Morris Island: Joe Riley bestirs himself

Marx envisioned a period after socialism when all needs would be met and the state would wither away. He called it post-scarcity anarchism.

The political psychosis that fogs the mind of your run-of-the mill newsroom and editorial board is something very like a psychology of post scarcity anarchism; local problems are trivial, technical matters; local corruption is a small bother the feds can take care of when they get around to it; vote rigging is something that happens in Central America; the really "important" stuff is chiliastic and national: global warming (whatever happened to acid rain?), international debt forgiveness, presidential elections, and massive financing for paradigmatically skewed pork barrel medical research.

The post-scarcity Carolinian anarchist will wrack his brain over an editorial about perfecting Egypt's political system while bulldozers are ferried to Morris Island. Gaze on this and despair.

My fellow Trentonians who were critics of Trenton's late Mayor Art Holland - cautious in development, respectful of historical treasures - viewed him as an obstructionist. His successor is an enabler. Give me the obstructionist.

Charleston's Mayor Joe Riley delivered a stirring eulogy for Holland in Trenton on the old mayor's death; among other stories, he told of their tug-of-war over posession of the Swamp Angel in Trenton's Cadwallader Park. Riley marched with us in the long procession to the Broad Street Cathedral where the memorial service was held. With Holland dead, he's one of a kind.

Riley has finally weighed in with an editorial against Morris Island development in Charleston Harbor. (I cannot access the editorial.) I don't know why he has to resort to an editorial - maybe it is preparatory to action. Maybe there are jurisdictional issues that prevent his intervention.

Thank heaven the Egyptian political experts let him have a forum on their pages.

Now, responding to Riley's call, the Trust for Public Land has stepped forward to offer its leadership in organizing resistance to the develpoment of Morris Island.

Now, this is a Civil War site. TPL should be on the sidelines and, if I can indulge my own post-scarcity fantasy, Civil War buffs would be working hard to exclude any naturalist participation in this preservation effort.

The gentleman making the offer on behalf of the TPL is (incidentally) a developer himself. Is that sweet?

Of course, given a Civil War preservation leadership scarcity, you thank heaven for the kindness of strangers, be they in sheep's clothing or not. Since we have an abundance of leadership scarcity we have an abundance of developmental anarchism, too.

Coming to a drain near you

Civil War cannon shell tops Roto-Rooter list of weirdest finds in America's drains.

(p.s. Is there an academy journalists could attend to learn the difference between shot and shell?)


Not ostensible

"I am afraid you will think me ostensible," Emily Dickinson wrote to a gentleman friend,

(Was it Col. Shaw?)

I am not ostensible myself, not yet, and will be back tomorrow.


Poisoned fruit

Mike Stevens, of the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, has done Christmas proud in the pages of Fredericksburg's Free-Lance Star.

He has written a generous, humble, praiseful letter thanking certain parties for coming together to save Chancellorsville battlefield:
Anticipation arises out of seeing, once again, a coming together of developers, politicians, and preservationists, willing to balance self-interest with common purpose, willing to listen and learn from one another, willing to share a commitment to get the deal done. The folks of Toll Brothers, of the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors, and of the Civil War Preservation Trust are meeting in a spirit of comity and compromise, and all of us who understand what this land means to our community and to our country can be hopeful that their efforts will bear fruit.
The lion lying down with the lamb is something that happens after the second coming of Christ, I think. Right now, we are in the period after the first coming of Christ and we need to note the lion's claws and mark our distance from the carnivore. What is happening between Toll Brothers, the county and CWPT can better be summarized in a news snippet:
Toll Brothers Inc. of Horsham, Pa., is poised to sell 75 acres of battleground on State Route 3 to the Civil War Preservation Trust. The sale hinges on the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors increasing the number of homes the company can build on about 500 adjacent acres.
Is this "a spirit of comity and compromise?" Or is this a rank business deal with a serious preservation downside?

One could reasonably say that there are no preservationists whatsoever involved in these discussions.

Avoid the Christmas punch, ladies and gents, and remember the true meaning of preservation this year.

Book review riots - let's stage one

There is a new book out on the NYC draft riots which, if I read the review correctly, aims to be definitive.

Can't be sure because the review wastes itself entirely by retelling the underlying events rather than conveying the worth of the tome.

What is wrong with this country's book review editors that they should allow retelling to pass as analysis week after week?
NEWS | Congressman discusses timber sales at Pea Ridge military park * Morris Island finds a buyer - a high-end developer * Davis friend's mansion is reinvented for lodging, dining


Enough to make a grown man blog

I was reading a nature book and came across a quote by spy novelist John le Carré.

Wait, it gets more convoluted.

On reading it, I immediately thought, “This is about Civil War history.”
There was the boring similarity of technique; the grain of truth carefully reconstructed culled from newspaper reports and bazaar gossip; the follow-up, less carefully done, betraying the deceiver’s contempt for the deceived; and finally, the flight of fancy, the stroke of artistic impertinence which wantonly terminated a relationship already under sentence.
In the original context, le Carré (right) was talking about stories spread by the enemy in war. If we break it down, the tiny engine of pop history appears in all its parts.

There was the boring similarity of technique

… lineal storytelling on a strict timeline in a flat narrative style dolled up with a few old fashioned literary tricks from Jules Verne or Edgar Rice Burroughs.

the grain of truth carefully reconstructed, culled from newspaper reports and bazaar gossip

… some bit from the odd OR report and an anecdote or two that can advance the book's high concept.

the follow-up, less carefully done, betraying the deceiver’s contempt for the deceived

… the next instance of a trend, development, or characterization presented with even less evidence than the previous one.

and finally, the flight of fancy, the stroke of artistic impertinence which wantonly terminated a relationship already under sentence

… the resort to hyperbole in stretching an incompetent generalization beyond error to make it an outrage. Not even Napoleon himself … Never in military history unprecedented error … unique opportunity ….

The “deceiver’s contempt for the deceived” shuts me down early in most readings. I have to want to suffer to get to that flight of fancy that must terminate my relationship with a book.

What is comical is encountering so many people mouthing flights of fancy as though they were precious insights harvested from some “scholar’s” deepest wisdom.

I have felt the sting of the author's contempt for me, as a reader, so harshly as to want to start three websites in retaliation. And I have. But the sting remains.


Bringing Civil War history up to date

I used to attend readings of Voegelin Society papers at the American Political Science Association's annual conventions whenever they were held in Washington D.C. In those days, the APSA was in the iron grip of a very grim outfit called The Society for Political Methodology. If not that exact society, its imitators and competitors.

(By the way, attendees would ask me, "What institution do you represent?" and I would answer, "The reading public." The looks were priceless.)

This sort of research flooded the halls of whatever hotel was hosting APSA:

* Practical Issues in Implementing and Understanding Bayesian Ideal Point Estimation *

A quote from that paper: "Item-response and ideal-point models are inherently applied to multilevel structures, with data nested within persons and test items, or judges and decisions, or legislators votes."

Should be "legislators' votes" but these are not wordsmiths, needless to say. And there aren't that many words in these papers anyway. APSA and friends have turned to formulae:

That was an expression of political analysis from a poli-sci paper.

Tim Reese has generously agreed to help our dowdy field catch up with the poli-sci trailblazers. Here is his offering, which I trust you can decode without my help:

We're on our way to methodological excellence!

Well, there you have it

The entire preservation story of the Maryland Campaign's gaps is here told in one graphic. Click to enlarge.

If you don't want to click, then peer. Red indicates "core combat areas" and green shows land the state owns.

Thanks to Tim Reese for this.

p.s. The League - on which I posted yesterday - is broadening its focus beyond the Civil War and a number of ACW preservationists have left the group ... which adds a wrinkle to their battlefield land sale.


The computer is a marvelous thing

I was looking at log files and saw that some searcher way out on the Internet had entered the keyword string "civil war major flaws" and Google brought him to this posting.
This might have done as well, or this series ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
You came to the right place. Thank your computer.

Pieces removed from Frankenstein park

The Frankentein-shaped hallucination that passes for South Mountain state battlefield park - a park no one can visit because it is patched together from easements and the odd, isolated fee simple holding - is shifting shape a little, according to a newsletter issued by the Central Maryland Heritage League.

The monster has a notional existence because locals drank the potion offered by some mad scientists who run a famous national preservation trust; they promise eternal life to land placed under easement.

You can reduce the cost of an easement - which already costs less than land - by applying for state highway funds (believe it or not) and/or teaming up with the local birdwatchers or farm conservationists to split the bill ... not the sort of partners you want to have, truth be told, but available and willing.

So, you swing the shiny watch and mutter, "stretch battlefield land budgets, buy several easements instead," and they drink the potion.

I think this is what's happening at the Central Maryland Heritage League:

We are negotiating with State and Federal agencies to see if it is feasible to sell parcels of land on or near South Mountain State Battlefield. Both are protected and their sale would again help us to acquire and protect more land.

This year we have seen battlefield land being "preserved" through sale to developers. We have seen developers called preservationists in the press. Now we have a preservation society selling battlefield land it owns in order to "acquire and protect more land". Will it sell to developers if they are called "preservationists"?

Strike "acquire" from their comments. They want to swap real ownership to buy some hallucinogenic easements. They drank the potion, I think.

However, Tim Reese wonders if the League may be getting off the mountain entirely. Certainly, it may be possible that this sale fixes a financial problem, and that "acquire and protect more land" is a fig leaf.

I wonder, also, if they have put easements on the property they own and want to sell. Since - hypnotized - they may believe easement equals protection, there may be no reason - in their befuddlement - why they should continue to own "protected land" and pay taxes on it. Yes, it is land no one can visit. Yes, it is land that may come under generations of "no trespassing signs" once relinquished.

But by Jove, it is "protected"!

If you think that way, if you believe the nonsense that swirls around Civil War preservation societies today, a perfectly reasonable game plan would be to buy land, put an easement on it, sell the land with the easement in place, buy another piece of land and continue indefinitely. Maybe the League is doing this.It takes a PhD in Kremlinology to understand what our battlefield protectors are saying and doing.

Preserving is developing, buying is paying owners not to sell, and saving something means getting rid of it.

Enjoy your "no trespassing" virtual battlefield, friends. And give generously to save our hallowed ground.


Even more hats

I hope the code holding this post together does not blow up. I dread to think of how this will compile in your browser. Nevertheless, do send me your favorite hat pictures.

Here we have Scott in a chapeau most of us have seen him wear. He's got some spectacular attachments where Blunt's (see previous posts) is plainer. What do you call this thing?

Check out this variant on General Benham: pure Hornblower. "Hard a'starboard, you laggards!" Banks looks like cover art from a Hawthorne novel - there must be a cape to go with that outfit - and Ward is modeling a Trilby, no less. The locks underneath look fairly lustrous for extended field duty.

That helmet on Jackson's head has to be asynchronous (although we did run a picture in this blog of the Delafield Commission with a spiked helmet on the table nearby).

It's important to be able to spot your general on the field. Very important apparently.

General Mansfield ...

... I like your style.

Everybody in the army puts some spin on regulation headgear.

This interpretive statement takes the prize.

Fussy, continued

A reader writes to say that authors referring to Johnston's Army of the Potomac as the Army of Northern Virginia get his goat.
Drew Wagenhoffer also writes to say that "McClellan restored to command" does it for him, McClellan not having been removed from command. Sears, for one, takes a little care here, offering the formula, "McClellan's command was restored to him."
I have a different view of this. McClellan was assigned an entirely new command, the defenses of Washington. His adjunct mission, while commander of the defenses of Washington, was to organize a (**A**) field army to intercept Lee. The fact that a field army was organized and later received the old name "Army of the Potomac" is an accident of history ... especially given that it was John Pope who was named commander of this field army (by city defenses commander George McClellan) on September 5, 1862.
This is going to be surprising if you have digested the formula "Pope was removed from command and McClellan was restored." That statement is as (un)true for 1862 as is "McDowell was removed from command to be replaced by McClellan" for 1861.
You can reach a level of generalization in writing history, where it becomes sludgy.


How fussy is fussy?

Is it terribly wrong to be irritated when an author refers to McDowell's forces at Bull Run as the Army of the Potomac? Repeatedly in one work?

Any number of authors do this and it freaks me out every time. I stop for awhile. Can't go on. It casts a shadow on all that follows.

Some of you are thinking, "There were no army designations apart from the department then." Partially right. Scott was against divisions and armies. And what was McDowell's department called? The Department of Northeast Virginia.

I see from Eicher and Eicher that McD is department commander from 27 May and that he picks up a title from July 8 on, commander of the Army of Northeast Virginia. I want to know more about that, not less, and calling the Army of Northeast Virginia by another name is giving me less.

Here's another eye-opener that may indicate all is not well in Civil War history. McDowell co-exists as army commander with McClellan when McClellan is called east. McDowell does not relinquish his army command until 15 August; Mansfield does not relinquish his department until August 18. There's a major essay lurking in that.

I know this sort of arcana (names of armies, limits of command) places a terrible burden on history writers but we readers like to know true from false. Humor us.

You don't have to call it "The Army of Northeast Virginia" if that's going to confuse your editors. But don't call it the Army of the Potomac. Please.

Civil War Book News has been updated

Hoping to get the rest of the year finished by January 1.
That would be cosmic.

"Corrupt Conqueror"

Stamp collectors love those upside-down images and I wonder if this is the ACW reader's equivalent.

The Blunt book I wrote about yesterday is titled General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory. I am looking at the cover as I write.

The photo of the cover run in yesterday's post shows a book titled General James G. Blunt: Corrupt Conqueror. Click on the image for a close-up. I got it from the publisher's own website.

Last minute title change or passive resistance from a Missourian in the art department?


Western publishing

What's with the hat, commodore?

Is there a picture of any other ACW general, aside from Scott and Wool, wearing this headcover?

I picked this book up early in December, pleased to see a Blunt bio and happy that the small publisher, Pelican, had won major chain distribution of the title (I have seen it in three chain outlets so far this year).

This cute and curious passage is from the introduction. It is the very picture of Republican generalhood, I think:
As impressive as these achievements are, they can be overshadowed by Blunt's spectacular failures as a military administrator. He carried on a yearlong feud with one of his superiors. His relations with the first two governors of Kansas were notoriously poor. He did nothing to stem the rampant corruption in the military supply system. Indeed, Blunt took part in some of that corruption. And in one incident ... he bears some of the blame for allowing the massacre to occur.
Ah, Baxter Springs. Rode off leaving his command not just to be massacred but tortured then massacred or tortured while enduring massacre. Something more serious than failed to advance quickly or wrote his wife complaining about Stanton.

Pelican seems to specialize in Western titles; have a look. So does the Camp Pope bookshop, which like Morningside, is both a bookstore and a publisher.

They deserve our patronage.


Surprises in libraries

There was a talk to be attended in a county branch library new to me today and after the event, I browsed the Civil War book section.

This is always a discouraging prospect and the trash here was heaped deeply on the shelves - I despaired of finding a single useful book when I noticed Richard F. Miller's new Harvard's Civil War mixed in with the dross.

A good sign, one that encouraged me to keep searching. I found a couple of diaries to check out in addition to the Miller book. Gregory Acken, connected with Philadelphia's Civil War Library and Museum, assembled some letters among the holdings in his care into a big tome, Inside the Army of the Potomac, the Civil War Experiences of Capt. Francis Adams Donaldson (of the 118th Penna. USV). McClellan commanding at Gettysburg (again) caught my eye. I also checked out Sears' On Campaign with the Army of the Potoma, the war diaries of LTC Theodore A. Dodge, whom I knew for his Chancellorsville history. Dodge had no McClellan at Gettysburg info.

Dodge and Donaldson were McClellan men through and through. As I started through Donaldson's letters copying out the McClellan material it became overwhelming, there was just so much of it. And it was so emotional.

The general literary and social style of the Civil War involves restraint and distance and understatement and irony. For grown men to wax emotional and poetic about their leader is outside the bounds of accepted personal style. When it happens army-wide, something astonishing is going on. Not astonishing enough to have ever merited a study, however.

Someone needs to collect such primary material - these manliness-be-damned outcries - into a big concentrated sheep dip that we can run historians through before they begin their carping, niggling little AoP annals.

Donaldson: I can say in conclusion that I never saw the army so full of enthusiasm as it now is, everyone anxious to meet the enemy and terminate the war by one grand battle. McClellan seems to have the final termination of the issue well in hand, and when we again meet Gen. Lee's army, they will suffer a defeat that will end their existence. We all feel confident of this, and should I be correct in this forecast of the future, McClellan will be, as he really is today, the greatest military chieftain of the age. (11/5/62)

Dodge: By the way, I may as well tell you how the Army feels about the conduct of this war. Everyone is longing for McClellan [emphasis in original]. "Let us go into action and a few get killed and then the rest retreat." This is just the feeling they have about Burnside, no confidence in his ability at all. But every heart is so turned toward McClellan that his being put in command of the U.S. Army would this moment more than double the force of the troops. They will go anywhere under him, but with reluctance under any other leader; and any day I believe McClellan could lead us up & take those Frederickburg batteries, considered now impregnable.(1/1/63)

And so it goes.

David Woodbury

Hat tip to Eric Wittenberg for pointing to David Woodbury's new Civil War blog. It's quite a feast: start with this post.

Woodbury is a writer who has paid his Civil War dues in a major way - as an editorial collaborator with Ted Savas bringing out innumerable specialist studies and as the patron saint of certain indispensable books, one of which I have failed to say enough about - Eicher and Eicher's Civil War High Commands.

Civil War High Commands originated in John Eicher's dissatisfaction with Civil War historians being unable to master even the most basic units of fact - e.g. who was promoted when and commanded what. As an ACW reader, he found himself keeping notes he could refer to and rely on in lieu of whatever book he might be reading at the time. (Sounds like my gateway into McClellanology.) The result is 1,040 pages of useful almanac-style data (and indirectly, 1,040 pages of commentary on the wretched state of previous ACW research). Shepherding this book through the publishing wilds must have been epic.

My admiration for Woodbury does not stop there. Civil War Regiments, which he co-edited, was an oasis of freethinking during one of the worst periods of consensus we have seen in Civil War publishing, the mid- to late1990s. His reasons for blogging resonate with me: "Let's be frank -- some of those authors didn't work as hard on their books as you did earning the money to buy them. And for that, they must be called out."

But I disagree - I think we're moving past the point where hack authors can still flood the market each publishing season with work struggling to retell the Catton story. New thinking has dominated each new release list for the last four or five seasons. My blog, with its cathartic vitriol, could better serve its readers turning attention to our dramatically new situation. I keep reminding myself, we've turned a corner. There's a new story to tell.

Then McPherson gives an interview and I'm called back to the hunt...

But we need expert readers like David Woodbury to help sort out the new scene. Crappy books will always be with us - it's the publishers' commitment to crap that is crumbling. It is a very talented cohort of writers that is taking advantage of the end of the Centennial ice ages.

Since his is a book blog, I hope Mr. Woodbury notices and takes the same pleasure I do in this new beginning for Civil War history.


Rawley dies, Lincoln consensus hardens

Lincoln specialist James A. Rawley has died.

Rawley (to the left in photo at right) admired J.G. Randall, and like Randall upheld a view of the president as a conservative - in Rawley's case, an "organic nationalist" - who fought for Union straight through to 1865. This contrasts with Trefousse's view of Lincoln as a dissimulating Radical with emancipation in mind from day one (I may have gone too far with that characterization, but not by much); and with the prevailing Centennial idea that AL was a pragmatist who reached a point where he could no longer disentangle war aims - slavery from Union.

This article states his case nicely and awards Mark Neely and Gabor Boritt a few slaps to the sides of their heads. I find especially interesting his suggestion that writers have mixed up Lincoln the Whig with Lincoln the Republican.

It is also worth noting that a term count done by Rawley produces no Lincolnian references to the Declaration after 1862. There is Lincoln's ever-burgeoning rhetoric of Declaration that approaches crescendo and then is suddenly turned off in the second year of the war. Quite a bit to chew on there.

Rawley's reasonable, mainstream, scholarly view of Lincoln has been marginalized and he will soon have his name on some dirty doghouse as does Randall.

We seem to have a public that wants one single interpretation for anything; we have Lincoln salons competing to deliver these monochrome images; and we have publishers committed to flattening the landscape for the historically challenged. Poor Rawley and poor us.

Morbidly yours, (signed) The Editor

This fellow in Illinois decided to collect and publish a collection of "last letters" sent by ACW servicemen.

Some snap judgements: (1) This is entertainment - "rubber Lincoln" stuff. (2) The editor lacks any historical sensibility:

After getting 75 letters, along with permission to use them, he narrowed them down to 21. Why 21? "I just thought that a 21-gun salute is the highest honor you can give a military man," he said.

If emotional manipulation and sentimentality are pathways to historical understanding, the Pulitzer may not be enough of a prize for this guy.

C&E ACW buffs

A reader writes to tell me that James McPherson does not speak for free to civil war roundtables as suggested here, that he charges $1,000 (which is donated to Civil War Preservation Trust or another cause). He says, "The Chicago Civil War Round Table has been foolish enough to pony up," by which I assume he means they did not get $1,000 worth of value.
I believe he spoke for free to the Camp Olden Civil War Roundtable in 1999 or 2000. In any case, even if he charged $1,000 then, they raised $5,000 from the affair.
Which leads me to ask, in slangy terms, is there such a thing as a "Christmas and Easter" Civil War reader? Certain churchgoers are labeled "C&E" and I wonder if there is an ACW equivalent (one that would generate a $5,000 gate at a McPherson talk, for instance, then disappear).
NEWS | Man wants to sell Civil War style cannon he had made * Fort Wright museum to feature Civil War Christmas celebration * Police detonate Civil War-era cannonball * No cemetery under Texas school site


Richard Norton Smith uncensored

Bureau reporters at the Chicago Tribune are sharing city memories and one, Ellen Warren, recalls the grand opening of the Lincoln Library in April, 2005 :
Museum executive director Richard Norton Smith clearly does NOT appreciate critics who have carped about the Museum's lifelike Lincoln statues. It's a "manufactured non-existent controversy," he told me.

"Real people don't talk about 'rubber Lincolns.' No one on the street talks about 'rubber Lincolns.' No one gives a shit  about 'rubber Lincolns.'"
The controversy was about the tax-supported stewardship of public memory being placed in the hands of people who offer us fabricated 3-D Lincoln images in lieu of history - not about mannekins per se.
The idea that what the public wants equals history renders history nothing but putty in the hands of museum directors, governors, battlefield guides, filmmakers, market researchers, and nonfiction storytellers.
The reporter "gets" the Smith dynamic dispite his disclaimers:
... Norton was channeling his inner Brad Pitt, working the crowds like a movie star.

Citizens without tickets were lined up a dozen deep in some places and those near the front were asking Smith to sign their dedication programs. It's got to be one of the rare times in history when a scholar gets to play like it's Hollywood. Or Disneyland.
The scholar. What a scholar.

Clausewitz again

For those supposing, judging his actions, that Lincoln knew Clausewitz, a few points Lincoln may have overlooked:
[War] does not consist of a single instantaneous blow.
... much more strength of will is required to make an important decision in strategy than in tactics.
The defensive, according to our conception, is nothing but the stronger form of combat.
Every assailant in advancing diminishes his military strength by the advance ... This loss in the advance is increased if the enemy has not been beaten, but withdraws of his own accord with his forces intact...

The army in retreat has the means of collecting provisions everywhere, and he marches towards them, whilst the pursuer must have everything brought after him, which, as long as he is in motion, even with the shortest lines of communication, is difficult, and on that account begets scarcity from the very first.

The greater the masses are, the more severe are the exertions demanded from each individual for the daily duties required strategically and tactically. A hundred thousand men who have to march to and from the point of assembly every day, halted at one time, and then set in movement again, now called to arms, then cooking or receiving their rations—a hundred thousand who must not go into their bivouac until the necessary reports are delivered in from all quarters—these men, as a rule, require for all these exertions connected with the actual march, twice as much time as 50,000 would require, but there are only twenty-four hours in the day for both


Clausewitz in the Civil War

A reader was good enough to send me a link to this essay, which concludes:
Nonetheless, Halleck's references, Schurz's knowledge, Jomini's comments on Clausewitz (especially as reported in the 1854 translation), the 1843 translation of Clausewitz's study of the Russian campaign, Wellington's "famous" response to Clausewitz's Campaign of 1815, the French translations and commentary, Mitchell's work in England, and the appearance of the 1835 article on Clausewitz in Britain and in the Military and Naval Magazine of the United States make untenable the assumption that Clausewitz's name and important aspects of his theories were inaccessible to American political and military figures in the Civil War era. Thus a Clausewitzian influence on Lincoln or on others in his circle remains a real possibility. In the absence of conclusive evidence one way or the other, the question must remain open. 
Good points.
My problem with the Clausewitz-in-America crowd is that they (a) do not understand Clausewitz deeply on his own terms and (b) do not understand the Civil War in its fundamental political aspects.
They operate in an abnormal milieu without recognizing it as such; it is the Centennial milieu in which military history completely dominates and is separated from political history. Lincoln is the apolitical, pragmatic leader, not a party-builder. The few bones of political consideration sprinklled in to your average ACW history, the few times that Centennialists allow that Lincoln may have made a political calculation are met by this species of Clausewitzian with delight - you see Lincoln understands that war is policy (or politics) carried on by other means! Breakthrough! Why else would he inject political considerations into military affairs, knowing how we readers feel about such stuff?
Clausewitz, in our day, has been boiled down to one formula a five-year-old can grasp = politics by other means. ACW history, meanwhile, has been had the political stuff boiled out of it such that the sight of superpolitician Abe Lincoln injecting politics (horrors) into a war decision is so disconcerting we need Clausewitz to explain it.
For if Clausewitz is a military thinker, then Lincoln's political intervention is informed by the highest military science available in that day; then he has made a military decision after all (and our ACW history remains uninfected by politics).
Bad Clausewitz meets bad Civil War for a perfect Union.

This week's obligatory McPherson post

A reader asked "Why the McPherson posts?" One may as well ask why celebrity journalism. Celebs are entertaining.

To the broad public, McPherson's work represents "our" highest aspiration as ACW readers and writers. He speaks on preservation issues, giving "our" consolidated opinion on saving battlefield land. To publishers, the success of Battle Cry represents "our" sales standard, the one we must meet to be successful as writers. When the Civil War leaks into current events, the press seeks McPherson for "our" aggregate opinion on this or that controversy.

McPherson has been made into "our" spokesman, representing the entire Civil War subculture - publishing, film, scholarship, re-enacting, television.

This is not just a political spokesman type of gig, however, it actually crosses into Hollywood's deepest colors of bathos.

Think of the juiciest Hollywood gossip story.

A diva who doesn't read music or sing well or act competently who was "made" by a hit single has not had a hit in a long while, but her entourage has never been bigger; the press cannot get enough of her; and she is on the cover of everything everywhere all the time giving all sorts of advice and comment. Sought for TV spots, her banal views are met with rapture. She is now branching out into Naval history - er, sorry, cosmetics and fashions.

The Hollywood gossip monger, understanding Greek dramatic form, awaits the correction to set in. The numbers from her next movie or record will tell part of the story; the insane levels of media saturation must cause a backlash some day. The hype surrounding each failed project must eventually scale back the outsized reputation. New actors will eventually stop fearing her and honestly comment on her achievments, what it's like to work with her, and what kind of person she seems to be.

The audience for this life drama expects the diva's downfall to be triggered by mistakes stemming from specific character flaws - flaws she was warned about, problems her hangers on kept her from confronting.

The gossip rags report these flaws - whatever they are - manifested however (tantrums, divorces, etc.) - and the subject denies them, creating a dissonance that begs resolution. That's entertainment.

The protagonist then heightens this dramatic tension by projecting her known but denied faults and errors into new shapes, larger forms, assuming ever greater risks, and meanwhile withholding signs of humility, shame, or fear.

And so we come to James McPherson.

I am reminded of an interview with Carl Sandburg or Robert Frost I read in the mid-sixties. The interviewer casually referred to his subject as a "poet," and the subject (Frost or Sandburg) stopped the interview immediately. The dialog went something like this:

Subject: Don't call me a poet, I am a writer.
Interviewer: Don't you write poetry?
Subject: "Poet" is a gift word bestowed by others - it is not for me to call myself a "poet" or to hear you or others call me that. Let "poet" be said outside my hearing.

And so "poet" was out of the record.

Now this may have been stagey buncombe but I think of that whenever Dr. McPherson presents his rear-end for lavish kissing by intervierwers who ask him what it's like to be the "greatest historian of his generation," or "the greatest Civil War scholar," or gush some other nonsense. He answers them without pause and without shame. So it seems.

His humility comes into question not only from a failure to correct the interviewer in such matters, but in his willingness to be used in the way a Hollywood celebrity is used. There are the celebrity endorsements (blurbs) that say essentially nothing but associate the McPherson "brand" with printed "product"; there are the tours, documented by the Washington Post, in which he takes groups of fans out to Gettysburg, then runs ahead of them - literally keeping his distance - barking comments over his shoulder. There are the assiduous public defenses made of fellow celebrities who get into ethical trouble with the law - think Goodwin. There is the rock-star hoopla associated with his public appearances.

Even the generous things he does, such as appear for free at roundtables to help raise money for them, have this component of egocentric self-indulgence, like a Hollywood benefit for (insert cause here).

Not that I'm not indulging myself here. But it's a private self-indulgence in front of fewer than 200 friends, like a drunk putting on a lampshade.

The press that interacts with McPherson are very like entertainment reporters. I have never read an interview with him in which the fawning questioner was anything more than the most casual ACW reader. In his routine attacks on academic history, I have never seen an interviewer challenge that; nor have I seen a writer who read McPherson and understood his historiographic context; nor gave I seen one who could do something as basic as discuss new trends in Civil War publishing with him.

McPherson wrote a a single-volume compendium of Civil War narrative recapitulated from popular secondary sources; that was his hit single. He has a virtual entourage of "hopefuls" - historians who know who and what he is but keep quiet imagining his good will can help them or his ill will may hurt. The ignorant interviewers keep coming. Local roundtables, benefitting from his appearances, promote his reputation to the skies. He deigns to speak by conference call nowadays.

McPherson imposed upon Gary Gallgher recently to give him license to write the history of the Civil War navies for the University of North Carolina Press because he thought he would like to do that. There was no major trade house asking for a project - he hunted this up. He's going to do it the way he does everything, by aggregating secondary sources. Watch.

McPherson's newest book, published this spring, was brought out by Kluwer, a Netherlands medical publisher, which has been building trade business stateside by buying specialist imprints like Da Capo. Kluwer issued his book through an obscure U.S. imprint.

This is not a hitmeister cranking it out. This is fadeout per "A Star is Born."

Speaking of which plotline, the only two McPherson students actively writing that we have been able to identify, Carhart and Clinton, each have books out this year issued by a major trade house. Clinton's was well received but is doing poorly; Carhart's has been poorly received but is selling decently. No stars here.

Meanwhile, "the greatest living Civil War historian of his generation" is reading royalty statements written in Dutch.

You wonder how this docudrama is going to end ... which is why the coverage will continue.


Hand me that cliche, will you?

"On Dec. 7, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., the Pierce House in Lincoln will welcome the humble, slightly disheveled, yet ever so determined character of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant as he was in 1864..."
It would be nauseatingly sweet if he could meet "Honest Abe" and "Never Told A Lie" George Washington on the way.

Franklin Battlefield reclaimed

Franklin city has bought Pizza Hut as well as the golf course next door. Big ceremony to destroy the fast food structure.
God forbid they should now get state or federal park services to manage this land.
Find a private owner and keep it private if you want to avoid further desecration.

Re-enactors murdered

Here's a new mystery novel featuring dead re-enactors.
NEWS | Work continues at Black Jack park * Kenosha plans $15 mln ACW museum * Gen. Grant to visit Lincoln


Blog roundup

After Nov. 1, my routines changed and I have not been able to read and keep up with the expanding world of ACW blogging. I hope to get a new routine going soon. Even a cursory look around shows what I've been missing.
Andrew Wagenhoffer points out, per yesterday's post on Piedmont, that there is a "top notch" book on the battle, The Forgotten Fury . "The research is deep, grounded in published and unpublished primary source materials, and the reader is additionally treated to footnotes instead of endnotes." Speaking of forgotten battlefields that are despised by locals,   Tim Reese (not yet a blogger) commented to me that "Piedmont is the illegitimate twin brother of Crampton's Gap." We must pray, I think, that the Great and the Good eventually legitimize these places such that the locals can then begin profiting from them.
I wrote earlier that the Kelo eminent domain decision, if used to seize battlefield land, could make drive away private donors and depress membership in preservation organizations. Attorney Eric Wittenberg paints a more chilling picture: in Georgia, Kelo has been taken up to develop battlefield land. Let that sink in; the Kelo fiasco is about superior tax  revenue generation. (Mike Koepke has a little on this as well.)
On a lighter note, James McPherson's student Tom Carhart is taking some hard knocks from Civil War News (via Eric  and Drew):  "There's inadequate space in a book review to cite each factual error, contradiction and unsupported theory. Suffice to say, this reads more like a novel than historical analysis."Yikes.  I like this bit: "Meade — erroneously cited as George 'C.' Meade ..." Cees and Gees, leave that to those impenetrable academic scholars.
Kevin Levin has started a blog called Civil War Memory and has updated my preliminary year-in-publishing comments with an extensive rundown on some important 2005 titles. He wonders why I obsess on McPherson. Top reason - it's an enjoyable obsession to indulge, especially where the subject is vain, a little foolish, and his public adoring. Number two reason: lack of self control.  I'll indulge myself more on this topic at the end of the week.
Mitch Hagmaier has rekindled my interest in Kent Masterson Brown's Retreat from Gettysburg. His description of the book is wonderful - sounds like Lee's retreat was a page from the Thirty Years War. My inclination is to do a "Brown" on all Lee's movements - look into their details and savor the horror. It's on my list.
I can hardly believe, however, that Brown got himself entangled in a mistake as banal as the Clausewitzian/Jominian synchronization trap. Mitch covers those bases here and I would only repeat explicitly that Clausewitz was not published in America until some time after the ACW and his views were not in general (oral or literary) circulation here during the war. Not even the Prussian General Staff officer who wrote A Prussian Observes the Civil War makes mention of Clausewitz.
Mark Grimsley has a blog round-up of his own and it's less verbose than this one.
Don't miss Brett Schulte's multi-part writings on Harsh's Confederate Tide Rising. I need to do a ton of posting on Harsh but have been remiss. Brett's filling the gap to the tune of eight postings on just this one book. Go do some Harsh. Get Harsh. Be harsh.
I think I have discovered a credo.

History-laden Civil War latrines

His name is Spencer Henderson. He is Baltimore's most accomplished privy hunter.
As hobbies go, privy hunting is not pretty. It's not like, say, remodeling a '55 Chevy. It takes a different searching soul to dedicate months to digging 8 feet down into century-old outhouses in search of ... what?
See for yourself. It's magical.


Fort Pemberton - your private luxury community

This story makes me ill: "Easement, perhaps a few homes planned for Civil War era fort."

Just a few multimilliondollar homes here and there on or about a fort in great shape. An exclusive island with a unique history. And a socially-responsible easement to preserve it just the way it was the day the last home was built. I think the conservationists will get behind that.

And did we mention that multimilliondollar home owners tend to not invite the general public to tromp around their historic estates? So much the better to preserve the unique charm of the site!

The Civil War Preservation Trust created this paradigm. This Fort Pemberton page was taken out of CWPT's playbook.

The preservation disaster continues. Unlike natural disasters, this one has leadership.

Locals neglect own battlefield - dog bites man

This freelance writer has his eye on one of those battlefields not included in the master narratives of the Civil War:
Piedmont seems destined to remain The Battle that Never Was so far as local officialdom is concerned, despite its importance as the fight that lost the Shenandoah for the Confederacy, and the site of some of the worst military violence ever to take place in the Valley.
Note the reference to local officialdom. He's lucky the local editor did not edit out his local reference. I like the comment, though.

What is it that makes local officialdom consistently anti-local in its Civil War history? I tend to think it's a lust for framework, the need to simplify, and the siren song of "big picture." The Centennial views of the conflict are made to order for tour guides and tourism officials ... they just don't serve history, national or local.

I am reminded of local music reviewers whose universal model for success is not any kind of aesthetic criteria or even selfish enjoyment but rather commercial national success.

When this sort of writer interviews a musician, the entire discussion centers on matters of career progression. The Civil War history equivalent is the question of your local battle "making the big leagues" - as certified by others. More from our astute friend:
Fortunately, a bronze marker was placed at the site in the 1930s, and the accuracy of its location is a lucky break for today's visitor. Whoever placed it — a Civil War veteran perhaps — knew something that later historians would otherwise have had no way of knowing.
Nor will they ever care to know - now that history models showbiz and "the man in the wraparound shades" calls the shots (as the Washington Post has referred to a the Pre-Eminent Civil War Historian of Our Times).

We would expect locals to inundate us with local history - more about the Battle of Piedmont than could fill a book. Those were old locals. They planted their lonely sign and moved on. The new locals found no reference to the battle in the CWPT's most endangered battlefields list, McPherson's Battle Cry, or Ken Burns' teleplay.

Grumble Jones vs. David Hunter (top, right). Worth a dozen new markers, in my book.

As Mark Twain once said ...

... I'm too busy tonight to write a short letter, so forgive this long one.

In putting together this year's Civil War Book News, I noticed more than a few things just a third of the way through the year's list. In no particular order, here are some impressions.

* Biographers are now debunking Nathan Bedford Forrest (even). (As Eric Wittenberg has also done on his blog.)

* Tom Desjardin spearheaded a downward revision of the importance of Little Round Top last year; the counterattack has begun.

* The Grant party in ACW publishing continues (see here and here).

* Mark Neely suggests that maybe party strife was not good for effective war management and that there might have been excesses in Republican patronage that harmed the cause. (Thuds indicate sound of Centennialists falling out of their chairs.)

* Little Phil, penned by blogger Eric Wittenberg, I've written about here already. Now I need to compare and contrast blogger Mark Grimsley's And Keep Moving On with a book by Civil War Talk Radio's Gerald Prokopowicz's All for the Regiment. The two books have some yin-yang going on the metathesis level.

* There are a number of new studies, fairly obscure, that touch on McClellan and therefore interest me: the long-out-of-print How we Elected Lincoln suggests an wisecrack - "Fraud?" Meanwhile, I can hardly wait to get hold of Hospital Transports: A Memoir of the Embarkation of the Sick and Wounded from the Peninsula of Virginia. Not to mention Veterinary Service during the American Civil War, which should enrich some of the excellent analysis previously supplied on this by Hagerman.

* Yankee spy Elizabeth Lew has gotten her story told.

* And I am always interested in the doings of Hans Trefousse, long may he prosper. T. Harry Williams imagined Lincoln-the-Conservative driven by the radicals into adopting their policies against his will (Lincoln and the Radicals); the Centennialists imagine Lincoln the pragmatist adopting radicalism as the rational outcome of the course of the war; Trefousse, bless him, envisions Lincoln as radical from the first manipulating conservatives to achieve what he knows needs to be done.

Lincoln, First Among Radicals, were it a book title, might encapsulate his views. Shake 'em up good, Hans.
NEWS | Old Gettysburg Village to lose four of its shops * Benton considers historic commission to deal with 80+ ACW sites * Lowry exploits remembered in NC


Civil War Book News

Civil War Book News has been updated halfway through April 2005 with more to come.
By the way, whew.
Lots of titles, especially with the small-run presses. Two things that struck me: (1) Rowan & Littlefield has jumped into ACW publishing with both feet. That's a major new force on the scene. (2) Random House is now diving into the more detailed, scholarly topics, witness Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine by Ira M. Rutkow. Is this a testing of the waters?
More observations later tonight - lots of interesting things happening in 2005 - if I can get myself mobilized after 8:00 pm.

Team of Rivals vs. First Among Equals

Isn't it funny that veteran Lincoln scholar Hans Trefousse got his First Among Equals out before Team of Rivals appeared? The publisher says,
Trefousse carefully crafts a clear picture of how his contemporaries measured Lincoln's great strengths - and shortcomings.
Would love to see the Cabinet material in First Among Equals. Might actually find an insight....

Military reform

Even the Washington Post's ahistorical, live-in-the-moment journalists are smelling the coffee :
"Imagine after the Battle of Fredericksburg, during the Civil War, if Jefferson Davis had sent Gen. Robert E. Lee a telegram saying: "You've been out there for a year now. Why don't you come back to Richmond?"
It may be hard to reform an army in war, but it has to be done.
NEWS | Civil War Museum may benefit from Washington bill * Kentucky's statue struggle stems from Civil War * Edgecombe County moves along on Civil War trail


Civil War Book News...

... is finally being updated. About 10 minutes after this post goes up, I should have Jan/Feb listings published. Am shooting for June to be competed by Sunday.

There was no intention to make this a once-a-year update, but my tech hurdles this year have been remarkable.

I am, once again, humbled and gratified by the quantity and quality of the revisionism in ACW publishing. When I started Book News in 1998, our prospects as advanced readers seemed hopeless, the Centennial grip on the field being heavy and encompassing. The taste for nonsense was ovewhelming and publishers were hell-bent on seeking the lowest level of readership possible.

We have so much to be thankful for. I need to write about that in specific terms - and I will in the weeks ahead.

This has been a great year. Go to a bookstore and take advantage of it.

Enter Tor, but where's Loki?

One of the interesting side-effects of the success of the Gingrich-Forstchen alternative histories of Gettysburg – Forstchen being an established, successful fantasy author – is the venture of sci-fi/fantasy powerhouse trade marque Tor Books into Civil War nonfiction. Witness: Whip the Rebellion: Ulysses S. Grant's Rise To Command by George Walsh, published by Tor.

My hair-trigger judgement dumps this effort into the Centennialist minden heap, with one bit worth noting - author Walsh is a product/creation of ACW fiction, specifically Killer Angels. (See here for details.) He may have writings especially tasty to pulp fiction readers.

(Harry Turtledove’s successful series of Civil War fantasies may also have influenced this development.)

I think the Centennial interpretation of ACW history is very congenial to straight-ahead sci-fi of the Edgar Rice Burroughs type. This has to do with stylistic bias.

Scifi tends to be overwhelmingly conservative stylistically and culturally - favoring the most obvious forms of storytelling ... as is the case in all genre fiction. The principal work of the Centennialists has been to convert wild and wooly controversies - in their thousands - into a manageable mini-sets of predictable story elements.

I have long thought that ACW authors like William Davis – a Centennial stalwart - borrow heavily from pulp fiction literary techniques, Burroughs being a giant in pulp fiction. It may be worth a post to explore the direct borrowings and correlate these to practicing nonfiction hacks.

Meanwhile, the ray of hope here is that sci-fi fans, despite their hidebound literary tastes, view themselves as adventurous renegades with a tolerance for “weird.”

So the prospect of a sci-fi trade house going into ACW nonfiction encourages in us a certain amount of optimism. I hope some of the ACW revisionist authors dissatisfied with University Press outcomes will test the waters with new Tor submissions.

Are sci-fi/fantasy readers worth having in ACW nonfiction? Reading Blogfonte tells me "Yes, definitely."

Let’s see how “far out” Tor and its base may be willing to go.
NEWS | No news today


Another McPherson student identified: Catherine Clinton

After a lifetime in teaching, you would expect a world-famous professor - generally thought to be God's gift to Civil War studies - to have a few high-profile students in his chosen field. So far, I believe we have identified just two McPherson students at play in our field, one, teaching at Princeton, the other the methodologically challenged author Tom Carhart.
Here's one more, Catharine Clinton, with the McPherson connection documented here.
That might explain Doris Kearns Goodwin's blurbing of Clinton's 2004 Tubman book. Goodwin's a McPherson friend and McPherson staked his presidency of the AHA to lash out at her plagiarism accusers.Given the tiny number of McPherson students thus far identified, one could reasonably say she seems to be his "star."
Clinton may not count as a Civil War historian per se, however. She comes out of McPherson's own background of race relations history and her biggest project, Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, is more of an American Studies item.
It also represents a small failure. The hardback did well enough for trade house Little, Brown to encourage issue of a paperback version this January. That paperback is now deeply discounted, from $14.95 list to $4.98 on B&N.
Clinton is prolific, but not in the Civil War genre. Notice (in the link) the number of gender studies deployed. I am not sure Dr. McPherson is at all cool with gender studies. His references to it, in interview after interview, are ambiguously neutral. Here, I think, he actually shows mild hostility:
There is increasing focus on fields like environmental history and women's history and social history and cliometrics, which is a sort of quantitative economic history with a specialized language. All of this makes what a lot of academic historians write either unintelligible or uninteresting to a broad lay audience. But it is what earns promotions, what earns tenure, what earns grants.
Maybe Clinton is compromised in McPherson's personal esteem. I'll have to check her tomes for McPherson blurbs to find out.
[Send in your famous McPhersonites, should you find any.]
NEWS | School House Ridge property acquired for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park * State funds sought for museum, White House of the Confederacy * Tale of Norwegians in the ACW slated for Chickamauga event


Better books

Ah, there's a mundane explanation for why the Pal Benko book is so good. I found this at Chess Cafe:
IM Jeremy Silman (the "Sil" in Siles Press) came to know and admire Benko in the 1990s, and conceived the notion of producing an ideal biography, one that would "demonstrate my own vision of how such a book should be presented." Incontrast to the common run of instant books and carelessly assembled rehashes, Silman's project took five years, and the results are impressive.
The book was intended as an example to chess presses in general. Meanwhile, Presidio Press seems to be getting into a similar game with The Civil War Experience 1861-1865.The book includes slip-covered document facsimiles and an audio tape. But $50 for a 64-page coffee-table book?
NEWS | National Park Service shows interest in Pemberton Civil War home * Civil War cyclorama to be restored  * Buffs clean up Fort D in MO


Publishing gambits

I stopped by Reston's Barnes & Noble to see if I could find Goodwin's new book Team of Rivals and her Lincoln quote "What's up?" – was it sourced or not?


I am close to buying her book just to run down the notes, a malicious pleasure I treat myself to once in a great while. But what's holding me back is what bothers Eric Wittenberg – financially rewarding someone who has badly mistreated another author and then cruelly failed to make amends. St. Martins Press now reissuing her unrevised and disgraced work - with all plagiarized material intact - to piggyback on the expected success of Team of Rivals - sets a new low for sleaziness in publishing.


To buy or not to buy? But I'm getting ahead of my story.


For what interests me is that B&N did not have a Team of Rivals display. There was a biographies shelf, hello Tab Hunter, no Goodwin here, and there was a "new biographies" table prominently featuring work by Alan Alda, no less. The Civil War and Lincoln sections did not have it.


I could not find Team of Rivals. Maybe it sold out.


In the games section my eye stopped on a book almost as thick as Team of Rivals. It was Pal Benko's 2004  autobiography.


Pal Benko is a second tier grandmaster, an Hungarian immigrant. From 1958 on, he was "the other child prodigy" whose career developed in the shadow of Bobby Fischer's. My father and I used to see him (and Fischer) at the Manhattan Chess Club in the late 1950s. I studied his games as a youth. The name evokes an intense nostalgia for me.


Chess publishing is small business compared to Civil War bookselling. I don't know a trade house or university press that will touch chess. The field belongs to tiny commercial publishers.


Benko's autobiography is gorgeous – as fine a vestige of the publishing tradition as one could ask for. Great paper and binding; a vast number of pages; liberal distribution of photos throughout; and excellent jacket and book design. And there it was, prominently displayed in a huge retail outlet. As it has been, presumably, for the last 18 months.With the in-store discount, it was available for under $39.


I had a flashback to a Civil War title purchased there last week. At about $35, it was sold shrink-wrapped to prevent me opening and skimming the contents. It sported naked cardboard  "hardcover" with a figleaf of cloth on the spine, cheap paper, skimpy index, and a great many necessary diagrams drawn smearily by the author himself with a broken-tipped felt marker. University imprint.


There is a lot more love and goodwill in chess publishing than in ACW publishing.


If the Goodwin affair teaches us how low this business can go, the Benko book gives our field a standard to imitate.


Sup, Lincoln?

McClellan Society member Harry Smeltzer notes that ...
I have to take issue with the criticism of her (Goodwin's) use of the term "What's up?" in her apparently created Lincoln dialogue.  I believe the term was in vogue at the time, and recall its use by Francis Donaldson of the 118th PA (I think) in his letters published as "Inside the Army of the Potomac".  Sometimes it's hard to believe that we did not create all the slang and cuss used today in the last 50 years.


Team of Rivals review roundup

Drudge is reporting today that Goodwin's Team of Rivals has passed 79,000 copies in sales. HNN is using the opportunity to remind us of her 2002 schweinerei and you really can't do better to inform yourself than read this by Philip Nobile.
I am having a great deal of difficulty finding reviews of her work by scholars and other informed readers; pop culture reviews are plentiful, though, so let's get to them.
Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette declares that "Goodwin takes no chances" - "Goodwin and company have little new to tell us and stick to the standard fare. Most of the familiar Lincoln stories are here -- from the suggestion from a young girl that he grow a beard to his attitude about Ulysses Grant's drinking." She does introduce this novelty, the reviewer says: "Goodwin describes the scene when an aide to Stanton visits Lincoln's office to ask a question: Lincoln greeted him. 'What's up?' Really? What's up with that?"
Invented dialog with a contemporary flavor: I love it. It calls to mind the title of an Arakansas paper's review: "Again with the Lincoln books!" ( subscription required).
The editor of Concord's Monitor is harsher. He says "In writing Team of Rivals she toiled under the burden of the controversy, and it shows." Pronouncing her "timid," he says "Goodwin not only loses the thread of her tale but also ignores the historian's greatest challenge: to bring fresh interpretation to the past. No historian or biographer should be satisfied merely to master the material well enough to recount events while leaving the interpretation to others. Yet this is precisely what Goodwin does."
This Bloomberg writer notes that this "is in many ways more a story of Goodwin than it is of Lincoln." However, "It is good to have her back," he purrs.
The Oregonian thinks that this is "one of the most compulsively readable books of history for a general audience to come along in a long time." It has a sharp eye out for troublemakers, too: "No doubt there will be those whose only interest in this book is playing "gotcha," looking for errors or for 'copying.' Here's hoping Goodwin's hundreds of endnote attributions are accurate and detailed enough to frustrate them..."
What's up? Myself, I like it when the wiseguys play gotcha with authors guilty of faking dialog and "copying" other authors. But I wouldn't expect a newspaper writer to feel that way.
James McPherson, who used his presidency of the AHA to attack Goodwin's plagiarism accusers in 2002, has stepped up to the plate to toss her a few rose petals in the New York Times, following a cruel review in those pages in October ( subscription required). This seems to be the third review of the book that paper has run, if you count this one.
The Cristian Science Monitor declares this "powerful" and "delicious" while trying to keep the author, and her moral stains, at arm's length. Having your cake and eating it is irresistible, I suppose.
On the other hand, Knight-Ridder news service manages to "review" the book without giving a single opinion. See for yourself!
Kentucky's Herald Leader thinks this is challenging reading, while asking "Was Honest Abe the Slick Willie of the 19th century?"
Doris Kearns Goodwin could give him slickness lessons.
NEWS | No news today


Southern sharpshooters

If I am reading this press release correctly, we have to revisit and rethink the AoNV's battles in light of the contributions made by Southern sharpshooting units.
Given the amount of attention devoted to the Union sharpshooters, I find it strange that this could be the first book on the topic in over 100 years.

It continues

Civil War Preservation Trust will hold a news conference on Friday to proudly announce how it "saved" the Daniel Lady Farm at Gettysburg by joining together with non-Civil War groups to buy an easement that places the farm off-limits to Civil War visitors.
NEWS | CWPT poll shows voter opposition to casino * Georgia Trust publishes imperiled list * Mobile to sponsor Civil War site study


Armistice Day

After the long months of intense strain, of keying themselves up to the daily mortal danger, of thinking always in terms of war and the enemy, the abrupt release from it all was physical and psychological agony. Some suffered a total nervous collapse. Some, of a steadier temperament, began to hope they would someday return to home and the embrace of loved ones. Some could think only of the crude little crosses that marked the graves of their comrades. Some fell into an exhausted sleep. All were bewildered by the sudden meaninglessness of their existence as soldiers - and through their teeming memories paraded that swiftly moving cavalcade of Cantigny, Soissons, St. Mihiel, the Meuse-Argonne and Sedan. What was to come next? They did not know - and hardly cared. Their minds were numbed by the shock of peace. The past consumed their whole consciousness. The present did not exist-and the future was inconceivable."

- Colonel Thomas Gowenlock, Fist Division (U.S.)


Give us the casino

We cannot deal with the arguments for a Gettysburg casino if they are completely, utterly, even shockingly ahistorical. We can't. Read this:
This is one more opportunity to develop something else that gives people a reason to come to Gettysburg and have a different kind of experience.
Different from history. Again:
This town folds up in the winter. This might bring in money. There're going to be casinos in Pennsylvania. Why not here?
Why not indeed? The question bypasses history to ask: aside from historical considerations, honoring the dead, reverencing a special place, why not multipurpose?

And guess what: the state and federal administrators of battlefields - multipurposing fanatics, every one - should be helpless before this question. Their operating principles have made the casino scenario normal and ethical. They have disarmed the truly preservation-minded for decades. The only logical grounds a state or federal parks administrator can have for objecting to a redlight district, casino, or animal rendering plant at Gettysburg is that of a social calculation: attendance levels and "appropriateness".

Likewise, Civil War Preservation Trust seems confused in condemning the casino, being more than happy to multipurpose battlefields by partnering with suchlike as wildlife groups and farmland preservation outfits to buy an easement on the cheap instead of own the land, an easement that keeps people off the land and out of history's way. CWPT has done so much to hybridize battlefield use that it seems weird they would suddenly get single-purpose religion in Gettysburg. Not that there is a lot of religion in that town:
Gettysburg Borough Council President Ted Streeter said he was neutral on the dispute, but he neatly summed up the concern that everyone shares, regardless of their point of view.

Noting that the casino would be outside the boundaries of the battlefield, he said: "How far does the radius of `hallowed ground' extend? If the radius extends that far, it goes through Wal-Mart, Sheetz and the liquor store. Where was our outrage when those started?"
Outrage. I know where mine is every time bird-watchers are invited to join CWPT in slapping restrictive covenants on hallowed ground to keep out the relatives of the fallen. The history minded. The reverent. Out. Rage.

We have set ourselves up for a casino by donating to such as CWPT and applauding their allocation of our funds to multipurposing; we delight in the takeover of private battlefield land by public park administrations for multipurposing.

A casino at Gettysburg is what exactly what we deserve. Not what the dead deserve, no, but what we have earned for them - the most perfect paycheck for our corrupt and incompetent battlefield stewardship. The destruction continues, fueled by our misguided preservation dollars, by ill-conceived preservationist planning, and by that highest of public use principles, multipurposing.

This particular park when founded was an emblem of a certain generation. The casino shall be the emblem of our generation. We will be known for what we really were, not by the lofty names we "preservationists" called ourselves.

[This Bloomberg columnist disagrees and has a few kinder words for CWPT's Gettysburg posture.]

What their friendship was worth

Apparently just 15 cents.

"Mister, can you break a 15-cent bill?"

"Sorry son, I don't normally carry that much money around."

Historiography is apparently like dropped coffee, splashing all sorts of surfaces in every direction. This bill was canceled for the best of historiographic reasons: its subjects weren't history yet.
NEWS | Pennsy Civil War Trails open for business * Historian: Civil War sub may be found * Logan Highway signs unveiled


Anybody seen Hagerman around here?

I don't know what he's up to but I miss him.

Back in the day when McPherson revived the Centennial interpretation of the ACW, when Sears developed vaudeville characters to broaden sales and garner acclaim, Edward Hagerman "got" the Civil War - at least the military science part of it.

So it seemed to me while ingesting reams of pop culture on my mass transit daily reading back then.

Hagerman laid it out in a 1988 tome, The American Civil War and the Origin of Modern Warfare. I don't want to slight the neat things happening in publishing right now - I want to tell you about some of them this week - but let me indulge my nostalgia for Hagerman just now. Here's a taste:

EH: McClellan, ironically, was dismissed for inactivity ... while leading over 100,000 men in one of the most impressive strategic movements of the war.

DR: McClellan's second Richmond campaign not only has a clever underlying idea - separate the pieces of Lee's army by plugging the gaps in the Shenandoah range - it has good execution with a launch date (as Rafuse points out) keyed to the height of the Potomac waters. Once McClellan starts, Lee - lacking bridging - cannot get behind him, nor can he stop McClellan from isolating Jackson west of the mountains while the AoP bears down on Longstreet who is meandering between the mountains and Richmond. There are accounts of Longstreet, isolated, being shelled as the relief letter is delivered to McClellan - the pitch-perfect anticlimax to Richmond II. Surprising to see people as independent and capable as Jones and Hattaway rotely repeating Lincoln's strategic stuffandpuff about the arc of the chord being the road to Richmond - call that as-the-crow flies strategy. Hagerman got it right, though.

EH: McClellan was the first Union field commander of a mass army to filter this heritage of organizational theory and doctrine through the "fog" of mid-nineteenth century transition from traditional to modern warfare. He was the first to feel the friction of mass armies, industrial technology, and the restructuring of American institutional and intellectual culture complicated by political and geographical factors.

DR: GBM was uniquely qualified for this. As a student of European (especially Russian) military doctrines, as a visitor to the battlefields where European doctrines were applied, McClellan was also an outstanding pupil of military theorist D.H. Mahan; and he was a railroad innovator who developed the country's first transmodal railroad shipping system (between Chicago and New Orleans). As for political and intellectual complications, his whole family deserted the Whigs en masse during the party's radicalization.

There is (sadly) no deep organizational/doctrinal study of the Civil War; these kinds of books tend to be shallow or theoretically underdeveloped and run off the rails into applied tactics at the first opportunity. Hagerman could have done it right but his space is limited and his concerns are much broader.

EH: Yet one must also take into account the internal consistency of his military logic. [...] The failure of others in similar or more favorable circumstances tends to support McClellan's military if not his political judgement. [...] Moving with smaller armies than McClellan, Lee was unable to sustain maneuver or maintain his army in the field, or destroy an army following a tactical victory. [...] The course of early campaigning reinforced what McClellan ... had anticipated from the beginning: maneuver was an organizational monster.

DR: Moving on from Mac...

EH: Lee at least partially overcame the problem of the increased number of wagons needed to forage when he anticipated the organization for foraging that Sherman would develop ... [Lee rejected Longstreet's suggestion at Gettysburg because] the risks of maneuver led Lee to seek what he had come to reject: tactical victory by frontal assault.

If Buell refused to attack him within a very few days, Bragg had no alternative but to seek subsistence. Coming within range of the Confederate Army, Buell entrenched. He refused to rise to Bragg's bait ... His [Buell's] 110-mile march from Nashville had taken only fourteen days, a fairly impressive average of eight miles a day for so large an army foraging with such limite transportation ... Buell was learning the logistical art of extending limited field transportation through the combination of widespread foraging and rapid movement.

[Rosecrans began Tullahoma] with an extraordinary standard that may have exceeded sixty-nine or seventy wagons per 1,000 men. Rosecrans also moved 45,000 animals, the highest proportion of animals to men of any campaign in the war. [...] Rosecrans' success and the speed of his movement make a case for the virtues of careful preparation and an abnormal transportation standard ... Rosecrans' speed of movement was remarkable, considering that he had to cope with torrential rains... This rate exceeds Sherman's average of between 12 and 15 miles per day in his raid to Savannah...

The priority Grant accorded entrenching equipment in the Union supply trains reflected the increased respect for hasty entrenchment... In preparation for the 1864 campaign, Grant ordered one-half the wagons carrying entrenching tools placed at the head of the supply column of the leading division of each corps.

Good stuff. Break's over, Mr. Hagerman, get back to work.