Monday, October 20, 2014

New and Noteworthy---What Today's West Point Students Should Know About The Civil War

The West Point History of the Civil War Hardcover, The United States Military Academy, Colonel Ty Seidule and Clifford Rogers,  Simon and Schuster Publishers, 448 pp., bibliographic notes, images, index, $55.00

Publisher's Blurb:  The definitive military history of the Civil War, featuring the same exclusive images, tactical maps, and expert analysis commissioned by The United States Military Academy to teach the history of the art of war to West Point cadets.

The United States Military Academy at West Point is the gold standard for military history and the operational art of war. West Point has created military history texts for its cadets since 1836. For the first time in over forty years, the United States Military Academy has authorized a new military history series that will bear the name West Point. That text has been updated repeatedly, but now it has been completely rewritten and The West Point History of the Civil War is the first volume to result in a new series of military histories authorized by West Point.

The West Point History of the Civil War combines the expertise of preeminent historians commissioned by West Point, hundreds of maps uniquely created by cartographers under West Point’s direction, and hundreds of images, many created for this volume or selected from West Point archives. Offering careful analysis of the political context of military decisions, The West Point History of the Civil War is singularly brilliant at introducing the generals and officer corps of both Union and Confederacy, while explaining the tactics, decisions, and consequences of individual battles and the ebb and flow of the war. For two years it has been beta-tested, vetted, and polished by cadets, West Point faculty, and West Point graduates and the results are clear: This is the best military history of its kind available anywhere.

Table of Contents: 

Introduction: The West Point History Of The Civil War, Ty  Seidule

1. The Origins Of The Civil War And The Contest For The Borderlands, Mark E. Neely Jr. 

2. The War In The East: July 1861-September 1862, Joseph T. Glatthaar

3. Lee's War In The East, Joseph T. Glatthaar

4. Grant's War In The West, Steven E. Woodworth 

5. Coordinated Strategy and Hard War, Earl J. Hess

6. The End Of The Civil War And Reconstruction, James K. Hogue

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

News--- Found On Ebay: Photograph of R. E. Lee's Slaves Found At Arlington House

Slave Photo From Robert E. Lee's Home Discovered On Ebay, Fox News.coma and the Associated Press, October 12, 2014.

National Park Service curator Kim Robinson holds the photo of Selina Gray, right, who was in charge to care for Arlington House where Gen. Robert E. Lee had lived in for 30 years, Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The National Park Service has acquired a rare Civil War-era photograph of an enslaved woman at Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's home in Virginia. The previously unknown photograph depicts Selina Gray, the head housekeeper to Lee and his family. The photograph was unveiled Thursday at Lee's Arlington House plantation overlooking the nation's capital.

An “extremely rare” Civil War-era photograph of the enslaved woman who helped save Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Virginia home has been obtained by the National Park Service after a volunteer spotted the image on eBay.  The previously unknown photograph depicts Selina Gray, the head housekeeper to Lee and his family, along with two girls thought to be her daughters. The photograph was unveiled Thursday at the Arlington House plantation overlooking the nation's capital that was home to Lee and dozens of slaves before the Civil War. An inscription on the back of the image reads "Gen Lees Slaves Arlington Va."

 Park officials said this is only the second known photograph taken of slaves at Arlington.  "It's extremely rare to have an identified photo of an enslaved person," said National Park Service spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles. "Since slaves were considered property, it's very rare to have a photo where you can identify the people in the photo."

WJLA eported Thursday that National Park Service volunteer Dean DeRosa spotted the photograph for sale on eBay for just $20. DeRosa told WJLA he recognized Gray “immediately.”  “What I find so fascinating is how well dressed Selina and her daughters are in this photo,” he told the station.

The nonprofit Save Arlington House Inc. donated $700 to acquire the image. The seller was based in England and found the photo in a box of unwanted images.  Gray is noted in history books for helping to save Arlington House after Lee's family left and the plantation was captured by Union troops during the Civil War.

Arlington House was originally built as a monument to George Washington. Lee's wife, Mary Custis Lee, entrusted the home to Gray, and she later confronted a Union general about soldiers pilfering Washington family heirlooms from the house. She was able to have the items safeguarded.  The photograph was unveiled to the public Saturday, and it will be used in future exhibits after Arlington House and its slave quarters are restored.

CWL:  Still in question is the date of the photograph and the lives of Selina Gray and her daughters. 

Text Source:  Slave Photo Discovered From Lee's Home and Slave Photo Discovered From Robert E. Lee's Home Discovered on Ebay

Image Source: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Monday, October 06, 2014

New and Noteworthy---Music Along The Rapidan River: The War, The Soldiers and Their Music December 1863-April 1864

Music Along The Rapidan: Civil War Soldiers, Music and Community During Winter Quarters, Virginia, James A. Davis, University of Nebraska Press, 347 pp., 31 b/w illustration, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index, $45.00.

From The Publisher:  In December 1863, Civil War soldiers took refuge from the dismal conditions of war and weather. They made their winter quarters in the Piedmont region of central Virginia: the Union’s Army of the Potomac in Culpeper County and the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia in neighboring Orange County. For the next six months the opposing soldiers eyed each other warily across the Rapidan River.

In Music Along the Rapidan James A. Davis examines the role of music in defining the social communities that emerged during this winter encampment. Music was an essential part of each soldier’s personal identity, and Davis considers how music became a means of controlling the acoustic and social cacophony of war that surrounded every soldier nearby.

Music also became a touchstone for colliding communities during the encampment—the communities of enlisted men and officers or Northerners and Southerners on the one hand and the shared communities occupied by both soldier and civilian on the other. The music enabled them to define their relationships and their environment, emotionally, socially, and audibly.

James A. Davis is a professor of musicology at the School of Music at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He is the author of Bully for the Band! The Civil War Letters and Diary of Four Brothers in the 10th Vermont Infantry Band and his articles have been published in numerous journals including Journal of Military History, American Music, and Nineteenth Century Studies.

Blurb: “Delightfully readable. A complete study of the Civil War where it meets music and national life.”—Randal Allred, professor of English at Brigham Young University–Hawaii

CWL:  Davis introduces the book with material on music and communities during the Civil War era. Chapter One: Winter Quarters in Virginia, 1863-1864; Chapter 2: Music and the Community of Soldiers; Chapter 3: Music and the Military Community: Chapter 4 Military Balls and the Officer's Community; Chapter 5: Music and the Religious Community; Chapter 6: Brass Bands and the Intersection of Musical Communities. He concludes the book with a discussion of the impact of 1863-1863winter quarters on these communities of soldiers and the war itself.

The illustrations are somewhat unique; they consist of soldiers with their instruments and the building and tents were the music was performed.  The index reveals that the most frequently discussed topics are:  brass bands, civilians, communities and audiences, military camps as homes, the various types of music and lyrics performed and the relationships that are revealed; and women. The troops of Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Virginia are frequently used as examples.

At the price of $45, readers may wish to request the book through a local library, either for its addition to the collection or borrowing it through inter-library loan.  Of course, libraries accept donations to purchase particular items and donors are often the first borrowers.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

New and Noteworthy----Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis Beseiged on Several Fronts

Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander In Chief, James M. McPherson, Penguin Press, 302pp., 24 black and white illustrations, 15 maps, bibliographic notes, index, 2014, $32.95.

As president of the Confederacy, did Jefferson Davis prove to be a decisive factor in bringing about its defeat? Did his work as commander-in-chief contribute the defeat of the Confederacy? Is historian David M. Potter correct in stating that if  the Union and the Confederacy had exchanged presidents, the Confederacy might have won its independence?  In Embattled Rebel James M. McPherson, an academic scholar with over a dozen books and numerous articles to his credit, avoids comparing Davis to Lincoln. McPherson describes and analyzes Davis’ conception and execution of his duties as commander in chief as he understood them.

McPherson notes that negative depictions of Davis’ personality have been offered by his contemporaries in both the Confederate government and military.  These depictions of Davis are adequately noted by William C. Davis in Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour and An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government. McPherson acknowledges that there is substance to the claims that Jefferson Davis was impatient with others with whom he disagreed and did not take personal criticisms well.  More often than not, Davis could be humorless, argumentative and cold to others. 

The author does note that some found Davis to be attentive and polite to others, as well as cordial and a good listener.  McPherson believes that the Confederate president’s ill-health health was the likely cause of apparently abusive conduct.  Symptoms of previous bouts with malaria, severe neuralgia, and corneal ulcers left him at times in pain, nauseous, and partially blind.  Often sick, Davis worked frequently from a sick bed at home. Bronchial infections, insomnia and boils increased discomfort and pain.

McPherson notes that it was in April and May 1863, while Lee was suffering from symptoms of heart disease and Jackson was dying, that Davis could not come to the  presidential office for reasons of sickness.  Along with his ill-health, the stress of having meager resources at hand to meet the challenges of the presidency added to Davis’ irritability, impatience and short temper. 

With these caveats, McPherson judges Davis on five activities: 1. national policies regarding war aims, 2. national strategies regarding of the mobilization of political, economic, diplomatic, and military resources, 3. military strategy to address the war aims, 4. operations and management of the armies and their movements, and 5. the military tactics of specific armies in specific battles. 

He finds that Davis’ shaping and articulation of national polices to be clear and forceful regarding nationhood and slavery. McPherson makes the case that Davis’ military efforts were conditioned by economic and European situations beyond his control. Regarding the operations of the armies and military tactics, McPherson describes the difficulties and behavioral conflict inherent in Davis’ command style and those of several army commanders, who like Davis could be apparently thin skinned regarding criticism and closed minded to suggestions. 

In Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander In Chief,  McPherson clearly understands  that at the core of Davis’ difficulties lies not only his ill-health but also his ‘offensive-defensive’ military strategy and the strategies’ conflicts with the rights of the states to control their own manpower and resources. For McPherson, Jefferson Davis should not be charged with losing the war but that Lincoln won it by adeptly using resources, embracing over time a successful military strategy, and building a team of commanders that were not available to the Confederacy.  Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander In Chief is succinct and clearly written.  For those who have not read biographies of Davis published in the last 30 years, Embattled Rebel is a very fine place to start.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Forthcoming---The Early Morning of the War: Bull Run, 1861

The Early Morning of the War: Bull Run, 1861, Edward Longacre, University of Oklahoma Press, 12 maps, 30 b/w illustrations, notes, bibliography, index, 648 pages, $29.95.

From The Publisher: When Union and Confederate forces squared off along Bull Run on July 21, 1861, the Federals expected this first major military campaign would bring an early end to the Civil War. But when Confederate troops launched a strong counterattack, both sides realized the war would be longer and costlier than anticipated. First Bull Run, or First Manassas, set the stage for four years of bloody conflict that forever changed the political, social, and economic fabric of the nation. It also introduced the commanders, tactics, and weaponry that would define the American way of war through the turn of the twentieth century.

This crucial campaign receives its most complete and comprehensive treatment in Edward G. Longacre’s The Early Morning of War. A magisterial work by a veteran historian, The Early Morning of War blends narrative and analysis to convey the full scope of the campaign of First Bull Run—its drama and suspense as well as its practical and tactical underpinnings and ramifications. Also woven throughout are biographical sketches detailing the backgrounds and personalities of the leading commanders and other actors in the unfolding conflict.

Longacre has combed previously unpublished primary sources, including correspondence, diaries, and memoirs of more than four hundred participants and observers, from ranking commanders to common soldiers and civilians affected by the fighting. In weighing all the evidence, Longacre finds correctives to long-held theories about campaign strategy and battle tactics and questions sacrosanct beliefs—such as whether the Manassas Gap Railroad was essential to the Confederate victory. Longacre shears away the myths and persuasively examines the long-term repercussions of the Union’s defeat at Bull Run, while analyzing whether the Confederates really had a chance of ending the war in July 1861 by seizing Washington, D.C.

Brilliant moves, avoidable blunders, accidents, historical forces, personal foibles: all are within Longacre’s compass in this deftly written work that is sure to become the standard history of the first, critical campaign of the Civil War.

Edward G. Longacre is a retired U.S. Department of Defense Historian and the author of numerous articles and books on the Civil War and U.S. military history, including The Cavalry at Gettysburg, winner of the Fletcher Pratt Award, and Gentleman and Soldier: A Biography of Wade Hampton III, recipient of the Douglas Southall Freeman History Award.
Blurbs: “In this book, Edward Longacre has applied his considerable skills as a biographer to a vivid piece of American history, injecting humanity and fresh insight to the story of the Civil War’s first major battle. Practicing the lost art of personification and characterization with both flourish and wisdom, Longacre makes the players in this immense drama live anew.”—John Hennessy, author of Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas

"Extensively researched and full of fresh insights and information, Edward G. Longacre's finely crafted Early Morning of War offers a remarkably thorough, highly readable account of the men and events that shaped the course of the first great campaign of the American Civil War."—Ethan S. Rafuse, author of McClellan's War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union and Manassas: A Battlefield Guide

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

News---Gettysburg Monuments Return To Former Cyclorama Landscape

Gettysburg National Military Park staff returned the granite Battery F, 5th US Artillery monument to its original location, within the footprint of the old Cyclorama building in Ziegler's Grove, today, September 24. The monument was moved from its original location in the early 1960s to make way for the construction of the Cyclorama building. Now that the demolition of the cyclorama building is complete, funded by the Gettysburg Foundation, the monument has been returned to its original location.  

 Since 2009 Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation have been returning key portions of the center of the Union battle line on North Cemetery Ridge to their appearance at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863. Completed phases include the demolition of the old visitor center in 2009; the planting 41 apple trees to reestablish the Frey orchard (North) in 2010; the removal of the former Visitor Center parking lot in 2013 and the demolition of the Cyclorama building in 2013.
The Gettysburg Foundation is now raising funds for changes to the National Cemetery parking lot which would allow the replanting of missing portions of Ziegler's Grove, and rehabilitation of the historic terrain of Cemetery Ridge and Ziegler's Ravine.

Joanne M. Hanley, Gettysburg Foundation President, states, "The Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge areas are central in Gettysburg National Military Park's and the Gettysburg Foundation's efforts to educate millions of visitors about the battle of Gettysburg, the causes and consequences of the American Civil War, and the lasting significance of this critical time in our nation's history. Preservation of this site will forever enhance the interpretive value of this critical portion of the Gettysburg battlefield."

Since 2009 Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation have been returning key portions of the center of the Union battle line on North Cemetery Ridge to their appearance at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863. Completed phases include the demolition of the old visitor center in 2009; the planting 41 apple trees to reestablish the Frey orchard (North) in 2010; the removal of the former Visitor Center parking lot in 2013 and the demolition of the Cyclorama building in 2013.

"These actions continue to help us meet our goals of improving the integrity of the battlefield landscapes and improving our visitors' understanding of what happened at Gettysburg and why it's so important," said Rick Kendall, Gettysburg National Military Park.

Text and Image Source:   Gettysburg Foundation

Friday, September 12, 2014

Off Topic--1,000 Year Old Viking Ring Fortress Site Discovered in Denmark

 Trelleborg in western Zealand. Photo: Thue C. Leibrandt/Wikimedia: Viking 'ring fortress' discovered in Denmark Commons

Viking 'Ring Fortress' Discovered in Denmark, The Telegraph, September 12, 2014

Historians believe distinctive geometric fortresses may have been built by Sweyn Forkbeard as a military training camp from which to launch his invasion of England.Archaeologists in Denmark  have discovered a distinctive ring-shaped Viking fortress which historians believe may have been used to launch an invasion of England.  The fortress found on the Danish island of Zealand, around 30 miles south of Copenhagen, is the fifth circular fortress to be unearthed, and the first in over 60 years. “This is great news,” said Lasse Sonne, a Viking historian from the Saxon Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

“Although there were Vikings in other countries, these circular fortresses are unique to Denmark. Many have given up hope that there were many of them left.” Like previously discovered ring fortresses, the Vallø Borgring is thought to date back to the late tenth century and the reign of Harald Bluetooth, the king who Christianised Denmark and Norway.

However, some historians contend the fortresses were constructed by his son Sweyn Forkbeard, the first Danish King of England, as a military training camp or barracks from which to launch his invasions of England. Sweyn Forkbeard seized London in 1013 and was declared King of England on Christmas Day of that year.

The newly discovered fortress has a diameter of 475 feet, making it the third-largest of its type, and consists of a 35-foot wide circular rampart surrounded by a palisade of wooden spikes.
Although only small portions of the new fortress have been uncovered, it appears to match the design of Denmark’s other ring fortresses, sticking to a strict geometric pattern.
The fortresses have four gates facing outward in different compass directions, and an interior courtyard symmetrically divided into four quarters. It is thought that Viking “longhouses” would have been constructed within the fortress.

Historians believe the geometric design may have been inspired by old Roman army camps found by Vikings during their raids on England.Denmark’s ring fortresses are also known as Trelleborgs, after the location of the first to be discovered in western Zealand.  The other three are located in Aggersborg and Fyrkat in northern Jutland, and Nonnebakken near Odense.

 viking fortress excavation

 Text Source: The Telegraph
Another News Story and Images at Archaeology and Huffington Post
Top Image: The Telegraph
Bottom Image: Huffington Post