Monday, May 04, 2015

New and Noteworthy: Lincoln, His Anti-Semitic Friends and His Jewish Friends

Lincoln And The Jews: A History, Jonathan D. Sarna and Benjamin Shapell, St. Martins Press, 2015, 272 pp., bibliographic notes, index, profusely illustrated with color and b/w photographs, $40.00.

Having been a manuscript and letter collector for 35 years, Benjamin Shapell's interest has been absorbed by Lincoln more than anyone else. He has found among Lincoln's letters to be jewels 'having a poetic flair and marvelous turns of phrase.'  Portions of his collection has been have been exhibited by the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution,  the New York Historical Society, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. In his collection of Lincoln documents he found Lincoln expressing humility, biblical imagery, compassion and respect for a people and a religion.

Jonathan Sarna, the author of When General Grant Expelled The Jews [2012] and notes that Lincoln  order expelling 'Jews as a class' from his encampments, Lincoln rescinded the order with the caveat "I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners."  The authors have found correspondence between Lincoln and five close Jewish friends and 14 among his associates and supporters. Lincoln appointed or pardoned 48 Jews during the course of his administrations.  They also note that Lincoln also subtly changed his personal statements in response to Jewish sensitivities. As late at 1862 he described America as a Christian nation and a Christian people. By November 1863 he began to utter 'this nation under God.' Additionally, the authors examine anti-Semitism among Americans in general and abolitionists specifically.

Lincoln And The Jews: A History address in the first three chapters Lincoln's upbringing, what he learned about Judaism for his readings of the Bible and traces his earliest Jewish friends and acquaintances in Illinois.  In particular, the authors focus upon the relationship between Abraham Jonas and Lincoln during his campaigns for elective office. The middle chapters recount the role Jews played in the 1860 presidential campaign and during the presidency.  Lincoln's decision to appoint Jewish chaplains and Grant's Order 11 are thoroughly examined.  Issachar Zacharie, Lincoln's foot doctor, along with General Meade and his order to execute  a Jew, two Roman Catholics and and two Protestants at Beverly Ford, Virginia are recounted and explained. The last chapter and the epilogue recount the assassination, the Jewish response to Lincoln's funeral and later memorializing.  Also discussed is Mary Todd Lincoln's 1866 recounting that her husband remarked that he wished to Palestine and Jerusalem after his second term of was completed.

There is much to enjoy in Lincoln And The Jews: A History. The binding allows the thick pages to fall open, the illustrations are exceeding well reproduced, the narrative is accessible to a wide range of readers. There are approximately 150 hand written letters reproduced, numerous broadsides, ledger account books, and other assorted ephemera such as inauguration tickets and bank checks..  There are about 100 photographic portraits and carte d'visits.  Lincoln And The Jews: A History is an informative and handsome book which is reminiscent of the best work offered during the late 20th century by The American Heritage P

Monday, April 06, 2015

New and Noteworthy: Lens of War--Exploring The Iconic Photographs of the Civil War

Lens of War: Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War , Uncivil Wars Series, J. Matthew Gallman, and Garry W. Gallagher, editors. harcover, 256 pages, University of Georgia Press, $32.95, April 15, 2015 Hardcover: 256 pages Publisher: University of Georgia Press (April 15, 2015)

New and Noteworthy---Resisting Sherman's 1865 Advance Through The Carolinas

Resisting Sherman: A Confederate Surgeon's Journal and the Civil War in the Carolinas, 1865
Thomas Robertson, Savas Beatie Publishing, hardcover
, 192 pages, release date: April 19, 2015.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New and Noteworthy--Soldiering For Freedom: Recruiting, Training, and Using in Combat African Americans

Book Review From Michigan War Studies website:  Review by Donald R. Shaffer of Soldiering for Freedom: How the Union Army Recruited, Trained, and Deployed the U.S. Colored Troops,  Bob Luke and John David Smith
"In Soldiering for Freedom, a recent installment in its publisher's "How Things Worked" series, independent scholar Bob Luke and historian John D. Smith (Univ. of North Carolina–Charlotte) attempt not to break new ground, but to familiarize a wide readership with the findings of current scholarship on black soldiers in the Union Army. For the most part, their succinct book admirably achieves this aim."

"The prologue to the volume wisely begins with the assault of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July 1863. This action is well known to filmgoers from the acclaimed 1989 movie Glory.  The book's five chapters then branch out to provide a wider introduction to the service of blacks in the Civil War."

Full Text of this review is at Michigan War Studies

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Forthing Coming Film----The Free State of Jones, March 11, 2016

 First Look: Matthew McConaughey as Civil War Soldier in 'The Free State of Jones', Etan Vlessing, Hollywood Reporter, 03.09.15

The first photo of Matthew McConaughey portraying defiant farmer Newton Knight in writer-director Gary Ross' upcoming Civil War drama The Free State of Jones was released Monday.

The image captures Knight in battle; McConaughey plays a soldier for the Confederacy during the Civil War who becomes disillusioned with the South's cause, flees the battlefield and defiantly declares a safe haven in Jones County, Mississippi. Keri Russell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) also star in the film from Robert Simonds' STX Entertainmentthat has started principal photography in and around New Orleans. The Free State of Jones is produced by Scott Stuber, Jon Kilik (The Hunger Games) and Ross. STX, which co-financed with IM Global, will release the film in the U.S. market March 11, 2016. IM Global will release internationally, with Route One Entertainment and Union Investment Partners also on board as co-financiers.    Text Source: Hollywood Reporter


Keri Russell, Mahershala Ali Join Matthew McConaughey in Civil War Drama, Borys Kit, Hollywood Reporter, 02.15.15

Keri Russell and Mahershala Ali, who plays Remy Danton on Netflix’s House of Cards, have nabbed a key roles in The Free State of Jones, the Matthew McConaughey historical drama being directed by Gary Ross.  Robert Simonds’ newly launched film and television studio STX Entertainment is co-financing the project and will distribute. Route One/ Union Investment Partners and Vendian Entertainment are co-financing, with IM Global overseeing international distribution.

The film is currently in preproduction in Louisiana.  McConaughey is portraying Newton Knight, a soldier for the Confederacy during the Civil War who became disillusioned with the South's cause, fled the battlefield, rallied supporters and declared a safe haven in Jones County, an area of southeastern Mississippi in opposition to the Confederacy. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is already on board, set as a slave who became Knight’s common-law wife. Russell will play will Knight’s first wife, who leaves him. When she sees him next, he is married to a slave. Ali will play a runaway slave whom Knight treats as an equal and who tries to rally black people to register to vote. Ali, repped by WME, is also inhabiting the character of Boggs in both parts of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.  Russell is generating praise for her TV work on The Americans and last appeared on the big screen with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. She is also repped by WME.  Text Source: Hollywood Reporter


Storyline from Movie Insider
A defiant Southern farmer, Newt Knight, and his extraordinary armed rebellion go against the Confederacy during the Civil War. Set during the Civil War, Newton Knight defects from the Confederate Army, bands together with a group of like-minded soldiers, and set out to form their own State known as the Free State Of Jones.


Check for updates at Movie Insider  and for updates at Internet Movie Database.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

New---William Cushing Versus The CSS Albemarle: Adventures and Heroics

Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War, Jamie Malanowski, Norton Publishing,  303 pages, 20 b/w photographs, bibliography, index, 304 pp., 2014,  $26.95.

Commander William B. Cushing is best known for his leadership in the sabotage effort which sank the CSS Albemarle during the night of October 27-28, 1864. Born in Wisconsin and raised in western New York provided with a both down to earth view of life and the ability to create fun where every his lived and worked. He was expelled from the U.S. Naval Academy for poor study habits and a surfeit of demerits during his final year. He was forced to resign from the academy just 90 days before graduation. Jamie Malanowski describes Cushing throughout his early years as having a talent for buffoon.

Cushing's friends and relatives in Washington, D.C, lobbied the secretary of the navy who had been in the post for just 16 days.  Gideon Welles met with Cushing and informed him that his appeal would not be accepted. Then came the bombardment of Fort Sumter and the pleading of Benjamin Butler to Gustavus Fox, assistant secretary of the navy. In the emergency of the moment, Cushing reentered the navy as a acting master's mate and joined the crew of the U.S.S. Minnesota. Cushing found opportunities to create adventures. In 1862 Cushing was promoted to lieutenant and later in life to commander. 

The Confederacy's ironclad ram, Albemarle, dominated the frequently contested region of the Roanoke River and its major port, Plymouth.  During the late summer of 1864 considered various plans for destroying the Albemarle; two of the plans were submitted by by Cushing. Cushing's daring plan and heroic execution earned him a reputation and fame that lasted his lifetime.

Malinowski offers a witty portrait of Cushing and his adventures. With some very short captures and some very extensive chapters, he briskly moves the story forward from Cushing's childhood and to his death. Reckless and impatient during his childhood and adulthood Cushing rushed through his own life. The author does not loiter either and propels the narrative forward at a lively pace. Malinowski is a writer and editor who has served eight or more magazines and newspapers.  Most recently he has served as a lead writer for The New York Times' sesquicentennial Disunion column. Additionally he has written novels, biographies, plays, and an HBO film. Commander Will Cushing is a well assembled story which reflects the author's career in the field of magazine writing. 

Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War is, as Malinowski states, a retelling of an exciting story about a remarkable individual whose fame is in this centur beginning to fade. He speculates that Cushing's heroics may have been part genius and part personality disorder. Malinowski outlines this possibility but does not force it down the reader's throat. The book ends with Malinowski reflecting on Cushing's death at age 32 and what another 32 years of life would have brought Cushing.  Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War is accessible and enjoyable for readers of nearly all ages.  Though a benefit to readers would have been the addition of maps of Hampton Roads and Gosport, Virginia and coastal North Carolina.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Forthcoming---For The Union And The Catholic Church

For the Union and the Catholic Church: Four Converts in the Civil War, Max Longley, McFarland Publishing,  35 photographs, notes, bibliography, index, paperback, $45.00. Summer 2015.

Five men joined the Catholic Church in the mid-1840s: a soldier, his bishop brother, a priest born a slave and two editors at odds with each other. For the next two decades they were in the thick of the battles of the era--Catholicism versus Know-Nothingism, slavery versus abolition, North versus South. Much has been written about the Catholic Church and about the Civil War. This book is the first in more than half a century to focus exclusively on the intersection of these two topics.

Max Longley has written books and articles have also explored civil liberties, the theology of judicial oaths, and the Civil War. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Friday, February 06, 2015

News---The Passing Of A Great Gettysburg Historian

On the early afternoon of January 31st, the staff at Gettysburg National Military Park received a jolting bit of news:  one of our own, in a large and treasured sense, had passed.  And while the announcement of the death of Dr. Harold “Harry” Pfanz, while not wholly unexpected, certainly saddened many, it also gave us cause to once again recall the man for some whose very name meant “Gettysburg.”

Personally, from my perspective, as an interpretive ranger fairly new to the battlefield at the time, Dr. Pfanz was a quiet, unassuming gentleman; though one already looked upon with quiet reverence given the recognition earned by his first work, Gettysburg: The Second Day.  I was privileged to meet the good Doctor in the early ‘90’s, during his research on his second work, Gettysburg: Culp’s Hill & Cemetery Hill.   At that moment, he was on his way up to the library in the old Cyclorama building.  A fine scholar of the old school, he invariably carried a number of long yellow legal pads and pencils with him during these research forays. At one point, he related how he had conducted the research for The Second Day, utilizing this long-hand method.  Unstated, but understood, was that in his day he had accomplished all that without the aid of copiers, and (obviously,) without computers.  Quite an achievement; yet he was not satisfied with just one.

Although Dr. Pfanz (“Harry,” to those of us who saw him,) continued, on an infrequent basis, to make research trips in the years that followed, he spoke to all most fluently through his  collective writing on the Battle of Gettysburg.  In 2001, the final work in “the Pfanz trilogy” appeared – Gettysburg: The First Day.   Following the completion of that third volume, his appearances within the park were rare, yet his name was (and is yet) often heard in discussions as staff discussed elements of his research in debate.

PfanzWhile his landmarks in the field of Gettysburg literature are well-known, his private personality shied him away from sharing many other worthwhile accomplishments.  A seriously wounded artillery officer during the Battle of the Bulge, Pfanz later earned his doctorate at Ohio State, prior to becoming a historian for the Army.  In 1956, at the outset of the “Mission 66” expansion, he accepted a position with the National Park Service at Gettysburg, initially choosing to refight the battle that would come to dominate the majority of his later life.
Assigned to St. Louis, Missouri, between 1966 and 1971, at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, he served as the site superintendent when the site’s iconic Arch was opened there in 1968.  He left St. Louis in 1971, travelling to Washington, D.C.  In 1974 Pfanz became the Chief Historian of the National Park Service, functioning in that role until his retirement in 1981.

During the course of his work with the National Park Service, Dr. Pfanz received the Department of the Interior’s Meritorious Service Award, the Special Achievement Award, and its Distinguished Service Award.  Outside the “green and gray,” Harry was actively involved in the affairs of his church, of Phi Alpha Theta (the history honors fraternity) and other organizations.
Harry, however, did not boast any of that.  He was, as we recall, a studious and detailed researcher, quiet and efficient in his way.  Thankfully, his tremendous efforts resulted in landmark works that help us more fully understand the struggle that took place here.  They will remain, but their author has gone.  And I will miss him.

Ranger Bert Barnett

Full Text and Image Source: From The Fields Of Gettysburg