Friday, May 27, 2011

News: The Leatherman---A Civil War Veteran?

Leather Man, Mysterious 19th-Century Wanderer, Will Remain So, Peter Applebome, New York Times, May 25, 2011.

A mystery since the 19th century, the Leather Man will apparently remain that way forever.

[Image on Right: The Leather Man, in 1888]

From Sunday to Tuesday afternoon, a team of about 20 historians, geneticists, archaeologists, anthropologists and other researchers descended on the Sparta Cemetery in Ossining, N.Y., hoping to exhume the remains of the Leather Man, a homeless wanderer who fashioned his clothing from discarded boots and roamed around Westchester County and western Connecticut for decades in the 19th century.

He slept in caves and lean-tos, rarely spoke, accepted food and then moved on, but became a figure of mystery and some affection during his life and then, surprisingly, a source of enduring fascination long after his death on March 20, 1889. When plans were announced this winter to exhume him, study his remains and give him a better grave, more than a few voices called for leaving him alone, figuring that his secrets should remain that way.

And so they shall. Other than coffin nails and dirt, almost nothing was found in the grave, certainly not the genetic material or bones that might have provided clues as to where the Leather Man was born, or whether he was autistic or suffered from any diseases that might shed light on his life. “After 122 years, the Leather Man is ashes to ashes, dust to dust,’’ said Norman MacDonald, president of the Ossining Historical Society, who oversaw the effort.

On Wednesday afternoon, there was a reburial ceremony at the Leather Man’s new fieldstone headstone, with the coffin nails and dirt from the original site reburied in a fresh coffin and a respectful brass plaque commemorating his life. It is a big improvement from the original pauper’s grave with the wrong name on a tiny borrowed headstone a few steps from what is now busy traffic on Route 9. And after that, one hopes, the Leather Man, or what little is left of him, will finally be able to rest in peace.

CWL: Even odds that it is an American Civil War veteran with PSTD. Many wanders like Leatherman existed after the war. Check Shook Over Hell by Eric Dean. State asylums had a significant population of Civil War vets after the war. There is evidence that among the first postbellum hobos were many Federal and Confederate veterans. See Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America by Todd DePastino.

Text and Images Source: New York Times, May 25, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Off Topic---Six Armies in Normandy

Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris, June 6 - Aug. 5, 1944, John Keegan, Penguin Books, 366 pp., notes, bibliography, index, b/w illustrations,maps, revised edition, 1994, $16.00.

Noted military historian John Keegan doesn't offer a comprehensive narrative of the Normandy invasion and the six armies progress to Paris. The chapters at times stand alone and offer aspects of the inception, planning, command and control of the armies, air forces and navies. There are some fine descriptions of personalities and combat. There are some digressions that tell incomplete stories, in particular regarding French, Polish and Canadian troops.

Keegan at times reveals his background knowledge of British military history. For some readers it may be a distraction. Also, it at times is British-centric and carries a bit of condescension towards the French and Americans. But Six Armies is a fine narrative that readers with a background in the European Theatre may enjoy. First time readers in the field may put this aside as being dense.

New and Noteworthy: Fugitive Slaves, Their Rescuers and The Coming of the Civil War

Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial, Steven Lubet. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 367 pp., notes, index, hardcover, 2010, $29.95.

H-Net, H-Law review: Triumph of Law, Failure of Justice, Steve Peraza Published on H-Law, May, 2011.
Excerpt: The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 affirmed the U.S. government’s support of slavery, catalyzing conflict in the process. The law required federal officials to aid in the search for and seizure of alleged runaways anywhere in the United States. It also criminalized efforts to stall or block the law’s enforcement. Therefore slave catchers and U.S. Marshals hunted fugitives with impunity, even in states and territories where positive laws had abolished slavery. Moreover black and white abolitionists who refused to help slave catchers, or who chose to rescue recaptured runaways, faced federal fines and imprisonment. The fugitive slave law thus protected southern slaveholders’ rights to their human chattel, but as one historian has noted, “To secure these rights the law seemed to ride roughshod over the prerogatives of the northern states.”

Excerpt: That the fugitive slave law overcame social, political, and legal challenges is one of the lessons of Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial, a well-researched and elegantly written monograph by Williams Memorial Professor of Law Steven Lubet. But the purpose of the study is not to measure the effectiveness of the law. Rather, Fugitive Justice explains how federal enforcement and prosecution of the law pushed abolitionist lawyers to advance radical legal theories in defense of the runaways and rescuers they represented. To do so, the monograph retells the stories of three high-profile fugitive slave trials in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Ohio, respectively, focusing acutely on the legal arguments delivered for and against the fugitive slave law during each case. In this way readers experience both the palpable drama of antebellum trials in the United States as well as the ideological and rhetorical battles among prosecutors, defense attorneys, U.S. commissioners, and federal judges.

Excerpt: Professor Lubet’s Fugitive Justice convincingly argues that fugitive slave trials were a contributing factor to the coming of the Civil War. It also explains clearly how notions of “higher law” evolved from mere rhetoric to antislavery legal theory. In the final analysis Lubet’s study tells a compelling story about the fugitive slave law and its challengers from which both legal scholars and historians will benefit.

Full Text Review: H-Net, H-Law May 2011.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Film---Gettysburg 2011 on History Channel, Memorial Day

J.D. Petruzzi, author of The Complete Gettysburg Guide, reflects on the above image and notes: Here's an advertising screen shot from the upcoming History Channel presentation of the Scott brothers' "Gettysburg" (May 30, 9pm). Note the Hardee hat with the wrong side pinned up, and the crossed-rifles insignia on the front of it (not used by the Army until 1875). Hoo boy.

Image Source: Facebook

Monday, May 23, 2011

H-Net Civ War Review----The Real End of the Confederacy in the Ozarks

Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign, William L. Shea, University of North Carolina Press, 2009. x + 358 pp. $35.00, hardcover. Also available: Kindle and Audible Editions.

Review entitled The Real End of the Confederacy in the Ozarks, Gary Edwards, H-Net Civil War Reviews, March 2011.

Excerpt: William Shea’s solid study of the Confederacy’s last significant offensive operation in the vast trans-Mississippi makes a fine argument that Prairie Grove, Arkansas (December 7, 1862) may be the most consequential battle you have never heard of. As a contest of combat, it does not lack for drama despite its diminutive scope. If analytically conjoined with operations in Maryland and Kentucky, it enhances the argument that the autumn of 1862 was a concentrated period of bold but failed Confederate offensives. At the same time it refutes the layman’s notion that after Pea Ridge the Confederacy was finished in the Ozarks. An established Civil War scholar, Shea has enlarged his repertoire and produced the first analytically significant study of the five-month-long Prairie Grove campaign. The final product represents a yeoman’s effort of exhaustive investigation that illuminates all aspects of this underappreciated Civil War contest.

Excerpt: Shea has produced a compelling narrative of a campaign that has never received its full due. He began with a remarkable claim that a Confederate victory would have altered the course of the war in the trans-Mississippi. While this is plausible, it was not conclusively proven nor did it appear to be the author’s primary concern. On the other hand, Shea’s argument that (post Prairie Grove) the Confederacy would maintain little more than a defensive posture in the trans-Mississippi for the rest of the war seems well founded. On the whole, Shea is neither excessively analytical nor inadvertently noncommittal. To his credit, he allows the participants a free hand to critique the campaign for themselves. However, his criticism of Schofield’s petty politics seems to be a pointed rebuke to Donald Connelly’s recent biography which presented the general as an “astute political soldier.” By contrast, there is perhaps an occasional twinge of empathy for Hindman but this is easily explained by Hindman’s vital narrative role--without his logistical acumen and daring offensive there would be nothing to write about. This is a sound and thorough study. It should stand as the benchmark work on Prairie Grove for at least the next generation.

Full Text Source: H-Net Civil War Reviews

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Off Topic Fiction----A Soul In A Bottle

A Soul In A Bottle, Tim Powers (Author), J. K. Potter (Illustrator), Subterranean Press, 86 pp, hardcover, 2006, $22.00.

It would be a stretch to call A Soul In A Bottle a novella. It is an illustrated short story. George Sydney, a second hand book hunter finds a 1968 first edition of poems which is very unique. There is within it a poem which does not appear in any other first edition of the book. The discovery is preceded by the appearance of a waif who George realizes later, may be the poet, Cheyenne Fleming. Soon George's new acquaintance reveals a fountain-pen and requests a special favor from George.

But first edition experts report that Cheyenne Fleming committed suicide and the estate is administered by her sister, Rebecca Fleming, who is also a poet. Can George bring the poet who may be the waif, back to life? If he does, will lose his much younger love interest who maybe the author or the author's ghost?

If George helps the author change a poem in the first edition that she authored then will the innocent Rebecca be harmed, or the author Cheyenne be avenged? Powers's intricately crafted story explores loneliness, alcoholism, vulnerability, and the afterlife. The story's impact is both visceral and moral. Personal choice and personal freedom, vengeance and justice, fear and pity are countervailing issues that are entangled within the three main characters.

Potter's evocative illustration are black, white and gray photographs superimposed on each other. Power's story is reminiscent of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone and Richard Matheson's stories from the 1950s and 1960s. Enjoyable and clever, A Soul In A Bottle is short story that is both entertaining and representative of fine writing.

New---Nannies, Mammies and Birthing Confederates

Born Southern: Childbirth, Motherhood and Social Networks in the Old South, V. Lynn Kennedy, Johns Hopkins University Press, 277 pp., $65.00.

Reviewed by Anya Jabour for H-Childhood, May 2011; review entitled The Centrality and Complexity of Childbirth in Southern History

Excerpt: In Born Southern, V. Lynn Kennedy offers a sensitive and nuanced exploration of the multiple meanings attached to childbirth, mothering, and child rearing in the antebellum South. While “a person’s birth laid the foundation for the social identity that shaped his or her position and possibilities within antebellum southern society,” and law determined the significance of lineage and race, southern pro-slavery authors used the so-called facts of life to avoid taking responsibility for depriving individuals of human rights by subjecting them, once born to a slave mother, to race-based slavery (p. 22). The customs surrounding childbirth often highlighted and reinforced social hierarchies. For instance, during the recovery period, practical assistance, and child-care alternatives were allotted to new mothers. The birthing chamber was also “a unique social space in southern society,” where black and white women temporarily privileged the commonalities of shared experience over the hierarchies of slaveholding society (p. 57). Even though a “biological mandate” linked black and white women, narratives of childbirth and maternity could be used for a variety of purposes, including defending or critiquing slavery (p. 14). Ultimately, maternal metaphors helped frame the secession crisis and the Civil War in terms of southern-born white sons defending their birthplace and their rhetorical “mother,” the slaveholding South.

Kennedy’s meticulous attention to the nuances of her sources has both benefits and drawbacks. The usefulness of Kennedy’s careful reading of a relatively small collection of sources is evident in her sensitive exploration of the contested issue of “breeding.” Rather than engaging in debate over the extent to which coerced reproduction occurred, Kennedy instead analyzes the language that slaves used to describe--and critique--whites’ interference in the intimate matters of sexuality and reproduction. Offering examples of what were almost surely apocryphal narratives, Kennedy persuasively argues that “the statistical probability of such things happening was clearly less important than individual experiences and perceptions” (p. 151).

. . . Born Southern is an important book that offers a fresh perspective of childbirth and maternity in the antebellum South; transcends the boundaries of social, cultural, legal, and political history; and highlights the value of close readings of sources. Together with such works as Susan Klepp’s Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820 (2009), Born Southern places women and children at the center of American history and thereby responds to pioneering women’s historian Gerda Lerner’s call for a truly “holistic history.”

Full text of the review is found at H-Net Reviews Online

Classic in Paper Reprint Edition---To Duty and to Nation: The Extraordinary Life of John Cabell Breckinridge

Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol, William C. Davis. University Press of Kentucky, 712 pp., $19.95 (paper), 2010.

Reviewed by Michael Taylor (Paine College) Published on H-CivWar (March, 2011), To Duty and to Nation: The Extraordinary Life of John Cabell Breckinridge

There have been those among us who were born to lead remarkable lives. From an early age their endeavors became noteworthy in some manner. Lives so touched by accomplishment leave the most enduring legacies of history, for they provide an illustration of courage, commitment, and moral fortitude.

One of those remarkable people was John Cabell Breckinridge of Kentucky. Within a brief lifespan of fifty-four years, he served his nation successfully as a member of both houses of Congress, vice president, Confederate cabinet secretary, and commander of soldiers on the battlefield. When the Civil War ended, and his cause defeated, from exile he became a forceful advocate for reconciliation and reunification. His notable life can be savored once again through the reissue by the University Press of Kentucky of William C. Davis's extensive biography,Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol.

Davis's biography is organized into three separate books: Breckinridge as politician, as soldier, and as reconciliator. Each section is painstakingly structured with every page steeped in factual information with detailed analysis. Every chapter flows nearly effortlessly from start to finish, with each stage of the subject's life placed in careful context of time, place, and circumstance. These elements combined with a charismatic subject not only produce a sound piece of historical work, but also provide a fascinating reading experience.

Perhaps due to the family tradition of public service Breckinridge felt the tug toward a life in politics. Trained in law at Kentucky's Transylvania University, Breckinridge graduated at seventeen years old and began to practice his craft by age twenty. Afterward, he rose swiftly through the ranks of state politics as a states' rights, pro-Union Democrat. Before his thirtieth birthday he had been elected to the House of Representatives, serving two terms (1851-55). During his tenure the congressman's most notable action was to guide the Kansas-Nebraska Bill to successful passage in the House in 1854. As a compromise candidate between the James Buchanan and Stephen Douglas factions, Breckinridge won the vice presidential nomination at age thirty-five; yet, it proved to be a hollow victory, for though he served Buchanan with sincerity and purpose, the president often ignored his counsel. As Buchanan's term was winding down and Breckinridge became increasingly dissatisfied with the candidacy of Senator Douglas from Illinois, Breckinridge became the presidential candidate on the Southern Democratic ticket in 1860. He was sent back to Washington DC, only this time as a U.S. senator representing his home state; but after nine months of service his seat was abolished due to his outspoken advocacy of states' rights.

As for the book itself, there is but one blemish. With such an extraordinary life to recount it is difficult for any author not to be filled with a certain amount of admiration. Yet, just as with his tome of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, Davis has allowed his obvious high esteem for Breckinridge to emerge too fully. It is the historian's duty to remain aloof from personal regard in order to get to the true significance of the subject at hand. One instance where the author crosses this line is in his account of Breckinridge's actions at Murfeesborough, and later at Chickamauga. At the orders of General Bragg, Breckinridge led the Kentucky regiment into a suicidal attack that cost the lives of many Confederate soldiers. Davis laid the blame for the slaughters solely on Bragg's poor disposition of the Kentucky troops without offering any substantive proof that this was, indeed, the case. A further instance is in the final paragraphs; the author recounts his subject's demise in which "all of Kentucky went into mourning" (p. 638). The description that Davis gives of Breckinridge's funeral and legacy are laced with glowing superlatives, though earlier in the same chapter he had mentioned a premature obituary that heavily criticized the former vice president.

In closing, this biography of Breckinridge is well worth the time investment. Despite its flaws the story of this man's rise to prominence in two countries in two separate careers within such a short time is nothing short of astounding. Few histories have been filled with such overbearing elements: the weight of the Breckinridge legacy, the expectations of mother and grandmother, and the man's own drive to succeed in every field he touched were such a burden on Breckinridge that it ultimately turned his meteoric success into a shadow existence at his death. Furthermore, the author's attention to detail allows the story to unfold as it should, making its significance obvious. In tales of duty and nation, this book ranks among the most vivid.

Full Text of Review: H-Net Civil War Reviews [May 17, 2011]

Monday, May 16, 2011

New---Emory Thomas' The Dogs of War, 1861: Two Views

The Dogs of War: 1861, Emory Thomas, Oxford University Press, 128 pages, $14.95.

Jim Cullen, Review of Emory Thomas' "The Dogs of War 1861" (Oxford, 2011), History News Network, May 6, 2011.

Emory Thomas is the éminence grise of Confederate history, A veteran military biographer, he is best known for his 1979 book The Confederate Nation, which remains the standard history of the subject (and has just been republished). In The Dogs of War: 1861, Thomas zeroes in on a specific moment of the Civil War -- the three month period between Fort Sumter and the First Battle of Bull Run, April to July of that year -- to emphasize the confusion and ignorance that shaped the mutual perceptions of North and South, which stumbled into a conflict of a scale and an outcome virtually no one imagined.

But that's not really the principal value, or even intent, of this little book. Instead, Thomas takes a moment whose outlines will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of the war and instead uses it as a case study for what might be termed empirical epistemology. To paraphrase William Goldman's famous maxim of the film business, nobody knew anything, even those who were presumed to know, then and since. That included politicians, the professional military, and rank and file volunteers -- who were volunteers to a great extent precisely because they didn't know what they were getting into.

This maxim extends to the respective presidents of the two belligerents. Though this is a point that's been made before, Thomas usefully emphasizes that Abraham Lincoln greatly overestimated Southern Unionism, perhaps because as a man who was born in the South and married and a Southerner, he overestimated his familiarity with the region and his belief that ordinary non-members of the elite would think like he did. Lincoln carried this conviction, which shaped his approach to Reconstruction, to the grave. As Thomas notes, it would ultimately be vindicated, but proved inadequate to the demands of the moment in 1861.

Interestingly, Thomas depicts the oft-maligned Jefferson Davis as having a far more realistic view of the challenges he faced, and a perhaps more rational view of the strategy to take in light of the long odds. That the Confederates lost was less a matter of fuzzy thinking, Thomas suggests, than an unrealized hope that the rebels could experience George Washingtonian luck in outlasting their opponents. In his regard, he's similar to the long revered Robert E. Lee.

Thomas makes some skillful juxtapositions between the miscalculations of Americans at the outset of the Civil War, and those of the Iraq War in 2003. He makes a chilling comparison between a memo from Brigadier Janis Karpinski, who presided over Abu Gharib prison, and one from Henry Wirz and Andersonville. The message is clear: almost by definition, going to war means getting blindsided. It should be avoided -- whatever your aims -- at almost all costs.

Because it's so tightly framed and reads something like a well-written lecture, The Dogs of War would fit nicely as a night or two of reading as a prelude to class discussion. It also leads one to wonder whether its utility and future really lies in the electronic realm, where one suspects it could be most efficiently delivered, read, and afforded. Oxford University Press has been issuing a lot of these short Civil War books lately, such as Louis Masur's fine recent 100-page synopsis, The Civil War. In publishing terms, among others, the past may really be prologue to a future that's practically in view.

Text Source: History News Network, May 6, 2011.

CWL: CWL read Dogs of War over weekend. Thomas skirts being superficial in this book. His assessment of Lincoln's emphasis on Southern Unionists is that he counted too heavily upon it. Thomas ignores western Virginia entirely and the anti-secession convention in Wheeling that met the week after the conclusion of the Virginia secession convention. Nowhere in Thomas' bibliographic notes is Daniel Croft's 'Reluctant Confederates: The Upper South In the Secession Crisis'.

Overall, the book relies heavily on the remarks of others. Once or twice Thomas uses an entire page quoting his other works. He states that Andersonville "was a picnic'" compared to Abu Gharib. Like Masur's concise The Civil War the author relies on current political stereotypes to superficially draw facile and inappropriate connections between current events and the past. Overall, Dogs of War is thin soup.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

H-Net's Civil War Reviews: Power, Politics and Reluctant Rebels

Kenneth W. Noe. Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates Who Joined the Army after 1861. Civil War America Series. Chapel Hill University of North Carolina Press, 2010. 320 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8078-3377-3.

Both Books Reviewed by Robert Kenzer (University of Richmond) Published on H-CivWar (February, 2011) Commissioned by Matthew E. Mason

Excerpt: Kenneth W. Noe's book continues the rich scholarly tradition of examining groups that demonstrated behavior varying from the norm. Noe is curious about the 180,000 men (22.5 percent of all Confederate soldiers), what he terms "reluctant rebels" or "later enlisters," who entered Confederate service between 1862 and the war's conclusion. His study is based on a sample of 320 later enlisters whose letters and diaries reveal their motivations.

Noe identifies basic statistical characteristics of these later enlisters. He finds that they were "slightly older" at the time of enlistment than the vast majority of those who had already joined and that about half of them were already married (p. 14). Two-thirds were from landholding families and about two-fifths from slaveholding families. Three-fifths were engaged in farming and one-fourth were professional men (especially teachers, clerks, merchants, and doctors). Therefore, collectively they appear to be twice as likely to have been "professional men in various white-collar occupations," but half as likely to be skilled laborers compared to all members of the Confederate army. Significantly, they do not completely fit James M. McPherson's description as "nonslaveholding Southern married farmer[s] with small children" as Noe discloses that half were simply too young before 1862 to serve.

These later enlisters' words reveal five aspects of their motivations. One, since very few, perhaps only one-tenth, expressed words supporting nationalism or defending liberty as major factors for entering the army, Noe concludes that "the ideological concerns that motivated the recruits of 1861 do not seem to have stirred most later recruits" (p. 37). Two, he notes that only 2.5 percent suggested that slavery was a reason why they fought--though virtually none criticized the institution. Three, they did not enlist because of feminine pressure; in fact, they were much more likely to delay entering the military because of it. Four, sentiments of hatred of the enemy, while surely present, did not dominate among them as only 17.2 percent cited Union invasion motivating their service. Five, very few mentioned enlisting for money or the fear of conscription.

The second half of Noe's book focuses on the role of religion, camaraderie, and war weariness. Noe finds relatively few later enlisters participating in the Confederate army revivals as most "remained oriented toward home and focused on a personal relationship with God" (pp. 142-143). Indeed, he suggests, "later enlisters still hesitated to let go of the spiritual center their homes had recently provided" (p. 143).

Stephanie McCurry. Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South. Cambridge Harvard University Press, 2010. 456 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-04589-7.Excerpt: Stephanie McCurry investigates the unexpected consequences of the Confederacy--particularly in regard to white women and slaves. She stresses how the Confederate government was forced to deal with both groups in ways unanticipated at the war's outset.

McCurry identifies "a reconfiguration of Southern political life"
when "white women emerged into authority and even leadership on a range of issues at the heart of popular politics in the Civil War South" (p. 135). By late 1862 and into 1863, it became clear that the war would not be of short duration and that the absence of so many small farmers was devastating the welfare of their families, causing many women, particularly soldiers' wives, to write and petition government officials pleading that their basic needs be met.

These "women's collective identification as soldier's wives," she explains, represented "a broad political reimagining" to which the government had to respond or face dire consequences (p. 145). This "distinctly Confederate development," she asserts, "represented a significant rerouting of power and authority on the home front, and, at least for the duration of the war, a striking realignment of state-citizen relations" (pp. 153, 163).

Full Text of Reviews: H-Net Civil War

News---Second Trailer for Ridley Scott's Gettysburg

Scott Brothers Release 2nd Video Trailer For Their Gettysburg Film To Be Show On Memorial Day, 2011. Harry Smeltzer picked up a Hardee hat with crossed muskets brass on it. He along with CWL gave a slight wince.
Here It Is.

News---Glenn LaFantasie States That Civil War Reenactors Are Foolish and CWL's Response

The Foolishness of Civil War Reenactors, Glenn LaFantasie,, May 8, 2011.

Excerpt: In fact, the entire idea of commemorating the Civil War strikes me as perverse, including bloodless battle reenactments. Why would anyone want to replicate one of the worst episodes in American history? Why would anyone want to pretend to be fighting a battle that resulted in lost and smashed lives on the field and utter grief among the soldiers’ loved ones back home? Is there any uplifting message to be derived from such playacting? What’s more, these "reenactments" are contrived and orchestrated. In order to avoid everyone falling down and playing dead during these battle plays (or no one falling down at all), reenactors decide by lottery in advance who will clutch their heart and tumble to the ground as though they’ve been hit; some of the fallen inevitably try to lie still if they are supposed to be dead, others try to simulate wounded men by crawling away from the scene of "carnage" (if you pay attention, you’ll see that they’re actually crawling to the nearest shade tree), while still others sometimes try stealthily to get their hat over their faces to avoid sunburn.

Excerpt:The Civil War sesquicentennial can give them only one answer: You may try to get it back by pretending to fire on Fort Sumter, as the Civil War reenactors did in Charleston two weeks ago. Or you may try to get it back by joining the Tea Party and working to turn back the hands of time to the glory days you imagine as having once existed. But you can’t get your country back. You lost it 150 years ago. Ever since then, whether you like it or not, the steady march of the United States has been toward the higher ground, the greater purpose, of democracy and equality. And while that march has sometimes been stalled or even derailed, while it has been barricaded, hosed down and even sold out, nothing, nothing, has ever succeeded in keeping it permanently from moving forward. Perhaps, in the end, that’s the real legacy and the true significance of the Civil War.

CWL left these remarks on

I have Glenn Lafantasie's books, have read them and have enjoyed them. I've heard him on Civil War Talk Radio and that was fine too.

I work in academia, direct a university library and adjunct in U.S. history. It appears LaFantasie is talking about something that he knows very little about and doesn't care to know more about.

It's striking that his favorite column is called 'Easy Chair.' Scribbling notes on napkins after a meal? Sounds like he leads a pretty active life. LaFantasie comes across in this essay as an academic who is frustrated by being ignored by the larger audience.

His lumping together of Civil War reenactors with the Tea Party is really pretty lazy on his part and creates a strawman argument that allows him to write the last paragraph as a lament.

After all, today is 'his world' and all you Tea Bagging Reenactors are out of place in it. Well, I have friends in reenacting who are history professsors. We not Teabaggers. We are educators.

Personally, I promote Lincoln's interpretation of the war. The 'last best hope', the Federal Union, had to be preserved and emancipation was the best and most just method to preserve it.

Bottom line is if you want LaFantasie's Civil War then pay tuition or buy his book. These damned reenactors are giving lessons away for free! He might have audience envy.

Reenacting is in the 'marketplace of ideas'. I don't agree with the Lost Cause explanations; matter of fact I despise them. I compete for the audience in the marketplace of historic commemoration. I present on Civil War medicine with a regimental surgeon's kit; I present on material culture with my infantryman's uniform. I haven't written a book.

LaFantasie should push himself out of his chair, talk to reenactors, find out that there is a very wide range of opinions among them, then read Gary Gallagher's book on the Civil War and popular culturee, then read Gallagher's book on The Union War. Then start offering his services as an educator to reenactments of all sizes and audiences. When he has experienced this 'New World' then he should write a book like 'Confederates in the Attic' entitled 'Union Soldiers in the Attic'.

Hey, Glenn. Hope to meet you sometime and ask for your autographs on your first editions. RAR

Full Text of LaFantasie's Remarks: May 2011.

Image Source: Civil War Librarian, 1860 Pennsylvania Militia with Wide Awake 1860 Presidential Campaign Banner

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New and Huh?---Angels of The Battlefield and John Beatty's Civil War Memoir

Angels of the Battlefield: The Citizen-Soldier or Memoirs of a Volunteer, John Beatty (Author), Eric Paul Erickson (Photographer, CreateSpace, 322 pp, $13.95

Excerpt: "As we marched through the city my attention was directed to a sign bearing the inscription, in large black letters, 'NEGROES BOUGHT AND SOLD.' We have known, to be sure, that negroes were bought and sold, like cattle and tobacco, but it, nevertheless, awakened new, and not by any means agreeable, sensations to see the humiliating fact announced on the broad side of a commercial house. These signs must come down."

The classic memoir of the man who rose from private to brigadier general during the Civil War and went on to serve in the US House of Representatives. From The TOTC Press Angels of the Battlefield collection, bound with the stunning cover art photography of Eric Paul Erickson, this classic of American memoirs gives an inside look into life as a soldier during the Civil War.

CWL has no idea what is going on here. John Beatty's memoir was published in the Time-Life Civil War Library about 25 years ago. Has it been puffed up with color photographs of hot chicks?

Civil War Art---Forged in the Civil War, Bronzed in Paris

Forged in the Civil War, Bronzed in Paris, David McCullough, Wall Street Journal, C13, May 14-15, 2011.

By the middle of May the last week of January 1880, the work in clay was nearly done. The Admiral stood 8 feet 3 inches tall, his legs apart, the left leg slightly back from the right. He stood as if on deck at sea braced for whatever was to come, chin up, eyes straight ahead. The flap of his long double-breasted coat seemed to blow open with the wind. And while due attention was paid to the details, there was an overall simplicity that conveyed great inner strength, no less than the presence of an actual mortal being, for all the figure's immense size. The intent, weather-beaten face said the most. The look on the face, like the latent power in the stance, left no doubt that this was a man in command.

Casting the statue in plaster was scheduled to begin on Monday, Feb. 9. "There are nineteen great bags of plaster here," Gussie reported from the studio, "and any quantity of bars of iron and they will all go into the statue. They will be four days making the mold and then . . . the plaster statue will be cast."

Then there was an accident. In the process of getting the statue free from the scaffolding, it slipped and landed hard, cracking one of the troublesome legs. Saint-Gaudens went to work, and the damage was repaired.

By the middle of May 1880, the plaster statue was ready to be cast in bronze. Taking part in the whole process day after day at the foundry, Saint-Gaudens became a nervous wreck. Two weeks later, when the lower half of the statue was cast, again something went wrong and it had to be done all over again at considerable expense.

When at last the whole cast was done, the statue's entire surface had to be expertly finished. Finally the completed work—weighing 900 pounds—had to be carefully packed up, shipped by rail to Le Havre and sent to New York. It was the largest work of sculpture in bronze by an American ever shipped from France until then.

The grand unveiling took place at Madison Square on the afternoon of May 25, 1881. A Marine band played, sailors marched. Ten thousand people stood in the hot sun to watch. Seated on the speakers' platform were Saint-Gaudens and his wife. It was his first experience with public acclaim. The monument was a stunning success. The critics were exuberant, the whole art world electrified.

For Saint-Gaudens and Gussie, those three years in Paris had been as difficult, productive and as happy as any they had known. Now, with Saint-Gaudens's brilliant debut as an artist, he had achieved recognition such as he had dreamed of. Further, he had established himself as an artist capable of doing justice to the memory of the Civil War. In time he would sculpt six of the most remarkable public monuments to the war ever created. And another of these, like the Farragut, would be made in Paris.

CWL: Writers read David McCullough. A craftsman who has authored John Adams, 1776, at least 20 other books and narrated Ken Burn's The Civil War, McCullough's control of the narrative through character is noteworthy. Chronology is always there but character and incidents are primary.

Text Source: The above text is an excerpt of the full text which is located at the Wall Street Journal, May 14-15, 2011.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

New and Noteworthy---Lincoln's Greatest Hits

Lincoln On The Civil War: Selected Speeches, Abraham Lincoln, Penguin Books, 130pp., hardcover, $13.00, 2011.

The nine speeches presented in Lincoln On The Civil War: Selected Speeches are reprinted from The Portable Abraham Lincoln published in 2009 by Penguin Books. This collection reprints the speeches in their entirety and covers the years 1838 to 1865. Known in the book trade as a Keepsake Edition, the cover is attractive and the binding is firm. The text is printed on archival quality, acid free paper that also contains 30% recyled postconsumer waste.

Both inaugural speeches and the Gettysburg Address are included. Lincoln's 1838 Lyceum Address, entitled 'The Perpetuation Of Our Political Institutions', begins the collection. Lincoln recounts with sorrow the passing of the Revolutionary generation and pledges to follow their teachings and examples by relying on 'cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason'. The 1858 'House Divided Speech' and the 1860 Cooper Union Address follow. The Cooper Union Address elevated Lincoln to national prominence in the minds of the eastern Republicans. This speech is essential because it is a legal brief directed toward the relationship between the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and slavery.

The January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation is not a speech but is included. The document leaves no doubt that Lincoln issued the proclamation as the commander-in-chief who invoked the judgment of mankind and the favor of Almighty God. The collection concludes with the Reconstruction speech of April 11, 1865, which peaked the ire of J.W. Booth.

CWL plans to place his copy of Lincoln On The Civil War: Selected Speeches in his haversack that travels to Gettysburg every November for Remembrance Day. The Selected Speeches will be read aloud in front of the Pennsylvania Reserve monuments.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

News---Battle of Shepardstown Eyed For Preservation and Interpretation

Park Service Begins Study Of Battlefield, Matt Armstrong, Journal-News, May 4, 2011.
The National Park Service announced this week that it will begin a special resource study of the Shepherdstown Battlefield, which could be the first step in a long process to incorporate the battlefield into the NPS. The study will focus on battlefield lands located approximately one mile southeast of Shepherdstown, most of which are currently privately owned, and the study will "obtain information from professional historians and the general public during the information gathering stage ... then again when the draft alternatives are presented," according to a news release.

Rebecca Harriet, superintendent at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the study is being coordinated by the NPS's Denver office and it could be the first step in making the Shepherdstown Battlefield part of the NPS. "It's a possibility ... that's what part of the study is about," Harriet said. "This is just to let the public know that the process is being started, there will be public meetings as we go along."

To be eligible for "favorable consideration as a unit of the National Park System, an area must possess nationally significant natural, cultural or recreational resources; be a suitable and feasible addition to the system; and require direct NPS management instead of by some other governmental agency or by the private sector," according to NPS information. The NPS is scheduled to begin the study this summer, and the it could take about one and a half years to complete. Following the study's completion, a report with its findings and recommendations will be submitted to Congress.

The Battle of Shepherdstown was fought between Union and Confederate forces on Sept. 19 and Sept. 20, 1862, following the Battle of Antietam. The battle was one of the last battles of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Maryland Campaign. Ed Wenschoff, acting superintendent at Antietam National Battlefield, said the Shepherdstown Battlefield may make a good addition to Antietam and there is a lot of history to tell, but the study will determine the best course of action for the battlefield.

Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc. has been working to preserve the battlefield for several years. SBPA President Edward Dunleavy could not be reached for comment on the study Tuesday. Additional information on the study can be obtained by contacting the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park at 304-535-678, Antietam National Battlefield at 301-432-2243 or the C&O Canal National Historical Park at 301-714-2214.

CWL: Circumstances in 2010 and 2011 took CWL to the South Mountain/Antietam/Sharpsburg battlefields four times. Hill's march through the Potomac River's Saddlepack Ford and to the battlefield was one of the many highlights. It became readily apparent that Shepardstown and the Potomac River fords are very important to the actions at Sharpsburg. CWL hopes the Civil War Trust will aid in the fundraising for the preservation of the Battle of Shepardstown.

Text Source: Journal-News May 4, 2011

Image Source: Fallston Almanac

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

News---If All Men Are Created Equal, Then Are 'Lost Cause' Explanations A Heritage Violation?

150 Years After Fort Sumter: Why We're Still Fighting the Civil War, David von Drehle, Time Magazine, April 18, 2011, pp. 40-51.

During the previous decade Civil War Librarian came across the term 'heritage violation' during Civil War reenacting events and while keeping an eye on the fracturing of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans organization.

Heritage violation is a term that has come to be used in a specific way regarding what some perceive to be unfaithful depictions and untrue remarks about the Confederate experience and Confederate history.

During the 145th Antietam reenactment a heritage violation occurred when Confederate refused to reenact accurately the defense of the Sunken Road. They abandoned the road and the Confederate left flank marched within yards of the grandstand to assault the right of the Federal assault on the Road. As a 'wounded Federal' on the far right flank of the Sunken Road, CWL witnessed this. A glorious deception was worked upon the grandstand audience that day by a portion of the Confederate command.

YouTube's video collection of the reenactment of Jefferson Davis' inauguration in February 2011 includes remarks by Sons of Confederate Veterans. The remarks reveal a heart felt desire to stop others from pejorative labelling and associating the Confederacy with terrorism and Nazism. In the excerpt below, David Von Drehle addresses the continued trend among some to argue that the American Civil War was caused by everything but slavery. The Internet link to the entire text is placed at the end of the excerpt.

Excerpt: The question "What caused the Civil War?" returns 20 million Google hits and a wide array of arguments on Internet comment boards and discussion threads. The Civil War was caused by Northern aggressors invading an independent Southern nation. Or it was caused by high tariffs. Or it was caused by blundering statesmen. Or it was caused by the clash of industrial and agrarian cultures. Or it was caused by fanatics. Or it was caused by the Marxist class struggle.

On and on, seemingly endless, sometimes contradictory — although not among mainstream historians, who in the past generation have come to view the question much as Lincoln saw it. "Everything stemmed from the slavery issue," says Princeton professor James McPherson, whose book Battle Cry of Freedom is widely judged to be the authoritative one-volume history of the war. Another leading authority, David Blight of Yale, laments, "No matter what we do or the overwhelming consensus among historians, out in the public mind, there is still this need to deny that slavery was the cause of the war."

It's not simply a matter of denial. For most of the first century after the war, historians, novelists and filmmakers worked like hypnotists to soothe the post traumatic memories of survivors and their descendants. Forgetting was the price of reconciliation, and Americans — those whose families were never bought or sold, anyway — were happy to pay it.

But denial plays a part, especially in the South. After the war, former Confederates wondered how to hold on to their due pride after a devastating defeat. They had fought long and courageously; that was beyond question. So they reverse-engineered a cause worthy of those heroics. They also sensed, correctly, that the end of slavery would confer a gloss of nobility, and bragging rights, on the North that it did not deserve. As Lincoln suggested in his second Inaugural Address, the entire nation, North and South, profited from slavery and then paid dearly for it.

The process of forgetting, and obscuring, was long and layered. Some of it was benign, but not all. It began with self-justifying memoirs by defeated Confederate leaders and was picked up by war-weary veterans on both sides who wanted to move on. In the devastated South, writers and historians kindled comforting stories of noble cavaliers, brilliant generals and happy slaves, all faithful to a glorious lost cause. In the prosperous North, where cities and factories began filling with freed slaves and their descendants, large audiences were happy to embrace this idea of a time when racial issues were both simple and distant.

History is not just about the past. It also reveals the present. And for generations of Americans after the Civil War, the present did not have room for that radical idea laid bare by the conflict: that all people really are created equal. That was a big bite to chew.

The once obvious truth of the Civil War does not imply that every soldier had slavery on his mind as he marched and fought. Many Southerners fought and died in gray never having owned a slave and never intending to own one. Thousands died in blue with no intention to set one free. But it was slavery that had broken one nation in two and fated its people to fight over whether it would be put back together again. The true story is not a tale of heroes on one side and villains on the other. Few true stories are. But it is a clear and straightforward story, and so is the tale of how that story became so complicated.

This Excerpt is continued at Time Magazine, April 18, 2011

Monday, May 02, 2011

Off Topic---1860 England: A Child's Murder and The Suspicions of Detective Whicher

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, Kate Summerscale, Walker Publishing, 360 pp., maps, illustrations, index, bibliography, list of characters, 2008, $24.95.

A thorough portrait of the gruesome murder of three year old Saville Kent and England's very first detective force. In 1860, three-year-old Saville Kent was found murdered and his body left in the in the outhouse of his father's small manor. Local police wander thourgh the manor speculating on how the murder may have occurred. How was the child removed from his bed on the second floor of the manor house? What type of knife stabbed him in his chest and then slit his throat? Has the unthinkable occurred? Has an adult, middle class, family member brutally killed a child?

The village generates rumours. Was the nursemaid was sleeping with the father? Did a local father decided it was time to pay back Samuel Kent, the father, for his enforcement of child labor laws that kept child workers' incomes out of the pockets of their parents? Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Jack Whicher is sent to the scene two weeks later. He quickly suspects that someone in the Kent family killed the child.

Whicher's investigation leads to Constance Kent, Saville's teenage half-sister. With circumstancial evidence and no confession, Wicher takes the case to the grand jury who finds Constance innocent. The detective is abused by the press and magistrates. How bold, arrogant and diabolical had Whicher become? Previously his record of investigations and convictions was superlative. What had caused him to imagine a young adult female could have physically performed the heinous act? His career slides away. Then five years later, the killer divulges an account of the crime; a sensational trial follows.

Summerscale's work is a splendid account of a true crime set in its historical context. London's new detective force, the tabloid press, child labor laws, the birth of detective fiction, confessions made to priests, and women's prison are covered with illustrative anecdotes and details. Even vocabulary is introduced in a fascinating manner. What was the first use of the word detective? The first use of the word clue?

The Road Hill murder case would become a model the traditional country-house murder mystery genre: part how-did-it-happen puzzle, part dysfunctional family generational saga, part social and psychological pathology. Summerscale places the murder investigation into a legal, law enforcement, societal and Victorian context. Yes, even with a twist at the end and a tip of the hat to authors Edgar Allan Poe,Charles Dickens, Wilke Collins and O. Henry.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, is a true crime story that pays close attention to social and literary history. Kate Summerscale's research is not an intrusive laundry list of trivia but deeply woven into the story of two marriages, a first wife's alleged insanity, five crib deaths, a seductive nurse maid, and the children of two marriages all under the same roof of an English manor house.

New and Noteworthy: Stonewall Jackson's Contested and Contending Biographers

Inventing Stonewall Jackson: A Civil War Hero in History and Memory, Wallace Hettle, Louisiana State University Press, index, bibliography, 12 halftones,240 pages, $34.95. [note: LSU Press lists a $34.95 paper edition; lists a $34.95 hardcover edition]

LSU Press Description: Historians' attempts to understand legendary Confederate General Thomas J. ''Stonewall'' Jackson have proved uneven at best and often contentious. An occasionally enigmatic and eccentric college professor before the Civil War, Jackson died midway through the conflict, leaving behind no memoirs and relatively few surviving letters or documents. In Inventing Stonewall Jackson, Wallace Hettle offers an innovative and distinctive approach to interpreting Stonewall by examining the lives and agendas of those authors who shape our current understanding of General Jackson.

Newspaper reporters, friends, relatives, and fellow soldiers first wrote about Jackson immediately following the Civil War. Most of them, according to Hettle, used portions of their own life stories to frame that of the mythic general. Hettle argues that the legend of Jackson's rise from poverty to power was likely inspired by the rags-to-riches history of his first biographer, Robert Lewis Dabney. Dabney's own successes and Presbyterian beliefs probably shaped his account of Jackson's life as much as any factual research. Many other authors inserted personal values into their stories of Stonewall, perplexing generations of historians and writers.

Subsequent biographers contributed their own layers to Jackson's myth and eventually a composite history of the general came to exist in the popular imagination. Later writers, such as the liberal suffragist Mary Johnston, who wrote a novel about Jackson, and the literary critic Allen Tate, who penned a laudatory biography, further shaped Stonewall's myth. As recently as 2003, the film Gods and Generals, which featured Jackson as the key protagonist, affirmed the longevity and power of his image.

Impeccable research and nuanced analysis enable Hettle to use American culture and memory to reframe the Stonewall Jackson narrative and provide new ways to understand the long and contended legacy of one of the Civil War's most popular Confederate heroes.

Wallace Hettle, professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa, is the author of The Peculiar Democracy: Southern Democrats in Peace and Civil War.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

News---Blackhawk Down Producers Give Gettysburg A Treatment

Gettysburg produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, premieres on Monday, May 30 at 9:00pm on the History Channel. The word from the History Channel is "Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, this two-hour History special will strip away the romanticized veneer of the Civil War and present the engagement in a new light: a visceral, terrifying experience with everything on the line. At its core, this is the story of the soldiers on the ground, not the generals who commanded from behind the frontlines. Compelling CGI and powerful action footage place viewers in the midst of the fighting, delivering both an emotional cinematic experience and an information packed look at the turning points, technology, and little known facts of perhaps America's greatest battle." lists the director as Adrian Moat who has directed episodes for televison, most notably The Hunger and the writer as Richard Bedser who has written 14 documentaries, most for TV and many on history. Eamon Fitzpatrick, the line producer, worked extensively with The Story of US and Mary Lisio, executive producer has worked almost exclusively in television. Ridley and Tony Scott have produced films such as Blackhawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator, Man on Fire and Unstoppable.

The slug line is "Gettysburg: Never Has War Been So Personal." The preview shows a lot of action and has movie theme music but no narrative. The scenes look good; there are no overweight reenactors, but there are some very long white beards in the CSA ranks. Didn't see any women in the ranks though the numbers in the ranks look pretty thin. No majestic Pickett's Charge from Ted Turner's Gettysburg. The film is stated to be two hours long and CWL expects it to be offered for sale soon after the initial showing.

For The Trailer go to the History Channel.

Image Source: