History will sneak up on you

A visiting nurse was at the home of a 93-year old mid-Maryland patient this weekend. In making conversation, the nurse noticed an old photograph; it was a shot of the patient's great grandparents just after the Civil War. This patient knew the number of the slave auction block in which they had been sold. The dress in the photo was still in the attic, in great shape, along with other artifacts. The nurse urged the 93-year old to contact the local history society.

After the visit, the nurse contacted the local society herself and got a commitment that they would visit this elderly lady. "I feel really good about this," the nurse told me.

Are you prepared for a history emergency?

Andersonville, the novel

Plume has reissued the novel Andersonville:
In 1955, when MacKinlay Kantor's Andersonville first came out, a reviewer for the Sun-Times called it "A great book, perhaps the greatest of all Civil War novels."

This appreciation is a piece worth reading.

Lincoln as plot device

The stream of novels driven by Lincoln-related plot devices continues. Make way for Busted Flush:
When he takes the plates to the local university, they find several rare exposures of Abraham Lincoln at the actual ceremony where he delivered the Gettysburg Address. But wait, there's more: a machine, a primitive precursor to Edison's phonograph, called a phonautograph. And after fashioning a makeshift stylus, the university's top historian discovers nothing less than a reedy, scratchy audio recording of what must be the voice of old Abe himself, actually delivering the address.

Suddenly, all sorts of lying folk, from journalists, to sleazy lawyers to speculating collectors, are crawling out of the woodwork, all claiming ownership of the priceless material or at least knowledge of what should be done with it.

NEWS | Illinois Museum holds Civil War symposium * Cake bake sponsors mansion imporvements * Missouri museum seeks loan of ACW items


Savas Beatie has released its third newsletter

Have a look.

A model preservation group?

The Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association looks like a safe and sane group, if this article is reliable:

* Acquiring battlefield land through direct, unencumbered ownership (no easement nonsense, no federal or state money, no partnership with farmland or nature conservancies who have their own agendas).
* Incrementing land purchases opportunistically (adding mansions, cemeteries and incidental land to core battlefield holdings).
* Funding rehabilitation work out of operational budgets (scaling the work to match the budget).
* Using member labor to perform needed work (building teamwork and friendships).
* Focus, focus, focus.

"Who knows where we will be in five to 10 years? We never know. The way things are going, this thing might come along quicker than that. A grant or another donation could come along and speed the process up."

You'll be doing fine, I think.

(Shame about the website, though.)
NEWS | Relic hunting on the increase * Mass. town moves ACW monument * Park plans for Manassas roads disputed


Australia is interested in The Historian's Conscience

This is almost beyond the American imagination:
... as the editor of The Historian's Conscience, Macintyre has invited 13 of his Australian colleagues to explain how they deal with the ethical issues arising from their work.
Ethical issues = treatment of evidence.

This is so out of the blue for American readers that when you Google "historian and ethics" you get results about historians and gratuities, historians and how they should behave institutionally, historians and plagiarism. The simple matter of standards for the ethical treatment of historical data seems to be one of those socially awkward topics that remains forever off limits in public discussion.

The American Civil War edition of of The Historian's Conscience would require black ink on black paper. And maginifying glasses. And maybe an odor detector. Not to mention rubber gloves.

File under "Dead Horse, beating of."

Get it to master the discipline

... not because a PhD will give you a living:
Openings for history faculty at the instructor and assistant professor level fell from 727 positions advertised in 2002–03 to 682 in 2003–04, the lowest point in the past five years. Most worrisome are the declines in fields with the most PhDs—North American and European history. Job openings in European history fell 18.5 percent from the year before, to 150 openings—the lowest level since the 1997–98 academic year. Openings for junior faculty in the history of North America decreased by 8.5 percent to 236 positions—again a five-year low.
And remember: there's always HAI.

Joe Brown High School?

Students at Creekland Middle School in Georgia are protesting naming a high school for Joseph E. Brown, a Confederate governor. Subscription required.

Relatives turn editor

Here's a story about another relative-turned-editor of Civil War manuscripts. His ancestor's journal records the soldier's own (slow) death.

The secrets of Fort Higley

One of Knoxville's remaining works, it's on private property. Here's a nice status report.
NEWS | Government could soon buy private Civil War collection * Civil War battle site up for sale on eBay * Confederate group, blacks to clean freeman cemetery


Jackson as teacher

I was reminded of Stonewall's teaching career by this remiscence of Frank Vandiver.
"Jackson," Frank said, "was probably the worst teacher who ever lived." The cadets in Jackson's classes at the institute hated and ridiculed him. Frank said they hurled erasers at Jackson when his back was turned and also gave him a nickname: Tom Fool Jackson.

He was due a career change.

Warning: Mozier at work

It's been awhile, but after founding the McClellan Society, I used to get these perfectly charming and guileless letters thanking me for the wonderful information, etc., and suggesting I might be interested in checking out this or that interesting author named Catton or Williams or Nevins who happened to have a different take on the general - as if the Society were formed in perfect ignorance of McClellan criticism.

I thought of that, and laughed out loud, reading an end note in John Mozier's Blitzkrieg Myth last night. He had been getting letters about an earlier book - also with "myth" in the title - which some readers innocently failed to recognize as revisionist:
"I thought I had made it clear that I didn't feel these were factors of any great importance. Perhaps that portion of my preface should have been printed in larger type..."
Mozier has this cathartic habit of arguing with the public, his readers, and pop historians in his notes:
The whole issue of numbers is treated with great coyness by historians - for obvious reasons.
Nowhere moreso than in Civil War history, I would add.
A harsh although not overly harsh judgement.
Here is reassuring a reader about his own comments on a certain general.
... the silence on the subject is suggestive.
Rather like the whole body of Civil War history. Vast, uncountable pages of silence that scream "intentional omission."
A complex and still little known matter.
Worth many suggestive silences no doubt; silence is how complexity is managed on our side of the non-fiction fence.
Readers whose most recent knowledge of D-Day comes from popular films may find this surprising, but it is true nonetheless.
Another laugh. Attention fans of Turner and Burns.

And finally, here is the Civil War predicament in a nutshell:
As is often the case in military history, when the facts conflict with national interests or personality cults, the response ... has simply been to ignore the evidence presented - the main reason why so much historical controversy is specious.
Almost the entire field of Civil War history has been and is specious. So you WWII history reformers have company.
NEWS New Civil War play debuts in Nashville * "Uncle Tom" Henson's cabin opens to visitors in Canada * Swords stolen at Gettysburg


Those irritating Civil War business books

If there's any worse reading than a self-help book, it's a business book. And what is a business book other than an especially cloying subgenre of self-help?

Charles R. Bowery Jr. has a very nice publicity apparatus representing him as author (Lance Vargas of paitronsaintpr.com). Unfortunately, Mr. Vargas alerted me to Maj. Bowery's new Civil War business book, LEE & GRANT: Profiles in Leadership from the Battlefields of Virginia.

If I read a bad Civil War book, I suffer deep annoyance:

McClellan, Pope, and Hooker were inflexible to a fault; as professional soldiers ... They went beyond disagreement with Lincoln into open and acrimonious arguments that were inappropriate for all concerned.
They had acrimonious arguments with Lincoln? You've given me a sense of your ability to accurately generalize. Not a good sense.

If it's an ACW business book, there's a business layer to add to the noise:

Using your authority in an autocratic way, a "my way or the highway" approach, might be within your prerogative but would do more harm than good in the long run.
Not quite. As we used to say at the Infantry School, that depends on the situation. And there are, after all, fortifications that need to be charged.

I wonder about the worldview of people who can take simple observations, develop them into ironclad paradigms and then try to apply them to a series of straw-man business constructs. The business book writer seems like a child who has learned One Great Thing in school today and is running around the house teaching everyone. Go back to school. Get some context and perspective. Respect your audience a little.

In Civil War publishing, the pattern is eternal. A reader absorbs a single view of events and makes himself champion of that view. Maj. Bowery's publisher well understands this:

Christina M. Parisi, an editor at Amacom, said most Civil War books tend to praise one general and vilify the other. Bowery's book, however, "offers a truly unique look at the two men, focusing on the face-off between the generals in their most important series of battles and giving an honest appraisal of their leadership abilities.

That's a naive view of the book's merits, but the observation of Civil War authors praising one general and vilifying the other is perfect. It is Symptom A that someone has run to the market with first impressions, regardless of how much reading followed that impression.

I once heard a newspaper editor say that her paper avoided ACW book reviews because reviewers, who tend to be buffs, simplistically praise one general and vilify the other.

The whole upside-downess of ACW literature is captured in Civil War business books when bad history is combined with bad business. We as readers are a major part of the problem; the Civil War writer starts as a reader and often starts wrong. Here's a new writer with advice that illustrates our topsy-turvy tendencies:
"The hardest thing about historical fiction is that you have to be accountable for historical detail," Barkley said. "When I let a Civil War buff read my manuscript before it was published, I learned that the description of a uniform button was inaccurate. A tiny detail like that can ruin a book’s authenticity."
This followed an admission that:
Barkley based the characteristics and personalities of the [Civil War novel's] brothers on his real life brother, Travis, and four of his college friends. Some of the commanding generals and officers in his second and third books may be reminiscent of his own law professors at Campbell...
You're writing about a button. Okay. Maybe it's a plot device. But then you populate your world with 21st Century personalities. You've got something there, but it's something I'm not buying.

Can a business ACW book be half good? Can the ACW part be sound and the biz part not? Vice versa? Or are the insights that make one half sound preventative of the other part being bad?

Let me know if you ever find a half-good or all-good ACW business book.

The evolution of publishing technology

In 1998, when I started Civil War Book News, the only options for an author with low interest in a manuscript were self-publishing or subsidy publishing. White Mane is one subsidy outlet that has brought out a number of interesting titles; I believe Stackpole, at that time, was also open to author subsidies.

These are rocky roads but not dead ends. Edward Bonekemper self-published (or subsidy published) How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War in 1997, and seven years later scored a major hit with A Victor, Not a Butcher, brought out by the small trade press Regnery. There were no books in between, as far as I know.

In about 2000, a number of new dotcom publishers, like Xlibris, began issuing Civil War titles. They were leveraging 10-15 year old print-on-demand technology to lower the costs of self-publishing, the authors still bearing all of the financial burden. Authors could now have a print run of as low as 10 copies and respond to demand with short runs.

They put a twist on the business model practiced by ancient vanity houses like Vantage. Vantage used to do a full press run (2,000 plus hardbacks), a small publicity campaign, reviewer mailouts with press releases, and it would attempt distribution through normal channels. In sum, it acted like a trade publisher based on the author's budget.

Thus, companies like Xlibris conformed more to a manufacturing model (cheap book printing) as to a vanity publishing system; they simply printed the book at the author's expense (with its profits built into even small runs) and made it available through an electronic bookstore, doing less than a Vantage. The author was the salesman and distributor.

The next generation of publishing hybrids seems to have arrived. I see that Publish America is using the short-run technology to function without taking author subsidies. Their proud claim is "We treat our authors the old fashioned way - we pay them." This youth has published a Civil War novel through Publish America.

I'll be watching for more micropublishers like this in 2005.

Manuscripts, locals, regrets

It pains me to see stories about authentic Civil War manuscripts not under contract to editors or publishers. Usually some reporter has stumbled across a family's holding and writes a piece on it. Here's a new story about the writings of an ANV enlisted man.

Every privately held manuscript deserves at least a pamphlet from the local history society.
NEWS | Missouri society fights to preserve fortat St. Joseph * Missourians rally around "Fort D" * Allentown suburb to restore ACW cannons


Goodwin on Lincoln

Disgraced Harvard Professor Doris Kearns Goodwin was on the Don Imus radio show this morning.

In between reminiscences about her show business career (anecdotes from her first appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show; multiple appearances on Letterman; her first appearance on Imus in the Morning), Goodwin spilled a few beans about her upcoming Lincoln book.

(1) It has been seven years in the making. (2) It is due for publication in October. (3) She still has to write the last chapter.

How to interpret these items?

(1) Steven Spielberg bought movie rights to a pig in a poke; there was nowhere near enough content available years ago, when he purchased the rights, to determine whether a good movie could be made from Goodwin's book proposal. He bought a "hot author."

(2) If the book will be released in October and the last chapter is unwritten, the publisher is going to have to "fast track" this - usually press scheduling involves at least a year of lead time. This is not a happy publisher.

(3) If the last chapter is delayed, does this mean she is writing her own books now? Has the plagiarism scandal dried up the well of helpers, assistants, dragooned grad students, etc?

And finally, are the writing delays the result of Goodwin's personal and financial troubles or was the book's subject redirected by the uproar following early disclosure of an unflattering view of Lincoln?

For my part, I would have difficulty believing that a woman who flatters Don Imus would begrudge Abraham Lincoln his due.

On the matter of Lincoln-as-gay-man, Goodwin said that there is no way we can tell what was going on in Lincoln's bed 200 years ago (200 years ago!) but that affectionate letters and shared bunks cannot be taken as definitive. She was well prepared on that, quoting weirdly affectionate letters between Chase and Stanton and between Seward and an unidentified New York politico.

Goodwin gave no hint of what would be different or worthwhile about her tome. It seems to me to be a 200th anniversary play, tying Lincoln's birth commemorative to a sales event, something like the "books" created by James McPherson for the 140th anniversary of Antietam and Gettysburg.

Which would explain why she has "200" on her mind.
NEWS | Glorieta roads under discussion * New Bern Board of Aldermen to approve sponsorship of battlefield land grant applications * Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation reviews year's successes


Preservation in reverse

Near Williamsburg, a property owner/developer is deeding two Confederate redoubts on its land to the public for a Civil War park.
The remaining question is who will manage the park - and whether the park can adequately tell the story. The Williamsburg Battlefield Trust, formed shortly before Riverside's acquisition, is struggling for a foothold in the face of John Quarstein, the theatrical Civil War expert and director of the Virginia War Museum.
This quote is from a Battlefield Trust member:
"He has a redoubt fetish," said Tom McMahon [about Quarstein], president of the trust. "The land in between the two redoubts has essentially no intrinsic value to Civil War history. There was no fighting there. There were no men killed. It was quite boring."
Do we need ACW preservation organizations for non-battlefield sites? Read the whole piece.

Garfield: one of ACW's greatest generals?

Assuming this reporter heard his ears correctly, he got quite a history lesson:

Clinton paused in front of a marble statue of James Garfield, launching into a lecture about the 19th century president's life. Garfield was one of the greatest Civil War generals, Clinton said, adding that it was a "great tragedy" that his presidency was cut short. Garfield was gunned down a little more than a year after he took office and died about two months later.
I remember Garfield as being Stanton's plant on Rosecrans's staff and his job being to snitch on Rosie until enough "book" was built to fire that general. As for other greatness, Garfield's only independent battle deployed six regiments at Jenny's Creek, Kentucky. A famous victory?

He was gunned down in July 1881, within a year of his election, after taking office in March (not "a little more than a year after he took office").

If this "lecture" is accurately presented, at least the name Garfield was correct.

Close enough for pop history.
NEWS | SC prepares to re-enact River's Bridge * Preservationist says Wheeler home could lure millions of dollars * New adaptation of "Red Badge of Courage" offers a timely look at war


They hear but do not heed

Hey! The Civil War News understands Tim Reese's High-Water Mark:

Traditionally, Crampton’s Gap had been viewed as a minor engagement leading up to the major battle, Antietam. Author Reese revises this viewpoint in the way that Copernicus overthrew Ptolemy’s perception of the universe. In the past, Antietam was the sun and the minor planet, Crampton’s Gap, revolved around it. Reese’s revisionist idea is that Crampton’s Gap is the sun and that Antietam is a satellite (although admittedly a large one) that revolves around the central star.

Pleasant surprise. But what's with the phlegmatic stance towards the core idea?

If High-Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective seems slight or diffuse to you, dear reviewer, repair immediately to Reese's immense Sealed With Their Lives, The Battle for Crampton's Gap, Burkittsville, Maryland, September 14, 1862.

Lazy reviewers are a given, but a lazy reviewer with insight is a shame.

Does your library or study have Holavision?

The "Ghosts of the [Lincoln] Library" Holavision theater show is auditioning actors in Springfield.

"Ghosts of the Library" - expected to be one of the museum's main buzz generators - offers a behind-the-scenes look at historical research and its importance.
You don't say?

A phantom Lincoln appears onstage next to a live actor during the show.
All my own research is done with phantom assistants.

Special effects, such as vibrating seats, cannon smoke, artistic backdrops, digital projection technology and screens surrounding half the theater, will help tell the story.
I think I can vibrate my own seat a little, and for cannon smoke I can make pipe smoke. Does that get me into the historical research ballpark?

I guess I'll have to attend the show to find out.
NEWS | Ringgold Gap Battlefield gets buffer zone * Reed's Bridge seen as major draw in Arkansas * Mass. town tries to identify last ACW vet to die


The balloon franchise

The Civil War history plaza is filled with happy, smiling vendors of inflatable balloon toys. Collectors of Civil War information can fill their arms with these to a point where it becomes difficult to see over or through them, much less collect actual information.

I dread talking about the Civil War with strangers because I expect them to begin handing me for inspection and approval their various beautiful balloons, as if these inflates were history lessons.

Remember, for a moment, this documented (non-inflatable) history. Savor the dialogue:

Secretary of War: "Your petulance, characteristic egotism, and recklessness of accusation have imposed on me the task of unveiling some of your deformities. Your military fame has been clouded by groveling vices and your career marked by carelessness, insubordination, greed of lucre, and want of truth."

General commanding: "Your new letter is a new example of chicanery. My silence under the new provocation has been the result first of pity and next of forgetfulness. Compassion is always due to an enraged imbecile who raves about him in blows which hurt only himself and who at the worst seeks to stifle his opponent by dint of naughty words."

How do you like those civil/military relations? The astute reader immediately recognized Jefferson Davis exchanging compliments with Winfield Scott during the Pierce administration.

Publicly and privately expressed feelings of this sort do not impinge on the balloon trade, however, for when the Civil War came, "Scott refused to fight against the United States flag under which he had served for more than fifty years." He did not leap at the chance to betray his oath and work closely with Davis; what a fine sacrifice of self interest. The pain he must have suffered separated from Davis during the long years of war that followed...

Scott "stayed loyal to the United States" and, might one add, to New York City, his home of many decades, and to his New York friends, and to long-time political backers Seward and Conkling; how utterly selfless this man was.

"A Virginian whose services and prestige the South hoped to attach to its cause, Scott remained loyal to the Union," with hardly a thought about earlier "Failing to inherit the family wealth through legal technicalities" when younger. He left everything, which was absolutely nothing, behind: extraordinary. Unique.

"Scott remained loyal to the U.S.--though a Virginian by birth--when the Civil War began," and thus he remained loyal to the successors of the Whig Party which he once headed; and loyal to the president who had given stump speeches during Scott's presidential race in 1852; and loyal to Lincoln's cabinet which included Scott's supporters from nine years ago. Quite a twist, quite the marvel, a man following the section to which his personal interests are tied.

Oh yes, no doubt Scott was loyal to the flag as well. That might actually be the colorful outer skin of this particular balloon.

Enjoy your toys, share your toys, but not with me please.

Re-enactors in the far future

As seen by cartoonist Tony Millionaire.
NEWS | Illinois history buffs piece together history of ACW monument * Arkansas school raises funds to restore classic plantation * Gettysburg visitors given access to cyclorama restoration * Fayetteville group broadens and deepens concept of ACW roundtable


The AHA tackles fraud and plagiarism

What if the American Historical Association had a panel on fraud and plagiarism but nobody came?

HNN was there, reporting. (Scroll down to Day 4.)

HNN opens Lincoln-as-gay news section

History News Network has opened a Lincoln-as-gay news section, although most of the entries appear to be low-grade reviews.

Most worthwhile is this blast from Philip Nobile, the co-author who withdrew from the project that became The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.

Nobile has developed into a kind of pop history nemesis - harpooning source abuser David McCullough and plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin, among others.

Goodwin's book on Lincoln, not yet released, is the basis of Spielberg's forthcoming Lincoln movie (starring "Darkman" Liam Neeson). It was also unpublished in 2001 when the Spielberg movie deal was announced and generated a lot of controversy, especially on rumors that "the so-called 'Great Emancipator' [w]as a manic depressive racist who nearly lost the American civil war."

This was preposterous in 2001 - the Goodwins of the world don't gore any academic oxen nor trample scholarly vinyards - and although we don't know what's in the film any more than we did in 2001, we can expect Nobile to be on the case:
Once the toast of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Goodwin now does plagiarism shtick with David Letterman.

Nobody believes that a former Harvard professor with a staff of paid assistants and all the time in the world was somehow flummoxed by a confusion of handwritten quotes and handwritten paraphrased notes.

Plagiarists, like gamblers, tend to be recidivist.

Parlor games and Lincoln's dog

Based on the publishing trends back then, we played a little parlor game in college. The object was to work "Nazi" (or bettter yet "Hitler"), "UFO," "dog," and "Lincoln" all into one book title. The idea was that you'd have a sure hit that covered all the bestselling bases.

The Animal Planet TV channel gets us halfway there with the story of Lincoln's dog "Fido."
Farley said the visitor's bureau is happy to support such projects because they boost tourism and give visitors greater incentive to lengthen their stays in Springfield.
"Mommy, can we stay another day to visit all of Fido's favorite spots?"
Longer visits "help create more shopping, more business and therefore help the economy," Farley said.
We get it.
NEWS | Foundation offers Iowa Battle Flag Preservation lab tours * Sharpsburg inn attracts history-minded clientele * Alabama celebrates King and Lee


Cavalry doctrine intrigues

Have been re-reading The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession, the parts about the cavalry doctrine struggles between McClellan, Johnston and Davis. To summarize (crudely):
  • Johnston and McClellan wanted a system and doctrine for cavalry; they naturally supposed their seniors, suchlike as Sumner and Harney, would oppose any such or screw it up.
  • McClellan fixed on the solution of a U.S. Cavalry Board to set doctrine, training, and tactics. He thought the SecWar could appoint progressive thinkers, bypassing the senior men.
  • Davis, as Secretary of War was board-averse and had already tried to replace the existing board system (and failed).
  • Johnston, reading Davis's personality, lobbied McClellan to draft training and doctrine documents and to submit them directly to Davis for issue by fiat without use of a board.
  • [McClellan in my view, would have regarded this as dangerous for the long-term development of the branch.]
  • McClellan, persisting in writing to Davis about the good of a Cavalry Board was called to a private meeting with Davis - this meeting triggered his resignation from the army submitted a day later.
  • Before leaving service, McClellan developed and submits his collection of cavalry recommendations and proposals. Thus, he ends up following Johnston's advice too late to help himself. Some of his recommendations were adopted.
  • [As general-in-chief and commander of the Army of the Potomac, McClellan settled for half a loaf - a chief of cavalry and artillery (branch chiefs).]
There is quite a good, long book in these pre-war cavalry intrigues. But where are the historians? Off writing about the slow-developing Union cavalry doctrine, about GBM's lack of cav savvy, and about McClellan leaving the Army out of boredom or some such to take a railroad job.
NEWS | Chickamauga restaurant honors Civil War history * Water testing slated to develop housing on battlefield * NC County shows off its Civil War history


Help us, Rowena Reed

How I miss the late queen historian of Combined Operations in the Civil War.
Of the men in the Federal high command, professional and civilian, during the first two years of the war only General McClellan envisioned the use of combined operations as the foundation of a comprehensive plan to paralyze the south from within.
Under his [Halleck's] disingenuous leadership, operations in the west were misdirected and fragmentary, and his refusal to cooperate with the Navy prolonged the war for at least a year.
Although Halleck's replacement [by Grant] in March 1864 seemed to promise a revival of combined operations in the final campaigns, Grant's preferred plan, which had the same object as McClellan's, was never carried out. Government interference with military movements - a pernicious and intractable feature of Civil War operations - and Halleck's still-pervasive influence as Army chief of staff - dictated a continuation of costly, unnecessary, and unproductive land-based offensives.
Because the Confederacy was defeated not by a highly mobile and flexible water-based strategy, but instead by a massive plodding territorial invasion, the experience and techniques developed by Union forces during the Civil War were quickly discarded and virutally forgotten.
She died almost 20 years ago. We need her badly.
NEWS | News break today.


Anatomy of a public history project

Frederick, Maryland, is getting back to its roots with a Founder's Day program. It will be a day to celebrate history.

Scratch that. Make it a day for visiting tourists to celebrate history by consuming local goods and services. Mayor Jennifer Daugherty notes,
For example, the city of Williamsburg in Virginia has an entire economy based upon its history... In 2001 alone, the city brought in about $377,000,000 in tourism, according to the Virginia Tourism Corp.
Oh, that kind of history. Go for it.

Ms. Dougherty is certain Frederick could also turn its history into a moneymaking industry.
Remember the local historians and what they were good for? You could ask them why the town was named Frederick, and why it has an aqueduct, and who built the structure leaning into McClellan's Alley, and why that porch over on that house was constructed that way, and whatever happened to that local Hanson fellow who became the first president of the U.S.A.; and they had answers. They wrote pamphlets. They gave tours and talks gratis. They connected you to your surroundings, all of it, high and low, public and private.

Now we have top-down chamber of commerce stuff:
Founders Day may be a once-a-year event or could recur each weekend, Ms. Dougherty said. She believes it would tie in well with the First Saturday Gallery Walks that Frederick currently hosts. People could come downtown, shop, take time out to watch the [historic] play and then grab dinner before heading home.
To some people, that's history.

(This link requires registration.)

Military history out the wazoo...

... as the entertainment industry discovers history and nonfiction readers.

Two military themed TV channels launched in the last 10 days, the Military History Channel and the Military Channel. "Both are targeting much the same audience with a similar programming mix, and are bankrolled by two of the cable TV industry's biggest and most successful players."

I hope this has a more positive effect on Civil War history than the Ken Burns series, but I'm doubtful.

Hat tip to the reader who gave me this heads up.
NEWS | Irish heartthrob to play Abraham Lincoln in Spielberg flick * Forgotten freedmen get their due * New take on Civil War in Kinston * Cartoonist Nast remembered


CWPT and the Tricord deal - the endgame

Unanswered questions
Before Christmas, Civil War Preservation Trust tapped its members for funds to help it fulfill all of its Tricord deal obligations vis a vis the Chancellorsville Battlefield land purchase. This blog began analyzing relevant deal news in October.
* Why did CWPT wait until the completion of the deal – in December - to appeal
for money?

* Why did it not prepare a contingency fund with borrowed cash, a special appeal, liquidation of assets, or some combination thereof?

* Why is CWPT tapping members only with no general appeal to non-members?

* Why is a (non-profit) organization with $16+ million in assets and $1million - $2 million in annual dues (never mind special contributions) unable to close the sale first and then fund the liability later?

* Why does the funding appeal contain no deadline (Central Virginia Battlefields Trust says the deadline is March 31)?

* What happens if the deadline is missed?

* What is the status of the land sale - and land - right now?
Basic, basic stuff which your professional staff should have a grip on.

ABC of fundraising letters
Have you read the CWPT letter? Read it now. I was shocked by the US/WE versus YOU tone of it. US/WE refers throughout to the paid staff of the CWPT and WE/YOU to the members. All the credit for past victories accrued to US/WE. Might the staff not be members too? Might they not identify with members even a little bit?

Let's review CWPT's member letter appeal in light of the basic elements required of a fundraising message:

BASICS: "If you are writing to previous donors, be sure to thank them first before you ask for more money."
CWPT: [Seems to have forgotten this bit.]

BASICS: " Also, lose the hype. Don't exaggerate or over-extend yourself"
CWPT: "Our future is in the balance today. … the eyes of the world are upon us … the highest-profile challenge we have ever taken on … Nothing we have ever done to date compares to this. Nothing… if we fail, we will lose - perhaps forever - key credibility in the eyes of the world…"

BASICS: "Nothing will destroy your credibility faster than sounding like a used-car salesperson when raising funds for a good cause."
CWPT: "You read that right; this offer is not just for those 'heavy hitters' among us; everyone who gives $50 or more to this appeal will have his or her name included on this commemorative marker … Those who can give a higher donation will have their name listed in a progressively larger size; I think that's fair, don't you? … P.S. I may never be able to offer to put your name on a battlefield marker at this donation level ever again."

BASICS: "Appeal to readers' sense of urgency by providing a deadline."
CWPT: [Whoops.]

BASICS: "Writing successful fundraising letters isn't rocket science."
CWPT: [This nonprofit hires paid staff but not fundraising specialists.]

In sum
It would appear we have to wait for March 31 to check the CVBT website for news of what happened to CWPT's deal; CVBT has been the better source of information. Failing that, we will have CWPT's 2004 tax returns to review sometime after April 15. I look forward to going through the returns with you then.

Lincoln as speaker

This very interesting interview with author Ronald White contains a lot of surprises:
I was surprised again by how Lincoln was uncomfortable speaking extemporaneously. One of his friends even used the word "frightened." He often didn't do very well at it. On his trip from Springfield to Washington he apologized over and over again that he had misspoken or said something he shouldn't have.

He spoke a little more than 100 times as President and most of these were brief remarks and responses. He spoke very few times compared to any twentieth century or twenty-first century president.

In listening to Lincoln's speeches you can hear an evolution. The First Inaugural is an attempt of a lawyer to convince people by rational argument with an appeal to the Constitution. [...] At Gettysburg and in the Second Inaugural he moves to the dimension of persuasion that is rooted in a much deeper kind of emotive way of speaking.
Go see.
NEWS | Longstreet remembered in Gainesville * Restrictions on Confederate flag proposed * Re-enactors ready for big day


The art of military illustration

Ex-Smithsonian Tim Reese, whose battlefield diagrams and maps are peerless, has launched an "Art of War" project. Take a major eye candy break.

You know where to order the graphics for your next book, your family research (or for your den).

The Chancellorsville Battlefield appeal

You can read Civil War Preservation Trust's extended appeal for contributions here.

It appears that CWPT has left the door open to the possibility of failure - of letting their deal with Tricord collapse, which would forfeit battlefield land, if their members to not pledge enough money to meet CWPT's obligations.
But if for any reason we cannot fully pay for this land, those developers will pounce, and you can bet the prices on battlefield land will skyrocket even faster than they already are! Even worse, if we fail, we will lose - perhaps forever - key credibility in the eyes of the world. (I can only pray that I am saying this well enough for you to see what is at stake today.)
Sitting on over $16 million in assets, with over $1 million per year streaming in from dues income, I cannot understand why this group does not either liquidate assets or borrow money to secure this deal and this land.

We will look at this appeal tomorrow from the perspective of these and other open questions.

Library of Congress digitizes ACW maps

Here's the story. Here are the maps.

They finish digitizing their ACW collection in spring.

More on the 69th NY

The idea of New York City developing unit pride is more than a little strange. But here's another article showing evidence of same: "NOBODY 'COMES CLOSE' TO THE 69TH."

Tone it down, people.
NEWS Group wants to lower stars and bars over cemetery * Black daughter of Rebel celebrates birthday * Author Vandiver dies * McCormick Tribune Foundation awards $1 million to Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation


Bierce had a word for it

Ambrose Bierce was one of those lucky enough to have fought a long war as an infantryman - and to live to write about it afterwards. He would have made a fine military analyst:
Bragg always retired when we wanted to fight and fought when we most desired peace. [...] By the time that Rosecrans had got his three scattered corps together we were a long way from Chattanooga, with our line of communication with it so exposed that Bragg turned to seize it. Chickamauga was a fight for possession of a road.
Bierce started with Rosecrans in the East (under McClellan) and saw Rosecrans relieved in the West.

The bitterness of "Bitter Bierce" had its foundation in the War of the Rebellion, I think, and just for fun, I've selected a few ACW-themed definitions from his famous Devil's Dictionary. Put down those rose-colored glasses and have a Bierce break.

Abatis, n. Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside.

Barrack, n. A house in which soldiers enjoy a portion of that of which it is their business to deprive others.

Battle, n. A method of untying with the teeth of a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.

Gunpowder, n. An agency employed by civilized nations for the settlement of disputes which might become troublesome if left unadjusted.

Liberty, n. One of Imagination's most precious possessions.

Monument, n. A structure intended to commemorate something which either needs no commemoration or cannot be commemorated.

Non-combatant, n. A dead Quaker.

Offensive, adj. Generating disagreeable emotions or sensations, as the advance of an army against its enemy.

Opposition, n. In politics the party that prevents the Government from running amuck by hamstringing it.

Peace, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.

Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Projectile, n. The final arbiter in international disputes.

Rebel, n. A proponent of a new misrule who has failed to establish it.

Reveille, n. A signal to sleeping soldiers to dream of battlefields no more, but get up and have their blue noses counted.

Valor, n. A soldierly compound of vanity, duty and the gambler's hope.

War, n. A by-product of the arts of peace.

Yankee, n. In Europe, an American. In the Northern States of our Union, a New Englander. In the Southern States the word is unknown. (See DAMNYANK.)

NEWS | Re-enactment band will play at inauguration * Michigan museum explores ACW * Scout marks Virginia battlefield park


New book service

I received this letter recently:
I am the president of a non-profit that has created booksXYZ, an "open-platform" bookstore. Publishers may sell through us, or list their books with us for free, and link to them elsewhere. We currently have over 1.2 million titles, and it is our goal to be the one place to locate any book, anywhere.

Have a look.

Being nice to hacks - New Year's resolution?

I have a challenge for those readers who think I am too down on the history profession.

Let's take a proposition (and this is just a proposition): "Many American historians cannot distinguish good history from good journalism; further, they cannot distinguish good historical judgement from good political commentary."

Have a look at this page. It's dynamic, it updates constantly, but I have no worries that the non-historical judgements on parade at this moment will dominate the list tomorrow or next year.

Please scan the linked articles with this in mind: "Many historians cannot distinguish good history from good journalism; further, they cannot distinguish good historical judgement from good political commentary." See if you agree with that based on the list you see.

Yesterday, I was mulling the disgraceful AHA preparing for another ridiculous convention while I nursed a hurt arm. After a week of pain, I had reached the point of considering medical attention when it dawned on me...

What if the ratio of bad historians to good is a universal constant for all professions? What if the number of historians practicing history without a lick of history sensibility corresponds to the number of physicians attempting to heal without a smidgen of natural aptitude for their chosen field?

Is there a field to which only natural talent is attracted? Sports? Auto repair?

What if professional historians' performances received the scrutiny professional athletes received? What if we history readers were as persnickety and demanding as sports fans? The AHA would last two minutes in a case like that.

It pains me to type this but maybe I am too hard on the hacks.
NEWS | Ohio re-enactors to march in inaugural * Texas museum opens ACW exhibity * ACW poet Whittier compared to rap musician


Plagiarism: glorious, glorious plagiarism

Plagiarism articles put me in a festive mood and HNN has a year-end collection of such: oh joy.

Nothing helps the healing more than public scandal, and given the depth of corruption in the historians' profession, given the vast amount of bad history cranked out year after year, given the boxcars full of worthless prizes bestowed on miserable hacks, we readers can benefit greatly from the spotlight of truth occasionally sweeping over the sludgefield of commercial nonfiction.

But on to the goodies.

History Scandals: What Historians Think of the AHA's Policy [on Plagiarism] - This is actually a summary of three recent scandal books.

The Crisis in History: A Review of the Three Books Written About the Scandals - disappointingly bland recap, sorry to say.

What Ron Robin Says in His Book - "Robin argues, latter-day scandals are media events..."

What Jon Wiener Says in His New Book - "Historians targeted by powerful outside groups can face intense media scrutiny and severe sanctions for transgressions, while historians connected to powerful outside groups can be shielded from the media..."

Historians in Trouble: Why Some Get Nailed By Jon Wiener - "The American Historical Association [AHA] recently abandoned its procedures for addressing charges of plagiarism and professional misconduct. That gives the media, and the forces that shape them, even more power to define the issues and adjudicate scholarly controversies, to honor scholars who advance their partisan political agendas and punish those who challenge those agendas."

And speaking of partisan political agendas, get a load of these two panels from the upcoming AHA meeting:

World Affairs during the Reign of the Second Bush: Doing History without the Archives

Hubris and the Irrationality Principle in the Foreign Policy of Recent Presidents: From Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush: A Roundtable

And best of all, Historians, the Media, and the Politics of Academic Scandal.

Wiener and Robin are the presenters at this last panel, which should guarantee a perfect persecution vibe.

"We're all guilty, so it's unjust to make an example of any one of us."

Put it on a nametage, wear it at your convention folks. I'll print the bumperstickers.

The Battle of Crampton's Gap

In late fall, I attended a reading by Steven R. Stotelmyer of his paper arguing that there was but one battle at South Mountain and that Crampton's Gap was an action fought within that battle. I took some good notes and had some useful correspondence on the matter. Last month, the Bivouac Banner published an article on the same subject by the same author; I'd thought I could give you a summary criticism of this information in a few posts.

Unfortunately, I see that the Banner's article is not exactly the one I heard presented, so I have to do a close reading of these 43 pages; and I see that my beta version Gmail account no longer holds any of my November and December correspondence on the subject.

So, it's back to the fireside for some reading and thinking.

In the mean time, consider a foretaste of reasoning by analogy. The Waterloo campaign is divided into four battles: Ligny and Quatre Bras (6/16/1815); Wavre and Waterloo (6/18/1815). None of these points is more than five miles away from the other. What makes them "battles" - as close in time and space as they were - are discrete objectives and discrete commanders.

Stotelmyer has gathered the best arguments possible with which to defend the Maryland park system's historical pretensions. The matter deserves a thorough response. Please have a look at Tim Reese's views on this while I organize my own thoughts.
NEWS | Vanderbilt case argues Confederate role in South * Civil War letters form basis of play * Team works to rid Harpers Ferry park of invasive plants


Frederick W. Lander, where have you been?

If we know General Lander at all it tends to be as a corpse, lying in his casket, viewed by McClellan who remarks (in that famous anecdote from March, 1862), I wish it were me in his place.

A couple of 2004 titles have breathed life into Lander, Beatie's McClellan Takes Command and Lesser's Rebels at the Gates.

Join me now for some Lander moments.

From Rebels at the Gates:
Lander leaped upon a large rock. Muskets were handed up and he fired them at the Rebel artillerists. "Bang away, you scoundrels," roared Lander, "We'll come down there and lick you like the devil directly."

Direct quotes, from McClellan Takes Command:
"God damn it, there they set. Three generals on their horses, and not a one of them doing a God damned thing." [On beholding Banks, Abercrombie, and Gorman in battle.]
"Colonel Ashby, give my compliments to General Jackson and tell him to bombard and be damned." [On being asked to surrender Hancock, Maryland.]
"The next time I undertake to move an army and God Almighty sends such a rain, I will go around and cross hell on the ice." [During his pursuit of Jackson.]
"Why in hell and damnation don't you charge?" [Yelled at Union cavalry in sight of Jackson's trains.]
"Men, if your colonel is a coward, follow your general!" [Shouted to balky Union pursuers of Jackson's fleeing rearguard.]

That felt pretty good. I think I'll go shout at someone myself.

The other voice of war

Dear President:

I have two children and not one friend in the country where I would stop one night belonging to me and my husband... I receive ten dollars a month from the relief committee and I pay five and a half rent. I have my clothes in pledge, and I owe to the landlord about twenty dollars for rent and groceries. He will now put me out when I can't pay him and God help me...

That's pretty deep stuff for a military roundtable.

Civil War regiments in Iraq

Here's one: the 69th New York.

Burn the town, attract the tourist

A new book, "History and Tour Guide of The Burning of Chambersburg and McCausland's Raid, was co-published by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce..."
NEWS | Fort Fisher commemorates battle * Mort Künstler turns to forensics to paint Hunley crew * Civil War vet’s grave marker returns home


Museum to kick off "decade of celebrations"

Behind the ongoing Lincoln Library and Museum follies, there is a substantial history not reflected in my occasional commentary. Thankful I am that an observer with great insight wrote to fill me in on this business last week. I'm going to place excerpts from his note below with remarks of my own and links that I've added to enrich the material.
At one point, it looked as if Harold Holzer would run the library.

Holzer's story is that "he announced that he was no longer interested because Illinois officials had reduced the scope and authority of the directorship."
Had he [Holzer] been selected, John Simon [Grant papers editor and critic of the Disneyfication of the library and museum] would be a happy camper. Simon's unhappiness [with the Library] is rooted in a combination of the bizarre world of Illinois history politics/Lincoln politics/professional frustration... About a decade ago there was a major upheaval in the Abraham Lincoln Association, which is the "official" organization (it makes decisions about Lincoln's papers, etc.). Frank Williams headed it... He was ... caught plagiarizing in a chapter of collected essays. He would not leave gracefully, so he was deposed. Off in a huff went Gabor Boritt, Holzer, Simon, and Williams. Cullom Davis took over.

Boritt, Simon, Williams, and Holzer decided that they could run their own little show at Gettysburg ... thus the Lincoln Forum. Note who won a prize from the Lincoln Forum this year. Note who won a chunk of the Lincoln Prize. [...] The papers merit the prize; paper projects, however, are a team effort. Note who currently heads the Grant Association [Frank J. Williams].

And then there's the link between Boritt, the Lincoln Prize, and the Gilder-Lehrman folks [who fund the Lincoln prize], who have a celebrate Lincoln agenda. The fun part of that is the scramble on Holzer's part to shift from [his Lincoln books co-author] Mario Cuomo [former Democratic governor who appointed Holzer to state positions] to the Republican-controlled Gilder-Lehrman folks. [Lehrman actually ran against Cuomo in the 1980s.] The Lincoln Forum crowd has very good relations with C-SPAN.

And so, the Williams party, in Babylonian exile, takes its shots at the Library's former and current management.
Simon, Holzer, Williams, and Boritt are hardly innocent parties. The next part of the power struggle is for who will control the Lincoln Bicentennial.

That battle is underway. Richard Norton Smith proclaims he "is making big plans for opening the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in April that include a block party, banquet and torchlight parade. The director of the library and museum complex sees the museum's spring debut as a kickoff to a decade of celebrations of the 16th president."

A decade of largesse and patronage, I'm tempted to say. Meanwhile, in his corner of the Lincoln field, Harold Holzer announces... nothing yet. Looks like Smith has stolen a march.

Have we forgotten someone? Yes. Lincoln scholar Pat Sajak (scroll down).

Thank you, reader.

McClellan Takes Command

I finished Beatie's "McClellan Takes Command" last night (v2, AOP). It ran to about 567 pages, not counting the source notes and bibliography (which are fantastic).

Beatie develops material about McClellan's smaller military actions, which, taken together with the planning/replanning thread gives an entirely different picture from "All Quiet on the Potomac." His visit to the well-documented Ball's Bluff battle is especially worthwhile for its broader context of McClellan's policy of pursuing small Confederate withdrawals.

If I have a criticism, it is that the political material has been kept light, perhaps with military buffs in mind; there is more political material here than in any battle book on the market covering the same period, however this amounts to just about half of what is required. The management of military careers by various political patrons is outlined in just enough detail to help the reader make sense of what is happening within the commands but not in enough detail to depict the full pathology of the situation. McClellan was, like most top generals, both a beneficiary and victim of this system.

I am very impressed, nevertheless. A great reading experience.

Sorry to say that excerpts from the forthcoming Volume III, "McClellan's First Campaign," have been removed from Beatie's website.
NEWS | Pre-Civil War Vicksburg cabins moved across county * Hunley is memorialized in art * Restoration effort under way to save Civil War-era furnace


The Cyclorama needs a home

This is a very special preservation scenario:
The nearly six-ton painting of the battle of Gettysburg is called a cyclorama because it's supposed to be set up in a cylinder, giving the viewer a 360-degree panorama of the famous and bloody battle. The painting was shown at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1933, but was lost afterward. Ken Wilson Junior was a friend of the artist who found the 365-foot-long painting behind a wall in a Chicago warehouse in 1965. Wilson says it would cost up to 18 (m) million dollars to restore the painting and build a place to house it. Sixteen artists worked two years to create it in the 1880s. There used to be four, but two were lost. The other is at Gettysburg.

What the bounties brought

They brought Canadians! Some 30,000 of them, according to this new book. And lest we forget,
U.S. draft dodgers -- known as skedaddlers -- fled northward, a century before Vietnam.

Cedar Mountain preservationists organize

A group of Cedar Mountain preservationsists has formed and invites you to join. Hat tip to ACW in the News.
NEWS | Remembering the ships of Eastport * Fragile artifacts attract Hunley examiners * Battlefield received donation of car


It's a wrap - the 103rd Mummer's parade

The balmy weather made for a great 103rd annual Mummer's parade in Philadelphia today.

What a fantastic use of New Year's Day.

After decades of suppression, mummering in Philly revived after the Civil War with fancy-dress marching band parades, a very benign and wholesome redirection from "true mummering" (Newfoundland still practices the previously suppressed form of mummering; check it out).

Unfortunately, this great civic event receives almost no coverage and despite the 100,000+ spectators per year, it remains a weird cultural survival that is among this country's best-kept secrets.