Thursday, September 27, 2007
Sleuthing the Alamo: Davy Crockett's Last Stand and Other Mysteries of the Texas Revolution, James E. Crisp, Oxford University Press, b/w illustrations, 4 color plates, 1 map, bibliography of further readings, 228 pp., $23.00 hardcover, $16.00 paperback.
What makes James E. Crip's Sleuthing The Alamo remarkable is the effectively clear and concise treatment of what could have been a dry-as-parchment tale. Archival detective work is not fast paced; yet Crisp's non-intrusive presence in the book moves the stories along and adds a degree of suspense to what is essentially academic enterprise.
Racism and abusive language is prevalent in the book. Crisp recovers the history of when 'brown became bad' in the story of the Alamo and sharply draws a line in the sand after the Texas Revolution. Dealing with a Sam Huston speech made at the beginning of the war, he pares away the generational layers of translation and editing to reveal Sam Huston as respectful and humane towards blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans. Racism, Crisp understands, came in with the new wave of immigration after the Texas Revolution. The steady influx of Southerners with slaves or with the desire to soon buy slaves caused a rise in Texas' disregard for Mexicans.
Also, before and during the revolution, the inhabitants of Texas understood them selves to be Texicans and most closely aligned with the Mexican state of Coahuila, that contained the northern parts of both the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers. In the final chapter Crisp presents a story of art history and the depiction of Santa Ana's army. Using four famous turn of the 20th century paintings of the Alamo and Little Big Horn and the patron who commissioned them, Crisp reveals that an amateur historian to be at the center of the popular graphic representation of these battles.
The abusive language comes in the form email and letters to himself and other historians who have taken Davey Crockett's death from the ramparts of the Disney movie and placed it the Alamo's courtyard. By thoroughly re-constituting the original documents written by those in the Mexican army, he finds that it is very likely Crockett was captured alive but immediately executed with saber slashes along with five others. Crisp reviews the historiography of Crockett's death and how it reflects the climate of the times.
Crisp dwells upon the nature of the past, history, anthropology and the unique tasks of the storyteller, the historian and the anthropologist. In the book's chapter, The Silence of the Yellow Rose, Crisp succinctly dwells upon voices held within the documents that that were not captured in documents and in documents that are currently being recovered in estate auctions and unarchived collections of libraries.
Crisp's book is 200 pages, in a small format, and appears to be printed to fit snugly in a briefcase. CWL read this book on a toru bus, on the lawn of the Smithsonian and in the Menger Hotel's bar in San Antonio Texas, the exit of which faces the Alamo. The chapter are short and sharp; getting right to the point, Crisp's narrative style carries the elements of pursuit and suspense well. His book will satisfy upper level and graduate school students as well at the history reader who open to reading about how history is written and rewritten, discovered and rediscovered.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The Texas War of Independence 1835-1836: From Outbreak to the Alamo to San Jacinto, Alan Huffines, 96 pages, Osprey Publishing, 96 pp., maps, illustrations, bibliography,index, $14.95.
Clear and concise, The Texas War of Independence 1835-1836 is a thorough introduction to the birth of the Texas Republic. Beginning with a full color map of Texas and Mexico in 1830 and a four page annotated chronology, Alan Huffines describes the Mexican revolutions and civil wars. The Texian and Mexican armies, with their leaders are described succinctly. Two chapters focus on the combat of the Texas Revolution. Importantly, Huffines sets the war in the context of the Jacksonian politics, the Seminole Wars, British and French commerical lust for Texas and California, the several attempts at annexation, and the Mexican-American War.
In particular, Huffines notes the jeopardy of Texans' slaveholding as the republic develops commercial ties with Great Britain which had outlawed both the slave trade and then slavery in its empire two years before the revolution. In addition, Huffines describes the several unique personalities of the times, include "The Babe of The Alamo" and Juan Almonte. The editors of Osprey Books have located an 1836 battlefield map of the Alamo that was prepared by a Mexican army topographer and the 1854 'Late Texas Republic' certificate that Elizabeth Crockett, widow of David Crockett, received with a check for $24 for services her spouse rendered during the revolution, as well as many other primary sources. The Texas War of Independence 1835-1836: From Outbreak to the Alamo to San Jacinto is useful for teachers and will be enjoyable for those who have a general interest in the Texas Revolution.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Shiloh and Corinth: Sentinels of Stone, Timothy T. Isbell, 176 pages, University Press of Mississippi, $40.00. (November 2007)
Shiloh and Corinth: Sentinels of Stone examines the memorials to the brave deeds performed by soldiers of the North and South. Over ninety striking photographs and accompanying histories reveal the beauty of the Tennessee and Mississippi battlefields of Shiloh, Savannah, Iuka and Corinth. The narrative describes the deaths of Albert Sidney Johnston and W. H. L. Wallace, the first victories of Ulysses S. Grant's military career, the failures of Earl Van Dorn, the torments of William Rosecrans and Sterling Price. Shiloh and Corinth: Sentinels of Stone guides the reader through the landscapes where U.S. Grant began to understand that the Civil War would be long and would be bloody.
Timothy T. Isbell of Gulfport, Mississippi, is a photojournalist with the Sun Herald newspaper in Biloxi. He is a former photojournalist-in-residence at the University of Southern Mississippi and a Knight Foundation/National Endowment of the Arts recipient for his photographic study of the Vietnamese people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
This book is the third in a series; his other works are on Vicksburg and Gettysburg. This series is one that is always on the top of CWL's stack of frequently handled books. At anytime of the day, the reader can pick up one of Isbell's books and spend five minutes in awe of the battlefield memorials and their messages.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Misery Holds High Carnival, Judson H. Nelson, America's Civil War, September 2007, pp. 30-39.
". . . a thousand blackened, bloated corpses with blood and gas protruding from every orifice and maggots hold high carnival . . . . " Surgeon Daniel Holt, 121 New York Volunteers, began writing letters home after the battle of South Mountain, Maryland on September 14th. Rare is the soldier who wrote the Mrs. of Rebels with brains blown out, eyes popped out, and arms lifted in the air.
John H. Nelson, author of As the Grain Falls Before the Reaper: The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam, a CD-Rom, has collected a series of striking remarks from surgeons, newspaper correspondents, U.S. Sanitary Commission and U.S. Christian Commission worker, civilians and rank-and-file soldiers and organized them into an article.
At the Smoketown Hospital, really shebangs for the wounded, "The medicines are on the grounds, and tables, boxes , etc. without order or regularity. There is want of attention to police the wards and camp. Direst and garbage are accumulated in large quantities. . ." describes Assistant Medical Director W. R. Mosely. He contrasts the Smoketown shebangs with the Locust Spring Hospital, that had 24 tents each with their own stone fireplaces and superior bedding, that is bedsteads described as sacks filled with straw and covered with sheets, quilts and blankets.
Among the many descriptions Nelson has presented, CWL fully appreciates the material on the Otto Farm, located on the west side of Burnside's Bridge, a discussion that may be representative of the blight upon the farming community. With damages in excess of $2,300, Otto received a settlement check for $893.85. Another farmer,
Ephraim Getting whose farms held a portion of the Locust Spring hospital, claimed $1,238.45 in damages. He received no settlement.
For CWL, the article is a unfootnoted tease. CWL hopes that Nelson expands the article and North and South Magazine publishes it.
Friday, September 21, 2007
New: Lincoln's Archives Book, A Familar Story Well Told And Illustrated, With Eight Surprise Envelopes
Lincoln: The Presidential Archives, Chuck Wills, Dorling Kindersley Publications, 160 pp, b/w photographs, watercolor maps, bibliography, ephemera, September 2007.
If you wish to hold reproductions of Lincoln's elementary mathematics notebook, the Lincoln-Todd marriage license, Lincoln's letter to Sheilds outlining the terms of their forthcoming duel, Lincoln's patent application, the first piece of mail delivered by the Pony Express from St. Joseph, Missouri to Julesburg, Rocky Mountains, Mary Todd Lincoln's letter from NYC to her husband in which she asks for more cash, the telegram from Tammany Hall to Lincoln informing him of the Draft Riots and many more documents, then this splendid book is for you.
Not just a collection of paper documents, but also a fine biography with period photographs, maps, and illustrations on every other page, Lincoln: The Presidential Archives, is a wonderful book. In particular, rare photographs of Denton Offut's store where Lincoln clerked, the Lincoln and Berry store, and the Edwards' house in which the Abraham and Mary were wed are published.
The book's heavy and glossy paper and a strong binding allows the book to stay open at every page. Lincoln: The Presidential Archives is both an attractive coffee table book and a 'hands-on' biography. The narrative contents are well organized and the eight sturdy, opaque, full-page envelopes that hold the reproductions have a paper flap that allows for easy removal and return of the reproduction documents.
Lincoln: The Presidential Archives is worth every penny and will be a welcomed gift for any Lincoln enthusiast, Civil War buff, American history reader or social science teacher.
John Wilkes Booth Escape Route: History Map: Follow the Route Taken by the Assassin of President Abraham Lincoln As He Fled from Ford's Theatre On April 14, 1865, Until His Capture And Death 12 Days Later at the Garrett Farm in Virginia, Kieran McAuliffe, Thomas Publications, $4.95, 2002.
This three-fold, four page map is a necessary resource for anyone reading any book on the Lincoln assasination and Booth's flight, capture and death. CWL kept the map handy while reading Manhunt by Swanson.
CWL was well served by McAuliffe's work. On one side is the map are twenty-two black and white photographs of the key figures and buildings. Also this side shows the route of flight by Booth with Herold, the two federal pursuit routes, and the route which Booth's body was brought back to Washington, D.C. Each of the four routes have chronological annotations. Modern highways are also shown.
The reverse side of the map contains a brief description of Maryland during the war, and a longer narrative of the flight. Six photographs are on these two pages; featured are Booth's derringer and diary. A bibliography of eleven sources is included. The author and mapmaker, Kieran McAuliffe, credits the assistance of James O. Hall and Edward Steers. The design, layout and color of this publication is great! Easy to use and having lots of essential information, Kiernan McAuliffe's is an exceptional addition on any bookshelf or teacher's resource file.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Fire Bell in the Night: A Novel, Geoffrey Edwards, Touchstone Press,
paperback, 464 pp., $15.00, September 2007.
Publisher's Weekly says:
"One of the two winners of the Gather.com First Chapters contest, Edwards's provocative debut begins in the summer of 1850 as the debate over the expansion of slavery into the Mexican Cession territory prompts threats of secession and war. A slave revolt and rumors that the leader of the uprising is roaming the countryside recruiting an army further frays nerves in Charleston, S.C. When a local farmer is caught harboring a runaway, he is charged with a capital crime. The New York Tribune sends young reporter John Sharp to cover the trial; he quickly befriends planter Tyler Breckenridge, the scion of one of the most powerful families in Charleston. But as Sharp and fellow reporter Owen Conway uncover clues of a covert militia buildup, Sharp begins to suspect that Breckenridge is involved. As the emotionally charged fugitive-slave trial unfolds, Sharp and Conway rush to expose the secessionist conspiracy and head off war. Edwards fills the gaps in the record of the Crisis of 1850 to produce a plausible scenario that eloquently captures the fear and rivalries of the antebellum era, though many passages could use a healthy pruning. For fans of historical fiction—and Civil War fiction particularly. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The publisher's shill:
Filled with historic details of the time, Fire Bell in the Night explores the explosive tension between North and South, black and white, that gripped Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 1850. Geoffrey S. Edwards's first novel tells the story of New York Tribune reporter John Sharp, sent to cover the capital trial of Darcy Calhoun, a farmer who stands accused of harboring a fugitive slave.
As the trial begins, John quickly realizes that not everything is as it appears in the genteel city of Charleston. A series of mysterious fires in white establishments brings the state militia, a curfew for the black population, and rising tension at the courthouse. To unravel the city's secrets, Sharp must enter Charleston's plantation society, where he is befriended by Tyler Breckenridge, owner of the Willowby plantation, and his beautiful sister Clio.
Set against the backdrop of a nation headed toward civil war, Fire Bell in the Night is a page-turning account of a trial and one young reporter's efforts to discover the truth.
CWL's take on this:
It doesn't appear to be a bodice ripper.
After reading a portion of the first chapter online, it's not storytelling in the tradition of Howard Bahr, Shelby Steele, Charles Frazier, Michael Shaara (CWL's favorites). But appears to be more a a John Jakes style of novel. I'll read a few more pages in the Borders' coffee shop and report back.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
House of Abraham: Lincoln, The Todds, And A Family Divided By War, Stephen Berry, Houghton Mifflin Company, 288 pages, 8 pp. of b/w photographs, $28.00, November, 2007.
Two Lincoln scholars think:
"Stephen Berry's House of Abraham is a couldn't-put-it-down good read." --Allen C. Guelzo, author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation
"Thoroughly researched, smoothly written . . . a poignant microcosm of the wrenching familial strains that tore the nation apart." --Michael Burlingame, author of The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln and Sadowski Professor of History Emeritus, Connecticut College
The Kirkus Review thinks:
"Divided families make the stuff of drama. When the divided family is Abraham Lincoln's, its divisions are metaphors for the nation's own collapse. With a skilled and pleasing pen, Berry tells the tangled story of the sad and often painful element of Lincoln's life that deepened his understanding of the nation's travails. Lincoln was closer to his wife's large clan—she had 13 siblings—than to his own. Originally from Kentucky, the Todds had members in both the North and South and backed both the Union and the Confederacy. Four of them, including Lincoln, died as a result of the conflict. Some were honorable and others scoundrels, some were easygoing and others problematic. Berry, an assistant professor of history at the University of Georgia, calls many of them miserable, and their family a wreck. He manages to tell the story of each Todd with full sympathy yet critical distance, and adds another level of understanding to the president who would bind the nation's wounds. Finally, he rescues the Southern Todds from their obscurity. The result is a fast-paced, sobering story, never better told, of the pains of a clan and their significance for American history."
The publisher's pitch:
"Whenever historians and trivia buffs get around to the “brother-against-brother” aspects of the Civil War, inevitably they cite the Lincolns and the Todds. It probably is not true that Abraham Lincoln once said of his wife’s Kentucky family that one “d” was good enough for God, but the Todds required two. However, it certainly is true that the Todd family, thanks to its lone connection to Lincoln, became an object case in how the sectional struggle tore families apart.
The basic facts are well-enough known. Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd of Lexington, Kentucky. Hers was an old Southern slave-holding family, one of the aristocratic names of the Bluegrass, and not surprisingly when secession came, most of her family followed its ancient sympathies into the Confederacy. That would have been difficult enough for a Southern Kentucky woman married to a Kentucky man who sided with the North. But when that man was President of the United States, the problem magnified itself ten-fold. That President Lincoln had in-laws sympathetic to the Confederacy was embarrassing enough; the position of some of them made it all the worse. Mary’s half-sister Emilie was married to Ben Hardin Helm, a general in the Confederate army. Her brother George was a Confederate army surgeon. Another brother, David, served on the staff of Confederate general—and distant Todd relation—John C. Breckinridge, and his brother Alexander Todd was killed acting as an aide to Helm.
Of Mary Lincoln’s thirteen full and half-siblings, four of her brothers served in the Confederate army, one brother-in-law carried his Southern sympathies to the point of committing treason, Mary’s sister Martha was actually a Confederate spy, and after Helm’s death in 1863, Emilie Helm came to stay as a guest at the White House in Washington. This is all the province of Stephen Berry’s excellent book House of Abraham: Lincoln & the Todds, A Family Divided by War. Besides being the first work to explore fully the trauma endured by this one Bluegrass family, House of Abraham also delves into his in-laws’ influence on Lincoln as President, on his rhetoric toward Southern civilians, and how his own relations forced Lincoln to come to grips with Confederate civilians as people, not just as enemies. Along the way we can see the sad portrait of a family with great strengths and great weaknesses, all heated to the boil in the cauldron of civil war."
CWL thinks: The History Channel's Valentine Day programming
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Edward Dickson Baker, died at the Battle of Ball's Bluff, VA on October 21, 1861, Major General and Senator from Oregon, Illinois Congressman, close personal friend of Lincoln who named his second son Edward (d. 1850) after him.
In a speech on April 20, 1861 in New York City:
"The hour of reconciliation has passed, the gathering for battle is at hand, the country requires that every man shall do his duty. . . . . I am not here to speak timorous words of peace, but to kindle the spirit of manly, determined war. . . . . Civil War, for the best of reasons upon the one side and the worst upon the other, is always dangerous to liberty, always fearful, always bloody; but, fellow-citizens, there are yet worse things than fear, than doubt and dread, and danger and blood. Dishonor is worse. Perpetual anarchy is worse. States forever commingling and forever severing are worse. Traitors and secessionists are worse."
From The Oxford Dictionary of Civil War Quotations, John D. Wright, ed. 2006.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Was Grant a Drunk?, Edward G. Longacre in History News Network, September 10, 2007. Mr. Longacre is the author of numerous biographies of Civil War generals. He is a recipient of the prestigious Fletcher Pratt Award for Civil War writing.
Since rising to prominence early in the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant has been the subject of a sometimes contentious and often overheated debate as to the extent of his liquor consumption, and the effect it exerted on his career. Given the importance of the subject, Grant’s drinking habits should be recognized and examined, not ignored or downplayed as they have been by overzealous defenders of his good name during his lifetime and ever since. That Grant drank occasionally while on duty is a matter of record, as is the fact that on more than a few occasions he drank until intoxicated, stuporous, and violently ill. More difficult to gauge is whether this habit hampered his ability to command or (as some observers contend) propelled him toward military success even as it marked him as a failure in civilian life.
Today alcoholism (or, as it is known in professional circles, alcohol dependence syndrome) is regarded as an incurable but treatable disease whose pathological origins demand careful attention. In Grant’s time, however, alcohol dependence carried a negative moral and religious connotation. Sufferers were denied sympathy, objective diagnosis, and the medical care warranted by their condition. Rather, they were scorned as moral cripples, weak-willed dissipates, and social outcasts. The irony is that such widespread condemnation should have been heaped on a condition that was far more prevalent, and thus seemingly more accepted, in nineteenth-century America than it is today.
Grant did not fit the stereotype of the falling-down drunk. He drank at irregular intervals, in varying quantities, and with differing results. At times he imbibed moderately, with little or no noticeable effect, and he was capable of refusing a drink, explaining that alcohol brought him nothing but trouble. Even so, he was, in the clinical sense of the term, an alcoholic. On more than a few occasions he drank long and hard, unable to stop short of unconsciousness or some form of intervention -- the outbreak of attention-demanding military operations, or the ability of relatives or staff officers to limit his access to liquor.
The pattern that Grant‘s drinking assumed during the Civil War strongly suggests that he was a binge drinker. Binge drinking is well understood today, as well as carefully defined: five or more drinks in a single session by a man, four or more drinks by a woman. A heavy binge drinker is one who experiences three or more such episodes over a two-week period. A less formal definition of binge drinking is drinking simply to become intoxicated. If they do their drinking in private, binge drinkers often avoid detection. When not drinking, although often depressed and angry, they may function more or less normally, holding down jobs, raising and caring for families, displaying not only rationality but also discretion and incisiveness. All of these qualities characterized Grant’s Civil War drinking and help explain why, although battling a disease that sometimes got the best of him, he was able to produce the strategic and tactical achievements that won the war for the Union.
Grant’s attraction to alcohol had its roots in his early military service, if not in his youth. Some historians suggest that it originated as a reaction to the stern morality of his father, an outspoken advocate of temperance. Although he imbibed rarely if ever during his West Point career, being lured only once to that fabled den of cadet dissipation, Benny Havens’s Tavern, he began drinking more or less heavily following the war with Mexico, when the excitement of field campaigning gave way to an enervating round of occupation duty and Grant’s position as a regimental quartermaster provided him with easy access to medicinal stores that included whisky. During this period a pattern emerged that defined Grant throughout his military career: when bored, lonely, or depressed, he sometimes drowned his sorrow in liquor.
His attraction to alcohol lessened following his 1848 marriage to Julia Dent, whose love and care induced him to reform. But when apart from his family (which eventually included four children), such as during extended tours of duty at isolated military posts, loneliness and boredom became unbearable. When in 1854 he appeared at a unit function in a drunken state, Grant was pressured into resigning his captain’s commission. He returned to civilian life, where to feed his growing family he accepted the grudging charity of his father and tolerated the scornful regard of his in-laws. As if determined to prove his critics correct, Grant failed at farming and later in business life just as he had at soldiering. Short months before war broke out in the spring of 1861, he hit bottom -- a neer-do-well eking out a living by selling firewood on the streets of St. Louis.
The war rescued him from obscurity and near-poverty and elevated him to prominence and authority. Refusing to be overwhelmed by his dramatic reversal of fortune or to be deterred by initial, halting efforts in command, by mid-1862 he had become the most heralded Union officer in the western theater. Some historians suggest that Grant succeeded in battle because, unlike more distinguished soldiers such as George B. McClellan and Henry Halleck, he had no pristine reputation to protect. Thus he could afford to take chances, maneuvering freely and striking boldly and with great effect. The theory has some credibility, but it also has its limits. By the spring of ’62, having reaped the credit for capturing Forts Henry and Donelson, Grant had won a reputation worth preserving. And following Shiloh, where he was caught off-guard and nearly routed -- a misstep widely but erroneously attributed to pre-battle tippling -- he had a reputation to rehabilitate. Yet he continued to plan creatively and act decisively. While his more highly regarded colleagues stumbled through excessive caution, Grant in 1863 captured Vicksburg, cutting the Confederacy in two and opening the full extent of the Mississippi River to Union shipping, then raised the siege of Chattanooga and decisively defeated the Rebel forces that had surrounded the city.
At least three times during 1863 Grant became intoxicated while in public, horrifying those concerned with preserving his position and reputation, especially his staff officers. Although historians continue to debate the extent and the effectiveness of his efforts, Grant’s adjutant general, John A. Rawlins, a zealous cold-water man from Grant’s home state of Illinois, strove to cover up his boss’s indiscretions and swear him to abstinence. Grant appears to have given in to his urge to imbibe only on those occasions when Rawlins was not on hand to ensure his sobriety. Nor did Grant drink when Julia and the children visited him in the field, rescuing him from lassitude and loneliness.
Grant reached the pinnacle of his career when brought to Virginia in the spring of 1864 to accompany the Army of the Potomac as general-in-chief of United States forces. He is not known to have drunk during the opening phases of the Overland Campaign, when pressing Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia toward Richmond via the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, the North Anna River, and Cold Harbor. But in June 1864, with his offensive bogged down at Petersburg, the lieutenant general went on a raucous bender that might have ruined his career had his inner circle not conspired to hush it up and discredit a disgruntled subordinate who tried to publicize it for personal gain. In the latter stages of the Petersburg siege, Julia and some of the children stayed at headquarters for an extended period, fortifying Grant against further temptation. On the day in April 1865 when he backed Lee into his final corner at Appomattox Court House, Grant was suffering from a blinding headache, but not because he was hung over.
Given the high visibility his position attracted after 1861, Grant’s dependence on alcohol might well have threatened his continuance in command. Instead, through a combination of factors -- his determination to abstain when military operations were in progress; a moral strength based on religious values that has escaped the notice of many historians; and the support of relatives, subordinates, and political backers, chief among them Abraham Lincoln -- Grant persevered to play a critical role in ending America’s costliest war and restoring the Republic. Even so, he continued to fight the urge to drink through the remainder of his life, including his two terms in the White House. Grant’s death at sixty-three from cancer of the throat is usually blamed on his life-long smoking habit. However, a 1998 study conducted for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism determined that “concurrent alcohol and tobacco use significantly enhances the risk of certain cancers, particularly of the oral cavity. . . .” In the end, therefore, Grant may have lost his battle to a disease that had failed to prevent him from becoming one of the most successful soldiers of all time.
From History News Network: Breaking News (September 10, 2007). Article located at http://hnn.us/articles/42366.html
For More on Alcohol in American History: Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800-1933, Thomas R. Pegram
Museum Packs Up Clothes In Which Lincoln Was Slain, By Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post, September 9, 2007
WASHINGTON - The square-toed, goatskin boots that Abraham Lincoln had on that night at Ford's Theatre were worn down at the heels. His long, black frock coat was unadorned. Its buttons were of plain gray metal. And most of what he wore as he sat in the private box on Good Friday of 1865 comes down to us still stained with his blood.
Thursday, under police escort, the National Park Service transported the assassinated president's clothing and other items from the Ford's Theatre museum to a Park Service storage center in Maryland, where they will remain while the theater undergoes an 18-month renovation. But before the items went onto the shelves - and out of public view for a year and a half - curators provided an up-close glimpse of garments linked to one of the most tragic moments in American history.
One by one, Gloria Swift, a Civil War expert and the curator of the museum, opened the acid-free boxes in which she and others had packed the clothes Lincoln was wearing when he was shot by actor John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Wearing white cotton gloves, she carefully removed the layers of white tissue in which the articles were placed. The president's black silk tie emerged, with the trim bow in front. "Isn't that incredible?" Swift said.
Then came his black cotton vest, with six buttons and four pockets. And his shin-high boots. "Aren't these beautiful?" Swift said. "Lincoln has a modern-day size-14 shoe." The president stood about 6 feet 4 inches tall. Swift had meticulously removed the clothes from the life-size mannequin on which they are displayed in the museum. "It was really neat to get the clothing off and really look at it," she said. Of Lincoln's black broadcloth pants, she said: "I didn't notice, we've got some bloodstains here on the knees, and I never noticed that, as it was in the (display) case." The thinking is that the president slumped forward after being mortally wounded in the back of the head, she said.
There are bloodstains, too, on the black, double-breasted frockcoat he wore that evening as he sought to relax, with the four anguished years of the Civil War coming to a close. "There's no adornment," Swift said. "There's nothing presidential. This is your typical well-dressed man's suit of 1865." And blood is on the overcoat that curators think was over the president's shoulders or the back of his chair. The coat was made for Lincoln's second inauguration, Swift said. Embroidered in the black lining are an eagle, shields, and the words, "One Country, One Destiny."
"It's almost undescribable," Swift said of touching Lincoln's clothing. "It is very chilling in some cases, knowing what you're handling." "And it's also very exciting," she said. "Because to me the objects are a true connection to the past. . . . They're not just things. These are real items (linked) to a real story."
Pamela Beth West, director of the Park Service's 52,000-square-foot National Capital Region Museum Resource Center, where the artifacts will be kept, said, "We deal with this stuff day in and day out. And every once in a while you take that moment to pause, and you do something like this, and sometimes it's almost overwhelming." Marius Horgos, a member of the moving crew from Interstate Worldwide Relocation, said his palms were sweaty as he watched the clothing unboxed. "I've traveled a lot in Europe and the United States, too," said Horgos, a native of Romania, "But Lincoln is a very special figure. He freed the African-American people. Even my voice is shaking." Thomas Blichard, another member of the moving crew, said, "I've got two grandsons, and I'll be able to tell them both I've seen it with my own two eyes. This is a historical day for me."
Above: Contents of Lincoln's pockets at the time of the assassination.
For Further Reading: Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, James L. Swanson, and Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, James L. Swanson and Daniel Weinberg
Jim Morgan, author of A Little Short of Boats: The Fights at Ball's Bluff and Edwards' Ferry, October 21-22, 1861 writes that on Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23, at 10:00a, the official unveiling and dedication of these new interpretive aids will occur at the Leesburg, Virginia site of the Battle of Ball's Bluff. Beginning at 9:00a and continuing to 4:00p on Saturday and 10:00a to 4:00p on Sunday, there will be a series of living history demonstrations by Union and Confederate reenactors.
"I'm delighted to announce that all the new, updated, and corrected historical markers are in. The original 16 which, even if correct, were weathered and not looking very good, have been replaced with new ones, plus four completely new signs help tell the story even better," states Morgan.
"Two new interpretive trails have been cut as well, and three of the original signs moved to new locations on them. These trails are somewhat more user friendly and on the new "Jenifer trail" the sign related to Lieutenant. Colonel Walter Jenifer, who commanded the small Confederate cavalry force, is closer to where his force actually was on the battlefield. The four completely new signs are at the Baker stone, the Hatcher stone, the bluff overlook, and in a spot roughly in the middle of the field approximately where an 1886 photo of a 15th Mass reunion was taken. It shows how the currently wooded area was actually an open meadow in 1886 and, by extension, in 1861."
"There also is a privately-funded monument to the 8th Virginia now in. Built on a square base of stone that closely resembles the stone in the cemetery wall, it has a slanted top on which sits a plaque listing the battles in which the 8th Virginia fought. It is located close to the Eppa Hunton historical marker. Because of the new sign and trail arrangement, the NVRPA is in the process of creating new trail maps and info brochures" states Morgan. It is hoped that the new signs will be added this autumn.
For those who live in the New York City area, Steve Basic reports that James Morgan will be the speaker at the December 12, 2007 meeting of the NYC Civil War Round Table. Contact Steve Basic through his email
For additional reading: Harvard's Civil War: The History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry by Richard Miller. This regimental history is near the top of the "best of the best list" of new regimental histories read by the Civil War Librarian.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Taney Will Always Be Controversial, Janice Hayes-Williams, The Maryland Gazette , September 5, 2007
"We Pennsylvanians think it strange, and it seems curious to read the prints or newspapers, from some states and find - For sale a plantation, a house and lot, horses, cows, sheep and hogs; also a number of Negroes - men and women and children - some very valuable ones… In this inhuman traffic and cruel trade the most tender ties are torn asunder, the nearest connections broken."
- The Rev. Jacob Gruber, Camp Meeting, Washington County, Md., 1819
These were the words spoken by Free Black Methodist Episcopal preacher, the Rev. Gruber, during a Methodist meeting in Washington County where 3,000 Methodists attended as well as 400 slaves. The Rev. Gruper, a Pennsylvania preacher, preached his way straight to an indictment by the grand jury of Washington County. On what grounds might you ask: On the grounds of "intending to unlawfully and maliciously incite the slaves at the camp-meeting to insurrection and rebellion in the State of Maryland."
This was truly a sign of the times. It is 1819, less than 20 years from the establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a rise in number of free blacks (especially in Maryland), with the growth of institutionalized slavery tripling in a 50-year period between 1750 and 1800 and the fact of the matter is that in colonies like Maryland and Virginia, slaves outnumbered their masters.
Seeking a fair trial, the Rev. Grouper requested that his proceedings be moved to the Frederick County courts of Maryland. His request was granted and the trial began in March 1819. The principal counsel chosen for his defense was Roger Brooke Taney, attorney at law.
Taney, defended the Rev. Gruber based on what he considered the court's lack of evidence. Taney went on to explain to the three sitting judges all of whom were slaveholders that the Rev. Gruber was well within his right to speak of the ills of slavery as most Methodist preachers did at that time. Taney went on to say that the rights of conscience and freedom of speech are fully protected, and subjects of national policy may at all times be freely and full discussed in the pulpit or elsewhere without limitation or restraint.
In his closing arguments for the defense, Taney left the judges with this, first on slaveholders: "those reptiles who live by trading in human flesh and enrich themselves by tearing the husband from the wife and the infant from the mother's bosom."
The Rev. Gruber was found not guilty. Many scholars say this was Taney's most glorious moment in the courtroom. On the other hand, while serving on the Supreme Court, scholars say that Chief Justice Taney's most abominable moment was when he rendered the decision in the Dred-Scott decision in 1857, 150 years ago. It has been said that the Dred Scott decision in which Scott a slave was moved from a slave state to a free state, with his master, and later petitioned for his freedom is what propelled our states into the Civil War. Taney delivered the opinion of the majority (7-2) in this case which basically stated that people of African descent whether or not they were slaves, could never be citizens of the United States, therefore no rights to the court, and that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories (The Missouri Compromise).
In other words, property cannot cease to exist as a result of changing jurisdictions. It enraged many, President Lincoln, Frederick Douglas and numerous abolitionists. What many do not understand about this case is that this decision was not based on the morality of slavery but with the legalities. For this ruling images of Chief Justice Taney are being removed from the public eye. These setbacks propelled African Americans into the fight for civil rights.
Taney was not "pro-slavery," he manumitted his slaves, joined his brother-in-law Francis Scott Key as a member of the American colonization society colonizing Liberia. Take away Taney's history, then take away the history of the Missouri Compromise, the Louisiana Purchase, the importance of the "writ of habeas corpus," the history of Liberia, the vindication of the Rev. Gruper, the Thurgood Marshall Memorial at the State House, and the stories of this controversial border state of Maryland. Taney is the very fabric that makes Maryland, Maryland.
News: Richmond's Museum of the Confederacy Migrates to Appomattox Courthouse and Chancellorsville National Battlefield Parks
Appomattox Picked As One Of Three Sites For Confederate Museum, Janet Caggiano, Media General News Service, September 5, 2007
The Museum of the Confederacy has found a new home for the world’s largest collection of Civil War artifacts. Make that homes.
Three Virginia localities will serve as a museum “system,” replacing the single museum that has stood at 12th and East Clay streets since 1976. Officials Tuesday announced two of those sites - the Appomattox Court House National Park and the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center near Fredericksburg.
(Appomattox Court House National Historical Park historian Patrick Schroeder says the surrender grounds will not receive any of the artifacts from the Museum of the Confederacy. Schroeder said that a smaller “satellite museum” will be built in Appomattox, but will in no way be affiliated with the park. It is unclear whether the satellite museum will be located in the county or town. Appomattox County and town officials could not be reached for comment.)
The location of the third site is likely to be announced by the end of the month. Other national battlefield sites in the state include Petersburg and Manassas.
The museum headquarters, including the library and research center, collections storage and administration, will remain in Richmond. The White House of the Confederacy, the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War, will also stay put. “If our mission is to use our artifacts to educate the public about the Civil War and the Confederacy, man are we going to accomplish that so much better because we are going to have more on view and more visitors,” said Waite Rawls, the museum’s president and CEO. “We are taking the artifacts back to where they were made famous.”
Plans call for the construction of an 8,000-square-foot museum at each site, with about 5,000 square feet of exhibit space. That adds up to 15,000 square feet of exhibit space - more than twice the space the museum has now. Each museum will also house a gift shop, educational rooms and offices. “The idea of combining artifacts with battlefields will bring new life to both,” said Jim Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust. “It will provide visitors a glimpse into the stories of the war, which is the most defining conflict in American history.”
The project will cost about $15 million, Rawls said, or $5 million per site. The museum will begin a capital campaign, and Rawls is hoping for local, state and federal funding. “In this case, we will be building one (museum) while raising money for the second,” he said. “We will move into them gradually so we can spread it out logistically and financially.” The move won’t come until 2011, the beginning of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.
“After three years of hard work involving a state study commission, a peer review study and a large number of volunteer experts, the board feels that a system of museum sites is the best way to accomplish our central mission of using artifacts to educate the public about the Civil War and the Confederacy,” said Carlton Moffatt Jr., chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. “The prospect is very exciting.”
The museum is relocating its collection to escape the sprawling medical campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. Visitation has been falling for years, from about 92,000 in the early 1990s to 44,000 in the last budget year. “We are focused on taking our collection to the visitor, rather than trying to get the visitor to come to us,” Rawls said. “(These sites) hold great war-time significance. They have strong visitation numbers and name recognition.”
The May 1-5, 1863, Battle of Chancellorsville is known as Gen. Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory. The visitor center there contains exhibits, a 22-minute movie and bookstore, walking trails and a 7-mile driving tour. Chancellorsville, which attracts about 47,000 visitors a year, is one of four Civil War battlefields near Fredericksburg run by the National Park Service. The four battlefields draw about 1.8 million visitors a year.
Each site, which will employ 10 to 15 people, will exhibit artifacts relevant to that area. Appomattox, for example, will display Lee’s surrender uniform and sword, the clothes Jefferson Davis was wearing at the time of his capture and some of the flags surrendered. The Chancellorsville site will showcase a letter written by a dying soldier, a painting depicting the last meeting between Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and J.EB. Stuart’s personal effects. “Our big asset is this unbelievable collection,” Rawls said. “The question has been how to get it to work for itself.”
Janet Caggiano is a staff writer at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dave Thompson of The News & Advance contributed to this report.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
To Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, December 27, 1860:
"I abandoned Fort Moultrie because I was certain that if attacked by men must have been sacrificed . . . . If attacked, the garrison would never surrendered without a fight." Anderson was holding Fort Moultrie until he moved his command to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. John B. Floyd, in a few months would become a Confederate general, but in December 1860 is was ordering the U.S. arsenal in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to ship the contents of its warehouses to the forts located in the deep South.
To Colonel Samuel Cooper, U.S. War Department's adjutant general and later CSA adjutant general, January 1, 1861.
"[The governor of South Carolina] knows not how entirely the city of Charleston is in my power. I can cut his communications off from the sea, . . . prevent the reception of supplies, close the harbor even at night, by destroying the lighthouses. . . . I would never do [these things] unless compelled to do so in self-defense."
To P.G.T. Beauregard in relpy to Beauregard's first demand for the surrender of Fort Sumter.
" . . . in reply thereto that it is a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor and of my obligation s to my government prevent my compliance."
The Oxford Dictionary of Civil War Quotations, John D. Wright, ed., Oxford University Press, 2006
"Prostitution in Virginia," first chapter in Sexual Misbehavior in the Civil War: A Conpendium, Thomas P. Lowry, XLibris Corporation, 2006.
If there was no change since the 1860 census, in May 1861 when the Union army seized Alexandria, Virginia, it found seven whores gainfully employed in two houses of prostitution in the city. The next month, women passing from Union-held Alexandria to the Confederate camps were suspected of being prostitutes by Captain Thomas Jordan, on Beauregard's staff and in charge of efforts to smuggle information out of Washington, D.C.
Thomas Radcliffe, captain in the 118th NY was dismissed from the service in late 1862 for behavior in summer of 1861; he had lived with a prostitute whom he had frequently but not consistently passed off as his wife. Hamiltion Hare, a lieutenant of the 31st NY was court-martialed for being drunk on a reconnaissance mission, exposing his penis while in camp, consorting with a prostitute in his tent while he kept the tent flaps open. Consorting consisted of singing obscene songs, quarreling and falling asleep naked.
Three men of the 16th West Virginia, in October 1862, testified against Lieutenant H.D. Davis; his behavior was that of a pimp who was associated with at least two whorehouses, one was located on Railroad Steet and employed six negro wenches. After the testimony, the provost gaurd was sent to pick up Davis. The gaurd found evidence that been to four Alexandrian houses of prostitution that day and finally located him at his 'headquarters' on King Street; he was drunk and asleep in his bunk. Both the 16th West Virginia and the 53rd New York were entirely disbanded before ten months had passed on their three year enlistment.
In an August press release from Glenn F. Williams, email: Glenn.Williams@Hqda.Army.Mil, regarding the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) of the National Park Service, there are several grants available for the identification, preservation and interpretation of battlefields and historical sites.
The American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) of the National Park
Service invites Federal agencies, tribal, state, and local governments,
educational institutions, and nonprofit historical preservation and
other private sector organizations to submit applications for grants.
The purpose of this grant program is to provide seed money for projects
that lead directly to the identification, preservation and
interpretation of battlefield land and/or historic sites associated with
battlefields. In recent years grants have averaged about $32,300 per
award. Applications must be received in the ABPP office by January 18,
2008. Visit the ABPP website at www.cr.nps.gov/abpp for details, or
contact Kristen McMasters, grants manager, at (202) 354-2037, or by
e-mail at Kristen_McMasters@nps.gov or write to Kristen L. McMasters,
Archeologist Planner and Grants Manager, American Battlefield Protection Program,
1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.
Major General Robert E. Rodes of the Army of Northern Virginia, A Biography , Darrell L. Collins, Savas Beattie Publishers, hardcover, 360 pages,26 photos and illustrations, maps, index, $32.95. (November 2007)
Jedediah Hotchkiss, Stonewall Jackson's renowned mapmaker, expressed the feelings of many contemporaries when he declared that Robert Rodes was the best division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia. This well-deserved accolade is all the more remarkable considering that Rodes, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a prewar railroad engineer, was one of a very few officers in Lee's army to rise so high without the benefit of a West Point education. Major General Robert E. Rodes of the Army of Northern Virginia: A Biography, is the first deeply researched scholarly biography on this remarkable Confederate officer.
From First Manassas in 1861 to Third Winchester in 1864, Rodes served in all the great battles and campaigns of the legendary Army of Northern Virginia. He quickly earned a reputation as a courageous and inspiring leader who delivered hard-hitting attacks and rock steady defensive efforts. His greatest moment came at Chancellorsville in the spring of 1863, when he spearheaded Stonewall Jackson's famous flank attack that crushed the left wing of General Hooker's Army of the Potomac.
Rodes began the conflict with a deep yearning for recognition and glory, coupled with an indifferent attitude toward religion and salvation. When he was killed at the height of his glorious career at Third Winchester on September 19, 1864, a trove of prayer books and testaments were found on his corpse.
Based upon exhaustive new research, Darrell Collins' new biography breathes life into a heretofore largely overlooked Southern soldier. Although Rodes' widow consigned his personal papers to the flames after the war, Collins has uncovered a substantial amount of firsthand information to complete this compelling portrait of one of Robert E. Lee's most dependable field generals. (Text From Publisher)