Wednesday, April 30, 2008

News---The Opera's Not Over Until John Brown Swings

John Brown Opera In Kansas City

On May 3, The Lyric Opera - Kansas City presents the world premier of the opera "John Brown," which promises to "bring to life" Brown's career in Kansas and other events in his tumultuous life. Other scheduled performances are May 5, 7, 9 and 11.

John Brown Opera Synopsis

In 1854 Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which provided that the question of slavery in those territories was to be decided by their residents. This precipitated a proto-civil war between North and South, both sides sending men and money to Kansas to swing the balance of national power. The South was in control of the federal government; it feared that abolition of slavery in the new states would mean the end of its power. Nearest to Kansas was Missouri, a slave state; in the first territorial elections, thousands of armed men from the South crossed the border, terrorized election officials, stuffed the ballot boxes and "elected" a pro-slavery Kansas government which immediately enacted repressive laws: anti-slavery sentiments were punishable by prison sentences or death. This territorial government was given official sanction in Washington.

Lawrence, Kansas Territory, December 8, 1855

Invaders from the South are threatening the free-state settlers of Lawrence, Kansas. Martha and her brother Tom, both pacifists, try to persuade her fiancé, John Brown's son, Oliver, to leave town with them, but he refuses. The leader of the settlers, Robinson, and the pro-slavery Governor both want to avoid conflict, but each is opposed in his own camp: Robinson by the abolitionist John Brown, the Governor by the blood-thirsty Sheriff. When Lt. Jeb Stuart arrives without the troops the Governor had requested, the Governor crosses the river to sign a peace treaty with Robinson. Stuart, a proud Southerner, overhears John Brown describing the evils of slavery. This leads to a heated confrontation, with Stuart's slave caught in the middle. Alone with the slave, Brown tells how, like Moses, he has been chosen by God to lead the slaves to freedom. Robinson and the Governor return and are about to sign an evasive treaty, but Brown and the settlers suspect that they are being sold out to the slavery side. At the height of renewed conflict, Tom's body is brought in. Martha tells how he was murdered by the invaders. Her anguish brings about reconciliation. The treaty is signed while Brown warns, "This is but the prelude to disaster."

Scene 1 - A meadow in Kansas, May, 1856

On their homestead in eastern Kansas, Brown's family and friends sing a spiritual with a slave whose family Brown rescued. Brown and Oliver bring news that an army of Southerners has entered Kansas, swearing to kill the Browns and all other abolitionists. These invaders are being helped by Brown's slave-trading neighbors on Pottawatomie Creek. Martha, still distraught over her brother's death, comes to say goodbye. Oliver convinces her to stay, to believe in the power of love. Frederick Douglass, the great black leader, comes to visit his old friend Brown, who reveals his plan to use the Southern Allegheny Mountains as a base for an attack on slavery. He then persuades Douglass to give a speech. Some of Brown's Southern neighbors burst in, assisted by U. S. troops under Lt. Stuart, looking for an escaped slave. Thinking Douglass was the fugitive, the neighbors beat and tie him. Douglass proves his innocence, but Stuart supervises the burning of the Browns' outlawed books. Brown leads Douglass away; when he returns a messenger comes with news that war had begun: Lawrence has been burned, its leaders jailed. Furious that there was no resistance, Brown calls for a retaliatory strike against his Southern neighbors. With the words, "The Northern army is born tonight," he leads Oliver and several others off, carrying swords.

Scene 2 - Emerson's house, Concord, Massachusetts, March, 1857

In his home in Concord, Massachusetts, Ralph Waldo Emerson praises Brown as the hero who saved Kansas. Amos Lawrence, the wealthy manufacturer for whom the Kansas town was named, decries Brown's lawlessness. While Emerson and Henry Thoreau defend Brown, he is given supplies and clothing by the people of Concord. Brown declares that he will soon carry his fight into Virginia. Lawrence denounces this as leading to civil war, withdraws his support, and warns the others that if they aid Brown, they too will be guilty of treason. Brown contrasts their luxurious surroundings with the plight of the slaves and elicits even greater sympathy and gifts.

Scene 1 - A farm house in Maryland, October, 1859

Brown and eighteen men are hiding out in a farm house five miles from Harpers Ferry, Virginia. They need more men and money. Brown asks Douglass to join him, but when the black leader learns that the attack will be against the U. S. arsenal, he refuses. Brown insists that even if they fail, the raid will create such panic in the South that it will lead to civil war, the only means of ending slavery. Martha, now Oliver's wife and pregnant, has also become an abolitionist. Brown confides his doubt and depression to his daughter Annie, who assures him of the love and support of his family. When new recruits arrive with gold he interprets it as a sign to begin.

Scene 2 - Harpers Ferry, Virginia, three days later

The attack on Harpers Ferry had failed. Oliver, wounded and delirious, dies singing a hymn with his father. Governor Wise of Virginia is angered at news that the North is proclaiming Brown a hero. He prevents a crowd from lynching the wounded Brown, whom he then interrogates. As reporters take notes, Brown's eloquence puts the Governor on the defensive. When Brown's maps and letters are found, the Governor fears insurrection all through the South. He and Stuart goad the crowd to call for secession and war. A reporter whispers a rescue plan to Brown, who replies, "No! I am now worth inconceivably more to hang than I am to live."

A church in a Northern state, December 2, 1859

In a church in a Northern state, Douglass and Martha, she holding her baby, address a crowd gathered to mark the moment of Brown's execution in Virginia, and "to witness his resurrection." Douglass and Martha describe Brown's hanging, which the audience sees in large silhouette. "Now bury him!" Douglass says. "You cannot bury him! As long as men love freedom, John Brown will never die."

For Songs, Interviews, Lessons Plans and above text go to

CWL: Wasn't it just last October that the San Francisco Opera Company performed Philip Glass' Appomattox opera? See CWL's remarks at

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Classics Reprinted---Whistling Dixie: Southern Railroading Before the Rebellion and Black Virginians in Rebel Camps

Travel on Southern Antebellum Railroads, 1828-1860, Eugene Alvarez, University of Alabama Press, illustations, maps, notes, bibliography, index, 240 pp paperback $19.95

The matter-of-fact descriptive title of this interesting little volume on railroading in the pre–Civil War South does not do justice to Alvarez’s coverage of the subject. Along with his full account of trains and train accommodations,
he manages to encompass a number of social, political, and even ideological subjects.

“Here is a carefully researched account of all aspects of railroading—engines, cars, life aboard, perils of the road, stations—with much contemporary
flavor from this boisterous era.”-- Anniston Star

“A charming and informative examination of the early years of railroads. It is also history of the kind I like best: a study not of great events or momentous trends, but of how people lived.” — Jonathan Yardley, Miami Herald

“Excellently and extensively illustrated and can be recommended to all interested in trains and southern social history.” — Journal of Southern History

The Confederate Negro Virginia’s Craftsmen and Military Laborers, 1861–1865, James H. Brewer, University of Alabama Press, 240 pp, illustrtions, notes, bibliography, index, paperback, $29.95.

“Brewer has brought to light creditably the little known contribution of the Virginia Negroes, free and slave, to the Confederacy. In so doing, he corrects a serious historical omission while delivering a telling blow to the destruction of the stereotyped southern Negro during the war. . . . A milestone in the history of the period and essential to any serious study of the Civil War, the Negro, and the South.” — Journal of American History

“Brewer forcefully presents his main theme that the Virginia Negro ‘contributed a sustaining eff ort to the War for Southern Independence and an impressive mass of facts and statistics demonstrates that the Old Dominion’s more than half a million blacks made a vital contribution to the rebel cause. . . . Professor Brewer makes his point effectively and, in the process, adds a new dimension to the measurement of the Confederate war effort. No historian of the Civil War era can afford to ignore this book, which sheds so much new light.” — Journal of Southern History

A Gettysburg College “Top 200 Civil War Books” selection, Mayflower Award Winner for 1970

Source: text from publisher

New--Federal Second Corps at Antietam

Unfurl Those Colors: McClellan, Sumner, and the Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign, Marion V. Armstrong, University of Alabama Press, index, notes, bibliography, maps, illustrations, 424 pages.

Unfurl Those Colors! examines the operational fabric of leadership
and command in the Army of the Potomac during one of the most critical campaigns and battles of the Civil War. The Battle of Antietam remains “the bloodiest single day of combat in American history” with over 5,000 killed, 20,000 wounded, and 3,000 missing. Many eminent Civil War historians consider it the turning point of the war.

As a result of the perceived Federal success at Antietam, Abraham Lincoln was able to issue the Emancipation Proclamation to make the war about ending slavery and terminating any hope of European recognition for the South. This book constitutes an operational study of the Army of the Potomac during this campaign and battle, carefully documenting the command decisions of army commander George B. McClellan and following the execution of those decisions through the corps level of command and down to the ordinary soldier in the Second Army Corps.

It reappraises the leadership and decisions of Edwin V. Sumner during the battle of Antietam as the one federal corps commander who was steadfast in carrying out McClellan’s plan of battle and effectively directed the battle on the Federal right. It details as no previous account has the fighting of the Second Army Corps at Antietam to include Sedgwick’s division in the West Woods and French’s and Richardson’s divisions at Bloody Lane.

"Unfurl Those Colors! is a very important contribution to the field of Civil War and military history. While a number of significant books have been written on the Battle of Antietam and the Maryland Campaign, none have narrowed down a particular phase as this book does.” states Ted Alexander, Chief Historian at Antietam National Battlefield Park and a Smithsonian Associates tour guide specializing in Civil War sites.

Marion V. Armstrong Jr. is a retired U.S. Army reserve officer and teaches history at colleges in middle Tennessee.

Source: text from publisher

CWL: It seems Antietam/Sharpsburg is having a good year when it comes to publishers' attention. The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam by Joseph Pierro arrived on the bookstore shelves in late March and now Unfurl Those Colors is upon us. The summer reading stack is getting tall!

News---Grand Army of the Republic Post Restored In Original Location

Civil War Fundraiser Seeks To Restore 'Historic Treasure', Bob Karlovits, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 24, 2008.

A Civil War commemorative event in Carnegie has grown into a full weekend this year with an evening of music Friday and a Sunday afternoon talk by a historian. The effort also is taking a bigger role in the $8.6 million capital campaign to aid the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in that borough. It is the second expansion of a three-year-old event centered on raising funds to restore the Thomas Espy Post of the Grand Army of the Republic at the library building.

"At this point, I think we'll call it quits," Diane Ragan says of the length of the event. She is library director and the author of two books on the Civil War. Maggie Forbes, executive director of the library and music hall, says it is accurate to look at the event as related to the capital campaign because "anytime we do anything that helps us reconnect our library to the community, it helps in what we do." The event will open with The NewLanders, a folk group that will perform a program called "Songs of Southwestern Pennsylvania." It will deal with music from the Civil War era through the time of the industrialization that brought many immigrants here.

The program will end Sunday with a talk by Stuart McConnell, a professor of history at Pitzer College in California. He is the author of a book about the change of political and social reality shaped by the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization made up of members of the Union Army. Saturday will be filled with an encampment by the re-enactment unit, the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves, military drills and skirmishes, readings of the Gettysburg Address by Rea Redd from the re-enactment unit, and a Civil War exposition in the reception hall.

Ragan joined the library in 2006 when she began a career in library science after writing the books on the Civil War and working at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland. She says she had been thinking about work as an archivist but didn't find that hopeful. "Coming to a library that also has an archive is a wedding made in heaven," she says of the files in the Espy post.

Forbes has been advancing the growth of the library, music hall and Espy post in ways that also include concerts at the music hall. But she says the restoration of the Espy post is the most significant part of the efforts. "The music hall is a regional treat," she says, "but the Espy post is a historic treasure."

Bob Karlovits can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

CWL: The wwwsite of the GAR post is

Click on the white rectangle (Thomas Espy Post) under the masthead of the wwwsite.

The group most responsible for the preservation of the GAR post in Carnegie, PA, which is 8 miles south of Pittsburgh, PA is the Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves, a Civil War reenactment unit, founded in 1981. In April 2000, the unit co-organized a three evening performance of 'Our American Cousin' with a professional theatre troupe. The event raised $10,000 which was matched within 90 days by the local and state governments; the current preservation effort of the post began in 2000. The GAR post is located in Carnegie Free Library building and the board of the library is committed to the preservation of the post.

Monday, April 28, 2008

New---The War and The Hearth in Dixieland

Weary of War: Life on the Confederate Home Front, Joe Mobley, Prager/Greenwood Publishing, illustrations, bibliography, index, 200 pp., $49.95.

Providing a fresh look at a crucial aspect of the American Civil War, this new study explores the day-to-day life of people in the Confederate States of America as they struggled to cope with a crisis that spared no one, military or civilian. Mobley touches on the experiences of everyone on the home front-white and black, male and female, rich and poor, young and old, native and foreign born.

He looks at health, agriculture, industry, transportation, refugees city life, religion, education, culture families, personal relationships, and public welfare. In so doing, he offers his perspective on how much the "will of the people" contributed to the final defeat of the Southern cause. Although no single experience was common to all Southerners, a great many suffered poverty, dislocation, and heartbreak.

For African Americans, however, the war brought liberation from slavery and the promise of a new life. White women, too, saw their lives transformed as wartime challenges gave them new responsibilities and experiences. Mobley explains how the Confederate military draft, heavy taxes, and restrictions on personal freedoms led to widespread dissatisfaction and cries for peace among Southern folk. He describes the Confederacy as a region of divided loyalties, where pro-Union and pro-Confederate neighbors sometimes clashed violently. This readable, one-volume account of life "behind the lines" will prove particularly useful for students of the conflict.

Table of Contents:
1. Death, Sickness, and Despair
2. Agriculture, Industry, and Transportation
3. Destitution, Poor Relief, and Ersatz
4. Conscription, Desertion, and Internal Conflict
5. Slaves, Free Blacks, and Foreigners
6. Refugees, Cities, and Towns
7. Religion, Education, and Cultural Life
8. Courtship, Marriage, and Family Life

Source: text from publisher

CWL: Weary of War: Life on the Confederate Home Front by Joe A. Mobley is the third in the series 'Reflections on the Civil War Era' and released in March. True Sons of the Republic: European Immigrants in the Union Army by Martin W. Öfele is the second in the series and was released in February. Decision in the Heartland: The Civil War in the West, the first in the series, was released in January.

New---True Sons of the Republic: Europeans Fighting for the Union

True Sons of the Republic: European Immigrants in the Union Army, Martin W. Öfele, Praeger/Greenwood Publishing, 240 pp., photos, notes, bibliography, $49.95.

Up to 500,000 Union soldiers, or one fourth of the Union army, had been born in Europe. These immigrants had left their home countries for a multitude of reasons, mostly economic and political. In the United States, they envisioned a country of freedom that would allow them to pursue their goals of acquiring wealth and participating in politics. Soon immersed in the great debate over the expansion of slavery, many immigrants found themselves forced to take sides and eventually rallied around the Union flag. Ethnic Americans joined the Northern army out of the same motivations as their native-born comrades, with one notable difference. By defending the Union, immigrant volunteers hoped to tear down nativist obstruction against their assimilation into society and prove their worth as full citizens.

Declaring their unconditional loyalty, several groups entered into veritable competitions to raise separate regiments that would defend not only the Union but ethnic and national pride. Through their high visibility within the army, those units became synonymous with the ethnic war effort. The conduct of noticeable organizations such as the Irish Brigade or the partly German Eleventh Army Corps shaped public notions of immigrant participation in the war for decades to come, notwithstanding the fact that the large majority of foreign-born soldiers served in mixed and predominantly native American regiments. These new Americans contributed substantially to Union victory.

Martin W. Ofele has taught history at the Universities of Leipzig and Munich. He is the author of several publications on the Civil War Era in Germany.

Source: text from publisher

CWL: True Sons of the Republic: European Immigrants in the Union Army by Martin W. Öfele is the second in the series 'Reflections on the Civil War Era' from Praeger/Greenwood Publishing and was released in February. Decision in the Heartland: The Civil War in the West, the first in the series, was released in January and Weary of War: Life on the Confederate Home Front by Joe A. Mobley is the third and released in March.

New---The North Won The War By Winning The West; Praeger Publishing Lauches New Series

Decision in the Heartland: The Civil War in the West, Steven E. Woodworth, 208 pages, Praeger/Greenwood Publishers,photos, bibliography, notes, $39.95.

The verdict is in: the Civil War was won in the "West"--that is, in the nation's heartland, between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. Yet, a person who follows the literature on the war might still think that it was the conflict in Virginia that ultimately decided the outcome.

Each year sees the appearance of new books aimed at the popular market that simply assume that it was in the East, often at Gettysburg, that the decisive clashes of war the took place. For decades, serious historians of the Civil War have completed one careful study after another, nearly all tending to indicate the pivotal importance of what people during the war referred to as "the West."

In this fast paced overview, Woodworth presents his case for the decisiveness of the theater. Overwhelming evidence now indicates that it was battles like Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Chattanooga, and Atlanta that sealed the fate of the Confederacy-not the nearly legendary clashes at Bull Run or Chancellorsville or the mythical "high-water mark" at Gettysburg. The western campaigns cost the Confederacy vast territories, the manufacturing center of Nashville, the financial center of New Orleans, communications hubs such as Corinth, Chattanooga, and Atlanta, along with the agricultural produce of the breadbasket of the Confederacy.

They sapped the morale of Confederates and buoyed the spirits of Unionists, ultimately sealing the northern electorate's decision to return Lincoln to the presidency for a second term and thus to see the war through to final victory. Detailing the "Western" clashes that proved so significant, Woodworth contends that it was there alone that the Civil War could be--and was--decided.
Steve E. Woodworth is Professor of History at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. He received his Ph.D. in history from Rice University in 1987 and has taught at colleges in Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia. He has authored, co-authored, or compiled twenty-six books, including Nothing but Victory; While God is Marching On; and Jefferson Davis and His Generals.

Source: text supplied by the publisher

CWL: Decision in the Heartland: The Civil War in the West is the first in the series 'Reflections on the Civil War Era' from Praeger/Greenwood Publishing. Decision in the Heartland: The Civil War in the West arrived in January. True Sons of the Republic: European Immigrants in the Union Army by Martin W. Öfele was released in February and Weary of War: Life on the Confederate Home Front by Joe A. Mobley in March.

Friday, April 25, 2008

CWL---Malvern Hill July 1862 and Cemetry Hill July 1863: Lee's Deja Voodoo?

At the GNMP Seminar in April Jennifer Murray, a doctoral student at Auburn University, compared frontal assaults made during the American Civil War. She noted at Malvern Hill, Lee planned for converging artillery fire followed by an attack by 14 brigades. This assault was plagued by bad communication between division, brigade and artillery generals, and suffered from poor maps that allowed troops to be out of position. Longstreet dissented from the plan and Henry Hunt was in charge of the Federal artillery.

Lee, 367 days later, does it all over again at Gettysburg. Murray asked 'What did Lee learn from Malvern Hill?' She feels Lee learned very little. Was the artillery organized better at Gettysburg? No. Did the infantry generals get their troops to the point of the attack in a way that allowed them to break and hold the Union line at Gettysburg? No. Did Lee clearly mark the beginning of the attack after the artillery had cleared the point of attack? No.

Murray, after discussion Fort Donelson, Malvern Hill, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Spotsylvania and the Crater, reaches the conclusion that there was no significant change in infantry tactics in the course of the war.

Stephen W. Sears in the March 2008 issue of North South magazine presents Lee's efforts at Malvern Hill in a manner that encourages the reader to find marked similarities between the July 1862 and July 1863 assaults. 'The Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862' map on page 25 is striking in its resemblance to Cemetery Hill as the Union forces occupied it on July 2-3, 1863.

On the Carter and Poindexter farms, Longstreet found a low, open ridge lines within artillery range of the Federal's Malvern Hill line. Lee and Longstreet wished to catch the Union position in an artillery crossfire; if a crossfire could be achieved the Federal artillery would be destroyed or be forced to withdraw from the hill. Difficulties arose when it became apparent that insufficient artillery was available for both farms to be used as artillery platforms. Instead pf 50 canons on the Pointdexter Farm, only 16 were deployed by Jackson and these were quickly destroyed or chased away by the Federal artillery. The Federals achieved a 2 to 1 advantage in the number of artillery pieces engaged. Confederate access to the Carter Farm's ridge was obstructed by dense woods; one battery at a time could reach the firing line on Carter's Farm and these also were dispatched as the Federals could concentrate more pieces than the Confederates could on the farm's ridge line.

As the Federals rearranged their guns, a Confederate colonel reported that the Federals were pulling back from the hill. Also, a Confederate general reported that Armistead's brigade had taken a lower portion of the hill. These two reports caused Lee to issue new orders for an immediate rapid advance. Sears lays the blame for the Confederate defeat on to several instances of imprecise infantry orders and a mispreception of the terrain to be assaulted by Lee. From the Official Records, Sears quotes Lee's understanding of the battle; "Under ordinary circumstance the Federal Army should be been destroyed."

It is interesting to note that Lee interpreted Gettysburg in the same manner; in Lee's view Gettysburg is a failure of his lieutenants to achieve coordination with each other. From 'The Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862' map on page 25 the path of the Confederate assault leads to the salient of the Union line; at Gettysburg the Cemetery Hill salient is protected by the borough of Gettysburg itself. At Malvern Hill, Lee wished to assault the flanks of the salient but found the terrain made that assault impractical; he assaulted the center instead. At Gettysburg, the flanks of the Cemetery Hill appeared vulnerable and he did order the assault.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

News---GNMP's Tree Removal Sets Trend For Other Civil War Parks

Civil War Buffs Couldn't See History For The Trees: National Parks Clear Trees From Original Battlefield 'Sight lines,' Delighting (And Appalling)Students Of History, Randy Dotinga, The Christian Science Monitor, April 23, 2008.

Even though he spends his time guiding tourists through the nooks and crannies of a Civil War-era house, retired librarian Harry Conay believes that nature can trump history. He's watched in horror as the National Park Service has tried to make the Gettysburg National Military Park look more like it did on three July days in 1863. Officials are nearly a third of the way through cutting down 576 acres of trees that didn't exist back then.

Another 275 acres will be replanted with trees and orchards that disappeared over the past 15 decades. But it's not enough to please Mr. Conay, who says the battlefield's history is partly told through the healing of the earth. After all, the trees managed to thrive on land ravaged by a deadly struggle between two immense armies.

"During those 140 years, this has become something more than a battlefield lesson," Conay says from behind the gift-shop counter at the historic house where he serves as a guide. But the trees continue to fall, despite a flurry of protests amid preparations for this month's opening of a $103 million visitors center and museum. And as the 150th anniversary of the Civil War approaches, at least one other battlefield is poised to restore history by chopping down countless trees.

To supporters, including park officials and amateur historians, the Gettysburg project makes perfect sense because it allows visitors to better understand the past. The enormous challenges facing generals and soldiers, they say, will finally be clear. "It's not just about trying to create a postcard picture to make something look like it did 150 years ago," says Don Barger, a regional director with the National Parks Service, which runs the military park. "It's about protecting the elements necessary to tell the story."

The park, in southern Pennsylvania, draws about 2 million visitors each year to marvel at a crucial and bloody battle. The South, which had come close to forcing the North to the bargaining table, lost the battle and never recovered. Dozens of tour buses traverse the 6,000-acre military park each day, bringing visitors to admire hundreds of statues and monuments and view battle landmarks such as Little Round Top and the Peach Orchard.

As part of the restoration project, park officials digitized 19th-century maps and conducted "terrain analysis" – a military strategy taught at West Point – to figure out which features of the landscape affected the battle. Then the officials made choices about adding or removing everything from trees and fences to roads and orchards.

The "rehabilitation" project – about halfway completed – will eliminate 576 acres of trees while adding 115 acres of trees and 160 acres of orchards. Thirty-nine miles of "historic" fencing will be erected, too. In addition, power poles have been removed along with a car dealership and a motel.

Among other things, the park service has cut down a stand of trees at Devil's Den, uncovering more of the rocky patch where Civil War photographers captured stunning images of the carnage. Elsewhere, fences will be built to show the challenges facing Confederate troops who tried to ambush Union soldiers by crossing a wide field. According to the park's plan, the fences will allow visitors to see that the soldiers in the famous Pickett's Charge had to pick their way through: 12 small fields instead of one big one.

William G. Jeff Davis, an amateur historian in Gettysburg, says the restoration project has allowed him and others to better understand the maneuvers of the armies. "It's forcing historians to take another look and perhaps even rewrite their histories to an extent. To me, that's exciting," says Mr. Davis (no relation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis).

Mr. Barger, the park service regional director, says battlefield restoration allows visitors to fully understand moments of history. At Stones River National Battlefield in Tennessee, for instance, a cotton field still stands where it did at the end of 1862. "There are records about the cotton flying in the air because of all the bullets going every which way," Barger says. "It's part of telling the story to say, 'That's where it was,' and there it is."

But critics of the Gettysburg project are unimpressed and have made their views known in letters to the editor and online comments. "If you're a true preservationist, then all the monuments and access roads need to go because they weren't there in 1863," wrote a Gettysburg native to an Illinois paper. "For that matter, most of the population, infrastructure, and business wasn't there either. If you are a true preservationist, then get rid of it all."

Barger acknowledges that cutting down trees seems an unusual thing for the park service to do. "It is one of those things which seems like a contradiction at first, but only if you have a narrow scope of what the national park system protects." The park service preserves history in addition to nature, Barger says. Indeed, 60 percent of sites preserved by the park service are historic, not natural treasures such as Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, he says.

More battlefields will be spiffed up themselves as the 150th anniversary of the Civil War approaches in 2011, and controversies over restoration projects may be inevitable. A debate is already under way at Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi, where Union and Confederate troops battled over access to the Mississippi River.

Under one proposal, the park would cut down stands of oak and hickory trees to allow visitors to better understand the Confederate defenses. The key to battlefield rehabilitation, Barger says, is to create spots where visitors can "almost feel the bullets." "That," he says, "is what you want to have happen in a battlefield."

Several U.S. historic sites are being given new looks. A few notable examples:

• The Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania unveiled a $103 million museum and visitors center in a "soft opening" earlier this month. A grand opening will be held in September, when visitors will be able to see the famous cyclorama painting of the pivotal battle, restored to the way it looked in 1884.

• As part of a $110 million restoration project, a new visitors center and museum opened at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estates and Gardens in 2006. Visitors to the Virginia estates can watch documentary films, wander through galleries, and look at three life-sized models of America's first president, each created with the assistance of a forensic anthropologist.

• Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants first encountered New York City and America, opened a newly restored ferry building on its south side to visitors last year and is raising money to restore more buildings.

• At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia, construction has begun on a $55 million visitors center and museum that will include hands-on activities for children.

• A $14 million visitors center opened in 2005 at Fort Necessity, the Pennsylvania site of the first battle of the French and Indian War. It draws about 90,000 visitors a year.


(top) Plum Run from Little Round Top, photo found at
(middle)Slyder Farm from Timbers Farm, south of Triangular Field, by CWL/Rea Andrew Redd
(bottom) Devils Den, from Plum Run's Slaughter Pen, by CWL/Rea Andrew Redd

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CWL---12th GNMP Seminar "The Fate Of A Nation: The Third Day at Gettysburg

April 12 (morning) Lectures at the Gettysburg Hotel

John Latschar---Welcome: There are striking similarities between the Gettysburg Campaign and the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam

Jen Murray---Pickett's Charge: Typical or Untypical Frontal Assault? The six mistakes by Lee at Malvern Hill were repeated by Lee at Cemetery Hill.

Bill Hewitt---Lee's General Plan: Dislodge and Destroy the Enemy on Cemetery Hill

Eric Campbell---Federal Authority on Cemetery Ridge: Hancock v. Hunt
Hancock announced himself to be the commander of the Federal Center and Left with authority over three corps. Hunt manages to transcend the Hancock's short-sightedness regarding the expenditure of artillery ammunition. (This is similar to Slocum thinking that he is the commander of the Federal right wing though Meade is unaware that Slocum understands himself to be the commander of the Federal right wing.)

Bert Barnett---The Confederate Artillery Barrage: Effective or Humbug? Lee was precise in written communication and imprecise in oral communication

April 12 (FR afternoon) and 13 (SU morning) Battlefield Tours:

Friday: 2.5 hours
Matt Atkinson: Lee Views the Assault
Scott Hartwig: Heroes, Myth and Memory at the High Water Mark
Three major Confederate generals who participated in the assualt said in the 1880s that Cemetery Hill was the objective. Ziegler's Grove was cut down immediately after the battle; John Batchelder mistook The Copse of Trees which had added ten feet of height in the 20 years since the battle for Ziegler's Grove.
Tim Orr: Skirmishing on July 3rd: The Deadly Game
Tom Holbrook: Brilliant and Successful?: The Fight on East Cavalry Field

Sunday: 2.5 hours
Chuck Teague: The Right Gone Awry---Pickett's Vulnerable Right FlankThe three events which caused the Charge to go awry:
1. Federal artillery overshoots hit Kemper's brigade causing an early mis-alignment in the ranks and files
2. Confederate artillery running out of ammunition and the misplacement of a battery that was to advance with Kemper's brigade.
3. The Confederate 'guide right' and 'close left' commands, to cover for killed and wounded that dropped out from the Federal artillery barrage ordered by McGilvary, pushed the ranks and files to the left thereby missing the gap in the Federal line that existed between McGilvary's battery and the Vermont brigade.
Chuck Fennell: The Hellish Fight at Culp's Hill
Karlton Smith: Alexander Hays, The Blue Birds and the Union Defense at the Salient
Troy Harman: George Meade: Cut-and-Run or Counter-Offensive.

Photos: (Top) CWL with Scott Hartwig at The Angle (photograph by Gerry Boehm)
(Bottom) CWL with Chuck Teague on the Kingle Farm (photograph by Gerry Boehm)

Words From the Well Known---Henry Ward Beecher at Fort Sumter, April 14th, 1865

Henry Ward Beecher, preacher, abolitionist, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom's Cabin or Life Among the Lowly, 1813-1887

Speech at the ceremonial rising of the U.S. flag at Fort Sumter, Charleston SC, April 14, 1865.

"The soil has drunk blood and is glutted; millions mourn for millions slain . . . .
Towns and villages have been razed; fruitful fields have been turned to wilderness. It came to pass, as the prophet said: 'The sun was turned to darkness and the moon to blood'.

"We have shown by all that we have suffered in war how great is our estimate of the importance of the southern States to this Union, and we will honor that estimate now in peace by still greater exertions for their rebuilding."

"Those who refuse education to the black man whould turn the South into a vast poorhouse, and labor into a pendulum incessantly vibrating between poverty and indolence."

Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Civil War Quotations, John D. Wright, ed., Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 24-25.

Other Voices---Lincoln and Obama On Race: Better Angels, Bitter Demons

Two Speeches on Race, Garry Wills, The New York Review of Books, May 1, 2008.

Two relatively young men, presidential candidates from Illinois both of whom are tangentially associated with extremists. Neither had vast experience in politics at the national level and both were underdogs in a nominating process that favored entrenched senators from New York. Both had legislatively opposed a popular war. In their presidential nomination campaigns both were assailed by charges of being connected with an unpatriotic and possibly violent radical community. Each decided to meet the charges by public oratory: Lincoln at Cooper Union, New York City in 1861and Obama at the Constitution Center, Philadelphia in 2008.

Lincoln addressed the issue in three ways. He was a Constitutionalist more exacting than his critics; his party was more conservative that his detractors who charged him as being like-minded with John Brown; he was not opposed to the Supreme Court judgements but was opposed to its information that was dispensed with its decisions.

Obama addressed the issue in three ways. He is a Constitutionalist more hopeful in progress than his critics; he is more progressive than Jeremiah Wright who offers a static view of society; he is not opposed to Jeremiah Wright as a person and friend but is opposed to the vision of the future Wright offers and tells the story of young Ashley who wanted health care for her mother and the elderly man who will work in the campaign in order to honor Ashley for her hope.
Garry Wills is a scholar of Lincoln and rhetoric studiesa and also is a liberal Roman Catholic. His essay is clear and concise. It offers a subtle but dramatic insight into both the history of 1861 and history-in-the-making of 2008 presidential nominating campaigns, as the better angels wrestle with the bitter demons of our personal and national natures.

Monday, April 14, 2008

News: Army of the Potomac's Winter Huts Location To Be Preserved

Park Proposed For Civil War's 'Valley Forge', Clint Schemmer, Free-Lance Star, March 26, 2008.

Central Stafford County needs a public park, historians and preservationists say, but not of the usual kind. This one, set atop ridges overlooking Accokeek Creek, would feature the most significant remaining set of unprotected Civil War forts and camps in the northern part of Virginia. That's what they recommended yesterday to area officials meeting at the University of Mary Washington's graduate-studies center in Hartwood.

County Administrator Anthony Romanello convened the ad-hoc group, which included Stafford supervisors, archaeologists, historians, planners, private citizens, and officials from the public utility that runs the regional landfill where the historic sites are located. To protect the sites as the landfill grows, the R-Board--or Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board--intends to preserve 14 to 20 acres of the 760-acre facility.

"The important thing is to convey this land unimpaired for our children--that's the first priority," said John Hennessy, chief historian of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. "The R-Board has done a great thing by setting this property aside." In January, R-Board members voted unanimously to reshape an 80-acre landfill expansion, giving up 3 to 5 acres, to preserve one of the forts, R-Board Superintendent Andrew J. Mikel said. The other forts and winter camps sit on land nearer the creek, where environmental rules preclude landfill development.

Many participants in yesterday's meeting favored creating a park on the property so the public can see and appreciate the Civil War and 18th-century sites, which include four Union Army forts and two camps where soldiers spent the winter of 1862-63. Supervisor Paul Milde, whose Aquia District includes the tract, strongly supports the park concept.

The idea was first proposed two years ago by Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites, a private group that has worked with builders and county officials to protect and memorialize other Union sites in eastern Stafford. FSCWS made supervisors and planning commissioners aware of the Civil War sites in 2006, presenting a 100-page report on them and urging that they be preserved as a park with a one-lane, one-way road to provide access for visitors. Officials were asked to keep the information confidential to help save the sites, which are little known to the general public but have been dug by relic hunters since the 1950s.

Having waited two years for officials to act, FSCWS is now "impatient" to see the sites made into a park, said Glenn Trimmer, the group's director. Trimmer said the tract is the best surviving piece of the "Valley Forge of the Civil War," the winter camps where the Union Army recovered from its defeats at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville and in the humiliating "Mud March," and gained the strength to fight again.

"You've got to remember," he said, "soldiers left these camps and went straight to Gettysburg. If they hadn't kept this army intact, and gotten it well trained and well drilled here, Gettysburg would have been a defeat." Author and University of Richmond instructor John W. Mountcastle and Stafford historian Al Conner urged Stafford, Fredericksburg and the R-Board officials to work quickly so the public can enjoy the sites during the Civil War's 150th anniversary, which begins in 2011. Mountcastle said the park could be a boon to regional tourism, much like two Civil War redoubts that Williamsburg saved and opened as a park last year during Jamestown's 400th anniversary.

Kerry K. Schamel-Gonzalez, research supervisor with Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, described two archaeological studies the Fredericksburg firm has done of the tract for the R-Board. Dovetail surveyed 12 sites, including four Civil War forts, two winter camps, a "corduroy" road built by Union troops, an 18th-century road trace and bridge site, two sandstone quarries, and 18th- and 19th-century home sites.

The forts were built to defend against a feared attack by Confederate cavalry, Schamel-Gonzalez said. A network of such earthworks protected the Union encampments in Stafford, home to at least 120,000 troops, and the army's bustling supply depot at Aquia Landing on the Potomac River. Hennessy and others urged that the sites be put on the National Register of Historic Places, to attest to their importance and help preserve them.

Romanello, county Historical Commission Chairwoman Anita Dodd and others said it's imperative to do more archaeology on the whole tract to make sure officials know what historic sites--including Indian and Colonial ones--might be there. At Romanello's suggestion, the principals agreed to form a small study group to hammer out the details of archaeology, preservation and park development. In the meantime, Mikel warned that the historic area, which is posted, is being patrolled by the county Sheriff's Office. Trespassers will be arrested, he said.
Segments from reports by Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and the Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites:

The proposed park tract in central Stafford features 12 archaeological sites, including: FORT 1: This two-faced, 248-foot-long Union Army battery has two gun platforms that may have held 3-inch ordnance rifles or 12-pound Napoleons. At its center is a square, 9-foot-deep supply pit or blockhouse. The fort area includes a zigzag trench and rifle pits.

FORT 2: This three-faced, 210-foot-long battery would have had four or five cannon.

FORT 3: This three-faced battery, which may have held six guns, included a heavily built blockhouse with below-ground storage for powder and shell.

FORT 4: Originally about 200 feet long, this earthwork has been damaged by logging.

WINTER CAMPS: A picket post and two dug-in winter camps, which had log shelters with fireplaces for the soldiers, neighbor the forts. One camp has what is believed to be an officers' quarters made of sandstone.

CORDUROY ROAD: Part of the area's wartime road network included a corduroy road built of logs so the Army of the Potomac could move wagons and heavy guns through boggy areas. Part of one such road, built of pine logs, is perfectly preserved in one swampy site.

BRIDGE ABUTMENTS: Sandstone abutments survive from a bridge that crossed a creek for a well-preserved 18th-century road that was a major route for the Union Army's 11th Corps.

QUARRIES: Two late 18th-century sandstone quarries, one of which appears to have later become a mill, speak to Stafford's role as a provider of building stone. Cut stone was put on skids and pulled by oxen or horse, or loaded onto shallow scows and taken downstream on Accokeek Creek. (The quarry at Government Island, on Aquia Creek, provided sandstone for the White House and the U.S. Capitol.)


Photo: (Top) A Union blockhouse (left) like one found near Accokeek Creek defends Stafford's Potomac Creek railroad bridge. Library of Congres

Photo: (Bottom) Dale Galleon, artist.

GNMP New Visitor Center: How The NYT Reports It And Thoughts From CWL's First Visit

At Gettysburg, Farther From the Battle but Closer to History, Dave Caldwell, New York Times, March 12, 2008

The old visitor center and museum at the Gettysburg National Military Park was cramped, obsolete and a little too close to history. The brick building, built in the 1920s as a private home, was part of a complex that sat where Union lines had stood for the last two days of the most famous battle in the Civil War. Nearly 1,000 Union soldiers were killed, wounded or captured on the hallowed ground beneath the complex. Wayne E. Motts, a local historian who has been a licensed battlefield guide for 21 years, was not the only person who was bothered by this fact.

“I’ve said if I could go down there and tear down that building with my bare hands, I would,” said Mr. Motts, the executive director of the Adams County Historical Society, which is in Gettysburg, Pa. Luckily, he will be saved the trouble. The complex is being razed, and the land will be restored to how it looked in July 1863. Meanwhile, a $103 million visitor center and museum will open April 14 less than a mile away — on a plot of land, archaeologists have confirmed, where no fighting occurred.

Park workers and Civil War buffs have been waiting for decades for the opening of the new center and the debut on Sept. 26 of the restored 377-foot circular “Battle of Gettysburg” mural, which was completed in 1884 by the French painter Paul Philippoteaux and 20 other artists. The new museum has been designed so that its galleries of artifacts will give visitors a better historical context for what really happened when Union and Confederate soldiers clashed in the rolling farmland of south-central Pennsylvania 145 years ago.

“Our objective is to compel people to get out on the battlefield,” said John A. Latschar, the park superintendent since 1994. “If people come to the museum but don’t go on the battlefield, we will have failed.” Dr. Latschar, who has worked for the National Park Service for 30 years, and Robert C. Wilburn, the president of the Gettysburg Foundation, think they have built an enlightening museum for Gettysburg’s 1.7 million annual visitors. Gettysburg, 85 miles north of Washington and 200 miles southwest of New York, is a superb day trip; Dr. Latschar said the average visit lasted about eight hours. The new center and museum will encourage people to stay longer, perhaps overnight. He has told park rangers to anticipate deeper questions about the battle.

“The current museum that we’ve been living with all these years doesn’t tell our visitors anything about anything that means anything, period,” Dr. Latschar said. “It’s what you’d call a collection.” The museum still includes artifacts, including a portable wooden desk thought to have been used by Gen. Robert E. Lee; a sapling crutch made by George Kistler, a wounded Union soldier from Pennsylvania; and a doctor’s journal that listed the location of several thousand Confederate dead. A short film, “A New Birth of Freedom,” aims to immerse visitors in the battle and lay out its place in history.

Interspersed among the artifacts are interactive stations and exhibitions that Dr. Latschar said, half in jest, will finally take the museum experience into the 21st century. The exhibitions do not back away or sanitize the fact that nearly 8,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died at Gettysburg. Of the approximate 165,000 troops who fought in or near the town, more than 46,000 were killed, wounded, captured or went missing. One wall has 500 photographs of soldiers who became casualties.

“There are places where it’s really brought home,” Mr. Wilburn of the foundation said. “We don’t try to pull any punches. We want people to understand how terrible the war was in that regard.” Mr. Motts said, “If it is remembered like that, hopefully, people will make decisions that don’t have to lead to that point.” The center and museum combined consist of 24,000 square feet of exhibition space, as well as a Refreshment Saloon, serving some of the same foods popular in the 1860s, like Virginia ham and apple pie. The building has been equipped with a climate-controlled storage space for 300,000 objects and 700,000 archival materials.

The building, which resembles a combination farmhouse and barn, is located roughly in the middle of the “fish hook,” the shape of the Union Army’s defensive formation during the battle. It has also been built on lower ground, so that it is not visible from most of the battlefield and, unlike the old one, will not block the view. “But I think it’s going to markedly increase interest in the Battle of Gettysburg and markedly increase interest in the American Civil War,” Mr. Motts said. “I think the new museum will bring out a host of new stories.”

Photo: Top Michael Vyskocil/Gettysburg Foundation


Thoughts From CWL's First Visit:
On SA evening in the new museum, while walking into the (small room) film on the legacy of the battle I overheard someone walking out asking "What's Martin Luther King got to do with the Battle of Gettysburg?"

First thoughts on first visit:
1. I saw every cent of $103 million.
2. At times I stood in awe; the intersection of story and technology is very impressive.
3. This is not the mother-of-all-Battle of Gettysburg bookshops. It's a museum/visitors center store with candles, but a nice musuem/visitor center store on par with the Colonial Williamsburg (VA) or the Biltmore Mansion (Ashville, NC) gift shops.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

News---Historic Orchard Replanted in the GNMP

Gettysburg Battlefield Peach Orchard Replanted, Evening Sun, April 8, 2008

Dave Stull, right, and Justin Stone, both of Randy's Lawncare, plant peach trees in the Peach Orchard in the Gettysburg National Military Park on Monday afternoon. (photo: Evening Sun)

The National Park Service recently started planting peach trees along Wheatfield and Emmitsburg roads, after removing ailing trees from the area about two years ago. The peach orchard is one of the most significant spots of the battlefield. Union Gen. Daniel Sickles ordered his troop line to move forward from near Little Round Top to the orchard on the Emmitsburg Road, creating a hard-to-defend salient for Confederate forces to focus their attack.

This "grave mistake" by Sickles led to heavy fighting in the orchard , according to park Superintendent John Latschar, and "lots of casualties, lots of heroism." The salient collapsed and almost brought doom for the entire Union line. Already past their prime at 25 years old, the uprooted trees in the orchard had been infected by the Tomato Ringspot virus, according to John Halbrendt, associate professor of plant pathology for the Pennsylvania State University. The Penn State Cooperative Extension of Adams County helped with identifying the peach orchard problems.

The virus is carried by broad-leafed weeds, such as dandelions, which spread the disease through their seeds. Nematodes, microscopic worms in the soil, can feed on the roots of these weeds and pass it to peach trees, on whose roots they also feed. Since the trees were removed two years ago, the soil has been treated to prevent infected nematodes from infecting new trees.

The peach orchard removal and replanting is part of the park service's continuing battlefield rehabilitation program, which includes removing more than 500 acres of trees, building fences and repairing and recreating historic pathways.

Cindy Copp a biological science technician for the Gettysburg National Military park puts up signs around the Peach Orchard to protect the newly planted trees. (photo: Evening Sun)

CWL: CWL applauds GNMP's management plan for eliminating the deer, putting fences on the historic farms, restoring the orchards, and eliminating excessive trees and brush from the battlefield. Approximately 36 farms were occupied by the armies during the battle; several were totally destroyed and the rest were made desolate. All efforts to return the historic farms to the GNMP are welcomed by CWL.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Seminar---Reaping The Whirlwind in Lynchburg, Virginia

Reaping the Whirlwind: The Battle of Gettysburg, The 2008 Liberty University Civil War Seminar March 28-30, Lynchburg, Virginia

Steven Woodworth on the Lee/Davis/Cabinet Schism over the Invasion and
Kent Masterson Brown on Lee's Plans for the Retreat

Troy Harmon on Lee's Plan for the Battle and for Pickett's Charge and
Ethan Rafus on Lee' and Meade's Plans for their corps commanders

Brian Melton on the Slocum's deliberate speed and
Warren Robinson on Jeb Stuart's deliberate impetuosity

Bradley Gottfried on the Union Artillery and
Ben Maryniak on the Union Chaplains

Tom Dejardin on Joshua Chamberlain in the hands Michael Shaara and
Richard Williams on Joshua Chamberlain in the hands of God

Jerry Markham on the 11th Virginia and
David Rider on Berdan's Sharpshooters at Gettysburg

Brenda Ayers on Gettysburg's female civilians and
Delanie Stephenson on Jenny Wade

Steven Woodworth on the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge
Ethan Rafuse on George Meade's strategy before and after the battle

Ervin Jordan on African-Americans in the Confederate army at Gettysburg and
Darlene and Michael Graves giving a dramatic reading of the Gettysburg Address with segments of The Gettysburg Gosple by Gabor Borrit

The Second South Carolina Band on the dance floor


Woodworth on the death of Jackson: "God said no to Lee."

Rafuse on Meade: "Meade was mortally wounded at Glendale and took ten years to die."

Harmon on Lee's Invasion Plan: "Lee was aware that a Napoleonic maxim stated that 90 men per acre per day was required while in the enemy's territory."

Harmon on Lee's Plan for Pickett's Charge: "There were six clumps of trees on Cemetery Ridge."

Robinson on Stuart's Ride to the battlefield: "210 miles in ten days whipped Stuart's cavalry."

Brian Melton on Slocum: "Slocum understood himself to be the commander of the right wing and Meade was unaware that Slocum thought that."

Civil War Librarian and his Civil War Lady still standing after a 6:30p-10:00p set of reels and polkas.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

CWL---Simple Story of a Soldier Intrigues and Awaits Further Research

Simple Story Of A Soldier: Life And Service in the 2d Mississippi Infantry, Samuel W. Hankins, John F. Marszalek (Introduction), Fire Ant Books, an imprint of the University of Alabama Press, index, 96 pp. 2004, $12.95

In 1905, Samuel W. Hankins wrote and serialized his memoir in Confederate Veteran magazine. Living in a home for Confederate Veterans located in Gulfport, Mississippi, the 65-year later published his story as a pamphlet in 1912. From northeastern Mississippi, Hankins joined the Confederate army in 1861 when he had just turned 16. His father, not a supporter of secession, joined the Confederate army and ordered is son to stay with his mother. Samuel refused and father accepted him as a comrade in arms in the 2nd Mississippi regiment.

Drill was impossible for some in the 2nd Mississippi; they did not know their right from their left. Hankins describes his train ride to Virginia while riding atop the cars and his encounters with tunnels. Ordered to Jackson's small army, the 2nd Mississippi occupied Harpers Ferry, drilled, bought pieces of rope that had been used to hang John Brown and engaged in gambling. Nothing is mentioned of moving the locomotives down the Valley Pike but the soldiers' narrow eye view of the battle of Manassas is given.

Hankins neglects telling events from July 1861 to April 1862, at which point the 'war begins in earnest.' The soldiers are very soggy. One has a premonition of death. An artillery piece fires at a balloon; the ropes are cut and the balloonist falls to his death. In 1902, while in Corinth finds a former Union soldier who also witnessed the balloonist's fall. The 2nd Mississipi' place at Malvern Hill is in support of the artillery.

The battle of Sharpsburg comes and passes quickly. Hankins describes the Suffolk campaign as it was lived by the privates. Soaked uniforms, lousy clothes, rotting shoes, despicable food. Hankins relates that he was a half an hour from freezing to death while on picket duty; two of his comrades sling him between themselves and force him to walk. He recovers slightly. Readers will painfully accept the conditions of the winter of 1862-1863 and wonder how the 17-year old ever made it through.

Gettysburg comes quickly in the memoir; Hankins is wounded in the foot at the Railroad Cut and to captured. For the reader, the details of this event are very descriptive. Shipped to NYC, then to Fortress Monroe, then to City Point, Virginia, Hankins is exchanged and sent to Mississippi to recuperate. He does and joins other wounded veterans in forming a partisan band of cavalry who roam Mississippi and Alabama in search of a Confederate army to join. They are skilled in staying out of Yankee hands and avoiding combat altogether. The trek nearly destroys their horses and fortunately, a doctor locates a still and reinvigorated the flagging bodies and spirits of the troop.

The Mississippi cavalry battalion takes part in a portion of the Atlanta campaign and then is ordered to Mississippi, back to Alabama, and then back to Mississippi. Learning of the news of Lee's surrender, the unit disbands.

Though meager in the amount of detailed descriptions Harkins offers, those episodes he covers are expressive and from the privates point of view. The captain is the most important man in the memoir. Hankins never meets a general. His personal experience is at the center of this book and rewards the reader. Yet, Marszalek only introduces the pamphlet; there are no notes or annotations in the book. Hankins' memoir awaits a graduate student's efforts. An explanation of the 2nd Mississippi's role and conduct at Manassas and Glendale would be helpful. Hankins' reporting of the death of the balloonist is minimal. Medical care and the lack thereof is important in the memoir and needs to be expanded. The partisan cavalry battalions of Mississippi need to be explained. CWL enjoyed reading Hankins' memoir but wishes to have a fuller picture the privates, corporals, sergeants and captains of the 2nd Mississippi. Long Live Bell Irwin Wiley!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Artillery Front! Save The Electric Map!

At this point there is still time to throw a little tea into the harbor!

Go to Save The Electric!
You'll find the contact information for the National Park Service.

Write them and tell them to find a recipient for the map.

Someone who will preserve and exhibit it.

Then tell them to advertise the recipient's contact information so you can send them a check!

New on CWL's Personal Bookshelf: Gettysburg's Flawed Heroes

Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground, Glenn W. La Fantasie, Indiana University Press, 2008, 279 pp., index, endnotes, $24.95.

"Perfect heroes were conspicuously absent from the field of Gettysburg, as they are from every battlefield, every war. Every soldier, nevertheless, likes to think his is perfect," LaFantasie states that the subtitle of his work is meant to be ironic. The author reviews the passing of certain soldiers through the battle of Gettysburg and the history of their interpretations. Longstreet, Chamberlain, Haskell, Oates, Lincoln, Eisenhower, Montgomery, as well as LaFanatasie and his daughter Sarah, have each passed through a Gettysburg experience and some have encountered it several times.

"By and by, out of the chaos of trash and falsehood that newspapers hold, out of the disjointed mass of reports, out of the traditions and tales that come down from the field, some eye that never saw the battle will select[,] and some will write[,] what will be named the history. With that the world will be --and if we are alive we must be--content." Haskell, recognized as one of the finest soldier-writers of Gettysburg primary sources, is quoted by LaFantasie to explain the business of sorting the various interpretations of the battle. The 145 year construction effort by participants and historians to describe and explain the battle has produced a plethora of writing. Personally, CWL shied away from this book for that reason, but after reading the first chapter LaFantasie won this reader over. CWL also had a similar experience with Twilight at Little Round Top: avoidance until reading the book and then a regret when it was over.

On Longstreet, LaFantasie reconciles Lee's 'Old Warhorse' with McLaw's 'A Humbug' sieves the man and his reputations. Evaluating Longstreet during his Mexican War, his Civil War and and his post-war careers, the author understands Longstreet to be a natural warrior whose finest moments occurred in combat as a steady and dependable soldier who had unpolished manners and a high degree of ambition. At times, he would be viewed as disrespectful to authority and abusive to his subordinates, especially in the eyes and by the pen of Jubal Early, a Lee defender and a writer of the 'Lost Cause' interpretation of the war.

Among the highlights in Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground is the chapter on Frank Haskell and the creation of his Gettysburg memoir which was actually a consciously drafted long letter home. Several chapters describe the several war time and post-war collisions between Joshua Chamberlain, 20th Maine, and William Oates, 15th Alabama; and in several more chapters, William Oates, as a fugitive from the law, as a Confederate captain and colonel, as a lawyer and politician, and as an historian is revealed to be quite similar to Longstreet. Both Confederates were warriors, who at times were ill-mannered, abrasive sentimentalists and as soldier-writers hda selective and creative memories. In particular LaFantasie explains Oates creation, distribution and further enhancement of the false story of Union Brigadier General Farnsworth's suicide on July 3rd during a cavalry charge between Bushman's Hill and the Slyder Farm. In this eighth chapter, LaFantasie reveals subtle themes that appear tangential throughout this book: how successful were soldier-writers when they wrote history? How is evidence created and how is it handled and mishandled? The misreporting by an eye-witness of a battlefield death, the addition of details to this report, the telling, re-telling and finally being offered as history is thread throughout the book. These themes appear tangential but at the close of the book they are fully set before the reader.

The battlefield and the park have their histories created by warriors, veterans, and the national park service. LaFantasie lays before the reader "the number of egregious errors" the NPS has made, including the building of the visitors center ('a drum on its side') on the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge site, granting permission the National Tower to be built in the midst of the battlefield, and giving to Gettysburg College a portion of the battlefield and then watching the portion bulldozed.

In the last chapter, LaFantasie places in context Chamberlain's, now famous "'In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays.' paragraph. For author Bruce Catton 'echoes are felt' and not heard LaFantasie remarks. LaFantasie and his daughter walk the ground of the battlefield and written wartime reports are examined against the terrain. On the rocks contested by the Maine soldiers and the Alabamians, the author, as a young man, became reconciled to the early death of his father. Near the same location, LaFantasie's daughter Sarah asks him, "Did you feel it?" and he has no idea what she is talking about. She says "I feel something." Something nameless, something intangible, some emotional fog or shadow that made her feel sad. Later the author recalls that it was there, on the southeast slope of Little Round Top and near the 20th Maine monument, that he had released his own sadness over his father's death.

"Our pasts are locked inside us" and the past is not always tangible and knowable. "But sometimes it can be seen and sometimes it can be felt. . . . . On a misty spring day, across the lush fields and hills of Gettysburg, my daughter and I felt the far-reaching echoes of our past." LaFantasie's conclusion underscores Chamberlain's remarks concerning how spirits linger at Gettysburg and consecrate the ground as an oracle, a vision-place, for souls of flawed heroes.

Glenn LaFantasie continues to draw readers into the story of Gettysburg. By turns very direct and very subtle, Gettysburg Heroes offers concise and clear stories of soldiers, civilians, generals and presidents. Those who lived through the battle and returned, or came to Gettysburg after the battle, found that their personal pasts were locked both within the battlefield and within themselves. The Gettysburg battlefield both wounds and heals us, and at times allows us to hide within its story and then reveals us to ourselves. As William Faulkner said, "The past is not dead. It has not even passed." The truth make us transparent to others and ourselves. Well written history does the same. LaFantasie's writing brings us a little closer to the truth about the battle of Gettysburg and how it has become an oracle for this nation.