Saturday, November 27, 2010

CWL--Remembrance Day, Gettysburg, 2010

November 20, 2010, Remembrance Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Lieutenant Nick Griffey and Color Sargent Rea Andrew Redd [Civil War Librarian]. Taken immediately after the Remembrance Day Parade and immediate before the Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves, Company A, forms a column to march from Ziegler's Grove to the south side of Little Round Top where the Ninth's Monument is located.

New In The [E]Mail-Civil War Campaigner Volume 1 Number 4

Just in time for Thanksgiving! One of the hightlights of 2010 is the arrival of Civil War Campaigner magazine. Much like Civil War Historian, which is no longer published, CWC focuses on textiles, camplife and campcraft, campaign style reenactments and preservation news.

Issue four examines Federal issue blankets immediate before and during the war, an infantry company's paperwork, civilian wheelcaps and bonnets construction, the Army of the Potomac's Iron Brigade, the work of the Civil War Preservation Trust, and a the efforts of various coalitions in the past and present to save the battlefields around Richmond, Virginia.

The magazine is highly illustrated with photographs and the design is well managed. Without care, it could easily fall into a 'scrapbook' or 'fanzine' category. But with clear and concise writing, campaign-centered topics, CWC is many steps above publications that are generated with the main idea of 'let's make money off of reenactors.'

CWC is delivered by email but not as an attachment. The magazine is electronically hosted by Exact Editions. The software is easy to handle and the contents of the magazine may be read online or printed in part or the entire 90+ pages. With a subscriptions being offered for under $20 this five times a year publication is reasonably priced.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Forthcoming: Library of America's Series of Primary Sources, Volume One

The Civil War: The First Year of The Conflict Told by Those Who Lived It Brooks Simpson, Stephen Sears, Sheehan-Dean Aaron (Editors), Library of America, chronology, notes, index, hardcover, 680 pages, $37.50.

An extraordinary collection of primary source writings and essential for Civil War enthusiasts. Nearly 125 selections span the first 14 months of the conflict, November 1860 through December 1861. Contributors include a Confederate surgeon describing the Battle of Belmont Missouri, a Federal 2nd lieutenant describing the Battle of Ball's Bluff Virginia, Sam Huston's anti-secession speech, Alex Stephen's Cornerstone speech to the Confederate Congress, Elizabeth Blair Lee's description of wartime Washington D.C, Sallie Brock's description of wartime inflation in Richmond, and a slave's recollection of the Federal capture of South Carolina's Sea Islands.

Battles, military intrigues, visits to both White Houses, life in wartime camps and cities are set forth in chronological order. The text is enhanced by both brief descriptions of author before the text and more extended descriptions at the rear of the book of the authors. The lack of illustrations and maps in no way detracts of the quality and achievements of the collection. American Civil enthusiasts, such as reenactors and educators, will be turning to this series in order to capture the human voices of the war.

Sesquicentennial: Washington Post Offers Sharp Looking Timeline

The Washington Post is investing time and resources in creating a remarkable offering for the Sesiquicentennial of the American Civil War. Graphically smart, clear and consise, the Washington Post's chronology starts in November 1860 and so far has been prepared through April 1861. User friendly, accessible for 8th graders through adults, and interesting for beginners and enthusiasts, Washington Post's high on CWL's lists of websites that deserve a monthly visit. The WP's other items include historian's holding forth on the question 'Could the Civil War been avoided?'

Washington Post's Timeline of the American Civil War.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New: Brief Introduction to R.E. Lee's Military Career In Two Nations

Robert E. Lee: The Background, Strategies, Tactics And Battlefield Experiences Of The Greatest Commanders Of History Series, Ron Field and Adam Hook [illustrator], Osprey Publishing, bibliography, index, paperback, $18.95
Ron Field's brief introduction to Robert E. Lee will satisfy most newcomers to the topic. Well illustrated with fine maps, the book adequately covers the major aspects of the Virginian's upbringing, growth and military careers in the U.S. and Confederate armies. Field does not overlook Lee's failure during 1861 in western Virginia. The five maps cover the campaigns in Virginia and the battles of 2nd Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancelorsville and Gettysburg but maps are lacking for the Seven Days battles, Antietam, the Overland Campaign, the Petersburg Siege and the retreate to Appomattox. The discussion of Lee biographies places the Lost Cause biograhies in context but Alan Nolan's valuable criticisms go unmentioned. Lee's masterful retreat from Gettysburg is not described. For the audience that is looking for an introduction to Lee, Osprey Publishing should have increased the 64 pages to 96.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Off Topic Novel---Dennis Lahane' Moonlight Mile

Moonlight Mile, Dennis Lehane, William Morrow Publishing, 326 pages, $26.95. So, Dennis Lehane. Shutter Island, HBO's The Wire, Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Prayers For Rain. Some of the best of the past twnety years' novels and films have come through his talents.

Moonlight Mile addresses sentimental and rational solutions to problems of child abuse, parenting, and a corrupt and violent world. A native of Boston, Lehane creates characters, dialog, and environments that reveal race, class and gender dilemmas in personal relationships and societial obligation that reflect the Dorchester section of Boston. Once fully Irish, Polish and Catholic and the neighborhood is still that but also black and Vietnamese.

Did Former police detective Patrick Kenzie do the right thing a decade ago when he located missing Amanda McCready, a missing four year old. He returned her to her crack addict mother. Her kidnappers were a stable middle class married couple. He hasn't had it easy time living with his decision.

In Moonlight Mile, Kenzie is now scraping along as a freelance PI, married to his former detective Angie Gennaro and their daughter. Learning that again Amanda McCready’s gone missing his conscience plucks at him. The gifted and manipulative 16year-old is again between two worlds. This time it is the world of her crack addicted mom and her paroled felone boyfriend the memory of being happy for a very short time. Creating a new world where she is happy, safe and out the law, Kenzieonce again is contronted with a decision made over a decade ago. Now local tough guys, Eastern European mobsters, baby smugglers, are now the working environment of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, former police detectives, recently married and first time parents.

Dennis Lehane has written nine novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; Shutter Island.

Monday, November 08, 2010

150th Anniversary Resource---Interactive Time Line

New York Times is offering a interactive time with a link to the Civil War Era editions of the New York times. The timeline begins on October 31, 1860 with the Presidential campaign. Much of the timeline appears to be completed for the entire war with the links to the historic New York Times intact. Also, occassional stories, such as Jamie Malanowski on the topic 'November 7 1860: Lincoln Wins. Now What?'

New York Times Interactive Civil War Time Line

Friday, November 05, 2010

News---Ed Ayers, A Driver in Virginia's Civil War Sesquicentennial

In Richmond, A Civil War Expert Seeks To Emancipate History's Narrative, Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, Sunday, November 7, 2010.

When the young Edward Ayers left his Tennessee home for Yale to study history, his mama asked him why. "You already know what happened," she said. But history, Ayers already knew, is best understood through the lens of time. History is always changing. Now that he's president of the University of Richmond, he's become an agent of that change.

As a leader of Richmond's sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War, he hopes to reshape America's understanding of the bloodiest conflict in its history. Ayers wants Americans to see beyond the battlefield maneuvers and battle flags, the pat narratives of brothers reluctantly taking up arms against brothers and the kitsch of Stonewall Jackson bobbleheads, and reimagine the conflict from the perspective of its most important consequence: the emancipation of 4 million slaves. "I am trying to get us to rethink what the war is about, and what we've being doing in Richmond is instead of talking of one sesquicentennial, one anniversary, it's really two: One's the Civil War, and the other's Emancipation," Ayers says, with the faintest drawl. "The main thing that happened, the consequence of the war, was freedom for 4 million people who had been held in bondage for over two centuries in this country."

His broader approach has earned him praise in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederate States of America, but also denunciations from some whose ancestors fought on its behalf. To those who accuse him of politically correct revisionism, Ayers points out that Americans have always interpreted the Civil War to reflect their times.

In the late 19th century, W.E.B. Dubois argued that the war, and its enormous death toll, had been a necessary sacrifice to end slavery. That view changed after World War I's horrors encouraged revisionists who questioned whether the Civil War had been unavoidable or worth the price. The literary critic Edmund Wilson went so far as to compare Lincoln to Lenin in using violence to reshape the world according to his politics.

Then came World War II, which seemed to teach again that some causes are worth dying for. By the time of the Civil War centennial in 1960, the war's legacy had been reshaped by the struggle for civil rights, with Southerners emphasizing the centrality of states' rights and Northerners the need for federal intervention to right an enduring wrong.

Even this year, when Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) issued a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month that omitted any reference to slavery, the widespread outrage demonstrated once again that the past is not yet past. After apologizing, McDonnell pledged that from now on the state would commemorate the Civil War in all its complexity, not just the Confederacy. That is almost exactly the approach Ayers has championed for Richmond. As a member of the leadership team of "The Future of Richmond's Past," he has helped bring together blacks and whites, historians and lay people, to plan events for the next five years. Among the first was last April's "Civil War and Emancipation Day" which drew 4,000 people to explore the history of slavery and the Civil War, from the grounds of the city's former slave market to various museums in the city.

But Ayers, who often talks of going against the grain, of resisting the smugness that comes of judging dead people, can also frustrate those who insist that the Civil War was fought over slavery alone. He sees slavery as the primary cause, but he also wants to move beyond the notion that the explanation for the most important conflict in American history, one that claimed 620,000 lives and rededicated the republic to its founding principles, could fit on a bumper sticker.

"People will spend more time and energy explaining a car wreck than they will that: 'It was just states' rights.' Or, 'It was just slavery.' Any answer we give 'just' to explain the actions of 40 million people is wrong," he says. "We have to have the courage to say: No, it's complex, and it's changing." Ayers, 57, brings to the task a Southerner's perspective and impressive Civil War credentials. He has examined the conflict in several books and a ground-breaking online project called "The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War."

Born and raised in the South's mountain culture, he was the son of textile workers who settled in Kingsport, Tenn. Like the rest of the South, his town was deeply racist and segregated by law. Rock and roll music, and magazines such as Rolling Stone, opened a window on the ferment of the broader culture. He toyed with the idea of becoming a journalist like Tom Wolfe, but instead, after a degree in American studies at the University of Tennessee, headed to postgraduate studies at Yale.

Ayers, who began teaching at the University of Virginia in 1980, has written or edited 10 books, including The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. But he's hardly the supercilious scholar of stereotype. Chatty, affable and self-deprecating, with a head full of gray curls, for the last couple of years he's been one of the American History Guys on public radio's "BackStory," a sort of "Car Talk" for history buffs.

"He's an amazing guy, the amount of energy he has to do what he does," said James M. McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. "And he's always chipper and cheerful. I'd be exhausted."

One thing Ayers never tires of discussing is slavery and its role in U.S. history. "I say that slavery is more central to the nation than we recognize, not less," he says. "But the thing is that, very often, people will say, 'Okay, that answers it. It was disputes over slavery.' But how did disputes over slavery turn into a war that ended slavery? Nobody thought that was possible at the start. Slavery is at the core of everything, from start to finish, but I think, ironically, just the assertion of it prevents us from understanding all its dimensions."

Ayers delights in challenging every simple theory of the war. To those who blame slavery alone, he responds that only 2 percent of Northern whites were abolitionists. Had the war ended at First Manassas, slavery would likely have remained intact, because ending it was not yet the Union's goal. As to the theory of modernism -- that an industrial economy built on wage labor was destined to collide with an agrarian feudalist economy based on slave labor -- he points out that the South had railroads, telegraphs and cotton, which was like the petroleum of the 19th century. If the South had achieved independence, it would have joined the ranks of the top four economies in the world. To those who argue states' rights, Ayers acknowledges that even Thomas Jefferson believed states might have the right to leave the union. But what's the one right that most divided North and South? The right to own slaves. Just look at the secession proclamations. In recent years, Ayers has been respectfully critical of the reigning view of the war, as presented by Ken Burns's PBS documentary series "The Civil War," McPherson and others. He expresses discomfort with an Olympian good-vs.-evil narrative of the war that can sometimes seem self-congratulatory and triumphant.

"It may be . . . that we like the current story too much to challenge it very deeply and that we foreclose questions by repeating familiar formulas," Ayers wrote in an essay. "The risk of our apparent consensus is that we paper over the complicated moral issues raised by a war that left hundreds of thousands of people dead. The risk is that we no longer worry about the Civil War."

Instead, he prefers to explain the war's cause by "deep contingency," or the notion that every element of social life is contingent, unpredictable, and intertwined with others in ways that can work together mysteriously, even improbably, to cause surprising and earth-shaking events. "The shortest way to understand it," he says, "is that it's a perfect storm."

It is a compelling answer in the post-modern era of nonhierarchical thinking, chaos theory, Wikipedia, the Internet and collective intelligence -- or collective folly. His answer, critics say, is an evasion itself. "I was never able to grasp what he was driving at there," McPherson says. What else is history but the imposition of pattern, order -- in short, a story -- on a universe of seemingly random and interconnected events? McPherson asks.

Ayers has heard this criticism. But if no one has ever been able to bind the nation's wounds from the Civil War, Ayers says, it's perhaps because the Civil War presents a paradox: Although the conflict did not begin as a war to end slavery, that is what it became. And that itself was a new beginning. "The Civil War is at the heart of what this nation is about," he says. "Freedom, and respect, and possibility for all Americans."

Text Source: Washington Post

News---Virginia History Text Gets Stickers for Black Confederate Soldiers Statements

WJC Will Use Stickers To Cover Flawed Fextbook, Virginia Gazette, October 24, 2010.

The publisher of Our Virginia: Past and Present will provide stickers that WJC Schools and other divisions can use to cover a factually incorrect statement about blacks fighting on behalf of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The flawed statement in the text was traced to a Sons of Confederate Veterans website.

The book made national news this week after a history professor at the College of William & Mary read the passage in her 9-year-old daughter's fourth grade history book. Carol Sheriff, who was interviewed by the Washington Post and appeared on "Countdown" with Keith Olberman on Wednesday, said the Confederacy forbid blacks from fighting for the South until the final year of the war, and there is no record of black Confederate soldiers taking part in any battles.

According to a statement issued Thursday afternoon from WJC Schools, former Toano Middle School principal Theresa Redd attended a meeting of the Virginic Council of Social Studies Educations earlier in the day where the topic was discussed. Redd retired from her principal's job, but was recently appointed Social Studies coordinator for the division.

Five Ponds Press, the publisher of the textbook, told the council it would provide labels that can be affixed to cover the flawed paragraph. WJC expects to receive the labels within the next few weeks. WJC uses "Our Virginia" as part of its fourth grade curriculum. The text was selected through the division’s standard textbook approval procedure. A committee of staff and community members recommended the text, and the public had the opportunity to inspect the textbook. Finally, the book was approved by the School Board.

Text Source: Virginia Gazette

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

News---Virginia's Civil War Legacy Project Offers Free Scanning of Docs and Pix

The Hall of Valor at the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park in the Shennandoah Valley will offer free digital scanning of family documents and photographs this weekend. The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission and the Library of Virginia have partnered to create a state-wide online collection of original Civil War manuscripts that still remain in private hands. The Civil War 150 Legacy Project: Document Digitization and Access focuses on manuscript materials created during the period 1859-1867 that reflect social, political, military, business and religious life in Virginia during the period of the Civil War and the early period of Reconstruction.

The public is invited to bring original photographs, diaries, letters, and other documents from the Civil War era for evaluation and digital scanning by Library of Virginia personnel. Scanned materials will be made available on the web via the Library of Virginia web site and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission web site.

The CW 150 Legacy Project is a multi-year effort to locate, digitize and provide world-wide access to the private documentary heritage of the American Civil War era located throughout Virginia. The Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and the Library of Virginia are partnering on this project, which will give individuals an opportunity to have their historic letters, diaries and other collections scanned to preserve their valuable intellectual content. This November 5 event is being offered through the Shenandoah County Sesquicentennial Committee. The public is invited to bring original photographs, diaries, letters, and other documents from the Civil War era for evaluation and digital scanning. There is no cost for this ne day event being held between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm. Those taking part must schedule an appointment in advance. Those taking part must schedule an appointment in advance by emailing or calling 866-515-1864, Monday-Friday between 9am-5pm.

For more information go to or

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

News---Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Exam in December

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The entry level exam for a position with the Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides will be offered on Saturday December 4 in the classrooms of the Harrisburg Community College building in Gettysburg. Fifty bucks will get you a desk, a chair and an exam.

The exam consists of three short essay questions that if you don't get correct, then you fail the test and your answers to the 200+ are not valid. As a matter of fact your 200+ answers are not even checked. Pass the essays and get about 92%+ of the 200+ questions correct and then move to the second level. In January a 16 hour course is offered which includes the 'perfect' tour offered by the guides. The guys who miss zero questions on the test then get first crack to take a NPS ranger on a two hour tour of the battlefield. Fail it and you get a second chance. Fail the second chance and go get in line for the 2012 test.

If you get above a 92% or one of the top 15 scores then you go through the 16 hour course and if the first two guys pass the oral tour exam, then it is over. No GLBG badge for you. You don't take the final oral exam. Go get in line for the 2012 test. The current number of guides at about 165 and the GLBG Association is not looking to add more than two or three guides every other year.

So should you take exam? Of course. CWL took it in 2006 to discover what he knew and didn't know. Mission accomplished in 2006. CWL wanted to improve his score in 2008. Mission accomplished with a 5% increase. Now on to 2010! The goal is to get close to 90% The goal is not to become a GLBG but to test myself against myself. That's it. Improvement. So after 2010 and a 90% score what is next? The Antietam Licensed Battlefield Guide Exam, of course.

By the way small eruptions among the test takers are common during the test. Some of the exam directions and questions are unclear and may be read in two ways. Clyde Bell and assorted GLBGs huddle like NFL refs in the front of the room and decide on what the exam writer wants and then, going room to room, they make an announcement. CWL wonders whether the NPS and the GLBGs need an experienced educator to review the test for clarity.

Photo Source: Clyde Bell, GNMP ranger and exam proctor.Gettysburg Daily