Ropes and dopes

I was revelling in my semiannual John C. Ropes analytic high last night and thinking.

When the talespinners who write today's ACW history get me down, way down, I like to perk up with a few passages from The Army Under Pope. The analytic parts tend to induce an almost hallucinogenic level of enjoyment.

Here's what I was thinking: how can this journalist-cum-historian be so much better than his transitioned colleagues (Freeman, Dowdey, Waugh, Swinton, Catton, Sears)?

Looking to see if anyone has kept this 1901 tome in print, I discovered that that Ropes was a lawyer, not a journalist.

Well that explains the spare storylines (just enough to hang the analysis on), the lucid presentation of timelines and evidence, and the tight, multilevel reasonings. It explains why his data comes first, arguments second, and story third.

A couple years ago, a thoroughly versed and widely read ACW author was going on about McClellan's betrayal of Pope before Second Manassas. I asked him how he could possibly hold that position after reading Ropes' superb deconstruction of Pope's claim. He made an incoherent comment that suggested to me he read Ropes but did not digest the analytic parts.

This came home to me with a bang in the book Return to Bull Run by John Hennessey. First of all, we don't need Hennessy if we have Ropes on the same subject, unless Hennessy is presenting and interpreting new data (which he was not). Second, Hennessy is/was obliged to overturn Ropes' earlier work in areas where he disputes Ropes's conclusions. He didn't. Hennesy read Ropes but just didn't get it. Didn't get the clear reasoning, the extensively documented arguments, the open-and-shut quality of the case against Pope and the problem with charges against McClellan and Porter. Hennessy would have had to give up major literary elements in his story. He was like the Amazon reviewer who summarized Ropes' book thus:

The reluctance of Fitz-John Porter to commit his corps to the fray, and of his mentor McClellan's refusal to send troops already promised to Pope only contributed to an inevitable, though not necessary defeat.

Which is the exact opposite of Ropes' beautifully reasoned conclusion. Off by just 180 degrees. (Thanks for the review, though!)

The readers and writers of ACW history today are so overwhelmingly story-driven that all the details underlying a storyline can change, every element can be shown to be something other than what they thought; they can even accept that; and yet the story must remain the same.

Our ACW readers and writers are Ropes-proof, which means history-proof.

Identifying the Gwalia

If you like Sea Hunt stories, here's quite a nice article on the identification of a wrecked 1859 tug off Florida.

Inclusive Confederate memorials

Here's a plan for memorializing some black Confederate military servants/slaves as a step towards inclusiveness.
JUNE BOOKS | Scheduled for release this month: Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant * The Passing of the Armies * Both of the preceding are Barnes and Noble reprints. Additionally, there is a June listing of Grant Comes East by Gingrich, but this must be a second or third run of the hardback, which was released earlier.

NEWS | Miss. gov. taps SCV for state battlefield commissioner * Closings, deferred maintenance spread at national parks * Black unit training camp park memorial planned in Mass. * N.H. town to restore Civil War monument


Park Service in new Gettysburg outrage

Read it and weep:

Neutra spends much of his time trying to protect the legacy of his father, who died in 1970 and was declared by the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York to be second only to architect Frank Lloyd Wright in terms of international reputation...

Yet his biggest preservation battle is being fought far from California, in Gettysburg, Pa., against an unlikely foe: the National Park Service. The Cyclorama Center at the Gettysburg National Military Park, the shrine-like battlefield visited by nearly 2 million tourists a year, is perhaps Richard Neutra's greatest public commission and the finest example of his work east of the Mississippi. Yet it's slated for demolition in early 2007.
JUNE BOOKS | Scheduled for release this month: James Buchanan * American Heritage History of the Battle of Gettysburg * Why Lincoln Matters: Today More Than Ever
NEWS | Petersburg guides to lure black tourists with social history * Budget Cuts Force Gettysburg To Skip Maintenance Tasks * Chickamauga Battlefield providing online classroom


The Civil War and Pershing's war

In reading Thomas Fleming's WWI tome Illusion of Victory, the ACW appears as an actor who repeatedly enters the stage on miscue and is then directed off.

First, there is the matter of the "Committee on the Conduct of the War." Republicans repeatedly tried to revive it under its precise ACW name and each time Woodrow Wilson succeeded in showing it off.

Same story in the matter of the U.S. Volunteers. Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood stage multiple attempts to bring them back and Wilson keeps pushing them out of his way.

All the issues of preparedness, training, civil/military relations will strike the ACW reader as familiar.

A most interesting thing is this passage that author Fleming mined from an order issued by Pershing that explains maneuver warfare. The current Allied practice, Pershing says, is "marked by uniform formations, the regulation of space and time by higher commands down to the smallest details, and little intitiative."

Wow, shades of Col. John Boyd and his critique of second generation warfare. Nor does it get any more Boydian than this:

Open warfare had irregular formations, comparatively little regulation of space and time, and the greatest possible use of the infantry's own firepower to enable it to "get forward ... [with] brief orders" and "the greatest possible use of individual initiative."

Say hello to Boyd's third generation.

Boyd viewed the Civil War as first or second generation stuff, and my quibbles with that are here. Certainly, the horrific dedication to alignment, synchronicity, spatial management, and the micromanagement of undertrained subordinates all marked the ACW - and its failures were replicated in WWI. These vices govern much of our "best" military thinking today, especially in the Army.

Boyd viewed the Ludendorff tactics of 1918 as the beginning of maneuver warfare. Pershing called it open warfare. Small groups led by trusted, responsible, like-minded officers, acting irrespective of flanks or rear, losing communication with headquarters, bypassing strong points, moving ever deeper out of communication, and out of control, until the paralyzed and confused enemy collapses, flees, and surrenders. Lundendorff made it happen. Pershing got it "in real time." Boyd distilled it into a doctrine.

Pershing broke with the Civil War.

A tip of the hat to Fleming, who can recognize the good stuff among a general's many orders.
JUNE BOOKS | Scheduled for release this month: Women of the Civil War * Mathew Brady and the Image of History * Slavery, Emancipation, and the Civil War * Historical Dictionary of the Civil War and Reconstruction
NEWS | York re-creates its Civil War occupation * Events scheduled for 'Bleeding Kansas: Where the Civil War Began' * Decades later, cross that marked Watie's grave is returned * Southern pride rallies 'round flag


McClellanist Minstrels, 2 of 2

SATURDAY | In our modern world, we have music remixes (same recording tracks, different emphasis), new arrangements (same tune in different variations), sampling (snippets of music put to new purpose), and covers (same music, different players). That's the way we recycle songs.

In the Civil War a hit tune might be reissued a year later with no other change than different lyrics. So it was with "Whack, Row De Dow! The 1861 version "Sung with immense success by Bryant's Minstrels" was linked here last week.

Where the original was written by NYC actress Fanny Herring for Bryant's company, sheet music or song lyrics turn up in other cities with the names of other minstrel troupes attached to them. This Philadelphia specimen refers to Carncross & Dixey's Minstrels. The music was popular enough to endure into the late 19th Century serving as a labor organizing song.

By 1862, the Herring/Bryant team is back with updated lyrics.

To hear the music, scroll down one third of the way on *this page* and click.

Here are the upbeat lyrics to Herring's 1862 piece, McClellan and Lincoln again bathing in good will.

Whack! Row de Dow. No. 2.
As sung by Dan Bryant.

The Rebels they are getting scared,
They are, upon my word!
They've evacuated Yorktown,
And got whipped at Williamsburgh;
They'll not come back: for little Mac
Will then be sure to pop 'em;
And now they've got to running:
Horace Greeley couldn't stop 'em.
Whack! row de dow!
The Stars and Stripes must wave forever!
Whack! row de dow!
For, our Flag we're bound to save!

Good news from Gen. Halleck:
It fills us with delight;
He's ten thousand pris'ners taken;
Beauregard he's put to flight.
They've lost all hope: for Gen. Pope
Has put them all to rout...
Secession's dead ... knocked in the head;
Old Beauregard played out.
Whack! row de dow! &c.

Wool, he captured Norfolk,
Along with Portsmouth, too;
But when they heard of our advance,
Away the Rebels flew.
Old Abe was there to take a share:
I tell you he's a stormer.
Look out! Old Jeff, you better run,
Or else you are a goner...
Whack! row de dow! &c.

Now, Johnny Bull may put on airs,
But what care we for that!
He's been waiting now some time,
For to have a little spat;
But if he will but just keep cool,
Until we settle up our family quarrel,
We will take them altogether:
For, it makes no odds to Abe Lincoln.
Whack! row de dow!
Puty boy is Abe Lincoln!
Whack! row de dow!
How are you rail splitter?


Ford's Theatre charts new course

Ford's has a marketing edge on other Washington theatres:

Because it's the theater where Lincoln was shot, Ford’s is able to fill seats with people happy to sit through a show simply to gaze upon the eerily festooned box from which the assassin John Wilkes Booth leapt after shooting the president.

But now, with a new (gay) producing director the bill of fare is about to change:

“Our gay audience is not particularly strong here,” Tetreault says. “The quality level hasn’t been as it should or can be. Gay people will not go to see bad theater unless the actors are naked. It’s true. And since we won’t have that here, we have no option but to produce high-quality, clothed theater."

The new director is not promising a gay schedule as such, but he says the place is not going to be entirely family friendly in the future.

What is interesting about this, to me, is that Ford's struggles, year after year, to be an ordinary working theatre. Ford's could rake in the tourist dollars on autopilot. It is anomalous (and perhaps noble) that Our American Cousin is not staged endlessly; that Lincoln and Booth actors do not re-enact the assasination; that the animatronics that conquered the Lincoln Library and Museum have not been deployed here.

All that is inevitable. Commercial logic could not be denied at the Lincoln Library, it cannot be denied here for very long. So enjoy your "high-quality, clothed theater" for now.
JUNE BOOKS | Scheduled for release this month: Lee the American * Seven Days Battles: Lee's Defence of Richmond (Campaign Series #133) * Sisters of the Confederacy * Union Jacks: Yankee Sailors in the Civil War
NEWS | Writings tell of slaves who freed themselves * Navy searches for first sub, USS Alligator, lost in 1863 * "History Detectives" to consider unknown Louisiana sub builder


AWOL Lincoln Library advisors prepare to surrender

It will take a book the size of a pop history blockbuster to tell the story of the Lincoln Library and Museum.

Currently, the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has a director, Richard Norton Smith. It has a foundation, headed by ex-governor Jim Edgar. It has an advisory board of 11, one member of which has quit.

From 1,500 miles away, it seems that the parts fit together this way:

The advisory board sets goals and directions for projects ** with the foundation (Edgar) raising money for the approved goals and projects ** with the facilities director (Smith) supervising projects and facilities.

The fly in the ointment is that the advisory board was appointed entirely by the previous (Republican) governor; his (Democrat) replacement has never communicated with the board and they are unsure of their charter. They have not met. They understand that they are not wanted.

Richard Norton Smith, no doubt speaking for the governor of Illinois, says:

The advisory board was an attempt by [ex-gov] Ryan to put in place a group of people who would have some degree of oversight," Smith said. "But events have superceded the Ryan plan.

I like the confidence, the brashness even. Mr. Smith and foundation chief Edgar will not be accepting oversight at this time, thank you. Events (the hirings of Smith and Edgar) have superseded the need for oversight. Oversight is for other people.

Now, a lawsuit could settle this question with more finality than Smith's say-so, but a committee that won't meet surely won't sue either.

Advantage Smith.

Cheap publishing technologies and history

Hats off to columnist Robert Landauer for a piece on how cheap publishing technology is changing received history.

What it means for us is that it is much harder to build Soviet styles of consensus on Civil War controversies when surrounded by "talk-back" devices - technology that did not exist 40 years ago when Civil War inquiry became severely constrained by the American Heritage magazine's editorial decisions.

As recently as four years ago, the consensus-driven editor of a popular Civil War slick wrote, in rejecting a friend's article, that no one arguing a certain general's military competence would ever be published in his magazine. Nor was this a furtive message. The exponent of this policy felt not the slightest twinge of shame in the matter.

Of course, more than technology is needed to fill the holes and level the ground; skilled argument, judicious handling of evidence, exhaustive research are more important than fresh perspectives and new opinions. Ignorant waves of Civil War bookbuyers will continue to stream into the nonfiction field from the film and fiction side, polluting publishers' standards by offering easy bucks for bad books.

Nevertheless, this is certainly the dawn of a golden age for enthusiasts who have the will and the knowledge to correct errors and contribute to the sum of ACW knowledge. The Official Records are online. So are Lincoln's papers. When we in ACW history get to the equivalent of music file swapping on shared networks, Civil War research will have reached a point where our 20th Century standard works will look half quaint and half foolish.

June book releases

This is a running list and a new feature that will appear over the news section. In only a few cases can I find the exact day of the month on which the publisher releases a title, so I will generally be linking a few titles at random each day to keep these entries short. By the end of each month, I'll have run through all books slated for release in that period that I know of. Also at the end of the month I'll specifically list books that have been released but for which I have no information. "FYI" as they say. * The Anti-Slavery Crusade: A Chronicle of the Gathering Storm * Bloody Path to the Shenandoah: Fighting with the Union VI Corps in the American Civil War * Dear Eagle: The Civil War Correspondence of Stephen H. Bogardus, JR. to the Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle * Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition * Flags of Civil War Arkansas and Missouri
NEWS | Lincoln Studies Center inks book deals with Uni. of Ill. Press * Kentucky remembers the swine swindel of '64 * Booth's movements added to Civil War Trails brochure


For Gingrich, it's a quiet little book tour

The lack of news and reviews for Grant Comes East has been striking. Here's the most I could scare up while Googling.

In giving what she thought was an endorsement, gossipy Liz Smith put her finger on the central problem of this counterfactual novel:

This is a very readable story of how President Abraham Lincoln finally put Grant in charge and changed the course of history.

Let me rephrase her sentence: in the novel, Lincoln put Grant in charge to get the same historical outcome.

That's not going to excite alternative history readers, as I pointed out here.

West Virginia celebrates its freedom, too...

And so soon after Juneteenth! West Virginia's birthday, more commonly known as West Virginia Day, is celebrated every year on June 20. There's a fiddle in this somewhere and an apple too.
NEWS | Gettysburg tour offers look back at churches' role in famed battle * Doubleday monument to be dedicated this week * Civil War colonel to get monument in Illinois


Juneteenth, 2004

"Juneteenth marks the day [June 19] Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston in 1865 to share news of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves two years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863." It became an official holiday in Texas in 1979 ... and it seems some black legislators are still angry about that.

A New York Times roundup.

Wichita celebrates * Gainesville crowd defies rain * USCT rides again in Philly * Wisconsin party kicks off in governor's mansion * Juneteenth film festival staged in Dallas * Omaha gangfights shut down Juneteenth celebrations * Celebration tries to save historic Missouri school * Pataki, legislature make Juneteenth a New York holiday * Baton Rouge stages its first Juneteenth * Lawrence underlines biracial theme in march, tours * Oregon library hosts acted-out slave narratives

Check the Juneteenth events page for week-long celebration info.

Two fresh links

Author Tim Reese writes on what might have been the Regular's moment of destiny at Antietam in a newly posted article. It's enjoyable and thorough.

A new edition of the Bivouac Banner has been posted. Tecumseh has quite a lot to say in this issue:

The torture of the mind in the contemplation of what was to be [civil war], which we could not avoid, was infinitely more painful than of seeing cannon, going over live bodies, and hearing their bones crush like chicken bones under the wheels. I have seen these things. I have slept with a dead man for a pillow. I have seen men buried like sardines in a box. We became used to that. Men who today turn pale if their child is lanced, to be bled, were utterly unfeeling in the midst of carnage and blood. You can easily be trained to the same end, but escape if you can the tortures of the mind, the agony in thinking that the country you love, the country you adore, is about to commit the awful crime of civil war.

Pondering Lincolnisms

I find it incredible that Lincoln could sign CSA cotton trading permits for a favored few hundred merchants and traders - making them millionaires by fiat should their deals go through - while at the same time lamenting privately,

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. - November 21, 1864

The biography that thoroughly accounts for contradictory Lincolnisms is long, long overdue.
NEWS | New Pierce biography to rehab president's reputation * Wilson's Creek takes first step toward growth with federal bill * Sunken Road restoration plans unveiled *


Sister sites and spring cleaning

The "sister sites" to this one have been updated.

The Civil War Book News 2003 listings have been archived and the decks have been cleared for the 2004 spring list. This list will build out substantially with updates between now and this time next week.

The McClellan pages have been cleaned up graphically to remove some of the more annoying visual experiments left over from the site's glory days (1998). There's been a corresponding increase in enrollments in the McClellan Society - and there's a message in that.

Both sites are quite aged by the standards of Web history and every six months I start an ambitious rehab which suspends small updates but never gets completed. Yesterday, I was in the throes of Dreamweaver arcana when I decided to drive on for another six months with the simple HTML that has sufficed thus far. Dreamweaver can wait.

There's a third affiliated site with this one, the McClellan Roundtable discussion group. However, membership is restricted, so I don't mention it much. Fortunately it's self-sustaining, thanks to Yahoo Groups' infrastructure. It started in 1999 and Yahoo is its third host.

Here in blogland, where everything is fresh and we're all young together, I hope to do something with a new book coming out "soon" whose author and publisher have greenlighted a certain amount of excerpting. I'd like to figure out a different treatment that works in this format.

This site generally will focus more on books in the future; all new reviews that would have been posted at Civil War Book News, for instance, will appear here instead.

We'll reach a year of publishing in October - changes are overdue.

Last minute seminar attendees

... may still be able to register for events scheduled 6/24-6/27.

Congress considers crooked charities

Congress is organizing a crackdown on charities and I like the rhetoric very much:

...examples of abuse surrounding charitable organizations are growing at an alarming rate...

These actions are immoral and inexcusable...

...a cesspool in many cases.

Unfortunately, it looks like the charities focus means that certain Civil War nonprofits are going to escape the tightening of legislative controls.

I was a little sad at first, until I considered that new laws are not going to make the corrupt managers any more ethical; nor are they going to cause decadent boards of directors to replace cronies.

The rotten will simply be compliant or not - they are not going to improve as people or as stewards of institutions.

So when we look into the finances of our favorite Civil War organizations and we see, for instance, a black curtain drawn over the details of individual battlefield land transactions, we are denied the precise information we sought but are granted all we need to know about the management in question. And Congress had nothing to do with it.

Congress is never going to save lazy, distracted donors from giving money to corrupt nonprofits inside or outside the ACW sphere. The fact that donations roll into these groups at all is the only part of this to be sad about.
NEWS | Battle of Piedmont passes without notice * Gingrich on ACW book tour * Waterfront crowd marks Juneteenth


McClellanist minstrels, 1 of 2

SUNDAY | Well, I'm a day late with McClellan poetry but have some bonus music to atone for this.

Minstrel shows were a kind of variety program rather like the English music hall bills that persisted into the mid-20th Century ... except that they were themed to black plantation life. There were black and white minstrel companies, resident and touring, and their musical legacy is fairly obscure nowadays.

As we have "hits" from Bradway shows, Civil war soldiers enjoyed "hits" from minstrel shows. One of these was "Whack, Row De Dow!; or, A Hunkey Boy Is Yankee Doodle" [whatever that means - DR]. This is the 1861 version "Sung with immense success by Bryant's Minstrels also by Mrs. John Wood. Words written for Dan Bryant, Esq. by Miss Fanny Herring."

You could write a little book on this credit line. Herring was a famous actress who seems to have favored McClellan, as we'll see next week. Here's a tiny picture of her on a CDV.

Dan Bryant headed Bryant's Minstrels, a black-face minstrel group that played in New York's Mechanics Hall from 1857-1866. One of the company's minstrels was Dan Emmett, the writer of "Turkey in the Straw", "Old Dan Tucker" and "Dixie."

To hear the music, scroll down one third of the way on *this page* and click. It's quite a peppy march. Here are the lyrics and please pardon my doo-dah tendencies today.

Good people all, both great and small,
Come listen to my song,
If you've got a little time to spare,
I won't detain you long;
'Tis of our Flag, our Nation's brag,
Our Union and our Constitution,
For the Stars and Stripes must wave
'Till the day of resurection, with a
Whack! row, de dow,
The Stars and Stripes must wave forever,

Down South there's Gen'ral Beuregard,
With his bully little crew,
Who says he'll make us Northern folks
Nip up de doo den doo;
But we guess as how the rebel rout
Had better mind what they're about,
For they'll find that Gen'ral McClellan
Will be ready for a fight to give 'em
Whack! row, de dow,
How are you Gen'ral Boegum?
Whack row de dow,
Nip up de doo den doo.

Now there's our gallant Sixty-ninth,
Who never flinch for trifles,
And our bully boys the Fire Zouaves,
With their little Minie Rifles,
And first of all in duty's call,
The Massachusett's boys so handy,
Who will show the Southern chivalry,
No fool is Yankee Doodle Dandy,
Whack! row de dow,
No fool is Yankee Doodle Dandy,
Whack! row de dow,
Pop goes the weasel!

In speaking of our Fire Zouaves,
Reminds me of a fact,
They've proved they don't do things by halves,
Nor take the backward track;
At the battle of Bull Run,
They fought their way so bravely,
Oh! they did lay low to trap the foe!
How are you Black Horse Cavalry?
Whack! row de dow,
Where are you General Patterson?
Whack! row de dow,
Oh! Skysey, take the bull!

There's a good time surely coming,
And we think it soon will come,
When our Northern boys are bound to make
Their Southern rebels hum
For we'll have no more Bull Run affaire,
Where the chivalry any we did knock under,
For we've got a brave McClellan, now,
Who'll give 'em Northern thunder, with a
Whack! row de dow,
We're bound to give 'em thunder!
Whack! row de dow,
And that's what's the matter!


New book on re-enactors

There's a new book on non-ACW re-enactors that appears to have taken years of experience to write.

I looked at the book and it was journalism; it read like (was no deeper than) this NYT article by the book's author.

You work for years and you come up with this ...

Thompson figures it’s all about her subjects’ conflicted feelings about war and masculinity, the ownership of history and "the failure of modern society to provide social relationships on a human scale."

That's not the author, that's someone characterizing her stuff. With a flashing red light. Here's an audio interview with her.

Humans re-enact. Communion rites are re-enactments. Religious re-enactments allow people to enter sacred time.

Historical re-enactments allow people to enter historical time. Look carefully at what re-enactors say about their motivations and especially what makes a "good" re-enactment versus a "bad" one. The re-enactor is looking for a transforming moment of connection - a moment in historical time - and takes a lot of trouble to get there.

Social relationships are simply the media for re-enactments.

I think Mircea Eliade owns the key insights in re-enactment.

Historian stalked by SCV

Is he baiting them to attract attention? Or are his ideas that dangerous? I can't tell from this.
NEWS | Seventh-graders fight Civil War * Film director focuses on preservation * Piece of history restored in Manassas


Lincoln's (and Hay's) poetry

Lincoln's suicide poem is getting a decent amount of press, starting with the question, is it really Lincoln's? Scholar Michael Burlingame says "yes" emphatically; he had already collected this one for a book of anonymous Lincoln poems (which may come out after 2009).

Burlingame's poetry collection will build up the Lincoln canon sizeably. Opinion currently credits the president with just a few pieces: My Childhood-Home I See Again, The Maniac, The Bear Hunt, America's Task, The Bulwark of Liberty, The Faith of Abraham Lincoln, I Am Not Bound To Win, and Let Us Have Faith That Right Has Might.

Both Lincoln and his secretary, John Hay, published anonymously and both published poetry. Hay was terribly prolific in this and where Lincoln represented facets of life and self, Hay's relentless interest in love verse and all its cliches creates tedium for even the best-intentioned reader.

Hay (A Dream of Bric-a-brac):

She was a girl of old Japan;
Her small hand held a glided fan,
Which scattered fragrance through the room;
Her cheek was rich with pallid bloom,
Her eye was dark with languid fire,
Her red lips breathed a vague desire;
Her teeth, of pearl inviolate,
Sweetly proclaimed her maiden state.

Hay: better technique. Lincoln: better subjects. Neither gave up his day job.


This New Jersey family had to buyback at auction Civil War memorabilia that one member accidentally sold to a dealer. There's probably more to this story than meets the eye.
Connecticut peace flag remembered in Brookfield * Another ACW widow found * Lawrence statue to be dedicated July 3 * Builder to put 18 units on Brandy Station * Mennonites team with heritage group to present Shenandoah suffering


Speaking of errors and retractions

Earlier this week, I noted that a certain headline-grabbing organization styling itself "the" Army of the United States claimed as its birthday June 14, 1775. I linked this date to an assumed beginning for the old Contintal Army. I had jumped to conclusions without reading the underlying Congressional proclamation on that date. To make matters worse, I did this after publicly lashing slack pop historians for their mistreatment of sources.

"Bastard!" you cry. "Hypocrite!"

I get the point.

Timothy Reese, author of a book on the the Regulars in the ACW, pointed out some problems with this date and my implied lineage, chief of which is that Congress abolished the Continentals after the Revolution. Broken line equals no lineage.

Here's the Congressional resolution concerned and it hardly seems the beginning of any kind of army at all. I don't understand how "the" Army of today links its birth to this resolution.

Tim Reese suggests a starting date of 1784: "In that year the First American Regiment was created from remnants of Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army for the sole purpose of garrisoning a handful of frontier forts." He is correct. If the modern standing army is going to identify with a continuous tradition, this origin makes sense.

I appreciate the correction and I like the proposed revision.

What I cannot understand why "the" Army dissasociates itself from "our" armies - armies of colonial militia, of regular British Army regiments (of American origin), of USVs, or Indian auxiliaries, and of all the other various land forces that waged war for hearth and home.

If "the" Army wants to hold a private birthday party, should not "the other" American armies celebrate their beginnings?

Davis and Reagan

The wag writes:

Reagan and Jefferson Davis walked the muddy streets of Greensboro together in 1865

I'll pass on that bet.

You better not bet against this recent headline, either:

County's last living Civil War soldier to be honored

Last widow fiasco

From the wires:
In stories about the May 31 death and June 12 burial of Civil War widow Alberta Martin, The Associated Press erroneously described her as being the last widow of a Confederate or Union veteran of the war.

This torrent of corrections reminds me of the many journalists who got into writing pop histories. Some (Freeman, Dowdey) strike me as the correction issuing sort; others (Catton, Sears) seem oblivious even to the possibility of error.

And their work is loved none the less for it.
NEWS | Elizabethtown's last daughter of the Civil War dies at 93 * Civil war flag stolen from cemetery in Buffalo * Minnesota vet statue escapes pigeon droppings * Grandsons recall Civil War vets


Simon condemns rubber Lincolns

If I called the Lincoln Museum plans "Disneyesque" you might think this was overreaching - except that the museum consulted with Disney and adopted the mouse's recommendations.

The editor of Grant's papers, John Y. Simon, has placed his displeasure on the record and I was lucky enough to find a copy of his editorial in its entirety right here.

It is more than a little outrageous that Library and Museum chief Richard Norton Smith, a celebrity pop historian, could publicly laugh at another town's plans to build a giant Lincoln statue and theme park while he presides over the installation of animatronic figures that will preclude (for space reasons) the exhibition of important Lincoln papers and artifacts. In Simon's words,

Here a truly great library crouches like an afterthought, and a massive collection of some 46,000 Lincoln manuscripts, paintings, photographs, rare books, and artifacts lacks exhibit space. These treasures include the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's hand, paintings of Lincoln from life, and even the doorplate from his house on Eighth Street: "A. Lincoln." Yet most will remain unseen.

The development of this center has been a politically controlled operation from the start; Smith is the front man for a patronage sink; and since politicians can only relate to history in terms of votes, grants, or tourism spending, this Lincoln Library and Museum represents the future of public history under government management.

Read Simon. Donate to private heritage groups. End this nonsense.

Historians who can't argue (2 of 2)

If you have the time and patience to do some very interesting reading, this post is for you.

I don't have a position on Grant's drinking, it's not something that interests me. However, I want to use a couple of terrific drinking pages on a Grant website to make a point about historians who cannot argue their points convincingly.

So we are looking at evidence regarding Grant and drink, and we're looking at historians addressing the topic, but we're not reaching conclusions of our own. Watching, thinking, not judging the evidence, but its treatment.

This is a long page; please have at it. Read it all. When done, ask yourself these questions: (1) Can a conclusion be reached about Grant's drinking? (2) If so, would it be firm or tentative? (3) How could you state such a conclusion with justice to all you have read?

Then read this long page of historians' comments.

I separated the sheep from the goats. You can too.

Summer fun!
NEWS | Civil War soldier is given belated salute * Civil War battle re-enactment at Casa de Fruta * Confederate hero receives military headstone


The Army's birthday - toast with care

Today is "the" Army's birthday, and that causes me a little heartburn.

When I was in "the" Army I had, like many Americans, completely confused the military history of our land forces with the history of "the" Army. They are not the same and Army historians will not let you forget it. I thought that the history of our Army encompassed and subsumed all previous and concurrent military organizations: militias, volunteers, Royal American regiments, National Guard, etc. Not at all.

And while historians may fight to have the Regulars recognized in the Civil War, the Regulars have had their revenge in spades ever since.

Today is the anniversary of the founding of the Continentals. Exclusively. No one's going to be raising a toast to your militia ancestor or your USV great grandfather. Believe me, I once tried it in "the" Army.

Historians who can't argue (1 of 2)

Recently finished reading a very interesting paper on Gen. Wool and the NYC draft riots. The author, a professor no less, seems convinced that he has written a revisionist study that upgrades Wools' reputation. Have a look.

Whatever its merits, this paper does nothing to counter Wool's bad press. It can't. It's a piece of storytelling sent out to labor in the fields of ennumeration, description, and analysis.

The only way a piece of storytelling might possibly succeed in this is through mind-numbing density: by recounting as much minute-to-minute detail of Wool in the crisis as can be reconstructed from the record. You would still have to analyze the merit of each action on that timeline, but as a committed talespinner, you would at least have your cherished story structure as the backbone of the piece.

All this describes a full circle. You have Allan Nevins, annoyed with scholarship-driven history, starting a series of popularization projects; Nevins' creatures, including James McPherson, eventually infiltrate the academy, especially Civil War studies; the popularizers redefine scholarship as storytelling; and Lo! they argue their views from streamlined narratives that can prove nothing.

If any historian thinks a well-constructed narrative is the same as a well-constructed argument, pardon the astonished laughter. Honor your own points with a decent case.

Gettysburg rally racing

I've been remiss in failing to keep an accurate count of the Gettysburg monuments damaged or destroyed at by out-of-control drivers: my total was four since October, but this story says six edifices have been hit. You lose track after awhile. There was the bus flattening a granite marker in May, and the very next day someone in a little Mazda hit the 58th New York Infantry Monument so hard the stone base rotated.

That one accident alone will cost $20,000 to repair. "The Park Service hopes to recoup the cost of monument repairs from drivers' insurance companies." Hope, now there's a plan for you.

And here's a friendly reminder: "the Park Service is urging motorists who drive by the monuments to slow down."

Consider me urged. Now let's get these rangers in a strong traffic enforcement role; don't ask people to slow down, get on the roads and slow them down. Preserve the battlefield from its number one enemy: drivers. Rangers can make difference! Yes, and can be a lot more useful in this than in guiding tours.

p.s. Just wondering - a philosophical question. How many monuments need to be damaged per year before a park executive's career also suffers damage?
NEWS | Forgotten Ark. Civil War graves uncovered * County's last Civil War soldier remembered * Bearss remembers Maine regiments * Jayhawker gets grave marker


SUNDAY | The McClellan poetry I had saved for this weekend, being too lighthearted for the circumstances, will be presented on Saturday when we will resume the regular schedule.



SATURDAY | We'll do some McClellan poetry tomorrow. The events of the last few days have put me too much under the spell of Whitman. These are his words rendered by Paul Hindemith.

Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop'd flags, with the cities draped in black,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of faces and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn,
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour'd around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs - where amid these you journey,
With the tolling bells' perpetual clang,

Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.


Reagan on Lincoln and Clay

True patriotism is a love of country, but it must be an intelligent love and not blind devotion to one's nation without regard to its ideals. Abraham Lincoln recognized this when, speaking in tribute of Henry Clay, he said:

"He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right, and human nature."

The patriotism of Clay, Lincoln, and generations of Americans was of this nature. They loved their country because it was theirs but even more because it was a land where liberty, justice, and opportunity flourished. They did not love it because of its government but because of its people; not because of the role its government played in world affairs but because of the inspiration the very idea of America gave to every person, great and small, who made this blessed land his home, and to every person in the less fortunate lands of the world who, amid oppression, tyranny, and injustice -- as in Poland today -- looked to America as the land of freedom.

Americans today should dedicate themselves again to that true patriotism. We should dedicate ourselves again to the enduring values of family, neighborhood, work, peace, and freedom which have characterized our country these past two centuries. Let us do this, and our patriotism will be strong and fulfilling.

- Ronald Reagan, February 13, 1982


The Rebel POW experience

After a number of Rebel POW camp studies (Fort Delaware, Chicago, Elmira) it was a matter of time before someone attempted to synthesize the Rebel POW experience in a single volume: So far From Dixie: Confederates in Yankee Prisons.

I have an analytical bias and would therefore have expected a nice, meaty study; there is so much material here awaiting its historian. Discover War Department POW policies and document them. Delineate the commonalities. Compare and contrast Union prisons; offset against Confederate prisons where relevant. Policies. Needs. People.

But then, I forgot. We are dealing with Civil War authors and Civil War audiences. So the aggregated Rebel POW study comes in the form of a storybook. Lots of individual tales selected on the strength of anecdotes, arranged for literary effect.

That's what I'm getting from this review. If I'm wrong, I'll amend this entry.
NEWS | Slave Memoirs To Be Republished * County has some loose cannons * Civil War opponents buried side by side in Las Vegas


Old Bierce Civil War movie

What if they remade An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and nobody came? It was done and received its premier in 2003, but information on this picture is scarce. In the same vein here is an account of an earlier version of the film that seems to have gone wrong and not been finished.

Small Civil War movies make economic sense to me. There are audiovisual facilities in battlefield parks; there are distribution possibilities in Civil War retail channels; there are roundtables; re-enactor regiments; etc., etc.

Big ACW movies fail, being out of scale. So why do little ones fail?

New Bierce Civil War movie

Kansas City filmmaker Don Maxwell has made a short on Bierce's The Story of a Conscience. It's playing during the KC Jubilee, whenever the hell that is. You wouldn't expect the Jubilee site to post dates or times.

If you Google your way into a certain cache, you can see a plot summary of this super secret project:

Local filmmaker Don Maxwell has delivered a stunning 22-minute drama based on an Ambrose Bierce short story set in the Civil War. A Union officer (Nick Piper) captures a Southern spy (Eugene Wolf) and must order the man's death. But during the night before the execution, the two men reveal their linked pasts, raising questions of forgiveness, responsibility and sacrifice.

A story of a spy, and you'll have to be one to dig up more than I've presented here.

SETI project severs Civil War link

In college we would sometimes play a word game. Maybe it was a drinking game. The object was to create a single book title that represented all of the hottest publishing genres of that day: the ACW (and/or Lincoln), UFOs, cats (or dogs), Nazis (or WWII), and mysteries. Try it.

We enter similar territory this piece of news: land deeded by U.S. Grant is being sold off by its owners, SETI researchers who had originally planned to build an extra-terrestrial search facility thereon.

It all comes together somewhere over the horizon.

(Which reminds me, I promised a few words on the latest Lincoln assasination theory.)
NEWS | PA town honors ACW vet * Brown University ponders its slave-ridden past * Jeff Davis birthplace obelisk renovated


Dixie Victorious - Wrap Up

A few general observations about Dixie Victorious are in order.

First, and this is a problem with counterfactuals generally, these pieces have story structures without all the needed story elements, like protagonists. Second, in most cases the author applied too much detail to a fictitious event; this spotlights what should be sleight of hand. Third, most Dixie authors have piled on too many counterfactuals per chapter, creating a Rube Goldberg chain of events that strains credulity. Fourth, in multiplying their counterfactuals per chapter, most Dixie authors have failed to balance development of each; typically, the false military events will be overwritten and the political outcomes covered in a mere phrase. Fifth, the authors are overwhelmingly versed in military history and deficient in politics; in Dixie, the imagined political effects of military events are uniformly ludicrous.

Dixie Victorious set this challenge for its contributors: they had to work backwards from an improbable political outcome. They also had to entertain readers who already knew the ending to their stories. Our authors took identical paths:

Military event ... military event ... [add more as needed] ... political event ... independence.

Outside of the Cleburne scenario, no one mixed it up. And no one took the road Political event ... political event ... independence. Wouldn't that have been interesting? Or how about military event ... political event ... military event ... political event .... etc.?

The economic events, well, they never even had a chance.

There's a funny thing about Dixie, and it warns us about Civil War historians generally and their understanding of causality. Every contributor here has supplied a completely different military scenario, marrying it to an identical political outcome. Okay, it was a contrived exercise. But they tried to make the outcomes plausible.

Read your next "factual" as carefully as you would a "counterfactual." And be just as suspicious of what your "factual" author thinks plausible.

p.s., Here are the Dixie summaries. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Shades of Stanton

The biggest laugh you could raise among Civil War politicians of a certain stripe was to say of a general, "He means to win the war by strategy!" Secretary of War Stanton was especially free with this kind of ridicule, denigrating his own commanders in front of reporters, congressmen, and others outside the Administration.

Lincoln himself showed more than a strain of this thinking, opting at one point to employ "the terrible arithmetic" of attrition against the Rebellion. (It was a short-lived decision - in his memoirs, Grant says Lincon asked him to suspend offensive operations after casualties became a political liability.) Lincoln was also party to the sophistry that the Union commander must make the enemy army his objective; in fact you see this error endorsed by pop historians who have not considered that armies need food, water, ammunition, animals, recruits, pay, and camps or bases; and they need open communications with their government, paymasters, and families.

I thought we had come far enough in our understanding of war that the laugh was now on Stanton and friends. Apparently not.

Here is an anti-reform author arguing for attrition warfare. Explicitly. In Praise of Attrition.

Having just won a conventional war against Iraq without an attrition model, this author argues for one, and the argument is as emotional and incoherent as the Civil War critics who despised maneuver and "strategy."

Moral: these people will always be with us.
NEWS | Lincoln sculpture unveiled at Old Capitol * Water company contributes to maintain PA ACW graveyard * Family finds Civil War soldier's true grave site


Ronald Reagan, Confederate re-enactor

Maybe we'll meet in line at the Capitol on Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, enjoy these Civil War images of Ronald Reagan:

This Fawcett comic book cover scales if you resize it.

Scroll down on this page to get a Confederate officer with a stogie. Great pic.

The is the biggest version of the movie poster I found; Reagan has drawn his sword and is about to throw a punch. Copy the image to a Word document, and you'll be able to resize it.

Here's Reagan at the head of his Arizona guerilla band. He's opened that Rebel insousiance to full throttle. Note the alternate title for the movie.

The Last Outpost was a big box-office success for Paramount. It was Ronald Reagan's first starring role in a Western, and one where he rode his own ranch horse Tarbaby against the advice of the film's horse experts... Dig it.

See you at the Rotunda.
NEWS | Sheridan relative to impersonate general * Author wants to see black Civil War troops recognized * Historic Civil War cemetery gets boost * Louisville stages Juneteenth Jamboree


Rules for alternative history

Good counterfactuals cannot make good reading. Consider the best qualities of a good counterfactual:

* A smaller number of changes to the historical record is better than a larger number: the best (most believable) change would be a single alteration. For readers, this suggests a long recap of facts already known (yawn).

* The more believable alteration is the simplest one. For readers, this limits the dramatic possibilities.

* Changing a fact or event requires a convincing argument, as well as description of a chain of events justified by analysis. Civil War writers tend to be storytellers who are very weak in areas of argument and analysis. Readers will be unconvinced without sufficient analysis, and many will actually have no stomach for analysis in the course of what is supoposed to be an entertainment.

* For a proposed change to be believable, it has to be "seeded" or prefigured in actual events. For instance, for a hypothetical outcome to change the real outcome in our minds, the author has to bring to our attention certain signs and precedents that weaken our commitment to the historically "determined" result. For the reader, this promises digressions from a storyline; the more digressions, the stronger the counterhistorical case, and the harder the reading.

* The counterfactual event, to be convincing, should not trigger a long chain of additional counterfactuals, but rather constitute a single change to a recognized pattern of history that can be successfully defended. For readers, this recipe for sameness lowers the entertainment value.

* There should be no tampering with facts that are not critical to arguing the core, central alteration. By the same token, there should be no unnecessary detail to detract from the believablity of the central counterfactual event. For readers, this again reduces the possibility of amusement.

In short, a good counterfactual will be fairly dull reading by ACW standards and the writer of alternative history has to perform a balancing act that will either do violence to entertainment or to plausibility.

More on this and how it applies to Dixie Victorious coming up.

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 10, Early over Sheridan

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we've been going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). This represents the last scenario in the series and will be followed by some analysis tonight or on Monday.

Lee, Johnston and Davis hold a late war council to set strategy. They decide their best opportunity lies in defeating Union forces in the Valley and then taking Washington before the elections. They assign Patrick Cleburne's command to Early, moving it by train from the West. Early begins his offensive against Hunter without waiting for Cleburne and reaches the outskirts of D.C. Lincoln, visiting the works around the city, is shot dead. The Rebels, unaware of what has happened, retire to Winchester to await Cleburne. Grant sends Sheridan, Crook, Wright and Emory into the Valley. Sheridan is defeated by the combined forces. Early then attacks Sheridan's men in camp at Cedar Creek. Sheridan is wounded and taken prisoner. McClellan is elected president and a truce immediately takes place, followed by a peace treaty.


McClellan Poetry Day: Warde Ford

SATURDAY | I was going to post a coupls of joyful McClellan minstrel songs today but got distracted by a redicovery: Warde Ford's mournful rendition of the Battle of Antietam Creek.

Making some slight revisions to The McClellan Pages last week, I discovered almost all the links had died, including the one to this song (the site is six years old).

Hunting up a new link, I discovered a recording of the song here. Scroll down and click to play.

The origin of the song is unknown. It was recorded in 1939 possibly by by Vance Randolph, Sidney Robertson, Sam Eskin and Peter Tufts in one of those Roosevelt make-work projects. They assumed it was folkloric and archived the music, which has been available ever since. There is little trace of who Warde Ford was. I suppose we know that he was a rustic discovered by tape-wielding WPA intellectuals.

Oddly enough, the song is downloadable from Walmart - a store that carries very little McClellan music, generally speaking.

The song tells a story. The story has that impossible level of coincidence Victorians loved. And if you like melancholy, this is going to be more than an ordinary treat. Thanks, Mr. Ford.


Travesty in the name of history

The Richard Norton Smith school of laughable, over-the-top history edu-tainment is actually going to be exceeded at the Mariner's Museum. Consider "a museum designed to retell the saga of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor with maximum emotional impact."

We can do maximum emotional impact or we can do history. And what is maximum emotional impact?

... the Battle Theatre audience will hear and feel cannonballs hitting the turret, smell the gunpowder and hear the crew members working feverishly to load and fire.

Why not have them saw limbs from blood spurting dummies, bury the dead at sea, teach them colorful swear words, and simulate knife fights among drunken crewmen? That should be worth a PhD. I would also inform select thrill-seekers separately and privately that while they were visiting the museum the pet they left in the car died a horrible death and that the museum staff has buried it in an unmarked mass pet grave.

There's your maximum emotional impact, ghoul. Long live history, baby.

Is history so powerfully good that anyone is ennobled by the merest brush against the most diluted historical content? Are "scholars" lining up to participate in this debacle? I wondered, even as a child, about the fool who thought that showing kids an animatronic Lincoln at the 1964 World's Fair was educational. And now, we are walking backwards from 1964.

Read the linked article. Cannonballs hitting our turrets are the least of it.

CWPT is shopping for easements in Alabama

Psst. Hot tip for anybody who wants to make some easy dough.

Right now, Civil War Preservation Trust is looking to buy some easements from people owning property around the Day's Gap battlefield in Alabama. They have means to buy the whole state, cash on the barrelhead, but that's not their way.

So here's what you do: (1) Go down and buy some battlefield land. Anyone will sell you their land if you are willing to pay above market prices (CWPT will never pay developer rates for battlefield land, no matter how many millions they have in the bank). (2) After you become the landowner, negotiate an easement price with CWPT. (3) Resell the land to the public for less than you paid for it (sell at market rates). (4) Pocket the difference.

You are buying high and selling low but CWPT will more than make up the difference. Just make sure the easement price they give you more than covers the spread between your acquisition cost and your sale cost. They are accustomed to paying hundreds of thousands for easements, so you shouldn't have too hard of a time.

Get in on this easy money now, before I start broadcasting my infomercials ... and don't feel bad about taking advantage of this crowd. They appreciate the opportunity to just keep busy - easements equal "job security" and another year of salaries, perks, and travel.

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 9, Trans-Mississippi miracle

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we're going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). I'll compile my comments on the scenarios and post them Sunday. (Note that the title of this post is a link to the book description on Amazon.)

Chapter 9. "Decision in the West"

The Red River Campaign opens with small Union successes after which Banks is defeated. At Alexandria, after a nightmarish retreat, Banks surrenders his army to Taylor. Porter's naval contingent is destroyed. Smith and Taylor use the freed Rebel forces to dispose of Gen. Steele in Arkansas. After Steele surrenders, Smith moves north enjoying a recruiting bonanza. He invades Missouri. Canby is defeated and Missouri secured for the CSA. Lincoln loses the election and McClellan secures the peace.
NEWS | Sedgwick monument restored * Science teacher turns to Civil War for lesson on the speed of sound * $500,000 film about the Battle of Chancellorsville will premiere Saturday * Farm re-creates Civil War life


Marx, Engels, Lincoln, Guelzo, and McClellan

An ebbing tide lowers all boats, I suppose, and the dumbing down of America is bound to include the dumbing down of American Communists as well as the rest of us.

For instance, I'm holding in my virtual hands a virtual newspaper, The World Socialist Website actually, in which there appears a review of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo (Simon & Schuster, 2004). The review is staggeringly favorable.

Guelzo seems to me to be, like Lincoln, an advocate of Natural Rights philosophy against which Marxists posit a "scientific materialism." Guelzo heavily blurbed Harry Jaffa's recent exposition on Lincoln as Natural Rightist. That book lambasted Marxists, not to mention Kantians like Calhoun, and muddleheads like Douglas. Natural Rights is antithetical to Marxism. Did the World Socialists read the whole book? Are they on some Lincoln admiration autopilot, indifferent to the ack-ack fired at them from the ground of Natural Rights? Or did Guelzo write a book pitched to such a wide audience that no reader could be offended by anything appearing here?

I'm wondering about this.

The McClellan references are important. In their extensive correspondence on the Civil War, Marx and Engels clearly identified with Abraham Lincoln. In their McClellan criticism, Marx and Engels laid the groundwork for setting up McClellan as a political antithesis of Lincoln's progressivism. Marx: "From the outset, the Northerners have been dominated by the representatives of the border slave states, who were also responsible for pushing McClellan, that old partisan of Breckinridge, to the top." (McClellan was actually a Douglas Democrat - that same Douglas who held Lincoln's hat at the inauguration.) Like Hans Trefousse understands in our day, Marx understood that McClellan had to be destroyed for his politics.

Our reviewer revels in Guelzo's banal interpretation of the Harrison Bar letter, the usual nonsense about the impertinence of political advice tendered a president by a general. Anyone who believes McClellan was unique in this should return his prizes and go home. McClellan not only asked in advance if he could submit his views: the letter invited the President to react to McClellan's cards-on-the-table. McClellan wanted, thirsted for, political guidance. Amost concurrently with McClellan's gentle demand for political guidance, several Northern governors threatened to withhold troops contingent on Lincoln explaining his war aims.

Now that is a Harrison's Bar letter. One, I might add, that never appears in the equations calculating the timing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The heavy lifting for a committed Marxist would be to delineate McClellan's politics vis a vis Lincoln's, not to cop a free ride on some snide, ahistorical nonsense about McClellan violating civil/military distinctions not yet defined.

By the end of the review, our socialist is concurring with Guelzo's attacks on black critics of Lincoln. Marx might have done the same, so committed was he to Lincoln as president.


The rise of monopoly capitalism in the aftermath of the Civil War led not to equality, but rather to ever-deeper inequality.

Now we are cooking. Except that monopoly capitalism may be a Republican Party outcome, something a socialist needs to think about, talk about, and to consider Lincoln's economic views on this matter. This is basic Marxist homework.

A final thought from Marx himself near the end of McClellan's tenure:

The long and the short of it is, I think, that wars of this kind ought to be conducted along revolutionary lines, and the Yankees have so far been trying to conduct it along constitutional ones.

Lincoln = revolution. McClellan = constitution.

Communists, why do I have to do your math problems for you?

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 8, Rebels enroll black soldiers

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we're going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). I'll compile my comments on the scenarios and post them Sunday. (Note that the title of this post is a link to the book description on Amazon.)

Chapter 8. "Confederate Black and Gray"

Lee and Benjamin pitch Cleburne's emancipation plan to Davis; Davis, hesitant, has his envoys tell France and Britain that emancipation is under discussion but will require large European loans to succeed. By the time of the Battle of the Crater, the Rebellion is flush with cash and black units are reinforcing Lee faster than Grant can make up his losses. Lee makes public displays of promoting the new arrangements, winning over much public support. White Union units are demoralized by combat with black Confederates. Sherman is killed at Kennesaw Mountain, the Union army breaks, and under LTGs Cleburne and Johnston, it is annihilated. McClellan is elected. He immediately recognizes the CSA and sets up a dictatorship.
NEWS | Ceremony marks Grant’s historic visit to Japan * A Civil Ceremony honors memory of Delco Civil War vet * Tiny ACW soldier's bible leads to quest


Enlistments expiring in battle

It's hard to top "last minute combat" with an image more vivid than that of Richard Montgomery, Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr attacking Quebec on New Year's Eve in 1775 - in a blizzard - because their troops' enlistments expired the next day.

That's one way to honor the soldiers' contracts.

In the Civil War, there were some awful moments with expired enlistments, starting with Patterson's stillborn diversion of Johnston before Bull Run. And wasn't there a New York regiment that marched off the field at Bull Run the day its enlistments expired?

Comes Iraq and it's not an attack by midnight, nor is it militia leaving despite pleas and orders. Say hello to the "stop loss" order. It could also be called the "stay put" order. Look:

Critics argue that preventing soldiers from leaving the military at the end of their contractual obligation was a breach of trust, and undermined the concept of the all-volunteer military.

An interesting fix to a problem older than the Civil War. Not one than can stand long in a litigious society, however.

Civil War publishing

Whenever I get blue about the state of Civil War literature I can console myself with these thoughts about publishing in general:

It's the most retarded shell game on earth -- and the most technophobic, ass-backwards, financially-dumb-headed industry in the world.

Feel better already....

Stanton stops recruitment

Anyone who has read about the Richmond Campaign of spring '62 has wondered about Secretary of War Edwin Stanton's closing of recruiting stations nationwide as the campaign got underway. From recent reading I see that this act, insane on its face, represents a piece of deep bureaucratic politics.

For a summary of ACW recruiting and replacement, we can't do better than this, written by Maj. Don Vandergriff:

The Union and Confederate armies used different methods in their attempts to sustain units. The Confederates in early 1862 adapted a system similar to a European depot system: They kept the number of their regiments low, and fed in replacements from the same geographical region. The intermissions between campaigns were the equivalent of a program to periodically rotate units back from the line - and veterans had time to integrate the "newbies" into their units prior to the next campaign.

This kept their regiments stronger - and more effective - until the mid-summer of 1864, when the Confederacy literally ran out of replacements.

In contrast, the Union continually raised new regiments at the demands of governors who wanted to reward political patronage by providing supporters with regimental commands. As a result, several times during the war these new regiments would go through a terrible bloodletting as both the leaders and the led experienced combat for the first time. Later in the war, the Union did ensure that the recovered wounded and sick were returned to the same regiment. But, the system was so wasteful that Gens. Ben Butler and William Tecumseh Sherman pleaded for its replacement with a "French depot system."

In reading William Hesseltine's Lincoln and the War Governors, I noticed that the Union recruiting stations Stanton ordered closed (all of them) were also operating on what Vandergriff here calls a depot basis; they were regional and they were replenishing state units with fresh local recruits, as was the case with the Rebels. By closing the recruiting offices, Stanton actually quashed this depot system established by Cameron, Scott, and McClellan; in a few months, when recruiting was reinstated under Stanton's design it went into effect as a state-based "new regiments only" program.

When Butler and Sherman asked for a depot system, they were actually asking for the restoration of the depot system that had been in effect throught the first quarter of 1862.

Most campaign historians note that Stanton closed the recruiting offices but are at a loss for motivation. It seems to me that closing the recruiting offices might have been about changing the replacement system before waves of combat losses could imbed the depot system in the machinery of war.

Antietam in Depth

A reminder that the Tenth Annual Civil War and American Society Annual Seminar "Antietam in Depth" is coming June 24 –27, 2004 to Shepherdstown:

See this page for an overview and this page for an itinerary.

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 7, Longstreet replaces Bragg

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we're going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). I'll compile my comments on the scenarios and post them Sunday. (Note that the title of this post is a link to the book description on Amazon.)

Chapter 7. "Moves to Great Advantage"

Bragg is wounded at Chickamauga and Longstreet takes command. During the siege of Chattanooga, before Rosecrans is reinforced, Longstreet uses McLaws to cut the Union supply line at Bridgeport while the cavalry crosses over and burns 800 Union wagons. Believing he faces 130,000 enemy, Rosecrans evacuates the city in an exhausting march. He is relieved, Thomas taking over and Grant coming to supervise the concerted operations. Longstreet goes into winter quarters. Grant remains in the West. Longstreet opens a pre-emptive offensive that upsets Grant's spring plans. When Grant is able to get going, in June, Longstreet fights him to a stalemate near Murfreesboro with high losses. Meanwhile, the AoP executes an overland campaign with no Bermuda Hundred landing. Meade's and Grant's losses exceed 80,000. Lincoln loses the election to McClellan. He allows McClellan to immediately take command of "the country and the army" (ahead of any inauguration date). McClellan vetoes emancipation which allows Davis to come to the negotiating table and the two sides agree to reunion.
NEWS | Civil War opponents buried side by side in Las Vegas * Last widow of a Civil War veteran dies at 97 * Lincoln speech site in Peekskill to be restored


The Confederate supply system rides again

The good people of SFTT noticed the same Financial Times article I did, the one about the Army running out of ammo in Iraq:

As of today, the Army is considering using a consortium of suppliers to fill the gap under the umbrella of mega contractor General Dynamics. These include Winchester, Israel Military Industries and SNC Technologies of Canada. We apparently have now outstripped the domestic capacity to supply our own ammunition needs and have to outsource that critical need to other countries. This is not a very good position to be in for our national defense.

This is like the Lincoln and Davis arms purchasing missions going abroad in '61. Read the whole thing.

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 6, Stuart makes himself useful

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we're going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). I'll compile my comments on the scenarios and post them Sunday. (Note that the title of this post is a link to the book description on Amazon.)

Chapter 6. "Absolutely Easential to Victory"

As the Union Army moves north post-Chancellorsville, Stuart holds a council of war in which his subordinates veto his plan for a ride around the Union forces. Keeping contact with his own Army, Stuart intercepts a federal order that tells Lee that only Buford's cavalry prevents him from occupying Gettysburg. Lee occupies Gettysburg after a brief battle. The main body of the AoP takes positions south of Lee in Maryland around Taneytown. As the AoP prepares to challenge Lee in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is sacked. Northern morale collapses. Lee then ambushes a corps-sized detachment at Reading. Lee then spends a long time living off the land and keeping federal forces off balance. The war ends in a CSA victory. (The details of the end of this war are not specified.)
NEWS | Library Unveils Index: aims to be the Google of Civil War Research * Mt. Carmel, PA, considers commissioning ACW monument * Red River dam scheme remembered