Tuesday, September 01, 2015

News--Gettysburg NMP Announces Exam Date for Battlefield Guides

 The Licensed Battlefield Guide Examination: December 5, 2015
Angela Atkinson, Supervisor Park Ranger / LBG Supervisor is pleased to announce that an examination will be held in Gettysburg on Saturday, December  5, 2015 as part of the four-tiered process of licensing individuals to guide at the Gettysburg National Military Park. At this time we do not know how many individuals taking this exam will ultimately receive a guide license. Candidates who successfully complete all four tiers (explained in the documents below) will ultimately be licensed as the needs of the Gettysburg National Park, the Gettysburg Foundation, and the Licensed Battlefield Guide Service dictates.  No new examinations will be given until such time as all successful candidates are processed and licensed.  One should not be expected again for a period of several years and certainly not as regularly in the past.
On this page will be found links to all documents you will require in order to understand the licensing process and what will be expected of successful candidates.   Instructions on how to register for the upcoming December 2015 test are also linked below.  Please read all documents before registering.
  • Tier 1 – Written Examination:   Saturday, December 5, 2015
  • Location:  Harrisburg Area Community College, Gettysburg Campus
  • Time:  9:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. (an hour and a half break will be offered for lunch)  Candidates will be asked to arrive at 8:15 A.M. in order to sign in, register, and be seated.
  • Cost: $100.00 (Checks and Money Orders only!  Payable to the Department of the Interior / National Park Service by submitting the appropriate invoice.  This invoice is provided via a link below.
  • Deadline to register:  Your application, consisting of the required invoice and check, must be postmarked no later than Friday, November 13, 2015. NO LATE APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED!
Examination Site:
The December 5, 2015 Licensed Battlefield Guide Examination will be held on the Gettysburg Campus of the Harrisburg Area Community College,  731 Old Harrisburg Road, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Candidates will enter through the main lobby. Please be prompt. Late arrivals cannot be accommodated.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

New and Noteworthy: Science Meets Lincoln's Assassination and an Author Interview

A Finger In Lincoln's Brain: What Modern Science Reveals About Lincoln, His Assassination, And Its Aftermath, E. Lawrence Abel, Praeger an imprint of ABC-CLIO, 270 pp., 18 b/w illustration, bibliographic end notes, bibliography, index, $48.00.

CWL:  E. Lawrence Abel brings his professional training in psychology and anatomy to a comprehensive examination of the Lincoln assassination. His arguments deal with the sciences of ballistics, disease, human behavior. Very well written in an accessible style. Myths and misunderstandings are explored and explained. Very likely to be the touchstone for all past and future considerations of the Lincoln assassination.

From the Publisher: In this book, E. Lawrence Abel sheds much-needed light on the fascinating details surrounding the death of Abraham Lincoln, including John Wilkes Booth's illness that turned him into an assassin, the medical treatment the president is alleged to have received after he was shot, and the significance of his funeral for the American public. 

The author provides an in-depth analysis of the science behind the assassination, a discussion of the medical care Lincoln received at the time he was shot and the treatment he would have received if he were shot today, and the impact of his death on his contemporaries and the American public.

The book examines Lincoln's fatalism and his unbridled ambition in terms of empirical psychological science rather than the fanciful psychoanalytical explanations that often characterize Lincoln psychohistories. The medical chapters challenge the long-standing description of Lincoln's last hours and examine the debate about whether Lincoln's doctors inadvertently doomed him.

The Interview: 

CWL: You suggest that Booth's shot was a 'lucky one.' With Booth so close to Lincoln, how could Booth have missed his target?

ELA: Even at a distance of 5 feet, a derringer is inaccurate. I have just written an article for the Surratt Courier going into this in depth and I also cover it in detail in my talk at the archives (with illustrations).  You can see it by googling:  e. Lawrence Abel archives youtube.  In short, the youtube shows that an expert aiming at a target five feet away, missed, and there is also a clip showing that the gun had a lot of recoil, causing it to jerk upward from the target. It was "lucky" in the sense that Booth was likely aiming at Lincoln's back (the larger target).

Recently Dr. Charles Leale has been excoriated for his medical treatment of Lincoln?  Do you agree?

ELA: No, he did what he was trained to do. Although what he did would be sanctioned today, he shouldn't be blamed for making what in those days, wasn't a mistake. The ones who should be "excoriated" are the other doctors who also inserted their fingers into Lincoln's brain. It's as if they thought their fingers were better than Leale's.


CWL: Recently, historians and psychologists have described Lincoln has being both emotionally depressed and fatalistic.  You suggest that Lincoln may have dealt with these conditions by successfully managing his depression, fatalism  and his ambition.  How so?

ELA: I don't suggest he did other than his fear of death [that] motivated him to do things that would result in a "symbolic immortality" such as becoming president, issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.

CWL:  What does a modern understanding of forensics make clear about Lincoln's wound?

ELA: The fact that the wound was smooth and round means that Booth had to have shot Lincoln from Lincoln's right and not behind him. This is because Lincoln was leaning to his left when he was shot, and the only way to get a round smooth entry wound is if the gun is perpendicular to the target. If Booth were standing behind him, the entry wound would have been oblique and sharp edged. 

CWL: In what ways does your professional career bring clarity to the many myths of the assassination?

ELA: Coming from a science background, I focused on issues that other historians largely ignored because they don't feel comfortable dealing with aspects of the assassination and individuals involved.

How would you rate Samuel Mudd's medical treatment of John Wilkes Booth?

ELA: I don't go into Mudd's medical treatment in the book. From what we know, he did what he could. The controversy is whether he lied about knowing he was treating Booth


CWL: Was the embalming of Lincoln's body a 'state of the art' in 1865 effort?

ELA: Yes. Lincoln was embalmed using state of the art methods for that time. The deterioration in his body afterwards may have been due to the embalming fluid or poor perfusion.


CWL:  Describe your case for John Wilkes Booth not being a tool of the Confederate government.

ELA: That would take a long time and I cover it in my book.  Even if he were a "tool" that would not solely explain his attitude toward Lincoln, or his willingness to murder--there were other "tools" and others with the same deep seated hatred, and they didn't try to kill Lincoln.

CWL: You make a persuasive case for John Wilkes Booth being very ill previous to the assassination.  What symptoms do you see in Booth that suggests this?

ELA: I have about ten pages of arguments that Booth was suffering from syphilis before the assassination, which was a spur of the moment act.

CWL:  Thank you for your work regarding Lincoln's assassination.

Monday, August 10, 2015

News--Pope Francis 1 To Stand At Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Lectern While In Philadelphia

Pope To Use Lincoln's Gettysburg Lectern In Philadephia, Kathy Matheson, Associated Press, August 8, 2015

When Pope Francis speaks outside Independence Hall in September, he will stand at the same lectern that President Abraham Lincoln used to deliver the Gettysburg Address.
The Union League of Philadelphia said Friday it would offer the simple wooden stand for the pontiff to use during his planned speech on immigration and religious liberty.

"Its simple beauty and humble role in one of American history's most important moments reflects, in many ways, Pope Francis' own world view," said Robert Ciaruffoli, president of the World Meeting of Families.

The pope's visit to Philadelphia on Sept. 26 and 27 comes at the close of the World Meeting of Families, a triennial Catholic conference designed to strengthen family bonds. The pope will also celebrate a public Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Lincoln used the lectern on Nov. 19, 1863, to dedicate part of the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg as a cemetery. His two-minute address - beginning with "Four score and seven years ago" - became one of the most famous speeches in American history.

It ended with Lincoln's resolution that "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Lincoln, however, was not the featured speaker at the dedication. The wooden stand had been provided by a local professor to help the main orator, Edward Everett, manage extensive notes for a now largely forgotten two-hour speech, said Jim Mundy, director of education and programming for the Foundations of The Union League. The president followed Everett at the lectern.

The stand is on a long-term loan from a private collector to The Union League, which was founded during the Civil War with the goal of preserving the Union. It has been on display at the league's stately building in downtown Philadelphia for the past two years.

Conservators will soon begin working to stabilize the lectern for the pontiff's speech. Further details were not immediately available.  Francis' appearance outside Independence Hall on Sept. 26 is expected to be a ticketed event. Exact arrangements have not been announced. The pontiff's first stops on his U.S. visit will be in Washington and New York.

Text and Image Source: Associated Press

Thursday, July 23, 2015

News---Harpers Ferry Fire Across From Current Railroad/Metro Station; Shops Burned

Copy and paste This Link:


HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. (AP) — A fire has devastated the commercial area in the historic town of Harpers Ferry, destroying some buildings that were constructed in the 1800s.
Harpers Ferry Mayor Gregory Vaughn said the early morning fire Thursday destroyed seven to eight businesses housed in one building. An adjacent restaurant sustained substantial damage. No one was injured. The cause hasn't been determined.
The commercial area is adjacent to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.
Harpers Ferry was the site of a failed raid on a federal arsenal in 1858 by abolitionist John Brown. During the Civil War, Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gateway to Freedom: The Somewhat Hidden History of the Underground Railroad

Gateway To Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, Eric Foner, W.W.Norton Publishing, 302 pp., 3 maps, 33b/w illustrations, end notes, bibliography, index, $26.95.

The focus of Gateway To Freedom is on the route of the UGRR from the Mid-Atlantic border states through Philadelphia, New York City, upper central and western New York and into Canada. The subtitle is "The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad."  The front cover and the blurbs on the back cover do not mention that the story is an East Coast centric one with a concentration on NYC. Yet, if you are looking for a general overview of the topic, this work will suffice. Foner vividly reveals the process of how the Underground Railroad worked.  In general, his description of the process may be transferred to other urban environments.

Pluses for the book include the first chapter which outlines the historiography of the Underground Railroad from the very first participants' accounts through the current era. Also, Sydney Howard Gay's detailed record of slaves passing through NYC is integrated with other UGRR operators accounts from Delaware, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Syracuse.  Foner is successful in tracing the paths of runaway slaves who left Maryland, Delaware and Virginia and finished the journey in Canada.

 \On two maps related to the Mid-Atlantic states Chambersburg, York and Harrisburg Pennsylvania are cited as UGRR sites.  Gettysburg and Adams County Pennsylvania are not.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New and Noteworthy---Engineering Victory at Vicksburg: Shovels or Starvation?

Engineering Victory: The Union Siege of Vicksburg, Justin S. Solonick, Southern Illinois University Press, 289 pp., 23 illustrations, 4 maps, 9 diagrams and figures, 1 table, 1 appendix, glossary, bibliographic essay, bibliography, end notes, index, $37.50.

From the Publisher: On May 25, 1863, after driving the Confederate army into defensive lines surrounding Vicksburg, Mississippi, Union major general Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee laid siege to the fortress city. With no reinforcements and dwindling supplies, the Army of Vicksburg finally surrendered on July 4, yielding command of the Mississippi River to Union forces and effectively severing the Confederacy. In this illuminating volume, Justin S. Solonick offers the first detailed study of how Grant’s midwesterners serving in the Army of the Tennessee engineered the siege of Vicksburg, placing the event within the broader context of U.S. and European military history and nineteenth-century applied science in trench warfare and field fortifications. In doing so, he shatters the Lost Cause myth that Vicksburg’s Confederate garrison surrendered due to lack of provisions. Instead of being starved out, Solonick explains, the Confederates were dug out.
After opening with a sophisticated examination of nineteenth-century military engineering and the history of siege craft, Solonick discusses the stages of the Vicksburg siege and the implements and tactics Grant’s soldiers used to achieve victory. As Solonick shows, though Grant lacked sufficient professional engineers to organize a traditional siege—an offensive tactic characterized by cutting the enemy’s communication lines and digging forward-moving approach trenches—the few engineers available, when possible, gave Union troops a crash course in military engineering. Ingenious midwestern soldiers, in turn, creatively applied engineering maxims to the situation at Vicksburg, demonstrating a remarkable ability to adapt in the face of adversity. When instruction and oversight were not possible, the common soldiers improvised. Solonick concludes with a description of the surrender of Vicksburg, an analysis of the siege’s effect on the outcome of the Civil War, and a discussion of its significance in western military history.
Solonick’s study of the Vicksburg siege focuses on how the American Civil War was a transitional one with its own distinct nature, not the last Napoleonic war or the herald of modern warfare. At Vicksburg, he reveals, a melding of traditional siege craft with the soldiers’ own inventiveness resulted in Union victory during the largest, most successful siege in American history.

Justin S. Solonick, PhD, is an adjunct instructor in the Department of History and Geography at Texas Christian University. His most recent publication, “Saving the Army of Tennessee: The Confederate Rear Guard at Ringgold Gap,” appeared in The Chattanooga Campaign, published by SIU Press in 2012.
Remarks by esteemed colleagues: 
“By showing why Vicksburg fell when it did, Justin S. Solonick’s book sheds new light on one of the most important campaigns of the Civil War. By exploring how Grant’s army achieved that success, it illuminates the nature of Civil War armies and on the society that raised them.”—Steven E. Woodworth, author of Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861–1865

“If Vicksburg was the front door to the Confederacy, it was engineering that proved to be the key to opening the door. Thus argues Solonick, as he proceeds to methodically and convincingly make his case. Lacking professional engineers, U. S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee often relied upon western ingenuity for mining and trenching. Their efforts, not fully appreciated by West Point theorists even after the war, won the day. Must reading not only for western theater enthusiasts but also for those who wish to grasp how the war evolved.”—Larry J. Daniel, author of Days of Glory: The Army of the Cumberland, 1861–1865 

“Justin Solonick has produced an important and necessary study of siege operations at Vicksburg, setting the story within the context of European siege craft and pointing to new directions in the history of Civil War military operations. This book is a breath of fresh air.”—Earl J. Hess, author of Kennesaw Mountain: Sherman, Johnston, and the Atlanta Campaign

CWL: Exactly how did the Army of the Tennessee's engineers get a nearly all volunteer army to dig an impenetrable series of trenches around the Gibraltar of the Confederacy and gradually tighten the noose until starvation doomed the city?  Yankee ingenuity? Western can-do attitude?  West Point sophistication? Engineering Victory: The Union Siege of Vicksburg emphasizes the Union siege.  It's focus is on on the besieged army's efforts to resist encirclement. Justin S. Solonick provides in one chapter on the engineers' art and in a second chapter a discussion of America's other sieges of Yorktown and Vera Cruz and how West Point taught the art of the siege. Eight other chapters are details the siege of Vicksburg. The bibliographic notes, appendix, glossary, maps, illustrations and tables each add to the value of the book. Readers may imagine that reading a book on engineering would be dry, but Solonick focus includes the recollections of the enlisted men and their life in individual rifle pits, lunettes, and behind head logs. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

New and Noteworthy--Freedom's Dawn, October 16 through December 2, 1860

Freedoms' Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia, Louis DeCaro, Jr., Rowman and Littlefield, Publishing, 450 pp, 18 b/w illustrations, end notes, bibliography, index, $45.00.

From the publisher: John Brown’s failed raid on the federal armory in Harper’s Ferry Virginia served as a vital precursor to the Civil War, but its importance to the struggle for justice is free standing and exceptional in the history of the United States. In Freedom's Dawn, Louis DeCaro, Jr., has written the first book devoted exclusively to Brown during the six weeks between his arrest and execution. DeCaro traces his evolution from prisoner to convicted felon, to a prophetic figure, then martyr, and finally the rise of his legacy. In doing so he touches upon major biographical themes in Brown’s story, but also upon antebellum political issues, violence and terrorism, and the themes of political imprisonment and martyrdom. 

Blurbs: "Louis DeCaro's treatment of the prophetic John Brown's last six weeks is a gem. Don't miss it!"    Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary

No scholar has contributed more to John Brown studies than Louis DeCaro, and Freedom’s Dawn is a masterful new contribution to his indispensable body of work.                                                            Steven Lubet, author of The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War Against Slavery and John Brown's Spy: The Adventurous Life and Tragic Confession of John E. Cook

"Freedom's Dawn" is the most thoughtful and judicious rendering yet of John Brown's final weeks.  In a moving narrative, Louis DeCaro, Jr. presents Brown not as a crazed terrorist but as a determined, heroic prophet of human rights"  David S. Reynolds, author of John Brown, Abolitionist and Walt Whitman's America

Front Flap: John Brown's failed raid on the Federal arsenal in Harper's Ferry,Virginia, served as a vital precursor to the Civil War, and its importance to the struggle for justice is exceptional in the history of the United States.  Freedom's Dawn is the first book devoted exclusively to Brown during the six weeks between his arrest and execution.  Louis DeCaro Jr. traces Brown's evolution from prisoner to convicted felon, to prophetic figure, and then martyr, finally examining the rise of his legacy.  In doing so, DeCaro touches upon major biographical themes in Brown's story, and also upon antebellum political issues, violence and terrorism and the themes of political imprisonment and martyrdom.