Friday, August 31, 2007
Afro-Virginians Attitudes on Secession and Civil War, 1861, Ervin L. Jordan, Jr., in Virginia At War, 1861William C. Davis and James I. Robertson, Jr., University of Kentucky, 2005, pp. 89-112.
Virginia, a bi-racial commonwealth of 500,000 blacks and 1,000,000 whites in 1861 "had more black inhabitants than anywhere else in North America and the most enslaved blacks in the Western Hemisphere except Brazil." Of the Confederacy's 3,700,000 African Americans, Virginia was home to one-sixth of them. The explore their feelings, attitudes and commitments is a difficult thing to do. Very little first-hand documentation of the blacks' voices exists. The record of black voices is mediated by the whites recording of the words and behaviors. In the Southland, the nearly complete lack of African American editorial voices, diaries, letters, makes discovery of African Americans hearts and minds inherently hard work for the researcher. (pp. 89-90)
"Possibly the best means of ascertaining black Virginians' collective and individual perspectives about the times is to examine their works and deeds concerning slavery, free blacks, and Afro-Confederates; there surreptitious longings for freedom as manifested by running away; their relations with the Union army; and limited attempts to rise up against their racial suppressors." The lack of slave revolts is not a sign of lack of desire for freedom. While the Brown raid on Harper's Ferry, VA in October 1859, exposed the climate of fear among slaveholders, the raid came is signify to blacks the coming of a possible future, a meteor of war to use Herman Melville's term. (pp. 90-92)
After Virginia seceded on April 17 and the voters ratified the decision in mid-May, the black servant who daily raised the national colors over the state capitol, rescued the Stars and Stripes from the trash bin and hid it under his bed for the duration of the war. On the other hand, a slaveholder asked Jefferson Davis "Can we really expect the Negroes to stand with us?" Several slaveholders forced their slave families to emigrate to Missouri or Texas. Jordan, the essay's author, states "Confederate Virginians generally regarded slavery and white supremacy as a fundamentally natural order and divinely ordered way of life." Alexander Stephens viewed the Confederate Revolution as a keeping the world right side up and the Northern aggressor as desiring to turn the natural order of things upside down. For Stephens, slavery was the cornerstone of social, political and economic Confederate temple.(pp.93-94)
Desiring freedom, the slaves understood the constraints of the racist society in which they lived and which employed personal violence against them. Free blacks in Virginia faced a two horned dilemma: stay free and avoid the suspicion that they would become the Nat Turners of their day. The slave Nat Turner led a three day massacre in southeastern Virginia in 1831 which accomplished the deaths of over sixty whites and the swift, white response of executing well over 100 slaves.
Free blacks became Afro-Confederates as a means of preserving what freedoms they had.
They volunteered for work details building forts, served in CSA regiments as musicians and as commissary aides. "Afro-Confederates' scruples were either coerced, feigned or sincere," Jordan states. The two-horned dilemma is apparent is the instance of Mortimer Raymond, a black Richmond police informer who "reported on black offenders" but to his own astonishment was sent to the whipping post for the crime of associating "with a white woman upon terms of closer familiarity than the law permitted." His loyalty to whites did not mean that he could exercise a freedom of association with them. (95-97)
During the autumn of 1861, the enthusiasm of Afro-Confederates began to wane. Harsh camp treatment, broken promises and forced labor diminished the early 1861 desire to please and fit into the new Confederate society. Rumors of white led slave revolts were common throughout 1861; arrests and punishments with little or no evidence of revolt were just as common. Jordan states that 1861 closed Afro-Virginians, whether slaves, freemen, or serving in CSA forces, looked to the future "with pragmatic hope." (104-105)
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Blooding at Great Meadows: Young George Washington and the Battle that Shaped the Man, Alan Axelrod, 272 pages, endnotes, index, Running Press Book Publishers. 2007.
The French and Indian War is local history for me.
As a child, a summer vacation from the southwestern Pennsylvania dairy farm, was an six hour event: a one hour drive to Fort Necessity to spend a Sunday afternoon, and then drive back in time to milk the cows around 6:00pm. On a high school field trip for a Latin (language) festival, I walked across the Fort Pitt bridge to 'The Point' and visited the Fort Duquesne/Fort Pitt Museum. Wjhile attending the local college and during an autumn Saturday, I travelled 90 minutes and hiked the Jumonville Glen at which Washington 'assasinated' the French embassador. After all, I was bred, born and raised in Washington County, Pennsylvania and it had once been named Augusta County and claimed by Virginia. 2004 was the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the very first world war and it anniversary commoration was a local event.
More text to come.
Alan Axelrod, the author, sticks close to the primary sources of the period. Unfortunately there is no bibliography and the narrative text is not exhaustively footnoted. Washington's Writings and Washington's Papers are heavily relied upon, so much so, that the clarity of Washington's voice comes through to the reader. Those biographies that are considered as academically solid and not hagiography are relied upon by Axelrod. Those biographies which are not well founded upon primary sources are used to contrast the stereotypical Washington with the actual Washington.
Axelrod looks for the flesh of the young Washington beneath the marble of the post-Revolutionary War patriot. The author's presentation of Washington's life before the Revolution is clear and concise. The reader understands the growth and development of the young Virginian on-the-make. The tide of colonial events and the current of Washington's own motivation carry him into the Appalachian wilderness several times. Two of the three excursions into the region of the Forks of the Ohio nearly ends the young man's life. The 1753 trek to and from Fort LaBeuf near Lake Erie during December is full of treacherous Indian guides, rafts on icy rivers, deep snow falls and near starvation. The 1754 campaign against Fort Duquesne ended in Washington's surrender at Fort Necessity and his inadvertent admission of guilt for the assassination of a French diplomat. The 1755 campaign with the British army, again towards Fort Duquesne, ended in the near massacre of the force, the death of British General Braddock, and Washington wearing a coat with six bullet holes in it.
The compressed and forceful narrative works well for the story, yet this reader wished for more coverage of the defeat at Turtle Creek. The title states the book ends at Great Meadows, at which Fort Necessity existed in 1754. Axelrod continues the story through the next year, 1755 and the Battle of Turtle Creek but the discussion of this event is slim, though well done. There are no maps or illustrations in the book; this is unfortunate. Overall though, Axelrod succeeds in providing a vivid, primary source driven story with due consideration of the myths that have evolved over the generations.
People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War, 1854-1877, Scott Reynolds Nelson and Carol Sherriff Oxford University Press, 345 pages, black and white photographs, maps, index, notes, bibliography. 2007, $28.00.
While reading People At War, a review of it by Randall M. Miller, of Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, came across my desk. Here it is.
"In a crowded field of books on the Civil War era. Nelson (Steel Drivin' Man) and Sheriff ( Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, 1817-1862), historians at the College of William and Mary, give us something new—an engaging, informed portrait of two peoples at war, with an emphasis
on how common soldiers and noncombatants adjusted to and were changed by the war.
The authors spend more time in recruiting halls, military camps, hospitals,and prisons than in battle to observe what moved men to war and some to flee it, as
well as how the physical and emotional demands of living away from home affected their sense of self and their national identity. At the same time, they discuss how the war came home to civilians, with the raids of armies and partisans, the demands of mobilization, the death and dismemberment of soldiers, the erosion of slavery, and the promise of freedom.
They are especially good at linking the experience of, and expectations about, the war with Americans' ambitions and interests in the West. Their vivid descriptions of disease and destruction will remind readers that war was hell even as it was also an instrument of social change. The new social historians' interest in "the people" gets its full due in this readable, reliable, and remarkably relevant book."
Monday, August 27, 2007
A Navy Department, Hitherto Unknown To Our State Organization, John Coski, in Virginia At War, 1861, William C. Davis and James I. Robertson, University of Kentucky, 2005, pp. 65-88.
Text to follow.
Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor, Russell S. Bonds, Westholme Press, 444 pages, maps, b/w photographs, notes, index, bibliography, $29.95, 2007.
Buster Keaton and Fess Parker. If you are over fifty, then you probably know who they are. Silent film comedian and Davy Crockett/Daniel Boone. The story of Union soldiers traveling south surreptitiously to high jack a locomotive and retreat north, all the while disabling rails and bridges was the stuff of legend before Hollywood was born. Buster Keaton's film, The General is a hallmark of silent film comedy; Fess Parker's film, The Great Locomotive Chase is the hallmark of the Cold War Disney entertainment machine.
Russell Bond's Stealing the General gives the reader the whole story: the idea, its implementation, its execution, and its failure. In April 1862, twenty Union soldiers crossed Confederate lines to steal a locomotive in an endeavor to aid in the capture of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Thinking that Steven Spielberg will have Liam Neeson portray Lincoln in the film version of Team of Rivals and that Harrison Ford possibly will star in Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, then Bond's work may generate a third Civil War locomotive chase film.
Lawyer and historian, Russell Bonds offers a wonderfully gripping narrative account of the first Union invasion of Alabama, the theft and the chase, the capture of raiders, their executions and their escapes. By the end of the book, when the reader is thoroughly satisfied, the Medal of Honor is introduced and the story has a second ending, just like the movies. The author has a superlative writing style, and an authoritative control of the vast primary source material available from the participants.
Bonds also tells the stories of Confederate railroading, boom town Atlanta, and locomotive construction. In addition, not only do the personalities of the Union soldiers come to the fore but the personalities of those chasing them. To the satisfaction of this reader, Bonds provides a succinct review of the literature of the chase, both by the participants and by later writers.
Fortunately, members of the Book of the Month Club, the History Book Club, the Military Book Club and shoppers at Borders Books and Music and Amazon.com shoppers will have the opportunity to see the splendid cover art.
In the Woods, Tana French, Viking Press, 429 pages,$24.95
Part police procedural, part psychological thriller and part fictional biography, In the Woods is a stunning demonstration of style and nuance by Tana French. Set in Dublin, Ireland the novel focuses on two crimes, nearly three decades apart. The murders occur at the same location, a wooded area that is a playground refuge and also an early Celt archaeological site.
The victims are four children one of which survives. The survivor, as an adult investigates the second, contemporary murder. Rob Ryan, the survivor, lost all memories of his childhood that occurred before the first attack. As his childhood is hidden from him, he has hidden his conflicted past from the police administrators for whom he works. An encroaching highway interchange in the semi-rural community of Knocknaree upsets the delicate balance of community and forest, ancient and contemporary pasts.
The second murder tears apart a family that well hides its dysfunctions. The death of 12 year old Katie Devlin, calls forth memories a 20 year old rape, the manipulations a psychopath and the mischief of local government corruption. Detective Ryan, the child survivor and now adult detective, and Cassie Maddox, psychology grad school drop out and undercover detective, develop both a partnership and friendship that is unique. It is the depth of these characters and those around that that is the chief strength of In The Woods. Murders and memories, psychological pressure and corrupt politics, rise above a story which could have tumbled into a tabloid-like bestseller. The real strengths of the novel is the smart craft and on-the-money metaphors Tana French uses in her memorable first novel of adults dealing with their pasts that contain violence, anger, and resolute wills to survive.
News: A New Birth of Economic Freedom: Urban Sprawl in Adams County, Pennsylvania, Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, Elsewhere
A tour bus and a cyclist meet in front of Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa. The park has successfully fended off a plan for a nearby casino, although development is still a major threat. Photo by Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press
At Gettysburg, A New Battle: Urban Sprawl, Teresa Méndez, The Christian Science Monitor, August 24, 2007
A New List Of Endangered Battlefields Reveals Tensions Between Preservationists And Developers
Gettysburg, PA. - In 1863, Abraham Lincoln stood here and gave the speech that was to become his most famous. With brevity and eloquence he spoke of the liberty and equality upon which this country was founded. He looked forward to the Union's salvation, the end of slavery – and "a new birth of freedom."
What he couldn't have foreseen delivering the Gettysburg Address that afternoon was that a Southern colonel would one day claim this hallowed ground in the form of a KFC just beyond its gates. Or that the site of the battle's largest field hospital would be paved over. Today, a sizable chunk of Camp Letterman serves as the parking lot for Giant supermarket – a salmon slab of concrete with a few benches and two small plaques the only reminder of its historical significance.
Last year activists fought off the unthinkable: a 5,000-slot casino within a mile of the battleground. Yet Gettysburg stubbornly remains on a list of "Endangered Battlefields" compiled annually by the nonprofit Civil War Preservation Trust. It's not just Gettysburg either. The storied sites pored over in every American History class and obsessively revisited by Civil War buffs are far from uniformly protected. From suburban sprawl to mining to a lack of funds for maintenance and repair, threats to Civil War battlefields are legion. Many are scrambling to spruce up their grounds in time for the Civil War's 150th anniversary in 2011. Far from being diminished through the years, the significance of these battlegrounds, as a sort of collective time capsule, has only grown.
"The bonding between past and present is really the essence of understanding history," says James McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War historian and Princeton professor, who has led his share of battlefield tours. "If these places didn't exist, we would never have the kind of connection between past and present that we do now." Yet as soon as one preservation crisis is managed, it seems another crops up. One National Park Service administrator likened the efforts to a game of whack-a-mole:
• Sunday marked the anniversary of the illegal excavation of Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. Antsy developers trespassed onto Park Service land to dig trenches for sewer and water piping in anticipation of a nearby development.
• In Cedar Creek, Va., a mining company is petitioning the county to have more than 600 battlefield acres rezoned so it can add five more quarries to its operations.
• And from Fort Morgan, Ala., to Fort Jackson and Fort Pike in New Orleans, funds are desperately needed to restore sites in sore disrepair.
Driving through Gettysburg, the park unfolds as a patchwork of public and private land. It's the most popular of the country's military parks, with nearly 2 million visitors each year. Yet in a head-spinning equation, only about 80 percent of its 6,000 acres are under Park Service protection. The rest is privately held, its use, in part, up to the discretion of its owners. Just as troublesome to preservationists is the property beyond the official park boundary. "We have a hard enough time trying to protect what's in the boundaries without even worrying about what's outside," says Jim Johnson, Gettysburg's acting superintendent.
Yet much of that outlying property – such as the Baltimore Pike, a strip of land southeast of Gettysburg dotted with battlegrounds and field hospitals – is of historical consequence. It's also essential to maintaining the integrity of the viewshed. Preservationists worry that instead of cotton-puff clouds, the Gettysburg vistas will be crowded with housing developments. The movement to preserve Civil War battlefields took hold in the late 1980s with the formation of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites. In 1999, it merged with another organization to form the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), which today has 70,000 members.
Not everyone is an enthusiastic conservationist, however. Once land comes under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, it's off the tax roll – which can be burdensome for cash-strapped towns. But the movement is proud of its successes. The CWPT says it has helped save more than 24,000 acres in 18 states. In fact, despite the work left to be done, Professor McPherson says American Civil War sites "may be the best preserved series of battlefields anywhere in the world."
"Europeans who come here are astonished by how much battlefield land has been preserved in the national park system," he says. For Steve Braden, a visitor from Georgia here with his family, that can only be a good thing. "To me this is as close as you get to sacred or hallowed ground in America," he says, wearing a baseball cap with the CWPT acronym. He is a member, visiting this battlefield for the first time since his college days in the 1970s.
To view "History Under Siege: A Guide to America's Most Endangered Civil War Battlefields," visit www.civilwar.org/news/topten2007/index.htm.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Where You Fall In Poll of U.S. Reading Habits, Associated Press, August 21, 2007
+One in four Americans read no books last year.
+More women are avid readers than men.
+Southerners read more than rest of country.
+Democrats, liberals read slightly more books than GOP, conservatives.
There it sits on your nightstand, that book you've meant to read for who knows how long but haven't yet cracked open. Tonight, as you feel its stare from beneath that teetering pile of magazines, know one thing -- you are not alone.
Women are more avid readers than men, a new poll says. One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Of those who did read, women and seniors were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.
The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year -- half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven.
"I just get sleepy when I read," said Richard Bustos of Dallas, Texas, a habit with which millions of Americans can doubtless identify. Bustos, a 34-year-old project manager for a telecommunications company, said he had not read any books in the last year and would rather spend time in his backyard pool. That choice by Bustos and others is reflected in book sales, which have been flat in recent years and are expected to stay that way indefinitely. Analysts attribute the listlessness to competition from the Internet and other media, the unsteady economy and a well-established industry with limited opportunities for expansion.
When the Gallup poll asked in 2005 how many books people had at least started -- a similar but not directly comparable question -- the typical answer was five. That was down from 10 in 1999, but close to the 1990 response of six. In 2004, a National Endowment for the Arts report titled "Reading at Risk" found only 57 percent of American adults had read a book in 2002, a four percentage point drop in a decade. The study faulted television, movies and the Internet.
Who are the 27 percent of people the AP-Ipsos poll found hadn't read a single book this year? Nearly a third of men and a quarter of women fit that category. They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious. At the same time, book enthusiasts abound. Many in the survey reported reading dozens of books and said they couldn't do without them.
"I go into another world when I read," said Charlotte Fuller, 64, a retired nurse from Seminole, Florida, who said she read 70 books in the last year. "I read so many sometimes I get the stories mixed up." Among those who said they had read books, the median figure -- with half reading more, half fewer -- was nine books for women and five for men. The figures also indicated that those with college degrees read the most, and people aged 50 and up read more than those who are younger.
Pollyann Baird, 84, a retired school librarian in Loveland, Colorado, says J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter fantasy series is her favorite. But she has forced herself to not read the latest and final installment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," because she has yet to file her income taxes this year due to an illness and worries that once she started the book, "I know I'd have to finish it." People from the South read a bit more than those from other regions, mostly religious books and romance novels. Whites read more than blacks and Hispanics, and those who said they never attend religious services read nearly twice as many as those who attend frequently.
There was even some political variety evident, with Democrats and liberals typically reading slightly more books than Republicans and conservatives. The Bible and religious works were read by two-thirds in the survey, more than all other categories. Popular fiction, histories, biographies and mysteries were all cited by about half, while one in five read romance novels. Every other genre -- including politics, poetry and classical literature -- were named by fewer than five percent of readers.
More women than men read every major category of books except for history and biography. Industry experts said that confirms their observation that men tend to prefer nonfiction. "Fiction just doesn't interest me," said Bob Ryan, 41, who works for a construction company in Guntersville, Alabama. "If I'm going to get a story, I'll get a movie."
Those likeliest to read religious books included older and married women, lower earners, minorities, lesser educated people, Southerners, rural residents, Republicans and conservatives. The publishing business totaled $35.7 billion in global sales last year, 3 percent more than the previous year, according to the Book Industry Study Group, a trade association. About 3.1 billion books were sold, an increase of less than 1 percent.
The AP-Ipsos poll was conducted from August 6 to 8 and involved telephone interviews with 1,003 adults. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
149th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Unit in the Civil War, Richard E. Matthews, McFarland and Company, paperback, 296 pages, McFarland and Company, 109 photos, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index, 346 pp, July 2007,
In 1861, Americans on both sides flooded to enlist for what all thought would be a short and glorious war. Anxious to prove their loyalty to their new homeland, thousands of America's Irish immigrant population were among those who hurried to join the fight on both sides. While the efforts of the Union's legendary Irish Brigade are well documented, little has been said regarding the role Irish American soldiers played for the Confederacy. This comprehensive history explores the Irish contribution to the Confederate military effort throughout the four major combat theatres of the Civil War. This is a paperback edition of the 1994 hardcover.
Table of Contents:
1. Recruiting the Companies 7
2. Assignment to Washington 17
3. Chancellorsville 39
4. Gettysburg 67
Between pages 76 and 77 are 16 plates containing 59 photographs
5. Northern Virginia 109
6. Richmond Campaign 127
7. Wilderness 131
Between pages 140 and 141 are 16 plates containing 58 photographs
8. Spotsylvania 151
9. North Anna 161
10. Petersburg 179
11. Elmira 213
Appendix A: Civilian Occupations 231
Appendix B: Regimental Roster 233
Appendix C: Chronology—Regimental Officers 272
Appendix D: Army Command Assignments 274
Irish Americans in the Confederate Army, Sean Michael O'Brien, McFarland and Company, hardcover, 3 photos, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index,
264 pp. hardcover, July 2007.
Beginning with an overview of Irish Americans in the South, the book looks at the Irish immigrant experience and the character of the typical Irish Confederate soldier, detailing the ways in which Irish communities supported the Southern war effort. The main focus is the military actions in which Irish American soldiers were present in significant or influential numbers. With a combat death rate disproportionate to their numbers, the 40,000 Irish who served in the Confederate army played significant roles in the Army of Northern Virginia, the Army of Tennessee, the hotly disputed coastal areas and the Mississippi and Trans-Mississippi campaigns. Most major battles of the war are discussed including Manassas, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Murfreesboro and Appomattox. Appendices contain a list of various Irish commands and field commanders in the Confederate Army. First hardcover edition.
Table of Contents:
PART I. THE IRISH EXPERIENCE IN THE SOUTH
1. The New Country: Irish Immigrants in the South 11
2. Fighting Irish: The Character of the Irish Confederate Soldier 23
3. Home Front: The Irish Family, Community, and Church in War 33
PART II. THE IRISH IN THE ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA
4. Green Flag Unfurled: Manassas and the Valley Campaign 43
5. Defending Richmond: The Seven Days, June 1862 53
6. Southern Offensive: Second Manassas and Sharpsburg, August–September 1862 64
7. “With Distinguished Gallantry and Coolness”: Fredericksburg, December 1862 79
8. “A Stubborn and Bloody Conflict”: Gettysburg, July 1863 87
9. “To No Avail”: Wilderness to Appomattox, May 1864–April 1865 100
PART III. THE IRISH IN THE ARMY OF TENNESSEE
10. Hornets’ Nest: The Irish at Shiloh, April 1862 109
11. “Gallantry and Courage”: Perryville and Murfreesboro, October–December 1862 116
12. The Contest for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Ringgold Gap, September–November 1863 127
13. The Contest for Atlanta, May–September 1864 141
14. “Carnival of Death”: Franklin, November 1864 156
PART IV. THE IRISH IN THE COASTAL STRONGHOLDS
15. “Up-Hill Work”: Charleston, Savannah, and Fort Fisher 167
16. To the Last Ditch: From Fort Pickens to Fort Blakely, 1861–1865 177
PART V: THE IRISH IN THEMISSISSIPPI AND TRANS-MISSISSIPPI CAMPAIGNS
17. The Struggle for the Mississippi 189
18. West of the Sabine: The Irish in Texas 200
Epilogue: “Their Bones Lie on Every Battle-Field” 211
Appendix 1: Irish Commands in the Confederate Army 215
Appendix 2: Some Irish-American Field Commanders in the Confederate Army 226
Chapter Notes 237
Works Cited 247
Text and TOC from publisher.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Still a Mystery? General Grant and the Historians, 1981-2006, Ethan Rafuse, The Journal of Military History, July 2007, 879-874.
In 1879 William T. Sherman, a close friend of Ulysses S. Grant, remarked that "to me [Grant] is a mystery, and I believe he is a mystery to himself." In 1981 William S. McFeely offered a biography of Grant that presented a very different picture of the general and president than the one offered by Bruce Catton, Kenneth P. Williams and T. Harry Williams. These three historians had rescued Grant's reputation from a previous generations', the Lost Cause School, dismissal of Grant.
For Catton, Kenneth Williams and Harry Williams, Grant was not the drunkard, the butcher, the pre-cursor to World War One generals noted for their attrition of their armies by foolhardy frontal charges. Strategy, tactics and grit describe Grant's performance at Forts Donelson and Henry, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga for these historians writing in the 1950s and 1960s.
A backlash to their portrait of Grant began with Grant: A Biography, McFeely's work which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. McFeely presents a complex, darker picture of a soldier with a grand ambition and little ego. Grant was not a simple, hardworking and modest American trying to make his way in the world.
The author described the 1864 Overland Campaign as being 'a nightmare of inhumanity and inept military strategy that ranks as the worst such episodes in the history of warfare . . . ." Grant's work was 'a hideous disaster' in McFeely's eyes. The climate of the time in which McFeely wrote the biography was quite different than the post-World War Two era. The author "approached his study of Grant not as a military historian, but with an interest in race relations." (p. 853-854)
Though widely accepted and positively reviewed by both scholars and the general public, McFeely's book did garner negative criticism from Jay Luuvas, Richard N. Current, James M. McPherson and Brooks Simpson. These four gave poor marks to McFeely for offer an impressionistic treatment of the military campaigns, introducing attitudes of the 1970s into a mid-19th century life, having factual errors, oversimplifying and exaggerating interpretations of controversial events in Grant's life. McPherson was hostile to MeFeely's book, stating that it contained a superficial understanding of generalship and using irresponsibly elements of Grant's behavior. Simpson faulted McFeely for labeling Grant a butcher and a racist and for relying only on casualties a means to judge military success. Simpson cotinued his challenge to McFeely's description by citing the work of J.F.C. Fuller. "Statisical evidence that Grant's losses were not out of line with, and in some cases were actually lower than, those suffered by of Civil War generals." (pp. 856-857)
Since the publication of McFeely's book, Ethan Rafuse offers Geoffrey Perret's
Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier and President and J. Edward Smith's Grant as correctives. Also Brook Simpson's Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865, state Rafuse, presents "fresh and compelling insights" into Grant's early life and military career. Common in these three biographies is the discussion of team work between Grant and Lincoln. Though each of these three biographies are quite positive towards Grant's character, the books also discuss Grant's anti-Semitism and his avoidance of taking responsibility for failed attacks.
"In light of all that has been written on Grant over the last quarter century, has the 'mystery' been solved?" asked Rafuse. He closes his essays with descriptions of elements of Grant's life that have not been well covered or explained. He looks forward to the second volume of Simpson's work on Grant and hopes that in further studies of Grant, the life will be integrated into the times. (pp. 872-874)
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Lincoln May Have Had Facial Defect, Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press, August 13,2007
Artists, sculptors and photographers knew Abraham Lincoln's face had a good side. Now it's confirmed by science. Laser scans of two life masks, made from plaster casts of Lincoln's face, reveal the 16th president's unusual degree of facial asymmetry, according to a new study. The left side of Lincoln's face was much smaller than the right, an aberration called cranial facial microsomia. The defect joins a long list of ailments — including smallpox, heart illness and depression — that modern doctors have diagnosed in Lincoln.
Lincoln's contemporaries noted his left eye at times drifted upward independently of his right eye, a condition now termed strabismus. Lincoln's smaller left eye socket may have displaced a muscle controlling vertical movement, said Dr. Ronald Fishman, who led the study published in the August issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology. Severe strabismus leads to double vision and can be treated today by surgery.
"Lincoln noticed double vision only occasionally and it did not bother him a great deal," said Fishman, a retired Washington, D.C., ophthalmologist and history buff.
Most people's faces are asymmetrical, Fishman said, but Lincoln's case was extreme, with the bony ridge over his left eye rounder and thinner than the right side, and set backward.
Lincoln's appearance was mocked by his political enemies, historians say. The author Nathaniel Hawthorne, a Lincoln fan, wrote of the president's "homely sagacity" and his "sallow, queer, sagacious visage." Hawthorne's description was deemed disrespectful and deleted by a magazine editor, said Daniel Weinberg, owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago.
Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum described the left side of Lincoln's face as primitive, immature and unfinished. When Lincoln was a boy, he was kicked in the head by a horse. Laser scans can't settle whether the kick or a developmental defect — or neither — contributed to Lincoln's lopsided face, Fishman said.
The scanning technique is usually used to create 3-D images of children with cleft lip and palate before and after surgery. Fishman teamed up with Dr. Adriana Da Silveira, an Austin, Texas, orthodontist who specializes in children with facial defects, to scan a bronze and a plaster copy of two life masks, owned by the Chicago History Museum.
Life masks were in vogue in the 1860s, said James Cornelius, curator at the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln cooperated with sculptors to make them twice, in 1860 before his first presidential nomination, and in 1865, two months before his assassination. Lincoln probably did it for political purposes more than posterity, Cornelius said. "It's the equivalent of TV face time now," Cornelius said.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel, Diane Setterfield, Atria Publishing House, hardcover, 416 pages.
Partly a saga of a dysfunctional family, partly story of multiple sets of twins, partly a ghost story, Diane Setterfield's Thirteenth Tale reminds me of Charles Dickens', Charlotte Bronte's and Daphne du Maurier's works. Tightly plotted events and exactingly portrayed characters greet the reader throughout the entire the story.
In the last months of her life, the famous novelist seeks a biographer. Vida Winter, the novelist, has been lying her about her origins for decades. Margaret, the biographer, has written about brothers and has this initial conversation with Vida.
"You have given nineteen different versions of your life story to journalists in the last two years alone."
She shrugged. "It's my profession. I'm a storyteller."
"I am a biographer, I work with facts."
Margaret is one of conjoined twins; one twin dies upon separation. The dead sister/twin is the novel's first ghost. Vida's heritage also includes twins, and in addition an estate with an mansion, called Anglefield. These twins are egocentric, emotionally hollow with a mother who is later committed to an an asylum and thereby leaves her lust-ridden, incestuous brother to fall into narcissistic grief and chase working class maidens.
While educating the twins, and after seeing a ghost (probably), the nanny flees. A doctor throws his hands up in despair, a kindly housekeeper and a gardener grow blind and senile as they attempt to raise the twins in the decrepit mansion. A skeleton is found in the ruins of a cottage far from the mansion. There is another death in a house-repair related accident that may also be murder. The mansion burns and in the ruins, decades later, another skeleton is found.
Margaret must winnow the truth from Vida's lies and with Aurelius Love, the biographer and the reader investigate the pathology of the generations at Angelfield. The main ingredients of suicide, incest, madness, twins (at times possibly triplets), ghosts, skeletons, are sprinkled with herbs of the philosophies of history, literature, psychology and education. For desert, there is a late-blooming romance. A full meal after 416 page and you will probably retire to the drawing room for a brandy.
CWL --- Until Every Traitor Copperhead Kneels Before the Goddess of Liberty: Union Soldiers and the Antiwar Movement
'A Viler Enemy In Our Rear': Pennsylvania Soldiers Confront the North's Antiwar Movement, Timothy J. Orr, in Aaron Sheean-Dean, The View From the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers, University of Kentucky Press, 2007, pp. 171-198.
On May 3, 1863 a sergeant of the 28th PVI happened to view a large political meeting of the 29th OVI; the units were in the same brigade of the Army of the Potomac. The lieutenant colonel of the 29th "spoke of a set of traitors who were plotting against
the government and poisoning the minds of the people." (p. 172)
As a field of study, Civil War history has paid little attention to Union soldiers' camp scuttlebut on partisan politics. Several historians argue that anti-war Democrats had little or no success in obstructing the Republican war effort. Timothy J. Orr contends that the Democratic Party in the North were "hardly the enemies of the Union that the Republicans made them out to be." But the affect among troops of Republican propaganda regarding the degree of loyalty was extensive. Most soldiers from Pennsylvania "identified antiwar Democrats as the arm of the rebellion in the North." (pp., 192, 193)
Orr cites Pennsylvania troops' resolutions which appear in regional newspapers. Descriptive language of these resolution include: traitors of the worst class, fellow conspirators of the South, deserving of unmigated scorn, hatred, contempt and 'the hemp that is due traitors.' Also, the antiwar proponets should be crushed to the earth, suffer a traitor's doom. (pp.188-189)
The author describes how "Pennsylvania regiments contrcuted these resolutions with extreme care". A trend appears in which captains and lieutenants lead discussions among the enlisted men and then compose a letter to an editor. It took three weeks for the 140th Pennsylvania to draft a set of resolutions on which most could agree, with the colonel trying to stiffle the rhetoric. The 150th Pennsylvania wrote a resolutions document under the same conditions. The 100th Pennsylvania voted on each of their resolutions with the assent of each enlisted man in favor being signified by taking 'shoulder arms' and those opposed remaining at 'order arms.' (pp. 183-185)
Pennsylvania soldiers' vote in the 1863 and 1864 elections heavily supported the Republican Party. Committant to the military draft, suspension of habeas corpus, limitations on free speech, support of the federal authority, and a complete aversion to an armistice were the planks of the soldiers' political platform. In the election of 1864, 68% of Pennsylvania soldiers who voted cast votes for Lincoln.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Confederate Soldiers in Virginia 1861, Joseph T. Glatthaar, Jr., in Virginia At War, 1861, William C. Davis, and James I. Robertson, Jr., University of Kentucky Press, 2005, pp. 45-63.
Northern mudsills versus Southern woodsmen. Yankee urban dwellers versus Southern farmboys. Better riding, independent-minded, superior shots, the men in 1861 who became the Army of Northern Virginia in mid-1862 would be able to take out 3, 5 or 7 Yankees. Just how “knowledgeable and experienced where these rural men who fought for the Confederacy in Virginia . . ?” Did pre-war experience create an indomitable fighting man in the Confederacy? (p. 45)
What advantages did Southerners bring into military service? For one motivation.
Viewed as a glorious, holy, sacred and patriotic endeavor performed by free men with honor, soldiers of the Confederacy insisted that they would win. This psychological and emotional edge was accompanied by pre-war militia training. At the very beginning of the war, Virginia Military Academy, Citadel, and a host of other military academies supplied leaders for the militia companies.
Yet, both in the North and South, the immensity of the war outstripped militia experienced. The army which Winfield Scott led into Mexico was numbered at 10,000, the size of a corps during the Civil War. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in 1862 was twice as large as Richmond, Virginia. in 1860.. Richmond the 26th largest city in the U.S.; the 25th largest city was Troy, New York. For many Southerners, the ANV was the largest community in which they had lived. Glatthaar, the author, understands that this new community was ‘a biological time bomb. (p. 50)
City dwellers had been inoculated by their survival of illnesses in their pre-war living conditions. Measles, mumps, typhoid, pneumonia, dysentery, and diarrhea took their tool in the ANV. Additionally, pre-war ‘rural living did little to develop concern over sanitation.. (p. 52) After 1st Manassas, Southern army encampments continued to suffer casualties from sanitation and hygiene issues related to the slaughtering of beef.
Despite a rural upbringing most Confederate soldiers had not slept and lived for extended periods out of doors. At home, food was prepared by mothers and daughters; in camp, cooking was done by males inexperienced with food preparation. Glatthaar cites examples of soldiers mistaking tallow for lard. Also, it is assumed that the Southern soldier had extensive experience with firearms. Casualties generated by negligence and accidents were a steady drain on company strength during 1861 and 1862.Glatthaar has found.
Many Confederate soldiers realized that military service was much like slavery. An extreme case of military disobedience at the company level were among Louisiana troops. Troops from other states acted in ways similar to the Louisiana men. “Removed fro traditional social controls and with too much time on their hands, young . . . responded with’ disruptive behavior. (p. 57) Wildly drunk, preferring prostitutes as female company, and gambling to the point of exhaustion, some Rebels were not good soldiers.
Virginia soldiers adjusted their military performance and discipline by 1862 when Lee took command of the Army of Virginia and made it into the Army of Northern Virginia. The proper sanWriting & Fighting From the Army of Northern Virginia: A Collection of Confederate Soldier Correspondence (Writing & Fighting the Civil War) by William B. Stypleitation, proper cooking, proper self-discipline, and proper obedience acquired by Virginia soldiers by June 1862 was what was their new commander, a very proper gentleman, R. E. Lee, demanded.
This essay is available from your local library, through inter-library loan, or from Civil War Librarian.
For Additional Reading:
Writing & Fighting From the Army of Northern Virginia: A Collection of Confederate Soldier Correspondence, William B. Styple, Belle Grove, Press, 2003
The Army of Northern Virginia: Lee's Army in the American Civil War, 1861-1865, Philip Katcher,Routledge Press, 2003
Lee's Tigers: The Louisiana Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia, Terry L. Jones, Louisana State University Press, 2003
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Bain of McClellan enthusiasts and cheerful companion of Grant enthusiasts, James B. McPherson is ordering a larger suit jacket size. He needs room for another academic medal.
The Pritzker Military Library has awarded James McPherson, author of 'This Mighty Scourge', the first Pritzker Library lifetime achievement award for military writing. McPherson's 'For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War' won the 1998 Lincoln Prize and 'Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era' won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
The Pritzker Library, located on the 2nd floor of 619 North Fairbanks Court, in Chicago Illinois houses 18,000 volumes and 500 miliary art prints and posters. The library's website is http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/index.jsp and is funded in part by the Tawani Foundation which promotes historical presevervation and health and environmental education. The library's out reach includes webcasts and podcasts.
'This Might Scourge' collects 16 previously published esssays that cover The Lost Cause(6), Union generals(3), the home and battle Fronts (3), slavery and the coming of the war (2)and Lincoln (2). In the next several weeks, Civil War Librarian write more specifically about this collection.
McPherson has his detractors. Dimitri Rotov in his Civil War Bookshelf weblog as put McPherson in the 'Centennialist School' of Civil War historiography. One particular aspect of this school is its rough treatment of McClellan. On the other hand, Ethan Rafuse, in both this writings and his shared weblog 'Civil Warriors' gives McPherson a pat-on-the-back for his chanllenges to 'Grant', William McFeely's harsh biogrpaghical treatment of its central character, that won the Pulitzer Prize two years before McPherson received is Pulitizer in i988. Rafuse tips his hat to McPherson in a July 2007 Journal of Military History essay. Civil War Librarian will discuss this essay in the next week.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Aerial photographs from 1937, when superimposed on current aerial photographs have revealed a star shaped fort in an undeveloped field in Fairfax County, Virginia. Also, parts of the Chantilly/Ox Hill battlefield, can be studied even though it was bulldozed for a strip mall a few years ago.
Fought on September 1, 1862, CWL views it as day four of the Second Battle of Manassas. It is treated as such by John Hennessey in his well regarded study, Return to Bull Run. Divisions under the direction of Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny and Maj. Gen. Isaac Stevens thwarted troops under the direction of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson. About 1,300 Union and 800 CSA causalites were suffered in the farm fields and during an tremendous rain storm with huge bolts of lightning.
Jackson's troops were making a nearly successful turning movement of the Federal right. If achieved R. E. Lee may have a achieved the battle of annihilation for which he longed.
Here's the link for the Washington Post story:
For more on the Second Manassas Campaign:
Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas, John J. Hennessy
For more on the Battle of Ox Hill/Chantilly:
Tempest at Ox Hill: The Battle of Chantilly, David A. Welker
He Hath Loosed the Fateful Lightning: The Battle of Ox Hill,September 1, 1862, Paul Taylor