ALPLM hits the wall

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the management of which has long been derided in this blog, now faces reorganization driven by the Illinois legislature. A new report makes interesting points:
* "The library has been unable to maintain its professional staff and to make necessary investments in digital technology"

* "The museum’s famously innovative exhibitions, created a decade ago, are in need of a major reinvestment"

* "The lack of a professional culture is acutely evident at the State Historical Library"

* "... maintaining the status quo for ALPLM governance is untenable."
The place has been a patronage sink made ludicrous by its pretensions. Will separation from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency fix that?


James McPherson's favorite books and authors

In a New York Times interview, James McPherson recently identified some of his favorite authors and books. I thought I'd add some fun links to the names below.

Best ACW book ever: Allan Nevins' Ordeal of the Union. (Scroll down to the sixth para where Nevins plagiarism is discussed.)

Favorite ACW biography: "Jean Edward Smith, Grant. (See my posts, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).*

"Most important military history ever written": John Keegan's Face of Battle.

One of "the best historians writing today": Eric Foner.

In the "first rank of military historians": Craig Symonds, Gary Gallagher, Joseph Glatthar.

Happy reading!

* Smith and McPherson make beautiful music together:

McPherson: "He may have been an alcoholic in the medical meaning of that term. He was a binge drinker." [BCOF P 588]
Smith: "Grant was a binge drinker. In a clinical sense, he may have been an alcoholic." [Grant P. 231]

McPherson: "For months he could go without liquor, but if he once imbibed it was hard for him to stop." [P 588]
Smith: "He could go for months without a drink, but once he started it was difficult for him to stop." [P. 231]

McPherson: "His wife and his chief of staff John A. Rawlins were his best protectors." [P 588]
Smith: "For the most part, Grant remained sober, protected from alcohol by his adjutant, Colonel John Rawlins, and especially by Julia." [P. 231]

Smith can also make Catton's dead prose come alive!

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

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

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

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

The passing (cont.)

I shared some thoughts with Brooks Simpson and his readers on how the old guard's views will be carried on into the future (see comments).


My, how history rhymes

"If he lacked the flexibility to suffer fools gladly..."
The Papers of Jefferson Davis: 1808-1840, page vii
Lynda Lasswell Crist 1971

"One of the adjectives that is usually applied to President Davis is the word 'austere'..."
The Papers of Jefferson Davis: 1808-1840, page vii
Lynda Lasswell Crist 1971

"He appears humorless..."
The Papers of Jefferson Davis: July 1846--December 1848, p vii
Lynda L. Crist, Mary S. Dix, 1982

"Austere and humorless, Davis did not suffer fools gladly."
Battle Cry of Freedom, p 429
James McPherson, 1988

"Austere and humorless, Davis did not suffer fools gladly."
The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era, p 363
James McPherson, 2003

"He did not suffer fools gladly ... Davis could be austere, humorless and tediously argumentative."
Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief quoted in reviews
James McPherson, 2014


(p.s. If anyone knows who these fools are whom Davis did not suffer, please drop a line.)


Low Davis content in "Jefferson Davis"

Began reading Jefferson Davis, Confederate President by Hattaway and Beringer, which came out in 2002.

Reading and reading, I got angrier and angrier. The book is really a general history of Confederate military operations, many of these operations undertaken with no Davis input. No Davis strategy, no Davis decision trees, no Davis work habits, no Davis routine interactions, no business style, not even superficial analysis of this presidency: this is what the authors deliver. They supply 5-10% Davis content at most and no more than 15-20% presidency content.

Expect a handsomely bound Civil War primer that treats its real subject, operations, hurriedly and it's pretend topic, the Davis presidency, not at all.


The passing

A friend writes,
Just saw news of Pfanz’s death, and was thinking about Civil War history and generations of historians:

I guess you saw Harry W. Pfanz just died (age 93). Albert Castel died in November (age 86).

Stephen Sears is 82. McPherson is 78. James I. “Bud” Robertson is 84 or 85. Ed Bearss is 91. William C. Davis is a spritely 68, but just retired.

Are we now, fully and finally, in the age of Simpson, Rafuse, Grimsley, Symonds, Woodworth, Carmichael, Hess, et al.? And if so, what will they do as they seize the wheel? With their power to shape history? Will we see new and powerful analyses of battles and leaders and logistics and politics, or just blog posts about social history and latter-day “controversies” like the Confederate flag? How many of those guys are working on major books at this point? Do we have anything to look forward to?

(Then there’s the threat of Michael Korda and the like. Don’t get me started.)
Your thoughts, dear reader?