Author Tim Reese has posted some interesting comments on a discussion board about the walking day-glow horror show called South Mountain Battlefield.

Although a bill passed in 2000 creates the possibility of having a battlefield, one funded by the state of Maryland, there has been no serious spending and the various interests have been free to pursue their own agendas, using contradictory methods of "saving battlefield land."

I'd like to comment on some of Tim's points. For instance, he mentions,

TR: ... naïve assumptions about cooperative, incongruent battlefield ownership, its purported preservation, and the likelihood of achieving any symbiosis toward accessible park status.

Wide swaths of battlefield land are covered with patchworks of conflicting usage arrangements. The state has not used its authority to buy land, or to condemn privately owned property, or even to create guidelines for property owners in the area. Instead self-serving entities have entered into a myriad of private deals involving restrictive use covenants to cover many privately owned parcels. The parties involved are more than incongrous - they have incompatible aims. A serious effort to create a battlefield out of the mess on South Mountain would require the diplomacy that produced the Peace of Westphalia.

TR: South Mountain is being developed as we speak! Most damage is occurring at Turner's Gap where most of the land along D.H. Hill's left flank has been parceled out for sale. Lots are already selling along Dahlgren and Frosttown roads. The latter was recently repaved to accommodate new home builders. Fox's Gap is in better shape, but hopelessly entangled in a complex mosaic of public/private ownership, unlikely to be unraveled.

Notice that lots are selling but the state is not buying. Notice that lots are selling and the preservationists are not buying. (To buy land at developer prices would be extortion! Preservationists want to pay only the fairest price keyed to farm- and woodland values. They are bargain hunters, bless 'em, so they'll pay for easements and save big. They think.)

TR: Fox's Gap is in better shape, but hopelessly entangled in a complex mosaic of public/private ownership, unlikely to be unraveled.

This is the problem with its members allowing organizations like Civil War Preservation Trust to purchase restrictive covenants on land in partnership with a bewildering array of conflicting, non-ACW organizations like the federal government, the state government, farmland conservators, nature conservators, etc. You create a pre-unification Germany, a land of hundreds of princelings, each with territory, a separate constitution, and a unique agenda.

TR: Whoever came up with the idea of S. Mtn. State Battlefield [the law authorizing it] was obviously hallucinating.

I would say that whoever drafted this law had in mind first and foremost providing political cover for those preservation organizations that have messed this situation up. As any piece of land becomes available for "easement" purchase, a new cartel is assembled to share the (trivial) expense of paying for a restrictive covenant. Each coventant is unique: a complex legal document with multiple parties involved and varying degrees of control, inspection, authorization, etc. Each is customized per negotiation. Now, if you like "what-if" you could draw a map showing all the covenants bought in and around a battlefield. No one can visit this place on the map, it is "unified" on paper only. Having the state declare this map drill a battlefield validates the failed and destructive policies of those Civil War battlefield preservationists who actually lost the battlefield and whose every new easement takes us farther away from ever being able to visit an historic site. So the law declares a battlefield exists through their efforts. It is like the legal fiction once called "the Holy Roman Empire" ... not holy, not Roman, not an empire, and in fact, a collection of crumbs. Nor is there a Bismarck in Maryland to create something out of this potential "South Mountain Battlefield Park."

TR: South Mountain "Fake" Battlefield is ... icing without a cake which children naturally prefer.

The children, I think, are the self-serving organizations perpetuating themselves and bamboozling their members by playing at preservation. The good news is that they have reached the outer limit of legitimacy. There is no more that the state can do for their disastrous policies. The members will slowly awaken to the fact that they are paying dues to battlefield land owners to keep land in private hands.

Will it take class action public interest lawsuits to put cake under the icing?

If you want to prevent battlefields from being delivered to public use, you know where to contribute your money.

Here's more background.
NEWS | Maryland county hopes ACW trail will generate tourism * Re-enactors to portray demobilization * Federal funding could help Ft. Totten with transformation


With all the digressions here it may be worth saying that this blog is about the failure of Civil War history as history and of Civil War history publishing as history publishing. Its central issues are "why" are we supplied with histories so inferior and "how" can this happen decade after decade.

A couple of times in the past, I have relied on comments by Jeff Sharaa to explain our plight as specialized readers. Sharaa says:

* He and his late father have had to structure their novels for "most" of their readers who have little Civil War knowledge.

* "I don't write 'Civil War stories.' I write stories about characters in the Civil War. There's a distinction. These books are stories of people. The people tell the stories, through their experiences, through their point of view."

All this is background to the main point:

* "An enormous number of people have said to me that they had little interest in history in school and never read much about the Civil War. Now, through my father's book and the film "Gettysburg," and perhaps from Gods and Generals, they are caught up in the story, in the lives of these characters. These books, and the film, are not just history as we often think of it..."

As this readership, in its millions, washes into the field of Civil War history, the field suffers and the informed reader suffers. The masses who roll into the marketplace are story-driven, personality-driven readers with a taste for certain literary styles and forms and very little historic sensibility. One prime beneficiary of this kind of readership has been the consistently awful James McPherson. McPherson refers to the Sharaa dynamic publicly:

I recently gave a tour of the Gettysburg battlefield to a group of small-company CEOs and their spouses. As usual in such tour groups, more of them had read Michael Shaara’s novel, The Killer Angels, than any other book about Gettysburg.

This gets us a long way into the "why" of Civil War publishing. For the "how" bit we can rely on the comment by John Y. Simon, editor of Grant's papers, that the Civil War reading public is like a little child who wants to hear the same story every night told in exactly the same way. Let me buttress this seemingly harsh comment with remarks recently made by the British novelist/playwright Michael Frayn in a recent interview:

Let me say for a start that I don't think it is a very good idea to write different sorts of things. If I were to give serious practical advice to a young writer about how to succeed I would say: "Write the same book, or the same play, over and over again, just very slightly different, so that people get used to it. It takes some time, but if you do it often enough, finally people will get the hang of it, and get familiar with it, and they'll like it. Then you go on producing a consistent product and you'll have a market for it.

This is a formula for commercial success.

And so we have a paradigm for what is wrong in this ACW history field: Great rolling waves of newbies spending lots of money on novelistic presentations of essentially the same book recapitualted endlessly.

"... you go on producing a consistent product and you'll have a market for it." As history readers, we rarely escape this all-pervasive "market-friendly" history.
Poet and teacher David Biespel presents a lecture "Of Love and War: Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman" ...

Whitman's great elegy for Lincoln, 'When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,' forever links the two men. Defining a tragic moment in American history, the poem reminds us that a public death can touch an individual life and that poetry can simultaneously express praise and loss through the subject of love and war.

It also links composer Paul Hindemith to them, who set the poem to an extraordinary composition in honor of FDR's death. I cannot read the poem without hearing the music. It is my favorite choral symphony and the only such piece in anyone's repertoire associated with the Civil War. (It even has bugle calls, nicely understated.)

Whitman + Lincoln + Hindemith = Staggering. Maybe Amazon has a sample sound file somewhere.
The Andersonville camp is staging a POW food show to attract tourists. Don't think I'm kidding.
NEWS | Cobb house restoration mired in controversy * DAR accused of misspending ACW cemetery funds * Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association and American Civil War Museum in joint fundraiser * SCV gets government green light for new Rebel monument


Victor Davis Hanson imagines an 1864 presidential press conference with modern American reporters in attendance.
The phenomenon of veteran impersonation was pretty well established after the Civil War. As I've linked here before,

William Marvel has written that every one of the last dozen recognized living Confederate veterans was bogus.

And in 1917, the rolls of the Medal of Honor had to be purged of actual Civil War veterans who in no way deserved to be there.

Interesting to see the problem continues.:

B.G. "Jug" Burkett, a Vietnam vet who is now a stockbroker in Dallas, feels the same way. Almost any time he reads a newspaper article about someone claiming to be a Vietnam veteran, he digs into their background and files a request for their military records. Over the past 15 years, Burkett said, he has investigated perhaps 2,000 claims of military service; at least 1,500 of them were bogus in one way or another.

If you want in on this action, follow these instructions, or these.
It looks like McPherson is at the end of his teaching career:

This semester's HIS 376 is McPherson's last course in his teaching career and has roughly 400 students enrolled, Weber said.
They are going to re-enact the Longstreet funeral in Georgia. (Link)
NEWS | Civil War history, connections lure travel writers to Tennessee * Ohio Civil War Collectors Show slated for May Day * CSS Neuse site expands hours


Thanks to the University of Georgia Press for an advance copy of For Free Press and Equal Rights: Republican Newspapers in the Reconstruction South by Richard Abbott.

As Republicans took control of Southern states, they were able to patronize local party papers with state advertising and printing contracts. Republican governors even became co-owners of some papers while in office.

It is a testimony to Republican grip that author Abbott was able to survey over 430 papers in the course of his book. Fascinating stuff, especially the business of scalawags (and wartime Unionists) versus carpetbaggers and the growing demands of black readers for black editors.

Republican editors had to devote considerable column space to defending carpetbaggers against criticisms from both inside and outside the party...

And then there were the Southern Republicans' efforts to limit the role of freedmen within the GOP.

A fascinating look at a large but marginal regional party and its life and death struggles.
NEWS | Chickamauga park gets more acres * Author to talk about Sultana steamboat tragedy * Hatteras shipwreck museum won't receive monitor artifacts unless it finishes wing * Rain fails to dampen Pea Ridge re-enactment * Failing museum pins hopes on slave trade exhibit * Records suggest a cold front helped sink Confederate submarine * Confederate flags wave as Riley celebrates Confederate monument


Would you care to join me in New Orleans for some opera this evening? I'm a little concerned that our sense of American music from the Civil War era might be influenced by the sountracks of Cold Mountain or Deliverance.

Here's a picture of the opera house at Bourbon and Tolouse as it appeared from 1859 to 1919. It's not a trivial edifice and when it was erected, opera was already into its third generation of listeners in this city:

"The first opera to be performed in the city was Gretry’s Sylvain in 1796, and by the early 19th century we had become an outpost of the Paris Opera. ... the newest French operas continually poured into New Orleans as the public here was eager to drink them up. Works by Mehul, Isouard, Dalayrac, Boieldieu and Cherubini were prominent during the first decade of New Orleans opera, followed a few years later by operas by Auber, Adam, Meyerbeer, and Halevy. An occasional Italian joined their ranks, such as Paisiello and later Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini. These were the daily fare of the opera houses that flourished in New Orleans not only at the beginning of the century but throughout the 19th century. The opera season ran from the beginning of November to the end of April, and for many years there were few nights during the season when an opera could not be heard."

Opera houses - note the plural.

Now New Orleans was the largest city in the South and one in which French was widely spoken or understood. But the popularity of opera was widespread. This march dedicated to Lincoln used the music of Donizetti.

The best testimony to the popularity of the form was that as Civil War veterans traveled West, they opened opera houses in their slapped together mining towns and named them after Civil War generals ... like Sheridan and McPherson.

Going beyond opera: today Berlioz, Bizet, Franck, and Offenbach are but marginal to the playlists of the major market classical music stations, but the Civil War soldier had ample opportunity to encounter music by any of them before answering the call to arms.

Chopin is another case. Aside from many performances of his work in public private play in salons was fueled by 22 separate pulications of his sheet music in the U.S. between 1839 and 1855.

But we are neglecting New Orleans. There is a great window into the musical tableau presented by the city before the war and that is the life of Louis Moreau Gottschalk - of the Crescent City. "His debut concert was seen by Chopin, who shook his hand and may have told him, 'I predict you will become the king of pianists.'" Note also that

Victor Hugo pronounced him not only a great pianist, but an "eloquent orator who can enrapture and move audiences." Parisians gathered by the hundreds outside his home just to hear him practice and rushed to crown him with celebrity.

Gottschalk was a Unionist and active during the war. He played widely and often: "at one point in 1862, [his schedule] included 85 concerts (all at different locations) in just four and a half months." (Lesson on booking: "New Jersey is the poorest place in the world to give concerts, except Central Africa...”)

There is a Gottschalk revival underway in our day. But we have a way to go before we reach the level of culture of Gottschalk, his audience, or the music-loving public of the Civil War era.

Except, perhaps, in New Jersey, where it may still be status quo ante bellum.
NEWS | Granddaughter finds Civil War private buried in Mississippi * American Civil War medicine was the best for its time * Stone Mountain studio recreates granite homage to Confederacy * Descendants of Confederate soldier to erect marker over grave


SATURDAY | We'll visit Malvern Hill on this McClellan Poetry Day, the first of several excursions into this subject.

Malvern Hill was the culmination of the Seven Days battles in McClellan's first Richmond Campaign and it handed Robert. E. Lee his bloodiest defeat until Antietam (July 1, 1862). I wanted to begin our long poetic trek through Malvern Hill with excerpts from Col. Charles Sprague, who tried his hand at an epic verse in honor of the whole history of the 44th NY Vol. Inf. ("Ellsworth's Regiment"). The poem contains this interesting mistake:

As a second consecration, even holier and higher,
They at Hanover were christened with the red baptism of fire.
They were in those seven days' fighting which began at Malvern Hill,
Till the headlong rebel onslaught we repulsed at Gaines' Mill.
Following brave Fitz-John Porter whom his own Fifth Army Corps
Through the long years of injustice only honored all the more.

This excerpt comes from here and the mistake is that "Gaines' Mill" and "Malvern Hill" have been switched chronologically. Fifth Corps attacked and crushed Rebel forces at Hanover Court House before the Seven Days' battle; Malvern Hill ended the Seven Days. I'm not sure who made the mistake: the transcriber, the compositor, or the poet.

(I believe Hanover Court House was also later known as First Cold Harbor - a naming convention that must have intended a dig at "second" Cold Harbor.)

"The injustice" refers to the trumped-up charges against Porter lodged before Antietam which resulted in conviction in a court hand-picked by Porter's enemies. The conviction was reversed later.

I like this part of the poem:

Fifty years have passed above us, we have lived our lives since then,
And the "boys" who marched so gaily, now are sober, serious men.
"On the world's broad field of battle" we have waged another strife,
And have found our rest but broken "in the bivouac of life."


Code name, Baghdad.

That's how U.S. forces referred to LTG Winfield Scott during the western Virginia campaign, according to this new book.
There's a very fine Antietam seminar coming in June. Scroll down for a description if you missed yesterday's post. Details here.
So many Civil War soldiers loved the novels of Sir Walter Scott (d. 1832). A new, never before published Scott novel is on its way.
Abraham Lincoln Online seems to me to be the most comprehensive event-driven info center dedicated to an historical topic. I've given you the news page, have a look at the home page as well.
Letters to the editor ... you have to love them.

... it is not incorrect to say that the Confederate sub The Hunley was a "U.S. submarine." If the war was in fact "the Civil War," as the editorial referred to it, then The Hunley was a U.S. submarine.
NEWS | Gettysburg veteran earns posthumous promotion * Letters offer Civil War insights on Canadian officer * Greenwich historical society sees rising interest in its Civil War archives


Here's a mouthful worth chewing:

The Tenth Annual Civil War and American Society Annual Seminar "Antietam in Depth" is presented by The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War Shepherd College, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, June 24 – 27, 2004 .

Look at this lineup: Herman Hattaway and Tim Reese (plus Gordon Rhea, Kenneth Noe, and Park Historian Ted Alexander).

The tour guides include Mark Snell, Tim Reese, and Tom Clemens. That's an impressive A-list. Mark Snell is Franklin's biographer and is developing an edition of his papers. Tom Clemens is editing for publication veteran Ezra Carman's book manuscript, which Antietam writers have referred to since the 19th Century, but which has never been published. (I have also been impressed by Clemens talking about the Maryland Campaign on C-Span). And Tim Reese has, for my money, the best handle on McClellan's intentions for the campaign. Tim will not only present his important analysis of the campaign, he will unveil an archival discovery that will probably be reflected in every future history of this operation.

The tours include Shepherdstown in the Aftermath of Antietam, the Battles of South Mountain and Harpers Ferry, and the Battle of Antietam.

There are more good people involved, too. See you there.
Here are some gory details on the Mullins Farm sale to Toll Brothers at Chancellorsville. This was the case where Civil War Preservation Trust stuck to its guns and refused to "overpay" the owner for the land in question.
NEWS | Re-enactors from Arkansas and Missouri will re-enact the Battle of Chalk Bluff * Supply ship named in honor of black Civil War hero * Civil War case may help men held as terrorists


This looks like an interesting book on that other First Modern War:

We call Lucan the cautious ass, and Cardigan the dangerous ass.

Take a Crimean vacation (registration required). When you're done, you can experience the same war through American eyes.
The extravagant bashing of re-enactors is no longer a relic of the ACW Centennial. It's back. Civil War as dress-up a slap to past:

* "amid costumed pageantry that bordered on the grotesque"
* "The Civil War as theme park"
* "remembrances [must] be rooted in history, not nostalgia — and never in the urge to play dress up."
NEWS | California town approves permit for Civil War re-enactment * National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg lays off staff *
Civil War groups convene in Tennessee * Suit seeks halt to mining near Mansfield Civil War site * Anthropologist spent hundreds of hours identifying Hunley remains


If you ever walk from Boston's North Station to its South Station and your route crosses Winthrop Square, then take note as you make your way through the mob of cycle messengers outside Starbucks: here is a privately commissioned statue of the dialect poet Robert Burns, larger than life, walking with his collie. There are statues of Burns in Chicago and Albany and perhaps many more American cities.

I try to imagine the circumstances in our modern life under which a group of readers would commission and erect a statue to a poet ... at their own expense. Not neglecting the poet's dog, either.

The Robert Burns statue in Albany’s Washington Park was formally installed in 1888. The Winthrop Square sculpture was placed (in Fenway originally) as late as 1920. Burns had already gained fame in the US before the 19th Century arrived, so his popularity had great staying power.

At the risk of being redundant, Civil War soldiers memorialized Burns in memory.

Private Taylor Peirce, a 40-year-old Iowa private and real-life farmer, wrote his family from Missouri on Nov. 9, 1962:

My children the dear little things, how I would clasp them to my bosom and sing Rogs Wife and Will Wastle to them again. Tell Auntie that she must learn Sallie to sing the Watchers and Frank must sing Sctts wha hae and the two must sing the Star Spangled banner for me when I come back.

That's quite a catalog in two sentences. I don't know what "Rog's Wife" refers to; "Will Wastle" is known by different names and is Burns' poem set to song:

Five rusty teeth, forbye a stump,
A clapper-tongue wad deave a miller;
A whiskin beard about her mou,
Her nose and chin they threaten ither

The poem and translation are here; here are notes on the music.

"The Watchers" refers to Burns' A Lass W'a Tocher," and "Sccts wha hae" points to "Scotts, Wha Hae," also by Burns. This particular letter ran over 2,000 words. The next letter, shorter, he wrote entirely in verse.

The simplicity and ignorance of the Civil War soldier - as an idea - is so embedded in popular culture we can hardly credit the interests of farmer/private Taylor Peirce as being representative, can we? But then there are those statues ...

His children almost certainly learned another Burns song during their lives: Auld Lang Syne.
My mind is open on the possibility of the historic "guilt" of those immortal entities we call corporations. Their charters can be revoked and certainly, Mercedes and Nobel, among many others, employed slave labor in World War II - something that informs my purchases today. We have friends who barely survived working for Nobel, which gives me a little chill whenever the fabulously self-aggrandizing Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.

Any correction would probably come through legislative action rather than a court case. The corporation exists at the whim of its charterer, the state. It's obviously a complex matter, especially in cases where the corporate entity's crimes are assigned ahistorically or on the basis of interpretations that must be argued.

All that I give as background to the story that UA faculty considers apologizing for campus slavery.

What has the faculty got to do with this? They are not shareholders in the University, they are not chartered by the state, they have not personally benefited by having slaves as servants, they don't even have the standing of donors. Will they apologize for the holocaust? For the Armenian massacres? For Nathan Bedford Forrest killing unarmed combatants? For Andersonville?

You would expect professors to clarify issues of present responsibility in the long-past doings of corporate entities. To sort things out. To organize concepts. Perhaps some talented undergraduates could teach them the basics in approaching this issue. Lesson One: If any instructor has a share of guilt in slavery at UA, resign or be fired. Now.
NEWS | Court clerk seeks home for fragile roster of Civil War vets * Bearss to speak in Georgia * Delaware invites broad spectrum of re-enactors for unique event * Musical re-enactors recreate Sherman's own band


The Hunley carnival is over. It was good political theatre and probably the high water mark for those Southerners fighting to keep their heritage at the center of Civil War remembrance.

All kinds of meanings were reversed at this event.

* Instead of returning remains to traceable relatives for disposal, which would have been a very personal interpretation of Heritage, mobs of strangers were invited to the burial of strangers in a highly publicized ceremony.

* Instead of honoring the remains of the dead, silt from the bottom of the ship was buried as if it were men, while the human remains were subject to scientific poking and prodding.

* Fourteen loyal governors were asked to stand in place of, to symbolize, 14 governors in rebellion. Fortunately, all refused.

Pity the crew. Pity the dead pawns.
NEWS | Diary of Civil War nurse to be donated to LSU * Nyack street may be renamed for Civil War general * Permanent exhibit chronicles siege of charleston


SUNDAY | I wonder if you would be interested in spending a few nights out in the city of Richmond with Pvt. Samuel Pickens, Co. D, 5th Ala. Inf. Regt.? You won't need your banjo or mouth harp. Don't bother your memory for the lyrics of Goober Peas or Camptown Races. Let's go with some non-virtual reality.

It's May 1863. Captured at Chancellorsville, Pickens was transferred to Richmond in a prisoner parole deal to await trains back to his regiment. We begin with his first day of "leave" and end with his last. These are from his diary entries.

5/13 Arrived in Petersburg by train enroute to Richmond. Drank an iced mint julep, then bowled 10 pins all evening.

5/14 Arrived in Richmond. That night, watched "The Jewess" with his comrades at the new Broad Street Theatre. He considered it a good theatre except for the crowding together of seats.

5/15 Played billiards with comrades, walked around town. Went to the Broad Street Theatre again. Saw "London Assurance" "a very good play."

5/16 Went to the Broad Street Theatre and saw "Othello, the Moor of Venice." "It interested me very much as I'd never seen it before." Was dissatisfied with the casting but pleased with the acting. This was followed by the "Laughable Farce of the Inquisitive Darkey."

5/17 (Sunday) Tried to attend Stonewall Jackson's funeral but it was too crowded. Went to St. Paul's church.

5/18 Played billiards. "It is a beautiful game and a scientific one." Went to the theatre and saw "The Virginia Cavalier."

5/19 Got his first-ever shave. Face felt cooler. Played billiards and bought a hat. Went to the theatre and saw "Metamora - The Last of the Wampanoago," plus the farce, "The Quiet Family."

5/20 Ate ice cream and cake at Pizzim's. Went to the theatre. Saw "Dream at Sea" and "Alpine Maid." The latter had a ballad "Rock Me to Sleep" by Miss Eliza Wren and some "fancy dancing." "We were well entertained."

Note the "we" - it means his army buddies and himself. Private Pickens may not be a typical soldier (his family is wealthy), but he's out and about with his fellow privates and these are group activities. Nor is there a high/low culture divide at the Broad Street Theatre - it serves everyone.

Theatre every night but Sunday. Charmed to see a play he had never seen before. "Well entertained." Are these the cultural primitives we make them out to be?

This material is from a bookshelf within easy reach. In the next day or so, we'll continue this "easy reach" survey with a look at the literary references sprinkled by an Iowa farmer in his letters home.


SATURDAY | McClellan Poetry Day takes to the water with the only Civil War poem by Longfellow that I know of: The Cumberland.

McClellan's first Richmond campaign was seriously and permanently injured by the sally of the ironclad CSS Virginia into Hampton Roads. It forced McClellan to change his planned base of operations from the James to the York River; it also scuttled significant agreements he made with the Navy to attack key rebel positions. In a nutshell, it reduced McClellan's Navy partners from an offensive posture to a defensive one.

One of McClellan's colonels, oddly enough, lived in the house of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He had bought the house and then had a new first story inserted under it, so that the part Longfellow had lived in could be maintained as a kind of tribute to the poet, being kept as it was. This was Lawrence "Joshua" Chamberlain.

Like Lander's poem Ball's Bluff, Longfellow tempers defeat with defiance.

The Cumberland
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

At anchor in Hampton Roads we lay,
On board of the Cumberland, sloop-of-war;
And at times from the fortress across the bay
The alarum of drums swept past,
Or a bugle blast
From the camp on the shore.

Then far away to the south uprose
A little feather of snow-white smoke,
And we knew that the iron ship of our foes
Was steadily steering its course
To try the force
Of our ribs of oak.

Down upon us heavily runs,
Silent and sullen, the floating fort;
Then comes a puff of smoke from her guns,
And leaps the terrible death,
With fiery breath,
From each open port.

We are not idle, but send her straight
Defiance back in a full broadside!
As hail rebounds from a roof of slate,
Rebounds our heavier hail
From each iron scale
Of the monster's hide.

"Strike your flag!" the rebel cries,
In his arrogant old plantation strain.
"Never!" our gallant Morris replies;
"It is better to sink than to yield!"
And the whole air pealed
With the cheers of our men.

Then, like a kraken huge and black,
She crushed our ribs in her iron grasp!
Down went the Cumberland all a wrack,
With a sudden shudder of death,
And the cannon's breath
For her dying gasp.

Next morn, as the sun rose over the bay,
Still floated our flag at the mainmast head.
Lord, how beautiful was Thy day!
Every waft of the air
Was a whisper of prayer,
Or a dirge for the dead.

Ho! brave hearts that went down in the seas!
Ye are at peace in the troubled stream;
Ho! brave land! with hearts like these,
Thy flag, that is rent in twain,
Shall be one again,
And without a seam!


Coming to Civil War history for the first time (after 30 years of deep reading in modern European history and the philosophy of history), I was struck - as everyone new to the field must be - by the number of self-activated writers. Buffs. Hobbyists. Dilettantes. Independent scholars. And what a good thing that is.

The famous European and military history author John Lukacs, in the course of an interview with Humanities (January/February 2003), is quite clear on this and rather down on professors:

Lukacs: The bad thing is that often the [history] specialist is not really very much interested in what he's doing. He has picked a specialty because he thinks that this will further him in his profession. The true specialist is an eccentric: he is someone who is really and deeply interested in something about which he wants to know more and more.

Humanities: Almost obsessed?

Lukacs: Yes. The more he knows, he finds that the less he knows. [...] Again, at the risk perhaps of lack of charity, I suspect that the people who do it [academic careers] are interested in their historianship rather than in history.

Humanities: In other words, in the professional side of their career rather than in the substance of the work.

Lukacs: Yes. In their standing among their peers. There are all kinds of minuscule privileges that come in academic life. Nobody is immune to it. But if the entire emphasis on your ambition and your mental interest is directed there, that is a deep loss.

I can't speak for all eccentrics, but thank you John Lukacs.
I'll post something cultural tonight, energy permitting: if not, Sunday. Don't miss another McClellan Poetry Day tomorrow.
NEWS | Franklin, Nashville and Spring Hill to be re-enacted by 10,000 * Symonds to lecture on Gettysburg in Ohio * Alabama moves to acknowledge campus links to slavery * Houston okays dig for ACW graves


I am a fan of the University of Missouri Press. They did a tremendously gutsy thing a few years ago in taking over the vast Eric Voegelin publishing project from Louisiana State University Press and actually expanding it. (Voegelin was a philosopher of history.) They have also given the excellent ACW historian Herman Hattaway a publishing forum in his co-stewardship of their Shades of Blue and Gray Civil War publishing program.

A reader writes that in autumn, this press will release "Resounding Bugle": Music and Musicians of the Civil War Era edited by Mark Snell and Bruce Kelley. This book will speak directly to the music and culture thread developing this week right here, and I am prepared to eat some humble pie once I see the book. I don't know Bruce Kelley's work, but Mark Snell is very reliable. There will be nine essays by both historians and musicologists written in non-specialist terms. We'll spend some quality time with this tome. If I have to eat Goober Peas, I'll do so (but I won't like it).

Speaking of Mark Snell and Herman Hattaway, these are two names associated with an interesting Shades of Blue and Gray project, one also involving Archer Jones and Ethan Rafuse, both of whom I like very much. Hattaway and Rafuse collected essays from the defunct magazine Columbiad: A Quarterly Review of the War between the States. And Columbiad had a mission very dear to the heart of this blog: try to reach the ACW mass audience with "good history." Teach them right from wrong, good from bad.

The good people who founded Columbiad recognized we have a serious history content problem in Civil War nonfiction. Story-driven audiences reward the best talespinner, marginalizing content. What Hattaway and Rafuse did in selecting essays from Columbiad was a try for a "selection of the essays that best represent the successful balance between 'serious scholarship' and a narrative reading style preferred by the educated layman." Have a look at The Ongoing Civil War: New Versions of Old Stories. Mark Snell has an essay in that one too.
Fourteen Southern governors were invited to the Hunley funeral gala but none accepted. Was someone trying to revive the Confederacy? Get this:

Most of the governors cited scheduling conflicts, but some observers say they may be wary of the political implications of attending an event expected to draw thousands of Confederate re-enactors.

What about the political (symbolic) implications of asking loyal governors to stand in for rebellious governors?
Larry McMurty has reviewed has Grant and Twain: The Story of a Friendship That Changed America over at NYRB.
NEWS | Civil War group to commemorate Lincoln's 1864 speech in Baltimore * Civil War firearms stolen from Wilson's Creek recovered * Wisconsin teacher becomes Civil War novelist


Have you ever considered how little credit the Mexican Air Force gets for its role in the U.S. Civil War? Someone has been reading Harry Turtledove's novels:

I'm looking for some information on contributions made by the Mexican Air Force to the U.S. during the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War II for a story I'm working on. I'd appreciate any info.
Well, well, the editor of Grant's papers, John Y. Simon, stood up to Richard Norton Smith in a small matter of historic sensibility.

Simon was already known in Illinois historical circles as an outspoken critic of projects he believes play fast and loose with the facts or with the dignity he thinks history deserves. When planners for the $115 million Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield said they would use latex figures to represent Lincoln and others in his life, Simon objected, writing newspaper editorials deriding the plans as "Disneyesque," and a "tasteless travesty." He lost, latex won.
Thanks to the McWhiney Foundation Press for sending me an advance copy of John Waugh's 20 Good Reasons to Study the Civil War. This is one of those books you may want to argue with from the outset. I will resist that temptation and present Waugh's list of 20 reasons for your own enjoyment or aggravation. (Each argument represents a chapter in the book.)

1. Because it was unique.
2. Because it was a watershed in American history.
3. Because it was a war of firsts.
4. Because it saved republican government.
5. Because it killed slavery.
6. Because it originated new ways of waging war.
7. Because it revolutionized war on the water.
8. Because it teaches us brotherhood.
9. Because it showcases an undaunted courage.
10. Because it made heroes.
11. Because it created a new industrial America.
12. Because it produced men of fabulous fortunes.
13. Because it was a war of political oddities.
14. Because it pioneered a new journalism.
15. Because it inspired great literature.
16. Because it tested our faith.
17. Because it is our own direct tie to the past.
18. Because it makes us remember.
19. Because it is great drama.
20. Because it speaks to us still.

(It still produces men of fabulous fortunes.)
In the weeks before the "Cold Mountain" movie release I linked to a number of related articles. In one of them, the writer asked a producer why there were not more Civil War films. I expected the answer to be, "Because of the terrible box office numbers for this genre." The answer was much deeper, something like this: Because of the tremendous gulf between the culture of that day and this one; a movie audience cannot relate to Americans of that time.

The man who answered that question was not hinting at a long-ago public that reveled in cockfights, derringer ambushes, slave whipping, or minstrel shows. He was referring to the level of decorum, literacy, and public style. I read a shocking statistic yesterday that illustrates this. It said that almost one-quarter of the rebel army was so ignorant of letters it could barely read the King James Bible. One quarter of a shoeless army in homespun could barely read a masterpiece of Elizabethan prose. Had you thought the figure to be closer to 75%?

We are conditioned to misunderstand the cultural level of the common soldier of that era. More on this tomorrow.
NEWS | 1938 reunion of Civil War veterans to be recalled by local Boy Scouts who attended * Buried ACW veterans records now on Web * Fortifying falling fort will be labor of love, loneliness and stunning beauty * Lecture on Friday by Lincoln Library director


I have been intending for some time to vent about the marches, hymns, and campfire tunes by which we falsely represent to ourselves the imagined musical tastes of the Civil War soldier. The news of yet another new recording featuring Goober Peas is as sure as death and taxes, but more baffling and senseless than either.

Am beginning to wonder if, in our current low cultural state, we are trying to drag down the people of that time to a level at which we can understand them, even patronize them. Food. We understand spoiled pork, salted beef and wormy hardtack well enough to pity the poor devils who had to eat such stuff. Medicine. We well understand primitive surgery, unsanitized tools and dirty operating theaters, and the occasional lack of anaesthetic and we pity the objects of this science. Clothing. Shoddy and homespun, shoeless - the "ragamuffin" state elicits even more pity.

The picture we build is one of a simple chap, wonderfully intentioned, experiencing incredible hardship and an intesely emotional life. The musical piece rounds this all off. In between mouthfulls of maggoty crackers, waiting to hold down the next screaming amputee, brushing mud off the knees that show through worn pants, our barefoot hero rallies enough spirit to sing a few bars of Camptown Races while pining for the downhome taste of some corn likker.

That's the way we like our Civil War soldiers. Square in that box. The Doo Dah factor helps us keep them where we want them.

But what if the Civil War soldier were a person of culture who also had the capacity to sleep in the rain, walk 20 miles barefoot, eat garbage, follow orders, and then discuss the latest happenings on the Paris Opera scene? That would create a tremendous problem for the modern Civil War reader, would it not?

One look, any look, at soldiers' correspondence opens worlds to us. The privates are referencing ancient history, literature and mythology. They love their Shakespeare and organize performances. Their comments are brimming with allusions to Dickens even as they await his next novel. They are setting lyrics for new Civil War marches to the music of Donizetti. And nine times out of ten, the editors of such collections of letters have failed to annotate the non-political, non-military allusions - either from sloth, or more likely, ignorance.

I'd like to come back to this again.
NEWS | Fort Scott National Historic Site offers annual Civil War encampment * Hunley findings put faces on Civil War submarine crew * Civil War casualties finally laid to rest


Hats off to the Washington Post. They took a look at the easement way of "saving" Civil War battlefield land and came up with a whole new take.

Basically "easements" is a misnomer for restrictive covenants. These tend to be supervised by non-landowners. Groups saving farmland, for instance, will typically contract with a landowner and then budget a certain amount for return visites to ensure the other party has lived up to the deal. Easement owners have a say in any changes made to the property.

So it is in battlefield preservation. My own objection to easements has been that these covenants can be removed; that they are vulnerable to being voided by a simple vote of any state legislature; that they allow self-serving preservation organizations to putter around at the fringes of a problem they should be tackling head on; and that they are subject to skulduggery (friends buying easements from friends using third-party funds.)

A reader recently pointed out to me that many people buying land near Fox's or Turner's Gap here in Maryland want to get away to a simpler time, a simpler life. They do not want to enter into restrictive covenants with state and federal agencies, nor with private ones. They certainly do not want to be supervised or go through a many-step approval process to add a garage or bedroom onto their home.

This aspect of "easements" is highlighted in a recent Washington Post article, which sees easements as a difficult sell.

Unfortunately, if preservation organizations are unwilling to pay developer rates for battlefield land, if they refuse to do the job they were chartered for, then easements are a handy way of playing at preservation. But even in the matter of easements, the preservationsist are "penny wise and pound foolish" - look:

But Walters, who owns 33 acres, said he is no longer interested in selling development rights. For one thing, two years of on-again, off-again discussions with preservationists never led to a price he could be satisfied with, he said.

I believe this referrs to Civil War Preservation Trust which is morbidly sensitive to being taken advantage of by battlefield property owners. We saw how their parsimony lost the Mullins farm last week. Now we see, some penny-pinchers cannot even buy an easement without permanently alienating the landowner.

Read the article.
I'll have a lot to say tomorrow about the first newsitem listed today: Civil War-era song on new CD.
NEWS | Civil War-era songs on new CD * Illinois teachers grapple with teaching state's "shameful" history * Civil War prosthetic became family heirloom * Soldier's letters from Civil War find their way to Oldham County, KY


SATURDAY | McClellan poetry returns as we revisit verse inspired by Ball's Bluff. This week, another New Englander considers the fate of "the Harvard Regiment" (Mass. 20th Vol. Inf.), none other than Herman Melville. Melville had not written in a decade, when the fall of Richmond inspired him to record his feelings in a series of sketches issued as Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War. Edmund Wilson was quite hard on this collection in his survey of Civil War lit, Patriotic Gore - but then, Patriotic Gore was thesis-driven, the thesis being that the ACW produced little of literary merit.

Wilson especially mentioned the lack of system in these poems (there was no discernable method in the rhyme or meter), but given the experimentation of Dickinson and Whitman at this time, Melville can be excused for wanting to join the party.

We saw the defiant soldier's response to Ball's Bluff in Lander last week; we saw Dickinson's wonderful indirection and dreamy two-mindedness on Sunday (assuming her poem to be Ball's Bluff-inspired). Melville here stresses the experience of void very touchingly.

Ball's Bluff. A Reverie. (October, 1861)

One noonday, at my window in the town,
I saw a sight – saddest that eyes can see—
Young soldiers marching lustily
Unto the wars,
With fifes, and flags in mottoed pageantry;
While all the porches, walks, and doors
Were rich with ladies cheering royally.

They moved like Juny morning on the wave,
Their hearts were fresh as clover in its prime
(It was the breezy summer time),
Life throbbed so strong,
How should they dream that Death in a rosy clime
Would come to thin their shining throng?
Youth feels immortal, like the gods sublime.

Weeks passed; and at my window, leaving bed,
By night I mused, of easeful sleep bereft,
On those brave boys (Ah War! thy theft);
Some marching feet
found pause at last by cliffs Potomac cleft;
Wakeful I mused, while in the street
Far footfalls died away till none were left.


As far as I can tell, this is the first ACW-themed crossword book.
The DUKWs have arrived at Stone Mountain.

In other Stone Mountain news,

The dark pit that once held the building's massive 3-D "War in Georgia" exhibit now leads visitors into an educational center with displays showcasing the ever-changing science of Stone Mountain and its environment. It's already a popular jumping-off point for school field trips.

Elsewhere in the park, visitors were checking out the memorial association's $4 million transformation of the park's Confederate Hall into the Confederate Hall Historical and Environmental Education Center.

Would that be better named the User-Friendly People-of-Any-Background Confederate Hall Neutral History and Multipurpose Environment Something Welcome Center?

If those USA history IQ stories have ever gotten you down, have a look at this, from the UK:

Researchers found that many of the 2,069 adults questioned could not tell fact from fiction. More than one in 20 thought the sci-fi classic War of the Worlds, in which Earth is invaded by Martians, was a historical event.
NEWS | Rehnquist hails Taney * Airport renamed to honor Lincoln * Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association and American Civil War Museum stage fundraiser * Children's penny campaign honors ACW dead


Civil War author Mark Grimsley has started a military history blog.

I have long admired his Hard Hand of War and his judicious temperament. Look for example at the sentiments in this piece:

... North and South magazine has asked me to assess Robert E. Lee's generalship during his first campaign against Ulysses S. Grant the spring of 1864. [...] This isn't exactly a challenging assignment, yet I have found it difficult to write. I keep wondering what purpose it serves.

[You can't hear this, but the large staff of Civil War Bookshelf is applauding.]

Very often these assessments amount to little more than second-guessing, which seems not only intellectually sterile but also disagreeable.

[Shouts of Bravo.]

... withering criticisms are essentially ahistorical ...

[The crowd is on its feet now.]

I have tried to evaluate the principal leaders of this campaign as sympathetically as possible, always bearing in mind that they were intelligent men who operated under conditions and pressures I have not had to meet myself. True, to write is to judge, and ultimately I have made judgments that are sometimes harsh, but I have encountered few historical actors . . . for whom I could not muster at least some respect...

[Whistling and shouts of MORE! But wait ... the team is in trouble.]

But one referee for the press scored me pretty heavily for leaving out the distribution of praise and blame. On balance, I decided he was correct. Assessments of generalship are so much part of the campaign narrative tradition that readers expect it. So I rewrote the conclusion. It wasn't hard and, as far as it goes, reviewers seem to appreciate that part of the book.


Still, I was never entirely comfortable with it, partly because I'm still not clear about what purpose it serves to critique generals who have lain in their graves a century or more.

[A polite smattering of applause.]

It's a good blog, much more diary-like than this effort, as you can see, and I recommend it highly.
The tenure dispute story is becoming a newspaper staple, an archtype, but the stories themselves are getting weaker. Case in point: a professor writes just one book; the book is not at all well known; and the book is viewed as derivative. The professor cannot believe he has been denied tenure at Princeton University just because his one obscure book is derivative. He has James McPherson in his corner to say originality is entirely overrated, but the tenure board is not buying that.

Cry me a river.
Civil War Preservation Trust would like to put down a Third Battle of Winchester trail but cannot get local ACW groups' support. Wonder what's going on there.
NEWS | More than 10,000 expected at Battle of Shiloh anniversary * Historic Fredericksburg Foundation presents annual awards * Man crafts Civil War figures from spools * Brazil was no promised land for confederates Richard Norton Smith caught in boycott crossfire


From yesterdays' inteview link:

We try not to buy land for more than fair market value. If we do, it makes it practically impossible to buy additional land nearby. Case in point -- as much as we want to buy the Mullins Farm at Chancellorsville, the landowner won't sell for fair market -- he wants 6 to 7 times the value of the land.

That was a spokesman for Civil War Preservation Trust in December. The Mullins farm was available in then. April 2nd came:

Mullins sells part of historic farm: Controversial Chancellorsville battlefield site to be developed by one of the nation's largest residential builders.

Sitting on $16 million in assets, CWPT worried about overpaying. The developer was less worried.

Job well done, overpayment was averted. Congratulations to Civil War Preservation Trust for conserving its multimillion dollar operating surplus; for conserving the contributions members have entrusted to it; and for conserving the option of paying fair market rates in the future for property around the new Mullins Farm battlefield housing development.
NEWS | Civil War buffs battle American Legion over flagpole siting * New book focuses on Michigan soldiers * Author focuses on racial atrocities and reprisals in ACW * USS Monitor closer to exhibit at Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum


The good people at Winds of Valor had a Civil War Preservation Trust official in to speak to them about preservation in December.

To get the full flavor of how evasive and unfocused CWPT is, read the whole transcript. Look for a fact, such as a specific accomplishment. Or a specific threat. Aside from pseudo-specificity like "CWPT has helped protect more than 19,000 acres in 19 states, " there is absolutely nothing in the entire give and take you could hang your hat on.

When the question of CWPT's funding comes up (twice), each time CWPT's spokesman answers as if the question was about federal funding.

Read this before you donate.
Here's a nifty way for battlefield parks to make lots of money on event days: charge re-enactors $10 admission!
NEWS | Shiloh draws 5,000 on anniversary * Georgia flag rally turns into chaos * County spends $200,000 for Spotsylvania re-enactment * Reenactors meet at Perryville to learn realistic - and safe - skills


Over this weekend I read Dark Union: The Secret Web of Profiteers, Politicians, and Booth Conspirators That Led to Lincoln's Death. I cannot remember when a book has depressed me more. Still trying to shake the gloom. A tip of the hat to its authors.

There's a nice bit of historiography at HNN. The will of John Wilkes (of India) leaving his posessions to the mistresses and bastards of John Wilkes Booth in the USA, appears here.
Thought for the day:

"There's nothing like hearing the lusty bawling of the wounded as the knife goes in."

Glad that's not my doctor talking.
I was more than a little careless in holding up as a good example the directness of William F. Chaney's actions in buying land at Antietam battlefield. On the one hand, it is a nice counterpoint to the shilly-shallying played at by such as the Civil War Preservation Trust; on the other hand, it is hardly preservation if an historic farmhouse is converted into a souvenir shop, if a statue simulating Lee in a command pose is erected where Lee never commanded, if parking accommodations are expanded on historic acreage, and if more of the same may roll out based on the whim of one mercurial private owner.

Not to mention, as a reader pointed out, that secession is misspelled on Lee's plaque. Note also that the land buy and statue erection were done from the motivation of "correcting" the imbalance between Union and Rebel monuments erected in the course of time (see the linked story, above).

An attendee of the spring meeting of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation wrote to say that SHAF chief Tom Clemens gave an overview of the Chaney affair in which something startling was disclosed.

Jim Lighthizer, the head of Civil War Preservation Trust, apparently testified on Chaney's behalf at the county rezoning hearing that permitted the changes made at the battlefield farm. He appears to have done so over the objections of CWPT advisor Ed Bearss and historian Gary Gallagher. Put another way, if I understand the report correctly, the head of CWPT argued that Chaney should be allowed to commercialize historic, battlefield land.

Pretty amazing and perhaps yet another example of CWPT being run without member or board oversight.
NEWS | Kansas-Nebraska Act returns to Civil War's crucible * Charleston, S.C., area likely to cash in on Hunley event * Annual Ypsilanti ACW muster called off for lack of money, founder says


SUNDAY | A bonus McClellan poetry day! Let's continue with verse related to Ball's Bluff.

When Joyce Carol Oates declared Emily Dickinson never to have written about the Civil War, she was immediately and publicly rebuked, which is as it should be. Yet I suspect most people feel instinctively, as Oates did.

The war made its way into a number of Dickinson's poems. She read the newspapers. She looked at Brady's photographs of the dead. And she followed her social set's coming and goings in the struggle (her family was very prominent and political within Amherst society.)

Given the Massachusetts flavor of events at Ball's Bluff (see Lander's poem, yesterday) and the number of Bay State social lions involved, I feel it safe to speculate that the following poem, provisionally dated by specialists to about 1862, alludes to the same battle. The capitalization of Balls for balls may not be a clue; Dickinson was prone to capitalize nouns. Nor is there a title to help us here.

(Note: the word in the last line is "contenteder" = more content. Most transcriptions on the Internet render it as "contender" - beware. )

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 --


SATURDAY | Yes, another McClellan poetry day has arrived. We'll look at Ball's Bluff inspired poetry today, tomorrow and next Saturday.

General Frederick Lander is, unfortunately, best known for his own funeral because of the famous words McClellan spoke there, wishing that he could exchange places with his late messmate. In July of 1861, McClellan had said that with more officers like Marcy, Stone, Lander and Sackett he could accomplish great things quickly.

McClellan's Own Story points to certain strains in the relationship after Ball's Bluff, before Lander died of disease, but with Mac assuring us they were friends to the end. A modern writer has compared Lander, the explorer, to the screen persona of John Wayne.

Lander was a Massachusetts native deeply involved in the attempt to recover the setback at Ball's Bluff and he wrote a notable poem about the affair.

Ball's Bluff

Aye, deem us proud, for we are more
Than proud of all our mighty dead;
Proud of the bleak and rock-bound shore,
A crowned oppressor cannot tread.

Proud of each rock, and wood, and glen;
Of every river, lake and plain;
Proud of the calm and earnest men
Who claim the right and the will to reign.

Proud of the men who gave us birth,
Who battled with the stormy wave
To sweep the red man from the earth,
And build their homes upon their grave.

Proud of the holy summer morn
They traced in blood upon its sod;
The rights of freemen yet unborn;
Proud of their language and their God.

Proud that beneath our proudest dome
And round the cottage-cradled hearth
There is a welcome and a home
For every stricken race on earth.

Proud that yon slowly sinking sun
Saw drowning lips grow white in prayer,
O'er such brief acts of duty done,
As honor gathers from despair.

Pride, it is our watchword; "clear the boats"
"Holmes, Putnam, Bartlett, Peirson-Here"
And while this crazy wherry floats
"Let's save our wounded", cries Revere.

Old State -- some souls are rudely sped --
This record for thy Twentieth Corps --
Imprisoned, wounded, dying, dead,
It only asks, "Has Sparta more?"

Let me break the spell by adding these notes: the "Twentieth Corps" refers to the 20th Mass. Vol. Inf.; captured Union soldiers included a grandson of Paul Revere, a son of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and a nephew of James Russell Lowell; Peirson wote about the battle later (Peirson, Charles L. Ball's Bluff; An Episode and Its Consequences to Some of Us: A Paper Written for the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts. Salem, MA: Salem Pr, 1913); Bartlett is that amazing soldier who rose from private to corps commander; and Putnam is also styled cousin to the poet Lowell. Putnam died a POW.

The poem is rather about the military character and society of Massachusetts, with a little battle vignette tacked on at the end. That sets up tomorrow's Ball's Bluff poetry. Meanwhile please read Lander again, without my comments to distract you, "As honor gathers from despair."


Here is how you save battlefield land. This is the way to do it:

Two members of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust board have bought about 16 acres involved in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

The land along State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County cost $200,000. The board members will sell the land to the trust for the same price once some grant money becomes available.

Doctor Michael Stevens, president of the trust, said the group didn't have time to wait for grant money, so they just bought it.

Consider the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust before you donate to Civil War Preservation Trust. They list the properties they buy. All their member newsletters can be read by potential donors online. They publish the names of new members in the newsletter. And this story suggests they have their priorities and m.o. in far better order than CWPT.
Patrick Cleburne "the Stonewall of the West" was ceremonially reinterred last week. Reburying military celebrities is an awful lot of fun for some people, so don't expect General Cleburne to stay put for very long.
I had not previously seen this vignette in the Gettysburg cylorama that shows a wounded Abe Lincoln being carried from the field. Click on the image to the right in this story to enlarge it.
NEWS | Conference to focus on N.C.'s role in Civil War * Remote Fort Jefferson to get facelift * Heritage group salutes black Confederate * Lincoln re-enactor robbed of props


A reader took me to task for my harsh verdict on Russell Weigley, posted after his recent death. Let me amend with some public praise, linked below.

His book "A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865" (2000) won the Lincoln Prize, endowed by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman and administered by Gettysburg College. The prize jury called the book "the crowning achievement of one of America's most distinguished military historians."

Dr. Weigley's other books included "Quartermaster General of the Union Army: A Biography of M.C. Meigs" (1959), "Towards an American Army: Military Thought from Washington to Marshall" (1962), "History of the United States Army" (1967), "The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy" (1973) and "The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo" (1991).

"The Age of Battles" received the Society for Military History's distinguished book award. He previously had received the society's Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for his overall contribution to military history.

Weigley's passing came as a shock to his friends and colleagues, as well as his many current and former students. Despite the fact that he retired in 1998, he remained active as both a historian and a public servant. He taught a graduate course in military history each semester at Temple and was guiding the last of his doctoral students through their dissertations.

A mere recitation of Weigley's many achievements ­ impressive though they were ­ hardly begins to take the measure of the man. The History of the United States Army, a monumental institutional history in Macmillan's Wars of the United States series, was Weigley's breakout book, advancing him to the front rank of American military historians just eleven years after he received his doctorate. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy, which reflected Weigley's outrage over his country's strategic blundering in Vietnam, turned him into an international figure. It has stayed in print for more than three decades and ranks as his most influential book. Eisenhower's Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany, 1944-1945 was one of five finalists for the American Book Award in history in 1983.

In addition to meticulous research, compelling arguments, and crisp, graceful prose, Weigley's writings were permeated by a strong moral element. Though fascinated by all aspects of soldiering, he did not romanticize war. "Armies," he once told a classroom full of shocked undergraduates, "are simply state-organized instruments of mass murder." He evoked the tragedy of war with heartfelt eloquence in the introduction to A Great Civil War: "The battleground of Gettysburg offers the bright face of a vacation destination at warm noontime, but there is always a chill in the air nevertheless, and at dawn or dusk the emanations from too much violence, suffering, and killing become palpable. I have been surprised alone by an abrupt November nightfall at the Devil's Den; I know the ghosts."

A memorial service on Temple’s campus [in Philadelphia] is being planned for later this spring. Donations may be made to Temple University, directed to the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy. (Link)
The new Winds of Valor newsletter is out. They're planning to maintain a "Compendium Civil War Calendar" of events. Drop them a line, bring an event to their attention.
Does this make anyone else uncomfortable? It seems like town square activity to me:

Flags at Antietam Will Honor Sept. 11 Victims and Fight Child Abuse
NEWS | Booth returns to the stage in "Assassins" * Man probes family connection to U.S. Grant * Civil War surgeon "comes alive" in letters * Alabama eyes property to add to ACW park at Spanish Fort * Civil War photo buffs to gather in Spotsylvania