Wednesday, July 29, 2009

News---Frederick Douglass Book Award of $25,000: The Nominees Are . . .

Finalists Announced for the 2009 Frederick Douglass Book Prize

Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, has announced the finalists for the Eleventh Annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize, one of the most coveted awards for the study of the African-American experience.

The finalists are: Thavolia Glymph for Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge University Press); Annette Gordon-Reed for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton and Company); and Jacqueline Jones for Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers).

The $25,000 annual award for the year's best non-fiction book on slavery, resistance, and/or abolition is the most generous history prize in its field. The prize winner will be announced following the Douglass Prize Review Committee meeting in September, and the award will be presented at a dinner at the Yale Club of New York on February 25, 2010. This year's finalists were selected from a field of over fifty entries by a jury of scholars that included Robert Bonner (Dartmouth College), Rita Roberts (Scripps College), and Pier Larson (Johns Hopkins University).

Thavolia Glymph's Out of the House of Bondage draws attention in a wholly new way to the strife between Southern plantation mistresses and those enslaved black women they sought to master. The book's bold and wide-ranging research, its lucid emphasis on the "public" nature of slaveholding households, and its passionate argumentation results in a deep and disturbing account of white cruelty and black resentment. In addition to re-connecting plantation mistresses to the systematic violence of slavery, Glymph persuasively documents how the social, political, and economic upheavals of emancipation spurred new opportunities and fostered recurrent conflicts. This incisive study promises to inspire new research agendas among Southern historians for years to come.

In Annette Gordon Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello, an enslaved Virginia family is delivered -- but not disassociated -- from Thomas Jefferson's well-known sexual liaison with Sally Hemings. The book judiciously blends the best of recent slavery scholarship with shrewd commentary on the legal structure of Chesapeake society before and after the American Revolution. Its meticulous account of the mid-eighteenth century intertwining of the black Hemingses and white Wayles families sheds new light on Jefferson's subsequent conjoining with a young female slave who was already his kin by marriage. By exploring those dynamic commitments and evasions that shaped Monticello routines, the path-breaking book provides a testament to the complexity of human relationships within slave societies and to the haphazard possibilities for both intimacy and betrayal.

Jacqueline Jones' Saving Savannah memorably charts a bustling city's passage from slavery to freedom. Covering a twenty-year span, the book tracks the fortunes of an unforgettable cast of characters, setting fugitive slaves beside imperfectly paternalist masters and proud black fire fighters beside idealistic Northern-born missionaries. Interwoven with the book's tapestry of stories is a series of crisp assessments of Savannah's social, political, religious, and economic institutions, many of which were pioneered by a vibrant free black community in the antebellum period. The account provides both a gripping read and a new interpretation of how those whites "laid low"by Confederate defeat regained a semblance of control over this majority-black city.

The Institute maintains two websites, and the quarterly online journal History Now.

Monday, July 27, 2009

News/Opinion: Should Reparations Be Paid to the Descendents of Former Slaves?

Should blacks get reparations?, Allen C. Guelzo, Christian Science Monitor, July 16,2009.

"You wonder why we didn't do it 100 years ago," said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, after the Senate voted June 18 to endorse a national apology for slavery. "It is important to have a collective response to a collective injustice." And considering the scale and brutality of slavery in American history, Senator Harkin could not be more right. Abraham Lincoln described slavery as "the one retrograde institution in America," and told a delegation of black leaders in 1862 that "your race are suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any people."

But one reason why we have waited so long has to do with what many advocates of the apology regard as the necessary next step – reparations to African-Americans by the federal government. Significantly, that's a step the Senate's apology resolution refused to take. "Nothing in this resolution," said Concurrent Resolution 26, "authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States."

That refusal will inject new acrimony into a slow-burning debate over reparations that has been going on for 40 years. "There are going to be African-Americans who think that [the apology] is not reparations, and it's not action," admitted Tennessee Rep. Stephen Cohen (D), who has been a longtime backer of the apology.

And indeed there are. Randall Robinson, whose book, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks (2000), demanded "massive restitutions" to American blacks for slavery, insists that an apology is meaningless without reparations payments to African-Americans. "Much is owed, and it is very quantifiable," Mr. Robinson said after the Senate vote. "It is owed as one would owe for any labor that one has not paid for, and until steps are taken in that direction we haven't accomplished anything." Illinois Sen. Roland Burris (D) added: "I want to go on record making sure that that disclaimer in no way would eliminate future actions that may be brought before this body that may deal with reparations."

And on the surface, the case for reparations to African-Americans has all the legal simplicity of an ordinary tort. A wrong was committed; therefore, compensation is due to those who were wronged. But just below that surface is a nest of disturbing complications that undercut the ease with which Robinson, Mr. Burris, and other reparations activists have put their case.

1. Who was legally responsible for slavery? Not the federal government. Slavery was always a matter of individual state enactments, which is what made Lincoln's initial attempts to free the slaves so difficult. When it was written in 1787, the Constitution only obliquely recognized the existence of legalized slavery in the states, and only mentioned it directly when it provided for the termination of the transatlantic slave trade in 1808. Congress twice passed laws regulating the capture of fugitive slaves. But there was no federal slave code and no federal statute legalizing slavery.

Nor was slavery confined only to the 11 Southern states of the old Confederacy. It was legal in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey as late as the 1820s. If reparations are what's in view after an apology, the real target has to be the states; and if reparations are demanded from Alabama, it will want to know why it's more guilty than other states.

2. Who should be paid? At first glance, the answer seems obvious: the slaves. But the victims of slavery are now long dead; it is the heirs of those victims who stand next in line for compensation. Still, the line is a shaky and complicated one, with the chief complication lurking in the genes of African-Americans themselves. Slavery was a system of bondage; it was also a system of forced rape and violent sexual exploitation across the old slave South. The mixed-race offspring of slavery were plain to see on every plantation.

And the long-term result is that the average African-American today has been estimated, in genetic terms, to be approximately 20 percent white – and much of that 20 percent includes the genes of the white slaveholders who originally owned his great-grandparents. By what logic do we pay reparations for slavery to those who, in all too many cases, are literally descendents of the actual slaveholders? And should reparations for slavery include the descendents of those blacks who – like President Obama – did not arrive in the US until after slavery was ended?

3. What about the Civil War? Slavery did not end by evaporation. It took a catastrophic civil war, which cost 620,000 dead – equivalent to nearly 7 million today; it cost $190 billion (in today's dollars) to wage and multiplied the national debt by 400 percent; and it inflicted a casualty rate of 27 percent on Southern white males between the ages of 17 and 45, the very people most likely to own slaves.

At that time, there was no shortage of racists in the North who insisted that the Civil War was being waged only to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery. But Lincoln knew otherwise, and he charged both North and South with knowing it, too. Slavery "constituted a peculiar and powerful interest" in the South, Lincoln said in 1865, and "all knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war." The war, Lincoln said, was God's instrument for the ultimate reparation – every drop of blood drawn with the lash had been paid for with blood drawn by the sword. The blood-price of the Civil War may not automatically silence the case for reparations on its own. But the case for reparations cannot ignore it, either.

Reparations are held up as a gesture of retroactive justice, righting the wrongs that were done to our great-grandparents and before. Yet there is a deep instinct in the American national psyche that bucks at the notion of defining the present by the definitions of the past, which is one reason why reparations lawsuits have so routinely failed. If it is racial justice we seek, the greater wisdom lies in addressing it directly, for this generation.

Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, and the author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President.

Text Source: Christian Science Monitor,
Top Image Source, Guelzo with John Stewart: Gettysburg College

Early Response to No Quarter by Bruce Trinque

Recently when I saw Richard Slotkin’s new “No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864” on the shelf of the local Borders bookstore, I admit that I put it back with little hesitation. After all, what could I expect from a Professor of American Studies at Wesleyan University known principally for his studies of violence on the Western frontier? Certainly, not an incisive, hard-core military study. But a couple days later, I changed my mind. After all, the book is about an episode in the Petersburg Siege, a campaign which has in the last few years become a focus for my interests. And upon reading "No Quarter", I found the book to be a fine addition to the mountain of American Civil War literature. The viciousness of the fighting was intensified by the participation of a Union division of “colored” troops, something certain to raise the ire of Confederate defenders. As might be expected, this racial aspect of the affair is given considerable attention by Slotkin, but what might not be anticipated is his highly detailed tactical analysis of the action, with brigade and regimental movements carefully described to develop a full picture of a complex combat action. Too often, the Battle of the Crater has been presented as basically a horrendous, confused melee, without form or reason; Slotkin makes it clear that while there certainly was confusion and chaos and incompetence, at the same time there were activities displaying clear tactical thinking and skill. And the author delves deeply into primary accounts to present a vivid picture of what went on. Slotkin makes no apologies for Confederates (and at least a few Union soldiers) who murdered, in cold blood or hot, many of the black troops, but he does present the atrocities in a broader context, noting that when the black units advanced into battle, they were exhorted to “remember Fort Pillow” and to expect and to give no quarter themselves. And many of the counterattacking Confederate infantry received orders to give no quarter, without any indication that they were facing black troops; by 1864, the Civil War had reached a depth of violence divorced from mere skin color.

I can think of few other Civil War military histories that do a comparable job of presenting such a comprehensive tactical portrait of a battle. Beyond question, “No Quarter” is the definitive account of the Crater, and it should be appreciated by anyone with a strong interest in battlefield tactics of the era.

Bruce Trinque, Amston, CT

Text Source: July 27, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New---Vicksburg 1863, Forrest Gump, and Contingency

Vicksburg 1863, Winston Groom, Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, illustrations, 482pp., 2009. $30.00

Reviewed by Christopher R. Waldrep (San Francisco State Univ.), Published on H-CivWar (July, 2009)

"Why This Happen?"

Vicksburg 1863 is the skillfully crafted work of an experienced writer. In 1978, Winston Groom published his first book, Better Times Than These, based on his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam. Other books have followed, and Groom most forcefully established his credentials in 1986 with a comic novel on his Vietnam experience that became a hugely successful movie: Forrest Gump. In Vicksburg 1863, Groom exhibits not only his storytelling prowess but also a delightful talent for mischievous observation. Henry Halleck is “the nervous bug-eyed military whiz” (p. 56). William Tecumseh Sherman had “zany” adventures in California before the war (p. 85). The USS Benton came into battle “like a bear beset by hornets” (p. 121). Groom’s descriptions are clearly the work of a talented novelist: “The night was villainously dark” (p. 276). “Vicksburg twinkled along the great bluffs like a miniature galaxy” (p. 277). Such vivid characterizations and crisp sentences are the most obvious reasons to read Groom’s history writing. Reviewers have generally praised Groom, one calling him “first-rate.”[1]

Groom does not intend to appeal to academics or even history buffs. In a 2005 book on a different war, Groom warned readers that some of his information might be “old hat” to “those who devour every scrap of detail about the Second World War.” Groom explained that he did not consider such aficionados to be his audience: “it is not for them that I write but to the average American reader.” He frankly stated that he hoped readers would “take renewed pride in what our forefathers dealt with and determined to accomplish.”[2] Groom has no patience for “the new liberal fad of ‘moral relativism’ or ‘moral equivalency.’” He believes, in fact, that there are good guys and bad guys, and dismisses “the fetish of self-hatred that has become so pervasive in the mainstream media and the halls of academia.”[3] For its part, the “mainstream media” has called Groom’s faith in moral progress “endearing but inherently ridiculous.”[4]

In short, this well-written and entertaining book has no scholarly pretensions. There are no footnotes--even though the narrative is laced with juicy quotations and his earlier history books do have notes. Groom appends a three-page bibliographic essay entitled “Acknowledgements and Source Notes” that will allow curious readers to chart the limits of his bibliographic explorations but not trace the sources for specific facts and quotations. The introduction, a place where academic readers will go looking for a thesis statement, curiously only summarizes the author’s genealogical connections to Vicksburg. His great-grandfather, it turns out, joined the Fourth Mississippi Cavalry which raced to the aid of Vicksburg’s beleaguered defenders. Armed with that not obviously helpful knowledge, the reader plunges into a 464-page narrative. A brief argumentative passage at the end makes the case that Vicksburg was the most important battle of the war, forty times more important than Gettysburg. But that argument does not animate this narrative which aims more for detailed description than analysis. One event follows another--at one point Groom suggests that the Confederates might have marched up and captured Chicago, “not that they would have,” he adds (p. 71). In this way, and perhaps only in this one way, Groom echoes the thinking of a leading academic historian of the Civil War. Unlike Groom, Edward L. Ayers eschews turning points, but like Groom, Ayers “focuses on deep contingency.”[5] To that, Groom might say “Amen.” The author of Forrest Gump knows a thing or two about contingency.

Readers will find in Vicksburg 1863 the contingency that Ayers recognizes, but joined with the kind of national affirmation Ayers rejects. In searching for an explanation for this apparent contradiction, the Vietnam War is an obvious place to go. One critic has observed that “two landscapes loom large in the work of Winston Groom”: Vietnam and the American South. These “twin towers” prop up Groom’s fiction, he writes.[6] Groom has said that there will always be an important connection between Forrest Gump and all his other books. There is, he explains, “a little bit of Vietnam” in many of his books. Returning from Vietnam, Groom knew his service had been honorable. Confronted by the antiwar movement, “I just kept my mouth shut.”[7]

These two landscapes shape Groom’s Civil War narrative just as surely, if more subtly, as they do his novels. Groom has no trouble recognizing that slavery animated southerners’ march to war. He makes that clear in the first chapter of Vicksburg 1863. He also knows that slavery and racism were and are evils; in Forrest Gump, he names his main character after Nathan Bedford Forrest, nevertheless observing that “startin up that Klan thing was not a good idea--any idiot could tell you that.”[8] Into that single sentence Groom incorporates both his recognition of the South’s racialist past and his condemnation of it. In Forrest Gump, one unlikely event follows another until one soldier dying on a Vietnam battlefield pleads, “Why this happen?” and another character explains that “it is all part of a scheme of some sort.”[9] No dying Confederate asks exactly that question in Vicksburg 1863. If one had, Groom would presumably have had to point to slavery. Slavery was “paramount” on the “list of contentions” between North and South, he writes (p. 29). Increasingly militant abolitionists bedeviled the South. John Brown--“aging and unbalanced”--infuriated white southerners (p. 30). Those white southerners mistook Lincoln for a “die-hard abolitionist” (p. 33). The “national rift over slavery” ran so deep that it split religions (p. 34). All this agitation over slavery lit the fuse leading to war. In Vietnam, Groom writes, “we was tryin to do the right thing, I guess.”[10] Groom cannot say that about the South in the Civil War. In Vicksburg 1863, he finds no Confederate soldier asking the Vietnam question, “Why this happen?” but he comes close. A young boy asks his grandmother, the daughter of a Civil War soldier, “why did they do it, Bamaw? Why did they die?” About Vietnam Groom can have his character answer the same question, “it was a bunch of shit.”[11] He cannot bring himself to say that about Vicksburg. For that battle Bamaw answers, “I don’t know, son. I supposed they’d all be dead now anyhow” (p. 458). To Vietnam, Groom can bring a brutal truth, to the Civil War, comic evasion.

In Vicksburg 1863, Groom recounts a string of events chaotic and even (at times) “zany,” albeit with less reflection than he brought to Forrest Gump. Groom’s determined rejection of the moral relativism that Vietnam encouraged in others may be an artifact from a different era stranded on a landscape remolded by the civil rights revolution. In his Civil War book, Ayers rejects “works of national affirmation” and “national redemption.”[12] When writing about Andrew Jackson or World War II, Groom redeems and affirms national values, though finding those qualities in Vicksburg 1863 challenges his imagination. Groom at least twice accuses Sherman of pyromania, as if some personal mental failing led him into wanton destruction. Black soldiers’ service at Milliken’s Bend gets brief mention, starting out with a claim that the battle “did not reflect much credit on anyone concerned” (p. 387). Black soldiers ran for their lives before triumphant Texans, he writes, saved only by the timely intervention of Union ironclads. This is one version of what happened--the version that most shortchanges black heroism on that battlefield. Other narrators have been more generous, and even Groom concedes at the end of this passage that black soldiers proved they would fight at Milliken’s Bend. He also repeats the old canard, made famous by Ken Burns, that Vicksburg did not celebrate the Fourth of July for eighty-five years after the war. Groom trips over that perennial bugaboo for white southerners: Reconstruction. Reconstruction is clearly not a topic of great interest for this author, but he mentions it at the end, complaining that by early 1867, “the Radical Republicans had begun to enact severe Reconstruction measures designed to divest many southerners of their property” (p. 440). There are few professional historians working today still deluded by the old idea that “Radicals” ever controlled Congress or any part of Reconstruction or that Reconstruction was ever “severe.”

Groom concludes with a patriotic salute to all Civil War soldiers: “They were not Gods, nor were they saints, but in their time they were giants who ruled the earth, and they feared not. No army as yet assembled could have matched them” (p. 458). Here we have moral positivism, not relativism--the kind of thinking that insists on clearly defined bad guys and good guys, combined with a recognition that southern soldiers (those fearless giants) fought for slavery.

Text Source: H-Net
Top Image Source: USHistory Files
Bottom Image Source: Garden and Gun

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New---The Complete Gettysburg Guide

The Complete Gettysburg Guide: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and other Topics of Historical Interest, J. David Petruzzi (text), Steven Stanley (maps, photographs, Savas Beatie Publishing, 306 pp., maps, photographs, bibliography, index, $39.95.

CWL suspects any book with complete in the title. But Savas Beatie Publishing, with J.D. Petruzzi and Steven Stanley have come as close as possible given the fact that the book is reasonably priced at $40 and is a mere 306 pages. You will find the book in three places near an armchair, on the front seat of an automobile, and in the haversack of a walker. Opening the shipping envelope in late June, CWL really didn't put the book down for about three hours at home, at Starbucks and then in the car at stop lights.

Visually the book is engaging on every page. There are very few pages were there is just text; nearly all pages have either an attractive map, an clear period or modern photograph or an appropriate sidebar biography or period text. The eleven tours include: the June 26 Marsh Creek skirmish, the fighting July 1-3 including the four cavalry battles, the historical sites in the borough, the National Cemetery, the Evergreen Cemetery, the hospital farms, and the rock carvings.

Impressive as the book is visually, CWL tested the book July 2 and 3 on the Gettysburg battlefield with ranger led battlefield walks. Once with Matt Atkinson of Vicksburg NMP and twice Troy Harmon of Gettysburg NMP, the book went into the field. On July 2 morning Atkinson walked in the steps of Anderson's brigade of Hood's division from Pitzer's Woods to Houck's Ridge. Harmon covered the path of Avery's brigade of Early's division from Winebrenner Run to East Cemetery Hill.On July 3 morning Harmon followed Colgrove's brigade of Ruger's division from McAllister's Mill to Spangler's Meadow. CWLmatched the ranger's tour with the book and found the maps and text consistent with what the rangers said and where they went.

The tours of July 2 and 3 fight are not set forth chronologically in the book. The tours are of the area were the fight occurred. For example, tour stop 12 is Bigelow's Stand at the Trostle Farm (July 2), tour stop 13 is Longstreet's corps Assault at Cemetery Ridge (July 2), tour stop 14 is the Grand Assault (July 3), tour stops 15 and 16 are at Spangler's Spring (July 2) and Culp's Hill July 2 and 3, and tour stop 17 is the night attack on Culp's Hill (July 2). Organize in this manner the book is very useful for the touring student of the battle.

Highlights for this reader were the hospital farms tour stop 35 (the Camp Letterman General Hospital site) the entire tour of the historical sites of the borough of Gettysburg, both tours of the cemeteries, and the June 26 Marsh Creek skirmish. Cavalry enthusiasts will be happy with the tours of the four cavalry fights and the July 1am engagement by Buford. Having taken the Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide exam twice (2006 and 2008), CWL saw dozens of exam questions' answers. Of the 60 maps in the book 54 cover the fighting and have in the upper right hand corner a clock with the time of the engagement. That was something that Trudeau in Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage and CWL wished more authors addressing other battles followed the examples of Trudeau and Stanley'

Is there anything lacking in the Complete Gettysburg Guide? Well, for CWL the June 30 Battle of Hanover is crucial but, as the author explained in an online conversation, it is ten miles away from the battlefield and the book is only 304 pages. Petruzzi et al. covered the importance of the Battle of Hanover in two chapters in Plenty of Blame to Go Around. A second edition will address some quibbles on a few of the maps regarding such things as the route across the front of the 13th New Jersey by 27th Indiana against the 49th Virginia across Spangler's Meadow during the morning of July 3 (page 125). The Complete Gettysburg Guide has a Facebook Page which carries readers' questions forward.

While carrying the book on the tours I loaned it to a friend to view over lunch. With his Blueberry phone he took a picture of the barcode and ordered a copy of the book from I was surprised that could be done. Of course he said, 'Yea. There's an app for that.' I second buddy I escorted to Jim Glessner's American History Store at the corner of Baltimore and Steinwehr Streets and he purchased his copy in the more traditional manner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New and Forthcoming: Intriguing Titles From McFarland Publishing

Rebel at Large:The Diary of Confederate Deserter Philip Van Buskirk, Philip Van Buskirk Edited and with an Introduction by B.R. Burg, McFarland Publishing, notes, bibliography, index, 208 pp. softcover, 2009, $35.00

This diary is one of the most unusual produced during the Civil War because it contains very little about military life. Early in the war Van Buskirk abandoned his regiment, working as a schoolmaster, farm hand, and casual laborer. He wrote of the suffering civilians endured at the hands of contending armies. But he also found time to chronicle his fascination with handsome young lads he encountered during his life as a deserter—unwittingly providing modern readers an illuminating glimpse of class differences and sexual mores. Naval, social and sexual historians, in particular, will find much valuable source material.

To Petersburg with the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Letters of Levi Bird Duff, 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Levi Bird Duff Edited by Jonathan E. Helmreich, McFarland Publishing, ,33 photos, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index, 240pp. softcover (7 x 10) 2009, $45.00.

The letters of Levi Bird Duff present a perceptive picture of life in the Army of the Potomac from 1861 to 1864. They are unusual for their literacy, descriptions and continuity, the strength of opinions expressed, and their source: a private who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, thus a witness of the army at several levels. Leadership, organizational, weather, and morale problems that plagued Union troops are made clear. Written only for the eyes of Duff’s love, the messages reflect the tension experienced by many soldiers between the conflicting calls of duty and affection.

Tinclads in the Civil War: Union Light-Draught Gunboat Operations on Western Waters, 1862–1865, Myron J. Smith, Jr., McFarland Publishing, 90 photos, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
softcover (7 x 10), 2009, $55.00.

Once the Union Army gained control of the upper rivers of the Mississippi Valley during the first half of 1862, slow and heavy ironclads proved ineffective in patrolling the waters. Hastily outfitted steamboats were covered with thin armor and pressed into duty. These “tinclads” fought Confederate forces attacking from the riverbanks, provided convoy for merchant steamers, enforced revenue measures, and offered tow, dispatch, and other fleet support services. This history documents the service records and duties of these little-known vessels of the Union fleet.

Text and Image Source: McFarland Publishing

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Off Topic Novel---One From The Big Easy, Circa 1900

Chasing the Devil's Tail: A Mystery of Storyville, New Orleans, David Fulmer, Harcourt Press, 2002, 335pp, $14.00 paperback.

CWL spent a week in New Orleans and while wandering through Bourbon Street, the World War II and the History of Mardi Gras museums an historical detective series jogged his memory. Something published in 2001 or 2002 and set in turn of the 1900s Storyville section in New Orleans. Tracking down a $5 copy of >Chasing the Devil's Tail: A Mystery of Storyville, New Orleansin a bookstore near Jackson Square, it seemed to be the time to start a new detective series set in a city where some time was being killed.

Chasing the Devil's Tail: A Mystery of Storyville, New Orleans, has going for it: 1.) the first in a long running series, 2) a detective mystery of sex, alcohol, drugs, insanity and murder, 3) a tri-racial detective, and 4) corrupt politicians and churchmen. Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr isn't comfortable with the idea that a couple of murders are being pinned on his childhood friend, Buddy Bolden who has risen to fame with the new "jass" music of his horn. St. Cyr watches his friend emotionally and professioanly self-destruct through the use of alcohol and probably opium.

Early 20th-century New Orleans with its large, elegant houses of the madams, its lice infested cribs of prostitution, and its rigid and at times fluid caste system is the setting for historical figures such as political boss Tom Anderson, early jazzman Buddy Bolden, piano player Jelly Roll Morton, photographer E.J. Bellocq whose portraits of New Orleans whores are now famous, and 'the last of the great madames' Lulu White. Each play an important role in the plot which doesn't constrict the characters into stereotypes. It is a tour the cribs, the churches, the saloons, the insane asylum, the dance halls, the morgue and the apartments of New Orleans during the first decade of 1900. The hero is conflicted by race, ethnic, childhood, voodoo and previous career choices that include amateur thief and professional policeman. CWL is now shopping for Jass the second in the series.

The author is a journalist who has written about jazz and blues for National Public Radio, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and other publications. He has also written and produced the documentary Blind Willie's Blues.

New and Notable: Trench Work and Warfare at Petersburg

In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat, Earl J. Hess, University of North Carolina Press, 480 pp., maps, illustrations, index, $35.00

The Petersburg campaign began June 15, 1864, with Union attempts to break an improvised line of Confederate field fortifications. By the time the campaign ended on April 2, 1865, two opposing lines of sophisticated and complex earthworks stretched for thirty-five miles, covering not only Petersburg but also the southeastern approaches to Richmond. This book, the third volume in Earl Hess's trilogy on the war in the eastern theater, recounts the strategic and tactical operations in Virginia during the last ten months of the Civil War, when field fortifications dominated military planning and the landscape of battle.

Hess extracts evidence from maps and earthworks systems, historic photographs of the entrenchments, extensive research in published and archival accounts by men engaged in the campaign, official engineering reports, modern sound imaging to detect mine galleries, and firsthand examination of the remnants of fortifications on the Petersburg battlefield today. The book covers all aspects of the campaign, especially military engineering, including mining and countermining, the fashioning of wire entanglements, the laying of torpedo fields, and the construction of underground shelters to protect the men who manned the works. It also humanizes the experience of the soldiers working in the fortifications, revealing their attitudes toward attacking and defending earthworks and the human cost of trench warfare in the waning days of the war.

Tracy Power, author of Lee's Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox:
"The last volume of Earl J. Hess's trilogy on field fortifications in the East completes a figurative breakthrough as impressive as Grant's literal breakthrough at Petersburg. It and its companion volumes, displaying a masterful blend of narrative, description, and analysis, are among the most significant Civil War studies of this or any time."

A. Wilson Greene, Pamplin Historical Park, author of The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign "Earl Hess has written the finest study of the Petersburg Campaign in more than a century. By relating the development of the army's field engineering to the course of the combat action, and through the use of previously untapped sources, Hess brilliantly unravels the complexity of the Petersburg story. This is simply one of the finest Civil War studies of our generation."

Earl J. Hess is associate professor and chair in the Department of History at Lincoln Memorial University. Previous books in his series on field fortifications are Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 and Trench Warfare under Grant and Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign.

Text and Image Source: University of North Carolina Press

New and Notable---Northern Women, Factory Production, and Battlefield Victory

Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front , Judith Giesberg, 256 pages, The University of North Carolina Press, $35.00.

Introducing readers to women whose Civil War experiences have long been ignored, Judith Giesberg examines the lives of working-class women in the North, for whom home front was a battlefield of its own.

Black and white working-class women managed farms that had been left without a male head of household, worked in munitions factories, made uniforms, and located and cared for injured or dead soldiers. As they became more active in their new roles, they became visible as political actors, writing letters, signing petitions, moving (or refusing to move) from their homes, and confronting civilian and military officials.

At the heart of the book are stories of women who fought the draft in New York and Pennsylvania, protested segregated streetcars in San Francisco and Philadelphia, and demanded a living wage in the needle trades and safer conditions at the Federal arsenals where they labored. Giesberg challenges readers to think about women and children who were caught up in the military conflict but nonetheless refused to become its collateral damage. She offers a dramatic reinterpretation of how America’s Civil War reshaped the lived experience of race and gender and brought swift and lasting changes to working-class family life.

Giesberg examines the lives of working-class women in the North, where black and white working-class women managed farms that had been left without a male head of household, worked in munitions factories, made uniforms, and located and cared for injured or dead soldiers. As they became more active in their new roles, they became visible as political actors, writing letters, signing petitions, moving (or refusing to move) from their homes, and confronting civilian and military officials. Giesberg provides a dramatic reinterpretation of how America’s Civil War reshaped the lived experience of race and gender and brought swift and lasting changes to working-class family life.

Victoria Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War"In Giesberg's action-packed Civil War study, women risk body and soul to make a living and to protest segregation, conscription, and low wages. These are not teary-eyed maidens waiting out the war with hankies gripped to their throats; they embody home front struggles that paralleled battlefields in transforming U.S. society."

J. Matthew Gallman, author of America's Joan of Arc: The Life of Anna Elizabeth Dickinson "A highly original analysis of how the war affected working-class women and how those women affected the war effort in heretofore underrecognized ways, Army at Home is also a very valuable case study in how to apply larger theoretical insights to the Civil War era."

Text and Image Source:

Reviews Source: University of North Carolina Press

New and Notable---Deliver Us From Evil: The Slavery Question and the Old South

Deliver Us from Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South, Lacy K. Ford, Oxford University Press, 688 pages,$34.95.

Publishers' Weekly:
"...through depth, detail and focus, Ford's comprehensive study forges a fresh path.... the historical detail is engrossing.... Ford's monumental book delineates a "twisted and tortured" intellectual history; signs of his mastery of previous scholarship and his immersion in fresh primary sources abound.... Ford's lucid prose and summary introductions illuminate the way. Lay readers will appreciate his guidance, and academic readers will find his revelations groundbreaking."

Publisher's Description:
A major contribution to our understanding of slavery in the early republic, Deliver Us from Evil illuminates the white South's twisted and tortured efforts to justify slavery, focusing on the period from the drafting of the federal constitution in 1787 through the age of Jackson. Drawing heavily on primary sources, including newspapers, government documents, legislative records, pamphlets, and speeches, Lacy Ford recaptures the varied and sometimes contradictory ideas and attitudes held by groups of white southerners as they debated the slavery question. He excels at conveying the political, intellectual, economic, and social thought of leading white southerners, vividly recreating the mental world of the varied actors. He also shows that there was not one antebellum South but many, and not one southern white mindset but several, with the debates over slavery in the upper South quite different in substance from those in the deep South. An ambitious, thought-provoking, and highly insightful book, Deliver Us from Evil is essential for anyone interested in the history of slavery in the United States.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

News---Spangler amd McAllister Farms' Tree Removal Reveals Rebels' Artillery Hell

Tree Cutting Resumes At Spangler’s Spring, Scot Andrew Pitzer, Gettysburg Times, July 10, 2009

When soldiers fought at the base of Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg, there were no trees or shrubbery impeding the 1/4 of a mile between Spangler’s Spring and the Baltimore Pike. Today, that is no longer the case. The area is now covered with woodland and vegetation, disrupting the interpretive experience for battlefield visitors.

“You can’t identify the significance of this position with those trees,” said Gettysburg National Military Park historian John Heiser. That will chance soon, as the park continues its battlefield rehab program, sometime around July 15. Six acres of non-historic trees are scheduled to be cut in the Spangler’s Spring area of Culp’s Hill, restoring that land to its Civil War era appearance.

“I’ve been here almost 30 years now, and I’m always asked, is this how it looked in 1863?” said Heiser. “Hopefully, in a couple of months, we can say that about Spangler’s Spring. The goal is to open the vista back up to give visitors that historical view.” The project is part of a multi-year plan to transform the 6,000-acre Gettysburg Battlefield to its 1863 shape. Park records show that in 1863, there were 898 acres of battlefield woodland, compared to 1993, when 1,974 wooded acres covered the park.

“This is going to do wonders for the interpretive value of this area,” said Jim Johnson, GNMP Chief of Resource Planning. The park is now in its ninth year of the landscape rehab program, subsidized by federal funding. Overall, the program aims to remove 576 acres of trees, at a total cost of about $2.3 million. “We’re about halfway through our wood removal,” said Johnson. “We’re probably looking at another four more years.”

Culp’s Hill was a key strategic position during the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3 in 1863, hosting battle action on the second and third day of the clash. Confederate General George Steuart called the area “artillery hell,” because of its openness and lack of tree cover. Steuart’s brigade was pounded in that field, by Union cannon from nearby Powers Hill. “Now, you can’t understand why Steuart’s men called it artillery hell,” said Heiser. “Anyone who traversed across that field was an easy target. That area was completely open in 1863 — it’s just grown up over the years.”

When asked why the park waited 146 years to clear the Spangler’s Spring growth, Johnson replied: “Time, budget and money.” “It’s a major undertaking with expense,” Johnson added. Pennington Tree Company of Orrtanna was awarded a multi-year contract to perform the work in 2003, at a value of $569,675. Tree cutting is expected to begin in mid-July and continue through March 2010, depending on weather conditions. The park is also cutting trees in the area of East Cemetery Hill toward West Confederate Avenue, to open up that historic view-shed to tourists. “We have to do it when the ground is fairly dry or frozen, to minimize impact on the soil,” explained GNMP spokeswoman Katie Lawhon.

Additionally, park crews are prohibited from cutting trees during bird nesting season. Johnson said that birds are “mostly done nesting” now. The project includes planting new trees too, replacing the historic trees that are now missing. Johnson guessed that the planting would begin sometime in the fall, and conclude next spring. In the 146 years since the battle, hundreds of trees died near Spangler’s Spring from lead poisoning. “It’s another component of our General Management Plan, along with historic orchards,” Johnson said.

Witness trees, those present during the battle, are not cut, although Johnson doubts that any such trees are present in the six acres of land that separate Spangler’s Spring from the Baltimore Pike. The Baltimore Pike site, previously dubbed the Welcome Traveler Campground, was the Civil War era farm of James McAllister. The property was a privately owned camping area, until acquired by the Park Service in May 2009. Tree removal on that site is one stage of a three-phase project, including woodland to the south and west of nearby Spangler’s Spring, as well as trees on the eastern slope of Powers Hill.

CWL: Huzzah!!

Text and Image Source: Gettysburg Times, Caption: Jim Johnson, chief of resource planning

Friday, July 10, 2009

New---The New Civil War Handbook: Facts, Photos and Lists That Lend Themselves To Discussions

The New Civil War Handbook: Facts and Photos for Readers of All Ages, Mark Hughes, Savas Beatie Publishing, 144pp., $14.95, 2009.

Clear and concise captions accompany nearly 150 images, 2 maps, 12 charts, 4 lists, a glossary and bibliography. Those who are approaching the American Civil War and history educators are well served by Mark Hughes handbook. Hughes was inspired by a previous handbook that he read during childhood. Especially appropriate is the first list in the first section: Naming The War. The twenty alternative names lend themselves to discussing the war's different perspectives. Hughes included CWL's 'point-of-view' name for the war: The Slaveholders' Rebellion. To underscore this list, Hughes immediately follows the list with Civil War Voices, over 8 pages of quotations from the war's participants.

Charts of the organization of the Union and Confederate armies, enlistments and casualties, losses in major battles, military engagements by states (Utah, Nevada, Vermont, New York, Idaho Territory, Illinois, and Washington DC, each had one) lend themselves to discussions. Do you know the 37 battles that have two names? How about numbers of Union enlistments from Southern states? What percentage of wounds were caused by bayonets? How about a list of major causes of death besides wounds? Also nice to see are the figures regarding military prisons.

A fine bibliography and glossary are included along with websites that cover public collections and discussions of the war. The New Civil War Handbook: Facts and Photos for Readers of All Ages by Mark Hughes lends itself to a variety of classroom activities and discussions. This book will also be used by buffs to quiz each other and add to their general knowledge of the war.

Off Topic---Novel: Prayers For Sale

Prayers for Sale, Sandra Dallas, 320 pages, St. Martin's Press, $24.95 Hardcover, $34.95 Compact Disks, 2009.

CWL bought Prayers For Sale on compact disk while driving back from New Orleans through Nashville. Reading the cover/box, my wife and I agreed that it would suit both of us for the next ten hours of the drive.

An unconventional friendship between Hennie Comfort, a natural storyteller entering the twilight of her life, and Nit Spindle, a naïve young newlywed, is forged in the isolated mining town of Middle Swan, Colorado, during the Great Depression. Both women have stories that are similar yet also diverge. The novel's time span is Civil War era through the Great Depression. Hennie Comfort's 86 years of solo and community quilting has allowed her to accumulate plenty of tales. As a Tennessee teen wife married to a teen husband immediately before the Civil War, through a migration to Colorado as something close to a catalog wife, through the late 1870s and 1880s gold rushes, Hennie Comfort endures the Rocky Mountain frontier.

During the winter of 1936, 17-year-old Nit Spindle turns up on Hennie's front porch; Nit is not unlike Hennie was when she was 17: a migrant from the South, a new bride who has lost a baby. Prayer's For Sale is a story of women's friendships. Where is the best raspberry patch? What stories in the quilting circle can be believed and what stories will never be told? And what about the town's prostitutes? Where any once married and in the quilting circle? Lost husbands, lost fortunes, lost children, lost limbs, lost loves may be the true history of this mining community. Nit learns both quilting and storytelling from Hennie and the quilting circle. The novel is about young woman finding her voice.

The author gathered enough history, dialect, regional metaphors and engaging characters to satisfy both CWL and his spouse. Some people have beach books. CWL has long automobile trip books. Another Sandra Dallas novel would do just fine.

News---Slaves in WDC Recognized by House of Representatives

House Approves Marker On Role Of Slaves In Capitol, Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press, July 8

The House on Tuesday acknowledged the use of African-American slaves in the construction of the U.S. Capitol, ordering officials to place a marker inside the new Capitol Visitor Center using some of the original stone quarried by those slaves for the historic building.

"This physical and permanent marker will pay tribute to the blood, sweat and tears of the African-American slaves who helped build this magnificent building and ensure that their story is told and never, never, ever forgotten," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. The vote was 399-1, with Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the lone dissenter. The Senate is considering a similar measure. The House resolution orders the Architect of the Capitol to place in a prominent location in the visitor center's Emancipation Hall a marker acknowledging the role that slave labor played in constructing the Capitol. "Far too often the detailed rise of our Capitol building fails to recognize the vital contributions by slave laborers," said Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said some of those original stones were removed from the Capitol during a renovation and have been held in storage. "We must acknowledge the sacrifices of those Americans who, without choice, worked to build a government that kept them in bondage," he said. Lawmakers have been looking for ways to honor the slaves that were used in the construction of government buildings, including the Capitol and the White House.

Congress already has named the largest room in the visitor center Emancipation Hall in their honor. Historians have discovered that slaves worked 12-hour days, six days a week on the construction of the Capitol. The federal government rented the slaves from local slave owners at a rate of $5 per person per month. The slaves were not paid.

In addition to working on the building, slaves worked in quarries where they extracted the stone for the Capitol. Other slaves provided carpentry skills, still others for sawing stone and timber. Slave women and children were used to mold clay in kilns. The House also took up a resolution directing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave the Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto "In God We Trust" in conspicuous places in the three-story underground visitor center. The Senate passed the same resolution Monday night as part of a spending bill. A House vote was expected Wednesday.

The measure was promoted in the Senate by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who had threatened to delay the opening of the center in December because he said it glorified the role of government while ignoring America's religious foundations. "From the beginning many of us were concerned about what looked like a historical whitewash of our nation's faith heritage from the Capitol Visitor Center," he said Monday.

"It appears the visitor center, the way it is conducted and constructed, wishes to disown and deny our religious heritage," said Ted Poe, R-Texas. The measure was sponsored in the House by Rep. Dan Lungren, D-Calif. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the engraving costs would be less than $100,000.

Text Source: Associated Press, July 8 2009
Image Source: Alexandria Virginia slave market and woodcut of slaves passing through Washington, D.C. (

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Forthcoming---Richard Slotkin's No Quarter Well Reviewed

No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864, Richard Slotkin, Random House Publishing, 432 pp., $28.00. July 30, 2009.

James M. McPherson: Having written an earlier novel and now a deeply researched historical narrative of the Battle of the Crater, Richard Slotkin knows more about this vicious and tragic fight than anyone. Particularly impressive is his ability to place tactical details in the larger military, political and racial context of the Civil War. The analysis of the role of black soldiers in the battle is the best such account anywhere.

Geoffrey Ward: In this harrowing, clear-eyed account of the battle U.S. Grant himself called ‘the saddest affair I have witnessed in this war,’ Richard Slotkin vividly evokes the brutal reality of Civil War combat–and recaptures the crucial role played by race in creating the Battle of the Crater’s special fury.

Publishers Weekly: Three decades after publishing a novel on the Battle of the Crater, Wesleyan professor emeritus Slotkin offers a historical analysis of an event meant as a turning point in the Civil War but remembered instead as one of its greatest failures. Most accounts focus on the slaughter of hundreds of black Union troops; Slotkin takes a broader perspective. The Crater was intended to draw on the Union's strengths, like the mastery of industrial technology, and the physical energies liberated by black emancipation. A regiment of coal miners dug a 500-foot tunnel under a Confederate strong point and packed it with four tons of blasting powder. A division of African-Americans was to exploit the blast to open the way to the Confederate capital, Richmond. The Civil War might have ended by Christmas. Instead, Slotkin describes a fiasco. Jealousy, intransigence, incompetence, and even cowardice among Union generals resulted in a combination massacre and race riot, as white Union and Confederate troops turned on the blacks. Slotkin depicts all this and the army and Congress's subsequent whitewashes with the verve and force that place him among the most distinguished historians of the role of violence in the American experience.

William C. Davis: Perhaps the finest Civil War novel of the past generation (yes, better than The Killer Angels) was Richard Slotkin's The Crater. It combined compelling narrative (which The Killer Angels had) with deep and scholarly research into the subject (which The Killer Angels did not). It may have been a fictional story, but the background context was very accurate indeed. How fortunate it is, then, that Slotkin, who is primarily an historian of the American frontier experience, has decided to follow up the novel with No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864, which must surely be the best researched and most comprehensive history of the actual event that was backdrop to his novel. On July 30, 1864, forced into a siege around Petersburg, Virginia, in his effort to bring General Robert E. Lee to bay, General U. S. Grant determined upon a daring expedient to try to break the stalemate. The idea of digging a tunnel from one line of defensive works, beneath the intervening no-man’s land to the underside of an opponent’s works, and then setting off an explosion to blow a hole in those defenses, was not a new one. Grant himself had tried it at Vicksburg the year before, and the concept had been around almost as long as gunpowder itself. But there were a host of special circumstances around this tunnel, and the “crater” created by the resultant explosion. Slotkin goes well beyond just the rote military actions to look deep behind the act, examining the attitudes of Americans toward each other in 1864, the political situation faced by Lincoln in the North with an election coming up and a war that seemed endless, and the emergent factor of race in military events. Grant would, for military, political and social reasons, order that a substantial body of black soldiers participate in the assault into the hole in the Confederate works once the explosion created a breach. But he reckoned without what happened next. And what happened next is still controversial. Bungling by inept and simply lazy Union commanders was met by daring and resourceful Confederate defenders. And in an eerie reprise of the slaughter of the black 54th Massachusetts Regiment at Battery Wagner in 1863, down in that huge hole, thousands of black and white Union soldiers found themselves virtually “fish in a barrel” for the shooting. The aftermath, with recriminations and congressional investigations, is almost as dramatic as the July 30 fight itself. Slotkin’s research on the subject is deep and comprehensive, and his judgments mature. The writing is, as always, first class. And his concluding sentence must be one of the most telling and poignant in Civil War literature. It should only be read after reading the rest of the book first.

Text Source:

Author Bio: Richard Slotkin is widely regarded as one of the preeminent cultural critics of our times. A two-time finalist for the National Book Award, he is the author of Lost Battalions, a New York Times Notable Book, and an award-winning trilogy: Regeneration Through Violence, The Fatal Environment, and Gunfighter Nation–as well as three historical novels: The Crater: A Novel, The Return of Henry Starr, and Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln. He is the Olin Professor of English and American Studies at Wesleyan University and lives in Middletown, Connecticut. (Text from Random House site)

CWL: Richard Slotkin's The Crater, is one of the best Civil War novels written in the 20th century. (Yes that is a very bold statement but it is true and the list of such novels is very, very short). Slotkin, an historian who has produced outstanding academic work, has written three novels, on others being Abe and The Return of Henry Starr. Now about twenty years after his novel The Crater he offers No Quarter: The Crater, 1864. CWL appreciates both history written for historians and fiction written for a wide range of readers; my undergraduate degrees are in English and history, the masters degree is in U.S. history. I do not tolerate trite or feeble storytelling. CWL hopes to read No Quarter before the end of the year and The Crater again before retirement.

CWL's Top Ten Gettysburg Books: Most Frequently Consulted and Enjoyed

The Battle:
Generals of Gettysburg: The Leaders of America's Greatest Battle, Larry Tagg.
Brigades of Gettysburg: Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg, Bradley Gottfried.

Studying for the Gettysburg Licenced Battlefield Guide Test taught me that the key to developing a tour was to understand the generals and the brigades. Both Tagg and Gottfried have provided books that are comprehensive and accurate. Nearly anyone reading a short biography of a general and then the movements of his brigade to, during and after Gettysburg will come to a new level of understanding of the process of the battle.

Gettysburg Trilogy: The First Day The Second Day, Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill, Harry Pfanz.
Gettysburg: The Third Day, Jeffry Wert.

Taken together Pfanz's and Wert's works provide an integrated story of the brigades and their movements in the battle. Both authors offer telling details and anecdotes that emphasize the human element on a battlefield that held over 150,000 troops.

Guides to the Battlefield:
Complete Gettysburg Guide, J.D. Petruzzi.
Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide, Mark Grimsley.

Petruzzi's and Grimsley' companions to touring the military park are accurate and easy to use. The Complete Gettysburg Guide has many photographs, maps, and sidebars that are vital to successful tour. It also features extensive tours of the pre-July fighting, the cavalry fights that are east, south, and west of the main battlefield, the borough, the two cemeteries, the hospital sites, and the rock carvings. Grimsley's book is clear, conscise and nearly complete with maps and tours that offer the essentials.

Post Battle:
A Strange and Blighted Land, Gregory Coco.
A Vast Sea of Misery: A History and Guide to the Union and Confederate Field Hospitals at Gettysburg, July 1-November 20, 1863, Gregory Coco.
Retreat From Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics and the Pennsylvania Campaign, Kent Masterson Brown.

Coco's and Brown's work enlarge the three day battle in a tactical, strategic and human ways. Coco's writing is wonderful and his immersion in primary sources of the civilians and the enlisted men is without parallel. Brown handles tactics and logistics quite well and offers sound insights into Lee's and Meade's leadership and the ability of their endure a rigorous and deadly campaign.

The Gettysburg National Military Park
This Holy Ground: A History of the Gettysburg Battlefield, Barbara Platt.
Often neglected is the history of the military park, its monuments, and its interpretations. Platt's work may be close to one of a kind, having a clear focus on the acres in the park's boundaries but not becoming overwhelmed by the myths and realities of interpreting the battle.

Honorable Mention: Learning the Battle of Gettysburg From the Official Records, Ben Dixon. This work clearly opens the Official Records to the layman; the 'needle in the haystack' days of the three Gettysburg volumes of the OR are over.

Honorable Mention: Virtual Gettysburg, Stephen Recker. Offering a two hour audio tour of the battle, a huge photo archive of the monuments and the farms, and clear maps that show you where the tour guide is on the battlefield, Recker was achieved a remarkable and thorough presentation for use on your computer.

Honorable Mention: Grappling With Death: The Second Corps Hospital at Gettysburg, Roland Maust. Maust has mined primary sources to a remarkable level in order to tell the story of one Union corps' medical staff, the civilian workers and the wounded. The agony of the July heat and humidity are told in the words and incidents of the people who were there. The heartbreaking relief of the rain and then the terror of the flood that engulfed Rock Creek leaves the reader humbled.

Coddington's A Study in Command, Sears' Gettysburg, Trudeau's A Testing of Courage and Frassinito's studies of photography are all well known, have their obvious strenghts and are on most top ten lists. They are on CWL's shelves and are consulted, especially Trudeau's maps with the clocks. The list consists of CWL's favorites.

Forthcoming Novel---John Bell Hood After The War

A Separate Country, Robert Hicks, Grand Central/Hanchette Publishing, September 2009, 432 pages, $25.95.

Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children with her, including three sets of twins. But fate had other plans. Crippled by his war wounds and defeat, ravaged by financial misfortune, Hood had one last foe to battle: Yellow Fever. A Separate Country is the heartrending story of a decent and good man who struggled with his inability to admit his failures-and the story of those who taught him to love, and to be loved, and transformed him.

Robert Hicks has been active in the music industry in Nashville for twenty years as both a music publisher and artist manager. The driving force behind the perservation and restoration of the historic Carnton plantation in Tennessee, he stumbled upon the extraordinary role that Carrie McGavock played during and after the Battle of Franklin. He is the author of The Widow of the South. The author states that nearly 80 images of New Orleans created during the mid-nineteenth century offered him inspiration for the novel. In particular Hicks found compelling, the paintings of Edgar Degas, who worked in New Orleans during 1872 and 1873

Image and Text Source: and publisher's materials.

New on the Personal Book Shelf: The ANV, Southern Journalism and The Anti-Slavery Movement

CWL received an offer from Louisiana State University Press and picked up a nice stack of books for $7.50 each and that included shipping! Unfortunately, the books doubled the size of the stack labeled 'Read This Summer'.

Audacity Personified: The Generalship of Robert E. Lee, edited by Peter S. Carmichael. Six essays that praise and fault the Marble Man.

The Cause of the South: Selections From De Bow's Review, 1846-1867, edited by Paul Paskoff and Daniel Wilson. De Bow's Review was one of the preeminent Southern publications of the antebellum period. Based in New Orleans, the journal was the forum for agricultural and industrial issues, the slavery vs. wage labor issue, southern nationalism and Black Republicanism issues among others. A book for the primary source shelf.

Legacy of Disunion: The Enduring Significance of the American Civil War, edited by Susan Grant and Peter Parrish. Twelve essays on the myths, memories, leaders, legacies, perceptions and realities of the war.

Campbell Brown's Civil War: With Ewell and the Army of Northern Virginia, edited by Terry Jones. Since its publication in 2001 Campbell Brown's journals have added a new dimension to the study of the Army of Northern Virgina's leadership.

A Troublesome Commerce: The Transformation of the Interstate Slave Trade
, Robert Gudmestad covers the emptying out of the Upper South's slaves into the lower and trans-Mississippi South during the three decades before the war. Speculation in slave prices was comparable to the speculation in oil prices today.

No Taint of Compromise: Crusaders in Anti-Slavery Politics, Frederick Blue. Anti-slavery politics generated Southern fears that it could lose the right to hold property in slaves. Pittsburgh's Jane Grey Swisshelm gets a chapter in the book.

The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy by Robert K. Krick. Ten essays that consider the death of Jackson, Jackson's persecution of Garnett, the accuracy of Longstreet's memoirs and his relationship with McLaws, brigade commanders Rodes, Gregg and Early, Confederate bibliography and other topics.

CWL will start with Audacity Personified, then Campbell Brown's Civil Warand then The Smoothbore That Doomed the Confederacy next. Hopefully finish one in July one in August and one in September. After reading Glaathar's General Lee's Army during the winter, it seems to be shaping up to be a Army of Northern Virginia year. CWL probably focus on John Brown in October as a way of saluting the 150th anniversary of the Harpers Ferry Raid.

Off Topic---Code in Thomas Jefferson's Archive Cracked: Check Out The Online Interactive Video

Two Centuries On, a Cryptologist Cracks a Presidential Code: Unlocking This Cipher Wasn't Self-Evident; Algorithms and Educated Guesses, Rachel Emma Silverman, Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2009.

For more than 200 years, buried deep within Thomas Jefferson's correspondence and papers, there lay a mysterious cipher -- a coded message that appears to have remained unsolved. Until now.

The cryptic message was sent to President Jefferson in December 1801 by his friend and frequent correspondent, Robert Patterson, a mathematics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. President Jefferson and Mr. Patterson were both officials at the American Philosophical Society -- a group that promoted scholarly research in the sciences and humanities -- and were enthusiasts of ciphers and other codes, regularly exchanging letters about them. In this message, Mr. Patterson set out to show the president and primary author of the Declaration of Independence what he deemed to be a nearly flawless cipher. "The art of secret writing," or writing in cipher, has "engaged the attention both of the states-man & philosopher for many ages," Mr. Patterson wrote. But, he added, most ciphers fall "far short of perfection."

To Mr. Patterson's view, a perfect code had four properties: It should be adaptable to all languages; it should be simple to learn and memorize; it should be easy to write and to read; and most important of all, "it should be absolutely inscrutable to all unacquainted with the particular key or secret for decyphering." Mr. Patterson then included in the letter an example of a message in his cipher, one that would be so difficult to decode that it would "defy the united ingenuity of the whole human race," he wrote. There is no evidence that Jefferson, or anyone else for that matter, ever solved the code. But Jefferson did believe the cipher was so inscrutable that he considered having the State Department use it, and passed it on to the ambassador to France, Robert Livingston.

The cipher finally met its match in Lawren Smithline, a 36-year-old mathematician. Dr. Smithline has a Ph.D. in mathematics and now works professionally with cryptology, or code-breaking, at the Center for Communications Research in Princeton, N.J., a division of the Institute for Defense Analyses. A couple of years ago, Dr. Smithline's neighbor, who was working on a Jefferson project at Princeton University, told Dr. Smithline of Mr. Patterson's mysterious cipher. Dr. Smithline, intrigued, decided to take a look. "A problem like this cipher can keep me up at night," he says. After unlocking its hidden message in 2007, Dr. Smithline articulated his puzzle-solving techniques in a recent paper in the magazine American Scientist and also in a profile in Harvard Magazine, his alma mater's alumni journal.

The 1801 letter from Robert Patterson to Thomas Jefferson The code, Mr. Patterson made clear in his letter, was not a simple substitution cipher. That's when you replace one letter of the alphabet with another. The problem with substitution ciphers is that they can be cracked by using what's termed frequency analysis, or studying the number of times that a particular letter occurs in a message. For instance, the letter "e" is the most common letter in English, so if a code is sufficiently long, whatever letter appears most often is likely a substitute for "e."
Because frequency analysis was already well known in the 19th century, cryptographers of the time turned to other techniques. One was called the nomenclator: a catalog of numbers, each standing for a word, syllable, phrase or letter. Mr. Jefferson's correspondence shows that he used several code books of nomenclators. An issue with these tools, according to Mr. Patterson's criteria, is that a nomenclator is too tough to memorize.

Jefferson even wrote about his own ingenious code, a model of which is at his home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Va. Called the wheel cipher, the device consisted of cylindrical pieces, threaded onto an iron spindle, with letters inscribed on the edge of each wheel in a random order. Users could scramble and unscramble words simply by turning the wheels.

But Mr. Patterson had a few more tricks up his sleeve. He wrote the message text vertically, in columns from left to right, using no capital letters or spaces. The writing formed a grid, in this case of about 40 lines of some 60 letters each.

Then, Mr. Patterson broke the grid into sections of up to nine lines, numbering each line in the section from one to nine. In the next step, Mr. Patterson transcribed each numbered line to form a new grid, scrambling the order of the numbered lines within each section. Every section, however, repeated the same jumbled order of lines. The trick to solving the puzzle, as Mr. Patterson explained in his letter, meant knowing the following: the number of lines in each section, the order in which those lines were transcribed and the number of random letters added to each line.

The key to the code consisted of a series of two-digit pairs. The first digit indicated the line number within a section, while the second was the number of letters added to the beginning of that row. For instance, if the key was 58, 71, 33, that meant that Mr. Patterson moved row five to the first line of a section and added eight random letters; then moved row seven to the second line and added one letter, and then moved row three to the third line and added three random letters. Mr. Patterson estimated that the potential combinations to solve the puzzle was "upwards of ninety millions of millions."

After explaining this in his letter, Mr. Patterson wrote, "I presume the utter impossibility of decyphering will be readily acknowledged." Undaunted, Dr. Smithline decided to tackle the cipher by analyzing the probability of digraphs, or pairs of letters. Certain pairs of letters, such as "dx," don't exist in English, while some letters almost always appear next to a certain other letter, such as "u" after "q".
To get a sense of language patterns of the era, Dr. Smithline studied the 80,000 letter-characters contained in Jefferson's State of the Union addresses, and counted the frequency of occurrences of "aa," "ab," "ac," through "zz."

Dr. Smithline then made a series of educated guesses, such as the number of rows per section, which two rows belong next to each other, and the number of random letters inserted into a line. To help vet his guesses, he turned to a tool not available during the 19th century: a computer algorithm. He used what's called "dynamic programming," which solves large problems by breaking puzzles down into smaller pieces and linking together the solutions. The overall calculations necessary to solve the puzzle were fewer than 100,000, which Dr. Smithline says would be "tedious in the 19th century, but doable."

After about a week of working on the puzzle, the numerical key to Mr. Patterson's cipher emerged -- 13, 34, 57, 65, 22, 78, 49. Using that digital key, he was able to unfurl the cipher's text:

"In Congress, July Fourth, one thousand seven hundred and seventy six. A declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. When in the course of human events..." That, of course, is the beginning -- with a few liberties taken -- to the Declaration of Independence, written at least in part by Jefferson himself. "Patterson played this little joke on Thomas Jefferson," says Dr. Smithline. "And nobody knew until now."

Cracking the code is shown in an interactive video at the Wall Street Journal's site.

Text and 2nd and 3rd Images' Source: Wall Street Journal, July 3 2009.

First Image: Treasure film
Second Image: Robert Paterson from University of Pennsylvania Archives
Third Image: Thomas Jefferson, WSJ illustration

CWL: Isn't really more exciting than the films National Treasure and National Treasure 2?

Civil War Community---Scholars Who Blog Pick Most Important Gettysburg Books

Brett Schulte manages TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog for the obsessively compulsed and informed amateurs who study the American Civil War. Schulte has asked professional historians and writers to pick the most interesting from their point of view Gettysburg books. Check out TOCWC and you'll find Ethan Rafuse's, Eric Wittenberg's and Mark Grimsley's lists and about eight other's lists. The list of lists began on July 1. Looking through them, Edwin Coddington's, Harry Pfanz's and at least one of the several Gettysburg books from Savas Beatie Publishers are nearly everyone's list.

Go to TOCWOC for the lists.
Image Source: Rea Andrew Redd, CivilWarLibrarian, 40th New York monument located on east side of Plum Run at Devils Den.