Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Forward---Texas Rebel's Biography Returns to Print, February 2010

The Ragged Rebel: A Common Soldier in W. H. Parsons' Texas Cavalry, 1861-1865, B. P. Gallaway, Abilene Christian Universityc and Leafwood Publishing, Paperback, $17.99, February 2010.

Dave Nance's personality animates this volume and makes it interesting reading. His writings display a sense of humor and a youthful longing for adventure mitigated by a growing devotion to God based on his experiences with the suffering he encountered as a soldier. Gallaway, in viewing the war through the eyes of a sensitive young man, has provided an important source in nineteenth-century social history.

Significantly, the narrative reveals the contrast between the formal accounts of the battles found in the Official Records and the vivid, sometimes exaggerated, impressions of a common soldier. This book is a valuable addition to the growing field that intertwines social and military history. Gallaway's study of Nance enhances our understanding of how the war affected the men who fought." --Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Here is the adventurous, eloquent, true story of David Carey Nance--a young Texas farmer caught up in the carnage of the Civil War as a soldier in William H. Parsons' Texas Cavalry. In presenting Nance's story, Gallaway gives not only a history of a Confederate soldier but also a personal treatise of a young man who, fired by unexpected experiences, becomes vehemently antiwar. He also sheds new light on one of the most famous mounted units in the service of the Confederacy, Parsons' Texas Cavalry Brigade, and presents a vivid picture of the Civil War as fought west of the Mississippi.

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Looking Forward--- Ed Bearrs Tours Vicksburg and Gettysburg, May 2010

Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg: The Campaigns That Changed the Civil War, Edwin Cole Bearss, National Geographic Publishing,400 pages, $30.00, May 2010.

It’s a poignant irony in American history that on Independence Day, 1863, not one but two pivotal battles ended in Union victory, marked the high tide of Confederate military fortune, and ultimately doomed the South’s effort at secession. But on July 4, 1863, after six months of siege, Ulysses Grant’s Union army finally took Vicksburg and the Confederate west.

On the very same day, Robert E. Lee was in Pennsylvania, parrying the threat to Vicksburg with a daring push north to Gettysburg. For two days the battle had raged; on the next, July 4, 1863, Pickett’s Charge was thrown back, a magnificently brave but fruitless assault, and the fate of the Confederacy was sealed, though nearly two more years of bitter fighting remained until the war came to an end.

In Receding Tide, Edwin Cole Bearss draws from his popular tours to chronicle these two widely separated but simultaneous clashes and their dramatic conclusion. As the recognized expert on both Vicksburg and Gettysburg, Bearss tells the fascinating story of this single momentous day in our country’s history, offering his readers narratives, maps, illustrations, characteristic wit, dramatic new insights and unerringly intimate knowledge of terrain, tactics, and the colorful personalities of America’s citizen soldiers, Northern and Southern alike.

Edwin Cole Bearss is America’s premier battlefield historian and the historian emeritus of the National Park Service. Author of 13 books, he has also served as a consultant on numerous documentaries and films, including Ken Burns’s The Civil War.

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Looking Forward---The Road To The Precipice, June 2010

At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis , Shearer Davis Bowman, University of North Carolina Press, 480 pp., $30.00, June 2010.

Why did eleven slave states secede from the Union in 1860-61? Why did the eighteen free states loyal to the Union deny the legitimacy of secession, and take concrete steps after Fort Sumter to subdue what President Abraham Lincoln deemed treasonous rebellion?

At the Precipice seeks to answer these and related questions by focusing on the different ways in which Americans, North and South, black and white, understood their interests, rights, and honor during the late antebellum years. Rather than give a narrative account of the crisis, Shearer Davis Bowman takes readers into the minds of the leading actors, examining the lives and thoughts of such key figures as Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan, Jefferson Davis, John Tyler, and Martin Van Buren.

Bowman also provides an especially vivid glimpse into what less famous men and women in both sections thought about themselves and the political, social, and cultural worlds in which they lived, and how their thoughts informed their actions in the secession period. Intriguingly, secessionists and Unionists alike glorified the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, yet they interpreted those sacred documents in markedly different ways and held very different notions of what constituted "American" values.

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Looking Forward---The Strategists: Lincoln vs. Davis, July 2010

The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War, Donald Stoker, Oxford University Press, 528 pages, July 2010.

Of the tens of thousands of books exploring virtually every aspect of the Civil War, surprisingly little has been said about what was in fact the determining factor in the outcome of the conflict: differences in Union and Southern strategy.
In The Grand Design, Donald Stoker provides a comprehensive and often surprising account of strategy as it evolved between Fort Sumter and Appomattox.

Reminding us that strategy is different from tactics (battlefield deployments) and operations (campaigns conducted in pursuit of a strategy), Stoker examines how Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis identified their political goals and worked with their generals to craft the military means to achieve them--or how they often failed to do so. Stoker shows that Davis, despite a West Point education and experience as Secretary of War, failed as a strategist by losing control of the political side of the war. His invasion of Kentucky was a turning point that shifted the loyalties and vast resources of the border states to the Union. Lincoln, in contrast, evolved a clear strategic vision, but he failed for years to make his generals implement it.

At the level of generalship, Stoker notes that Robert E. Lee correctly determined the Union's center of gravity, but proved mistaken in his assessment of how to destroy it. Stoker also presents evidence that the Union could have won the war in 1862, had it followed the grand plan of the much-derided general, George B. McClellan. Historians have often argued that the North's advantages in population and industry ensured certain victory. In The Grand Design, Stoker reasserts the centrality of the overarching military ideas--the strategy--on each side, arguing convincingly that it was strategy that determined the war's outcome.

Donald Stoker is Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Naval War College's program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

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Looking Forward: Ezra Carmen's Maryland Campaign, June 2010.

Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Volume One, South Mountain, Ezra Carman (author) edited and annotated by Thomas Clemens, Savas Beatie Publishing hardcover, 624 pages, $37.50.

When Robert E. Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland in early September 1862, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan moved his reorganized and revitalized Army of the Potomac to meet him. The campaign included some of the bloodiest, most dramatic, and influential combat of the entire Civil War. Combined with Southern failures in the Western Theater, the fighting dashed the Confederacy's best hope for independence, convinced President Abraham Lincoln to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, and left America with what is still its bloodiest day in history.

One of the campaign's participants was Ezra A. Carman, the colonel of the 13th New Jersey Infantry. Wounded earlier in the war, Carman would achieve brigade command and fight in more than twenty battles before being mustered out as a brevet brigadier general. After the horrific fighting of September 17, 1862, he recorded in his diary that he was preparing "a good map of the Antietam battle and a full account of the action." Unbeknownst to the young officer, the project would become the most significant work of his life.

Appointed as the "Historical Expert" to the Antietam Battlefield Board in 1894, Carman and the other members solicited accounts from hundreds of veterans, scoured through thousands of letters and maps, and assimilated the material into the hundreds of cast iron tablets that still mark the field today. Carman also wrote an 1,800-page manuscript on the campaign, from its start in northern Virginia through McClellan's removal from command in November 1862. Although it remained unpublished for more than a century, many historians and students of the war consider it to be the best overall treatment of the campaign ever written.

Dr. Thomas G. Clemens (editor), recognized internationally as one of the foremost historians of the Maryland Campaign, has spent more than two decades studying Antietam and editing and richly annotating Carman's exhaustively written manuscript. The result is 'The Maryland Campaign of September 1862', Carman's magisterial account published for the first time in two volumes. Jammed with firsthand accounts, personal anecdotes, maps, photos, a biographical dictionary, and a database of veterans' accounts of the fighting, this long-awaited study will be read and appreciated as battle history at its finest.

About the Authors: Ezra Ayres Carman was born in Oak Tree, New Jersey, on February 27, 1834, and educated at Western Military Academy in Kentucky. He fought with New Jersey organizations throughout the Civil War, mustering out as a brevet brigadier general. He was appointed to the Antietam National Cemetery Board of Trustees and later to the Antietam Battlefield Board in 1894. Carman also served on the Chattanooga-Chickamauga Battlefield Commission. He died in 1909 on Christmas day and was buried just below the Custis-Lee mansion in Arlington Cemetery.

Thomas G. Clemens earned his doctoral degree at George Mason University, where he studied under Maryland Campaign historian Dr. Joseph L. Harsh. Tom has published a wide variety of magazine articles and book reviews, has appeared in several documentary programs, and is a licensed tour guide at Antietam National Battlefield. An instructor at Hagerstown Community College, he also helped found and is the current president of Save Historic Antietam Foundation, Inc., a preservation group dedicated to saving historic properties.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Off Topic---Biography: Bill Mauldin and the Common Soldier

Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front, Todd DiPastino, W. W. Norton Publishing, 370 pp, illustrated, index, notes, 2008, $27.95 (hc), $14.95 (pb)

American Civil War readers often encounter Walt Whitman's statement, “The real war will never get in the books.” That statement is now assumed to be true of all American Wars. Todd DePastino shows how cartoonist Bill Mauldin, whose subject was the American combat soldier during World War II, did get the real war into the books. Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front is authoritative but not exhaustive biography. DiPastino's focus is on the creative work of Mauldin. There are many more stories that could be told

Mauldin grew up during the Great Depression in the mountainous region of New Mexico. Raised by eccentric parents, Mauldin's family was very poor. Taking advantage of very limited resources such as his high school's ROTC-style club, student newspaper and yearbook, as well as several very fine art teachers, Mauldin managed to gain admission and pay the tuition at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for one year. To establish an income he joined the newly mobilized 45th Infantry Division of the Arizona National Guard and then became the 45th Division News's cartoonist.

Deployed to North Africa in 1943, Mauldin participated in the invasions of Sicily and Italy; later he was assigned to France. In 1944, while on staff at the army's newspaper Stars and Stripes, Mauldin created unique characters that irritated the army brass, even George Patton. The weary, disheveled, officer-abusing enlisted men Willie and Joe became soldiers' heroes as the cartoon characters uttered thoughts that could not be spoken to an officer.

After the war and in the course of his life, Mauldin published several bestselling cartoon collections, two autobiographies, acted in Hollywood, ran unsuccessfully for Congress and received his career with two Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartooning. Thoroughly researched with the immense cooperation of Mauldin's family and friends, DePastino's biography is an introduction to an American who set standards for illustration and content that are stilled used today. His impact on his profession is immense. Charles Schultz, leader of a machine gun squad in Europe and creator of the cartoon Peanuts, recognized Mauldin as a hero of both WWII infantrymen and cartoonists.

DiPastino's focus is on Mauldin's career and dwells on family issues as they relate to his journalism. The author's thorough research supports his frankness in describing the women, alcohol, and personal tensions in Mauldin's post WWII career. Containing more than ninety cartoons and photographs, DiPastino's work sets the reader within Mauldin's historical era. Accessible in style, DiPastino's work moves thoroughly but not tediously through WW II and post-war veteran issues, American journalism and politics, and the changes in Mauldin's drawing techniques. Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front is recommended for advanced placement high school students and up. Anyone who enjoys reading a biography of a soldier and artist whom the odds of success were set firmly against, who at times created his own luck and at other times had unexplainable good fortune, who was born with a gift and did not squander it will be satisfied with DiPastio's work.

Image: Bill Mauldin, Willie and Joe (1944)


CWL---The Awful Shock of Battle, New Social History, And Marginalizing Veterans of Combat (Part Two)

'The Awful Shock and Rage of Battle': Rethinking the Meaning and Consequences of Combat in the American Civil War, Eric T. Dean, Jr., War in History, 8:2 (2001), 149-165.

Dean turns from Mitchell's Vacant Chair to Earl Hess' The Union Soldier In Battle (1997) to further explore the impact of New Social History on American Civil War studies. Civil War soldiers engaging in combat experienced a 'crossing over' from naive imagination to brutal reality states Hess. This brutal reality was an experience that soldiers felt could not be described or comprehended by the community at home. Dean faults Hess' assumption that the common mas was an autonomous, empowered and heroic in the struggle against social and political elites, a tenet of New Social History. To gain victory over the horrors of combat, Hess states that Federal soldiers avoided bitterness and callousness and became survivors. Some failed. It are these failures that Hess ignores and Dean embraces. (pp. 157-158)

Though agreeing with Hess on most of his interpretations, Dean asserts that the notion that real men made real soldiers and those who failed the test of battle were cowards. For Dean, those who failed the immediate tests of battle run counter to what has been learned from 20th century wars. Dean would augment Hess' analysis of courage and of the devices employed by soldiers to adapt to the brutal reality of combat. It is the long term effects of the short explosions of battle that goes unmentioned that attracts Dean. He discusses instances of veterans being committed to asylums after the war.(pp. 158-160)

A third work of New Social History with which Dean contends is Divided Houses; Gender and the Civil War, edited by Catherin Clinton and Nina Silber (1992). Whereas Reid investigated the connections between home front women and battlefield soldiers, the essays in Divided Houses seize upon the conflicts between the genders. Union nurses thwarting male doctors authority, Confederate women being duped by the myth of sacrifice promoted by politicians, editors and generals. Hess welcomes explorations into the meaning of gender in the Civil war era. Yet an emphasis on conflict, separate identity, exploitation, hegemony, and cynical white males in a patriarchal society obscures the way in which the phenomenon of war pulled communities and families together rather than apart. (pp. 161-162)

Indeed, long term effects of anxiety and dread upon women caused mental instability among them similar to the long term effects of the short explosions of battle affected soldiers. Dean discusses of instance of veteran's wives in asylums after the war.

Dean concludes that at times the New Social History, in similar ways to military history, narrows and make predictable the human experience of war. Race/gender/class based interpretations must be tempered by Clausewitz vision and understanding of war. Bridled and unbridled violence lies at the core of war. Historians should never lose sight of the fact that ware is about violence and the effect of violence on men, their families and communities is the "irreducible bottom line in warfare." Warfare has internal dynamics and is a driving force of its own. It is not a "mere continuation of society and social forces as one finds these in peacetime." Understanding soldiers and their families on their own terms and in their on contexts is required. Imposing race/gender/class agendas, preferences and beliefs accomplishes a distorted, self-serving picture rather than a revelation of truth. (pp. 163-165).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

CWL---The Awful Shock of Battle, New Social History, And Marginalizing Veterans of Combat (Part One)

'The Awful Shock and Rage of Battle': Rethinking the Meaning and Consequences of Combat in the American Civil War, Eric T. Dean, Jr., War in History, 8:2 (2001), 149-165.

During the last three decades a new approach to Civil War studies has come to the fore. 'The New Social History' focuses on the social conditions and tensions that were internal to the North and the South. The common person, usually sorted by race/class/gender, are understood as either autonomous agents or autonomous victims who are in conflict with elite agents who were also sorted by race/class/gender. Eric T. Dean brings this perspective to his essay.

The author understands that previous to the last three decades, most agreed with Clausewitz that the war was a continuation of politics by other means. In addition, the Civil War is now additionally viewed as social discourse by other means that lead to self-liberation by women and blacks. If sorting by race/class/gender is being superimposed as a self-serving agenda then scholarship my overlook and marginalized the stark brutality of battle on the soldiers and their families.

Clausewitz argued that war was not an anomaly but a logical, rational and unavoidable continuation of political controversy by other means. The New Social History tends to view the Civil War as a continuation of society, or social discourse by other means. Origins of the New Social History, Dean explains, lie in the late 19th and early 20th century, a time when society began to be scientifically studies and sociology was organized as a social science. English historians developed methods to study society during the era of the Industrial and French Revolution. Social history focuses on the study of the common individual and particularly peasants, yeoman farmers, urban laborers, and criminals. (pp. 151)

Hallmark studies by Ira Berlin, Barbara Fields and Joseph Glatthaar focused on African Americans a pivotal role in the war. This pivotal role includes self-emancipation, autonomy and actively contested the power of the white, male, Christian elite agents of society. In the course of there work the aforementioned authors diminished the agency of Sumner and Lincoln in the movement toward abolition and civil rights. African Americans redesigned their own lives and compelled the elites to act in a certain manner (pp 152).

Reid Mitchell (The Vacant Chair, 1993), merged gender and family studies with soldier studies. The experience of the soldier was shaped by hearth and family. Women were not longer bystanders and men, in and of themselves, were inadequate. " . . . the feminine was critical if not determinative," states Dean of Reid's analysis. Dynamic, formative influences of women at a distance upon men who were coming of age and wrestling with "manly restraint, self discipline and civilized morality." (pp. 153-154)

Image Source: Keith Rocco
Image Source: Clausewitz

Saturday, December 26, 2009

CWL---The Confederacy: A House Divided Against Itself?

The Confederacy: A House Divided?, James M. McPherson, Chapter 3 in This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War, Oxford University Press, 2007.

Debates generated during the centennial anniversary decade of the American Civil War were many. It appears that they will continue into the sesquicentennial anniversary of the war. McPherson believes the interpretations fall into two broad categories: Why and how did the South lose the war? Why and how did the North win the war? Both R.E. Lee at the end of the war and Shelby Foote during the 125th anniversary era answered the question. The Confederacy was compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources (Lee); the Union fought the war with one hand behind its back and the Confederacy never had a chance to win the war (Foote).

If Lee and Foote are right about the inevitability, then should a question be asked? Was it folly and arrogance to enter a war that the South could not win? If the North's overwhelming resources defeated the South, then 'Yes' then South was foolish to enter the war. Secessionists in 1861 and scholars since have understood that other regions had won independence against long odds: Netherlands v. Spain, Greece v. Ottoman Empire, North American colonies v. Great Britain. Two Rebel generals, Joseph Johnston and Pierre Beauregard declared after the war that the South did not engage in the crime of undertaking a war it could not win.

If the South did not begin a war that it could not win, then did internal dynamics cause the defeat? McPherson cites several works as advancing the notion that internal social condition and politics caused the defeat of the South. Charles Ramsdell's Behind the Lines in the Southern Confederacy (1944, 1972, 1997)listed economic mobilization and shortages, war financing and inflation, and transportation and corruption difficulties weakened the armies to the point of necessary surrenders.

McPherson notes that two-fifths of the people living in the Confederacy were slaves who had a stake in which side won. Also, two-fifths of the people lived in non-slave holding families whose allegiance to a slave-holding republic may have been weak. Drew Faust in 1990 advanced these particular points in a Journal of American History article. William Freehling further advanced this issue in The South vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War in 2001.

Freehling discusses the differences between the South (15 slave holding states) and the Confederacy (11 seceding states). He finds that about 90,000 Southerners fought for the Union and about 90,000 Union state residents fought for the Confederacy. McPherson takes exception to Freehling's conclusion that 1 out of 2 Southerners did not support the Confederacy; but he does allow that least 1 out of 4 Southerners did not support the Confederacy. McPherson does agree with Freehling that there were significant and debilitation race, gender and class issues tearing at the social fabric of the new Confederacy.

William Davis' Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America (2002) attributes the defeat of the Confederacy to poor leadership at civilian and military levels, political factionalism, social dissensiona dna bickering among leaders with 'outsize egos and thin skins'. Also, Davis describes monetary inflation, the preponderance of the agricultural resources and the marginal industrial resouces as being the secondary causes of the Confederate defeat. The primary causes being the jealous, feuding politicans. McPherson notes that if this was true of the Confederacy it was also true of the Union. Taking the combined causes raised by Ramsdell, Faust, Freehling and Davis, McPherson wonders how the Confederacy last four years.

McPherson states that Gary Gallagher addresses this question in The Confederate War (1997) and Lee and His Army in Confederate History (2001). Gallagher marshalls sufficient evidence, note McPherson, to advance the theme of Confederate determination even in the face of extreme adversity and at the same time recognizing the social, political, economic race, and gender difficulties the Confederates faced. So why did the Confederacy lose the war if it was victorious within the first two years of the war as it suffered through multiple fractures in its governments, economy, and social classes?

McPherson rejects an answer that relies on the large generalization that the outcome of the war was inevitable. "It can only be answered by a narrative and analysis of unfolding events on the battlefields and the home fronts--in both the North and the South--that give due weight to such factors as political and military leadership, economic mobilization, logistics, strategy, war aims, morale, social strains and cohesion, diplomacy and the sometimes fickle fortunes of battle," state McPherson(p.48) He points to Brian Will's The War Hits Home, a study of southeastern Virginia, that integrates these factors into a regional history. The people of southeastern Virginia "sought to secure victory until there was no victory left to win." Though the North did have greater numbers and resources which were wielded with skill, determination and coordination during 1863-1865 did the Northern victory become inevitable.

defections, class tensions and

Friday, December 25, 2009

CWL----The National Geographics' Atlas of the Civil War

Atlas of the Civil War: A Complete Guide to the Tactics and Terrain of Battle by Stephen Hyslop, Neil Kagan, and Harris Andrews, National Geographic Incorporated, 255 pages, additional readings, index, 2009, $40.00

Comprehensive is a word of which CWL is suspicious. National Geographic's Atlas of the Civil War A Comprehensive Guide to the Tactics and Terrain of Battle is pretty close to comprehensive though.

Organized as a chronological account with eighty-five rare period maps, this atlas offers the map maker's history of the American Civil War. Campaign maps surveying whole regions and strategies, contemporary battlefield charts used by Union and Confederate generals, commercial maps produced for a newspapers are the majority of the maps in the atlas. The key moments of major battles are pinpointed by National Geographic’s cartographers using satellite data to render the terrain with astonishing detail in 35 maps created for the atlas.

In addition, there are over 300 documentary photographs, battlefield sketches, paintings, and artifacts bear eyewitness testimony to the war, history’s first to be widely captured by photography. Users of William J. Miller's Great Maps of the Civil War: Pivotal Battles and Campaigns, Earl McElfresh's Mapping For Stonewall and Maps and Mapmakers of the Civil War, the Atlas to the Official Records, the West Point Atlas of the Civil War, and the numerous online map collections of universities and libraries will be content with the depth and clarity of reproductions in this atlas. Those coming to Civil War era maps and map making for the first and second time could hardly do better that the National Geographic's atlas. Those looking for a large format nearly comprehensive book on the military aspects of the war will find in this big, handsome coffee table book to be hefty both in its weight and its contents.

CWL---Guide to Historic Virginia

Historic Virginia: Your Travel Guide to Virginia's Fascinating Historic Sites, Emily J. Salmon and John S. Salmon, Trade Paper Press, 240 pages, 2009, $24.95.

Virginia has much to offer historically. For the immersed Civil War enthusiast this book is not exhaustive. For the new visitor to the state, the guidebook has is a fine first guide that will generate further interest. Not organized by region except for a simple site by region index, Historic Virginia might baffle the reader who gives in a quick glace. The sites are organized by topics: African-American and Civil Rights sites, art,/literature/music.sports, battles and conflicts, business and commerce, higher education, historic cemeteries, historic homes, historic and scenic drives, infrastructure, justice and confinement, house museums, natural wonders, politics, religious history sites, settlement and exploration, native American sites.

As the guidebook says, “Some of these sites are very old, while others are of more recent vintage. Some are of national importance, while others are of local or statewide significance. Some are located on the main highways, others are on roads less traveled. Some of the historic places are, in fact, roads—and bridges, and airports, and natural wonders, and jails, and churches, and battlefields, and museums.” Many of these historic hideaways are right next door to the bigger, more heavily publicized attractions.

For example take polics. The guide lists Colonial Williamsburg, Hanover Courthouse, Red Hill, the 1861 restored state capitol building, St. John's Episcopal Church, and the state manison. Reading the entries, one gathers quickly a brief history of the evolution of colonial, antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction history of Virginia governmnment, and their major sites with their contact information. Yet there is a disconnect between the sites. The site-by-region index is helpful but doesn't get beyond what the book covers.

Checking the battlefields category, one may quickly ask: if Fisher's Hill is represented how could Cedar Creek a few miles away be ignored? Belle Grove plantation is on/adjacent to the Cedar Creek Battlefield and the house museum is covered. There are plenty of sites offered and organized by topic but some absences are glaring. Could the section on historic jails leave out the Appomattox Courthouse with it's first and second floor jail below the third floor courtroom? Yes.

Filled with brief historical essays and side notes, photos, driving maps, an index and listing of sites by region, and contact information, Historic Virginia: Your Travel Guide to Virginia’s Fascinating Historic Sites is a fine guidebook that will generate lists of destinations for those who want to explore the historic byways of bygone Virginia but the user will have to connect-the-dots and use a AAA guide book to do it. Ideally, the book is suited for Virginia civics teachers who wish to organize lesson plans on themes.

About the Authors:

Emily J. Salmon and John S. Salmon have written or edited several books and articles together, including Franklin County, Virginia, 1786–1986: A Bicentennial History. Emily has B.S. and M.A. degrees in psychology and history, respectively. She is senior copy editor in the Publications and Educational Services Division at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, and co editor of The Hornbook of Virginia History. John has B.A. and M.A. degrees in American history. A former archivist at the Library of Virginia, he is retired from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, where he was staff historian and wrote The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Their knowledge of local and regional history and literary skill have also yielded looks at the Civil War in Historic Photos of Gettysburg and Historic Photos of the Siege of Petersburg, and a look at Virginia, in Historic Photos of Greater Hampton Roads, Historic Photos of Richmond, and Historic Photos of Virginia, along with Historic Photos of the White House.

Source (Authors' Biographies) Turner Publishing Inc.

New in 2009---Right Book, Wrong Title: The Bonfire

The Bonfire: The Seige and Burning of Atlanta, Marc Wortman, Public Affairs Press, 431 pp., illustrations, index, notes, bibliography, photo credits, $28.95.

How does a non-fiction book end up with the wrong title? A title that leads to disappointment. Bait and switch marketing department at the publisher? A literary agent? The author? CWL will give this book a more accurate, more provocative title. Rebel Phoenix: The Birth, Burning, and Rebirth of Atlanta during the Antebellum and Civil War Era Eras. That is an accurate and compelling labeling of Wortman's work.

Of he 361 pages of text, Atlanta begins to burn in the last 10% of the book. The first 20% concerns frontier Georgia with the very young William T. Sherman showing up at the future site of the city of Atlanta. Yes, Sherman was there, studying the topography of northern Georgia in 1844. A fine story well developed and handled by Wortman. The author finds and presents accounts of massacres survival stories of settlers by Native Americans in early north and central Georgia. These stories Wortman develops well and appreciative of the Georgians later stance on Cherokee removal.

In the next 20% Southern railroad history is developed and a northern Georgia crossroad is planned and labeled 'Terminus' maps. Wortman's chapters here are worthy of reading by anyone interested in American or Southern urban history, the notion of industrial modernization in a slave holding agricultural society.

The next 20% is Civil War history propelled forward by some remarkable Atlanta residents: slaveholders, slaves and freemen, and non-slave holding middle class members. The lives of James Montgomery Calhoun (a Unionist and slaveholder), Festus and Isabella Flipper (slaves whose son enters West Point Military Academy), George Washington Lee (commander of the Confederate Provost Guard) and Bob Yancey (African-American barber, currency speculator and friend to Union prisoners) and many others are well handled by Wortman who offers these individuals as illustrations of how men, women and families accommodate themselves to urban life during wartime.

In the last portion of the book, Sherman and his army reaches Atlanta. During the Confederate retreat from the city, Hood burns the railroad stock. During the Union advance out of the city, Sherman burns much more. Wortman does not excel a telling military history. He should have had a fact checker for the number of commanders Lincoln went through in the Army of the Potomac, the spelling of William Rosecrans' name, and the sequence of events at Chickamaugua and Chattanooga. For those who are looking for a superior military history and social/urban history of the capture of Atlanta and its two destructions, they should consider Bond's War Like A Thunderbolt. Wortman's style uses lots of adjectives and sometimes has lengthly sentences. On the other hand, Bond's is more reportorial and similar to Bruce Catton's Army of the Potomac trilogy.

CWL had trouble 'getting into 'Bonfire' mainly because a huge urban fire should have been around the corner. Upon realizing that Bonfire is urban and social history of a Civil War city, it became enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

News---New Lee Photograph Discovered! That Was Some Canteen of Wassail!

Santa Lee wishes you a very Merry Christmas!

Civil War Librarian Thanks the Museum of the Confederacy for the Image


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

News--- December 19th Blizzard Closes GNMP Roads

Gettysburg Receives Record Snow Fall of 16"; GNMP Roads Closed. Gettysburg Daily, December 20, 2009

From the Civil War Society Listserv---A Word on Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg

John Foskett on The Civil War Society Listserv: "I've never understood why anybody believes that Jackson would have changed the result at Gettysburg. You can't even plug him into the tactical situation since the ANV fought at Gettysburg as three corps rather than two. Getting over that problem, and even assuming that the fight leading up to the late P.M. July 1 decision regarding Cemetery Hill had not already staggered many of the troops available for an assault, Jackson's tactical record throughout the War ranged generally from mediocre to less than competent - Kernstown, Seven Days, Cedar Mountain, Brawner's Farm, Second Manassas (second day), Chantilly, Fredericksburg. Even the "brilliant" flank attack at Chancellorsville (1) should have been acted on by Hooker when it was slowly unfolding and (2) was poorly managed in terms of getting to the jumpoff point, meaning that it started too late. Jackson's strength was independent operational maneuver, not tactics at the point of contact. The latter was the issue on late July 1 (which was the ANV's best chance to."win" the battle). But you really can't even run the hypothetical well because the ANV was organized in a completely different manner by that point."

CWL concurs and adds the note: If Jackson had survived Chancellorsville, he would have been killed by his own troops near the crest of Culp's Hill during the late evening of July 1.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Off Topic Novel---Old School Detective Story: Rizzo's War

Rizzo's War: A Novel, Lou Manfredo, Minotaur/St. Martin's Press, 290 pp., 2009, $24.99.

After 27 years on the force, Joe Rizzo becomes wise, nurturing uncle to recently promoted street cop Mike McQueen. A young, handsome, skilled and lucky, McQueen replaces Rizzo's long time partner Morelli, an alcoholic and gambler. Rizzo and McQueen tackle assaults and the occasional homicide. They are called a upon to find a missing teenager whose father is a Brooklyn councilman. Nothing is simple or obvious. Realistic urban settings in the courthouse and on the beat help pace the novel. Husband and dad Rizzo plays master to McQueen the student.

Lou Manfredo, the author, brings 25 years of experience in Brooklyn's criminal-justice system to the novel. A uniformed court officer and a court clerk, Manfredo conveys the ethical and moral situations of police work; Joe Rizzo's deals with such situations with the philosophy that "There is no right, there is no wrong, there just is." The reader wonders how often those words echo through the halls of NYC justice systmem. McQueen develops a crush on a woman who has been sexually assaulted in the subway. Vowing to capture the man who abused her, McQueen and Rizzo locate the man, who he is a junkie but has overdosed about a half an hour before their discovery. Rizzo explains to McQueen what must be done. A report is written that the man confessed to the assault before he died and they get credit for the detective work and the capture. The case is officially closed. Rizzo's art of trimming corners includes a free meal from an Italian restaurant and the performance guard duty late at night as the restaurant's staff later takes the day's profits to the bank. There are many day-to-day details like this that ring true. Rizzo's War is much like the Ed McBain's paramont 87th Precinct series of novels. CWL met McBain once and asked him what part of the writing effort was the most enjoyable. McBain said that it was living and riding with the cops that he enjoyed the most. CWL believes that Manfredo would probably answer the question in the same manner.

Off Topic---Talking Detective Fiction with a Master Writer

Talking About Detective Fiction, P. D. James, 208 pages, illustrations, bibliography, Knopf Publishing, $22.00.

James wrote Talking About Detective Fiction, at the request of the Bodleian Library, one of the great libraries of the world. As a detective fiction writer and reader for over 50 years James is fascinated by the history of detective fiction and in particular English novels and short stories of the inter-world war years when there was a surge of excellent writing. As representative of the best of British detective fiction written before and during the Golden Era, James offers The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham, Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers, and Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare.

In Talking About Detective Fiction James notes that detective fiction came about with the institutionalized of law enforcement in England, France and America in the 1840s. Edgar Allan Poe's four short stories with French policeman August Dupin are credited as being the first detective stories with William Godwin's Caleb Williams (1794) being an antecedent to Poe's work and Wilkie Collins The Moonstone (1868) being an predecessor. She notes that Charles Dickens, a close friend of Wilkie Collins, wrote true crime stories from interviews with police and that Dickens' Bleak House has several of detective fiction's unique features.

The writings of the Scotsman Arthur Conan Doyle, the Englishmen Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, and Americans Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are discussed in general by clarifying their individual styles and their talent for creating indelible characters. She examines detective fiction as social history and having distinct stylistic components within itself. James' Talking About Detective Fiction is a fine introduction to the history and elements of detective fiction. Those who are familiar with Otto Penzler's or Julian Symons' works on the history of the genre will find little new here though. Without a doubt, James who is a master creator of story, character and setting does contribute noteworthy remarks regarding other authors' strengths and weaknesses in creating each of these foundation stones upon which any good novel rests.

2010 Two Day Seminar---Gettysburg: The Aftermath and the End of the Campaign

The Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation co-sponsor a every other year two day seminar that is limited to the first 240 registrants. The previous three seminars have focused on the July 1, July 2, and July 3 military engagements. In April 2010,the focus is on aftermath and the end of the campaign with seven lectures, the choice of two of five tours, and two 45 minute evening programs offered. The registration fee is $90 for the April 10-11 event.

Attendees will the following issues being addressed: What shortcomings did Lee, Longstreet and and Meade reveal during the retreat/advance? In what way, if any, was Gettysburg the turning point of the American Civil War? What roles did the Federal Provost Guard perform during the campaign? How significant is Camp Letterman Hospital that covered 80 acres and lasted 121 days? How do the letters and diaries of the wounded reveal about medical care after the battle? How do letters and diaries from the troops reveal about the retreat/advance and the end of the campaign?

Elective tours will walk the Rose Farm, the Seminary grounds, the photographic image sites of Devils Den and the Rose Farm, the hospital sites, and the post-July 3 4pm location of Confederate troops and their July 4 preparations for their retreat. Additionally registrants will spend 45 minutes with the Cyclorama and GNMP guide Sue Boardman and will spend 45 minutes with five NPS rangers who will perform living history of four civilians and on wounded Rebel soldier.

Among the presenters are many familiar names: NPS ranges John Heiser, Eric Campbell, Scott Hartwig, Bert Barnett, Matt Atkinson, Charles Teague, Angela Atkinson and Karlton Smith, GLBGs Sue Boardman, Waynes Motts, Ed Guy, Tim Smith, Garry Adelman and several others from NPS parks other than Gettysburg. Contact Evangelina Rubalcava-Joyce, Park Ranger, Suite 100 GNMP, 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Unfortunately the April 10-12 weekend is the anniversary 145th anniversary weekend of Appomattox.

Image Source: Bill Dowling Photography

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Resounding Bugles, Resounding Voices: Music and Musicians of the Civil War Era

Bugle Resounding: Music And Musicians Of The Civil War Era, Bruce C. Kelley and Mark A. Snell, editors, University of Missouri Press, 260 pp., illustrations, index, notes, 2004, $44.00.

In the mid-nineteenth century the United States was musically vibrant. Rising industrialization, a growing middle class, and increasing concern for the founding of American centers of art created a culture that was rich in musical capital. Beyond its importance to the people who created and played it is the fact that this music still influences our culture today.

Although numerous academic resources examine the music and musicians of the Civil War era, the research is spread across a variety of disciplines and is found in a wide array of scholarly journals, books, and papers. It is difficult to assimilate this diverse body of research, and few sources are dedicated solely to a rigorous and comprehensive investigation of the music and the musicians of this era. This anthology, which grew out of the first two National Conferences on Music of the Civil War Era, is an initial attempt to address that need.

Those conferences established the first academic setting solely devoted to exploring the effects of the Civil War on music and musicians. Bridging musicology and history, these essays represent the forefront of scholarship in music of the Civil War era. Each one makes a significant contribution to research in the music of this era and will ultimately encourage more interdisciplinary research on a subject that has relevance both for its own time and for ours. The result is a readable, understandable volume on one of the few understudied--yet fascinating--aspects of the Civil War era.

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: An Overview of Music of the Civil War Era, Bruce C. Kelley

Music and Community in the Civil War Era, Deane L. Root

They Weren't All Like Lorena: Musical Portraits of Women in the Civil War Era, Lenora Cuccia

An Inspiration to All: New Hampshire's Third Regiment and Hilton Head Post Bands in Civil War South Carolina, Richard C. Spicer

Confederates at the Keyboard: Southern Piano Music during the Civil War, David B. Thompson

Henry Clay Work: "The Silver Horn" as Civil War Elegy, Walter L. Powell

The Production and Consumption of Confederate Songsters, Kirsten M. Schultz

Across a Great Divide: Irish American Music and Musicians of the Civil War Era, Michael Saffle

Civil War Music and the Common Soldier: The Experiences of Charles Wellington Reed, Eric A. Campbell

Music Inspired by the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863-1913, Mark A. Snell

Bruce C. Kelley is Associate Professor of Music at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Mark A. Snell is Research Professor of History and Director of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Source: University of Missouri Press

Forthcoming---The Great Escape, February 1864

Libby Prison Breakout:The Daring Escape from the Notorious Civil War Prison, Joseph Wheelan, Public Affairs Press, 352 pages, $26.95. February 2010

In warehouses along the Virginia waterfront, Union prisoners of war were held in desperate squalor—freezing, malnourished and subjected to hateful mistreatment. Among the worst of these makeshift prisons was Libby, a former tobacco warehouse where 1,200 Union officers slept without blankets on the bare floor and subsisted on scraps of cornbread and rancid meat. Many died, most endured; the most audacious plotted their escape. Joseph Wheelan, a prolific biographer and former AP editor, recounts the improbable tale of 109 courageous officers in Libby Prison Breakout—the first book to chronicle this amazing escape in depth. Charting the transformation of stately Richmond, Virginia, from antebellum gentility to wartime industrial center, Wheelan depicts the citizens’ attempts to cope with mounting privations as the Confederate Army commandeered Richmond’s food, clothing and goods. Martial law, protests, food riots and harsh countermeasures nurtured among Richmond’s populace a seething hatred of “the Yankee,” an enmity that would color the treatment of prisoners from the North. With prisoner exchanges at a standstill, Union POWs could scarcely hope for a timely release. And while the Union Army’s treatment of Confederate POWs was constrained by the Lieber Code (an antecedent to the Geneva Convention), no such code of conduct shielded Union prisoners from a prison system that “at times seemed expressly designed to induce suffering.” The often highly educated officers proved resourceful at coping with their captivity, but disease, lice, cruelty, overcrowding and sheer boredom made escape an increasingly urgent prospect. In November 1863, two recently captured Union officers, Colonel Thomas Ellwood Rose and Major A.G. Hamilton, began to dig a 55-foot tunnel under Libby Prison. Leading 107 of their fellow captives, they fled in the chill of winter through the heart of the Confederate homeland, with Rebel soldiers in hot pursuit. Their successful escape lifted Northern morale, and their subsequent Congressional testimony, detailing their cruel and degrading treatment, led to the imposition of harsh measures against Rebel POWs. Drawing from primary sources including letters, journals, prison records and even issues of the prisoners’ weekly “newspaper,” Wheelan makes this little-known historical event feel palpable and current. The author does not flinch from depicting the ghastly human cost of war, nor does he give short shrift to the tale’s colorful characters—such as Col. Abel Streight, a man of imposing physical presence, formidable intellect and larger-than-life personality; or the one-woman “spy ring” of Elizabeth Van Lew. Libby Prison Breakout is a valuable contribution to Civil War historiography, and a richly rewarding reading experience.

Joseph Wheelan, a former Associated Press reporter and editor, is the author of Mr. Adams's Last Crusade, Invading Mexico, Jefferson's War, and Jefferson's Vendetta. He lives in Cary, North Carolina.

Source: Public Affairs Press and History Book Club

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interview: Publishing, Primary Sources, Doing History, and Student Learning

Slavery and Sectional Strife in the Early American Republic: An Interview with Gary Kornblith, Seth Binder, History News Network, December 14, 2009.

Gary Kornblith is a professor of history at Oberlin College, where he has taught since 1981. His publications include The Industrial Revolution in America and, with Carol Lasser, Teaching American History: Essays Adapted from the Journal of American History, 2001-2007. His most recent work is Slavery and Sectional Strife in the Early American Republic, 1776-1821, the inaugural volume of Rowman & Littlefield’s American Controversies Series. His books can be located for purchase online.

What prompted you to write this book?

In 2005 I was at the book exhibit at the OAH (Organization of American Historians) Convention in San Jose looking for a book to assign undergraduates on the Missouri Compromise. The standard secondary account of the subject was more than 50 years old, and I was hoping to find a collection of primary documents that would be suitable for classroom use. When I asked a sales rep at a publisher’s booth whether his company had any such volume in the works, he replied, “What was the Missouri Compromise?”

Heading home from the conference, I ran into Doug Egerton at the airport and told about this disconcerting exchange. Doug said that he was editing a new series for Rowman & Littlefield on major controversies in American history and that I should write a book for the series about slavery as a political issue in the early republic. I jumped at the opportunity. The projected format for the new series was to combine the kind of historiographical discussion found in Harlan Davidson’s American History Series with the kind of primary documents featured in the Bedford/St. Martin’s Series in History and Culture. My hope was to provide undergraduates – and others as well -- with an accessible sourcebook for exploring why slavery was such a bone of contention in the early republic. Today’s students know that slavery was wrong, but they find its evil so obvious that they have trouble understanding why people ever supported it and why it proved so difficult to abolish in a country supposedly founded on the principle that “all men are created equal.”

What attracted you to this period of history?

As a sophomore at Amherst College, I took John William Ward’s course on Jacksonian America and got hooked on the early nineteenth century. As a graduate student, I – like many others of my generation – looked to E.P. Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class for a model, and I wrote my dissertation on master artisans in New England, 1789-1850. The great thing about the early republic as a period is it is full of dramatic change and upheavals. It starts with the first American Revolution and ends with the second (to use Beardian terminology). In between, the country quadruples in size and sextuples in population; the Industrial Revolution launches; and the struggle for African American emancipation moves from the margins to the center of the national narrative. What could be more exciting than all that?

What was the decision process like in deciding what to include or exclude in terms of the primary documents?

Painful! I wanted to include the well-known voices and documents that one would normally learn about but also the more obscure. The idea was to show a wide spectrum and different dimensions of this complicated debate. There were white southerners who pushed for emancipation, white northerners who didn’t, and so on; students should have a chance to discover that the historical record is not neat and predictable but instead full of surprises that complicate easy assumptions about how people in the past thought and acted.

Obviously, we are focusing on the Early Republic… is there one person whom you would consider the most influential in terms of the slavery debate?

Thomas Jefferson. You can’t get around him. He is the author of the greatest polemic for freedom. Both sides in the argument over American slavery quoted him—the Notes on the State of Virginia as well as the Declaration of Independence. He believed that blacks were human beings with equal human rights--though not equal abilities--and he acknowledged that slavery contradicted his most cherished principles. Yet he remained a slaveholder throughout his adult life. He decried miscegenation and could not imagine a racially integrated republic. Yet he fathered children by Sally Hemings and failed to pursue a “two-state solution” (e.g., a black colony in the Louisiana territory) when he had the opportunity as president. It is easy to attack Jefferson today as a hypocrite or worse, but he epitomized the tragedy of what Edmund Morgan has termed the American paradox of slavery and freedom.

Historians have long argued about whether or not the Civil War was an irrepressible conflict. Much less has been written about the “irrepressibility” of the Missouri Compromise. Could the Missouri Crisis have turned out differently?

Of course! The Missouri Compromise was not inevitable. It seems to me quite conceivable that disunion would have occurred in 1820 had both sides in the debate hung true to their original positions. Would the result of have been civil war at that point in American history? Many contemporaries feared such an outcome, which was a crucial reason that Clay et al. succeeded in forging a compromise. Yet it is also possible that disunion in 1820 would have been peaceful, at least in the short term, and that the so-called free states would have been better off untethered to the South. John Quincy Adams, for one, thought such a path worth serious consideration – at least in the privacy of his diary, though not in his public pronouncements. I include Adams’s reflections in the book.

Throughout your analysis in the first section of the book, you bring in several different scholars each with their differing views about the period. Can you explain your purpose in doing this?

I wish to convey to students and other non-specialists that history is contested terrain even when historians agree about the “facts.” Doing history involves complex judgments that you cannot score on an AP test. I want students to think for themselves and to join in the debate over competing explanations of why things happened the way they did—not just to scribble down what one expert or textbook says is The Truth.

This is your third book designed more for use in the classroom than the traditional monograph. What draws you to this format?

I certainly value monographs and am engaged in writing one right now. But more than a researcher, I am a teacher, and I am proud of my vocation. I like to raise provocative questions in classroom settings and to push students to think “outside the box.” If I can’t interest a twenty-year-old in a historical problem, then I haven’t done my job.

Text and Image Source: History News Network, December 14, 2009.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

News---Secession As A Political Philosophy

Scholars Nostalgic for the Old South Study the Virtues of Secession, Quietly The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2009 as presented in History News Network

In 1991, Donald W. Livingston threw a party—well, a conference—and nobody showed up.
It was during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and Mr. Livingston, a professor of philosophy at Emory University and raised in South Carolina, decided there should be more thoughtful discourse on the topic of secession.

A political philosopher who specializes in David Hume, he searched philosophy papers published since 1940 and turned up only seven on the matter of secession from federal unions: five reviews of a book and two articles about Quebec. Thinking he had the market to himself, he held a conference on secession at the 1991 meeting of the American Philosophical Association. He was right about his share of the market. Nobody came.

Today Mr. Livingston is drawing slightly larger crowds. In 2003 he started the Abbeville Institute, named after the South Carolina birthplace of John C. Calhoun, seventh vice president of the United States and a forceful advocate of slavery and states' rights. The institute now has 64 associated scholars from various colleges and disciplines. They gather to discuss topics about the South that they feel are misrepresented in today's classrooms. Feeling a chilly reception to its ideas—officials of the Southern Poverty Law Center say its work borders on white supremacy—the group has kept a low profile. Mr. Livingston's own department chair, as well as a number of Emory history professors, say they have never heard of it.

That may change. Mr. Livingston says Abbeville is, for the first time, publicly advertising a conference, on secession and nullification—the refusal of states to recognize given federal laws within their territory—to be held February 4 to 7 in Charleston, S.C. It is the institute's eighth annual conference. The group does not endorse secession but does say the idea has moral and political validity...

... The other Abbeville scholars teach history, philosophy, economics, and literature at institutions including Emory, the University of South Carolina, the University of Georgia, and the University of Virginia. They write books with titles like Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture (published by the Foundation for American Education, a nonprofit group "dedicated to the preservation of American culture and learning") and The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, his Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Prima). They say the institute's work, although academic in nature, is really about values. Its members study the South in search of a history of piety, humility, and manners. The scholars acknowledge a history of bigotry and slavery, but they focus primarily on what they say are the positive aspects of Southern history and culture...

Text Source: History News Network
Image Source: Donald W. Livingston, Chronicle of Higher Education

Monday, December 07, 2009

New and Noteworthy---Irish Troops , Black Troops and American Citizenship

Becoming American Under Fire: Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship During the Civil War Era, Christian G. Samito, Cornell University Press, 312 pages, November 2009, $39.95.

In Becoming American under Fire, Christian G. Samito provides a rich account of how African American and Irish American soldiers influenced the modern vision of national citizenship that developed during the Civil War era. By bearing arms for the Union, African Americans and Irish Americans exhibited their loyalty to the United States and their capacity to act as citizens; they strengthened their American identity in the process. Members of both groups also helped to redefine the legal meaning and political practices of American citizenship.

For African American soldiers, proving manhood in combat was only one aspect to their quest for acceptance as citizens. As Samito reveals, by participating in courts-martial and protesting against unequal treatment, African Americans gained access to legal and political processes from which they had previously been excluded. The experience of African Americans in the military helped shape a postwar political movement that successfully called for rights and protections regardless of race. For Irish Americans, soldiering in the Civil War was part of a larger affirmation of republican government and it forged a bond between their American citizenship and their Irish nationalism. The wartime experiences of Irish Americans helped bring about recognition of their full citizenship through naturalization and also caused the United States to pressure Britain to abandon its centuries-old policy of refusing to recognize the naturalization of British subjects abroad.

As Samito makes clear, the experiences of African Americans and Irish Americans differed substantially—and at times both groups even found themselves violently opposed—but they had in common that they aspired to full citizenship and inclusion in the American polity. Both communities were key participants in the fight to expand the definition of citizenship that became enshrined in constitutional amendments and legislation that changed the nation.

Aaron Sheehan-Dean, author of Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia states "Christian G. Samito's new book offers a signal contribution to a crucial but understudied aspect of the Civil War--its effect on citizenship. By focusing on the aspirations of Irish and African Americans, Samito shows how the contingencies of war gave opportunities for people at all levels to revise this fundamental attribute. His narrative reveals how a new, more robust national citizenship eclipsed older versions built narrowly around state identity and racial attributes. Samito's story rightly emphasizes the dynamic nature of how Americans have defined and understood citizenship and, in the process, adds a crucial historical dimension to contemporary debates over identity, citizenship, and politics."

Christian G. Samito earned a law degree from Harvard Law School and a doctorate in American history from Boston College. He is the editor of Commanding Boston's Irish Ninth: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Patrick R. Guiney, Ninth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; “Fear Was Not in Him”: The Civil War Letters of Major General Francis C. Barlow, U.S.A.; and Changes in Law and Society During the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Legal History Documentary Reader. He edits a series about the legal history of the Civil War era, teaches at Boston College and Boston University School of Law, and practices law in Boston.

Text Source: Cornell University Press

Middle and Bottom Images: Irish Banner, Black Troops Poster,

New in Spring 2010---Strategic Command and Control in the Eastern Theatre

Civil War In The East 1861-1865: A Strategic Assessment, Brooks D. Simpson, Greenwood Publishing Group, December 2009, 200 pages, bibliography, index, $49.95.

For all the literature about Civil War military operations and leadership, precious little has been written about strategy, particularly in what has become known as the eastern theater. Yet it is in this theater where the interaction of geography and logistics, politics and public opinion, battle front and home front, and the conduct of military operations and civil-military relations, can be highlighted in sharp relief. With opposing capitals barely a hundred miles apart and with the Chesapeake Bay/tidewater area offering Union general the same sorts of opportunities sought by Confederate leaders in the Shenandoah Valley, geography shaped military operations in fundamental ways: the very rivers that obstructed Union overland advances offered them the chance to outflank Confederate prepared positions. If the proximity of the enemy capital proved too tempting to pass up, generals on each side were aware that a major mishap could lead to an enemy parade down the streets of their own capital city. Presidents, politicians, and the press peeked over the shoulders of military commanders, some of who were not reluctant to engage in their own intrigues as they promoted their own fortunes.

This work does not rest upon new primary sources or an extensive rummaging through the mountains of material already available. It depends instead upon taking a fresh look at what's already out there, seeing what others may have overlooked, and offering a more integrated interpretation of military operations that shows how politics, public perception, geography, and logistics shaped the course of military operations in the East. For the eastern theater was indeed a theater of decision (and indecision), precisely because people believed that it was: the presence of the capitals raised the stakes of victory and defeat; at a time when people viewed war in terms of decisive battles, the anticipation of victory followed by disappointment and persistent strategic stalemate. At a time when the telling and retelling of the military narrative approaches Norse saga, it's essential to question conventional wisdom, especially when it's no wisdom at all, without giving way to pure contrarianism

Brooks Simpson is Professor of History at Arizona State University and the author of six books on the Civil War, including Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868; America's Civil War; and The Political Education of Henry Adams.

Text and Image Source: Greenwood Publishing

Thursday, December 03, 2009

150th Anniversary---December 2, 1589: Freedom's Martyr?

Freedom’s Martyr, David S. Reynolds, New York Times, December 2, 2009

It's important for Americans to recognize our national heroes, even those who have been despised by history. Take John Brown.

Today is the 150th anniversary of Brown’s hanging — the grim punishment for his raid weeks earlier on Harpers Ferry, Va. With a small band of abolitionists, Brown had seized the federal arsenal there and freed slaves in the area. His plan was to flee with them to nearby mountains and provoke rebellions in the South. But he stalled too long in the arsenal and was captured. He was brought to trial in a Virginia court, convicted of treason, murder and inciting an insurrection, and hanged on Dec. 2, 1859. It’s a date we should hold in reverence. Yes, I know the response: Why remember a misguided fanatic and his absurd plan for destroying slavery?

There are compelling reasons. First, the plan was not absurd. Brown reasonably saw the Appalachians, which stretch deep into the South, as an ideal base for a guerrilla war. He had studied the Maroon rebels of the West Indies, black fugitives who had used mountain camps to battle colonial powers on their islands. His plan was to create panic by arousing fears of a slave rebellion, leading Southerners to view slavery as dangerous and impractical.

Second, he was held in high esteem by many great men of his day. Ralph Waldo Emerson compared him to Jesus, declaring that Brown would “make the gallows as glorious as the cross.” Henry David Thoreau placed Brown above the freedom fighters of the American Revolution. Frederick Douglass said that while he had lived for black people, John Brown had died for them. A later black reformer, W. E. B. Du Bois, called Brown the white American who had “come nearest to touching the real souls of black folk.”

Du Bois was right. Unlike nearly all other Americans of his era, John Brown did not have a shred of racism. He had long lived among African-Americans, trying to help them make a living, and he wanted blacks to be quickly integrated into American society. When Brown was told he could have a clergyman to accompany him to the gallows, he refused, saying he would be more honored to go with a slave woman and her children.

By the time of his hanging, John Brown was so respected in the North that bells tolled in many cities and towns in his honor. Within two years, the Union troops marched southward singing, “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave, but his soul keeps marching on.” Brown remained a hero to the North right up through Reconstruction.

However, he fell from grace during the long, dark period of Jim Crow. The attitude was, who cares about his progressive racial views, except a few blacks? His reputation improved a bit with the civil rights movement, but he is still widely dismissed as a deranged cultist. This is an injustice to a forward-thinking man dedicated to the freedom and political participation of African-Americans.

O.K., some might say, but how about the blotches on his record, especially the murders and bloody skirmishes in Kansas in the 1850s? Brown considered himself a soldier at war. His attacks on pro-slavery forces were part of an escalating cycle of pre-emptive and retaliatory violence that most historians now agree were in essence the first engagements of the Civil War.

Besides, none of the heroes from that period is unblemished. Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, but he shared the era’s racial prejudices, and even after the war started thought that blacks should be shipped out of the country once they were freed. Andrew Jackson was the man of his age, but in addition to being a slaveholder, he has the extra infamy of his callous treatment of Native Americans, for which some hold him guilty of genocide. John Brown comes with “buts” — but in that he has plenty of company. He deserves to be honored today. For starters, he should be pardoned. Technically, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia would have to do this, since Brown was tried on state charges and executed there. Such a posthumous pardon by a state occurred just this October, when South Carolina pardoned two black men who were executed 94 years ago for murdering a Confederate veteran.

A presidential pardon, however, would be more meaningful. Posthumous pardons are by definition symbolic. They’re intended to remove stigma or correct injustice. While the president cannot grant pardons for state crimes, a strong argument can be made for a symbolic exception in Brown’s case.

By today’s standards, his crime was arguably of a federal nature, as his attack was on a federal arsenal in what is now West Virginia. His actions were prompted by federal slavery rulings he considered despicable, especially the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision. Brown was captured by federal troops under Robert E. Lee. And the Virginia court convicted him of treason against Virginia even though he was not a resident. (He was tried in Virginia at the orders of its governor, probably to avert Northern political pressure on the federal government.)

There is precedent for presidential pardons of the deceased; in 1999, Bill Clinton pardoned Henry O. Flipper, an African-American lieutenant who was court-martialed in 1881 for misconduct. Last year, George W. Bush gave a posthumous pardon to Charles Winters, an American punished for supplying B-17 bombers to Israel in the late 1940s. In October, Senator John McCain and Representative Peter King petitioned President Obama to pardon Jack Johnson, the black boxing champion, who was convicted a century ago of transporting a white woman across state lines for immoral purposes.

Justice would be served, belatedly, if President Obama and Governor Kaine found a way to pardon a man whose heroic effort to free four million enslaved blacks helped start the war that ended slavery. Once and for all, rescue John Brown from the loony bin of history.

David S. Reynolds, a professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, is the author of John Brown, Abolitionist and Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson.

Text Source: New York Times, December 2, 2009.

Image Sources:
First and Second Images: Kasama
Third Image: West Virginia Univeristy Library
Fourth Image: Virginia Military Institute

150th Anniversary--- December 2, 1859: The 9/11 of 1859?

The 9/11 of 1859, Tony Horwitz, New York Times, December 1, 2009

One hundred and fifty years ago today, the most successful terrorist in American history was hanged at the edge of this Shenandoah Valley town. Before climbing atop his coffin for the wagon ride to the gallows, he handed a note to one of his jailers: “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

Eighteen months later, Americans went to war against each other, with soldiers marching into battle singing “John Brown’s Body.” More than 600,000 men died before the sin of slavery was purged. Few if any Americans today would question the justness of John Brown’s cause: the abolition of human bondage. But as the nation prepares to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who calls himself the architect of the 9/11 attacks, it may be worth pondering the parallels between John Brown’s raid in 1859 and Al Qaeda’s assault in 2001.

Brown was a bearded fundamentalist who believed himself chosen by God to destroy the institution of slavery. He hoped to launch his holy war by seizing the United States armory at Harpers Ferry, Va., and arming blacks for a campaign of liberation. Brown also chose his target for shock value and symbolic impact. The only federal armory in the South, Harpers Ferry was just 60 miles from the capital, where “our president and other leeches,” Brown wrote, did the bidding of slave owners. The first slaves freed and armed by Brown belonged to George Washington’s great-grandnephew.

Brown’s strike force was similar in size and make-up to that of the 9/11 hijackers. He led 21 men, all but two in their 20s, and many of them radicalized by guerrilla fighting in Bleeding Kansas, the abolitionists’ Afghanistan. Brown also relied on covert backers — not oil-rich Saudis, but prominent Yankees known as the Secret Six. Brown used aliases and coded language and gathered his men at a mountain hideout. But, like the 9/11 bombers, Brown’s men were indiscreet, disclosing their plan to family and sweethearts. A letter warning of the plot even reached the secretary of war. It arrived in August, the scheme seemed outlandish, and the warning was ignored.

Brown and his men were prepared to die, and most did, in what quickly became a suicide mission. Trapped in Harpers Ferry, the raiders fought for 24 hours until Robert E. Lee ordered marines to storm the building where the survivors had holed up. Ten raiders were killed, including two of Brown’s sons, and seven more hanged. No slaves won their freedom. The first civilian casualty was a free black railroad worker, shot in the back while fleeing the raiders.

This fiasco might have been a footnote of history if Brown had died of his wounds or been immediately executed. Instead, he survived, and was tried under tight security in a civilian court in Charles Town, near Harpers Ferry. Rather than challenge the evidence, or let his lawyers plead insanity, Brown put the South on trial. Citing the biblical injunction to “remember them that are in bonds,” he declared his action “was not wrong, but right.”

“If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice,” he said, “and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel and unjust enactments — I submit; so let it be done!” He was hanged a month later, before a crowd that included John Wilkes Booth, who later wrote of the “terroriser” with a mix of contempt and awe.

Brown’s courage and eloquence made him a martyr-hero for many in the North. This canonization, in turn, deepened Southern rage and alarm over the raid. Though Brown occupied the far fringe of abolitionism — a “wild and absurd freak,” The New York Times called him — Southern firebrands painted his raid as part of a broad conspiracy. An already polarized nation lurched closer to violent divorce. “The time for compromise was gone,” Frederick Douglass later observed. “The armed hosts of freedom stood face to face over the chasm of a broken Union, and the clash of arms was at hand.” This was exactly what Brown had predicted in his final note.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is no John Brown. The 9/11 attack caused mass, indiscriminate slaughter, for inscrutable ends. Brown fed breakfast to his hostages; the hijackers slit throats with box cutters. Any words Mr. Mohammed may offer in his own defense will likely strike Americans as hateful and unpersuasive. In any event, the judge probably won’t grant him an ideological platform.

But perhaps he doesn’t need one. In 1859, John Brown sought not only to free slaves in Virginia but to terrorize the South and incite a broad conflict. In this he triumphed: panicked whites soon mobilized, militarized and marched double-quick toward secession. Brown’s raid didn’t cause the Civil War, but it was certainly a catalyst.

It may be too early to say if 9/11 bred a similar overreaction. But last night President Obama vowed to increase our efforts in Afghanistan — one of two wars that, eight years on, have killed nearly twice as many Americans as the hijacked planes. The nation, beset by the wars’ burden, will continue to find its domestic and foreign policy options hobbled.

Show trial or no trial, terrorists sometimes win.

Tony Horwitz is the author of Confederates in the Attic and A Voyage Long and Strange. He is working on a book about John Brown’s raid.

Text and Top Image Source: New York Times, December 1, 2009.