request. Immediately activated an AOL account to take advantage of the mighty 56k bandwidth capability. Hooray.

USB (cell phone connector) gets along with modem port. Nice.

Time for change after one week; everything is too peaceful. Yours truly adds home wireleness network and wireless device addressed to USB where cell used to connect.

Crash burn reboot. Repeat.

It's fixed now and I'll start posting regularly Saturday.



Goodwin starts book tour

Author Richard F. Miller mentioned to me that Doris K. Goodwin was having union boycott troubles; a quick news search uncovered a Goodwin news mini-jackpot. Partake with me:

The Boston Globe’s Alex Beam marvels at her "return to polite society" and fantasizes about an interviewer asking her "So, Doris, tell me -- how much of this did you write yourself?" That would certainly be my first question.

In another piece, Beam notes that the striking Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) has targeted Northwest Airline director D.K. Goodwin for pressure. (Goodwin supervising airline management reminds me of the cliche "That's no way to run an airline.")
Rogers [an outside PR specialist hired by the union] says he has printed 100,000 copies of a leaflet titled "The Great Emancipator Meets a Great Prevaricator," which revisits embarrassing episodes of alleged copying that bedeviled Goodwin in 2002. Keith Anderson, the head of AMFA's Boston-based Local 2, says the union's 80 local members will hand out leaflets in Concord, where Goodwin lives, at the airport, and at Goodwin's promotional events. In a letter, AMFA national director O.V. Delle-Femine has informed Goodwin that "we intend to notify a great many interested parties . . . that you are unfit to serve on the Northwest board and should resign immediately."
I wish I had a way to donate to that worthy cause.

You may need an air sickness bag for the next bit, sorry to say.
... in the book-lined living room of her 150-year-old renovated farmhouse in the suburbs of Boston, Goodwin uses just that word to describe the 16th president. Sexy.
Have you ever wondered how far you yourself would go to promote a book? Would you go that far?


Lost continents of understanding - part 1

When James McPherson's Gettysburg anniversary tour guide came out - he is in fact a private Gettysburg tour guide - a number of reviewers were surprised at his fit of pique about mythbusting:
It is obvious from his treatment of these subjects that McPherson strongly dislikes the idea that these myths (which he apparently has repeated on his tours) are now being challenged by more recent research.
The case for shoes at Gettysburg being a myth has been nicely covered by author and Gettysburg specialist Tom Desjardin in this interview on Civil War Talk Radio. Here are McPherson's own comments on the matter:
Generations of historians--and battlefield guides--have said that the advance brigade of Heth's division was heading to Gettysburg to find a rumored supply of shoes in town. Young people especially are captivated by the story that the battle of Gettysburg started because of shoes. Recently, however, some historians have debunked this anecdote as a myth. There was no shoe factory or warehouse in Gettysburg, they point out; the twenty-two shoemakers listed in the 1860 census as living in Gettysburg were barely sufficient to make or repair the footwear worn by county residents. And if there had been a surplus of shoes in town, they would have been cleaned out by Brigadier General John Gordon's brigade of Major General Jubal Early's division when they came through Gettysburg five days earlier.

The shoe story, claim these historians, was concocted by General Heth (pronounced Heath) to explain why he blundered into a firefight contrary to Lee's orders not to bring on a battle until the army was concentrated. Heth said that he thought the Union pickets he encountered on the Chambersburg Pike were merely local militia who could be brushed aside, so he kept going to "get those shoes."

The revisionists have made one good point: there were no shoes in Gettysburg except those worn by the inhabitants still in town (many had fled). But that does not necessarily discredit the shoe story. The Confederates may well have thought there were shoes; several of them later said so. In any case, the anecdote serves an important purpose in that it illustrates that the battle of Gettysburg began as a "meeting engagement," or "encounter engagement." Neither commander intended to fight at Gettysburg; the battle built up step by step from that first encounter on the Chambersburg Pike. Let us concede that the shoe story can neither be proved nor disproved; let us follow the current fashion and call Heth's advance a "reconnaissance in force" to probe toward the enemy; the end result was the same.
If you listen to Desjardin's summary of the shoe story revision, it does not match McPherson's recap. Desjardin says that the only source for any shoe theory is the one remark made by Heth and that the remark is quoted out of context; that the "revisionists" (researchers?) have searched for evidence of Rebel comments about shoes or beliefs about shoes and drilled only dry holes. He says that a certain pop historian took on an out-of-context Heth quote and in the retelling among pop historians using that secondary source, the tale ballooned.

So, on the one hand, McPherson has appeared to trim the revisionists case down to a size where he can declare "draw."

On the other hand, his underlying point is terifically important: "The Confederates may well have thought there were shoes..." Ah, belief is being given a little credence here. Odd for McPherson, but welcome.

Modern Civil War historians, led by McPherson himself, have gone to extroadinary lengths to suppress from the record what the actors believed. If what they believed was not true; why include it? If true, then put it in! That seems to be the rule and it presents a wickedly distorted picture of the Civil War by drowing context and motivation.

Beliefs, misinformation, these are the lost continents of Civil War history.

A Centennial historian, an avid defender of that doctrine, once cautioned me against reading Civil War newspapers. Filled with misinformation, he said, as if this were a revelation. At the same time, this fellow knew and fully credited the notion that Robert E. Lee's best intelligence came from Northern newspapers.

We see the same selective or dual consciousness in McPherson's misguided attack on shoe revisionism. For in the shoe revisionism, at least as summarized by Desjardin, we see exactly the correct way in which to explore a lost continent:

They searched, not only for the shoes, and then the absence of shoes, they searched for a belief in shoes. And when all three searches failed, then and only then did they proclaim the shoe story a myth.

More lost continents tomorrow.
NEWS | The news is on hiatus today


Talking points

Had a nice time on Civil War Talk Radio today. Will post a line when the recording becomes available in the archive.

Preparing for the show, I jotted down some talking points in three categories: McClellan, public history, and the effects of the Internet on publishing. The show was conversational, however, and the points were not needed so I present them here as souvenirs of a moment passed. For what it’s worth:

George B. McClellan

+ In the general consensus about the war and its personalities, Grant and McClellan have become archetypes or stereotypes.

+ In this framework, the Grant story represents a fantasy outside of anyone’s experience while McClellan’s experience is part and parcel of our daily lives.

+ Grant: the hard-working apolitical subordinate works for the rational and wise boss who rewards his subordinates based on merit. His worth being recognized strictly through personal effort, Grant is given all resources needed to do his job, plus unstinting personal and moral support and, as he brings the organization success after success, he is showered with popular accolades.

+ McClellan: under-resourced and underappreciated, McClellan is coping with a distant, distracted superior who keeps inserting layers of incompetent micromanagers between them. McC has constraints that cannot be remedied, timetables that are unrealistic, scheming, incompetent subordinates, jealous peers, and an endless supply of supernumerary experts eager to tell him publicly how to do the job better. Try as he might, he is maligned, discredited and complained about.

+ We don’t know anyone like the Grant character; have never heard of such a person; don’t know anyone who knows of such a person; we will die without ever even hearing of a work life like this one. On the other hand we and everyone we know faces a McClellanistic existence every day, all day almost from birth.

+ Somehow the Grant fantasy – which no one can relate to - is more popular than the McClellan reality – which everyone can relate to.

+ McClellan revision currently has four aspects.

Rowland: corrects historians’ excesses.
Rafuse: filters the man’s actions through his political ethos.
Beatie: places the man in a total military context.
Harsh: places the man in specific situational contexts

+ The next breakthrough will come from pop history.

+ McClellan is surrounded by a rich body of unmined personal interest material including many fine unpublished anecdotes. This material is made to order for pop history.

+ McClellan’s family setting is Tolstoyan: he is the poor son of Philadelphia gentry seeking his place in the world while his wife’s family is in rapid decline from former grandeur (the “Albany Regency”). Meanwhile his entire family is embroiled in the war, North and South, and their individual fates hinge not on their own efforts but on the general's destiny.

+ A new pop history that uses all the McClellan materials, especially the anecdotes and family histories, will materially change how this reputation plays.


* The Web has absorbed older Internt media: Archie, Gopher, Listserv, and Usenet. But the common technical denominator remains hypertext.

* Links are references and blog writing around the link is in the style of an end note or footnote. Blogs are essentially footnotes and endnotes organized around references (links).

* Blogs have the same reading appeal as footnotes, offering serendipity, random information, surprise and delight. This may find its way back into commercial publishing, which is hostile to notes.

* The echo effect of comment and response among blogs of the same topic represents something like a roundtable discussion but is deeper – responses are more thoughtful and referenced. This can accumulate into a creative collaborative effect.

* Using hypertext, an argument can be constructed of scarcely connected links. “Proof” can be made out of artfully managed hypertext.

* As McLuhan would say, the medium is trying us on and we fit.

Public history

# The preservation movement has hardened into a shape where there is an overwhelming sector leader with a hard-and-fast preservation ideology.

# People who contribute to preservation groups do not understand that they are endorsing very specific philosophies: of land management; of public access; of ranking merit or worth; of responsibility and maintenance.

# Local history is moving online and becoming visible. History clubs are going digital.

# Meanwhile local history is subject to pressures of heritage tourism.

# Heritage tourism develops a story that will sell to budget appropriators. This story then seeps into official accounts of events.

# Heritage tourism looks to commercial media (publishing, film, TV) for validation of its money-winning messages.

# Sophisticated readers constitute a reserve of healthy skepticism towards public history projects.

Friday notes

Kremlinology department: In the Round Robin bar in Willard's, the framed picture of Abraham Lincoln hangs below that of Charles Dickens. And the picture of Robert Taft hangs higher. Make of that what you will.

Reminder: I'll be on Civil War (Internet) Radio at noon (EST). If you miss it, the show may be archived for later listening and I'll blog some impressions later in the day.
Edward L. Ayers | While vestiges of older [ACW] interpretation still crop up in people's vague recollections, no one has stepped forward in a very long time to offer a popularly accepted counterargument to the explanation codified in Burns and McPherson.


Team of Rivals details released

Flyers are circulating announcing Doris Kearns Goodwin's appearances promoting her first post-scandal work, Team of Rivals. Author Richard Miller has been good enough to send me a few paragraphs from one that he encountered; very interesting stuff it is and I am grateful.

The flyer text outlines a premise that is remarkably story-driven, even by pop history standards. I have emphasized bits that jumped out at me but otherwise offer the material verbatim and without commet:
In this highly original work, Ms. Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius as he rises from the obscurity of a one-term congressman/prairie lawyer to become president and prevail over three gifted rivals with national reputations.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, Goodwin demonstrates that Lincoln's success was the result of a character that had been forged by life experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because he possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling and to understand their motives and desires.

It was this capacity that enabled Lincoln, as president, to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in presidential history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.

We view the long, horrifying struggle from the vantage point of the White House, as Lincoln copes with incompetent generals, hostile congressmen, and his raucous cabinet. He overcomes the obstacles by winning the respect of his former competitors, and in the case of Seward, finds a loyal and crucial friend to see him through the struggle that was the Civil War.

A drink with the ghosts

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by Willard's tonight at 7:00 p.m. and have me paged at the bar.

I'm meeting relatives for dinner elsewhere, but there should be time for a toast with whatever ghosts can be scared up.
Edward L. Ayers The current [ACW] interpretation contains these tensions in an overarching story of emergent freedom and reconciliation. While acknowledging the complicated decisions people faced, Burns and McPherson resolve these through narrative.


Eric Wittenberg's Little Phil, part 3

Little Phil has the best chapter titles and subtitles I’ve seen since J.G. Randall’s Lincoln biography: “Sheridan’s Disobedience to Orders,” “Sheridan’s Mendacity,” “A Victorious Campaign Bereft of Decision,” “Little Phil’s Cavalier Destruction of Lives and Careers.”

Eric Wittenberg is here dealing his cards face up on the table. No bluffing, no innuendo. Like the old Army training nostrum, he tells you what he is going to tell you, then he tells you what he wants you to know, after which he tells you what he told you. In this case,
Sheridan was not a great commander of cavalry.

Sheridan’s performance in the Shenandoah Valley was laxckluster.

Sheridan had a wide streak of insubordination and was not dependable in a subordinate role.

Sheridan tended to prevaricate…

[Those] who drew his ire [were ruined]
The worst restaurant has the longest menu, as experience teaches - but this is a very manageable kitchen.

Wittenberg is forthright and clear in sticking to this list and I would say he is also economical in making his points prior to appealing to your judgment. Gordon Rhea calls this an “unflinching assessment” and it is somewhat cold where we expect a little authorial bonding with a subject.

But then, Little Phil is not a biography, it is a monograph attempting to correct a record of near universal acclaim: “… he does not deserve the lofty reputation bestowed upon him …”

Does Sheridan hold enough ACW mindshare to be worth this? Can an extended negative demonstration win readers over to a major reassessment? Why write a debunking monograph?

Here’s an answer for you.

When whatever best-selling hack readies his anniversary edition illustrated deluxe leatherette re-issued account of the Third Battle of Winchester, he will have to contend with the arguments raised in Little Phil or look the total fool.

It takes a reputation as big as James McPherson’s to escape the law of self-revision and material self-correction and there is only one James McPherson. The lesser fry cannot get away with McPherson-like avoidance of bad news and contrary views.

Eric Wittenberg has demanded his explanations in a volume widely distributed by a major military publisher, Brasseys, and for the foreseeable future, he will get his explanations or at least an excuse or two, each time someone writes anew about Phil Sheridan.

In that way, his dialog with public history will work for all of us – and that seems eminently worthwhile to me.

Volume III of Army of the Potomac

... where is it? On his website, Beatie said "check back in Jan. 2005 for a publication date. Color me worried. His publisher makes no mention of it on the Da Capo site.

If it's any consolation, you can read an extensive multipart account of Rafuse's McClellan's War on Brett Schulte's blog.

(I returned to Rafuse last weekend for a few score pages and was again overwhelmed with how dense it is, factually, the Civil War equivalent of a Scottish (traditional fruit) wedding cake.)

[Postscript 4:40 p.m. A friendly reader informs me that Volume III is surely coming out but that there is a level of authorial dissatisfaction with Da Capo that raises the possibility of alternate publishing arrangements delaying the release of this title.]
Edward L. Ayers | McPherson is so vigilant [in protecting his conclusions] because he recognizes that this interpretation [that he champions] has become established only after a long struggle. The elegance and directness with which he and Burns tell their stories can lead us to forget what a complicated event the Civil War was.


Eric Wittenberg's Little Phil, part 2

Eric started into this Sheridan revision the way I started into my McClellan rethink (if I read his introduction correctly): reading, one encounters a consensus; it is monolithic and inescapable. At the same time, researching other matters constantly uncovers more material detrimental to the consensus.

A point is reached where the consensus is untenable, where one feels obliged to stand up and say to the many Pulitzer bearers, either stop your nonsense or deal with the contrary evidence. In other words, sit up straight and act like an historian, dammit.

This is where we join Wittenberg in Little Phil. He is laying out the anecdotes and incidents that make accolades of “great general” or “great cavalry commander” impossible. He is stating the total case against Sheridan because no one has dealt with the unpleasant material as a single body of evidence, no one is seeing a complete picture of limitations and shortcomings. He is demanding that the consensus mongers put up or shut up.

The danger in this approach is that if forcefully delivered it appears to be replacing one form of absolutism with another. I see from some Amazon reviews of the book that some readers have mistaken it for yet another “my way or the highway” ACW offering in a long series of obnoxiously “definitive” doctrines. If this were happening, Wittenberg’s presentation would still have merit because it replaces conclusions flowing from storytelling with conclusions based on analysis. It would be a higher form of "my way." But the complaint (that this revision offers a new absolutism) will not hold because however forcefully delivered, Wittenberg repeatedly challenges readers to contest his presentation. At one point he even says that he looks forward to hearing from dissenters, that he looks forward to engaging in a public debate.

This is a crucial distinction between Little Phil and its predecessors. The attitude, “show me how I am wrong” opens the possibility of correcting the pendulum’s swing, if it has gone too far. Of restoring any evidence not given its full due. Wittenberg is attempting to enter into a dialog with “public history.”

Although this is the best format for presenting a corrective – analysis in the form of legal case – it does have limits. First, the story lover is not used to analysis and inviting him to weigh evidence in your case may not produce quite the verdict you are looking for.

Secondly, there is the important issue of context. On me and my McClellan projects, this need has cast a deep pall of gloom. A revision of the McClellan legend requires, I think, a wholesale replacement of the context in which he is viewed. When friends ask me to merely retell Centennial history with an upgraded role for the McClellan character, I balk.

Eric Wittenberg does have it easier in this respect than I do; I think he can revise the Sheridan legend without bringing down the whole temple of conventional Civil War history. Such a limited revision, however, thrusts upon him specific questions of “how” and “why” here and there. What did Grant see in this man? Why do historical writers love him so?

Wittenberg’s management of these kinds of issues is done courtroom style: he focuses on his points, he does not expand the scope of the trial, he does not seek speculative answers to hypothetical objections. Here is what Sheridan said and here is what he did and here is what the record reports. Let the evidence tell the story.

This calls attention to the evidence and the fair handling of evidence. I trust Eric Witttenberg and believe that he has handled the Sheridan material fairly. The difficulty in Little Phil, however, is that it solicits confidence in a less-well-known author from a star-struck general readership jaded by the corrupt evidence handling of storytellers, conditioned by stereotyped history, and trained to enjoy the spectacle of incompetent researchers sewing shiny fragments into bright lying tapestries.

Eric Wittenberg is attempting to operate rationally in the irrational world of Civil War history. God bless him.

He is measuredly speaking to a wrought-up crowd whose non-historical approach to history reading has been blessed and blessed again by heavily credentialed "official" historians. Thus, while General Sheridan’s reputation presents this freakish figure perceived through a funhouse mirror, the question stands: will the carney's patrons pay money to visit a room full of normal mirrors?

After all, is this not about entertainment?

(Enough historiography, on to the gist of the book tomorrow.)
Edward L. Ayers | [Robert Penn} Warren, like [Edmund] Wilson, did not shun dramatic effect. It was tempting, he argued, for Americans to regard the war as "part of our divinely instituted success story," and to think, in some shadowy corner of the mind, of the dead at Gettysburg as a really small price to pay for the development of a really satisfactory and cheap compact car with decent pick-up and road-handling capability.


Eric Wittenberg's Little Phil, part 1

How do you assess a reputation?

Carefully, very carefully. As to what "carefully" means, the choices seem to be:

Analytically. This is a strong card to play in the "did it happen" round but less useful in vaguer appreciations such as of goodness, intentions, and capability. In Little Phil, Eric Wittenberg has written an analytic study of Sheridan’s, his model of analysis being the legal brief.

Narratively. This involves telling or retelling a tale to establish or revise a reputation. Narrative slights evidence to a greater or lesser extent. Jim Ridgway has written a narrative revisiting McClellan’s military performance in a retelling; Ethan Rafuse has retold the McClellan story through the filter of deeply-held Whiggish political beliefs.

Comparatively. This involves telling parallel stories or making comparative analysis. Tom Rowland attempted to revisit McClellan’s reputation by comparing historians’treatments of Grant and Sherman on one hand and McClellan on the other.

I mention McClellan books here because the reassessment of McClellan upwards and of Sheridan downwards are sides of the same coin, operationally; and as founder of the McClellan Society, I have given a lot of thought to the how-to in this.

Eric Wittenberg's approach represents my own best choice for a debunking effort: analytic. I early on rejected the comparative and narrative approaches. Furthermore, I have also tended towards the lawyerly handling of debunking evidence (as can be seen in some seven-year-old posts here and here).

But I never gained the confidence to try the analytic approach in a book-length revisit of the current McClellan legend. I had decided it couldn't be done; too many worries about context and loose ends and nailing the details. My opinion on this was hard and fast.

The trouble facing me in reading Little Phil, then, was that if the author succeeded in what he was trying to do, I would be proven wrong and have to revisit a large, dormant project. His success and my reading enjoyment would cause me a major (painful) rethink.

Constantly asking others to rethink - as I do - doesn't mean I wish that hardship on myself. Thus I started a read biased against the book.

[More tomorrow...]

Civil War Bookshelf and you on the radio

Listen for me on Civil War Talk Radio this Friday (12 noon EST) when host Gerald Prokopowicz (right) and I will discuss McClellan, public history, and the Internet.

This is in talk show format and any denunciation and berating of the guest (me) will make for good radio. That’s what we should be aiming for, I think. Look here for the toll-free number but note: if you call too early or too late you’ll be reaching an entirely different show.

Ayers this week

I’ve excerpted five brief quotes from Edward Ayers What Caused the Civil War? and starting today will run one per day to create a cumulative effect by Friday morning. Any emphasis in a passage has been added by me; the interpolations are mine, too.

The first item appears today.
Edward L. Ayers | The two authors [Robert Penn Warren and Edmund Wilson] considered themselves voices in the wilderness delivering jeremiads, for a once-powerful tradition of skepticism about the Civil War had crumbled and a new tradition of acceptance and celebration was rising in its place.
NEWS | No news this week. Back next week.


Speaking of Eric Wittenberg

I have finally mapped out my thoughts on his Little Phil into a three-part series which will start Monday. The complexity has been in that it's a debunking that touches on some core beliefs within Centennial storytelling; that it raises questions about revisionism and its role in ACW historiography today; and that it puts the reputation of a specific historical figure on trial.

See you next week.

The answers to yesterday's N. B. Buford quiz

You have been hanging on the edges of your seats for the answers to those N.B. Buford questions raised yesterday, no doubt, and Eric Wittenberg has graciously allowed me to excerpt bits of his email to me on the subject. (He has been researching the Buford family for a new book.)

So little is known about this putative Stanton supremo that I want to run Eric's information at length. I'll interleave my own comments.

Query: What were NBB's Illinois connections?

EW: "... after N. B. graduated from West Point in 1827, he spent a number of years serving in various posts and positions, mostly associated with engineering. He ended up in Rock Island, Illinois. When his stepmother died in Kentucky in 1833 due to one of the cholera epidemics, his father, John Buford, Sr., decided to pick up his family and relocate it to Rock Island on the recommendation of his son, N. B. That's how his father ended up in Illinois, and how other members of the Buford family, including John, Sr.'s brother Charles, ended up in Rock Island. John, Jr. spent much of his youth in Rock Island, and was appointed to West Point from Illinois, and not from Kentucky. He dropped the Jr. after his father's death in 1849."

"When N. B. settled in Rock Island, he left the army. He got involved in business, and he and his father ended up starting what became a very successful store called Buford and Son. Later, after his father died, N. B. got involved in railroading, and was so engaged with the coming of war."

DR: Great stuff. Now I need to look at the family's politicking in Illinois and the connections they made. Eric notes that "the Bufords were Democrats, out of the Jacksonian mold. "

Query: Why did the vetting process for appointing Napoleon Buford commander of the AoP (in March 1862) involve Orville Browning?

EW: "Orville Browning was very close friends with N. B. Buford. Browning was also a powerful Republican Senator from Illinois, meaning that he was particularly close to Lincoln. He was also a member of the Radical wing of the Republican Party, meaning that he was well- connected politically."

"In other words, Stanton had to make certain that N. B. Buford was politically acceptable to the party leadership, which he was. Browning provided a good sounding board for seeing whether anyone would pass muster with the Radicals." [The Buford's family reputation as Democrats also] "probably has a lot to do with why Stanton would have vetted N. B. with Orville Browning."

"I have accounts of both John Buford and N. B. socializing with Browning in Washington, D. C., including New Year's Eve 1861-62."

DR: I was obsessing on Browning as Lincoln friend to the detriment of the obvious - Browning's status as early war Radical ringleader. I should mention here also that he was also a key anti-McClellan activist at the time that Buford was presented to him as an alternative.

By the way, parties tell an amazing story. Follow the parties closely, my friends. When I present the social calendars of McClellan's corps commanders prior to their appointments people are surprised - especially people who view Union military advancement as meritocratic.

Query: Is it true that Grant hated or despised him?

EW: "... true ..." "Being well-connected politically, N. B. had a tendency to shoot off his mouth, including criticizing Grant in public. In return, Grant banished N. B. to the backwater of the war, Helena, Arkansas, and also blocked N. B.'s promotion to major general repeatedly until the very end of the war, when it no longer mattered. That way, N. B. was prevented from holding any position of responsibility other than as an administrator. The roots of this conflict lay in N. B.'s service under Grant as far back as the Battle of Belmont, wherein N. B. blundered and nearly cost Grant the battle."

DR: Lamers, in his Rosecrans bio, similarly characterizes Grant as hating Rosecrans for public criticism of USG.

Query: What about his supporting player status in the ascendancy of Pope in the West?

DR: Eric had no comment on this. It's important, I think, to keep in mind Gideon Welles' stated opinion that Halleck and Pope had a pact for mutual advancement and that it was Pope who spent his political capital to make Halleck general-in-chief. I was (am) wondering whether Buford fit into these self-promotional plans, as he played the ground role in Pope's famous amphibious victory at Island No. 10.

Keep it tuned to this, your all Napoleon Buford all the time website.


Postscript 3:29 p.m. William Keene writes,

There is a letter from Grant to Lincoln, dated February 9,1863, which contains a remark that I found suprising since I had not expected Grant would use this kind of language in writing to Lincoln. The letter was about promotions and the remark is: "I see the name of N.B. Buford for Maj. Gen. He would scarcely make a respectable Hospital nurse if put in petticoats, and certainly is unfit for any other Military position. He has always been a dead weight to carry becoming more burthensome with his increased rank."

Lee's loyalty oath

It's one of those odd little turns of Civil War history that Lee's loyalty attestation was mislaid and that he may therefore have been pardoned twice. Here's the purported text of it, anyway:
I, Robert E. Lee, of Lexington, Virginia, do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the States thereunder, and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves, so help me God.

Friday housekeeping

Some points of interest.

(1) You can search within this site by using the little search box in the upper left hand corner. Last week it worked well. This week it works poorly. You can also go to the search engine of your choice, type in cwbn.blogspot.com and a keyword, search, and you'll get results from within this blog. I would recommend using Google for the second type of search.

(2) You can link to any post directly by clicking on its datestamp (at the bottom). That causes the post to come up in its own window with its own unique URL.

(3) This is a consumer site concerned with "product" quality. This is not an academic site and I am not a teacher, writer, or publisher.

(4) 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. The quality of correspondence has been terrific. Makes me sometimes wonder if I should turn the comments feature on.

(5) I have been asked why I don't activate the comments function on the blog. I am shy of the general run of visitor who blunders into the site in the course of searching for the greatest Centennial history ever written. Also, this blog is for my observations, not for observations about my observations. Start your own blog and I'll even help you, whatever your opinion of this effort.

(6) If my criticism is sometimes overdone, take it with a grain of salt. I regret any unnecessary harshness. A lot of bad history is produced by good people.

Thanks for visiting.
NEWS | Hearing set for Shepherdstown battlefield * Slave cemetery stops road work in SC * Civil War awards return to Iowa


The other Buford

We tend to talk more about John Buford than about his half-brother BG Napoleon Bonaparte Buford (right).

But Ethan Rafuse reminds us in McClellan's War that it was none other than NB Buford who was tapped by Stanton to lead the Army of the Potomac - a fat major general's commission dangled before him - before the start of McClellan's first Richmond campaign. No big deal, N.B. was one of a series of candidates, at the head of which, of course, stands the immortal Ethan A. Hitchcock, a man who did his republic the favor of repeatedly refusing the combat leadership role thrust upon him by Stanton.

Four things intrigue me about N.B. First, his Illinois connections. Second, his supporting player status in the ascendancy of Pope in the West. Third, the rumor that Grant hated or despised him (that is the strength of the emotion some website or other committed to writing). Fourth, the vetting process. I am intrigued as to why Buford's candidacy for AOP commander would be run past Orville Browning, which is what Stanton apparently did.

Seem to be digging myself deeper into a research deficit day-by-day.
NEWS Professors search for gunboats * ACW monument may be restored on Cape Cod * PA museum seeks Civil War donations


The publishing hogs ate him

“He Went to Sleep and the Hogs Ate Him,” the Stanley Brothers used to sing.

Richard Lee Fulgham’s novel, The Hogs of Cold Harbor has fallen asleep in the barn of Whitmore Books, where it may stay for the next few years, according to an email circular sent by Fulgham on 10/10/2005.

Whitmore, a print-on-demand mark affiliated with old-line vanity house Dorrance, has locked up the rights to the novel as if it were a full-out trade press with sizeable investment in the title. This is the poisoned Macmillan model for print-on-demand (POD) publishing, warned of previously in this blog.

Fulgham notes double trouble for POD publishers: a “vanity” aroma that scares off reviewers coupled with a no-returns policy that keeps bookstores from ordering the title.

Where the writer successfully markets or agents his own material, the POD publisher can actually get in the way. Fulgham says,

Al Zuckerman, the famous movie producer, called me about acquiring the movie rights. When I told him he would have to deal with Whitmore, he said "It would be a nightmare getting rights from them" and told he he'd pass.
Fulgham has taken the odd step of extracting a nonfiction book from his novel and shopping it to another publisher.

My anger, frustration and disappointment has melted away now and I am prepared for the long wait [i.e., rights reverting from the publisher’s control]. […]All I can think of to do is give away enough free copies to create a kind of underground legend about this weird book that deals with the wild hogs stalking wounded Civil War soldiers. Then, when the Whitmore contract expires, I can try to place it with a real press.
Beware the Macmillan model.

(You can plead your case for a free copy by emailing rlfulgham at earthling dot net.)


A really good joke

The proprietors of Six Flags Over Lincoln (aka the Lincoln Library and Museum) are worried about the popularizing effects of a new book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Legacy of Lincoln.

NPS takes over car dealership

The Gettysburg car dealership inside park boundaries is vacating, at last.
NEWS | Light posting as illness makes lazy


A couple of reviews are in

This review says that the film Confederate States of America offers "a cringe factor that, for some, will be completely off the chart."

This review actually refers to the bestselling fiction-author-cum-Civil-War-historian Doctorow as an entertainer. An entertainer who has not entirely satisfied his clientele...

Twenty-one months for planting tulips

The headline screams "Chickamauga park vandal sentenced to 21 months in prison." The meth addict in question, along with his nephew, was digging for bullets. If he had brought tulip bulbs with him and planted them in the holes dug maybe the court would have shown some leniency. Experience the horror of his wicked deeds:
Crawford and Clay are both accused of removing and damaging bullets and other archaeological resources within the historic Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Fort Oglethorpe — a site, Murphy pointed out, that had seen "one of the most important and far-reaching battles of the Civil War."
He would have gotten a less stiff sentence for a less important battlefield? For community service, let him dig the foundations of the homes going in at Shepherdstown battlefield. He could keep the bullets and the developers would get their earth moved. That would be a win-win, wouldn't it?

But it's too late, the sentence has been decided. Swept up in the drama of Justice, the accused speaks:
"I didn’t think I was doing it to hurt the American people. But if I did, I’m sorry," he said when asked if he wanted to address the judge Friday.
He damaged an old bullet. A bullet representing The People.

If we didn't know what he'd been smoking, we'd ask, "What's he been smoking?"

And what's with this $11,579.19 in restitution? This account says sentencing was on the light side.

We have some federal attorneys and judges with horrible judgement, terrible ethics, and salaried time weighing heavy on their hands.
NEWS | Re-enactors provide glimpse at Civil War life * Chickamauga park vandal sentenced to 21 months in prison * SC mobilizes to save Richmond White House * Utah monument to Dixie dead continues in controversy


Causality in history

Courtesy of the profane Tony Millionaire: click to enlarge.



Will be down with a cold today. Please visit these fine blogs in my absence:

Mark Grimsley ("What's the Matter with History?")

Eric Wittenberg ("...there is no place for Nathan Bedford Forrest on ANY list of great cavalrymen of the Civil War")

Drew Wagenhoffer ("Civil War in the Southwest")

Brett Schulte ("The New Battlefield of Gettysburg")

Mike Koepke ("Peach orchard being replanted")

Randy ("The Heart of a Soldier")

Thanks for visiting....
NEWS | Civil War veteran gets military marker * Civil War living history event planned at Army center * Board makes plan for Civil War home


Thursday housekeeping

Some points of interest.

(1) You can search within this site by using the little search box in the upper left hand corner. You can also go to the search engine of your choice, type in cwbn.blogspot.com and a keyword, search, and you'll get results from within this blog.

(2) You can link to any post directly by clicking on its datestamp (at the bottom). That causes the post to come up in its own window with its own unique URL.

(3) This is a consumer site concerned with "product" quality. This is not an academic site and I am not a teacher, writer, or publisher.

(4) 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. The quality of correspondence has been incredible. Makes me sometimes wonder if I should turn the comments feature on.

(5) I have been asked why I don't activate the comments function on the blog. First, a large proportion of visitors to this blog are accidental and do not understand the editorial line here - they will be offended by what they see and turn the comments section into a place for endlessly restating their already well-known and thoroughly disseminated Centennial views. Second, this blog is for my observations, not for observations about my observations. Start your own blog and I'll even help you, whatever your opinion of this effort.

(6) If my criticism is sometimes overdone, take it with a grain of salt. I regret any unnecessary harshness. A lot of bad history is produced by good people.

Thanks for visiting.



Ralph E. Luker on Clayton Cramer:
...you begin with what you regard as a self-evident truth ... and then you clutch scattered droppings of evidence supporting your generalization...
Edward Ayers on James McPherson:
Like [Ken] Burns, McPherson uses quotation extensively and effectively; he lets the words of his protagonists carry his story. Persuasive Northern speakers come in at key points to make the liberal and nationalist statements attractive to McPherson.

Well, well, well...

... what have we here?
Find academic research papers with Google Scholar

Gettysburg Casino

This WaPo article on the Gettysburg Casino is interesting for the perspectives it gives from the developers' side. A developer on preservation: "I guess that's the 'Don't build it, they'll come,' theory, which goes very counter to what most people think..."
NEWS | Archaeologists report on slave community * Civil War chaplains museum, research center finds home at Liberty U * TV show visits Gettysburg


Origins of the reparations movement?

It seems the origins of the current reparations movement is tied up with the historic failure to obtain slave pensions.


A different Civil War

The remains of General Anton Ivanovich Denikin (right) have been brought back to Russia for a state funeral, something I never dreamed I'd see in my lifetime.

It's as if the Rebels conquered the federals and then, a generation or two later, ordered a state funeral for Sherman.

Madame Denikin used to visit us in our Riverside Drive apartment in Russian Harlem when I was a baby, as did Madame Wrangel, the widow of Denikin's successor in command of the Russian Army. I'm sorry I was too young to remember either.

Denikin had a kind of Lee style in managing the southern front; discretion to subordinates, broad orders, fatherly and gentlemanly demeanor. It got him within 200 miles of Moscow from a staring point just north of the Caucasus. Peter Nikolayevich Wrangel (right) was the fiery and dynamic battlefront commander succeeding him after his resignation. (Remember when resignation followed failure?) Wrangel at one point took Tsaritsyn (Stalingrad, Volgagrad) with a combined air/cavalry/armor attack. This is 1920, mind you.

Our family was closer to Wrangel than Denikin; my grand uncles served Wrangel as ADCs; my grandmother's dad was one of his division commanders.

In the recriminations over who lost the Civil War, Wrangel tended towards blameless and poor Denikin carried the all-too-familiar ahistorical burdens of "lost opportunities" and "failure to annihilate the enemy" -- he was a victim of counterfactuals. At the point Wrangel took command in South Russia, there were few opportunities to miss.

Maybe he'll get his state funeral next.
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This one is for all you students...

I used to do research in Firestone Library at Princeton University where roughly 10% of the students in that facility were awake at any given time. It was mildly funny, navigating through thickets of sprawl and snore.

One tends to think some of those sleepyheads, eventually awakened, are pounding out panicked search strings like this:

>>already done civil war projects for powerpoint<<

That was entered into a search engine today and it brought this site to someone's attention.

Sorry kid, I don't have any already-done ACW powerpoint presentations.

In the late 1990s when Eric Wittenberg was guest hosting on an ACW Q&A site, its cavalry department, he'd sometimes answer briefly, "I'm not going to do your homework for you," or some such. It cracked me up whenever he did it (often). He had a lawyer's instinct for sly, disingenuous motives.

I had just launched a couple of sites and the requests for homework help were endless, for me too. It was amazing and I foolishly tried to help those who wrote well-thought out queries. Then they just stopped. Don't know why.

These student questions were actually less obnoxious than another type of message, "I am a direct descendant of George B. McClellan, can you help me" of which I have received at least 50 over the years. (Er, sorry, genealogist, Mac's kids died childless.) My factual response tended to generate a mighty quiet. Those types of messages have dried up too.

Tipping the aggravation scale was and is the request for help in pricing some knick-knack or other that the emailer intends to sell. Most recently an officer of the DAR asked me how to verify whether a walking stick in her posession belonged to McClellan. My detailed, polite answer was greeted with the usual deafening silence and (very quiet) non-thanks.

Ah, gratitude.

So keep searching, junior. "Already done civil war projects for powerpoint" have got to be out there somewhere. And don't let my e-door hit you on the way out.

Franklin battlefield - an update

Franklin battlefield coverage has stopped in this blog, largely because of a the sluggish underlying news flow.

Now, here's quite a long and interesting update on what's been happening, complete with photos. Have a look.

Re-enacting and historical truth

I was listening to Keith Poulter, editor of North & South, on Civil War Talk Radio, when Poulter said that he had been advised once not to waste resources marketing his magazine to re-enactors because re-enactors don't read.

Poulter and host Gerald Prokopowicz had a chuckle before dismissing that idea.

But there is a huge point to be made. Re-enactors are, by and large I think, former nonfiction readers who wish to take their vicarious experiences to the next level. That doesn't stop them from reading more, of course, it simply subordinates reading as a lower form of experience.

And if your weeknights are about getting ready for weekends and your weekends allow little time for reading, you may be numbered among the ranks of former readers.

If your involvement with history features imagined physical activity, vivid visualizations, compelling storylines and dramatic dialog and violence, nonfiction will get you only so far. You'll find more of that and better in the historical novel. Civil War fiction heavily outsells ACW nonfiction; as it would, if story-oriented readers steadily abandon nonfiction for a purer story experience.

After you have read the story, living the story represents the next step.

From a publishing perspective, a circle emerges:

* A mass audience is captivated by the storytelling in a TV series or film or novel; it washes into ACW history where it finds

* A large number of storytellers operating in the nonfiction genre plying "real" and "true" storylines; these are somewhat less satisfying than novels and a bored audience

* Takes up with ACW novels and/or re-enacting.

The nonfiction storytellers in Civil War publishing, then, act as a waystation or perhaps a pumping engine, drawing the transient readers in, then pushing them out again. They serve to some extent to validate the films and TV shows that attracted the reader; their material also validates novels and re-enactments. But they can't keep an audience because as a story form, nonfiction cannot match fiction; and the truth of a good novel will always shine brighter than the truth of a history hacked and disfigured into story pieces to facilitate the narrative arts.

The re-enactor is someone who is consciously turning away from nonfiction reading as an avenue to historical truth and is now reaching for a higher, better level of understanding through experiential truth.

To the re-enactor then, North & South may be useful for some point of information but the re-enactor's entertainment can no longer be effected by Keith Poulter or his writers.

This gap between reading and doing is not a gap between falsehood and truth, however; the difference is merely between reading a play and acting in it. The story, being fiction, yields re-enactments which are fiction.

Truth is in the analysis (and its resulting synthesis). The historian co-exists in the same publishing space with the best-selling nonfiction storyteller. Not dealing in stories, the historian is invisible to the mass audience swimming through on its way to more intense experiences of historical truth.

The nonfiction writer is the ultimate loser. Having destroyed truth to make a story, the story fails both as literature and as historical experience and his audience moves on.

The historian, unconcerned with entertaining, plies his trade and if he has gained nothing, he has at least destroyed nothing.

And so, re-enactment offers a key to understanding Civil War publishing.
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