West Point: "contemptible"

We're all familiar with the diatribes against West Point made during the Civil War. Here's a particularly choice specimen from Henry C. Whitney's Life on the Circuit with Lincoln (1892). It comes in the midst of a chapter attacking McClellan:
Those who are familiar with West Point and its workings are also aware that it engenders the most contemptible aristocracy in this country. The profession of arms is alluring to youth and callow manhood; the forced gentility and mechanical manners taught, tend to the fostering of a dull mediocrity - a repression of individuality - an undue sentiment of reverence for those officially superior, and a feeling of contempt for all below. The very attire engenders illegitimate pride and ever-preening vanity; and a spirit of caste is infused, as trenchant and deeply ingrained as that of the Brahmins. It is not forgotten that in the British army the officers are spawned from the titled aristocracy. Manhood is estimated in the order of rank, and groupings take place accordingly. A conventional General is at the zenith of the social fabric, and a private soldier at the foundation, although the latter may have brains, and the former none. And it was this very infusion of artificial manners, and social mechanisms and evisceration of manhood, that replaced national patriotism with esprit de corps; and that caused the recusancy of Stone at Ball's Bluff - of Buell in Kentucky, and of Porter at the second Bull Run.


"Intelligent" people who don't know better

How can well-regarded prizewinners, credentialled to the nth degree, write one piece of nonfiction trash after another? How can their fans lap it up?

As has often been noted here, it has to do with evidence handling. I used to think that evidence management was an ethical issue. Now, I wonder if evidence handling is a "medical" issue, a go/no go proposition that can be tested as easily and simply as color blindness.

If you don't have it, maybe you're not going to be able to fake it or develop any. By the same token, your devoted readers, those that are similarly "blind," will not care about evidence handling.

I'm on this because a psych professor suggests that we make "the proper calibration of evidence" (his term) part of IQ measurement. I say make it a whole test of its own and let it be the first step before enrolling someone in any history or journalism program.


Diversity was a killer

The more diverse a unit's enlistees were, the higher the casualty rate, the higher the desertion rate, the more likely the unit was to fail in battle.

That's the quick and dirty summary by a journalist encountering Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War, a new book that applies social science methodology to 41,000 Union ACW records.
"Union soldiers, whether in prison camps or in the field, were the most loyal to men who looked like themselves — of the same ethnicity and occupation, from the same state or hometown, or of the same age or related by blood," said Dora Costa, a UCLA economics professor and co-author of the book Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War.
I am reading this volume and will report back soon. Meanwhile, the publisher's pitch says:
When are people willing to sacrifice for the common good? What are the benefits of friendship? How do communities deal with betrayal? And what are the costs and benefits of being in a diverse community? Using the life histories of more than forty thousand Civil War soldiers, Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn answer these questions and uncover the vivid stories, social influences, and crucial networks that influenced soldiers' lives both during and after the war.
You can read a sample chapter at the link.

The other Sesquicentennial

The John Brown's Raid Sesquicentennial has a website and is generating some press.

Cump and the Pasha

Hmmm: Stone Pasha's pallbearer was Sherman. Story here. Background here.


A non-update for Lincoln, the movie

Screenwriter Tony Kushner says his script for Spielberg's "Lincoln" is "deep in revisions" and declines to project a next milestone.

Star Liam Neeson has been left hanging:
"I don't know (anything) other than what you know," he admitted. "He asked me four years ago would I play this part and I most certainly said I would. He'll do it whenever he's ready to do it, but it's in the works."
No sign of Doris Kearns Goodwin either whose rights to Team of Rivals were sold to Spielberg.

Meanwhile, a film buff puts things into the broader view:
I'm going to take this opportunity to mention how depressing it is that Spielberg's two upcoming projects are films that I don't really care about.


"I'd like to buy a book"

We've all stood in the information line of a bookstore while the shopper at the head of the line struggles to remember anything at all (author, title, genre) about the book sought.

In the same vein, people go to Amazon and enter the search word "book". Alone. By itself. Proof here that it is a popular search term.


Today's re-enactment

There will be more than one re-enactor at the inaguration today, despite what i reported earlier.

BTW, if you look at the picture, you'll see the 54th Mass now has black officers and white privates. Simulation or simulacrum?


Hero and villain

Confederate militia captain by day, Union guerilla captain by night: the strange military career of Martin D. Hart. (More here and here.)


The Battle of Shepherdstown (cont.)

A WVU professor will harness students to collaborate on the production of a book on the Battle of Shepherdstown, presumably in an effort to clarify where the affected ground lies.

Sesquicentennial in MS

Mississippi is considering whether to create a Sesquicentennial Commission. The state's Development Authority would have oversight of its activities.


Lincoln themes - how much is enough?

It will be "a Lincoln-themed inauguration from top to bottom," reports the New York Post with overflowing detail.

Meanwhile, the planned inauguration parade of Mobile's Azalea Trail Maids is said by the local NAACP to hearken to "a shameful past."


Bones (cont.)

Mannie has weighed in on the Antietam bones with a hearty bit of head scratching.

A themed inauguration

The Inauguration Committee has some idea that it is recreating the last stage of Lincoln's journey to Washington. Absurd, says Larry Tagg.


Why we don't read more navy stuff

The difficulty with ACW (and other) navy lit (click to enlarge: via Tony Millionaire).

Bones and "armies of people"

I should wait for Mannie's report on this but the press is already going wild with 255 stories linked on Google News. This is the basic story from the local newspaper. This is the wire story that's repeating worldwide.

Antietam Superintendent John Howard baffles me. The local report tells us a visitor noticed bones near animal diggings and loaded them into his backpack for transport to the visitor center (he then left the park without telling or showing exactly where the bones were found).
"He did everything right," Superintendent John Howard said. "He drove right to the Visitor Center with the bones."
What if I told you he did everything wrong?

In the AP report, Howard explains why bones would be found on a battlefield:
"These armies were made up of people, of men who fought here," Howard said.
He forgot to add, "People contain bones."


A friendly reminder

December 8 is Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day. You know what to do. (If not, here are some ideas.)

"Say there, can you tell me where can I obtain some cotton trading permits?"

McClellan at Gettysburg (cont.)

Author Greg Acken was good enough to send more McClellan-at-Gettysburg incidents. I may compile all our sources and map them in a future post. Anyway, here's Greg:
Regarding the McClellan at Gettysburg theme, I edited a grouping of a Union captain's letters that was published in 1998 called Inside the Army of the Potomac. In the letters, my subject, Captain Francis Adams Donaldson of the 118th Pennsylvania, noted that on the night of July 1-2, while the 5th Corps was en route to Gettysburg via Hanover, that an officer with a lantern standing by the roadside (this was at 3:30 AM) read an "order" claiming McClellan had again been placed in command.

"The men became perfectly wild with joy, and the scene was very exciting where we halted. Here were divisions of infantry intermingled with artillery and cavalry cheering each other as they passed, while the name McClellan rang thro' the ranks. Everyone seemed filled with enthusiasm, and each battalion as it moved past stepped to the encoraging shouts of thousands of voices in one grand chorus for Little Mac"

I found similar mentions in History of the Twenty Third Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Birney's Zouaves, pg. 93: (6th Corps regiment-8 PM July 1)

"A rumour being circulated just at this time, that General Hooker had been relieved and he was to be succeeded by General McClellan, the men exhibited their joy while on the march by singing and in other ways manifesting pleaasures, but we soon found the report was without foundation, and that the new commander of the Army of the Potomac was a Pennsylvanian-- General George G. Meade-- who remained in that position until the close of the war."

Additionally, the Regimental Historians of the 155th Pennsylvania (also 5th Corps) note on pg. 154: (They had just united on the march to Gettysburg with other Pennsylvanians of SBW Crawford's command)

"With the arrival of these troops also came the report, which was circulated all along the line, that General McClellan had been restored to the command of the Army of the Potomac and was on his way to join the army. General McClellan's name and popularity on this report were also enthusiastically received, but alas! it was doomed to contradiction as a mere camp rumour, as developments soon demonstrated."

It is also worth noting that in the same brigade (and thus, the same line of march) as Donaldson's 118th Pennsylvania was the veteran 22nd Massachusetts. Their reaction differed greatly from that which Donaldson recorded in the Corn Exchange Regiment when they heard of the re-appointment: (22nd Massaachusetts, p. 244-245)

"(McClellan's) name had lost its magical impact, for beyond a few feeble cheers from some of the commands, the column stalked on in moody silence"

Finally, Henry Hunt, writing about the second day at Gettysburg in Battles and Leaders (Vol. III, pg. 301), also makes note of this phenomena.
Excellent! Keep them coming, please.

(This thread, as always, is about the sanitizing of history by storytellers. Of course McClellan was not at Gettysburg, so such incidents as these are "meaningless" and can be excised from the "true" record of events.)

Publishing cuts back

Hat tip to Richard Miller for the link to the story "Puttin’ Off the Ritz: The New Austerity in Publishing."

Interesting to me is the last paragraph which describes Michael Korda as former Simon & Schuster editor-in-chief. Didn't know he left. Korda was personally interested in the ACW, put out a lot of ACW "product" including his own work, and was, I think, perennially seeking the vast ocean of general readers the Centennialists sailed on. Historiographically, he was a disaster - Jean Smith's Grant, for example, was a disgrace - and financially he did his firm no favors if the low sales I used to track through Ingram's were any indication. Nonetheless, he was the highest profile advocate of ACW publishing in the biz.

The story also contains an odd snippet from a retailer who looks forward to fewer titles being published; in other words, who thinks the cut back will benefit book sales. This makes sense only if book stores don't have buyers anymore and must take every title put out...


The brief return of Dr. Strange

Lo, he has been unchained, his tongue freed to chant spells against his Illini masters.
Any pretense that you’re hiring the best person necessarily [for the ALPLM], that you’re conducting a search or that you’re really trying to hire quality and that’s all that matters is absolute nonsense.
But the evil Illini invoke protective spells of process:
Mr. [Rick] Beard is no longer an employee of the state, and we are not going to address his allegations.
And thus, with this brief but powerful recitation, all power of allegation is rendered harmless! Checkmate, Dr. Strange!

Banished again to the oblivion dimension by his sinister overlords, Dr. Strange will spend eternity imploring the unhearing powers that be, "Ask Mrs. Cellini."

The news

Break's over: news is backlogged.

ALPLM attendance is down again. The hundreds of thousands have declined year-on-year from 5 to 4 to 3. If you discount the busloads of school kids, then what?

If I understand this article correctly, the Inauguration Committee is going to allow a grand total of one ACW re-enactor into the festivities.

The Wilderness Wal-Mart struggle continues with a piece that tries to explain the significance and status of the commercially zoned parcel.

Ever happen to you? You get a call from a dealer interested in selling you ACW stuff you already own - or you thought you owned. Whoops.

A certain county, custodian for an ACW battlefield, hopes you and your historical society will come and build monuments all over that battlefield. Great idea, huh?

Professor E. Ayers and the University of Richmond plan to kick off the Civil War Sesquicentennial with what is billed as its first official event in April. As this year marks the sesquicentennial of 1859, we stroke our beards perplexed before concluding that sesquicentennialism might best be left to the mathematics department.