Spotsylvania County is now a battlefield

The Washington Post has published an article - too frivolous for my taste - on the radical strategy of declaring an entire Virginia county to be one endangered battlefield. The authors of this error, Civil War Preservation Trust, are fairly honest about their motives:

"When we ask for money, they are more likely to give for places like Spotsylvania than for relatively unknown sites in the country. There is a financial incentive on our part to be more involved in Spotsylvania County."
Observe closely. The reporter asked about declaring an entire county to be an endagered battlefield and the CWPT had no answer ready - except its own self-interest.

CWPT is lucky to have a sympathetic government in Spotsylvania at the moment. They are going to need that support, now that they have declared war on every developer, large and small, in that county, through this foolhardy action. They say they are raising a warchest for Spotsylvania interventions.

I'm reminded of Lincoln's rhetorical question to McClellan after he requested permission to fire his corps commanders. To paraphrase: Do you really feel strong enough to put your boot on the throat of Spotsylvania commerce and construction and keep it there?

* You have shown an utter inability to define danger or prioritize conservation.

* You have forfeited any claim to the interpretation of historical significance.

* You appear planless except in raising money.

* You have given no comprehensible reason for declaring an entire county to be one endangered battlefield.

* You have dragged your cause into the gutter of local politics and staked your victory on friendly politicians staying in power and supporting you indefinitely.

Meanwhile, CWPT's link to its own report remains broken.
NEWS | Civil War re-enactment to honor fallen hero * Sunken Union gunboat nominated to historic register * Slave holder's heir finds descendants of slaves * Another Mass. town plans monument to ACW troops


Endangered battlefields, listed or not

Will parse Civil War Preservation Trust's endangered battlefield list next week.

You can read ahead here.

Meanwhile, on the day of the CWPT press conference, eighty homes were approved for construction at the site of the Rappahannock Station battle in Virginia's Fauquier County. It somehow failed to make "the most endangered battlefield list" on the day it was wiped out.

Which leads to the question of criteria and methodologies, don't you think?

CWPT and total war

At a time when Civil War Preservation Trust and its allies should be in private negotiations to buy Morris Island, near Charleston, at a time when the island is for sale to any and all, CWPT is waging a very public campaign to humiliate the seller.

* In an article appearing Feb. 17, CWPT referred to an attempt to auction the island on eBay as "stupid." The seller, Harry Huffman gently replied that he would sell the island to preservationists at a discount to the asking price and that "We're just waiting for someone to come up with the money, and hopefully it will be the conservation people."

* Yesterday CWPT released an opinion poll conducted in Morris island's home county: "71 percent of those surveyed favored preservation of Morris Island so it can never be developed." In case Huffman did not get the message, local regulators were threatened as well:

Eight out of ten respondents stated that the county has a responsibility to protect Morris Island and other historic resources in the county. Seventy-seven percent of those polled revealed that they would be more likely to support public officials who advocate preservation of Morris Island.

* Also, yesterday, at the press conference announcing its annual list of 10 most endangered ACW sites, CWPT named Morris island the #2 most endangered site.

* At the same conference, CWPT sponsored a speaker who attacked Huffman's eBay ploy - "in addition to gently used Prada bags ... an irreplaceable landmark of black history is now up for grabs."

This is the Chancellorsville Battlefield playbook in use again, the one in which you blacken the seller's name and reputaion, enlist the government to move against him, and outrage popular sentiment on your behalf.

And in its war against the seller, CWPT is striking devil's bargains as usual. Its Morris Island poll results stated "Eighty percent of those polled said that they support preservation of the island for its importance as a habitat for endangered wildlife."

Folks, the goal is not to create a bird sanctuary but to put lots of us loudmouthed, foot stomping, arm-waving history buffs on the ground, is it not? And maybe some gun-firing re-enactors, too? Perhaps a construction crew might restore earthworks? Endangered wildlife use is the kiss of death for Civil War history use.

In its 2002 tax filings, CWPT showed $16 million in assets. It can buy Morris island in a moment with help from no one. This is a Punch and Judy show for donors, donors who equate pantomime with results.

The future of "preservation" - Kennesaw Mt.

Dan Brown, acting superintendent of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, says the park itself is likely to survive, but not because of its historical significance. "People are basically using the park because it's one of the few open spaces left to stretch their legs and recreate," Brown said.
That's the future of ACW preservation given the current mania for multipurposing the land and partnering with state and federal park systems - the future is total oblivion for the historical meaning of the site.

If that's a good thing, you know which organizations to support. Go for it.

Heritage tourists and the color of money

I am surprised to learn that each year Civil War tourists drive to Mount Vernon to see the home of "the man who freed the slaves".

How do they even find their way there? Bus trips? And do they go home better informed or utterly confused?

And what about the tourists who think that Mount Vernon is Mount Rushmore? (See linked article, above.) It would almost be worth acting the docent to meet people like that.

And as long as they leave some smart dollars behind, what business is it of ours?
NEWS | Let's take a news break today.


Grimsley judges his profession

Mark Grimsley has weighed in with his take on the conference agenda of the Society for Military History:

The problem is that military historians have themselves painted the field into a corner that is far too small and is intellectually indefensible.
If you consider Civil War history as a subset of this problematic and indefensible field, you can add to that judgement, "The corner has been getting smaller since the Centennial."
Prof. Grimsley attributes politics to this dynamic; I say it is the market that has rewarded blowhard bestselling nonfiction writers who trade in defective but final and absolute judgements peddled to readers profoundly innocent of history.

When Mark Grimsley says, "They have made little effort to reach out to the many historians who examine war and military affairs through the lens of ... counterhegemonic actors," I would, for my context, reclassify "counterhegemonic actors" as "the losers" - the Union men in the South, the peace men in the North, the fired generals, the Democrats, the deserters, the failed politicians, the starved-to-death widows and orphans, ad infinitum. I would add also that the floor painting started when the great names in Civil War publishing decided Civil War could be explained entirely in terms of military conflict and military conflict boiled down to land battles of annihilation.

"Counterhegemonic actors" of the ACW (let's call them "persons") have been finding their way into new offerings from small presses over the last five years, but the vastly ignorant center continues to hold in this little corner of the non-fiction publishing world, awarding its prizes and spending its royalties.

Markets change. This one will, too.

"History Under Siege" due today

Civil War Preservation Trust will release its endangered battlefields report today, "History Under Siege." If the report appears on CWPT's website or if the press conference is reported later today, I'll post comment then.

Generally, these reports lack any discernible methodology for classifying "danger." According to this preview news item, CWPT will place the entire Virginia County of Spotsylvania on its list of most endangered sites.

I hope this is false. It would be an enormously counterproductive stunt. One history-loving Virginian building his home near mine told me that he feared these people, whom he characterized as irresponsible and willing to stop any development anywhere on the slightest ACW connection.

If Spotsylvania County is named as a single Civil War site, expect a public backlash, maybe a dramatic one.
NEWS | National Civil War Memorial planned for Wheeling * Hunley, Monitor teams join on preservation * NLCC speaker: We must know more about free blacks


I thought Prof. McPherson was the last word

... in history so brutally compressed as to become parody. But I was wrong. Economics Professor Brad DeLong takes a shot at the McPherson crown.

Military historians gather

Mark Grimsley is inviting comments on this agenda for the upcoming meeting of the Society for Military History.

The question is whether these topics would embolden a school administrator to get a military history slot funded at any major university. See what you think.

National crackdown on easements begins

The creation of land use covenants that restrict development, construction, and improvement has been the cornerstone of Civil War preservation activity, especially by Civil War Preservation Trust. The Trust even uses language like "permanent" and "forever" to describe these types of agreements (misleadingly called "easements").

As pointed out here previously, restrictive use covenants came under attack nationwide in the late 19th Century and were largely outlawed state by state under so-called mortmain laws; the living at that time would not be trammeled by the dead in their enjoyment of property. The decline of anti-covenant sentiment since WWI is a temporary phenomenon of culture, politics, and demographics; and as the 19th Century proved, a single sitting of any state legislature can enact mortmain legislation, sweeping away in a moment all easements on record. Covenants may use language like "permanent" or "eternal" but that does not make things so. The only real protection available to a battlefield is bestowed by private (not public) ownership and a private commitment not to develop, not to multipurpose the land.

I expect to see population pressures in Washington and Northern Virginia to result in laws that extinguish our expensive notional battlefield protections over the next 10-20 years. Meanwhile, the federal government has opened an indirect attack on these covenants:
The Joint Committee on Taxation of the U.S. Congress has recommended radical cutbacks in the tax deductions for easement donors. The report recommends: cutting the deductions for donating an easement by two-thirds; eliminating deductions for donations of easements on land where the landowner lives -- meaning that farmers who live on their land would receive no tax deduction whatsoever; and limiting deductions for donations of property to the landowner's basis in the property.
The temptation of your favorite Civil War preservationists might be to rally you to spend time and money fighting this legislative development. Don't be distracted.

The mission of a save-the-battlefields group can only be to buy and manage Civil War property. All else is make-believe. The easement dream is fading. Lets get down to real preservation.

Challenge mounted against renaming school

When is honoring a U.S. ACW Navy veteran, a Medal of Honor winner, a bad idea?

When a school committee makes the decision without parental input. And when there is no evidence that the honoree is from the town in which the school is located.

Have a look.
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Washington, Lincoln, Davis, Trenton

We are pretty well aware that Lincoln read Parson Mason Weems' account of Washington's Life and that he was most deeply impressed by the Battle of Trenton:
May I be pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in my childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen, "Weem's Life of Washington." I remember all the accounts there given of the battle fields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New Jersey. The crossing of the river; the contest with the Hessians; the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single Revolutionary event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last longer than any others.
I don't recall if it was Archer Jones or Herman Hattaway or the two together who proposed, citing additional sources, that Trenton may have served Lincoln as a military paradigm for the early Civil War.

Trenton was or could be a paradigm: secrecy, speed, dash, decision, and a huge political payout. Trenton could be a false paradigm, too: an overly complex plan that would fail if either column failed; an execution dependent on guides, with no commander knowing the ground; and a magnification of risk via night attack.

In his book April 1865, Jay Winik takes some trouble to explain that with Richmond in ruins, Davis' vision of continued war was not about guerilla bands and bushwhacking, it was Trenton writ large. It would be a Continental Army gathering at supply points, striking at a strung-out foe, collecting political momentum from a series of small, decisive strikes.

There are foreshadowings of Civil War military themes in the battle. Here are a few, all selected from the same article. The emphasis is mine:

Howe had ... hoped to have victory without a great deal of bloodshed.

Rall was ordered to build field works needed to defend the town, but did not. Rall told one of his officers who wanted to build redoubts-"Let them come! We want no trenches! We'll use the bayonet!"

Howe lost a major chance to end the war by stopping for the winter instead of "foreclosing the mortgage" as one of his officers called it.

Von Donop, commanding at Burlington, learned of the battle from fleeing Hessians who had escaped. Their estimates of the size of the force with Washington were exaggerated. [...] Von Donop moved first to Allentown, NJ, then to Princeton, to resist attacks that were just rumors.

"Lincoln is an empty vessel for dreamers and schemers"

Here's a nice article on the commercialization of all things Lincoln.
Today, Abraham Lincoln is an empty vessel for dreamers and schemers, for humorists and educators and trinket salesmen and appliance dealers looking to add a bit of cachet to Presidents Day sales.
The perfect Lincoln quote:
"I have endured a great deal of ridicule without much malice, and have received a great deal of kindness not quite free from ridicule."

Here we go again: hardballing the CWPT way

The Morris Island situation in South Carolina is following the Chancellorsville and Mullins Farm template. Bad things are happening.

The situation begins with a lowball appraisal. You can hire someone to give you a lowball appraisal, or you can err wildly on the side of cheapness by misclassifying the land in question. Near Chancellorsville, on land not zoned, electrified or connected to water or sewage, the preservationist's transparent game was to pretend that this was farmland - and to demand the right to buy it for farmland prices, even though the surrounding parcels were commercial and residential.

At Chancellorsville, the seller, John Mullins, was faced with Civil War Preservation Trust trying to scoop up his property for farmland prices in a public campaign denouncing his sellers' offers; he was also publicly portrayed as venal. Mullins' response was to break off dealings with CWPT. He would not sell to preservationists, which is how we arrived at the convoluted deal in which Mullins sold to Tricord, then Tricord tries to sell some pieces to CWPT.

In South Carolina, a developer named Harry Huffman has been trying to get Morris Island's zoning upgraded from two homes to 20. His permit requests are in and he has the right to imagine they may be approved. He owns the island and has been testing the market with a $12.5 million price. Now get this:

Blake Hallman of the Morris Island Coalition believes the island should be made available at the $4.1 million amount it was appraised for in 2001.
This is an absurd statement by any measure, but if it is a negotiating ploy, it is one that needs to be made in private to the seller, not via newspaper. Huffman is surprisingly gentle with this clumsy display. "He says he will charge a conservation buyer considerably less than $12.5 million." The Mullins reaction has not kicked in yet.

So you have your two bargaining positions outlined publicly: go into some office, close the door and get to work.

When Huffman garnered publicity for the sale with a failed eBay auction, the certified deal-breakers at CWPT felt obliged to weigh in:

"This is a stupid publicity gimmick," says Jim Campi, spokesman for the Civil War Preservation Trust, which placed Morris Island on its list of the 10 endangered battlegrounds in the country. "It is a ham-handed attempt to ignore negotiations with preservationists."
Ham-handed? You are publicly calling Huffman "stupid" in the name of preservation organizations and you want favorable consideration?

CWPT is leading the Morris Island Coalition, so I expect a repeat of their Chancellorsville fiasco. They are again publicizing a lowball price they are willing to pay while working to embarass the seller into accepting it. If the Morris island Coalition does not put CWPT into the background on this, expect little good.

Think win-win and leave the scorched earth to Sheridan.
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"This is an experiment attacking historical illiteracy"

The Washington Post has a do-not-miss article on the Lincoln Museum's exhibits and prospects: Histrionics And History (subscription required). Richard Norton Smith is front and center again ("this is an experiment attacking historical illiteracy") as is John Y. Simon.
The centerpiece of the "Ghosts" tour has this spiel:
"You see that flag?" he says. "It's my favorite item from this collection: the regimental flag from the 33d Illinois. That flag was with us on June 22, 1863, when we were down in Mississippi at a town called Vicksburg."
WaPo notes that it is not a regimental flag at all but a recently manufactured federal flag.

In the election of 1860 segment, not only will they use fake broadcasting by anchors like Tim Russert, they have filmed and will show 30-second spot ads to communicate the core positions of the candidates:
... sure enough, here comes a 21st-century-style campaign spot for Lincoln, complete with an unsubtle graphic of a cozy cottage split down the middle and a stentorian voice-over ("Two years ago he said, 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' Isn't it time we got that house in order?"). Next comes the spot for Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln's high-powered but diminutive Democratic rival ("Paid for by Little Giants for Douglas").

After that, a plantation scene appears, complete with master, wife, kids, big house and happy slaves. This is an ad for John C. Breckenridge, the pro-slavery Democrat who split his party, ensuring Lincoln's election. Before long, the faces of three scary-looking abolitionists appear, looming above the plantation ("Some men you don't even know want to come in and steal your property, destroy your home and put you in jail!"). On cue, a giant shepherd's crook yanks first the slaves, then the house and finally the master himself off the screen.
The story reads as if the special effects company began driving the project in 1998 with some input from the state historian and a few schoolteachers. Smith comes across as a figurehead and promoter with little input on content, except to insist on a theme:
The Lincoln story is all about slavery and race, Smith told them. The museum will be judged by how it deals with those things.
So, right off the bat, we have paradigmatic history. Which is non-history. And what is Smith's take on the "story ... all about slavery and race."
"The metaphor of Lincoln as someone whose real achievement was in outgrowing the racist culture that produced him," Smith says, represents "what America would like to think of itself" today.
Oh, there' a real achievement. There's the source of his honors. And that explains all the dead, too. Utterly.

Say, is there an historian in the house?

Franklin battlefield idea popular with locals

Civil War Preservation Trust has funded a poll in Franklin and the results have been summarized here. Full question sets with responses can be read here.

The prize question: "Would you be more likely or less likely to support public officials who advocate preservation of Franklin's history?"
NEWS Emancipation Proclamation going on display * Judge reverses Wal-Mart zoning decision, saves WV ACW site * Cincinnati restores fort, builds museum "from scratch" * Black re-enactors feature in PBS slavery show


The case of the missing artifacts

He was a lone wolf and a bit of a mystery man, a Californian with a taste for Montana museums. Visiting regional collections, he would artfully steal exhibits for his personal collection. Sometimes this was done by distracting staff, other times it was a case of grab when no one was looking. He especially liked Civil War stuff and Indian relics. The theft of Indian relics put the law on his trail.

No one will ever know how much he stole because his house, which is where he kept the loot, burned down. The thief himself is dead.

It's a fascinating local story.

What's the motive? Give me the easy answer: "Stevens' attorney, Chuck Watson of Bozeman, described Stevens as a leading authority on weaponry who had a legitimate business trading artifacts ..." A business trading stolen artifacts. Isn't that a criminal enterprise? But get this:
Stevens was lonely, reclusive and afflicted with a disorder known as Asperger syndrome, Watson said. The illness manifested itself in Stevens as an obsession with certain collectible items, Watson said, and "his criminality was driven by mental illness."
I never heard of Asperger's syndrome and looked it up.

* "Asperger's Disorder is a milder variant of Autistic Disorder." That would not be a mental illness.

* "Those with the syndrome are conspicuously lacking in common sense." This man ran a business and went decades without detection; he finessed hundreds, if not thousands, of dishonest interactions with museum staff. "None of the people interviewed in the case knew that Stevens was stealing museum artifacts, not even his wife, investigators said."

* His wife? "Asperger's ... is ... characterized by severe and sustained impairment in social interaction."

* "Clumsiness is prominent both in their articulation and gross motor behavior." This fellow rigged complex thefts requiring a high degree of manipulation and coordination: "Stevens had tied rope to his leg and walked out after a few minutes with a 5-foot rifle secured inside the rope in his pant leg and hidden under his coat. Stevens broke into the rifle's display case by using a screwdriver to remove screws and glass."

There's more on this story here.
NEWS Symposium considers ACW naval commanders * Civil War Preservation Trust to issue battlefields report * Willimantic man charged with theft of antique weapons


"South Mountain" - end of thread

I had mentioned, in starting this thread, that Steven R. Stotelmyer's article "South Mountain" had the explicit purpose of refuting Timothy J. Reese's work on Crampton's Gap and that the two had apparently corresponded.

In fact, the very first endnote in Stotelmyer's article reads,
i Reese, Timothy J., Letter September 24, 2002, Letter November 30, 2002, Letters May 8, 2000, Letter June 2003, Sealed With Their Lives, p. vii, and High-Water Mark, p. 34.

I asked Reese about the letters cited as his, as they had no recipient shown and no subject indicated. He said that he had no recollection of ever directly or indirectly corresponding with Stotelmyer; that he avoided contact with the man; and that the one communication he received from Stotelmyer he returned unopened.

It then occurred to me that if I was trying to deal fairly with an article with dubious references at the very first citation, argument was a waste of time and a fool's errand was underway.

Let me therefore write FINIS to this thread.

*** Postscript 2/17/05

Mr. Stotelmyer wrote to point out that the Bivouac Banner had left his endnotes in the article while cutting his bibliography out, items of which were called out in the endnotes. Thus, the letters cited were more fully described in the bibliography and I have now seen the bibliography myself; none of the letters attributed to Tim Reese were part of a Reese/Stotelmyer correspondence as I assumed.

I regret the harshness of painting him in anti-Philidor colors, since this characterization was based on a misunderstanding about the correspondence cited.

Having screwed up this thread from the outset, I do intend to leave the analysis of his article rest at present.

Tripp's Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln

NPR has a long excerpt from Tripp's Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln and the work is openly speculative - none of the false certainty, the "my way or the highway" attitude that Civil War authors love to dish out to their readers.

While Tripp was reading the primary sources paradigmatically (Lincoln = gay) he was still able to keep enough distance between himself and the paradigm to consider being wrong: "True, there is no way of knowing exactly what went on in their bedroom..." So it goes in this chapter, anyway.

This NPR excerpt (linked above) deals with the matter of Lincoln and the commander of his 1862/63 bodyguard David V. Derickson. (That matter was also recently covered here.) My personal criticism of Tripp's Derickson/Lincoln material, which is nicely collected and arranged, is that it describes a political - not romantic - seduction and that Tripp, like so many Lincoln and Civil War authors, has an extremely underdeveloped political sense.

Then again, my own paradigm may be politics.

Derickson was a Pennsylvania politician just nine years younger than Lincoln: he was canny enough to win federal patronage as an assessor, connected enough to then help raise a regiment and earn an elective captaincy, and influential enough to have his company assigned to guard the president himself. To borrow a little sexual terminology, Derickson was clearly a man on the make. And he was making it.

The typical Civil War history way of looking at Derickson would be to assume or imply he was "a soldier doing his duty," that some sort of meritocratic or lottery-like assignment of guard companies placed him in Lincoln's orbit, and that after eight months of enjoying Lincoln's personal attention, he went off to perform valuable military service for his country.

Now, politicians flatter and ingratiate themselves with people who can help them. After this so-called soldier Derickson had been "won" by Lincoln's flattering attention he was turned loose with a promotion and plush, highly competitive appointment to the local provost office in the political fields from which he came. Mission: work with local politicians to round-up draftees .... not exactly a full-time job, either. Not surprisingly, he rejoined state politics - while in uniform and as a Lincoln man - and won himself place as delegate to the 1864 Republican convention. He pledged to work hard for Lincoln. I would not be surprised if he helped distribute some Lincolnian patronage at the grass roots, as well.

Derickson bore the expected fruit of Lincoln's attentions; he followed a pattern easy to understand, immortalized with a thousand variations throughout Civil War history. Until we understand this to be *Civil* War, until we can say the words "quid pro quo" we are going to be making every possible error of interpretation in this little corner of the nonfiction world.

Meanwhile, a certain Professor Chesson endorses the gayness thesis in a very silly and speculative essay.

But Michael Burlingame gets right to the heart of the matter, justice to sources: "Dr. Tripp's dismissal of the testimony of more than two dozen informants in the case of Ann Rutledge contrasts sharply with his willingness to accept extremely scanty evidence..."

Finally, a hand-picked audience of ACW roundtable members recently listened to a panel of debunkers headed by Ed Bearss.

New Tennessee group launches fundraising drive

A statewide battlefield preservation organization is born:
The Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association begins a campaign tomorrow to raise money to save Civil War battlefields across the state. The group says the state is far behind places like Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia in battlefield preservation.
It has a nice website (I especially like this map), but its idea of what a battle site assessment is falls way short of the mark. Its advisory board is way overloaded with federal park executives who, of course, represent one philosophy of preservation, one approach, and one solution for all battlefield land.

They do a good job communicating, however, and they even invite phone calls.

Now if they would just publish their tax status and budget...
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Fisking "South Mountain" - 2

Having stated his purpose, "to set the historical record straight regarding the nature or character of the Battle of South Mountain," the author of "South Mountain," Steven Stotelmyer, then sets out in summary form several of Timothy J. Reese's arguments about the battle. These are arguments developed – as the footnote shows – in four of Reese's letters and two of Reese's books. He says of Reese's points that his "historical allegations may seem to warrant merit, they are in fact bald assertions with little or no historical basis to back them up."

Historical "allegations" are not developed in the course of two heavily footnoted books and four letters – substantial arguments are. It is anyone's privilege not to be convinced by arguments but to denigrate Reese's level of research and demote the arguments themselves to "allegations" shows a level of personal feeling that raises our distrust of what Mr. Stotelmyer plans to say. Deeply suspicious too, is his aversion to identifying Reese by name in the text of his essay.

Stotelmyer says:

Adherents of the tenet of separation often state as fact their belief that Crampton’s Gap and South Mountain are well documented as two wholly separate engagements, or 'battles,' that the linking of the two battles are merely literary and administrative conveniences that have only been employed in recent times.
Who are these adherents? Are we still hitting at Reese here, or is there someone else in the picture?

It has been alleged that all campaign documents support this tenet of separation. In support of this premise it has been asserted that the participants of the engagement at Crampton’s Gap set it apart from South Mountain and recorded it as such in their after action reports. However, an actual inventory of the available Union reports reveals otherwise.
Stotelmyer should nail down this putative error with a who said what when and where.

Having set up the debunking of the idea "that all campaign documents support this tenet of separation [of Crampton's Gap from the other battles]" our author elaborates a little: "… there are a wide variety of terms used by the participants to name the 'battle,'" he begins. So this is going to be a nomenclature analysis? But the question is not one of nomenclature per se, it is whether "all campaign documents support this tenet of separation," whether they do so via nomenclature or any other way.

But let the chicken-counting begin:

Indeed, out of the twenty-three reports there are six that call the engagement “the Battle of Crampton’s Pass.”
Count six for the defense of the claim that all campaign documents support the "tenet of separation. "

There are five reports that use no name at all; they simply record the movements and events of the unit involved.
Count five that do not not lump CG in with actions at Fox's or Turner's thus passively supporting the claim that all campaign documents support this tenet of separation.

Of those left, four use the term "engagement,"
Which is irrelevant unless enagement explicitly subordinates to battle; count four more that do not not lump CG in with actions at Fox's or Turner's thus passively supporting the claim that all campaign documents support this tenet of separation.

three refer to it as the “action on the 14th”,

Too ambiguous to count, I think, although there was a lot of action of the 14th.

two use the term "operations,"
"Operations" marks a higher level of art than "battle" when not used generically; operations are conducted by independent commanders. Count two more for the contention.

one simply calls it "the battle of the 14th instant," one refers to the unit being "employed on the 14th instant,"
Too ambiguous to count, I think.

and one refers to it as "the storming of Crampton’s Pass."
This is specificity in defining a discrete military action and linking it to a geographic site - as plain as calling it a battle. Count another for the claim of "all."

Out of the twenty-three then, only six (nearly one-quarter) use the terminology "the Battle of Crampton’s Pass."
This is supposed to be the blow that undoes the argument.

I would say, on the contrary, that out of the 23 reports, 18 divide the action from the battles for the northern gaps either actively through specific language or implicitly by ignoring the northern actions and that five accounts are phrased ambiguously but do not subordinate Crampton's Gap.
We can therefore confidently say NO campaign documents explicitly support the idea that CG was part of another battle. We can also say that all campaign documents support this tenet of separation by NOT explicitly linking CG to the other battles.

Jesuitical hair splitting? I think not: the idea that 23 accounts can be reduced to six because of the use the magic phrase "battle" in connection with Crampton's Gap misses the point entirely.

Debunking unbunked. More to come...

Rock star's Ohio tour packs in the fans

Did they have ticket scalpers at the gate?
Civil War historian and author James M. McPherson resembled what one Ashland University student termed "a rock star" when he appeared to speak at an Ashbrook Colloquia Friday afternoon. There was barely room for the crowd that came to hear him ...
This talk was about Antietam and the bit that really jumped out at me was McPherson's observation about the Emancipation Proclamation: "It came in time to help Republicans keep their hold on the House of Representatives in the congressional elections." Oh, dear. From a study on the topic:
We examine the U.S. Congressional elections of 1862-63, which resulted in a stunning setback for President Abraham Lincoln and the incumbent Republican Party. After the electoral “dust” had cleared, the Republicans lost control of the House, as their share of seats declined from 59% to just over 46%. (The Impact of National Tides and District-Level Effects on Electoral Outcomes: The U.S. Congressional Elections of 1862-63, American Journal of Political Science, 2001, Jamie L. Carson, Jeffery A. Jenkins, David W. Rohde, and Mark A. Souva)
That's certainly the way I remember it - an election result bestowing a free pass to fire Democratic generals who failed to help Lincoln politically.

The major benefit of being a media star is talking to crowds who have absolutely no idea what nonsense you may be putting out.

Meanwhile, "the man in the wraparound shades," as the Washington Post recently called him, has scored a Lite Bites type interview with USA Today on U.S. presidents.

If you want to see historical personalities sorted like cattle at a farm show, check it out.
NEWS | Civil War Medal of Honor finds home in Lincoln Shrine * Community college to put local Civil War letters online * Civil War sword links journalist to biracial ancestors


Fisking "South Mountain" - 1

In his article "South Mountain: Three Gaps, One Battle," Steven R. Stotelmyer opens his essay with a note of finality: "The purpose of this paper is to set the historical record straight regarding the nature or character of the Battle of South Mountain."

The historical record has a way of changing with each new discovery in primary research; taking the hard line of "case closed" (or as Sears once named an essay, "Last Words on the Lost Order") is ahistorical. You might fairly try to square the current historical record with "the nature or character of the Battle of South Mountain," but you are making an argument and we, the jury of readers, will decide whether we have been convinced or not.

The author sets his problem forth with a question: "Do the events of September 14, 1862, occur as separate battles on South Mountain, or are they actually part of a single battle of South Mountain."

This question has two components. "To set the historical record straight" can try to answer whether the historical record currently supports separate battles or not and to what extent if so. But there is also the philosophical issue of what constitutes a separate battle. This philosophical part has an historical piece (what convention was used at that time for determining the question) and an ahistorical piece (what is in fact, in all times and cases, a separate battle).

The core failure of this essay is that its author ultimately will develop an ahistorical solution - the modern doctrinal definition of battle - to solve what the author has earlier defined as an historical problem. After taking a tour of the historical evidence, he travels off into Army doctrine to close his case.

The historic evidence handling is not good and the Army doctrine is erroneous by my experience and sources, however these are smaller problems than having defined the problem one way and then solving it through other means.

More on this to come...

Fisking "South Mountain"

We'll start fisking Steven R. Stotelmyer's article "South Mountain" later tonight in a multi-part series that will continue more or less from day-to-day. "Fisking" is one of those blog-specific words that means...
Parsing an article sentence by sentence to expose the writer's inherent biases and misperceptions; named for British journalist Robert Fisk, noted for his hyperventilating articles that display an often tenous grasp of reality.
This definition makes fisking sound hostile - I hope to be reasonable, friendly, and entertaining in the course of the analysis.

Smith steals another march

When last we left him, Richard Norton Smith had stolen a march on rival Lincoln scholars by declaring the Lincoln Library and Museum would stage a month, if a not a year, of Lincoln celebrations.

The latest news from Springfield strikes another blow at the Holzer/Borritt Lincoln faction and its Prize, just awarded to A. C. Guelzo, by honoring "Lincoln scholar David Herbert Donald [with] the first David Herbert Donald Prize in Lincoln Studies."

A rival prize! It's the academic equivalent of mud wrestling.

This week's major Lincoln discovery

If this blog has a motto it might be "We need to revisit primary sources."

The McPhersonish view of ACW history as finished, complete, and ready for expert summation and packaging is not only foolish but represents an attack on history as a discipline, a disincentive to do history and an incitement to do historical literature instead.

This week's major Lincoln discovery does not surprise me in the least:
The conventional wisdom is that Lincoln owned no property at New Salem, near Petersburg, and that his home in Springfield was the first improved property he ever purchased. ...[I]t was always thought and taught that, while at New Salem, Lincoln was somewhere between being a backwoods drifter and a responsible, important person.
Well, it seems Lincoln owned a house, a horse, and some surveying equipment. And he had a bankruptcy that caused them to be inventoried. Please note my emphasis in this quote from the discoverers of his property:
"The primary documents haven't been fully tapped," Mazrim said. "It's the assumption that all of the documents have been read that holds new research back. The same holds true for the archaeological record. We need to revisit primary sources.
Which means there will be even more major Lincoln discoveries in the future. Read it all here.
NEWS | Lincoln birthday marked on Mall * Harrisburg mayor candidate suggests closing Civil War Museum * Museum features Civil War theatricals * Black re-enactors relive 102nd USCT history


Giant tourist attractions

Cartoonist Bill Griffith considers tourist magnets in Illinois. "Towering genius disdains a beaten path."

Anti-Philidor on South Mountain

One of Witold Gombrowicz's literary creations was the comical but sinister interplay between Philidor and anti-Philidor. This Professor Philidor was the inventor and proponent of a unique philosophy styled "synthesis." As Philidor's views gain attention and acceptance in academia, a second professor begins to assume the role of the Anti-Philidor.

I'm not sure if Gombrowicz even gave the Anti-Philidor a name; Anti-Philidor is exclusively occupied with disproving Philidor. He puts his philosophical objections under an umbrella label, "analysis" so that on its face, the struggle is between the competing schools of "synthesis" and "analysis," but the dynamic is fundamentally and totally irrational. Philidor is pursuing a creative line of inquiry and making his way in the world; anti-Philidor is absorbed in disproving Philidor and stalking him, intellectually.

I was reminded of this Gombrowiczian slapstick when reading "South Mountain: Three Gaps, One Battle" by Steven R. Stotelmyer. I had seen Mr. Stotelmyer present this paper in person and the criticism of Timothy J. Reese's ideas were muted, implicit, and indirect. In this published version (linked above), the paper is all about explicitly debunking Reese and his idea that Crampton's Gap was an important individual battle rather than an adjunct to another battle.

What makes the paper Gombrowiczian are the notes, citing extensive correspondence with Reese. This is in addition to or inspired by Reese's published writings. Reese seems to have exchanged a lot of mail entertaining Stotelmyer's challenges and quarrels. And those letters are now major grist for the anti-Philidor mill.

It would be confusing for you, the reader, if I try to use this blog format to untangle Stotelmyer's claims vis a vis Reese's various writings and the history of their correspondence. Since I share Reese's opinion on Crampton's Gap, I'll address Stotelmyer's article from my own perspective in a series next week.

And I'll try to do that without becoming the anti-anti-Philidor.

Lincoln and Baudrillard, together again

Apropos of the childish rhetoric highlighted in yesterday's post, can you believe this headline: "Historic (and Sacred) Landmark to be Restored"? It refers to a modern replica of Lincoln's early home.

"I feel as if the Lord was in this place," commented former slave J.H. Coates at the Lincoln Log Cabin in Milton. Since that day in the 1920s, thousands have made the pilgrimage to this replica of Lincoln's symbolic birthplace commissioned by Mary Bowditch Forbes in 1923 and erected in the backyard of the Forbes mansion, now the Forbes House Museum, a national historic landmark, at 215 Adams St., Milton.

Pure Baudrillard. The representation of the thing has displaced the thing it is representing. It even exists in the shadow of a meaning (a mansion) that renders it visibly absurd. That's hyper-reality.

Meanwhile in an alternate universe that sometimes does hyper-reality one better, it seems that Lincoln, NE, was actually named "Lincoln" to spite Democrats pushing for a new capital of Nebraska, as a kind of poisoning of legislation - which means that the representation of the the thing (the honor) has nothing to do with the act (the naming).

You take the names of state capitals at face value and where does it get you?

Technical failure yesterday

Some sort of tech glitch prevented yesterday's post from appearing - on my end it looked like it was on site and readable.

I hate to miss a (week)day of posting and haven't yet. Sorry for the error.
NEWS | Society plans to restore house attacked by Nat Turner * Berkeley County (WV) needs historical commission, advocate says * Imitation Lincoln cabin to be restored in Mass.


Gombrowicz and childish rhetoric

Witold Gombrowicz! What a name to begin a Civil War post with - I read him years ago in parallel with a lot of Civil War nonfiction.

In his experimental 1930s novel Ferdydurke, the lead character regresses into childhood while retaining adult consciousness. One of the neat tricks that this sets up is refiltering the world of childhood rhetoric through adult sensibility.

There is a poetry class depicted in the novel that I remember running something like this (forgive my pastiche, below):

Teacher: And so class, what is it about the incomparable beauty and sweetness of this author's verses that make us adore him as the first and foremost poet of his age? Anyone? Jan?

Jan: Could it be the incomparable beauty and sweetness of the verses?

Teacher: No, Jan, I am asking what is it in that incomparable beauty and sweetness that we all recognize, that makes our hearts beat faster with love and pride and exhiliration such that we crown this man Poet of the Nation as well as Poet of the Age. Yes, Jacek.

Jacek: Is it a certain quality that makes our hearts beat faster with love and pride and exhiliration?

Techer: No, listen to me. What is that quality that causes us to sing the praises of this mighty incomparable man of letters whose verses of sweetness and beauty cause us to feel utterly unworthy to partake of the same air, whose nobility of character elevates us all and whose poetic insights will never be matched? Anyone?

This satire spoke to me then and speaks to me now of the worst Civil War rhetoric ... and the worst seems to be my daily bread. Skeptical? I've arranged a small demonstration with real quotes and links. My additions or changes are in [brackets]:

[Teacher]: What did Lincoln do to become the most honored and revered president in history?

[Jan]: Lincoln's strength and willingness to fight on in the end led him to success and that commitment is what makes him perhaps the greatest President of all time.

[Jacek]: Lincoln's greatness is best appreciated only when we realize he was merely mortal and therefore free to follow any number of courses of actions.

[Teacher]: [But Lincoln was famous for being ugly - would his physiognomy not constantly remind us he was mortal? Yes, Jacek?]

[Jacek]: The measure of Lincoln's greatness is suggested by the very fact that we see him through the eyes of our understanding, and that virtually transforms his physiognomy.

[Teacher]: [Let's talk about Lee.] Would he have led the Federal forces to a quick victory thereby saving hundreds of thousands of lives?

[Jan]: The man was unquestionably the greatest general in the Confederacy, and the finest soldier in both the North and the South. A great man, he was respected in the North, and adored in the South.

[Teacher]: [But would he have made short work of his enemies thus saving vast amounts of blood and treasure? Jacek?]

[Jacek]: One of the most brilliant military minds ever, if he had been with the north the war would have lasted three days.

Civil War rhetoric: it's Gombrowiczian!
NEWS | Army revisits case of court-martialed chaplain * Chickamauga store relives Civil War * Civil War driving tour project picking up speed


The Civil War era in urban legends

Hunting the surviving beasts of Jefferson Davis's camel corps is illegal in Arizona.

The number of hooves lifted into the air on equestrian statues reveals how the riders died.

Legislation ensuring blacks the right to vote will expire in 2007.

If a virgin passes by the bronze statue on the UNC campus memorializing the Confederate dead, it will come to life and fire its rifle.

Preparatory reading

It's interesting that the number one bestselling Civil War book at Barnes and Noble today (not counting bargain books) is Foote's Civil War, while at Amazon it is the Civil War Preservation Trust's Civil War Sites: The Official Guide to Battlefields, Monuments, and More.

Looks as if people are already reading up for their summer vacations.

Have you ever wanted to be an ACW interpreter?

Well, now you can for the low, low price of just $40!
Interpretive Workshop
Date: Mar 19 ... 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Workshop designed to provide all the tools needed by historical interpreters, docents, teachers, and living history presenters in the interpretation of Civil War medicine. Limited to the first 40 applicants at a cost of $40.00 per person. A "behind the scenes" tour of the Museum is included. Call (301) 695-1864 to register.
Courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick.

Franklin coalition "confident" of preservation

This December news item has preservers confident that they can reach their $2.5 million fundraising goal in time to buy the Franklin golf course on the terms offered. Otherwise, Franklin Battlefield news is scarce. (Click here and scroll way down.)
NEWS | Richmond mulls ballpark construction over slave markets * Battle of Roanoke Island to be commemorated * Mass. school renamed after Civil War vet


Degrees of fraudulence

We have errors in citing the wrong source; we have misleading by citing irrelevant sources; and we have the practice of citing sources that contradict you - citing them as if they supported you. I call that "reversing" or "flipping" a citation. The AHA has not gotten around to recognizing this as a problem, but it's making its way into the press.

The embattled Professor Churchill seems to be having just that kind of problem:

None of the sources that Churchill cites make any mention of “a military infirmary…quarantined for smallpox.” None of the sources Churchill cites make any mention of U.S. Army soldiers even being in the area of the pandemic, much less being involved with it in any way. Churchill’s own sources make it clear that Fort Clark was not an Army garrison. It was a remote trading outpost that was privately owned and built by the American Fur Company, and manned by a handful of white traders. It was not an Army fort, nor did it contain soldiers. Not being an Army fort, it did not contain a “post surgeon” who told Indians to “scatter” and spread the disease. Churchill’s own sources make all of this abundantly clear.
Have a look.

Now have a look at my Stephen Sears collection of posts, starting with this and this. Use the handy Search box at the top left of this page to find more.

Don't pity the liars.

OT - color photos from WWI

Reader Richard Miller writes,
I'm not sure that the following information is responsive to your post on color photos from World War I, but have a look at the color plate inserts in British historian Hew Strachan's recent book, The First World War. He explains that the French had developed an early process (now lost) for capturing color. The pictures, which he apparently discovered in a French government archive, are really quite vivid. Also, his book is an excellent read.
Thanks, Richard. To bring this back to the Civil War era, note that in 1861,
Scottish physicist James Clerk-Maxwell demonstrates a color photography system involving three black and white photographs, each taken through a red, green, or blue filter. The photos were turned into lantern slides and projected in registration with the same color filters. This is the "color separation" method.
Wonder if those photos still exist and what the color quality was like.

AHA: Plagiarism could hurt your career

The American Historical Association has issued "the most comprehensive revision of its Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct since that document was first adopted in 1987." The press release is here.

Did you know that plagiarism "seriously undermines the credibility of the plagiarist, and can do irreparable harm to a historian’s career"? Interesting choice of arguments to make, AHA. Rather utilitarian, as if addressed to a band of sociopaths with no moral compass who need a practical reason not to steal. Oh, wait, there is a moral argument too:
"... such tactics reflect an unworthy disregard for the contributions of others."
Unworthy even of an AHA member. And that's pretty unworthy.

Have a good laugh.
NEWS Judge's ruling allows homes on battlefield * Congressman pushes for a battlefield caucus * Andrews' Raid bus tour offered in April


The tale of a pig

Thanks to Springfield's daily paper, we can watch tradition be manufactured right before our eyes.

First, start with a Taylorsville (Ill.) benefactor's $250,000 sculpture appropriation. The sculptor himself wants "a hook" and decides on Lincoln with a pig. How can Lincoln be associated with a pig? We need a story to dignify this whim.

A story is produced: "... a long-told Taylorville story came up." Aside from being weak, the actual point of the story is that Lincoln wants to be disassociated from the pigs rooting under a courthouse. He is not seeking their company. He does not want to immortalize them in statuary. "Researchers haven't been able to determine a date or a trial," for the tale. It has no substance.

But it's a mania: "Businessman Ed Downs, who owns the downtown Best For Less store, plans to put up new signs that will feature Lincoln with several pigs at his feet." Take a deep breath before reading on:

Another downtown business, Duke's Office Supply, is having 10 murals put in old window openings. They are being painted by Taylorville Junior High art teacher Cindy Adams. Four are already in place. And insurance agent Joe Meeks has written a song about Lincoln and the pig that he plans to put on CD. Money also is being raised to bring a $1,500 fiberglass pig from Cincinnati...

The May 28 dedication, dubbed the "What's the Pig Deal? Festival" will feature people in period costume, a prettiest pig contest, a pigtail contest for men and women and the selling of pig trinkets. There is also talk of making the pig festival an annual event
People are clearly more interested in the pig, the cuteness of it all, and maybe in lightening the weight and gloom of Lincoln the man, the legacy. A tradition will be produced to permit the adoption of Lincoln on the townspeople's own terms.

Lincoln, having wrought a new nation under God, having taken the blood and tragedy of millions on his neck, having cried rivers and groaned windstorms, comes down from the mountain to be confronted with the image of a golden swine in his likeness - and an annual pig festival in his honor.

Meanwhile, I had thought Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger were kidding. They were not kidding. Not one bit.
NEWS | ACW machine shop in Mobile slated for destruction * PBS runs slavery series this week * Seattle children's theatre stages Red Badge of Courage


OT - color photos from WWI

Provenance unknown. Very interesting. Next: ACW?

The view from easy street

I once had charge, as an extra duty, of an Army division's museum. For a history-minded person that was a terrifically enjoyable time.

The superintendent (lofty title) of the museum that is Lincoln's home is retiring. He lives across the street from his workplace. Every morning, he rises, strolls through the crosswalk, hangs his hat on some peg and maybe spends a little time wondering how he will occupy his day.
After 37 years with the National Park Service and three years in the military, Lusardi decided it was time "to enjoy the rest of my life," he said.

Give me a break. Hat tip to Abraham Lincoln Online.

Another of Stanton's little helpers

One of the many interesting features of Margaret Leech's 1942 Pulitzer-winning Reveille in Washington, 1860-1865 was her speculation about the possible blackmailing of War Secretary Edwin Stanton by P.H. Watson, Stanton's wartime jailkeeper who used the SecWar's protection to run rackets and terrorize the city.

Leech thought that Watson's (alleged?) manufacturing of evidence in the McCormick/Manny lawsuit might have been the leverage used against trial partner Stanton; or perhaps it pointed to additional joint misconduct that could severely embarass the secretary of war, were it to be revealed. Watson's bullying of Stanton certainly stands out in Reveille.

Stanton's use of spies and stooges like correspondent Charles Dana, General James Garfield, and General E.A. Hitchcock, is well known and in some cases could have opened him to extortion. His failure to recruit Rosecrans as a tool against McClellan marks the rupture between Rosie and Stanton in Lamers' Rosecrans biography Edge of Glory.

Now, a new (2004) book, The Devil's Game: The Civil War Intrigues of Charles A. Dunham focuses on the career of one very special helper.

This review notes more Leech like speculation that Dunham "perhaps undertook secret endeavors on behalf of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, with whom he had been associated in a prewar court case."

There's that case again. In jail in one point, Dunham prevails upon Watson and Stanton to free him. As Leech noted, if Watson to freed you, a quid pro quo was involved.

What was Dunham's stock in trade? "[E]mbroidering testimony for Secretary of War Stanton and Judge Advocate Gen. Joseph Holt that helped convict some of the Lincoln assassination conspirators," and "Knowing that Stanton and Holt desperately wanted to link Confederate President Jefferson Davis to Lincoln's murder, Dunham claimed to have been privy to relevant conversations among the Confederates in Canada, and offered to procure other witnesses who would corroborate his story." But that's not all:
Amazingly, the man then attempted to sell the Radical Republicans fake letters linking President Andrew Johnson to assassin John Wilkes Booth.
A good entrepreneur knows his market.

Our reviewer says this is
a fascinating look at the depths to which those who ran the federal government in the immediate post-Civil War era were willing to descend to preserve their domination of the political scene.

Yes, but why just post-war?
NEWS | Breakfast honors Black Jack Logan * Jeff Davis mansion presents prickly problem for Richmond * Oklahoma town named after Stonewall Jackson celebrates founding


Civil War Bookshelf wins slippery fish award

In the arcane world of blogging, where Technorati is recording the arrival of 40,000 new blogs per day, your patronage has placed Civil War Bookshelf at the lofty rank of 9,602 within N.Z. Bear's ranking system, well within the "top 10,000" mark and within easy striking distance of the coveted boast, "9,000th most popular blog."

What does this correspond to in the real world, you wonder. Well, on an evolutionary scale, Mr. Bear compares this effort with a life form advanced to slippery, I'm sorry, "flippery fish." Just scroll down this fish list to position 9,602 and you'll see.

All of which is a baroque way of saying, sincerely, thanks for visiting.

Mark Grimsley is blogging again

File this one under "ships in the night."

I had been to the War Historian blog several times since it started in December without realizing it is Civil War author and military historian Mark Grimsley's revived blog (shared with one Laura Murphy).

And how did I discover this? Through the Internet's time-tested blind-man-and-the-elephant system of finding things out - in this case, following a link chain out of the blog scouting service called Technorati.

Mark ran an excellent blog previously by using his HTML editor to update a standard web page journal-style. He's got better technology going now and is eminently searchable on Google and such.
A few years ago I heard historian Ira Berlin remark that the difference between history and memory is that history is subject to critical discussion but public memory is not.
Go easy at first. This is 100 proof historiography.

I missed out on Democracy

I missed seeing the first(?) Ulysses S. Grant opera ever, Democracy, based on the book by Henry Adams.

My excuses: (1) it was snowing up to and during the Sunday matinee and I did not want to brave the parking/driving situation in a snowbound D.C. under time pressure with a car full of 10-year-old female opera fans (2) I was fearful of exposing these God-fearing little people to what promised to be "a tale of puffed-up, would-be heroes and cynical, hedonistic rogues" in a "deliciously elitist social comedy that unfolds amid the squalor and corruption of the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant."

So says this review, anyway (registration may be required). And yes, I could tell what the tone of the story would be before I bought tickets, given this description.

Washington is a town so deliriously in love with itself, it's hard to tell if this critic thinks the opera was worthwhile on its own merits. To find out, I'll have to sneak out some night alone to partake of this one the next time it comes around. And as for the children, now that the Peabody has quitely canceled and expunged the modern opera Beauty and the Beast from its spring lineup, they'll have to make do with that buoyant, loveable children's classic Maid of Orleans later this season.
NEWS | Grant's Tomb renovation plans postponed * Museum show features ACW children * Monument endangered by road vibrations * Ohio stages Civil War POW exhibit


Iraqi elections in Tennessee

This passage from Mark Grimsley's irreplaceable Hard Hand of War reminded me of Sunday's elections in the Sunni Triangle:
By March 1864, for example, the town of Bolivar, Tennessee, had been under Union occupation for two full years, yet the mere threat of guerilla retaliation derailed an election called by the state's military governor, Andrew Johnson. "The people are warned by a poster from 'Willey Hags Capt of Forrests Scouts' not to hold such Election under pain of being Arrested & Carried South for trial," recorded a local planter. "[A] goodly number of Country Voters came to town to Vote, but all feared the Guerillas & no Election was held. Great God what will be the end. Law & order forbidden."
The eternal guerilla plays his predictable hand.

Updates and non-updates

The Franklin (TN) newspaper has gone very quiet for quite a long time on the subject of one of its golf courses being sold to become a battlefield park. We followed this matter with some regularity through fall. Let me note that this paper was recently taken over by a regional publisher. Staff cuts? Meanwhile, the Battle of Franklin documentary is a wrap. It's about the original battle, not the current one.

Likewise, the Chancellorsville battlefield race against the clock in which Civil War Preservation Trust and Central Virginia Battlefield Trust attempt to raise money to conclude a land sale is generating no news stories, no new fundraising letters, and no new press releases. CVBT has posted no updates on its site, and CWPT has not refreshed its only press release on this subject since September.

Fredericksburg's Freelance Star has, however, been running lots of Robert Krick pieces on the battle.

"Universal truths of love and language"

This piece gives an extended synopsis of the upcoming Nashville threatre production of "Atlanta:"
It tells the story of a Yankee soldier who finds himself behind enemy lines, face to face with a Confederate. He kills the rebel, puts on his clothes in an attempt to save himself, but is then captured as a deserter. It's up to a slave to save him — a slave named Hamlet who's part of a band of Shakespearean revelers who perform for their colonel and his troops. Together, they delve into universal truths of love and language, even as Atlanta burns.
NEWS | Chickamauga's Glass’s Mill site for sale * Ex-marine compiles history of black spies in the Civil War * Genealogist provides life history of soldier who wrote grafitti * Virginia county delays decision on constructing homes on ACW site


Gettysburg museum for sale

The people who run the Gettysburg National Military Park's new museum and visitors' center have been out soliciting funds by promising not just to immortalize the donor by name but to distort the entire purpose of the museum and center.

Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation approached the [McCormick Tribune] foundation with idea of a gallery about Civil War journalism and Illinois troops.
And McCormick bought in for a (forgive me) miserable, lousy, stinking $1 million donation; a gallery will be built and dedicated for this purpose. Can one even build a wing on a museum for $1 million or less?

"It certainly is a significant donation and one that reflects not only McCormick Tribune Foundation's interest in their own history but also in helping us bring this important aspect of our nation's history to the visitors."
"Hey, you went to Gettysburg on vacation?" "Oh man, let me tell you about Civil War journalism and Illinois troops!"

This is hyper reality in action. Something has a connection with the Civil War; Gettysburg has some connection to the war; anything connected with the war is connected with Gettysburg; Gettysburg attracts tourists. Voila - an unrestricted license to fundraise on contrived themes; to clutter the visitors' experiences and mislead them.

Hey, Frank Perdue: we need a museum gallery displaying chicken-based meal preparation before, during, and after the battle.

Out-of-control fund-raisers - guardians of our common heritage.

Peter Charles Hoffer’s Past Imperfect takes another hit

HNN gives us a new, negative review by Jonathan Rees.

I have a lot to say about Hoffer's book, but it has little to do with ACW historiography and so will stay out of these pages. Rees's review, however, got my ACW antennae twitching:

Most professional historians recognize that their work will never be the last word on a particular subject.
Wasn't it Stephen Sears who wrote the article "Last Word on the Lost Orders?" We have a huge "last word" problem in Civil War history.

Rather than try to freeze historical interpretations in a block of ice, they revel in the give and take of professional consensuses gradually forming.
The Centennial generation of ACW historians did not revel in give-and-take. They adopted an editorial line and stuck with it. Nor has been there been a significant or substantive revision of James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, for instance, in the decades since it came out, despite torrents of new sources and interpretations published on the margins of best selling pop history. (Battle Cry is an aggregation of maintream Centennial opinions about the war.)

There are no prizes awarded for new ACW interpretations. The prizes are given for elaborations of existing interpretations developed prior to and through the Centennial years.
The fact that historiography can help students recognize these limitations of historical scholarship and the difficulty in finding immutable truth is the real value of this arcane sub-field.
Limitations of historical scholarship are one thing; abuse of sources something else; and suppression of dissent yet another. But then, that might not be a perfectly collegial thing to say to the audience of historians who read HNN.

And, anyway, he's talking about historians in general, not the problematic subset known as "Civil War historians."

Another one bites the dust

It looks like "Blogging Civil War Ghosts" has died its second death.

Author Moritz has some of its higlights in this static page, "Civil War by Kayak". And for those of you needing a Burnside fix, he has the goods here. Nor should gun collectors miss his adventures with the Burnside carbine here.

Moritz even has a page where he dons the philosopher's cap to ask the eternal question: "Burnside reconsidered: insane or stupid?" (His question, not mine. My answer:)

Those sideburns are insane.
NEWS | JP Morgan Chase starts scholarship fund for descendants of slaves * Chicago suburb reconsiders re-enactment permissions * Gettysburg group gets new director