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

Fourth Image Source:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

CWL---Studying for the LBG Exam's Questions on Monuments

On the 2006 Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide exam, there were 20 black and white, photocopied photos with all lettering digitally chiseled off the image. Test takers had to pick the name of the monument from a list of 22 or 24 monument names. I identified one equestrian monument and that was due to the tree in the background. I took the full amount of time on the Saturday morning test of 200+ questions.

So, that Saturday afternoon I started shopping in Gettysburg for photo album books, compact disks, and maps. Here's a short list of what I have bought in the past two years; the list is ranked from most helpful for test preparation.

1. Monumental Battlefields: Monuments and Markers at Gettysburg, Monumental Battlefields, Inc., 2002. The set consists of four compact disks, maps, and a booklet with lists of the monuments and markers with map and compact disk coordinates. The 3500 color photographs of all monuments taken from four sides, the avenue markers, the flank markers, the hospitals' markers, the headquarters' markers, distinct topographic features, artillery pieces and buildings and other miscellaneous items is probably the most comprehensive collection of all the many collections of Gettysburg battlefield.

Distinctive features include zoom-in features to read the engravings and moderately extensive maps with the locations of the monuments. Recalling that the price was a round $20, it is also probably the best buy. Relative to exam preparation, it is easy to use and allows for a quick review. I plan to spend a half an hour a night for three weeks compiling a list of the likely monuments to appear on the exam.

2. Stephen Recker's Virtual Gettysburg, by Stephen Recker, Another Software Miracle Inc., 2002. Is truly a marvelous preparation resource for the LBG exam. One compact disk is packed with tours, period photographs, and battlefield preservation history. The guided tour of the battlefield with LBG Gary Kross who gives the tour while you are looking at what he is point to. The tour also contains 99 panoramic (360 degrees) views of the battlefield. It is as if the viewer is standing beside Garry Kross and is able to turn completely around to see what is to the right, rear and left of the Kross. Also, There is an extensive collection of period photographs of the battlefield, the monuments, and maps. The entire Kross tour is also on three audio compact disks; CWL used them for a two hour automobile tour of the battlefield and then returned to the motel room, booted up the computer and took the same tour and reviewed the period photographs at the same time. A spiral bound book is included which contains the transcript of the tour and a map of the tour stops. For this exam taker, Virtual Gettysburg is essential. The price is $129 and for the dollar investment gives ample returns.

3.Gettysburg: The Complete Pictorial of Battlefield Monuments, D. Scott Hartwig and Ann Marie Hartwig, Thomas Publications, 2007. A reprint of the 1988 Granite House publication that was updated in 2003, this 72 page stable bound magazine size booklet has the essentials. All of the many monuments and markers are pictured: bronzes, Union and Confederate state memorials, commemorative monuments, regimental monuments, as well as the more recent additions up to 2003. Regimental markers are pictured by state. At $8.95 its a good buy. CWL has turned the book into a flashcard resource by using a bookmark to cover the photograph titles. Also, CWL notes that the photographs do not have the clarity of digital images and suspects that the photographs were take in the mid-1980s.

Top Image Source: William Bretzger, Gettysburg 365

Monday, November 10, 2008

News---Latschar, Legacy and GNMP

What Will Be Latschar's Legacy?, Andrew Scott Pitzer, Gettysburg Times, November 8, 2008

Love him or hate him, one thing about John Latschar’s tenure as superintendent at Gettysburg National Military Park is certain — he will be remembered. “My legacy is up for other people to decide,” Latschar said Friday, the day he announced he was leaving his post after 14 years on the job.

Latschar came to town in the mid-1990s with a vision: to restore the 6,000 acre battlefield to the way it looked in 1863, when the Battle of Gettysburg was fought here. Some of the ideas — like white tail deer management, one way roads, and tree removal — seemed bogus at the time. Other proposals, such as the $103 million Battlefield Visitor Center along the Baltimore Pike, have just come to fruition. “When he came, the fireworks started,” said Gettysburg Borough Council President Dick Peterson, who was a Steinwehr Avenue businessman at the time. “But in a peculiar way, it brought the community together.”

Latschar announced Friday that he’s resigning effective March 1, 2009, to take over as president of the Gettysburg Foundation, the park’s non-profit fundraising partner. Acting foundation President Robert C. Wilburn is resigning at the same time, and plans to pursue other career options. “One word describes Dr. Latschar when I think of his attributes: brilliant,” said Main Street Board of Directors Chairman Bill Kough. “His priorities are family, country, history and community.” The battlefield boss has developed a legion of critics over the years. “It’s not unexpected that he’s going over to the foundation,” said Steinwehr Avenue entrepreneur Eric Uberman. “He’s never going to leave.” Some long-time opponents of the Latschar regime are questioning the legalities of his career move.

“It’s a blatant conflict of interests. I’m just flabbergasted that he’s trying to do this,” said Franklin Silbey, an historic preservationist. “He presided over the creation of the General Management Plan, he presided over the supposed competitive bidding process for the visitor center, he presided over the creation of the Gettysburg Foundation, and he presided over the project. Now he’s going to work for the company that he created, for triple the amount of money that he’s making now.” Under Latschar’s watch, the park adopted a General Management Plan in 1999, which laid out a long-term vision for the battlefield. The plan’s primary project, a new battlefield visitor center, generated immediate controversy. “We started at arms length, the first time we had any interaction with him,” said Gettysburg Borough Councilman Ted Streeter, a veteran board member. “But honestly, we gained a lot of respect for each other over the years.”

Borough Council Vice President Holliday Giles spoke highly of the man who she feels was instrumental in several downtown restoration projects, including the Gettysburg Railroad Station and David Wills House. “Whatever project John Latschar takes on, especially with the Borough of Gettysburg, it is very apparent that he uses all of his expertise and knowledge for all to benefit,” Giles said Friday.

Peterson was one of Latschar’s most vocal adversaries in the 1990s, when the park first announced plans to relocate the visitor center from the Steinwehr Avenue business corridor to the Baltimore Pike. Now, he considers Latschar a friend. “He’s taken a lot of criticism over the years and he’s survived,” said Peterson. “He’s changed and we’ve changed. Twenty years from now, we won’t even remember all of the controversy. We’ll remember John for his vision and what was accomplished here.”

Latschar may have been an intimidating figure over the years, but local leaders maintain that he’s generally been very approachable. “We were always able to sit down and come to a mutual understanding that was beneficial and positive to our township,” said Cumberland Township Board of Supervisors Chairman John P. Gregor. Latschar has been superintendent of the park since 1994, and is a 31-year veteran of the National Park Service. He previously served as the first Superintendent of Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pa., and in various capacities at the park’s Denver Service Center. Latschar was named Superintendent of the Year for the Northeast Region in 1991 and in 2001.

Text Source: Gettysburg

News---What Would Lincoln Do? If Barack Obama is looking for a model . . .

WWLD? (What would Lincoln Do?), Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2008.

If Barack Obama is looking for a model as president-elect, Abraham Lincoln seems perfect. In a time of national crisis, with Southern states seceding from the Union, that earlier son of Illinois had to prepare himself for taking office—but also avoid making a misstep. It was his first test as a national leader.

So, what lessons can Obama learn from what Lincoln did—and didn't do—in the time between his election and inauguration?

To find out, the Tribune asked two Lincoln scholars, Harold Holzer, author of the newly published "Lincoln President-elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861," and James McPherson, author of the classic Civil War history tome "Battle Cry of Freedom" and "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief," published in October.

Here's their lesson plan:

Lesson 1: Keep your cards close to your vest.

Although pressured to deal with the secession, Lincoln refused to say anything to placate Southern leaders before his inauguration. "They tried to get him to approve compromise measures, but he wouldn't do it," said Holzer. "He said, 'By no act or complicity of mine shall the Republican party become a mere sucked egg, all shell and no principle in it.' " McPherson said, "Lincoln was like Franklin Roosevelt in the Depression. He didn't want to commit himself ahead of time." As president, Lincoln had power that gave him leverage in negotiations. But not as president-elect.

Lesson 2: Avoid empty rhetoric.

On his way to the inauguration, Lincoln took an 11-day train trip with whistle stops at dozens of cities and towns along the way. Lincoln didn't want to tip his hand about his plans for the South, so he gave speeches filled with bromides. "They were meaningless remarks, and they came across to many people as taking the crisis too lightly," McPherson said.

Lesson 3: Court the opposition media.

"One of the first things Lincoln did was invite a reporter for the pro-Stephen Douglas New York Herald to spend time with him," said Holzer. "He was virtually embedded in his office for four months. The reporter, who at first doubted him, was writing positively about him by the end. It would be like Obama inviting Sean Hannity to spend a lot of time with him."

Lesson 4: Pick Cabinet members who have skills and knowledge you lack.

"Some of the people Lincoln appointed had a good deal more experience in the federal government and in administration than he had," McPherson said.

Lesson 5: Use your Cabinet to bring diversity into your administration.

"In Lincoln's day, diversity meant regional and political roots," Holzer said. The Republican Party had been created by former Democrats and Whigs, so Lincoln "had as many former Democrats as former Whigs" in his Cabinet, Holzer said. Also, he had representatives from the various regions in the nation. "Today, it's ethnic and gender diversity that's needed."

Lesson 6: Use your Cabinet appointments to unite your party behind you.

"Lincoln appointed four of his [Republican] presidential rivals to the Cabinet—Salmon Chase, William Seward, Edward Bates and Simon Cameron," said McPherson. "I suppose Hillary Clinton would be the parallel." In fact, he said Obama already moved in this direction by naming former primary opponent Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate.

Lesson 7: Get any resentment or bitterness off your chest in the first draft of your inaugural address—then cut it all out.

"Lincoln really poured it on in his first draft, and ended it with a line that the choice was between peace or the sword. But, in later drafts, he kept toning it down," Holzer said. "The final draft ended with the line about the 'better angels of our nature.' "

Lesson 8: Use your inaugural address to set the tone for your presidency.

Like many presidents before and since, Lincoln sent a message with his inaugural—that he would uphold the Union, even while trying to avoid civil war. "Lincoln used the inaugural to make clear that his administration would not accept the legitimacy of secession," McPherson said. "[Unless provoked,] the government would take no action against the South, and would follow a policy of encouraging Unionists. But he stood for the integrity of the nation, of the Union."

Text Source: Chicago Tribune

Image Souce: Library of Congress, February 1860 at the time of the Cooper Union Speech.

CWL: 1.) My daughter reports that Jon Stewart (Comedy Central) interviewed one of Obama's law professors. The professor said that two, tall, thin white guys from Illinois have been elected President: Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. 2.) It was nice to hear Lincoln quoted three times, I believe, in the victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

News: GNMP's Latschar Moves To Gettysburg Foundation As Chief

Latschar Leaving Gettysburg Park For Foundation Post, Erin James, Evening Sun, November 7, 2008.

Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent John Latschar will leave his post on March 1, 2009 to replace Robert Wilburn as president of the nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation. Latschar was named to the post by a unanimous vote of the foundation's board of directors, the park announced today.

As president of the Gettysburg Foundation, Latschar will oversee operations of the newly opened Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. The foundation is also in the midst of a $125 million Campaign to Preserve Gettysburg, aimed at land, artifact and monument preservation and battlefield rehabilitation.

Latschar has served as superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park since 1994 and is a 31-year veteran of the National Park Service. He was named superintendent of the year for the Northeast region of the National Park Service in 1991 and has been given other honors in more recent years. Wilburn took the foundation's reins in 2000 after stepping down from his position as president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

CWL: Go to the Evening Sun wwwsite and read the first six comments from the rancorous anti-Latschar, we-don't-like-change whiners. Yes, Latschar could be imperious at times but in his heart is the battlefield, its soldiers and its civilians. As an historian, tourist, and now related to a real estate owner, I applaud Latschar and what he has accomplished.

Text Source: Evening Sun, November 7, 2008
Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent John Latschar speaks to a crowd during a public hearing at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center in September. The park was gathering comments on a proposal to charge $7.50 for admission into the museum.Evening Sun File Photo by Brett Berwager

Thursday, November 06, 2008

News---Happy 200th birthday, Abe! The Nation Is Preparing To Throw You A Party

A 200th Birthday Bash For Lincoln, Associated Press, October 31, 2008

Left: One of four Abraham Lincoln postage stamps unveiled yesterday in Springfield, Illinois.

The celebration will be focused in the nation's capital, where museums, theaters and other attractions announced plans yesterday for more than 80 exhibits and programs in the coming months to celebrate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The events will run from January through the end of April.

"I haven't heard anything about a birthday cake," a Lincoln look-alike said, interrupting the announcement yesterday. Organizers assured the bearded impersonator he would get a slice of his favorite vanilla-almond cake - and a giant birthday card signed by thousands around the nation. Other programs are planned in all 50 states.

The D.C. festival's highlights include a reenactment of Lincoln's second inaugural ball Jan. 31 in the building that now houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Ford's Theatre - where Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 - will also reopen after extensive renovation. The National Park Service will celebrate the 16th president's birthday on Feb. 12 at the Lincoln Memorial with singer Michael Feinstein offering a musical tribute.

The memorial will be rededicated on Memorial Day - four score and seven years after its 1922 dedication, said Lance Hatten, the Park Service's chief interpreter for the National Mall.

Text Source: Boston Globe, October 31, 2008.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

News---Will The Neutra Cyclorama Ever Be Razed at GNMP?

Park Service Holds Off On Cyclorama Demolition Pending Court Decision, Scot Andrew Pitzer, Gettysburg Times, Wednesday, November 5, 2008.

A compromise has been reached in the planned razing of the former Cyclorama building at Gettysburg National Military Park.The park has decided that “no demolition of the building will take place,” pending the resolution of a two-year-old lawsuit to save the building. “During this time, the National Park Service will solicit bids for demolition of the Cyclorama building and the former visitor center, and plans to undertake the demolition of the former visitor center,” U.S. Dept. of Justice attorney Samantha Klein wrote in a Nov. 3 letter to U.S. District Court. “However, the National Park Service will inform all potential bidders...that no demolition of the Cyclorama Building take place prior to the district court’s ruling on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment.”

A Virginia based agency, The Recent Past Preservation Network, and the son of the architect who designed the building — Dion Neutra — filed a suit to save the structure. The park, meanwhile, intends to tear it down and restore that portion of the Gettysburg Battlefield to its 1863 appearance. In a court hearing last week in Washington, D.C., a federal judge ordered the park to notify the court whether it planned to proceed with plans to demolish the building. Park officials had announced that they wanted to solicit bids this month, and begin demolition shortly thereafter. U.S. District Court Judge Alan Kay said that a decision on the lawsuit probably won’t be made until December.

Kay heard motions for a summary judgment, a legal term meaning that a judge rules on a case without it going to a full trial. He plans to file a recommendation with acting Judge Thomas F. Hogan, but doubted that paperwork would be filed until mid-December. The old Cyclorama building is located atop Ziegler’s Grove with the former park visitor center, built atop land that was home to fierce fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Previously, the cylindrical building had housed a famous painting of Pickett’s Charge, but the artwork was moved to a new $103 million visitor center located about one mile away. Both the former visitor center and the old Cyclorama closed in April when the new visitor center opened. The Recent Past Preservation group believes that the building can be relocated to another property in Gettysburg, and that it could be used as a museum or theater. Preliminary conversations have been held between the group and Gettysburg area businessmen Eric Uberman and Bob Monahan Jr., about potential new sites for the building.

“The Park Service never looked at an alternative to demolition in how to remove the building,” said Recent Past Preservation attorney Nicholas Yost. Government officials said that the building is outdated, that it has undergone 30 repairs since the 1960s, and that the goal is to recreate that area of the battlefield to its Civil War appearance. According to historians, 900 soldiers fought there during Pickett’s Charge, in what is dubbed The High Water Mark of the Confederacy. Also, the park has questioned the validity of the lawsuit, filed in December 2006. The six-year statute of limitations began in 1999, the park said, when it adopted its General Management Plan, and expired in 2005.

Text Source: Gettysburg Times, November 5, 2008.

Image Source: Flickr

Monday, November 03, 2008

Off Topic: Picture This--- The Possibilty Of A Black President In The Foreground, American History In The Background

First Things , David W. Blight, History News Network, November 3, 2008.

“First things are always interesting, and this is one of our first things,” declared Frederick Douglass on April 14, 1876, in Washington D. C., in the most extraordinary public address ever delivered by an African American to that date. Extraordinary for its argument and its audience. Douglass gave the dedication speech at the unveiling of the Freedman’s Memorial, the statue of a standing Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation in hand, breaking the chains of a kneeling slave. Attending the event were President Ulysses S. Grant, members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the president’s cabinet. No black orator had ever addressed such an official assembly. If elected President, Barack Obama will be the second African American to address such a powerful audience on inauguration day.

Douglass struck chords of civil religion, referring to the “majestic dome of the Capitol,” and the sacred “heights of Arlington” cemetery. It was in this oration that Douglass famously called his white fellow citizens Lincoln’s “children,” but he and his fellow blacks “only his stepchildren.” One hundred and thirty-two years later we can still debate the meaning of those familial metaphors.

As we contemplate the “first” of Barack Obama achieving the presidency of the United States, we should brace ourselves with a long view of our history. We should take deep breaths and imagine the long prelude of the thousands murdered for trying to vote during Reconstruction, the thousands lynched because of the poisonous fears of white supremacy. And we should remember the millions denied life chances during the prolonged night of Jim Crow. Only then can we help Senator Obama feel the weight of responsibility in becoming America’s ultimate “first thing.” Such remembrance is both burden and inspiration.

If elected, Obama will have too many pressing issues to face to bask in mists of sentiment. But every American, whether they choose to or not, owns this heritage of slavery and racism that forces us to contemplate such first things. Whether they are the white “real Americans” in Sarah Palin’s small towns, or the rest of the equally real people in pluralistic and cosmopolitan cities, we all breathe in this past.

In order to keep perspective, we might reflect on two expressions of the condition of American race relations nearly a century apart, one from W. E. B. Du Bois’s masterpiece, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), and the other from Obama himself in his speech on race of March 18, 2008. In Souls, Du Bois asks his readers to see race relations at the turn of the twentieth century in the South through “two figures” who typified the legacies of slavery and the Civil War:

The one a gray-haired gentleman, whose fathers had quit themselves like men, whose sons lay in nameless graves; who bowed to the evil of slavery because its abolition threatened untold ill to all; who stood at last, in the evening of life, a… ruined form, with hate in his eyes; -- and the other a form hovering dark and mother-like, her awful face black with the mists of centuries, had aforetime quailed at that white master’s command, had bent in love over the cradles of his sons and daughters, and closed in death the sunken eyes of his wife, -- aye,too, at his behest had laid herself low to his lust, and borne a tawny man-child to the world….

Without a pause, Du Bois pressed the issue; “These were the saddest sights of that woeful day, and no man clasped the hands of these passing figures of the present-past; but hating they went to their long home, and hating their children’s children live today.”

At the end of his speech on race Obama tells a story. The organizer of his primary campaign in Florence, South Carolina was a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia. Ashley had grown up in poverty, her mother had contracted cancer when the girl was but nine years old, and she had survived on mustard and relish sandwiches while her mother lost her job and health insurance. At a campaign gathering, Ashley went around the room and asked all attending why they were there. Most mentioned a specific issue that especially animated their self-interest. Finally the ritual reached an elderly black man who had sat silently until asked why he was there. His answer was simple: “I am here because of Ashley.” As Obama admits, “by itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children. But it is where we start.”

Obama’s two figures - the young white southern woman, born well after the sixties and who in her impoverished background should have become a Republican resenting blacks in the South, and the old black man who could not vote until after 1965 in South Carolina - reverse Du Bois’s earlier harrowing image of the old white man and old black woman. Obama shows us an alternative to the “children’s children” of Du Bois’s story. A new start? This election will test more than the changing metaphors of our racial condition. But “first things” are the stuff of real hope, and they can be grasped only through the long history that gives them meaning.

This election will severely test how much Americans grasp the past they are being asked to overcome. If we are ever to build a society where no one must play the role of political “stepchild,” it will demand the informed courage of millions of Ashley Baias and her cousins of many hues. History is never over.

Mr. Blight, teaches American history at Yale University and is author of A Slave No More; and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory.

CWL: William Faulkner may have said it best. "The past is not dead. It is not even passed."

Text Source: History News Network, November 3, 2008

Image Source: David Blight, W.E.B. Dubois