Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New and Noteworthy: The Iron Ties That Bind or One Ring To Rule Them All?

The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America William G. Thomas III, Yale University Press, 296 pages, 54 illustrations and maps, notes, index, bibliography, $30.00

Beginning with Frederick Douglass's escape from slavery in 1838 on the railroad, and ending with the driving of the golden spike to link the transcontinental railroad in 1869, this book charts a critical period of American expansion and national formation, one largely dominated by the dynamic growth of railroads and telegraphs. William G. Thomas brings new evidence to bear on railroads, the Confederate South, slavery, and the Civil War era, based on groundbreaking research in digitized sources never available before. The Iron Way revises our ideas about the emergence of modern America and the role of the railroads in shaping the sectional conflict.

Both the North and the South invested in railroads to serve their larger purposes, Thomas contends. Though railroads are often cited as a major factor in the Union's victory, he shows that they were also essential to the formation of "the South" as a unified region. He discusses the many—and sometimes unexpected—effects of railroad expansion and proposes that America's great railroads became an important symbolic touchstone for the nation's vision of itself.

William G. Thomas is professor of history and the John and Catherine Angle Chair in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He taught history at the University of Virginia, and, as director of the Virginia Center for Digital History, created digital projects on slavery, the Civil War, segregation, and civil rights. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Railroads and the Making of Modern America website.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Fiction---Culp Brothers, Jack Skelley, Virginia Wade: Main Characters In A House Divided

West Virginia Author Says New Civil War Fiction 'Mostly True', Associated Press, Lebanan Daily News, November 28, 2011.

Charles Town historian Bob O'Connor says his newest Civil War book, "A House Divided Against Itself," is a historical novel that's based on a true story. While it's technically fiction, O'Connor said the four main characters were real people, and the story about them is "mostly true." O'Connor told The Herald Mail of Hagerstown, Maryland, that he studied 90 letters, plus records from the National Archives and Army War College, to create the story of brothers John Wesley and William Culp.

The brothers grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but John Wesley moved to Shepherdstown, then to Virginia. He fought for the Confederacy. William, meanwhile, joined a Gettysburg militia that eventually became part of the Union's 87th Pennsylvania regiment. Their units battled in the Shenandoah Valley between 1861 and 1863, but O'Connor said the brothers never met during the conflict. His other key characters are John Wesley's best friend, Johnston "Jack" Skelly Jr., who joined the Union army, and Mary Virginia Wade, Jack's girlfriend. The story ends with the Battle of Gettysburg.

O'Connor said the 230-page book was inspired by a lecture that historian James C. Price gave on the Culp brothers in Martinsburg. It's available online at O'Connor's website, at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, and at the Antietam National Battlefield gift shop in Maryland. He is the author of The Perfect Steel Trap: Harpers Ferry 1859 a novel, The U.S. Colored Troops at Andersonville Prison a history, and editor of The Life of Abraham Lincoln as President: A Personal Account by Lincoln's Body Gaurd, War Hill Lamon. His website is Bob Oconnor Books.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Off-Topic---Dealy Plaza, Dallas Texas Noverber 22, 1963: The Umbrella Man

November 22, 1963, Dealy Plaza, Dallas Texas. It is a sunny day. During the Kennedy motorcade, a man opens and raises a black umbrella. Kennedy is shot in front of him. What part in the assassination did he play? A last minute signal that the plan to assassinate the President would go forward. A signal that could be seen from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and the fence near the overpass behind the Umbrella Man. The truth is revealed is recalled by Josiah Thompson, author of Six Seconds in Dallas.

Go to The New York Times video album.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New and Noteworthy---A Scribbling Englishman On Both Sides of the Potomac

The Confederacy's Secret Weapon: The Civil War Illustrations of Frank Vizetelly, Douglas W. Bostick, History Press, 158 pp., 98 b/w illustrations, bibliography, $19.99.

Frank Vizetelly's illustrations have for decades been viewed in coffee table books on the Civil War. Yet the name of this graphic artist usually does not ring a bell with probably most readers. Bostick's book remedies the situation. Placing Vizetelly in the context of mid-19th century print journalism is helpful but Bostick offers only a page and a half on how the work of a sketch artist moves from the sketch pad to news print. Strengths of Bostick's work is the close attention paid to Vizetelly's travels inside the Confederacy and his success in getting the illustrations exported to London.

As a correspondent for the London Illustrated News, Vizetelly is challenged by the U.S. War department July 1861 after the Federal defeat at Bull Run. He then enters the Confederacy and views the battle of Fredericksburg and the 1863 Mississippi Campaign. The artist is quite comfortable among the plantation aristocracy, the cavalier and chivalrous officers of the Confederate forces. With a clear and concise narrative, Bostick provides many of Vizetelly's dispatches and finished sketches. Vizetelly reports as if he is at Chickamauga, but Sorrel, Longstreet's aide, reports in his Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer,that appears that Vizetelly arrived "long after the battle."

Vizetelly's anecdotes at times ring true and at other times there is a false ring to them. Did Vizetelly loan Jefferson Davis funds for his escape from Virginia? Bostick's account takes Vizetelly's memoirs at face value. This may leave some readers recalling the saying that the first casualty of war is truth. Was Vizetelly's illustrations a secret weapon of the Confederacy? Upon finishing Bostick's the book, CWL's reply is The Scots' Verdict: unproven.

Having no index and no bibliographic notes, The Confederacy's Secret Weapon: The Civil War Illustrations of Frank Vizetelly is not conducive to much further research. The brief bibliography does not list a book or article by Henry Vizetelly though on page 79 Bostick quotes from one. Yet, in providing a fine account of the life and times of Frank Vizetelly, sketch artist and correspondent of the London Illustrated News, Bostick offers a fine album of illustrations, a brief life on an English sketch artist and an introduction to the world of Civil War journalism.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New and Noteworthy---The Battle of the Crater: A Novel Entertains and Informs

The Battle of the Crater: A Novel, Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen, Thomas Dunne Books Inc., 384 pages, $27.99, audiobook, 10 compact disks, unabridged, $44.95.

Among the baggage that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich brings to the campaign, his successful career as a fiction writer is not being debated. During 2011 and 2012 much will be made of the alternative path that is being offered by this candidate. There is no discernible agenda in Gingrich's fiction other than to entertain and educate readers. With The Battle of the Crater, Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen tackle historical fiction without making alternative history.

Of the ten or so novels that the team of Gingrich and Forstchen have written CWL admits to having read none of them. Richard Slotkin's The Crater is on the short list of best Civil War fiction. Also, Richard Slotkin's No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 will stand the test of time for being the best treatment of the battle. So, CWL came to Gingrich's and Forstchen's novel with limited expectations and was surprised by having them exceeded. The authors do not simply supply characters, attitudes, and story for the sake of the marketplace. The aspirations of African American troops, the terrain and importance of the Elliot's Salient entrenchments, the failures of generals are presented accurately and in a compelling fashion.

The Battle of the Crater was just one day of the nearly nine month siege of Petersburg, Virginia. On July 30, 1864, the Federal army exploded an underground gallery under the Confederate earthworks. Federal and Confederate generals and soldiers, in a general sense, are accurately portrayed. The story unfolds with the help of a fictitious character. James Reilly, newspaper sketch artist and friend of Lincoln, for the most part narrates the novel. The historic character Sergeant Major Garland White of the 28th USCT regiment, an escaped slave, recruiter, non-commissioned officer and informal chaplain, shares narrative duties with Reilly. Both are compelling figures and the novel rests easily on their shoulders.

The author's novel doesn't lag, in part because like most historic fiction, time and characters are compressed, but events and plot points are not hastily inserted. The major and minor characters are well drawn and the resolution will be heart felt by readers. Written for the mass market, The Battle of the Crater: A Novel succeeds in both entertaining and informing.

Monday, November 21, 2011

News---Battle of Gettysburg Witness' Death Remembered

Sadie Shriver, An Eyewitness To The Battle of Gettysburg, Died at age 18, Jacqueline Palochko, The Evening Sun, November 20, 2011.

It's a solemn procession. Women are walking, holding flowers, with their hoop skirts hitting the fallen brown leaves on the ground. Men in top hats, staring straight ahead under the gray November clouds. Slowly, the crowd moves to Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg on Sunday morning. And around the gray, faded tombstones, they gather. More than 130 years ago, this is how the loved ones of Sadie Shriver might have said goodbye to her. But when her family buried her, one thing was missing -- a headstone.

This was a young woman who came from one of the oldest families in Adams County, Nancie Gudmestad, director of the Shriver House in Gettysburg said. A little girl who kissed her father, George Shriver, goodbye as he rode off to war. An eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg when she was just 7 years old. And when she was 18 years old -- two weeks before her 19th birthday -- she died from tuberculosis and was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery. Yet -- for some unknown reason -- her grave has been unmarked since she died in 1874. Until Sunday.

On what would have been her 156th birthday, a ceremony was held to unveil a headstone at Sadie's grave. A funeral procession with a couple dozen people, including re-enactors, traveled from the historical Shriver House on Baltimore Street to the cemetery.

So, they gathered around Sadie's grave. And spoke of how she must have seen the bloody, wounded soldiers during the battle. How she heard their last cries for help before they died. How she smelled gun smoke in the air. And among the crowd were some distant relatives of Sadie. A few years ago, Diane Weikert Dolan, of New Jersey, visited Gettysburg and toured the Shriver House. And when she started to hear the stories of the Shriver family and Sadie's mother -- Hettie Shriver, whose maiden name was Weikert -- it all sounded familiar. "They started telling me my family history," she said.

For Becki Powell, who now lives in Hershey, her family history was right under her nose. When she was living in Littlestown, she was a tour guide for the Shriver House. Around the same time, she started looking through books her family had been using to record their history. And there it was -- notes on Hettie and George Shriver in her family history book. Since then, Powell has visited Evergreen Cemetery to pay respects at the graves of her distant, long-lost relatives. She found the grave of Sadie's younger sister, Mollie; and their grandparents, Sarah and Jacob Weikert. But she always had trouble finding Sadie's. "I find this all very moving," Powell said of the ceremony for Sadie.

And before they left -- before they went back to their Sundays -- each visitor left a pebble on Sadie's grave. It's a Jewish tradition, Gudmestad said, to let the dead know they haven't been forgotten. "Sadie will know that someone came to visit her today," Gudmestad said.

Text and Image Source: Evening Sun November 20, 2011

News---Manassas Virginia Reports Reenactment Related Income A Healthy Sucess

Manassas Profits From Mass Casualties (reenactment), Tom Jackman, Washington Post, November 20, 2011.

Thousands of Civil War reenactors and spectators converged on Manassas in July. “Our hotel is air-conditioned, right?” Most Civil War reenactments are done for the pure pleasure of recapturing historical moments, educating others about our past, and sweating off large amounts of weight in authentically heavy uniforms. But for the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run, Manassas City and its businesses in Old Town were actually able to make some money, according to a new report issued by the city’s community development department.

. . . the report states, “The Sesquicentennial of the First Battle of Manassas was a singular event that is not expected to be repeated.” And what happened was that the city as a whole collected 14.4 percent more in meals taxes than in July 2010, which translates into an additional $811,500 in revenue for Manassas restaurants, the report figures.

In Old Town Manassas, shops saw increases of 55 percent for sales taxes and 21 percent for meals taxes, for more revenue. And sales at the Manassas Museum jumped 700 percent over the same time last year. ne party who didn’t cooperate: God. It was over 100 degrees most days of that July weekend, felt way hotter, and some events were canceled. But even this was turned into a positive because it allowed emergency management agencies to try out their response capabilities, and as a result there were no significant injuries, the report found.

So what does this mean for the sesquicentennial of the Second Battle of Bull Run, August 2012, a larger and even bloodier battle? Get those cash registers ready. And cool it with the heat waves, Big Man.

CWL: Here is the 27 page report of An Analysis of the City of Manassas Participation in the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of First Manassas, July 21 – 24, 2011

Text Source with some edits: Washington Post November 20 2011

Top Image Source: Kris's Photo a Day

Bottom Image Source: Manassas Civil War.org

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New and Noteworthy---John Brown Is In Everybody's Attic

Midnight Rising: John Brown And The Raid That Sparked The Civil War, Tony Horwitz, Henry Holt/MacMillian Publishing, 383 pages, 55 illustration, 4 maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, $29.00. Unabridged Audiobook with Author Interview, $39.95.

In the 1998, the very funny and popular Confederates In The Attic, Tony Horwitz gained a degree of notoriety for pursuing Civil War reenactors. What does the the American Civil War mean to men who dress in blue or gray wool, to children in classrooms and to pickup drivers who fly Confederate flags from their truck beds? In Midnight Rising Horwitz pursues the historic Civil War character of John Brown, an individual who used terror to confront terrorism.

W.E.B. DuBois, a noted African-American historian, looked back on the historiography concerning John Brown's life, his murders, his kidnappings, his armed insurrection and his execution for treason against the state of Virginia. He noted that many historians concluded that Brown was insane and an impractical, if not a stupid, terrorist. What makes Brown impossible to understand, the historian noted, is also what makes Brown understandable to blacks. Brown was willing to risk his life and was willing to die to set African-Americans free from slavery. For John Brown, slavery was a war against blacks and it was a war that started along time before Brown himself was born.

Since the 1980s John Brown has become understandable. Stephen Oates' To Purge This Land With Blood and David S. Reynolds' John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights have reignited interest in Brown's life of violence. Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising: John Brown And The Raid That Sparked The Civil War describes John Brown as expanding his sense of self from childhood through his execution and his death. Indeed, Horwitz finds suspense in Brown's wrestling, and at times failing, to become a successful family man, a prosperous businessman, an industrious community member and an accepted authority in a faith community.

John Brown cannot be understood without the context of America from 1800 to 1860, an era when multiple American revolutions were happening: political, industrial, transportation, religious, agricultural and economic. Brown was caught up in them all. Horwitz concisely acknowledges the state of the Union during these decades and recognizes the national trends that are causing havoc in Brown's life. He moved through New England and made friends with Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Frederick Douglass, a man who stole himself from slavery, counted John Brown as a friend. Several abolitionists throughout the North contributed to Brown chosen cause and efforts. His friends included several of the wealthiest men of the era. But, there were also bankers who dealt with his business failures.

In the early 1850s with nothing to inherit due to Brown's financial failings in the domestic international wool markets, his children moved to Kansas for a fresh start. In June 1855 John Brown, at the urging of his sons, travelled to Kansas in order to participate in Kansas' civil war. By early 1856 the city of Lawrence had been burned and its abolitionist citizens were left dead in its streets. On May 24 Brown and his sons travelled to nearby Pottawatomie Creek and late at night he directed the murder of five pro slavery settlers.

During January 1857, In an effort to aid the antislavery fight in Kansas, Franklin Sanborn, secretary of the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee, introduced Brown to influential abolitionists in the Boston area. These acquaintances constituted themselves as the "Secret Six" who would fund Brown's lawlessness. By January 1858 Brown, with his sons and others rode into Missouri and attacked two homesteads, confiscated horses and wagons and stole eleven of the farmers' slaves. Brown and the raiders traveled eighty-two days, covered over a thousand miles, and to delivered the slaves to freedom in Canada. Within the next year, Brown would conceive a plan to steal and move Virginia's slaves into the Appalachian Mountains and then northward.

On July 3 1859 John Brown rented a farmhouse a few miles outside of Harpers Ferry, Virginia. A member of his party began to reconnoiter the U.S. arsenal at the convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. During August, Brown and Frederick Douglass gathered together for a clandestine meeting at a rock quarry near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Brown tried to convince Douglass to join him in a raid to Harpers Ferry and its environs. Douglass told Brown that the place was 'a perfect steel trap' and refused to become an accomplice.

On October 16 Brown with his raiders seized the armory at Harpers Ferry, removed slaves from nearby plantations and remained long enough to be trapped in the fire engine house. By October 18 he fell into the hands of the U.S. Army. The politicos in Washington D.C. also sensed a trap for themselves and turned Brown and the surviving raiders over to Virginia authorities. On November 2 a Virginia jury after a week of trial and forty-five minutes of deliberation declared John Brown guilty of murder, treason, and inciting a slave insurrection.

During the morning of December 2 John Brown wrote the following message: 'I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had as I now think, vainly flattered myself, that without very much bloodshed, it might be done.' Brown was hanged that day and a year later, South Carolina was in the midst of seceding from the Union.

Much like the December 2 note, Horwitz shows Brown evolving into the role of a public martyr. Smoothly written, well paced and at times dramatic, Horwitz takes Brown seriously as a man who wrestles with his own failures and the failures of his nation. The author does not over dramatize the story. The characters around Brown are unique and engaging without a writer's help. Thankfully Horowitz avoids bringing forth into his John Brown story such currents events as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Such remarks have marred the Emory Thomas’ Dogs of War and have already dated Louis P. Masur's A Concise History of the Civil War.

Readers of David Reynolds’ John Brown and Stephen Oates' To Purge This Land With Blood are encouraged to return to Horwitz’s John Brown. Like Reynolds and Oates, Horwitz offers an engaging, multi-dimensional and compelling biography of a puzzling character who makes trouble for nearly all readers. Those familiar with Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic will find a character who would not have believed that the Civil War started on April 12 1861, but had started many decades before.

Bottom Image Source: Harpers Ferry Historical Association

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New and Noteworthy---Forrest's Fighting Preacher

Forrest's Fighting Preacher: David Campbell Kelly of Tennessee, Michael R. Bradley, Hisory Press, 145 pp., illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, notes, 2011, $19.99.

Before the war he was a pastor, at the beginning of the war he was a recruiter, during the war he as an aide to N.B. Forrest and by the end of the war he had commanded a regiment, a battalion and a brigade. David Campbell Kelly's adventures are described in Forrest's Fighting Preacher: David Campbell Kelly of Tennessee. It serves as a fine 'slice of life' biography, a window into the Forrest's command, and a picture of Tennessee pastor.

Bradley reveals Kelly to be Forrest's trusted confidant. For Kelley, a clergyman who had served for two years as a missionary in China, his return to Tennessee conincided with the election of Lincoln and Tennessee's secession. He raised a cavalry company from his large congregation. The unit began its service in N. B. Forrest's original regiment. Kelley became Forrest's second in command, served in combat, offered on Forrest's staff and as ade-de-camp and chaplain. After the war, Kelley returned to the ministry and took part in the establishment of Vanderbilt University. Later he stood for the office of the governor of Tennessee.

Michael R. Bradley earned his PhD from Vanderbilt University and taught U.S. history for thirty-six years at Motlow College in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Now professor emeritus, he remains an active author and speaker. He is recognized for his several works, including Nathan Bedford Forrest's Escort And Staff , Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee and With Blood and Fire: Life Behind Union Lines in Middle Tennessee, 1863-65 .

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New And Noteworthy---What Did Blockade Runners Bring Into The Confederacy?

The Denbigh's Civilian Imports: Customs Records of a Civil War Blockade Runner between Mobile and Havana, J. Barto Arnold III, Institute of Nautical Archaeology, 512 pages, paperback, 2011, $40.00

The Denbigh Shipwreck Project Publication Number 5 offers customs forms and invoices revealed details of everyday life during the Civil War, January and June 1864. Hundreds of small orders for individually identified families as well as orders for merchants. The invoices presented might just as well be answers for survey questions to the lady of the house such as, “What six items would you like us to bring you from the general store in Havana ?”

A typical invoice might contain 20 yds. of fabric for new clothes, 6 pairs of children’s shoes, 10 lbs. of fancy tea, and 200 cigars. The book offers an amazing look into the import business during wartime and fascinating details on those Southerners who could afford them.
Bottom Image Source: Robert Oreg

Monday, November 14, 2011

New and Noteworthy---The Real War Has Gotten Into A Book: The Civil War Medical Photography Archive of Harewood Hospital

Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Photography, Book One: Wounded Soldiers Identified, 101 Regiments From the Harewood Hospital Album, Reed B. Bontecou, M.D., The Burns Archive Press, 165 pp., 100 b/w photographs, indices, primary references, $50.00.

Clinical photographs taken of the wounded soldiers taken by Dr. Reed Bontecou, were at one time among the collections of the Army Medical Museum. Later scattered, many are now in Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Photography, Book One: Wounded Soldiers Identified, 101 Regiments From the Harewood Hospital Album. Dr. Stanley Burns' 35 year pursuit benefits readers with this publication, the size of which is 5 3/4" by 6 3/4".

The first of several projected this volume, this volume of portraits present wounded soldiers' partially clothed with their wounds exposed and each patient holds a chalkboard with their names on it. The image of. J. E. Jolliff, Company K, 116 Pennsylvania Volunteers graces the book's cover. An extensive introduction offers a history of the photographs, a biographical sketch Dr. Reed B. Bontecou, an explanation of new weapons and the war's tactics, and a brief history Harewood Hospital.

The photographs are presented as 3.5 x 5.5 images with one photograph per page. Page 37 is typical of the format. "David R. Tempelton, Co. A., 46 NY, Petersburg, April 2, 1865, gun shot wound, left eye, [photograph taken] at time of admission. At 16, was admitted to HHH, Arpil 5 with gunshot wound of the head. Ball hit left temple, just back of outer angle of eye, grazing malar bone and eyeball, destroying sight; passed off producing fles would of the tip of the nose. Was wounded at Petersburgh April 2nd 1865. He is now well."

There are indices of the regiments, and the battles at which his subjects received their wounds. The bibliography of includes both print and online primary sources. This book aids general readers of the war ,and those readers specializing in medical history and Civil War photography. In summary, CWL recalls the words of the radio correspondent who May 6, 1937 watched the explosion and destruction of the zeppelin Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey. "The humanity! Oh! The humanity!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Film Coming in 2012, 2013---12 Years a Slave: Kidnapped And Sold Into Slavery, An Autobiography

Director Steve McQueen is already getting plenty of attention for his sexually controversial film Shame starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, and while his next film, Twelve Years a Slave already sounds promising featuring a reunion with the X-Men: First Class star and Chiwetel Ejiofor, the new is sure to get a considerable amount of exposure with a huge name now joining the cast. Screen Daily reports (and The Playlist confirms) that Brad Pitt, who is already producing the film through his Plan B production banner, will also have a role in the film written by McQueen along with Three Kings scribe John Ridley.

Based on Solomon Northup's 1853 autobiography, the film will tell the story of a free black man (Ejiofor) who found himself kidnapped and turned into a slave for twelve, long, grueling years under numerous owners. Northup was a happy, married, educated and free black man living in New York who was approached by two men with a job offer in Washington D.C. But upon his arrival in the capitol, he was kidnapped, put in a slave pen and passed around through various slave owners for twelve years. As an autobiography, the book is a detailed firsthand account of the slave markets in D.C. right down to the food served to the slaves. Spoiler alert for those who don't want to know too much, the real-life story has a happy ending with the man able to secure his freedom when a white carpenter from Canada, who didn't believe in slavery, smuggled out letters to Northup's wife, thus initiating a court case that set him free.

It's not clear what role Pitt will take in the film, but it's my bet that he'll play one of the various slave owners. Fassbender's role has yet to be confirmed either, but it's been speculated that he'll play the carpenter from Canada, though that role could just as easily end up going to Pitt. Either way, with a film like Shame putting McQueen in the spotlight for its NC-17 sexual drama, and a stellar cast, that includes a long deserved lead role for Ejiofor, this is already one of my more anticipated films in the coming years.

Text Source: First Showing
Top Image: Black Film
Bottom Image: Brad Pitt in film The Assassination of Jessee James

Journal of the Civil War Era: Volume 1 Number 3: Messmates, Illinois Politics, Women's Civil War History

The Journal of the Civil War Era announces the publication of its December 2011 issue, Voume 1 number 4. The journal is a collaborative effort between the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State and the University of North Carolina Press. It canvasses the history-cultural, social, and economic as well as political and military-of the United States from roughly 1830 to 1890.

The contents of the December 2011 edition are as follows:


Rachel A. Shelden, "Messmates' Union: Friendship, Politics, and Living Arrangements in the Capital City, 1845-1861"

Bruce Levine, "'The Vital Element of the Republican Party': Antislavery, Nativism, and Abraham Lincoln"

James L. Huston, "The Illinois Political Realignment of 1844-1860: Revisiting the Analysis"

Review Essay:

Lyde Cullen Sizer, "Mapping the Spaces of Women's Civil War History"

Professional Notes:

Brian Kelly and John W. White, "The After Slavery Website: A New Online Resource for Teaching U.S. Slave Emancipation"

Further information about the journal, including subscription rates, may be found at: http://www.journalofthecivilwarera.com/

Thursday, November 10, 2011

News---Gettysburg's Lutheran Seminary Building Becomes Battle Museum

Seminary Building Will Be Refurbished Into A Museum To Show Its Role In The Battle Of Gettysburg, Steve Marroni, The Evening Sun, November 2, 2011.

One of the most historically significant Civil War buildings in private hands soon will be refurbished into a state-of-the-art museum and will be open to the public just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Schmucker Hall at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg was a lookout point and the center of the Union’s defenses the first day of the three-day battle. And in the following days, it served as a field hospital for hundreds of wounded soldiers.

Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation President John Spangler said the museum will teach people about the building’s role in the battle, as well as the sig­nificance religion played in the lives of Americans during the time of the Civil War.
“What’s amazing to me is that on both sides, Union and Confederate troops sat by the fire at night, and read from the same Bible", Spangler said.

The seminary, along with the Adams County Historical Society and the preservation foundation, received a $4 million state grant last week for The Voices of History campaign, which will transform the 1832 building into a fourstory, state-of-the-art museum. The building, once called the Old Dorm, has not been in use for students since the 1950s. Currently, the top two floors are not being used at all because of unsatisfactory heating and cooling and lack of humidity control, but the bottom two are a part of the historical society, where much of its collection is on display.

Spangler said Schmucker Hall played a significant role in the first day of the battle. The cupola at the top of the building has been a prominent feature for many historians, and was where Union cavalry Gen. John Buford observed the approaching Confederate army and met with Gen. John Reynolds to develop a plan.

Bradley Hoch, chairman of the Adams County Historical Society board of directors, said the Union's First Corps suffered 5,700 casualties killed, wounded and missing out of 8,000 soldiers as they defended the position at Schmucker Hall, giving the Union time to fortify other key points along the battlefield. He said the Union essentially traded lives for time. Each floor of the museum will have interpretive displays, bringing to life the history of Schmucker Hall, Spangler said. The fourth floor will be dedicated to the events of the first day of the battle that occurred around Schmucker Hall. The third floor will follow Schmucker Halls use as a field hospital during the remainder of the battle, and through September of that year. The second floor will focus on the moral and social history of the period, and will feature displays on faith, issues of slavery and freedom and the Underground Railroad, Spangler said. The first floor will be a reception area.

The museum will include murals, artifacts, and audio and video displays. It also will feature interactive maps, recreations of hospital scenes with die-cast statues and much more. The historical society is now packing up artifacts and moving them out of Schmucker Hall in preparation for construction, which is excepted to begin in December. The museum is expected to be ready by spring 2013.

Text and Image Source: The Evening Sun, 11.01.11

Sesquicentennial News----Port Royal Sound, November 1861

The Battle of Port Royal is among the earliest amphibious operations of the American Civil War. The United States' navy and army captured Port Royal Sound, South Carolina,on November 7, 1861. The sound lies between Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina and was guarded by two forts on opposite sides of the entrance: on the south was Fort Walker located on Hilton Head Island and to the north Fort Beauregard located on Phillip's Island.

Beginning on November 3 the amphious force assembled in the Atlantic close to its force's objective. Because of losses occurred during an Atlantic storm, the army was not able to land. The Federal attack was solely between ship-based guns and land based guns.

The fleet attacked on November 7 by bombarding Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard. After passing both forts several times, the fleet assumed enfilading positions that took advantage of both forts. Four Confederate gunboats appeared then fled into a creek. By the afternoon, a majority of the forts' artillery pieces could not be service by the Confederate gunners and the Confederate infantrymen had fled the forts. Fort Walker fell to landing parties from the Federal flagship.

Those Confederates gaurding Fort Beauregard assumed that they would soon have no way to escape and they abandoned the fort. Another landing party took possession of the Fort Beauregard later in the day. Though facing a heavy volume of fire, neither the Federal nor the Confederates suffered heavily and casualties were light. In both forts 11 men were killed, 47 were wounded, and 4 were missing. In the fleet, 8 were killed and 23 wounded. Immediately following the capture of the forts, the Union forces occupied Beaufort, Georgia, and moving north occupied St. Helena Sound. The northward expansion continued up to the rivers south of Charleston,
South Carolina.

The Civil War Navy blogsite offers a list of bloggers, news, resources and commemoration activities. Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial Bloggers. Matthew Eng, Coordinator, Deputy Educator, Hampton Roads Naval Museum, and Civil War Navy's blogsite coordinator, his other Blog Contributions: Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Naval History

Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial Website

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

News---President Signs Proclamation, Establishes Fort Monroe National Monument

President Barack Obama Tuesday signed an executive order making Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., which closed as a military base in September, a National Monument. Fort Monroe "was the site of the first slave ships to land in the New World," Obama said during the Oval Office signing. "But then in the Civil War, almost 250 years later, Fort Monroe also became a refuge for slaves that were escaping from the South, and helped to create the environment in which Abraham Lincoln was able to sign that document up there -- the Emancipation Proclamation."

Obama said the National Monument designation would bring millions of dollars to the region and create 3,000 jobs. "There's a strong economic component to this. We think we're going to see additional jobs in Virginia as a consequence of this. But for those members of Congress who are here, I still need some action from Congress on the American Jobs Act and other steps," the president said.

Remarks by the President at Signing of a Presidential Proclamation Establishing the Fort Monroe National Monument, President Barack Hussein Obama, Oval Office, White House, Washington, DC, November 2, 2011.

"Well, one of the great pleasures of this job, but also one of my responsibilities, is making sure that we are preserving our nation’s treasures so that they can be enjoyed by our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren. And over the years, over 100 sites have been set aside as national monuments -- everything from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon.

"So today, I am continuing that proud tradition by adding another monument to the list: Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, has played a remarkable role in the history of our nation. It was the site of the first slave ships to land in the New World. But then in the Civil War, almost 250 years later, Fort Monroe also became a refuge for slaves that were escaping from the South, and helped to create the environment in which Abraham Lincoln was able to sign that document up there -- the Emancipation Proclamation.

"In September, Fort Monroe closed its doors as a military base. But thanks to advocacy of some outstanding citizens and historians and elected officials who are represented here, as well as the great work of our Department of the Interior and Ken Salazar and the -- all the people who have been involved in making this day possible, we are going to continue this legacy, making Fort Monroe a national monument.

"This is going to give an opportunity for people from all across the country to travel to Fort Monroe and trace the history that has been so important to making America what it is. It’s also going to be an incredibly important economic boost to the region. Local officials estimate that this may end up creating as many as 3,000 jobs in the region. It will add millions of dollars to the local economy in and around Hampton. And so this is a win-win. Not only is it good for the people of that region now, but it also allows us to set aside this incredibly important site for the enjoyment and appreciation of generations to come.

"So I want to thank everybody who’s here for the great work that they’ve done. I am looking forward to not only visiting myself but also taking Malia and Sasha down there so they can get a little bit of sense of their history. And I thank the Commonwealth of Virginia for giving us this opportunity to appreciate the remarkable history of their state but also of this country.

So with that, I’m going to sign this bill -- or executive order.(The executive order is signed.) There you go. (Applause.) Just one last point I want to make. As I said, there’s a strong economic component to this. We think we’re going to see additional jobs in Virginia as a consequence of this. But for those members of Congress who are here, I still need some action from Congress -- (laughter) -- on the American Jobs Act and othttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifher steps. But in the meantime, this is going to make a big difference. And again, I want to thank everybody here, particularly the private citizens who put their time and money and effort into making this day possible.

Top Text Source: United Press International

Bottom Text Source: White House

Top Image Source: Hampton Roads
Middle Image Source: Missouri Law
Bottom Image Source: White House

Off Topic---Stephen King 'Creeps Me Out'

Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King, Scribner's Publishing, Pocket Books paperback edition, 576 pp., $9.95.

Once a decade CWL reads a book by Stephen King. During the previous decade it was On Writing which is in part a memoir and in part a writer's workshop lecture. It reveals a practical view of his craft and the contents of his toolkit. While looking for something that would 'creep him out' during autumn's dying of the light, CWL turned to King's 2010 Full Dark, No Stars.

The work Richard Matheson, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe is echoed and enhanced by King. In Full Dark, No Stars's first story '1922' is reminiscent of Poe's A Tell-Tale Heart. A farmer, making his son an accomplice, kills his wife; the motivation is that the wife has inherited land that she wants to sell to a pork rendering plant. The story meets King's checklist of being propelling and assaulting. But the characters' marionette strings are pulled conspicuously by King. The wife could have sold the land in a heart beat, taken the money and moved to Omaha; the author stops her. Even before the murder the farmer, who is not worth a pinch of owl's dung, lets rats overrun his barn. That is especially bad when the wife's ghoul sends them to do her bidding. CWL lived 20 years on a dairy and beef farm. No rats, just cats. Though the story meets King's criteria, set forth in an essay at the end of the book, of running at full speed on an open highway, 1922 has a few large and obvious potholes.

On the other hand, the next three stories, Big Driver, Fair Extension and A Good Marriage are are nearly irristable. Well plotted, with characters that are obnoxiously attractive and climaxes these stories are subtle, and satifying. The stories have a quick pace. Mundane details and slight metaphors fix images in the mind of the careful reader. The romance author in Big Driver can be a bit cloying; but her cat and her GPS hold to the Socratic Method and ask questions that keep the author and the reader on task. In Fair Extension, a devil appears with an offer that should have been refused by a loan officer with terminal cancer. This story is a long list of painful circumstances imposed on the banker's best friend and his family. The ending is both striking and disappointing. The protagonist is left staring at the planet Venus, thinking that life is good. The scene is reminescent of work by playwright Henrik Ibsen and the novelist Norman Mailer.

A Good Marriage offers a question and an answer. How would a wife who has a good marriage respond when she learns that her husband is a serial killer? This is King's most successful short story among the four in Full Dark, No Stars. The main character's narrative voice is clear and relates her utterly boring, normal life in a marriage with two children. Like the other main characters in these stories, the wife discovers a double life witin her marriage partner, and then she discovers her own double life. In each of these stories these characters talk to themselves in slang and baby talk. It is annoying. Yet for CWL the overall effect of these four stories is that they do indeed 'creep him out.'

After the four short stories, King offers a further look at his motivation. He has been writing for the market place since he was 18 and has been in the trade for over 40 years. It's not about the money reports the fiction writer who is a multi-millionaire. King can not stop writing fiction; he has his own criteria and standards. You might like some of his stories; you might not like some of his stories. He might judge himself as more successful in some stories and less so in others. There will be more to come. CWL expects to continue to read King's work, sometime in the next decade, just like the past four decades.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Forthcoming---Demon of the Lost Cause: Sherman, His Autobiography, And His Spin

Demon of the Lost Cause: Sherman and Civil War History, Wesley Moody, University of Missouri, 200 pages, $30.00. Release Date: November 20, 2011

Review by William C. Davis for History Book Club:

"Not too many years ago a speaker at a Civil War symposium in St. Louis announced that when the program was over, he was going to visit the local cemetery where General William T. Sherman is buried to “piss on his grave.” Not the most temperate of notions, perhaps, but one that certainly reflects the attitude of millions of Southerners past and present toward one of history’s most controversial commanders. No general on either side generated more visceral animosity, nor has any other leader in the Civil War been so damned on the basis of myth, prejudice and general ignorance.

"Sherman was living in Louisiana when the crisis erupted, and in fact few other future leaders of the Union’s armies had as close an experience and understanding of the South as he did. And oddly enough, in light of his later reputation, Sherman rather liked the South, and felt some sympathy for its plight in 1861 when it found itself backed into a corner over issues surrounding slavery. One of the answers to critics who condemn him for the damage done during his march across Georgia in 1864 is that he saw it as a way of shortening the war, and thereby lessening the overall injury to the South of more years of protracted war.

"As for the widespread destruction that he perpetrated in Georgia in his March to the Sea, a great deal of it is simple myth. Scores of the houses and barns that he supposedly burned are still standing. His army, in fact, cut only a narrow swath either side of its route of march to Savannah, and even his goal was primarily seizure of foodstuffs needed by his army, and destruction of anything that could aid the Confederate war effort. There was virtually no sanctioned wanton destruction. Even the burning of much of Columbia, South Carolina, was against his orders, though he did not try over hard to prevent it once commenced.

"In his new book Demon of the Lost Cause: Sherman and Civil War History, Wesley Moody takes on this myth and many others, including those that Sherman himself helped to create or promote. No man who has been at the center of epochal events is immune to the temptation to take the high ground in crafting his own place in history, and Sherman was no exception. His two-volume memoir, published in 1890, became almost as controversial as the general himself, and Moody does an admirable job of sifting the fact from the “spin.”

"What emerges is a Sherman who was neither beast nor saint, neither a cruel destroyer of civilians and their world, nor a far-seeing prophet of 20th-century warfare. Historians and readers of today may find as much stuff of controversy in Moody’s depiction of Sherman as our ancestors did in the man himself, but no student or study of the man who made war a sort of hell can afford to ignore Demon of the Lost Cause in the future.

"By the way. The historian in St. Louis changed his mind, and Sherman’s grave remains to date, so far as is known, unsoiled."

Thursday, November 03, 2011

New and Noteworthy---Lincoln, Two Constitutions And The War

Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation: Constitutional Conflict in the American Civil War, Mark E. Neely, University of North Carolina Press, 410 pages, notes, bibliography, index,$35.00. [November 2011]

From the publisher: The Civil War placed the U.S. Constitution under unprecedented--and, to this day, still unmatched--strain. In Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark Neely examines for the first time in one book the U.S. Constitution and its often overlooked cousin, the Confederate Constitution, and the ways the documents shaped the struggle for national survival.

Previous scholars have examined wartime challenges to civil liberties and questions of presidential power, but Neely argues that the constitutional conflict extended to the largest questions of national existence. Drawing on judicial opinions, presidential state papers, and political pamphlets spiced with the everyday immediacy of the partisan press, Neely reveals how judges, lawyers, editors, politicians, and government officials, both North and South, used their constitutions to fight the war and save, or create, their nation.

Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation illuminates how the U.S. Constitution not only survived its greatest test but emerged stronger after the war. That this happened at a time when the nation's very existence was threatened, Neely argues, speaks ultimately to the wisdom of the Union leadership, notably President Lincoln and his vision of the American nation.

CWL: The author of The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction , The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America , The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause and many others, Mark Neely offers a thorough discussion secession, habeas corpus, the presidency, soldiers in courtrooms, the police state of Richmond Virginia, and states' rights in the Confederacy. Readers will be informed and possibly provoked. In a lifetime of studying Lincoln, the Constitution of 1787, the Confederate Constitution, civil liberties on both side of the Mason-Dixon Line, Mark Neely offers both a distillation of his previous works and new information and interpretation of how the Constitution of 1787, as a legal foundation, was stressed and saved in the courtrooms of The North, The South and The West during the war.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Civil War Fiction: CWL's List Of The Top Five

In response to an online query, CWL offers a list of five novels that will satisfy the Civil War reader and probably anyone with an undergraduate degree in history or English.The Crater, Richard Slotkin; Shiloh, Shelby Foote; The Falling Hills, Perry Lentz; Bright, Starry Banner, Alden Carter; and of course, Killer Angels, Michael Shaara. These titles are not in any particular order.

Also, on a separate list are the novels by Howard Bahr: The Black Flower, The Year of Jubilo, The Judas Field, Home of Christmas. I could begin reading again any one of them at any time of the day.

Here's two of the top five with the others coming soon.

The Falling Hills, by Perry Lentz was published in 1994 by the University of South Carolina Press. The novel's 470 pages offers a driving narrative of black Federal soldiers, white Federal officers, Confederate cavalrymen, Southern civilians who loyal Unionists and loyal Confederates. The very structures and cultures of Fort Pillow and west Tennessee come alive with colorful and menacing details. Combat scenes are exceptionally well done.

Bright, Starry Banner, by Alden Carter was published by Soho Press in 2004. I was skeptical because of the cover: Modern Neo-Confederate art work and the title: Bright Starry Banner. But I was wrong. I have visited Stones River National Battlefield Park and had a fair understanding of the battle. Alden recreates it accurately. The other strengths of this novel is the characterizations of the privates to the generals.

The bright starry banner of the title describes both flags, not just the one on the cover. From CWL's reading of diaries and experience as a reenactor, the grit of the battle lines and reactions of soldiers on the front rings true. The generals are not gods; they are very human in Alden's novel. What makes this book better than most CW fiction are the ideas in it. It's not all fighting; God, faith, slavery, honor, and sex are on the minds of these characters and these ideas are not the modern notions of them but are placed in the context of mid-19th century America but not constrained by it.