Georgia's lesson in avarice

"Georgia keying on Civil War anniversary to boost tourism"
How many more of these headlines have to come out of Georgia before the backlash begins?

How many more stories do we have to read about the state officials who cannot wait to count the coins that fall from our pockets during the Sesquicentennial?

I have a tip for heritage tourism officials: stop generating stories about how you are going to fleece every fool who crosses your border with an ACW guidebook in hand. Start planting stories on how tourists are going to be pampered and spoiled, the wonderful experiences they will have, the improvements your staff is making for their comfort and what you are doing for the cause of local history.

How about a message that blends the specialness of the locality with insights of historical importance? If all else fails, talk about the freebies you are going to heap upon visitors who stop at your state visitor centers [sound of raucous laughter in the wings].

Some readers understand that these suggestions, made above, are absurd. Making them gives me an odd satisfaction anyway.

I know that when some state tourism hack gets a little access to newspaper ink, he is going to trumpet how economically useful his position is to the state, how much dollar value the state gets or will get from his office, his staff, and his budget. He is going to use a reporter's visit to talk indirectly to his bosses and the local taxpayers and the voters, not waste it on generating tourism.

I understand that all these economically-themed Georgia stories are local and the audiences are local too and that we see them thanks to the accident of Internet publishing. They were not meant for our eyes. Nevertheless, even a locally-focused story must have some element of why people will come and what Georgia will be doing to attract them - unless that element is not there. And it isn't there.

The closest we get is the news that in some way, somewhere down the road, Resaca may be developed if funds are made available. Still working on the plans though.

Very compelling.

Also, Georgia's solons are wrestling with grand historiography instead of local history: "We have the opportunity now to really take a step back and look at it from a variety of perspectives and tell a complete story that really helps define where we have been and where we are as a people."

Who thinks they need to travel to Georgia to wallow in locally crafted, politicized, feel-good pop history? Not a magnet, folks. Sorry.

These news stories show no inkling that the state, on a tourism basis, will be competing with major Civil War destinations. There is no sense, even given the repulsive and avaricious value system of heritage tourism, that Georgia will be in a popularity contest with other heritage tourism organizations.

Apparently Georgia thinks its job will be, at the appointed time, to physically exist and have enough T-shirts and hotel rooms to go around. In this state's view, a developed Resaca will be a bonus for visitors, if it happens. Some kind of approved spiel will be recited by the state history robotniks and lapped up by the rubes. Knick-knacks will fly off the shelves, restaurants will overflow, cash registers will ring, and infrastructure will suffer little wear and tear in return for all that out-of-state revenue.

Something tells me, it's probably not just Georgia but Georgia leads the pack in these kinds of reports.

Meanwhile, some unplesant reading for Georgia's economists:


Amazon promotes Bruce Catton

Recognizing me, the Amazon website sought to draw my attention to Stillness at Appomattox with these amazing words: "If every historian wrote like Bruce Catton, no one would read fiction."

Think about what that says about the general run of nonfiction readers.


Brian K. Burton, Russel Beatie and a certain peninsula

Three authors I respect (Mark Grimsley, Brooks Simpson, and Steve Woodworth) have enabled Brian K. Burton to publish a Seven Days touring guidebook.

If I am not mistaken, the estimable deep reader Drew Wagenhoffer, game designer, relied heavily on Burton's Extraordinary Circumstances (a Seven Days history) to design a game. Another plus for Burton.

Myself, I am remiss in not reading Extraordinary Circumstances which has long been at hand. The frightening aspects of EC, for me, are the kudos and acknowledgements. These are overwhelmingly weighted with secondary source Centennial doctrinal scripture. Or to put it another way, Burton is personally inspired by that ACW history that repulses me the most - the non-negotiable belief system constructed by the editorial directors of American Heritage Magazine 50 years ago. My poison, his pleasure.

The impressive thing about Burton, what impelled me to buy his book, is his concentrated neutrality and his personal struggle to overcome the biases of his authorial heroes. Burton does not seem to engage in the Centennial standard practices of reader manipulation, emotional appeal to ignorance, nor to gameplay using archetypes or stereotypes. Nor does he synthesize - a la James McPherson - crappy secondary sources to construct a nominally "compelling narrative" on foundations of sand.

The question in reading his opus will be how much the suppression of evidence by his heroes affects his own research and conclusions. I'll report back on this. Whatever the result, I don't think I'll hold it against Burton personally. I'm too impressed by his "love these guys, got to do my own thinking" ethos.

There are other straight-shooters coming out of the Centennial matrix, it's an interesting phenomenon. Gerald Prokopowicz is pretty open about his Centennial intake and inspirations and he can interview gadfly complainers like myself in a spirit of equanimity. This makes for good radio. Given the people in Burton's corner, I need to read the book that precedes the touring guide.

Now for my own shortcomings. I have a view of the Peninsula campaign based on available but suppressed sources that I have seen nowhere, anywhere, until reading the proofs of Russel Beatie's Army of the Potomac Volume III. And Beatie has more sources than me, which makes for even more interesting reading than I could offer, should I decide to stop wasting time blogging and carping.

Beatie's Volume III does not get as far as the Seven Days, however - he is reported to be working on that in the next volume now. It will be interesting to compare Beatie's account of the Seven Days with Burton's. Meanwhile, I'll take the word of trusted advisors GS&W and buy Burton's guidebook. Got my rubber Wellies handy in case of an outbreak of mud. Got my walking stick. Might leave some attitude behind.

Edwin Booth returns to Washington

What a great idea. See "... the man behind the legend as he opens a trunk of costumes bequeathed to him by his infamous brother, John Wilkes Booth."

A one-man show: "... actor Gary Sloan—along with his collaborators—has adapted Booth’s letters and selections from the actor’s famous Shakespeare roles."

The show will not run on April 14, by the way.

(Booth with his daughter shown at right.)

The history buff demographic

As heritage tourism gears up for the ACW's 150th anniversary, we are being put under a microscope:
The survey, conducted by Washington research group Synovate, found that 56 percent of the history buffs earned $50,000 or more. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed were 45 or older. They tended to travel as a couple and without children.


Winfield Scott loses a match

Some say, even today, that Paul Morphy of New Orleans was the greatest chess player of all time. It's been a couple of years since I posted on Winfield Scott's chess game with Paul Morphy and since then have found only one scrap with some details.

The encounter material is poorly sourced. For what it's worth, the year is 1846, Morphy is approaching nine years old.

The Evening Post relates this story:

"Gen. Winfield Scott ... had many aquaintances there (at a chess club on Royal St.), some of them quite intimate, and knowing the habits of the members he repaired to their very comfortable rooms within a few hours after reaching the city. It may be said to have been one of his vanities as well.

He [Scott] was in the front rank of amateurs in his day....he turned to Chief Justice Eustis and asked whether he could play a game of chess in the evening...."I want to be put to my mettle!"

"Very well," said Justice Eustis, "We'll arrange it. At eight o'clock tonight, if that will suit you."

At eight o'clock, dinner having been disposed of, the room was full. Gen. Scott, a towering giant, was asked to meet his competitor, a small boy of about 10 [actually, he was eight and a half] and not by any means a prepossessing boy, dressed in velvet knickerbockers, with a lace shirt and a big spreading collar of the same material.

At first Gen. Scott imagined it was a sorry jest, and his tremendous dignity arose in protest. It seemed to him that his friends had committed an incredible and unpardonable impertinence. Then Justice Eustis assured him that his wish had been scrupulously consulted; that this boy was....quite worthy of his notice.

So the game began with Gen. Scott still angry and by no means satisfied. Paul won the move and advanced his Queen's rook's pawn. In response to the General's play he advanced other pawns. Next he had two knights on the field; then another pawn opened the line for the Queen, and at the tenth move he had the General checkmated before he had even begun to develop his defense.

There was only one more game.

Paul Morphy, after the sixth move, marked the spot and announced the movement for the debacle - which occurred according to schedule - and the General arose trembling with amazement and indignation. Paul was taken home, silent as usual, and the incident reached the end.

The few survivors of that era still talk of Paul Morphy's first appearance in public, but only by hearsay. Gen. Scott lived to wonder that he should have ever played with the first chess genius of the century, or for that matter, of any other century."

I have cleaned up the punctuation; by the look of it, this was scanned, not edited, and then posted on the Internet. My guess is that the undated news clip part comes via an old Morphy biography.

My problem with this account, historiographically, is that Winfield Scott is here arriving in New Orleans under arrest; Gideon Pillow (right) had had him arrested in Mexico and Scott was being repatriated to Washington to stand trial. Scott had the pleasure of having Pillow arrested as well, but the consolation must have been small.

It seems a little loosey-goosey to allow Scott, under arrest, the freedom of the town this way. (I know, back then, terms of arrests of officers could be quite liberal. Still, to plan an evening on the town...)

If Scott did meet Morphy as described, he had much on his mind before play began. Being made a fool of by Pillow had him in a bad frame of mind to be made fool of again by a mere child.


Chess notes on "Paul won the move [drew the White side] and advanced his queen's rook's pawn."

This could refer to a2 - a3. In that case, you might think it represents Anderssen's Opening. It would but not under that name. Oddly enough, the name "Anderssen's Opening" appears to have originated when Adolf Anderssen used it himself three times in one famous match against Paul Morphy in 1858. Did Morphy invent Anderssen's Opening? We find no trace of it in his recorded early games. People call this a time wasting move but it allows the White player to make himself Black by exchanging the initiative. If Morphy drew White and wanted to play Black against Scott, this move would serve that purpose.

"Advanced his queen's rook's pawn" could also refer to a2 - a4
. In that case, Morphy would be playing the Ware Opening. This opening also exchanges the initiative but is weaker than a3 because it exposes the pawn to attack. Morphy played Preston Ware in New York 11 years after the match with Scott and the opening played was more conventional. BTW, Ware was seven years older than Morphy and not likely to have had an opening named after him at the time Morphy played Scott.

Birthday boys visit Maryland

I missed it: the "10th annual Maryland and the Civil War: A Regional Perspective." Eric Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi spoke.

I see from this post that they are both very young with long writing careers ahead of them.

Thomas Publications and those eBay documents

Fascinating. Thomas Publications, the Civil War imprint based near Gettysburg, was instrumental in cracking the National Archives/eBay document case:
Roughly 20 years ago, Dean [Thomas] was doing research at the Archives and made a photocopy of one of the documents. He then used that information in a book he wrote entitled Round Ball to Rimfire: A History of Civil War Small Arms Ammunition. "I called the Archives [after seeing the document on eBay] to see if they were having a sale," Dean said with a laugh.

The quality of your readers and reviewers

I would be embarassed to have this reader give my book a good review. I would wonder what I was doing wrong.

Do authors ever feel that way?


Good catch by Mitch Hagmaier. I was excerpting a Libertarian's analysis of Lincoln and one has to be be more careful in that situation.


Apologizing for slavery, celebrating rebellion

According to my own primitive understanding of Reconstruction, each reconstructed state experienced a legal and constitutional break with the (rebellious) state government that preceded it. A new government was constituted to replace the old.

It makes no sense to me, therefore, that a modern state which is historically, constitutionally, and legally connected to its reconstructed predecessor can take responsibility for laws or events preceding Reconstruction. The Confederation could not apologize for decisions taken by royal governors in the 13 Colonies; the United States could not own the actions (or debt) of the Confederation without adopting these through legal process.
How, then, can reconstructed Virginia apologize for the actions of Rebel Virginia? What is the connection between the two?

Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri are different. They are unreconstructed Southern states that had slavery. There is an historical continuity in their governments, Missouri and perhaps Maryland being possible exceptions. If a case were made for apologies, it would have to rest on continuity. In these cases, there is continuity. Here, it would be logical to apologize for slavery but illogical to celebrate a Confederate heritage.

Now, for Georgia or Virginia to celebrate the Confederacy - these states are in the news on that count - this indicates that two states not in the line of the Confederacy are staking a claim for continuity with Rebel governments. It's as odd as if Floridians celebrated the birthday of the King of Spain and thought themselves obliged to apologize for Spanish imperialism.

Even if, on some metaphysical level, the majority in a state could pretend to own the heritage of the Rebellion, it does not follow that it actually "owns" that past, the past of repudiated political organizations, institutions, and personalities. New political institutions were formed specifically to break with that past. That past was legally and historically buried by the most powerful means available to federal and local government.

Any vicarious psychological identification with a destroyed government and its personalities is a curiosity, not a charter for moral posturing as heirs of a destroyed constitutional order.

I hope this last thought is not too confusing: it may be internally consistent for those modern governments celebrating the heritage of Rebellion also to apologize for slavery. But consistency does not make such apologies legal or logical - it just means that this weirdness is internally consistent and has been taken to the next level.

You can't own a Confederate past by staging Confederate celebrations if you have been reconstructed. You can't apologize for slavery if there is no connection to the Slave Power.

Gaming Amazon for authors

Someone has figured out that there are authors with wallets as big as their egos willing to pay for a top sales ranking on Amazon or B&N.


Atlanta honors Father O’Reilly

He saved Atlanta's churches in 1864 and is in the news today:

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin posthumously recognized Father Thomas O’Reilly with the Phoenix Award, which was placed by his marker at Atlanta City Hall on March 9.
With good reason:

It was in the fall of 1864 that Father O’Reilly first heard of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s plan to destroy the entire city of Atlanta by fire. Father O’Reilly was outraged and Patrick Lynch drove the priest to speak to Gen. Henry Slocum, a subordinate of Gen. Sherman. “In this meeting, Father O’Reilly argued that the order to burn homes and churches was beyond the normal confines of warfare,” Mears said. “Father O’Reilly pleaded for a compromise that would spare Atlanta’s five churches.”

At first Gen. Sherman rejected the priest’s proposal. But Father O’Reilly would not relent and reminded the general that many of his own troops were Catholics and would create a mutiny if Catholic churches were burned. As a result of Father O’Reilly’s heroics, five churches in Atlanta—St. Philip Episcopal Church, Central Presbyterian Church, Trinity Methodist Church and Second Baptist Church, as well as the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception [top right, shown in 1848], were spared. In addition, Atlanta City Hall, the Fulton County Courthouse and a residential area between Mitchell and Peters streets were saved.

There was a parallel effort, by such of the city fathers as were still on the scene, to head off a holocaust of starvation, disease and exposure. This was sent to Sherman on 9/11/64:

Sir: We the undersigned, Mayor and two of the Council for the city of Atlanta, for the time being the only legal organ of the people of the said city, to express their wants and wishes, ask leave most earnestly but respectfully to petition you to reconsider the order requiring them to leave Atlanta. [...] As you advanced, the people north of this fell back; and before your arrival here, a large portion of the people had retired south, so that the country south of this is already crowded, and without houses enough to accommodate the people, and we are informed that many are now staying in churches and other out-buildings.

This being so, how is it possible for the people still here (mostly women and children) to find any shelter? And how can they live through the winter in the woods—no shelter or subsistence, in the midst of strangers who know them not, and without the power to assist them much, if they were willing to do so?

This is but a feeble picture of the consequences of this measure. You know the woe, the horrors, and the suffering, cannot be described by words; imagination can only conceive of it, and we ask you to take these things into consideration. [...]

Sherman's response, on 9/12, is demonic:

GENTLEMEN: I have your letter of the 11th, in the nature of a petition to revoke my orders removing all the inhabitants from Atlanta. I have read it carefully, and give full credit to your statements of the distress that will be occasioned, and yet shall not revoke my orders, because they were not designed to meet the humanities of the case, but to prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep interest.
This is the same letter from which Sherman's celebrated quote comes, "War is cruelty and you cannot refine it." He uses the occasion of a plea for mercy to make a speech justifying his cruelty before the ruling Republican Party and before posterity:

We must have peace, not only at Atlanta, but in all America. To secure this, we must stop the war that now desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war, we must defeat the rebel armies which are arrayed against the laws and Constitution that all must respect and obey. To defeat those armies, we must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses, provided with the arms and instruments which enable us to accomplish our purpose. Now, I know the vindictive nature of our enemy, that we may have many years of military operations from this quarter; and, therefore, deem it wise and prudent to prepare in time. The use of Atlanta for warlike purposes is inconsistent with its character as a home for families.
At the end of this little political speech he has returned, somehow, to the topic of what is in the best interest of the families he is about to destroy: "
There will be no manufactures, commerce, or agriculture here, for the maintenance of families, and sooner or later want will compel the inhabitants to go. Why not go now, when all the arrangements are completed for the transfer,—instead of waiting till the plunging shot of contending armies will renew the scenes of the past months."
Sherman as welfare case officer. The city officials have just told him why not - the city is made up of single parent families with no means of sustaining themselves. They can "get by" in the city now, or try to. To leave is to accelerate their doom.

So O'Reilly succeeded in saving a few buildings and is celebrated in a small way. Mayor Calhoun failed to save uncounted lives and is forgotten. Sherman, needless to say, is revered and readers invited to revel in his hard war policies. They get his cute quotes minus the shocking pleas.

It's Civil War history in a nutshell.
(Photo: Sherman's death mask.)


Good news and bad news from Savas Beatie

Savas Beatie's new book Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 shipped yesterday.

This has quite a story behind it, being a never-published thesis powerful enough to influence a generation of revisionist historians. The author (Edward Cunningham) is/remains deceased (+1997), which underscores the power of the manuscript he authored.

Long-dead author, unpublished ms and yet great influence. Impressive.

The introduction to this work is a wonderful piece of historiography and I hope Ted Savas makes it available on his site (in the style of Amazon's "Look Inside" links).

This good news is accompanied by word that Russel Beatie's Army of the Potomac Vol. 3 is just now going to press after a delay. Patience. It will be worth it.

OT - New search engine

I need to try out some ACW keywords in this new search engine. Maybe it's better than Google.


ACW document theft

The big Civil War news today is that a volunteer working in the National Archives stole 165 ACW documents and sold them on eBay. They say he was a cultured man recommended to the archives by a university.

An incompetent news story was filed with the Associated Press and is being run nationally ("The office of U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan said that all but a handful of the items have been recovered.").

Thanks to a press release, we learn the exact count - that 161 of the 165 documents were recovered. We don't know which ones are missing or if the count represents the sum total of thieving.

Computerworld had sense enough to look up the seller's eBay satisfaction rating and found it at 100%. They also found the accused thief's website. This is the kind of color reporters used to build into reporting before they became less informative than a press release.

More details are available from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philly's Daily News augmented the flimsy AP report.

We are living in a society that struggles (unsuccessfully) every day to understand that pederasts volunteer to work with children, pyromaniacs join fire brigades, and thieves offer to work with rare objects. Each new lesson somehow fails to stick.

Veterans form writers' battalion

Hmm. Veterans are organizing in strange new ways: say hello to the Military Writers Society of America.


A little short of touring weather

The shad are running (need I say?) and up and down the East Coast annual shad festivals are popping up like daffodils. Their roe is in the shops but at Ball's Bluff, snow still covers the ground through another weekend; the first wave of local bulb plants has been crushed by ice and frost and my second trip to the battlefield has been postponed yet again due to weather.

The first trip was a fiasco. The markers made no sense to me. I could not figure the limits of the battlefield. I could hardly find the battlefield, belted as it is by suburbia and dead-end streets. The forest service which owns the battlefield has made sure it is covered with trees that were not there in 1861, further complicating things.

About Christmastime, I bought A Little Short of Boats: The Fights at Ball's Bluff and Edwards Ferry to help me sort it all out. It's a fine book with lots of maps and pictures. Eric Wittenberg's company published it and it's going into guidebook service as soon as I can get a fine day off.

There will still be mysteries, though. Author James Morgan III writes, for instance,
Not much more of substance is known about the Baker [grave]stone... What has not been verified is who erected it, exactly when it was erected, or whether it actually marks the site of Baker's death.
Nothing about Ball's Bluff is easy, you see. Nothing at all.


On a chat board, Morgan noted that he was confused by his own first trip to the battlefield and provoked to do research by the trashy state of Ball's Bluff information: "The writings on Ball's Bluff tend just to repeat each other. There seems to have been very little original research over the years." (Is he talking Ball's Bluff or ACW literature generally?) More chat info here. Scroll down.

Morgan spoke with Gerald Prokopowicz here. A review of the book appears here.

The strongest high-level analysis of the battle's meaning appears in Russel Beatie's second volume of Army of the Potomac. Activity in Leesburg was mistaken for a Rebel evacuation; it would have been the enemy's third pullback from the Potomac line in weeks and it would have led to the third such Union occupation of enemy positions.


The antebellum South: "Non-integrating gap"?

Have been mulling over Tom Barnett's paradigm that divides the world into an integrating core group of states and a non-integrating gap group - this, in light of Civil War history.

If you've drunk deeply of literature'sFugitives and their meme of Southern resistance to economic integration and business culture, Barnett's idea tends towards this motif, especially his claim that "Disconnectedness defines danger. "

I'm not sure I'm ready to post on the antebellum South as a non-integrating phenomenon: more thinking and reading is needed. However, the openness of statements like "diconnectedness defines danger" can be misleading, for Barnett is a hardened determinist. Witness: "...it is always possible to fall off this bandwagon called globalization. And when you do, bloodshed will follow." If the Fugitive critique works, that last statement would explain the inevitability of the Civil War. But some of us are not in the market for inevitiability in historiography.

Thus, if you are not a determinist, the Barnett package may not work for you.

Unfortunately, Barnett's blog is frivolous to the point of being unreadable, perhaps a side effect of his years of two-minute TV and radio interviews. His books and articles offer better.

Meanwhile, Neptunus Lex this week published notes from one of Barnett's briefings and they are worth looking at (including reader comments under the posting).

Don Vandergriff

If you were going to bring our current Civil War-era U.S. Army into the 20th Century (never mind the 21st), where would you start?

For Don Vandergriff, the answer has always lain with the personnel system. After decades of crying in the wilderness, Vandergriff retired in 2005 and immediately expanded his influence. TRADOC - the Army's Training and Doctrine Command - hired him (through a consultancy) to shape its young leaders.

Personally, I think that when you create "adaptive" leaders (as he calls them) and place them at the disposal of a 19th Century hierarchy and its rigid bureaucratic value system, that system will exploit "adaptiveness" to pile on more rules, more controls, more formal process. By creating "adaptives," you increase the red tape coping mechanisms that will facilitate even more red tape.

This effect is the natural complement to the tendency to use new technology in the service of the same 19th Century value system.

So it seems to me. But judge for yourselves.


Thermopylae or Ball's Bluff?

To hell with Thermopylae. Why do I even need to say that?

I say this as an infantryman who once faced (modern) spartans - facing them not as a small P persian but as a small A athenian. The Thermopylae of history may be a paradigm for spartans across eternity but are you that eternal spartan? Do you even know what an (historical) Spartan was? Is this vicarious identification offered you by moviemakers sensible, decent, or authentic?

My friends, some Hollywood talespinners have inveigled you into the worst sort of ACW-type of nonsense.

Ball's Bluff is the appropriate paradigm for all small A athenians. Die on your own terms with no hope of turning the battle, no paeans, no glimmer of success. The best men from the best backgrounds led by the best of motives came to grief with no recourse, no court of higher appeals, no redemption trancending their own personal honor, decency, and spiritual destinies. There was no history to appeal to - they were writing it.

No one could ever say, "This chap, at least, did a great job at Ball's Bluff." These Union men died in a fiasco.

I went into this briefly with Gerald Prokopowicz when I said that McClellan's wartime story was our daily reality, our truth, while Grant's story is our fantasy, an indecent lie that sustains us. Ball's Bluff is McClellan's fate writ large; it is often the best we can hope for and defpite being a fizzle demands no less from us than would a glorious victory.

The defeated at Ball's Bluff did not kill enough (p)ersians to earn a screenplay but they earned a few words from Emily Dickinson (right). My punctuation and capitalization:

My portion is defeat today
A paler luck than victory
Less paeans - fewer bells
The drums don't follow me with tunes
Defeat - a somewhat slower means
More arduous than balls
'Tis populous with bone and stain
And men too straight to stoop again
And piles of solid moan
And chips of blank
in boyish eyes
And scraps of prayer
and death's surprise
stamped visible in stone
There's somewhat prouder, over there
The trumpets tell it to the air
How different victory to him who has it
and the one who to have had it,
would have been contenteder to die.

Lincoln's salary

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln drew the same salary - $25,000.

Washington became president in 1789. By the time Lincoln began drawing his pay in 1861, he would have needed to be paid $24,100 in order to maintain parity with Washington according to the Consumer Price Index. Lincoln's $25k/year was worth more because the dollar had increased in value.

For the incumbent to have drawn the equivalent of Lincoln's pay in 2005, he would need to have gotten $309,210 per year. Fortunately for him in 1999 his income was raised to $400,000.

Have a look at this fascinating Web toy.


Google scorecard for "Rick Beard"

Top 10 results on Google when searching for the ALPLM's "Rick Beard."

(1) Ancient news story announcing the mysterion's accession.

(2) "Beard" featured in an ancient press release.

(3) A banker in Utah who does not head the ALPLM.

(4) That banker again.

(5) A repeat of (2).

(6) Amazon's listing of a book edited by the mysterion.

(7) A repeat of (6).

(8) An inaccessible nine-year-old interview with "Rick Beard."

(9) Contact details for a 25-year-old living in Steger, IL, who does not head the ALPLM. He is single and a Pisces. He does not want kids.

(10) A posting on my blog.

Top 10 results searching Google news for "Rick Beard"....

(1) "Rick Beard of the Bank of American Fork recently presented a check to American Fork for $79000..."

Nought in positions (2) - (10).

The new CWPT top 10 list is out

Once again the rankings are too idiosyncratic for my taste.

The dynamic behind the list seems to be a calculated play for local press coverage. In other words, sites appear to be selected on the basis of where local press might make the most difference rather than a considered ranking of where the greatest danger threatens battlefields in this year.


The Schofield effect

One really can't say enough good things about John M. Schofield and the Politics of Generalship.

In my case, readers know I have been following ACW "professionalism" from the purge of "political" officers by Grant and Sherman down to the present day pathologies of job hopping, ticket punching, micromanaging, and promulgating war-fighting values that even John J. Pershing tried (and failed) to reform way back in 1918.

In my case, my blaming Grant and Sherman for a long string of dark institutional developments appears to be over-reaching, especially in view of the analysis supplied by Schofield author Donald Connelly.

Given the complexity and depth of his material, the limitations of blogging as a medium, and the timespan covered, allow me to touch on a few points of interest. These are gross simplifications:

* Schofield (top, right) had a certain aptitude for politics that was further developed by the types of assignments he held in the ACW. As a member of the West Point fraternity, the men remaking the army after the ACW viewed him as a thorough professional. But by his skills and nature he was political.

* The politically retarded Sherman, assuming the top Army position, weakened it significantly in his losing turf battles with the SecWar and bureau chiefs. Sherman actually moved his offices to St. Louis largely abandoning his job and its responsibilities; this was a replay of Scott's decamping from D.C. to work out of New York after losing turf battles to SecWar Davis.

* Sheridan, replacing Sherman, could not make up Sherman's bureaucratic losses; he lost ground himself, especially to SecWar Robert Lincoln (right). He also lost interest in his work, becoming another derelict general officer (in Schofield's words, "General Scott went to New York and General Sherman to St. Louis, while General Sheridan stayed in Washington.").

* Schofield assumed the chief general's position at Sheridan's death and began a program of reform and reclamation. His political experience and inclination helped him much in dealing with the major (bona fide) politicians and the minor practitioners operating out of the Army bureaus.

What kind of reformer was he? Connelly: "In many ways Schofield was an early Progressive. While military Progressives were often different from other Progressives, they shared an obsession with rationalization, regularization, and above all, expertise."

These are core attributes of what Col. John Boyd would have called Second Generation warfare and today's officer corps is nowhere near finished developing them yet. Should we blame Schofield for being ahead of his time when the current generation is just a few weeks ahead of him?

I will have more to say about this and about Connely's book and what it contains, for it appears to me now that Schofield's legacy is more relevant to our present oversupply of spoliated "professionalism" than Grant's, Sherman's, or Sheridan's.


McClellan stereotypes in Desert Storm

I have been trying to better understand the current cockamamie high command structure and was lucky enough to find this helpful essay - an article that opened up a lot of memories.

Recall that a decade ago, Colin Powell was using the current pop history construct of McClellan to denigrate certain tendencies in commanders. McClellan was a stick with which to beat certain devils. It struck me as ignorant and unfair; even if pop history had "got it right," still no modern commander would dream of running the risks run by junk history's cardboard version of McClellan. Not in this day.

It did not occur to me at the time that Powell might be jabbing Schwarzkopf; this same article offers dots to connect:

The issue of the accusation of "McClellan-ism" came from a civilian advisor to the President, and did cause some second-guessing of Schwarzkopf's planning and abilities. This was not to be done without some shielding and screening from Powell acting as the liaison from the CINCCENT (Commander-in-Chief US Central Command) to the President. Schwarzkopf's requests for additional forces were met, and even exceeded his requirements. This served to build trust between the two generals, but there were also a few heated discussions.
The joint forces commander in the first Gulf War was, in accordance with the murk favored by modern high commands, neither Schwarzkopf nor Powell but HRH Khaled bin Sultan, a Saudi officer. Obviously he was not "a civilian advisor to the president," but he wrote in his memoirs many things resonating with a cartoonish McClellanism in the U.S. effort. Let's start with the McClellan intelligence meme:

There was, for example little agreement inside the Coalition about how many Iraqi troops were deployed in the Kuwait Theater of Operations. This was to be the subject of much debate and controversy after the war. Intelligence analysts had come up with a figure of 547,000. As I understand it, this estimate of the Iraqi troop strengthwas arrived at by multiplying the number of Iraqi divisions known to be in the theater by the number of troops an Iraqi division was supposed to have - or had had in the Iraq-Iran war.
I note (once again) that this was Pinkerton's methodology in estimating Rebels and that he (unlike modern intel types, it seems) was extremely accurate in identifying enemy units in theater. Khaled continues, "...postwar research has suggested that these intelligence estimates were hugely inflated..." He makes the embarassing observation that "there was simply no room in the Kuwait theater for the numerous full strength divisions which western intelligence agencies believed were there."

The McClellan "readiness meme" also appears in several places. Khaled on the American general Fred Franks: "Before moving, he wanted to be sure all his supplies were in place and that there was no possibility of an enemy counterattack."

On Schwarzkopf:
As I saw it, Schwarzkopf's contribution to the conceptual basis of the campaign was a reluctance to take risks. As a military commander, he was careful rather than bold. Right up until the end, he persisted in believing - and declaring - that Iraq was a formidable opponent which should not be underestimated. He seemed particularly apprehensive about Saddam's armored Republican Guard divisions. Hence his pressure for more and more troops, planes and supplies, and for the Abrams M1A1 battle tank...
Khaled accidentally touches on legends of the McClellan entourage when he recalls Schwarzkopf's stay in Riyadh:
Schwarzkopf surrounded himself with a great deal of very visible security - a posse of soldiers and plainclothesmen accompanied him everywhere, guns at the ready. I felt obliged to do the same. If a Saudi on the street saw Schwarzkopf's armed escort and then saw me with just one or two guards, he would immediately conclude that Schwarzkopf was the supreme commander. That I could not allow.
One wonders if Khaled's co-author, Briton Patrick Seale, was consciously evoking a certain pre-packaged constellation of negative traits.

Well, the sword has two edges, and in recent times the McClellan-bashing Powell has been poked with his own stick. Khaled has not fared well either.

And it is amusing to see columnists wonder now if Petraeus is Grant or McClellan (meaning, of course, whether our incomplete understanding better matches the false Grant archetype or the false McClellan archtype).

Battle of Carthage

The good guys have surrendered.


Plagiarism: never too early to start

Interesting story about UK college students launching their university careers as plagiarists.


Lincoln at the opera

I had promised a Lincoln opera story.

In his pop biography Lincoln, David Herbert Donald has the anecdote we need. He notes that in mid-war New York opera companies began exporting productions to Washington and that Lincoln became a regular. On one of these excursions, to Mozart’s Magic Flute, Lincoln was accompanied by then-Colonel James Wilson who recorded his impressions of the evening. From Donald:
... he remarked … that the exceptionally large, flat feet of one of the leading female singers meant “the beetles wouldn’t have much of a chance there!” During most of the opera, Wilson recalled, the President “sat in the rear of the box leaning his head against the partition, paying no attention to the play and looking … worn and weary.” When Wilson asked if he were enjoying the opera, Lincoln replied: “Oh, no, Colonel; I have not come for the play but for the rest. I am being hounded to death by office seekers...”
This is in 1863, mind you.
But when Mary asked if he would like to leave before the ending, he said “Oh no, I want to see it out. It’s best when you undertake a job to finish it.”
I dislike Mozart and this opera - as did ante-bellum opera-going America - so I sympathize with the Emancipator's boredom. But as a Washington opera patron, I look about wondering how many spouses continue this particular Lincoln tradition.

p.s. Hope to see Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman in Baltimore Saturday night. Jacques Offenbach's sister brought opera to Civil War Galveston.

(Topside: a flutist from 1968, Vienna)


Questions of party and patronage

Missouri's Radical Union Party pops up in a few places in the new book Frank Blair: Lincoln's Conservative. The reference tantalizes, with the author (William Parrish) failing to color his story much with the RUP's fortunes. He does further tease us though with an RUP split in which the Liberal Republican Party emerges.

Is it my imagination or is the political historian of the war generally a hash slinger? It seems to me that all local variations and peculiarities are stirred into big pots of tasteless mush labeled "Republican" or "Democrat." This makes it impossible to trace patterns of patronage and party alignments down to state and local levels.

And if you cannot trace such patterns, you can have no clear idea of when the national interest or the war effort are being subordinated to something less lofty.

There are exceptions to this carelessness with distinctions. I think most well-read ACW readers know, for instance, that there was no Republican Party in Simon Cameron's Pennsylvania - the odium associated with the name was too damning. But the question remains (for me at least) as to how the People's Party got delegates into the Republican convention of 1860. Or did they?

Deep readers also know that in Rhode Island, the Democrats were the party of Lincoln (hence the collaboration with Governor Sprague and Ambrose Burnside) while the Republicans were anti-Lincoln radicals. How did Lincolnian patronage work in that state? And in Pennsylvania?

Something that has bothered me for a long time has been the short shrift given by the common run of political histories to the National Union Party. (If the name of that outfit sounds unfamiliar to you, do me the favor of firing your favorite authors.)

I especially want to know how its formation affected the flow of patronage after November 1864.

The new Blair biography reminds me I am not getting my needs met in these political tomes.

(Picture, topside: Frank Blair, not a Radical unionist, not a Liberal Republican.)

Okay, okay

Enough of McPherson (for now). But I do need to amuse myself too, you know.

The people who position McPherson as the greatest living historian of the Civil War have to do a substantive job making their case. The endless iteration of empty superlatives paints them as sub-par readers and is no help to the man who accepts these inane accolades.

McPherson's interactions with an adoring public remind me of the schoolyard satire of Witold Gombrowicz:
Teacher: And so class, what is it about the incomparable beauty and sweetness of this author's verses that make us adore him as the first and foremost poet of his age? Anyone? Jan?

Could it be the incomparable beauty and sweetness of the verses?

No, Jan, I am asking what is it in that incomparable beauty and sweetness that we all recognize, that makes our hearts beat faster with love and pride and exhiliration such that we crown this man Poet of the Nation as well as Poet of the Age. Yes, Jacek.

Jacek: Is it a certain quality that makes our hearts beat faster with love and pride and exhiliration?

Teacher: No, listen to me. What is that quality that causes us to sing the praises of this mighty incomparable man of letters whose verses of sweetness and beauty cause us to feel utterly unworthy to partake of the same air, whose nobility of character elevates us all and whose poetic insights will never be matched? Anyone?
Gombrowicz also invented the characters Professor Philidor and his nemesis Antiphilidor. In view of my creeping Anti-philidorianism, I am going to suspend criticisim of America's love affair with McPherson. Let us have peace, whether or not we can reconstruct McPherson or his public.

What was Lincoln saying?

A letter-to-the-editor published in the Fredericksburg newspaper quotes a suggestive and cryptic statement from Abraham Lincoln:
You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result."--Lincoln, in a letter to Gustavus Fox on May 1, 1861.
To the letter writer, this is the "smoking gun" that proves Lincoln sought war. Is that what it means?

The writer quotes Karl Marx:
The war between the North and the South is a tariff war. The war is further not for any principle, does not touch the question of slavery, and in fact turns on the Northern lust for sovereignty.
If you look at it from the outside, for instance if you consider cotton revenues as a proportion of the national income, this is plausible. The U.S. then was like one of the modern oil sheikhdoms. The counterpart to today's "No blood for oil" would naturally have been, "No blood for cotton."

But these economic arguments are reductionist approaches to understanding complex historical events; they look for the single driver. They are the flip side of the incomplete argument "slavery caused the war."

What baffles is why Lincoln (a supposedly sophisticated thinker) would flirt with reductionism - "our anticipation is justified by the result."


Learning to fail better (cont.)

Hilariously on point:
People sometimes ask me, "Bob, when is the next failed book coming out?," but at this rate, I'm not sure there will ever be one, the reason being that "jamming" on the blog is so much more compelling...

It's Abe-a-licious!

The cryptic mysterion "Rick Beard" has not merited a newspaper article of his own since taking over the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library but he is having an impact. He seems to have had a noticeable effect on one of the beverages served by the ALMPL:
I am pleased to report the coffee is downright Abe-a-licious. I had a cup of Swiss chocolate almond-something. Given the authenticity of the museum, I assume it is the type of coffee Abraham Lincoln drank. But the next time I go to the cafe, I am going to take my own cup. I try to avoid drinking coffee from foam cups whenever possible.
Styrofoam? Authenticity, where art thou?

This journalist goes on to profile the cafeteria worker who makes Abe-a-licious coffee: "Ron wears many hats. He cleans tables, sweeps the floor, rides herd on visiting school kids and answers many, many questions about Lincoln."

Absolutely mesmerizing. And "Rick Beard," where art thou?

Thank you sir, may I have another?

Did James McPherson step on some toes?

>> Author: Gary Gallagher, et al, June 2003:
The American Civil War: This Mighty Scourge of War

>> Author: James McPherson, January 2007:
This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War

Well, you don't read McPherson for originality, anyway. Synthesis is his thing. Synthesis in book titles, even. Gallagher shouldn't mind. They're pals.

More interesting is the case of Catherine Clinton. Clinton is one of the very few known graduate students of the greatest living Civil War historian to actually be practicing in or near the field of Civil War history.

A few years ago she noticed there had been no Harriet Tubman biography for adults in decades. I recall interviews in which she pointed proudly to her forthcoming first-in-a-long-time Tubman tome. She piqued my interest.

Unlucky lady. Too many people had the same idea at the same time and she found her competing authors' release dates synched up with her own. On no - a flood of Tubman bios!

Enter her teacher McPherson.

In his New York Review of Books gig, McPherson lumped Clinton's Tubman biography into an omnibus review with all the others, not giving her the courtesy of solo consideration.

Clinton's stuff was so buried in McPherson's recapitualted and synthesized material that now, a naive newspaper reviewer recapping that one essay (as redone in Mighty Scourge), missed Clinton altogether. Have a look. Catherine who?

If these are the perks for McPherson's friends, why bother?

p.s. Another slight on Clinton's work here.


A revenue model for ACW opinionating

Today I noticed something called Helium where there is profit sharing with anyone who posts to their topic lists. I suppose the result could be something like a moderated newsgroup with paydays.

By comparison, if you post to Usenet and read it on Google Groups, your reading and writing supports Google's advertising revenue. You don't get a share.

Here's an Abe Lincoln thread. USENET-quality writing is here, but now posters are getting money to write up such insights as, "Abraham Lincoln was a man of Character, of Ethics, of Morals. The world has not seen the likes of such a man since him."

Fascinating. The business model, I mean.

The son of a Union veteran

He lives. "He will be installed tonight as a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War."

The war remains that close in time.

"Let us now praise James McPherson"

The man who excites excess is at it again. From the Boston Globe:
So let us now praise James McPherson, our premier living Civil War historian, for a bracing collection of essays ... It will seduce anyone, Civil War neophyte or fanatic, for its authority and judgments.
If you are in the market for "authority" and "judgements" I think we have a book for you. Those of you interested in history - in research, discovery, and analysis - check back another time.


Lincoln bicentennial backlash begins

... at WVU, of all places.
According to the WVU Arts and Entertainment Web site, renowned historians, writers and political scientists such as James McPherson, Mark Russell and Sarah Vowell will speak on "the man, the myth, the martyr and American hero" who was Abraham Lincoln. My question to the University is: Who cares? [...] I have heard students chuckle as they flip through the pages of this paper when they see who the upcoming speakers will be.
Good. Nobody needs an over-the-top lovefest in a setting dedicated to developing critical thinking.

Meanwhile, Wonkette's interest in McPherson is aptly mocked with exclamations of "Nerdgasm!"