Wednesday, December 31, 2008

CWL---Saving the Gettysburg Cyclorama

Saving the Gettysburg Cyclorama, Gettysburg Foundation, DVD, 60 minutes, 2009. $21.95.

You may have seen it before, but never like it is today. In its nearly 125-year history, the 16,000-square-foot, four ton, 125 year old Gettysburg cyclorama- panorama painting has lost about 40% of its canvas. It's moved around the country half a dozen times. It has been burned. It has been cut up. It has painted over. It has been stored under roofs with only three walls.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama has been restored to its original 377 feet long and 43 high is being hyperbolic shape and is now on display at the Gettysburg Military Park's $125 million visitor center, theatre and museum building.

If you saw it in the old visitors center, you saw a flat canvas in a circle. Now, two years and over $11 millions later, the cyclorama painting has two surface cleaning, the wax and glue backing removed, the old patches over tears removed, and the cracks in the paint restored. It now hangs with a slight bow in the canvas, a convex curve that brings center line of sight almost 18 inches closer to the viewer, who does not now stand at the bottom of the painting and looks up but stands on and elevated platform and looks directly at the center of the painting.

This dvd not only pays attention to the preservation procedures but also to the painting's history and the history of panoramic art that was so popular in the mid-19th century. From Pilippoteaux's first visit to the battlefield, his commissioning of photographs to be taken from a tower erected at the Angle, and finally to his team of painters execution of the work, the dvd is a brief but thorough presentation of art, popular culture and preservation science.

Top Image: Newsday

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

CWL--- One Northern County's Civil War: Tremendous Resource, Tremendous Story

Our Honored Dead: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the American Civil War, Arthur B. Fox, Mechling Bookbindery, photographs, maps, notes, index, bibliography, 486 pages,2008, $39.95.

In Pennsylvania, the cities of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny City and the rest of Allegheny County raised over 200 companies of infantry, cavalry and artillery during the Civil War. Arthur Fox has set forth a clear, complete and very well referenced description Allegheny County's soldiers. With tables of the 1860 and 1870 census, a composite of troop calls, quotas and numbers of Allegheny County and Pennsylvania troops, Fox has find the important numbers for local regional and state researchers as well as social historians. By providing 27 maps that show the cities, boroughs and townships and the major battles at which Allegheny County troops fought, Fox has provided a much needed resource for those not immersed in the military history of the Civil War. Indeed the 71 photographic portraits and drawings embedded in the text insure that the non-Civil War expert will be comfortable with Fox's book.

Readers coming for the first time to mid-19th century history will be pleased to find an entertaining and informative discussion of the county's canals, railroads, newspapers, politics, fire fighting and law enforcement efforts, taverns, horse racing, industries (including the ironworks and the arsenal) and many other things, that form the socio-political environment of the county's' soldiers. Even artists and the 1864 Sanitary Fair are covered in Fox's description of the county.

Fox's treatment of the military companies consists of: dates of enlistment, a biographical description of field officers, the county organization of the regiment, the Allegheny county companies and their captains, the organization of the regiment and its military service, its losses, and its published regimental histories. The book is extensively (35 pages) indexed by subject, personal names, and geographic locations. The bibliography is over 20 pages. Each chapter has its own notes which number 30 to 50. There are 10 appendices regarding; statistics, medal of honor winners, African-American soldiers, generals, Roman Catholic nuns, the payroll of the Allegheny Arsenal which exploded on September 17, 1862, steamships built on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio River docks in Allegheny, Civil War monuments, and a case study of the veterans of one company, and a list of repositories of Civil War documents.

Because of the wealth of information on Allegheny County, on Pennsylvania, and as a fine model of historic research and writing Our Honored Dead: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the American Civil War should be added to the collections all Pennsylvania public, academic, and historical society libraries.

Arthur B. Fox is professor of geography and also teaches courses in regional history and popular culture. His 2002 book, Pittsburgh During the American Civil War, 1860-1865 is a standard among Civil War era Northern urban studies. He was a contributing editor to the African-American Historic Sites Survey of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Monday, December 29, 2008

New On The CWL Bookshelf---The Biography of A Writer: Lincoln

Lincoln: A Biography Of A Writer, Fred Kaplan, Harper Publishing, 406pp., annotated bibliography, notes, index, $27.95.

CWL thoroughly enjoys biographies of writers when the biography is written by an historian. Stephen Oates on William Faulkner! David Reynolds on Walt Whitman! William Manchester on H. L. Mencken! And now Fred Kaplan on Lincoln! Though a professor of English, Kaplan has written on Mark Twain, Gore Vidal, Charles Dickens, Henry James and Thomas Carlyle and has treated sources even-handedly, paid attention to the main currents of the writers' eras and has no allegiance to a particular theoretical, psychological or social school of criticism.

What were the elements that shaped Lincoln's imaginative and mental disciplines? How did Lincoln develop his literary style? Lincoln's childhood contained a search for all the books he could lay his hands on. The King James Bible, Shakespeare, Bunyan, Burns, and Byron were among the classics he read as well as a fair sample of popular sentimental and political literature of the times.

Recently much has been made of Obama's study and use of Lincoln's life and works. In both Obama's autobiographies and in the Time magazine interview of 2003, he treats Lincoln was an icon, model, and teacher. From the photograph to the left, it appears that Obama's next excursion into his Lincoln studies will be Fred Kaplan's Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer. CWL is starting on his copy of the biography, which arrived on December 25th.

Top Image Source: Very Well Said

Bottom Image Source: Daylife, Photo Segment from a larger AP Photo by Charles Dharapak. Caption: President-elect Barack Obama, carrying the book "Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer" by Fred Kaplan, leaves the home of friend Penny Pritzker after having dinner in Chicago, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008.

Off Topic Novel---A Novel of Detection Set at West Point, 1830

The Pale Blue Eye, Louis Bayard, $24.95 hardcover, $14.95 softcover, 432pp., Harper Collins, 2006.

At West Point Academy in the autumn 1830 a cadet commits suicide by hanging. While being stored in an icehouse the dead man's heart is removed. West Point neighbor and retired NYC policeman, Augustus Landor is asked by academy adminstrators to discreetly investigate. At risk is the academy's fledgling reputation. Landor enlists the aid of cadet E. A. Poe. Yes, that E. A. Poe who was indeed a West Point cadet at that time. The New Yorker and the Virginia are certainly a different Holmes-Watson pair of investigators.

Landor has his sorrows; both his wife and his daughter died soon after relocating from New York City to the Hudson River Valley. Superintendent Thayer has his priorities. Poe has his metaphors and insider inforamtion on the student body. The trio find themselves confronting a second murder and mutiliation. Clues, codes, and cults are examined and psychological suspense ensues. This reader suspended his disbelief in due time but also found a few outlandish developments that made him wince. But, Bayard's delightfully executed period prose and details were thoroughly enjoyable and returned this reader to his required disbelief. The meticulously described historical setting, the young Poe's literary inspirations, and Lander's veiled confessions provided incentive to bear with the slightly preposterous intrustions from the 1980s, such as the possiblity of a Satanic cult. These intrusions are rare and the plot does not hinge upon them.

Overall, The Pale Blue Eye is enjoyable because the plot hangs together, and the characters of Landor, Poe and Thayer are well described and compelling. The details of Benny Haven's Tavern and West Point's dining and residence halls appear accurate. The main detraction is a cinematically overwrought climax which fortunately is not the conclusion of the novel. Poe is not only a poet but a detective and uncovers the policeman's secrets at the very end.

News---Antietam's Cornfield Yields Grave of New York Soldier

Union Soldier's Remains Found at Antietam, Linda Wheeler, Washington Post, December 28, 2008.

The soldier was just a teenager. Somewhere in New York state, he had signed up to fight for the Union. The band was playing on the day he marched away from home, headed South to to kill those rebels. Everyone said it would be a short war. He'd be home in no time. All of that ended on Sept. 17, 1862 at Antietam when he and his comrades were crossing a farmer's field. A bullet or piece of shrapnel found him. He sagged to the ground and was dead. His buddies moved on; they had to. The fighting was intense. By the end of the day, the battle considered the bloodiest of the war would end with 23,000 casualties.

The next day, under a flag of truce, a Union burial detail began its grim work. Sometime in the next week, the New Yorker was put in a shallow grave near where he fell, but away from the the farmer's plow. He was buried near a limestone outcropping that rippled just above the surface. This was temporary. Either his family or the government would move him to a cemetery and give him a proper burial. No one ever came for him. His grave was overlooked when the Union dead were gathered and moved to the new Antietam National Cemetery, dedicated exactly five years after the battle.

For 146 seasons, crops were planted all around him and even over him if a farmer could make the tight turn at the rocky place, but nothing disturbed his sleep. He could have been there forever, never found and never known except for a ground hog who happened to build a tunnel at that spot. The tunnel was deep, angling down under the limestone. At some point, the tunnel became clogged with debris and the ground hog vigorously kicked it out of the way, flinging it all the way to the surface. It included pieces of tea-colored bone. A visitor who was walking the battlefield in mid-October,strayed off the Corn Field Trail and saw some bones on the ground that he later left at the visitors' center. He didn't give his name, saying only he had found something in a field off the trail, next to an animal hole.

"It was a jaw bone with four teeth attached and one loose plus some other fragments," said Ed Wenschhof Jr., Antietam's chief of Natural Resources Management and Resources Protection. "We get a lot of these bones brought in here, almost all of them are animal." He needed to check it out. Several photographs were emailed to the National Park Service's regional archaeologist, Stephen Potter, in Washington. Potter said he knew right away the jaw, and what turned out to be skull fragments, belonged to a human. And he knew they were very old bones.

"When I realized what I had -- an unmarked, unknown burial of a Civil War soldier, not a victim of modern mayhem -- it grabbed me in the gut," he said. "I was totally focused. I forgot everything else. I immediately started planning what we would do next." He said he estimated the soldier's age at 19 to 21, based on an impacted wisdom tooth in the jaw bone, the lack of wear on the teeth and an open suture in the cranium. That suture closes only when an individual ceases to grow. He called Wenschhof. Potter wanted to see the the bones but his first impulse was to collect whatever else was out there in the field. It was going to be difficult to find the spot. The field covered acres of land, but they had to move quickly because relic hunters might hear about the discovery and disturb the grave.

Wenschhof and a team of park rangers crisscrossed the field that was adjacent to the infamous Corn Field, where brutal hand-to-hand fighting had taken place during the battle. There were burrows everywhere, and they had to be careful not to step in to them. Finally, one of the team found bone fragments and several pieces of leather outside a ground hog hole. It had to be the right place. The soldier had been found. Potter had sent the photographs to Douglas Owsley, a well-known forensic anthropologist with the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution. He agreed with Potter's assessment but felt the soldier was somewhere between 18 and 21 and most likely was a teenager.

"He said the kid never saw his 20th birthday," Potter recalled. Within a few weeks, Potter and a crew were at Antietam, also known as Sharpsburg, scraping away the top layer of brown earth and then delving into the reddish layer of clay. They were working under a blue and white tent erected to shield themselves from the rain and wind and to protect whatever they found. Two animal holes were within the the rectangle sketched on the earth, probably boundaries of the grave. The resident of the burrow had been captured a few days earlier and delivered to a new neighborhood beyond the field.

The excavation work was slow. There weren't any large bones in the grave shaft. "Ground hogs can do a lot of damage," Potter said. "Context means everything. if the bones are moved or damaged or if the ground hog gnawed on them, and ground hogs do gnaw on bones -- they need their daily calcium supplement -- things can be hard to figure out." In this case, the ground hog had destroyed most of the soldier's bones.

What they did find was a number of jacket or coat buttons that connected the soldier to a New York regiment. The ones from the cuffs had the state emblem and some of the larger ones from the front had the emblem and the Latin word, "Excelsior," meaning upward. The other buttons found were general government issue, indicating the soldier was not a green recruit but a veteran who had been around long enough to have replaced lost buttons. They also found a belt buckle with "U.S." engraved on it, and some bits of leather later identified as coming from boots or shoes.

Potter told the crew, "We now know three things: our soldier was a young guy, probably a teenager, but he was a veteran and not a new recruit and he was part of a New York regiment." The crew, having plotted the exact position on paper of every bit of metal and bone and leather taken from the grave site, filled the 18-inch-deep excavation and tried to make it look like just another part of the farmer's field. The next step is for Owsley to examine all the bones and items found in the grave to see if he can tease any more information from them. He won't be able to do that for several months.

John Howard, Antietam battlefield superintendent, had been following the progress of the search closely. He had come out to watch the crews excavating the grave. Later he said it was unlikely the solider would ever be identified because so little was known about him and, on the day of the battle, there were many New York regiments involved. One of the rangers who works for Howard, Brian S. Baracz, has studied the battle for 10 years. He said there had been 68 infantry regiments, 12 artillery and seven cavalry units from New York at Antietam. Close to the area where the soldier was found, two dozen New York infantry regiments had crossed through. Using just those 24 units and narrowing the list of possible soldiers to those of the right age who were listed as "missing," he said the number would range between 25 and 50.

Howard said if they ever got "really lucky and identified the soldier, we'd make a real effort to track down the next of kin. We'd ask them what they wanted us to do. We could ship the remains or give him a proper burial here at Antietam." If there is no identification, he expects the soldier will be buried in the New York section of the national cemetery, which is near his office. "Just like any other American soldier, we will give him a proper burial," he said. "This is where he fought. This is where he died. This is now his home."

Text, Top and Middle Images Source: Washington Post, December 26, 2008

Bottom Image Source: Through the Cornfield, Keith Rocco. Keith Rocco is among the very best artists working in the field of American Civil War and Napoleonic Era painting. He as two published collections of his work, On Campaign: The Civil War Art of Keith Rocco, and The Soldier's View: The Civil War Art of Keith Rocco

Off Topic---News: Bowels of the Ship and Bowels of the Sailors

Mystery Naval Explosion May Have Stinky Solution, The Telegraph, Sarah Knapton, December 26, 2008.

The mysterious explosion which sank a 17th century Royal warship may have been caused by the lavatory habits of its crew, a historian believes. HMS London sank in 1685 after exploding without warning in the Thames Estuary near Chatham Docks in a blast which killed 300 people and was recorded by diarist Samuel Pepys. Naval historians have long argued about the cause, suggesting a build-up of chemicals could have ignited the ship's supply of gunpowder. But now one researcher believes the blast may have been triggered by the noxious accumulation of methane from the scores of sailors who relieved themselves in the bowels of the ship.

The theory suggests that rotting faeces in the bilges led to a build up of gas which was ignited by a candle below deck. Richard Ender, an engineer and naval historian, came across the solution while researching an incident on the 17th century warship Lennox. Records show that a lieutenant accidentally fell into the bottom of the hold and when crew members climbed down to rescue him "they were rendered in a manner dead by the stench". Mr Ender said: "They were unconscious. Of course, it is not the smell that makes you unconscious, it's the methane.

"When you have that concentration of methane, all it would take is someone being send down here with a lantern to set it off. The powder room is in the hold as well." But Charles Trollope, an authority on naval ordnance from the period, believes the explosion was caused by the sloppy practice of reusing old materials for storing gunpowder.

Text Source: Telegraph.UK

Image Source: Brian Levy

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Off Topic---World War II Espionage

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, Ben McIntyre, Harmony Books, 365pp, 23 b/w photographs, appendices, notes, index, bibliography, $25.95 hardcover, $14.95 softcover, 2007.

Published in Britain as Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman, Lover, Betrayer, Hero, Spy, Ben McIntyre's story of a nearly-always-successful safe cracking burglar conning the Nazi's to sending him to England, returning to the Nazis and then the Nazi's returning him to England is remarkable on several levels. McIntyre captures the personalities of Chapman, his accomplices, his Nazi handlers, his British handlers and his lovers. There are neither stereotypes of Nazi or English bureaucrats nor females who fall in love with Chapman in the story. What could be a convoluted story of treason and double cross is well ordered and well explained.

Captured by the English police on the Island of Jersey, Eddie Chapman is in jail when the Nazi's capture the island. Offering himself as a recruit, Chapman leaves a friend in the jail as a hostage. Receiving training in wireless communication, explosives and weapons, Chapman at times teaches his instructors a few clever tricks of the trade. By 1941, he parachuted into England with a wireless radio, a pistol, a suicide pill, and cash with an assignment to blow up a aircraft factory. Within twenty four hours he as found the police and turns himself in with the offer to work for the British against the Nazis.

Chapman and a British officer communicate regularly with the Nazis. The destruction of the airplane factory occurs with the help of a magician and his crew. By way of Portugal, Chapman returns to occupied France with information cooked especially for the Nazis. While receiving training in Norway and having enough money to by a yacht,
Chapman falls in love for third time, and takes pictures of suitable targets for Britain. He returns to Britain again with a wireless radio and cash; this time the mission is to discover the gadget that the British have invented which allows them to sink Nazi subs that are hiding in deep waters. Chapman is supplied more cooked intelligence for the Nazis and even outwits them into revealing what they know about British wireless communication.

Amazingly, Chapman surived the war, finds the girl he left on Jersey, and supports his first wife and daughter; he eludes the Norway girl who was the only person in Europe to whom he revealed his double cross. Living the life of a Nazi collaborator, she was actually a member of the Norwegian resistance movement. With money in the bank he returns to burglary, this time aboard and not in England.

McIntyre's story reveals the workings of the Abwehr and MI5, the difficulty of hiding from the Germans the truth of Ultra device, the devastation of London's suburbs by the V-1 and V-2 rockets. These rockets missed their targets in central London in part because of Chapman's misinformation about the rockets that fell short and fell long.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

News---Gettysburg: July 1st Assault Path of Heth's and Pender's Divisions For Sale

Gettysburg Country Club To Be Sold At Sheriff’s Sale, Dick Watson, Gettysburg Times, December 24, 2008.

After nearly 50 years of operation, the Gettysburg Country Club will be sold at a sheriff’s sale on Friday, January 9 at 10 a.m. Located along Country Club Lane, between Route 30 and Old Mill Road, the 120-acre, nine-hole golf course with pro shop, locker rooms, pool and tennis courts has been fighting declining membership since the mid-1990s. Convinced that the decline was due to its aging facilities, the club’s board of directors decided in 2005 that new facilities would attract new members.

Approved by a majority, many of its predominantly older and retired members indicated they would not support a multi-million dollar upgrade. Nevertheless, the board proceeded with its plans, and a significant number of members resigned. Over a two-year period, a new clubhouse with bar, restaurant and commercial kitchen was built, as were new tennis courts. Renovations were also made to its locker rooms.

Beginning in early 2007, as the new facilities were coming online, the club appointed a new golf pro and a new general manager and an executive chef. New incentives, including reduced initiation fees and monthly dues, were also initiated. Not achieving the results they anticipated, the board in October 2007 hired the team of Gilbert Andrews Law of York and Executive Insights of Camp Hill to “restructure” its operations.

During its best days, the country club maintained a membership of about 270. That dropped to below 240 after the exodus of many of its members, according to attorney Thomas Campbell, a member, in May. Unfortunately, the new facilities failed to attract the anticipated number of new members, and the club’s debt increased. After it officially closed on May 30 this year, club members were allowed to continue playing golf.

Members also put up their own funds to keep the pool open during the summer. According to a member of the sheriff’s office, the bank (Susquehanna) is seeking $2.9million for the country club. “In addition, there are also seven or eight liens against the property that probably amount to another several thousand dollars,” he said.

Caption: Patio furniture is neatly stacked next to the covered swimming pool in front of the Gettysburg Country Club's new clubhouse in late May.

Text and Image Source: Gettysburg Times, December 24, 2008

CWL: The property is on the south side of the Chambersburg Pike. It's eastern boundary is Willoughby Run. Archer's brigade launched its attack on Herbst's Woods from this property, as did the brigades of Fry, Pettigrew and Brockenbrough. Pender's division lauched its attack on Seminary Ridge from this property.

Map Source: Gettysburg National Military Park's Virtual Tour

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Key Moments & Commanders at Gettyburg, January-March 2009

Key Moments and Commanders of the Gettysburg Campaign, Gettysburg National Military Park, Museum and Visitor Center, Saturdays and Sundays, 1:30p, January thourgh mid-March, 2009

Saturday, January 10
Key Moments: Longstreet Tries to Flank the Round Tops on July 3 – Troy Harman

Sunday, January 11
Commanders: General Alexander Hays and the Repulse of Longstreet's Assault - Karlton Smith

Saturday, January 17
Commanders: Alexander Webb, Norman Hall, & Alonzo Cushing: Profiles of Successful Leaders – D. Scott Hartwig

Saturday, January 24
Commanders: Daniel Sickles: The Colorful and Controversial Commander of Gettysburg -- Matt Atkinson

Sunday, January 25
Key Moments: "A Final Resting Place:” The Establishment of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery -- Eric A. Campbell

Saturday, January 31
Commanders: Strong Vincent and the Battle for Little Round Top – Tom Holbrook

Saturday, February 7
Key Moments: Crisis at the Union Center – The Second Corps Front on July 2 - John Heiser

Sunday, February 8
Key Moments: "We drop a comrade’s tears" The 2nd New Hampshire at the Peach Orchard – Karlton Smith

Saturday, February 14
Commanders: Opportunity, Possibility, and Liability: Lee, E. P. Alexander, William Pendleton and the Great Cannonade of July 3 – Bert Barnett

Sunday, February 15
Commanders: “Day was now breaking and it was too late for any change of place;” Richard Ewell, Cemetery Hill & Memory - Angie Atkinson

Saturday, February 21
Key Moments: “Take that hill if practicable” – Cemetery Hill and the End of the First Day’s Battle -- Tom Holbrook

Sunday, February 22
Commanders: July 1, 1863 – Surprise or Surmise – Bill Hewitt

Saturday, February 28
Key Moments: The 1st Minnesota Infantry on July 2 – Matt Atkinson

Sunday, March 1
Commanders: From “Forever Free” to “A New Birth of Freedom:” Abraham Lincoln in 1863" – Eric A. Campbell

Saturday, March 7
Key Moments: “I Have Never Seen the Like Before” - The July 1 Battle for Herbst Woods - D. Scott Hartwig

Sunday, March 8
Commanders: "Much oppressed with a sense of responsibility:" George G. Meade Takes Command of the Army of the Potomac – Charles Teague

Saturday, March 14
Commanders: Did Meade Begin a Counteroffensive after Pickett's Charge? - Troy Harman

Sunday, March 15
Key Moments: Hancock Takes Command – July 1 – Angie Atkinson

Image Source: Gettysburg365 is among the very best photographers of the battlefield

Forthcoming- Deserter Country: Civil War Opposition in the Pennsylvania Appalachians

Deserter Country: civil War Opposition in the Pennsylvnaia Appalachians, Robert M. Sandow, Fordham Unversity Press, 24 black/white photographs and illustrations, 6 color photographs, notes, bibliogrpahy, index, 288 pp., April 2009.

During the Civil War, there were throughout the Union explosions of resistance to the war—from the deadly Draft Riots in New York City to other, less well-known outbreaks. In Deserter Country, Robert Sandow explores one of these least known “inner civil wars,” the widespread, sometimes violent opposition in the Appalachian lumber country of Pennsylvania. Sparsely settled, these mountains were home to divided communities that provided safe haven for opponents of the war. The dissent of mountain folk reflected their own marginality in the face of rapidly increasing exploitation of timber resources by big firms, as well as partisan debates over loyalty.

One of the few studies of the northern Appalachians, this book draws revealing parallels to the war in the southern mountains, exploring the roots of rural protest in frontier development, the market economy, military policy, partisan debate, and everyday resistance. Sandow also sheds new light on the party politics of rural resistance, rejecting easy depictions of war opponents as traitors and malcontents for a more nuanced and complicated study of class, economic upheaval, and localism.

Text and Image Source: Fordham University Press

Saturday, December 13, 2008

CWL---Controlling the Violence of the 54th Massachusetts

Managing The Violence In The Fifty Fourth Massachusetts, in Battle Exhortation: The Rhetoric of Combat Leadership, Keith Yellin, University of South Carolina Press, 2008, pp. 94-101.

A controlled explosion. "All the discipline of drill, uniforms, codes of conduct are meant to ignite and yet contain the forces that can keep up this . . . wrath' of Civil War combat (p. 94). Can violent ardor be managed? Most readers of CWL are familiar with the film Glory. Fredrick Douglass and Governor John Andrew review the enthusiastic troops as they march through Boston and Colonel Shaw nods to his proud parents. During the war, there was the issue of arming the Negroes. Slaveholders worried about nighttime slave uprisings; slavery itself was viewed as a restraint upon savages. Northerners understood that it may be perfectly naturally for former slaves in blue uniforms may slip the shackles of military discipline. Had slavery crippled blacks? Would they be soldiers and not give in to docility or vengeance when faced with armed Southern soldiers?

Colonel Shaw reports in his letters and diary that General Montgomery let loose his black troops, former slaves, to loot and burn small towns in South Carolina. At dusk on July 18, 1863 the 54th Massachusetts was ordered into line of battle. In the film, special attention to devoted to the flags. Exactly two months, before the assault on Fort Wagner, Governor Andrew as he presented four flags to the regiment asked for manly character and manly zeal. Discretion and aggression required by the troops. On the banners were the words: liberty, loyalty, unity and the Latin phrase In hoc signo vinces (In this sign you will conquer). Andrew asked the troops to fight, win and return with dignity.

An eyewitness recalled Shaw's words to the troops before the assault began. 'Now I want you to prove yourselves men' and and reminded them that the eyes of thousands would look upon the night's work (p. 100).Of the failed assault by the 54th Massachusetts, The Atlantic Magazine that "the manhood of the colored races shines before many eyes that would not see." The Federal flag was set upon the ramparts and then carried back to the Union lines; the Massachusetts flag was sent upon the ramparts and was ripped from the staff by the Confederates. The staff was carried back to the Union lines were lost at Fort Wagner.

Image Source: Keith Rocco is among the best contemporary Civil War and Napoleonic War artists.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

CWL---Gettysburg Battlewalks: The 13th Vermont on July 3rd at Gettysburg

The 13th Vermont Infantry: Gettysburg Battlewalks, Scott Hartwig and the Mifflin Gaurd, Pennsylvania Cable Network, dvd, 70 minutes, 2004.

Gettysburg National Park Ranger Scott Hartwig conducts the movements of the Mifflin Guard, a Civil War reenactment unit, in the footsteps of the 13th Vermont Infantry. On July 3rd,the 13th and 16th Vermont Infantry units flanked Kemper's Brigade as to marched from the Spangler Farm, through the Cordori Farm and to the Copse of Trees at the Angle. The ranger, about 200 members of the reenactment unit and about 200 park visitors, proceed from the Vermont Brigade monument and march toward the Cordori Farm buildings and then wheel right by companies and march toward the Copse of trees.

Hartwig begins his presentation with the 4:30a Union artillery assault on the Confederates ensconced on lower Culp's Hill and the ensuing battle until 11:00a. Longstreet's troops depositions during the dawn hours are presented in light of Lee's visit to Longstreet and his dismissal of Longstreet's suggestion to move the Confederate First Corps further to the right. The Grand Assault is briefly presented by Hartwig with special attention to Kemper's Brigade.

He describes the Vermont Brigade and in particular the 13th Vermont, nine month volunteers whose only battle was Gettysburg. Hartwig relies on the words of the men of the 13th Vermont as found in letters and post-war memoirs. He imparts a sense of immediacy during the tour as the words of the soldiers are presented in the footsteps of the soldiers. The 13th Vermont was much larger than most Union Regiments on the field; the regiments 650 soldiers made it twice the size of the majority of the Federal fighting units.

This particular Battlewalk relies heavily on the the tactical movements and manual of arms that are reenacted by the Mifflin Gaurd. For those viewers who are familar with the fields covered by the Vermont Brigade, the reenactment unit's size with the addition of the park visitors, accurately show movements of a regiment. Hartwig has both the reenactors and the park visitors lie down behind the breastwork that was built by the 13th Vermont on the Cordori Knoll, then rise up, march forward and deliver several volleys toward the Cordori Farm. Overall, this Gettysburg Battlewalk is consistently interesting for the information it gives, the tactical movements that are shown, and the visuals of having a nearly accurately-sized Federal regiment in the right spot at the right time to repel The Grand Assault.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

News---Will Obama's Inaugural Procession Start in Gettysburg?

Obama Inaugural Procession To Start In Gettysburg?, Erin James, Evening Sun, December 5, 2008.

An established heritage organization wants Obama to begin his Jan. 20 inaugural procession to Washington, D.C., in Gettysburg - the northernmost point of Journey Through Hallowed Ground's 175-mile corridor through Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Journey Through Hallowed Ground President Cate Magennis Wyatt said the procession would give more people the opportunity to participate in the historic event and would fit into Obama's inauguration theme of "A New Birth of Freedom," which is derived from President Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address. The organization sent its proposal in a letter to Obama's Presidential Inaugural Committee and has enlisted the help of state and local officials to lend the idea support. "We don't know if they're going to take us up on this, but we thought we would ask," Wyatt said.

Presidential Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Chris Mather said she did not know Thursday whether the proposal was being considered, however, and could not provide further information. The letter was signed by officials in the municipalities Obama would pass through, including Gettysburg Borough Council President Dick Peterson and Cumberland Township Manager Flo Ford. Peterson said the letter was signed about a month ago, and officials are now waiting for a response. He said a visit from Obama in Gettysburg "would be wonderful." "Whether it's coming to fruition is another thing," he said.

Ford said the municipal advisory committee, of which she and Peterson are members, was asked to support the idea by Journey Through Hallowed Ground staff. "I wouldn't have signed the letter if I didn't think it was a good idea," she said. Wyatt said the Journey Through Hallowed Ground has also reached out to Gettysburg Foundation President Robert Wilburn for help soliciting support from Gov. Ed Rendell. Foundation spokeswoman Dru Neil confirmed that a discussion between Wilburn and Journey staff had taken place but said no further action has yet been taken. The procession idea was partly inspired by Obama's reference to the Founding Fathers in his victory speech, Wyatt said. A history-themed inaugural procession seems to fit the president-elect, she said.

"That was basically in response to the fact that clearly the president-elect has a very keen and sobering appreciation for our history and our heritage," Wyatt said. If Obama and the inaugural committee accept the proposal, the president-elect would begin his procession in Gettysburg and travel the Hallowed Ground corridor on Route 15 through Maryland. The route would take him to the Dulles Toll Road and directly to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Wyatt said. Millions of people are planning to attend the inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20, but most of them won't be anywhere near the event. A procession would allow more to participate, Wyatt said.

An Obama inaugural procession would not be the first in history. In 1993, President Clinton began a 120-mile procession to Washington from Monticello, Va., at the home of Thomas Jefferson. It never happened, but an Obama visit to Gettysburg had been a rumored possibility since the Illinois senator with similarities to President Lincoln decided to run for office nearly two years ago. But an inaugural procession to Washington would be significant not only to Gettysburg, Wyatt said. "It would be a big deal for everybody," she said.

Text Source: Evening Sun, December 5, 2008.

Image Source: New York Times

CWL Takes Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Exam

CWL arrived in Gettysburg Thursday 12.04.08 in the late afternoon for the Saturday test. Bivouacking in the Travelodge on Steinwehr, CWL took meals at The Avenue Diner. Twelve hundred flashcards, a three hour hike, one Guinness draft and 42 hours later, the test was wrapped up. In 2006, the test took CWL the full three hours; in 2008 2.5 hours. Maybe I know more than I did the first time through in 2006but maybe not enough in 2008 to get that 92% which would probably advance me to the oral exam. The 2006 score was 82%. This year I am hoping to get close to within a couple of points 90%.

In 2006, CWL probably identified two of the 21 monument pictures; this year 12 to 14 are probably right. It's tough; they are black and white photographs, with most of the text digitally chiseled off the monument, then photocopied. Pick from a list of possible answers; the list contains 4 more answers than monuments. So was it the 2nd or the 6th New Jersey monument? The 9th or the 11th Pennsylvania Reserves monument. (It was the 9th's monument; I am a reenactor in Co. A, 9th Pennsylvania Reserves.) In 2006, CWL aced the map and the portraits; ditto in 2008. Did well on the true and false, multiple choice and okay on the completion without a work bank.

About 250 people asked the Gettysburg NPS for materials to be mailed to them. Of those Close to 145 sent in the $50 registration fee and 135 showed up today to take the test. Less than 20 of the top scorers will be asked to attend a two and a half day seminar regarding the contents and style of tour giving. These then will be listed for the 2 hour oral exam in which they present their tour of the battlefield. In 2006, 21 people were eligible to take the oral exam, and only 10 of those passed the exam . Therefore, of the 250 people who requested information to take the test this year, possibly 10 will become Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides before the December, 2010 examination.

In the top picture, NPS test creator and administrator Clyde Bell displays the 25+/- page test. In the middle picture (left) CWL is sitting in the aisle seat of the fourth table on the left, a furrowed brow resting on his left hand. In the bottom picture CWL is at the fourth table, in the black long sleeve tee shirt. To CWL's right and in the blue sweatshirt is police officer and firearms instructor Thaddeus Comer, whom used CWL's flashcards which were shared on the internet.

Image and Numbers Source: Gettysburg, December 6th, 2008.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

News: Central Virginia Civil War Park Open By Advance Reservation Only Beginning January 2

Historical Park Soon to Close Doors to Public,
Dec 3, 2008

Effective January 2, 2009, Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Dinwiddie County will be open by reservation only. Guests wishing to visit the Park may do so by making a reservation forty-eight hours in advance. Admission fees for non-members will be $100 for a group of up to ten people, and $10 per adult for groups of more than ten. Park members may make reservations twenty-four hours in advance with no minimum numbers and no admission fee.

The Park will continue to offer all reservation-based programming as usual, including its popular school field trips, battlefield tours, Annual Symposium, Civil War Adventure Camps, Summer Teacher Institutes, and History Day Camps. The severe economic downturn has undercut the ability of the Pamplin Foundation to support the Park at current levels, says Pamplin Historical Park President, A. Wilson Greene. We deeply regret the necessity to curtail normal daily operations to meet this new fiscal reality.

None of the Parks four museums will be altered and the Park will continue to maintain its four historic structures, ten reconstructed buildings, and three miles of interpretive trails. There will be no changes to the Park's extensive artifact collection. Should economic conditions improve, we hope to restore some regular public operating hours next spring, adds Greene.

The Park will continue to accelerate its use of the internet to fulfill its educational mission through on-line programming. Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier preserves 422 acres near Petersburg, Virginia, including the Breakthrough Battlefield, a National Historic Landmark. It is owned and operated by the Pamplin Foundation of Portland, Oregon. The Park opened in 1994 as Pamplin Park Civil War Site and debuted the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in 1999, when it adopted its current name.

Text Source:

Image: portion of Pamplin Park Mural created by Keith Rocco

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

CWL---Among The Top Ten of 2008: Learning the Battle of Gettysburg.

Learning the Battle of Gettysburg: A Guide to the Official Records, Benjamin Y. Dixon, Ph.D.,144 pp., 11 Illus., Thomas Publications, 2008. $9.95.

This book is the most complete and annotated guide to the official battle reports submitted by officers from both armies at Gettysburg. Readers will learn which Gettysburg reports and parts of reports pertain to nearly every significant battle event from the opening of the fight to its aftermath. Annotations are included to highlight important facts, explanations, and fascinating battle descriptions and stories as reported by Gettysburg officers.

This book's focus is a detailed, concise history of the battle featuring the best quotes from the more than 500 Gettysburg officer reports. Important heroes, units, plans, and maneuvers are presented to explain the fighting in efficient detail at such places as Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, and 25 other key locations. For each of these battle sites, readers learn precisely what units reported action, where to find those reports, and the quality of those reports. Best of all, this guide is organized geographically and chronologically for easy use in the field as well as at home or in the library.

In addition, separate chapters are devoted to the aftermath of the battle, interesting quotes from the soldiers, and miscellaneous incidents and events. CWL thoroughly enjoyed the officer reports that discussed incidents of cowardice, death by friendly fire, the dangers of retrieving the wounded, disputes between officers and units, and much, much more. An “Order of Battle” is appended showing which units at Gettysburg submitted reports for the Official Records, and which did not.

Ben Dixon has cross-referenced the Official Records so thoroughly that he has made it an easy task for readers and researchers to find what they need in the nearly 2100pages of battle reports relating to the Battle of Gettysburg. This book is an excellent training and reference manual about the Battle of Gettysburg for any guide, buff, or even casual learner.

As a Gettysburg native and as a academic with a Ph.D in geography, Ben Dixon brings a unique perspective to Gettysburg studies. His all day seminar and tour of Gettysburg, sponsored by the Gettysburg Foundation and Friends in July, was a remarkable presentation of preservation efforts and the varieties of interpretations of the battlefield. With inexhaustable enthusiasm, Dixon combined an overview of these trends with a remarkable collection of signicant details and anecdotes. This time next year, CWL will be compiling the best of 2009 and Dixon's history of the park, to be released late in 2009 by Johns Hopkins University Press, is most likely to be on the list.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Off-Topic---The Conservative Implementation of Liberal Ideals

Cycles of American Political Thought, Joseph F. Kobylka, The Teaching Company, Course 4820, 36 lectures on 18 compact disks.

Historian and social commentator Louis Hartz described the United States as being a democratic republic that conservatively implements liberal ideals. Seeing America as a philosophical experiment with historical and theoretical baggage, Kobylka sets the Puritan's communities of saints and Virginia's communities of capitalists in the context of geographic expansionism and personal individualism. Noting the colonies varied inheritances, especially England's Glorious Revolution of 1688, Kobylka recreates an era of political revolution whose main voices are Thomas Hutchinson, John Dickinson, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson.

Keeping an eye on the social life of Americans as described Crèvecoeur and John Adams, Professor Kobylka dwells on the construction and implementation of the Constitution and the many balances within as well as the many countervailing weights that are in the balances. The fears of the Anti-Federalists towards a self-interpreting federal government, the contradiction of Thomas Jefferson ideas of equality and slavery, the democratic impulses of Andrew Jacksonian and the iconoclastic individualism of Henry David Thoreau reveal a republic that is an alloy of freedoms and fears.

Before the Civil War freedmen and females clamored to be included in the American democratic experiment. The thoughts and actions Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are presented along with the organic socialism of Brownson. The proslavery thoughts that represent American feudalism in the political discourse of George Fitzhugh and the opposition to American feudalism in Helper's view of an impending crisis reveals how American struggled with constitutionalizing the slave masters and their states' rights approach to federalism.

Lincoln's reconstitution of America and the post-war struggle with the concept of equality before the law and in practice struggles with the Social Darwinism and economic laissez-faire in a constitutional area of many 5-4 split decisions of the Supreme court. Teddy Roosevelt's support and clash with Progressivism, the Supreme Court and laissez-faire capitalism reveals the fundamental tensions in the 19th and 20th centuries with which America still struggles with in the 21st century. The Women's Movement, the 19th Amendment, Eugene V. Debs, and working-class socialism provide both the means and ends of a culture on a collision course with the Great Depression, FDR, the New Deal, and a Supreme Court that resists change.

The racial revolution wrought by WWII and Harry Truman is set beside the new impulses of blacks who have debated the ideas Carver, DuBois, and Garvey and continue to face poverty and limited opportunities to establish a black middle class. The civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s are at times renewed during the Reagan revolution in the Bakke decision.

This course is taught by Dr. Joseph F. Kobylka, professor at Southern Methodist University. Kobylka's half hour lectures is a good fit for commuters who are looking to put into context the possibilites of political change that are upon the American democtratic republic. American political thought today is an alloy of laissez-faire capitalism, free markets, and economic welfare for individuals, families and corporate feudalism.

Link to Cycles of American Political Thought, The Teaching Company

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

News---Limestone, Dolomite and Casualties At Antietam

Geology and the Civil War, Reeves Wiedman, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 21, 2008.

The Battle of Antietam left 23,100 soldiers wounded or killed in the bloodiest single-day conflict in American history. Rifles downed most of the soldiers, but a pair of geologists say they have found an unexpected accomplice: limestone. A survey of the 25 bloodiest battles of the Civil War by Robert C. Whisonant and Judy Ehlen, both geologists at Radford University, has found a correlation between high casualties and the Civil War's terra firma.

"Military people have known for thousands of years that you want to have the high ground," says Mr. Whisonant. "But there's a reason for the terrain, and that's geology." At Antietam, for instance, the battle in Miller's Cornfield produced about half of the day's casualties. One reason: It took place on pure limestone, which proved to be a sign of heavy casualties in several battles, because it creates flat, open fields that proved deadly for the lines of riflemen that dominated 19th-century warfare. By contrast, a nearby struggle with a similar number of soldiers at Antietam saw fewer than half as many casualties, in part due to the dolomite rock that produced more rugged terrain.

Geology was an equal-opportunity killer at Gettysburg, where limestone fields left Confederates vulnerable, while hard igneous rock prevented Union troops from digging trenches as protection from artillery attacks. The study of terrain in warfare is nothing new. Mr. Whisonant points to studies of the geological reasons why the D-Day invasion took place at Normandy (the ground was softer, making it easier to build airstrips), and the effects of hard and soft sand on battles in the Middle East.But he says few studies have assessed geology's effect on casulaties, and he hopes to change that when he presents his paper — "No Place To Run, No Place To Hide" — at next year's biennial International Conference on Military Geology and Geography, in Vienna.

Text Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, November 21 2008.

Image Source: Figure 33. Domestic structure in the Antietam Village Historic District (WA-II-031, WA-II-032, WA-II-033), Washington County (Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust)

News---Life Magazine Archive Goes Online, Check Out Spring 1961 Issues of Civil War Centennial

'Life' Archive Goes Online In Google Deal: The Entire Archives Of Life Magazine Are To Be Put Online In A Deal With Google, Stephen Adams, Google News, November 19, 2008 will provide public access to its archive includes about 10 million images, about 97 per cent of which have never been seen before. About 20 per cent of it has already gone online. The archive will include the entire works of Life photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gjon Mili and Nina Leen.

Other highlights include glass plate photographs of New York from the 1880s and Hugo Jaeger's record of Nazi Germany between 1937 and 1944. While material from Life will form the bulk of it, there will also be pictures from other archives, much of it collected by Henry Luce, the former publisher of Time magazine and the man who turned Life into one of the best photojournalism publications of the 20th century.

RJ Pittman, director of product management at Google, said: "We are very excited to bring this amazing collection of photos and etchings from the archives to the internet. With so many never-before-seen images, this is going to be a real benefit to the public." A Google spokesman added in a statement: "The effort to bring offline images online was inspired by our mission to organise all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. "Only a small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings and prints."

Life magazine ceased to exist in any paper form in 2007, having survived 124 years from its inception in 1883. It continues as, where the archive can be found.

Text Source: The Telegraph
Image Source: Joe's Paper Shack

CWL visited the website and left his email address. Updates on when the Life Magazine archive will become available will be sent to subscribers. At this point there is not mention of charges for images.
Here the 1860s images link.
Here is the link to the entire collection of images.

News---19th Century Bailout For Brits Who Invested In Carribean Slaves Before Abolition

Middle-Class Londoners Who Bought Into Slavery, Derry Nairn, History Today, November 14, 2008.

New research by University College London has revealed that massive amounts of government compensation were paid out to investors when slavery was abolished in the 19th century. Dr Nick Draper has discovered that £20 million worth of payments were made, a figure that equates to a staggering 40% of government expenditure of the day.

Even more surprising are the backgrounds to the recipients. The image many today would hold of slave owners may involve upper class affectations and West Indian sugar plantations. The truth however, is that many ordinary middle-class Londoners invested in the slave trade just like it was any other industry. Some of the 'slavers' revealed by Draper's research include poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, MP George Watson Taylor, Lord Mayor John Atkins and lawyer J W Freshfield.
Dr Draper commented:

‘It's important that we recognise the ways in which slavery permeates London's history, not only through direct slave-ownership by Londoners but also through more complex financial and commercial ties between the slave-system and people living and working in London. Slavery was not the only influence on London's development, but it was an important one, especially in areas such as Marylebone, and is too often overlooked.'

Text Source: History Today, November 14, 2008.
Image: Istock

News---Bixby Letter, Recent Star of Saving Private Ryan, Found in Dallas, Maybe

Famed Lincoln Letter Turns Up In Dallas Museum's Archives, Jeff Carlson, Associated Press, November 16, 2008.

DALLAS — A Texas museum hopes a document found in its archives turns out to be an authentic government copy of Abraham Lincoln's eloquent letter consoling a mother thought to have lost five sons in the Civil War. The famed Bixby Letter, which the Dallas Historical Society is getting appraised as it prays for a potential windfall, has a fascinating history.

The original has never been found. Historians debate whether Lincoln wrote it. Its recipient, Lydia Bixby, was no fan of the president. And not all her sons died in the war. The letter, written with "the best of intentions" 144 years ago next week, is "considered one of the finest pieces of American presidential prose," said Alan Olson, curator for the Dallas group. "It's still a great piece of writing, regardless of the truth in the back story." Historians say Lincoln wrote the letter at the request of a Massachusetts official, who passed along news of a Boston woman grieving the loss of her five sons. The letter is addressed to "Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass." and begins with an acknowledgment that nothing written could possibly make a grief-stricken mother feel better about such a horrific loss.

"I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming," Lincoln wrote. After thanking Bixby on behalf of a grateful nation, Lincoln wrote that he would pray that God relieve her anguish and leave her with only the "cherished memory of the loved" along with "the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom." The letter, as was the president's custom in his personal correspondence, is signed "A Lincoln." "It is so beautifully written," said James Cornelius, curator of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. "It is an extraordinarily sensitive expression of condolence."

There was renewed interest in the letter after it was read in the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan. It also sparked a new round of debate centering on Lincoln's authorship and the fate of Bixby's sons. Evidence indicates two of Bixby's sons died, a third was a deserter and a fourth ended up in a prisoner-of-war camp, Cornelius said. A fifth is believed to have received a discharge, but his fate is unknown. Historians have also argued that John Hay, one of Lincoln's secretaries, wrote the letter. Hay was an accomplished writer who wrote a biography of Lincoln and later became ambassador to the United Kingdom. "Lincoln probably wrote it," Cornelius said. "Hay did on some occasions write letters in Lincoln's name and sign them — or have Lincoln sign them — but probably not something like this that purports to be so personal and individual and heartfelt."

The letter received widespread attention days after it was written. Bixby either sent it to the Boston Evening Transcript or a postal worker intercepted it and tipped off the newspaper, which reprinted the letter, Cornelius said. The touching note came about two months after Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman had broken through Atlanta on his march to the coast and about two weeks after Lincoln won re-election. Union spirits were high, Cornelius said. "The letter was so popular that it was published in newspapers and people copied and sent it to relatives," Olson said. "That letter and the words in it affected the nation. It tugged at people's hearts at the time of a really bloody period in America."

Olson hopes he has an official government copy of the Bixby Letter and not something one relative sent to another. In an era before photocopiers or carbon paper, secretaries hand-copied documents to be retained for their files, he said. The paper and ink appear authentic to the Civil War era, he said. The historical society has asked an expert at Christie's auction house in New York for an opinion. Stacy McDermott, an assistant editor at The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, estimated that an official government copy of the Bixby Letter would fetch millions of dollars.

But Cornelius doubts the letter is authentic. He said the Lincoln White House would have been unlikely to make a copy of such a personal letter and points out that a pair of rival New York companies sold copies of the letter as keepsakes beginning in the 1890s. Olson said he stumbled across the letter over the summer in the historical society archives, which contain about 3 million items. He said he does not know how or why the letter ended up in the archives. The discovery, Olson said, will provide a teachable moment even if it doesn't prove to be a bankable one. "If it's not worth a lot of money — too bad," Olson said. "It's still a fascinating story and it's still a great display piece."

Text of Bixby Letter The full text of President Abraham Lincoln's letter to Civil War mother Lydia Bixby, who was thought to have lost five sons in battle:

Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov 21, 1864.

To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five (5) sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A Lincoln.

Image: Tony Gutierrez AP
Alan Olson, director of collections with the Dallas Historical Society, holds what is believed to be an official government copy of a letter written by President Abraham Lincoln to a grieving Civil War mother at the Hall of State at Fair Park in Dallas.

Text and Image Source: Houston and Texas News

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Forthcoming---How Lincoln Edited His Own Writings

In Lincoln's Hand: His Original Manuscripts with Commentary by Distinguished Americans, Harold Holzer and Joshua Wolf Shenk, Bantam Publishing, 208 pp., $35.00.

From his iconic Gettysburg Address to his eloquent Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln’s speeches are firmly etched in our national consciousness, so much so that it’s as if they sprang forth fully formed and polished. They didn’t. Lincoln was a meticulous writer, and In Lincoln’s Hand, you’ll see his letters and speeches as he wrote them, with all their cross-outs, misspellings and rewrites. The result is illuminating. Faithfully reproducing his actual, handwritten documents, it’s a rare look into Lincoln’s mind, allowing you to see where he paused to dip his pen in the ink or capture an idea, where he crossed out errant phrases and how he reworked his thoughts in search of greater precision and clarity.

These 40-some reproductions span the full range of Lincoln’s writings—from whimsical doggerel to private letters to the rhetorical masterpieces that inspired the nation. Also featuring commentary from the likes of John Updike and Sandra Day O’Connor (Bill Clinton, for instance, dissects Lincoln’s brilliant defense of the Emancipation Proclamation), if offers a fascinating new perspective of one of our greatest presidents

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and in conjunction with the Library of Congress 2009 Bicentennial Exhibition, In Lincoln’s Hand offers an unprecedented look at perhaps our greatest president through vivid images of his handwritten letters, speeches, and even childhood notebooks—many never before made available to the public.

Edited by leading Lincoln scholars Joshua Wolf Shenk and Harold Holzer, this companion volume to the Library of Congress exhibition offers a fresh and intimate perspective on a man whose thoughts and words continue to affect history. To underscore the resonance of Lincoln’s writings on contemporary culture, each manuscript is accompanied by a reflection on Lincoln by a prominent American from the arts, politics, literature, or entertainment, including Toni Morrison, Sam Waterston, Robert Pinsky, Gore Vidal, and presidents Carter, George H.W., and George W. Bush.

While Lincoln’s words are quite well known, the original manuscripts boast a unique power and beauty and provide rare insight into the creative process. In this collection we can see the ebb and flow of Lincoln’s thoughts, emotions, hopes, and doubts. We can see where he paused to dip his pen in the ink or to capture an idea. We can see where he added a word or phrase, and where he crossed out others, searching for the most precise, and concise, expression. In these marks on the page, Lincoln’s character is available to us with a profound immediacy. From such icons as the Gettysburg Address and the inaugural speeches to seldom-seen but superb rarities, here is the world as Lincoln saw and shaped it in words and images that resound to this very day.

About the Authors
Harold Holzer is cochairman of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and author, coauthor, or editor of thirty-one books on Lincoln and the Civil War era, including the award-winning Lincoln at Cooper Union and most recently, Lincoln: President-Elect. His web site is

Joshua Wolf Shenk is the author of Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness and the director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College. His work has been published in Harper’s Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, the Economist, and other publications, and in the national bestseller Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression. His website is

Text Source: Publisher

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Gettysburg, for a historian - I mean, where else would you want to be?"

Latschar Up For New Challenge, Erin James, Evening Sun, Novemer 15, 2008.

Just days before leaving home to fight a war in Vietnam, John Latschar was pulled aside by the pastor presiding over his wedding ceremony. Expecting a heartfellt farewell, Latschar got something much different. His pastor asked him how it felt to know he would be killing women and babies. It's a story Latschar tells to illustrate the attitude of a nation toward its soldiers fighting an unpopular war. But it also represents a significant moment in the life of a man whose passion for history guided him to more battlefields - and more battles.

A young man just out of college, Latschar left that week for Vietnam as an intelligence officer already knowing the struggle he would face abroad and when he returned home. He spent a year in Vietnam, from 1972 to 1973, trying to survive. The Vietnamese officer he was assigned to advise had already spent 18 years fighting a war, long before the United States entered the conflict. "He advised me a whole lot more than I advised him," Latschar said. When he returned to the United States, the reception he received was again far from supportive.

"American citizens have now learned how to separate the soldiers from the government that sent them over there," Latschar said. "We hadn't learned that in Vietnam." Now 61, John Latschar was a man not unfamiliar with adversity when he assumed the role of superintendent at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1994. His experience in Vietnam and subsequent years in the Army Reserves ultimately was valuable not only for the knowledge of military tactics he brought to this Civil War battlefield. It prepared him, in a sense, for the firestorm of controversy that erupted nearly every time he made a major policy decision. Latschar said he never planned to spend a year fighting a war in Vietnam or overseeing one of the world's most famous battlefield parks. In fact, his career as an historian was born only after finding his niche at Kansas State University.

But it is because of his experience as a military officer and his love of history that Latschar arrived in Gettysburg 14 years ago. The National Park Service recruited him for the job specifically because of that background. "Since the day I walked in here, I felt like I was a round peg in a round hole," Latschar said. His recent announcement that he will leave his post as superintendent to take a job as president of the Gettysburg Foundation opens a new chapter in John Latschar's storied life. Serving as president of a non-profit like the foundation is another challenge for which Latschar said he had never planned. But this is the right time for a change, he said. "A lot of what I wanted to do when I came to Gettysburg is either accomplished or well on the way," Latschar said. "Maybe it's time for somebody else's vision."

John Latschar was born in Kansas in a household without a television. For his future as a history buff, Latschar "blames" his parents. "We were raised as readers," he said. But Latschar enrolled at Kansas State University with intentions of leaving with an unlikely degree. "I thought I wanted to be a chemical engineer," he said. Latschar said he came to realize "how much math and science and long afternoon chemical labs were involved in that degree." Not to mention he is color blind and could not tell when his labs were successes or failures. But one accidental enrollment in an advanced history class changed all that.

"I said 'Hot damn, all you have to do to succeed in history is read. This is for me,'" he said. After graduation, Latschar joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. The country was still drafting young men to fight in Vietnam, and Latschar said he figured it would be best to go as an officer. With a degree in history, Latschar entered a Vietnamese language school to serve in the military intelligence branch. His year abroad is something Latschar said is difficult to explain in brief. He laughs when asked. "How do you explain Vietnam?" he said. Upon arrival, Latschar said he and his colleagues soon realized the war was "unwinnable." Survival was the primary objective, he said. Latschar entered graduate school upon his return to the States. But the war's unpopularity continued to plague his academic pursuits. "It took a while for the other graduate students to accept me," he said. He earned a master's degree in history from Kansas State University and went on to Rutgers University for his doctorate in 1978. All the while, he was married with two kids. Latschar's career path took him to Denver, where he accepted a position as a research historian for the National Park Service - a job Latschar said "is exactly what it sounds like."

His years in Denver gave Latschar an opportunity to work on projects for parks throughout the western United States. He said it was good training for future challenges. His ambition to be a park superintendent also was born in Denver. "I always looked at that person with a touch of envy," he said. Then, in 1988, Latschar was urged to apply for the superintendent's position at the newly created Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pa. He spent six years in Scranton before a new opportunity presented itself. 'Where else would you want to be?' In 1994, war made another significant impact on Latschar's life. His military background was one of the main reasons the National Park Service recruited him to apply for a position as superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park. When he got the job, Latschar said he "knew instantly that this was it." "Gettysburg, for a historian - I mean, where else would you want to be?" he said. He jokes that the first thing he did in Gettysburg was "look for a place to park," but Latschar said the projects he undertook during his tenure as superintendent were in fact conceived just hours after his arrival. Per tradition, a guide gave the new superintendent a tour of the battlefield.

"He had to show me historic photographs because I couldn't see the ground," he said. "You know where that's headed. I knew we had to do something." Latschar immediately took issue with the way the battlefield had changed since the 1863 battle. His proposal to rehabilitate the landscape to its appearance 145 years ago came just months later. By January 1995, the new superintendent had developed the primary goals of what later became the park's general-management plan and the policies that will define his legacy. First, he wanted to save the vast collection of artifacts in danger of deteriorating at the park's old visitor center. Second, Latschar identified a need to restore the Cyclorama painting that depicts Pickett's Charge. Third, Latschar decided to restore the 6,000 acres of Gettysburg battlefield to its 1863 appearance. To do that, trees, telephone poles and buildings would all have to come down. And finally, he wanted to build a new museum and visitor center, one that provides visitors with an understanding of the battle, its causes and consequences.

That's when Latschar was in for the second major fight of his life. One of the first decisions Latschar made as superintendent was to make park roads one-way for traffic. The change was safer for pedestrians and preserved the battlefield by allowing cars to park on one side of the road, he said. It was also a "very, very unpopular" decision among the local community and foreshadowed things to come. When plans to abandon the museum and visitor center on Taneytown Road and relocate the facility to a more isolated spot off of Baltimore Pike were in the works, the Gettysburg business community all but revolted. Steinwehr Avenue business owners worried the move would mean a loss of business downtown. Some of that has proven true. Others, including members of Congress, objected to the park's general-management plan for a range of reasons - one of which was a lack of consulting with the local community before major decisions were made. Latschar concedes that mistakes were indeed made. Looking back, Latschar said he now realizes compromise is often the way to go. But in later years, some of his most vocal opponents have become his strongest allies, he said. "We have both learned that there's middle ground we can meet on," Latschar said.

One is Dick Peterson, who now serves as the Gettysburg Borough Council president but was a Steinwehr Avenue business owner when the park was developing its plan to move the visitor center. Peterson strongly objected to the plan but now calls Latschar a "good friend." Since those days, Peterson said, the whole community has learned the value of cooperation. "I really credit John Latschar for being a part of that," he said. Latschar said he realizes detractors are still out there, however. "There's a few who are never going to approve of what I do," he said. "I can't do anything about that." Every decision Latschar said he has had to make required him to balance the needs of three constituencies - the locals, the academics and the visitors. Vocal as the first two may be at times, Latschar said the visitors - whom he said he call the "silent majority" - usually win out. It's the family of four from Kansas who are visiting Gettysburg for the first time that Latschar said has to matter most. "You only get one chance to reach them," he said.

For all the criticism Latschar has taken for his policy decisions, the praise is just as forthcoming. His two major accomplishments - the rehabilitation of the battlefield to its 1863 appearance and the construction of a new state-of-the-art museum - widely have been hailed by the Civil War academic community. Well-known Civil War historian James McPherson called Latschar "one of the best superintendents in the whole National Park Service" and credited him with being the leading force of the battlefield restoration. "I give a lot of tours of Gettysburg to various groups, and it makes it so much easier to explain the tactics and the maneuvers of the battle," McPherson said. He said Latschar is a man with a sense of humor and a "thick skin." "He's been chewed out by real professionals, so all the abuse he's taken in Gettysburg has just been water off his back," McPherson said. Local historian Dean Schultz credited Latschar with having the guts to take on the potentially controversial restoration project.

"Before Latschar became involved, your prior administrations were very reluctant to be able to make these changes," he said. Schultz also praised Latschar's ability to secure funding for the park. "You had to be able to know what you're doing. He was very good at that," Schultz said. "He was able to get additional monies to do this work." Gordon Jones, an historian serving on Gettysburg's Museum Advisory Committee, also lauded Latschar's work to show visitors how the land looked during the battle. "He's really impressed me with his emphasis on that," said Jones, who is the military historian at the Atlanta History Center. Jones credited Latschar with spearheading efforts to build a new museum for Gettysburg through a public-private partnership between the park and the non-profit Gettysburg Foundation - where he will now serve as president. "This is the new model for the National Park Service," Jones said. "This shows everybody how it will be done, how it should be done."

When he steps down in March from his role as superintendent, Latschar said he'll most miss the green Park Service uniform. "I am so used to it that I'm not sure how I'm going to feel when it comes off," he said. As president of the Gettysburg Foundation, Latschar will be responsible for overseeing operations at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center that he helped create. Latschar said he was fortunate to get the support of the director of the National Park Service when he proposed a public-private partnership to fund a new center. After all, there was little money to be made from the not-for-profit endeavor.

"We had no idea if we'd get any response," Latschar said. "The only thing the Park Service was offering was the opportunity to make a difference." But six proposals did come in, and the park chose York developer Bob Kinsley's. Kinsley, as chairman of the foundation's board of directors, is now Latschar's new boss. Latschar said he had never expected to be offered the job after current President Robert Wilburn's decision to step down. Fundraising, by law, is not the job of a federal employee. But Latschar said he does have experience with appealing to potential donors' passion for history. Explaining the significance of Gettysburg is something Latschar says he can do forever. As for his own mark on history, that's one subject Latschar won't touch. "I don't get to choose my legacy," he said. "That's for other people to decide."

Contact Erin James at

Text and First Two Image Source: Evening

Third Image Source: Gettysburg National Military Park

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