Thursday, April 29, 2010

News---Antietam NMP Added To Curriculum of Military Medicine School

Origin of Military Medicine Is Backdrop for Teaching Future Medical Leaders,Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, April 28, 2010

When service members are injured on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a system of care in place to quickly attend to life threatening injuries, evacuate the injured to local field hospitals, and if needed, transport them for more advanced care at military hospitals in Europe or back in the United States. This system of care, while more advanced today than ever, began on a battlefield much closer to home during the Civil War.

More than 150 medical students from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, or USU, will converge on the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., April 29, as part of their first-year curriculum. They will be joined by more than 60 graduate nursing students from USU.

“We’re attempting to give students a sense of not only the strategies used at Antietam, but also how this battle significantly influenced the development of our modern day medical system,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Sheila Robinson, who oversees the exercise as USU Department of Military and Emergency Medicine course director.

Originally intended for the military medical students to break in their combat boots, the Antietam March serves to teach students, from a historical perspective, the basic tenets of battlefield healthcare. In the mid-1800s, then-Army Surgeon General of the Potomac Maj. Jonathan Letterman, recognized that care on the front lines, medical logistics and evacuation assets under the direction of a physician were key to delivering battlefield care. Letterman is also known as “The Father of Battlefield Medicine.”

USU partnered with the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md., to ensure an authentic focus on the medical lessons learned and innovations resulting from the Battle of Antietam. University students will march in small groups, stopping at stations along the route to hear USU faculty members discuss conditions, battlefield strategies and medical aspects of the battle. Each student will be assigned the name of a real Civil War soldier, whom they will be able to follow from the time the soldier was injured until they arrived at a field hospital.

The Battle of Antietam, which took place Sept. 17, 1862, is considered the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. More than 23,000 men were killed or wounded.

The USU educates health care professionals dedicated to career service in the Department of Defense and the U.S. Public Health Service. The university provides military and public health-relevant education, research, service, and consultation to the nation and the world, pursuing excellence and innovation during times of peace and war. Many graduates are supporting operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, offering their leadership and expertise. Approximately 25 percent of all active-duty military medical officers are USU graduates.

Media interested in attending the road march should contact the Office of External Affairs at (301) 295-3981 by noon, April 28. For additional information on USU, visit our Web site at

Text and top Image Source: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Other Images: Antietam NMP

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

News---1862 Battlefield On South Mountian Endangered By Transmission Line

Woman Works To Preserve Middletown Valley, Karen Gardner, March 25, 2010, News-Post, Middletown, Maryland.

Elizabeth Bauer lives in the shadow of South Mountain. She can see the area where the Battle of South Mountain was fought and the rolling farmland that has characterized the area for generations.She is taking on the fight to preserve the mostly rural area. Bauer is the new president of Citizens for the Preservation of Middletown Valley, an organization formed two years ago to oppose plans to build a gas transmission compressor station in the area. In January 2009, Dominion Transmission bought an old stone farmhouse known as Fox's Tavern and 135 surrounding acres. Two months later, the Civil War Preservation Trust included the tavern as one of the nation's 10 most endangered Civil War sites.

Preservation Maryland and Maryland Life magazine recently named Fox's Tavern one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in Maryland. It's one of many privately owned sites historians and land preservationists consider threatened. Dominion's purchase of the land spurred the national historic preservation group to add the area to its endangered list. Bauer, her husband and two sons have all been active in Civil War living history. Her husband, Claude, and younger son, Brendan, 21, have participated in battle re-enactments. Her son Cameron, 25, joined the rest of his family to serve as extras in the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals."

Dominion plans to build a compression pump for its natural gas transmission line on the property, which is zoned agricultural. The pump is not likely to be built soon, but company representatives said it is part of long-range plans. The pipe moves natural gas from underground sources to markets in the mid-Atlantic region. The preservation group wants Dominion to reconsider building a compressor station on land zoned agricultural. The group said the noise generated by a compressor makes it more suitable for an industrially zoned area. "The Dominion issue is going to loom over us until 2015," Bauer said.

In the meantime, she hopes to get the group active in other land preservation and zoning issues in Frederick County. The group supports Frederick County's new comprehensive plan, which has tightened development possibilities around the county.
The group hopes to reach out to preservation-minded people throughout the county, she said. She also plans to look into the process used to extract natural gas from underground stores and research the ramifications for those whose properties are above the gas supply. "We have not been assertive in our approach," she said. "I want to get the hackles up. If you can get anger, you can get interest. It's amazing the number of people who know nothing about this."

Bauer is hoping to build the group's membership. It is applying for nonprofit status and Bauer is considering mass mailings to increase visibility and financial contributions. "I don't think the community realizes it's the board that keeps us going financially," she said.

Rich Maranto served as the organization's first president. Maranto, Bauer and Randy Buxbaum started the group in November 2007 and were the first board members. Buxbaum remains the group's treasurer. Bauer, 54, works in human resources for an intelligence firm. Most of her work is done from her home. She volunteered for many years with the Arthritis Foundation when the organization had a Frederick County office. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, which limits her living history acting to warm-weather events.She plays a civilian, and this summer will probably adopt the persona of a cook or seamstress.

Her interests and experience with arthritis combines with her volunteer work. At work, she sees herself as an advocate for her employees."When I retire, I want to become a health care advocate for seniors," she said. "People do not want to challenge their doctor's opinion, and they don't understand the long-term effects. "I'm a very caring person, but I'm also a force to be reckoned with. Not in a rude way, but I can be forceful."

Top Image: Fox's Gap--- The old Sharpsburg Road. This is the scene of the "Bloody Lane" during the battle of Fox's Gap that took place on September, 14th 1862. This is also the same road used by Breckinridge's troops in 1864 as they advanced toward Middletown. John Allen Miller, Photographer.

Second Image: North Carolina Monument at Fox's Gap

Bottom Image: Wise's Farm at Fox's Gap

New Film---Law & Order: Lincoln Assasination Unit

Conspirator Follows The Drama After Lincoln's Death, Anthony Breznican, USAToday, April 28, 2010.

Any grade-school student can tell you the story of the 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln in Ford's Theater at the hand of John Wilkes Booth. But what happened next? Robert Redford's new film, The Conspirator, follows the race to hunt down the small band of Confederate sympathizers who helped plot the attack. Think of it as Law & Order: Civil War Unit.

James McAvoy (Atonement) stars as a decorated Union soldier who reluctantly agrees to defend one of the accused, boarding-house owner Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), whose son was the lone conspirator to escape the manhunt. "There was a question of whether she was complicit, guilty by association, or even more guilty," says Redford, who directs but doesn't star in the movie. "The lawyer that defended her didn't want to defend her. He was a Union soldier who became a lawyer." His contempt for the suspect gives way to a fear that she is being prosecuted solely to bring her fugitive son out of hiding.

The Conspirator is independently financed and doesn't yet have a distributor. It's the first project made by the American Film Co., which plans to create historical dramas. Redford says he didn't want to simply re-create Lincoln's assassination and deals with that mainly as setup. "All the President's Men was very similar, because you had this big historical event taking place, but what people didn't know was what these two reporters did, digging in under the radar. You didn't need to show Nixon a lot," he says. Redford starred in that 1976 film about the fall of President Nixon.

Surratt was tried by a military commission instead of a civilian court, and with attorneys who represent accused enemies of the state still finding their integrity questioned, The Conspirator may strike present-day nerves. "I don't want to hit that too hard because then it sounds like agit-propaganda," Redford says. "I don't think Americans respond to well to that. But you can show them something and let them decide."

Text and Image Source: USAToday April 28, 2010

Images: Claudette Barius photographer, The American Film Company Productions, Caption One: Director Robert Redford says The Conspirator uses Lincoln only as a setup, the same way All the President's Men "didn't need to show Nixon a lot." Caption Two: Robin Wright plays Mary Surrat opposite Robert McAvoy as her reluctant attorney.

News---New National Archives' Exhibit: Original 13th Amendment Continued Slavery Forever, POWs Executed, CSS Alabama Digital Comic Book

Archives Exhibit Explores Little-Known Aspects of Civil War, Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post Staff, April 27, 2010.

The Confederate prisoners were lined up 15 paces from the Union firing squad. The order was given, and the six rebels died instantly. Five of them were shot through the heart, the Union officer in charge reported, adding that the execution was conducted to "my entire satisfaction."

So what if they were innocent POWs. A band of rebels had massacred captured Union soldiers and their commanding officer a few weeks before. Now, Union commanders just needed to select a Confederate officer for death, to complete the eye-for-an-eye transaction. There was no gallantry to this bloody affair in 1864, no stirring charge worthy of Currier and Ives. It was but a dark footnote to the epic of the American Civil War. And it was just what the National Archives sought for the major exhibit that will debut Friday: "Discovering the Civil War."

The exhibit, designed to launch Washington's celebration of the coming 150th anniversary of the war years, seeks to explore more of the little-known aspects of the battle and glimpse some of the dimmer corners of the conflict that remade the country and that so many Americans think they know so well. Yet 150 years later, the anniversary of the war that tore the nation apart finds a country that remains racially divided, politically fractured and historically split -- even over the causes and legacy of America's most wrenching conflict.

The governors of two Southern states, Virginia and Mississippi, sparked controversy this month by neglecting or sounding dismissive of the role of slavery in the war. And one noted Civil War historian says the nation might be too divided to properly mark the key unifying event in its history. "I think it's going to be impossible to get all the American people to gather to commemorate a portion of American history that's so important to the country," said Virginia Tech's James I. Robertson Jr., who 50 years ago directed the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission. "People just aren't that together anymore.

"The nation is far more polarized and politicized now than it was" in the centennial, he said. "Every subject seems to become an issue." But another scholar disagreed. Princeton historian James M. McPherson said that the Civil War centennial coincided with the civil rights movement. "On the issue of race, I think there was much sharper polarization then than now," he said. McPherson said recent uproars point to "the way in which the war still resonates in American culture."

"Issues having to do with race and slavery and regionalism and federalism -- all of those are hot-button issues in American politics and American culture, and the Civil War looms over all of them," he said. The war, which began in 1861 and ended in 1865, claimed more than 600,000 lives -- 2 percent of the population then. Today, that would mean 6 million dead, historians say. One battle in 1862, near Sharpsburg, Md., killed four times the number of American casualties on D-Day in 1944.

But the archives' exhibit seeks to probe beyond the sagas of the grand battles that pack the shelves of bookstores. It will present, for instance, an earlier, and long forgotten, proposal for what could have been the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The actual 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery in the United States. But in December 1860, Congress proposed a very different version.

Although never ratified, it read: "No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will . . . abolish or interfere, within any state, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said state." This was a 13th Amendment that would have protected slavery, instead of abolishing it, archives historians say. The exhibit, which is free, features reproductions of recruiting posters, letters and photographs, including one haunting portrait of an African American drummer boy from a Union regiment of black soldiers.

The exhibit also uses touch-screen computer technology to illustrate chapters of the war. The saga of the notorious Confederate commerce raider, CSS Alabama, which preyed on Union shipping until it was sunk in 1864, is told as a touc screen "graphic novel" with comic book-style cartoon panels. The tale of the vengeful executions in Missouri is rendered with a touch-screen tour of the documents found in the archives' stacks.

"It's kind of a guided research experience," said senior curator Bruce Bustard, "where the visitor will be able to follow the research through the steps."
It is not a pleasant story. "It struck me as not the way I remembered the Civil War growing up, which is generally pictured as great armies clashing on a battlefield like Gettysburg," he said.

The tale begins with the killing of six Union POWs and their commander, Maj. James Wilson. They had been captured in a skirmish at Pilot Knob, Mo., on Sept. 27, 1864. But their captors handed them over to a rebel guerrilla commander named Tim Reves, or Reeves, Bustard said. There appears to have been bad blood between Reeves and Wilson, Bustard said, but the record on that is not clear. Documents indicate that Wilson and his men were killed by Reeves and his band Oct. 3.

After the bodies were found weeks later, outraged Union officers ordered the execution of the six rebel POWs at a prison in St. Louis. And on Nov. 8, Confederate Maj. Enoch O. Wolf was selected to be shot in retaliation for the killing of Wilson. Wolf proclaimed his innocence, condemned the killing of the Union soldiers by a "bush whacker" and in a letter to a Union general requested time "to prepare for death." Somehow, word of his plight reached the White House, whose chief resident -- and the Civil War's main protagonist -- was known for staying executions.

Bustard duly found in the archives a scrawled note on War Department stationery dated Nov. 10, 1864. It read:

"Suspend execution of Major Wolf until further order, (and) meanwhile, report to me on the case. A. Lincoln." Wolf was spared, survived the war and lived well into old age.

See the C.S.S Alabama Touch Screen Comic Book

Text Source: Washingtion Post
Top Image Source: Mental Floss
Middle Image Source:
Bottom Image Source: Confederate POWs at Belle Plain, Virginia, 1864

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New and Noteworthy---Civil War Campaigner, Number 1 April/May 2010

Civil War Campaigner is a new publication that is available in a print or digital edition that bears a striking resemblance in layout style and editorial content to Civil War Historian magazine which gave up the ghost late last year.

Covering a wide range of topics related to Civil War era cultures, the magazine benefits both military and civilian reenactors. Number 1 April/May articles cover the material, military, and political cultures of the era. Also, reenacting on and the preservation of historic sites is a focus. The magazine has photographs on nearly every page; there is a single page with text only. That's helpful when the article is how to load and fire a musket from a prone position, clay smoking pipes of the 1860s and Federal painted haversacks. Many of the photographs of textiles and the smoking pipes are large and the details are visible.

Unfortunately there are instances when references are incomplete or non-existent. In Setting forth information on Antietam battlefield farms, the articles' bibliography cites newspapers with no dates and an essay from a collection of essays. If a reader wished to locate Elise Manning-Sterling's essay on the cultural impact of the battle of Antietam battle on an agrarian landscape, there is no indication that her work appears in Archaeological Perspectives on the American Civil War edited by Clarence R. Geier and Stephen R. Potter (2000).

In its 105 pages there is little advertising. Several of the articles appear to be brief but are loaded with details. In particular the article on the 1860 Republican Convention in Chicago is allocated two pages of which about 1/3 is text. Reading the article, a reenactor will be able to gather and grasp the pertinent facts and be able have a brief conversation on the topic during a living history event. So though short the article seems satisfactory regarding the intent of the magazine.

Civil War Campaginer magazine's annual subscription for six issues is $14.95. Visit the website. CWL is a pleased subscriber.

Text by CWL.

CWL on "The Blade Was At My Own Breast": A Runaway Slave Mother Kills Her Child

'The Blade Was At My Own Breast': Slave Infanticide in 1850s Fiction, Sarah N. Roth, American Nineteenth Century History, 8:2, June 2007, 169-185.

Anti-slavery authors searched for events to fictionalize so as to heighten the agitation of a northern readers. In January 1856 such an event occurred. In a year that included John Brown's Pottawatomie Massacre and Preston Brooks, one of South Carolina's representatives, attempted homicide of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, other attempted murders and a homicide occurred. On January 27, Margaret Garner attacked her four children and killed one of them, a two year old. Garner and her children had runaway from Kentucky but were surrounded by slave catchers in Ohio. It was a front page story in the North but never appeared in print in the South.

Garner's infanticide caused a dilemma for Northern authors. Would white, middle class readers have sympathy for a murdering mother? Having committed an 'unnatural act' such as killing her own child, would Margaret Garner's story turn audiences away from slave mothers? If slave mothers were savages then why should they be set free on Northern soil?

Later that summer, Harriet Beecher Stowe author of Uncle Tom's Cabin published Dred. It contained an instance when a slave mother killed her two children. Other authors did attempt to portray such an instance in their own fiction. Race, femininity, motherhood, enslavement and violence directed toward children became entwined in these novels.

Garner herself was of West African descent, lived her entire life as a slave, and had murdered one of her own children. Northern readers were far removed from her.
Authors added attributes to their fictional Garner in order to develop sympathy in the readers. In two novels, Garner became nearly white with only a tincture of black blood. In other stories Garner's character spoke of salvation of death for the female child who would later be sexually assaulted by a white slaveholder. In the Victorian ante-bellum world a mother who murdered a child violated the sacred charge given to all mothers to protect their children.

Authors stressed that the Garner character was fulfilling rather than rejecting this sacred charge. With only one option of putting a child out of harm's, mothers slew their children. Infanticide was not an act of beast-like violence but one of desperate sacrifice. Women characters in antebellum fiction could engage in violence in only one way---suicide. Suicide was self-determination. In suicide, women remained victims.

A large number of antebellum fictional characters who were female slaves, committed suicide. In Uncle Tom's Cabin, Lucy drowned herself when she learned her child had been sold away from her. In another story, a female slave drank poison rather than submit to her new owner, a rapist. In Another story, a female slave threatened suicide after her rescuer from slavery attempted rape. When mothers killed children to prevent the child's destruction at the hands of a rapist, they were also committing suicide by suppressing their innate maternal instincts to preserve the child.

Women in antebellum sentimental novels resorted to violence to protect their chastity, their faith and the safety of their child. Violence became logical when the choice was made in the face of abuse and harm by a slaveholder. Yet during the course of the plot, slaveholders who attacked women and young adults were not assaulted by women. The slaveholders were undone by other circumstances in the story.

Traditional abolitionist images of women as victims were there in antebellum stories. Yet they became more assertive and defiant in the face of violent authority.

Text by CWL.

Top Image Source: Newspaper Clipping

Second Image Source: Painting

Monday, April 26, 2010

New---Rebel Agents Plot Terror Against NYC Financial District

A Vast and Fiendish Plot: The Confederate Attack on New York City, Clint Johnson, Citadel Press, 308 pp., index, 25 illustrations, selected bibliography, notes, $15.95.

The Confederate agents' attempt to burn Manhattan is one of the Civil War's intriguing and compelling stories. Clint Johnson's story of the attack on the city is an engaging presentation of motivations and personalities. The chemistry of the incendiaries is broadly covered and the reasons for the non-ignition of the devices. Solid, yet fast moving, the narrative does not linger to long on any one character or activity.

During the night of November 25, 1864 an incendiary chemical, known as Greek Fire, was planned to ignite spontaneously on contact with air at almost 20 hotels. The reasons for the failure in part the chemistry of the devices, the planning by the principals, and the nature of the plan. Johnson states if the schedule had been pushed back from 8p to 3a then the fires would not have been discovered by guest.
If the docks had been targeted then oxygen supply for the ignition would not have been a problem.

The motivation was payback for a Federal raid that took the life of Confederate cavalry leader, John Hunt Morgan who was out of uniform at the time of his death, and retribution for the destruction of barns in the Shenandoah Valley by the Federal army under Sheridan in 1864. The feelings behind the fires are similar to Jubal Early's burning of Chambersburg Pennsylvania in the summer of 1864 in response to Federal burning of the Virginia Military Institute in the late spring of 1864. Johnson sets the Confederate mis-adventure within the war's path through civilian populations.

Hoping to damage the Lincoln administration, the Confederate cabinet coached the agents top decided make the assault before election day. Help from Copperheads was expected. Discovery of the plot five days the fires were to occur promoted the administration to rush Federal troops into the city. As the Copperheads back out of the plan two of eight Confederate agents retreated into Canada. The remaining six agents went ahead with the attempt.

Early in the story, Johnson dwells on how New York financial powers were tied to the South and why Copperheads were prevalent in New York City. The credit, insurance, and merchant marine industries were closely linked to The Cotton Kingdom before the war. Yet, it is hard to understand the link between the agents, the financial districts interest in terminating the war and the selection of targets. Why burn the financial district when it was the financial district that most desired peace and could pressure the administration to produce it?

Johnson sometimes introduces topics, characters and incidents which appear to lead away from the main thrust of the story, such as the Battle of Gettysburg. Also, there are some unsupported generalizations regarding John Hunt Morgan's death as being a genuine contributing factor to the agents desire to burn New York City. Post-war memoirs are taken at face value by Johnson and at times don't seem to bear very well the weight of some conclusions. Yet, the book is enjoyable and is readily accessible to most readers.

Text by CWL.

Second Image: The Lost Museum Archive

News---WWI to Present War Museum Opens 2014 In Virginia

Wartime Museum To Open In Prince William County In 2014,Jennifer Buske, Washington Post, April 25, 2010.

People will get a chance to feel what it was like to hunker in the trenches during World War I or don medical gear and serve as a military nurse when the Wartime Museum comes to Prince William County in 2014. "When you think of a museum, you think of a building where you read displays and see artifacts," said Allan D. Cors, chairman of the museum's board of trustees. "We will have that, but we are also going to give you a chance to actually experience what those who served experienced."

The $50 million museum, in the works for nearly a decade, is set to open Veterans Day 2014 on a 70-acre plot donated by the Hylton family just off Interstate 95 and Dale Boulevard. The museum is expected to draw about 300,0000 people annually and have an economic impact of $10 million to $25 million a year. "It is fitting that the Wartime Museum will be located in Prince William County, where the military has played a significant role in our community's history," said Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, after plans for the museum were announced this month. "Our community has always been proud that many soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have called Prince William home. . . . This museum will honor our veterans from all services."

The mission of the Wartime Museum is to honor, educate and inspire through interactive displays and docents who will explain their experience on the battlefield and the home front, museum officials said. The museum will recognize all branches of the military and cover every major battle from World War I on. "I think the museum has a unique opportunity to make [the wars] more real and more understandable, so people can appreciate what other citizens have done and are doing on our behalf," said Craig Stewart, president and chief executive of the museum. "We want to inspire visitors . . . and tell the story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things."

What will make the museum unusual, Stewart said, is that it will be largely outdoors, featuring reenactments in which the public can partake, as well as a proposed obstacle course and heliport. Cors is also donating numerous military vehicles. Cors, a Prince William resident, began collecting military vehicles almost 30 years ago, storing his collection of roughly 90 tanks, trucks and jeeps on his "tank farm" in the county. Cors said he became interested in military history after reading newspapers as a child during World War II. Collecting vehicles, he said, was then a way to experience history by touching, driving and smelling them. Although Cors invites people once a year to view his collection and hear from a veteran, he said he wanted to donate the vehicles and open a museum so people could have the same experience year round.

"When Mr. Cors' collection of tanks go on display once a year . . . you can see the impact it has on the general population," said John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco), a county supervisor and Vietnam War veteran. "I think a wartime museum is a great idea, and I wanted to do something like this because of my own service. I wanted to leave some memories for my grandchildren." Cors said the plan is to run some of the vehicles at the museum, giving people a chance to hear them and possibly go for a ride. Although still in the planning phases, other ideas for the museum include a laser shooting range, a helicopter simulation in which people can feel the vibration and the wind produced when it lands on the field and replicas of battlefront scenes, such as the jungles in World War II that people can wander through.

Cors said museum officials will work closely with the designer Gallagher & Associates -- which worked on the International Spy Museum in the District -- to determine the best way to integrate artifacts, inside and outside displays and people to best tell the story of war. "We have so much land, which is a blessing," Cors said, adding that the museum will be laid out by war era. "We are limited only by our imagination."

Although museum officials looked at counties up and down I-95 to host the museum, they said, Prince William was the best fit with the generous land donation, the cooperation from county officials and the proximity of Cors's collection. The museum will also fit in with the National Museum of the Marine Corps to its south, a proposed army museum on its way at Fort Belvoir and the Civil War battlefields in Manassas. It will brand the county, Corey Stewart said, as a corridor of military history. Because the museum is a nonprofit operation, officials said, they will need to charge an entry fee, probably around $10. Craig Stewart said museum officials are raising funds to get the doors open and need an additional $40 million to complete the full project. "We are extremely proud that the Wartime Museum will be located in Prince William County and in Virginia, the heart of American history and patriotism," Craig Stewart said. "We look forward to the day when we will open the doors . . . to veterans, schoolchildren, families and visitors from all walks of life."

Go to the Wartime Museum's wwwsite. Text and Top Image Source: Washington Post.

Second, Third and Fourth Image Source: Wartime Musuem Media Tab

News---Gettysburg NMP, Woodhaven Development In Talks Over July 1 Heth's Division Assault Path

Park Service Committed To Protecting Country Club, Andrew Scot Pitzer, Gettysburg Times, April 26, 2010.

Even though the Gettysburg Country Club was recently sold to a private developer, the National Park Service is continuing its fight to protect the 120-acre property.According to Gettysburg National Military Park Supt. Bob Kirby, the park is in discussions with the property's new owner, Woodhaven Building & Development LLC, of Maryland. Previous attempts by the park to acquire the land west of Gettysburg were unsuccessful, since the closure of the 60-year-old Country Club in 2008. "It's an item of great important to the park," said Kirby, adding that the park is "considering its options."

The property, along Chambersburg Road, is within the park's 6,000-acre boundary, but is not owned by the Park Service. There are about 690 acres of land within the park's boundary that are privately-owned, such as the Country Club. "We don't have any federal protection on it right now. That's what we're trying to do: acquire it by fee - buying it outright from the owner - or acquiring an easement which would protect it from further development or subdivision," explained GNMP spokeswoman Katie Lawhon. "Right now, we don't have either one," she said. "We've been directed to do something about it," concluded Lawhon, noting that the site is listed as a "high priority" in the park's land protection plan of 1993.

Both Lawhon and Kirby noted that real estate negotiations involving the park are private, so they were unable to divulge specific information. The 120-acre site is often referred to by the park as the "field of Pickett's Charge on the First Day" of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, in 1863. "It's renowned for being a costly part of the battle, with those wounded and captured," said Lawhon.

The club went bankrupt and has remained closed since May 2008. A sheriff's sale in Jan. 2009 failed to produce any significant offer. The Maryland based Woodhaven Building & Development obtained the property for $1.45 million from Susquehanna Bank in March. The club sits on the site of the historic Abraham Spangler and Harmon farms, where Confederate soldiers advanced and retreated during the Civil War battle. Now, the property includes a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, a swimming pool, other recreational areas, including a renovated clubhouse.

Text Source: Gettysburg Times

Image Source: GNMP

Forthcoming---God's People During A Peoples' War

God's Almost Chosen Peoples, A Religious History of the American Civil War, George C. Rable, University of North Carolina Press, November 2010, 624 pp., 12 illusrations, notes, bibliogrpahy, index,$35.00.

Throughout the Civil War, soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict saw the hand of God in the terrible events of the day, but the standard narratives of the period pay scant attention to religion. Now, in God's Almost Chosen Peoples, Lincoln Prize-winning historian George C. Rable offers a groundbreaking account of how Americans of all political and religious persuasions used faith to interpret the course of the war.

Examining a wide range of published and unpublished documents--including sermons, official statements from various churches, denominational papers and periodicals, and letters, diaries, and newspaper articles--Rable illuminates the broad role of religion during the Civil War, giving attention to often-neglected groups such as Mormons, Catholics, blacks, and people from the Trans-Mississippi region. The book underscores religions presence in the everyday lives of Americans north and south struggling to understand the meaning of the conflict, from the tragedy of individual death to victory and defeat in battle and even the ultimate outcome of the war. Rable shows that themes of providence, sin, and judgment pervaded both public and private writings about the conflict. Perhaps most important, this volume--the only comprehensive religious history of the war--highlights the resilience of religious faith in the face of political and military storms the likes of which Americans had never before endured.

George C. Rable holds the Charles G. Summersell Chair in Southern History at the University of Alabama. He is author of Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism, The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, and Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!, which won the Lincoln Prize.

CWL---owns and has read Rable's work. He is an outstanding Civil War historian who handles well the military fronts, the home front and the ideas held by popular cultures of the era. He delivers his research with a fine narrative style.

Text and Image Source: University of North Carolina Press

Sunday, April 25, 2010

News---Village Site of Slaves/Contrabands/Freedmen Once Located At Arlington Cemetery

Arlington's Lost Black City, Jesse J. Holland, The Associated Press, April 25, 2010.

Now covered by graves, Freedman's Village was a thriving town for former slaves. Charter buses roll up to Arlington National Cemetery every day, depositing tourists who scramble uphill to see the eternal flame on President John F. Kennedy's grave. People stream in all directions, toward the Tomb of the Unknowns or to remember at tombstones of loved ones lost to war. Few, however, head downhill to a quiet corner near the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Down here, there are no memorials to ancient battles, no ornate headstones honoring long-dead dignitaries. There are only rows of small unassuming white tombstones, many engraved with names like George, Toby and Rose. They are the only visible reminders that part of the nation's most storied burial ground sits atop what used to be a thriving black town -- "Freedman's Village," built on land confiscated from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Milton Rowe recently shuffled around the famous grounds, slowly making his way up a hill with Wayne Parks. There's nothing here now to tell visitors that freed slaves once lived here, but the two men say they feel a kinship, a connection with this land because they can both trace their ancestors to Freedman's Village. Mr. Parks said he remembers his grandfather repeatedly bringing him to the cemetery as a child to explain the bond. Mr. Parks' great-grandfather, James Parks, lived in Freedman's Village and other locations around the cemetery after being freed from servitude to the Lee family.

"I was sitting on this wall gazing out over the cemetery and all of a sudden I got it," Mr. Parks said. "Our DNA is intrinsically intertwined in this property, integrated in this property. The spirits of my ancestors continue to exist here in this property, so I find like my grandfather, I now come here for strength, I come here to commune with them."

Arlington National Cemetery was established on land confiscated from Lee and his family in 1861 after the general took command of the Confederate forces.
The Civil War leaders of the Union buried dead soldiers on the property in hopes that Lee would never want to return, and Parks' ancestor dug the very first grave near the Freedman's Village burial site. The federal government turned some land about half a mile north of Lee's mansion into a town specifically for freed slaves, referred to as contraband, who had nowhere to go. Freedman's Village was no ramshackle camp. At its height, more than 1,100 former slaves lived in a collection of 50 one-and-a-half story duplexes surrounding a central pond.

Although the town was supposed to be temporary, the freed slaves put up churches, stores, a hospital, mess hall, a school, an "old people's home" and a laundry -- to make a life for themselves. "I think it would have very much resembled a town anywhere in America today with that population. They had the same needs as anywhere, and they sustained themselves by working," said Thomas Sherlock, historian at Arlington National Cemetery.

Living in Freedman's Village wasn't free. Workers with government jobs on nearby farms or those doing construction were paid $10 a week, but half their salary was turned over to the federal government to pay for running the town. Everyone else who lived on site was charged between $1 and $3 rent. Dignitaries from around the nation came to see -- and sometimes stay -- with residents. The most famous was Sojourner Truth, the fiery black abolitionist and preacher, who spent about a year at Freedman's Village as a counselor and teacher.

Truth taught courage and urged residents to stand up to nearby white landowners who had taken to raiding the village to kidnap children for slave labor. Freedman's Village parents who had reported the kidnappings earlier had been thrown in jail. But when authorities came to jail Truth for encouraging parents to keep complaining, she swore to "make this nation rock like a cradle" if they tried to silence her. They backed down, and the raids soon ended. Life was difficult. Virginia residents resented the villagers, and threats were made against their lives. Freedman's Bureau record show that on July 27, 1865, an Army assistant commander ordered "the arrest of W. J. Miner (white man) near Freedman's Village for threatening the lives of colored people, collection of unjust claims" and other crimes. There's no indication an arrest was ever made.

Eventually, the village site, with a spectacular view of the nation's capital and the Potomac River, became more and more desirable for development. Despite impassioned protests from the freed slaves, the federal government paid the residents $75,000 for the buildings and property, and tore down the town in 1900. "Unfortunately our government didn't see the historic value of some of those things," Sherlock said.

Saving the city would have been a "gift to the American people to remember the struggles which seem like was a long time ago, but 150 years is not that long ago," Mr. Sherlock said. When the villagers dispersed into nearby cities and towns, many brought along bits and pieces of Freedman's Village. To this day, the 84-year-old Mr. Rowe and his family attend a nearby church, Lomax AME Zion Church, that got its start in Freedman's Village in 1863.

Several villagers later held prominent positions around the former town's site. William Syphax was elected to the Virginia General Assembly. After Mr. Rowe's great-grandfather, blacksmith William A. Rowe, left Freedman's Village, he became the first black policeman in Arlington County, Va., and later held other county posts, Mr. Rowe said. "They were very instrumental in setting up Arlington County when they moved out," he said.

Arlington National Cemetery holds little to tell people that Freedman's Village ever existed. There's a model of the town inside Arlington House, Lee's former home, but no markers or plaques on the town's site. The only trace of Freedman's Village left on the grounds are the lonely graves in Section 27 near the Iwo Jima Memorial. Walking among the gravestones, Mr. Parks points to the word "citizen" on some, and "civilian" on others -- a recent addition. Originally, Freedman's Village residents were buried with the word contraband on their gravestones. "As time went on and the headstones started to deteriorate and they were being replaced, the historian saw fit to give them the honor they were due and affirmed their status as civilians," Mr. Parks said.

More people should know about the struggles of the villagers, Mr. Parks said. We hope people will "continue to tell their stories, to bring their stories to light, in part really to give them back their dignity that the institution of slavery robbed from them but also to let the current generation know the sacrifices they made and the triumphs they had over extremely adverse circumstances," Mr. Parks said.

CWL: Was Freedman's Town ever 'LOST'? Was it ever a city? It appears not. Below is the city of Arlington's information on the village.

Freedman’s Village survived long after the Civil War, thriving for 37 years and sowing the seeds of Arlington’s African American community. Arlington’s Mount Zion and Mount Olive Baptist churches both descended from the village’s Old Bell Church. Residents of Freedman’s Village gained political influence in the 1870s, enabling villagers to elect officials who went on to become some of Arlington’s most prominent leaders. After 25 years of existence, the village was closed in 1888, and the land returned to military control. Former Freedman Village residents who remained in the area established such continuing neighborhoods as Arlington View, Butler-Holmes, Halls’s Hill and Nauck.

Text Source: Pittsburgh

Top Image: Freedmans' Village Roadside Marker

Second Image: Flickr

Third Image: Library of Virginia

Bottom Image: Arlington Cemetery

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New and Noteworthy---Jerusalem Plank Road: Poems of Petersburg and Memory

Jerusalem Plank Road, Brendan Hamilton, Durga Press, 2009, paperback $12.95, digital download, $8.95.

Brendan Hamilton offers 18 poems drawn from "all kinds of historical material" including the oral testimony of his grandfather, a World War 2 veteran who also lost a brother in the war. Hamilton's focus are the losses of the siege of Petersburg: life, youth, futures, and the city.

The poems contain images of earthworks with bomb craters and gabbions. Descriptions of soldiers' brogans, open shirts, muzzle flashes, Rebel yells, 'great Smokey Mountain chuckles', and dirt like that of Golgotha are in the poems. Memories of the past at Fort Mahone lie in the shadow of a Walmart sign. Fort Gregg in the battlefield's military park is bordered by a building that once housed the first hospital in America exclusively for the treatment of mental disease in the Negro. This collection of poems is illustrated with black and white photographs from the Library of Congress collection; many of the photos may be familar to Civil War readers. Several though appear to have limited or little previous circulation. Others are segments of cropped photographs that are revelatory. A notable segment of a cropped photograph is the book's cover that shows an officer probably taking Christian communion.

Brendan Hamiliton lives in Louisville, Colorado with his wife, Kris and their dog, Oliver. A lifelong student of the Civil War, Brendan is a recent graduate of Naropa University’s M.F.A. Writing & Poetics program. He also has a B.A. in history from the College of William & Mary. This is his first book of poetry.

Order information for Jerusalem Plank Road is found at

Text by CWL.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Off Topic News--- OK Corral Gunfight Documents Made By Coronrer Found

Arizona Court Discovers Original OK Corral Papers, Jonathan J. Cooper, Associate Press, April 21, 2010.

A missing handwritten transcript from a coroner's inquest done after the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral has resurfaced in a dusty box more than 125 years after the most famous shootout in Wild West history.

The document resurfaced when court clerks stumbled on the box while reorganizing files in an old jail storage room in Bisbee, about 20 miles south of Tombstone. Stuffed inside was a modern manila envelope marked "keep" with the date 1881. Court officials turned the document over to state archivists on Wednesday. Experts will immediately begin peeling away tape, restoring the paper and ink, and digitizing the pages.

The first pages could show up on the library's website for historians to review as soon as next week. It's unlikely the transcript will provide any shattering revelations, since historians have already reviewed photocopies of the document and the inquest was covered in detail by local newspapers at the time.

But history buffs said the transcript is enlightening nonetheless, clearing up fuzzy points in the copies and revealing small notes that might not have appeared on the photocopies. "They were handled by the people of that moment, and they're the actual artifact that encapsulated that time period," said GladysAnn Wells, Arizona State Librarian.

The 1881 gun battle between the forces of law and a gang of rustlers left three men dead, made folk heroes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and inspired numerous movies about the untamed Old West. The inquest was done on the same day Earp, his two brothers and Holliday confronted a gang of drunken outlaws, sparking a 30-second gun battle in the streets of Tombstone that killed Frank and Tom McLaury and Bill Clanton.

The document has been missing for decades — last seen when it was photocopied in the 1960s. The pages include verbatim testimony from eyewitnesses to the shootout. The document is legible, but the paper has darkened to an amber beer color and is brittle like a potato chip, said Cochise County Court Clerk Denise Lundin. The handwriting can be difficult to read because the court reporter was rapidly taking notes, she said.

Even if the document doesn't reveal new information, the discovery helps historians feel more comfortable with the record, said Gary Robertson, a Wild West historian and author of the book "Doc Holliday, the Life and the Legend." But most importantly, it sparks the imagination. "Every time you find one it gives you hope that maybe you'll find some more," Roberts said. "Maybe there will be something else that we've all been dying to get our hands on."

Lundin is convinced that somewhere in her courthouse are records of the inquest for Johnny Ringo, another legendary outlaw. "These things aren't something you can go search for," she said. "You really just have to watch for them."

Text and Image Source: Associate Press/

Off Topic Fiction---A Classic Story for All Readers, a Gothic Murder Mystery and a Modern Horror Story

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Sterling Press, Unabridged Edition, 248 pp., 2004, $9.95.

Recognized as a classic but unread by CWL until his wife said it was her most favorite of all books. How favorite? The Secret Garden was the first story she down loaded when CWL gave her a Kindle for Christmas. Born in India, the unattractive and willful Mary Lennox is in the care of her parents and their servants until the cholera comes. She inadvertently avoids the plague by happily being alone in her room expecting the servants to come and dress her soon. Passed along by relatives who are not willing to keep an ugly and spoiled child, she is sent to live with an uncle, whose wife has died and whose rural Yorkshire estate seems full of latent mysteries. There is an abandoned and locked walled garden, a curmudgeon garden keeper, a boy that talks to animals who actually listen to him, a variety of servants, an uncle who abandons her upon her arrival and a voice crying in the night within the mansion. Pulling yourself outside of yourself by recognizing your faults, overcoming anger, and a quiet belief that nature can bring healing and reconciliation are the hallmarks of the well written, character driven that all may read for entertainment and insight.

The Glass of Time: A Novel, Michael Cox, W. W. Norton & Company, 592 pages,
$14.95, 2009.

The sequel to the first rate Gothic thriller The Meaning of Night: A Confession is set in 1876, follows the fortunes of 19-year-old orphan Esperanza Gorst who resides in Paris. Her guardians trains her to go undercover as a gentle lady's maid. Without knowing the motive for this subterfuge, Gorst gains the employment, then respect, then friendship of Baroness Tansor, the fiancée of the villain, Phoebus Daunt who were central characters in The Meaning of Night: A Confession Gorst quietly learns her mistress has many secrets, including her partial responsibility for several deaths. Michael Cox talent lies in his abilituy to convey the heroine's inner conflicts regarding the deception of her employer. Lady Tansor has a difficult and sympathetic personal story and a fierce manipulative way of handling money issues. Crooked lawyers, Victorian homicidal scum, faithful servants, lost children and police detectives complicate, endanger and prompt the heroine to boldness and a great degree of personal risk.

The author’s first novel, the chilling The Meaning of Night (2006), is set in London in 1854 and was told from the viewpoint of a scholar who became a murderer. This sequel, set some 20+ years later, is narrated by a naive orphan.
A childhood of Parisian luxury by her guardians, an excellent education by her tutor was seemingly arranged for her for one purpose which is called The Great Task. Lady Tansor proves to be a difficult employer, given to hysterics of grief over the death of the love of her life, the poet Phoebus Daunt, a murder victim. Cox so cleverly uses the plot of his first novel. The sequel can be read by both those who have not read The Meaning of Night. Both works have wonderful period atmospheres, intricate plots, and intelligent narrators. Both novel may be enjoyed for there history and their mystery.

The Birthing House, Christopher Ransom, 320 pages, St. Martin's Press, 2009, $14.95.

Supernatural and psychological distress await. In Ransom's The Birthing Housea relatively young couple descend into moral confusion and blurred reality after the occupationally challenged husband purchases on impulse a 140-year-old Victorian house in Wisconsin. A screenwriter with no sold screenplays, Conrad Harrison, has a crumbling marriage and way too many pet snakes. Maybe he does and maybe he doesn't. The reader realizes that Conrad is an unreliable narrator.

Joanna, Conrad's economically successful wife, moves into the house and then takes the first opportunity to live by herself in Detroit for eight. Being alone is not good for Conrad. The spiders in the house are pregnant. Conrad's male snakes have become transgendered and are pregnant too. The neighbor's teenage daughter is pregnant. Conrad's wife is not.

Conrade begins to hear crying newborns, sees dark shadows, discovers a photo album that is a yearbook of occupants of the house. Past occupants include a white trash family with a history of birth defects and a semi-religious cult with a dominant male and unwilling females. Prerequisites are met: gory climaxes, sexual climaxes, and ambiguous climaxes. A malevolent female ghost encourages Conrad's progressively unstable mind to teeter and totter. There is quick and superficial characterizations in the novel. Narrative is either a trickle or a torrent. Yet there are some very good scenes in the book. Especially enjoyable is the conversation that Conrad has with the white trash father and former occupant of the house. One of the few better scenes in the novel is their angry bantering in the bar.

Text by CWL.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

CWL on No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864

No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 , Richard Slotkin, Random House, 2009, 410 pp., maps, index, notes, bibliography, $28.00.

Richard Slotkin's account of the July 30 1864 battle is remarkably wide in its context and deep in it details. Strategy, tactics, and personalities are used to frame this kaleidoscopic portrait of brutality. The Battle of the Crater was a terrifically bloody and brutal fight on a nauseatingly hot day at Petersburg Virginia. After two and a half months of the Overland Campaign, the siege of Petersburg began. Within six weeks of the start of the siege the 511 foot tunnel with a double cassion of eight tons of gun powder was under the Confederate line at Elliot's Salient. The tunnel was dug, built and loaded by the Irish miners in the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry preparation by the troops of the Federal Ninth Corps, the Federals exploded a 511 foot long tunnel that travels from the Federal picket line to beneath a Rebel salient.

Slotkin states the purpose of writing No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater 1864 "is to give the reader a clear and accurate account of the strategic setting and the battle action as it developed by hour by hours, and to show how the culture and politics of the place and time shaped the way the soldiers fought and the meanings they saw in their experience of war". Slotin does precisely that. Keeping a steady and suspenseful narrative pace, crisply setting the personalities into the story, and revealing the mindset of the characters regarding race, war exhaustion, the 1864 Rebel and Union elections, and desertion. For the most part this is a soldiers' story but Slotkin judicially handles politics, politicians and political attitudes to reveal the culture in which the soldiers fought and sacrificed.

The author has captured episodes that are memorable. In the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters were trained scouts and crack shots from the Chippewa, Ottawa as well as other tribes. They appear several times briefly throughout the book. Slotkin offers a final glimpse of them in the Crater. They are huddled with their shirts over the heads and plaintively chanting their tribe's death songs.

The possibility and perception of atrocities against blacks is addressed by Slotkin. The Crater was fought in the shadow of the awareness of the 1864 tragedies at Fort Pillow, Poison Springs and Saltville. The 25th North Carolina's war record is covered including their first encounter against black Federal soldiers, freedmen and white Southern collaborators during the 1864 Plymouth, North Carolina campaign. The North Carolina's had a different response towards each group. The violent response varied toward each group with the black the degree of violence meted out. The regiment's second encounter with black Federals is at the Crater. Going into battle the USCT brigades were told that as the Confederates gave no quarter to black troops
they would give no quarter during this battle. The unspoken words by the USCT captains was the no quarter would be given to the Southerners during this day of battle. The blood gets deep in the Crater and in the entrenchments beyond it.

Slotkin describes the tedium of trench warfare and the unexpected brutality of death by mortar round, by sharpshooter or by dysentery. Colonel Pleasant of the 48th Pennsylvania, architect of the tunnel, Brigadier General Ferraro, commander of the USCT Division, Major General Burnside, commander of the Ninth Corps, and Major General Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac among the many Federals are well described and fully presented. Major General Mahone, Brigadier Generals Ransom, Weisger and Sanders, General Lee have succinct and well craft portraits.

Within the chapter 'Preparation for Battle' the reader is able to locate 15 decisions that caused the attack to fail at the Crater. The tactical objective was to seize Cemetery Hill and cut control the Jerusalem Plank Road. Slotkin is not forceful in describing these harbingers of failure but he allows the reader to think through the conditions and choice made and not made. The author is well practiced in the art of narration and as a story No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater 1864 is extremely well paced and even suspenseful. Slotkin drive carries the story past the battle to the truce and into the Court of Inquiry. Readers of traditional battle studies will find issues not generally encountered. Provocative issues are addressed by Slotkin. Soldiers' opinions on race and politics, their hearth and homes, and slavery and freedom.

A few quibbles: CWL likes maps. There are four that cover the Overland Campaign, the siege and the battle. More maps would have been helpful, especially those showing the maze and labyrinth of Rebel earthworks behind Elliott's Salient. Also, a brief discussion of newspaper illustrations and photographs depicting the battle would have been enjoyable. Coverage of The Crater in historical memory would have been welcomed also. Slotkin does offer material on the post-battle newspaper coverage and the court of inquiry (August 6-September 9, 1864). An order of battle for the Federal Ninth Corps and those Rebel troops brigades would have been convenient.

Text by CWL.
Middle and Bottom Images: The entrance to the mine. Photography by Civil War Librarian.

Friday, April 16, 2010

News: Confederate History Month, Slavery, Treason and Courage

Confederate History Storm: Slavery, Treason, And True Southern Courage, Allen C. Guelzo, Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 2010.

Governor Bob McDonnell’s controversial proclamation of Confederate History Month should help us remember the South’s rebellion for what it really was.

“I am no minister of hate,” wrote the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1871. But as he watched Northerners in the years after the Civil War turn to teary-eyed embraces of their former Confederate enemies at postwar reunions and veterans’ meetings, he was appalled. “May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I forget the difference between ... those who fought to save the Republic and those who fought to destroy it.”

Douglass can be forgiven a certain measure of resentment toward the Confederacy. After all, he was born a slave in Maryland, escaped as a runaway in 1838, turned to a public career as an abolitionist newspaper editor and lecturer, and sent two sons to fight in the Union Army. But he had a point that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) might have been wise to ponder before Tuesday, when he proclaimed April as Virginia’s “Confederate History Month.” Just what is it, exactly, that Governor McDonnell is proposing to honor?

McDonnell’s proclamation is actually a comparatively bland statement, asking Virginians to acknowledge those “who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today.” Absent were any endorsements of states’ rights and the “Lost Cause.” It was simply a declaration that Virginia’s decision to secede from the United States and attach itself to the Confederacy in 1861 “should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians.”

The problem lies with something else McDonnell airbrushed out of his initial proclamation: slavery. The proclamation describes the Civil War as “a four year war between the states for independence.” That is true, but it’s like saying that the Titanic sank because it filled up with water.

The proclamation only raises the question of why Virginia and the other confederate states should have yearned for independence in the first place. Twist and turn as we may, the answer to that question always comes back to this: the enslavement of 3.9 million black people. This is not to say that other factors didn’t come into play.

The Southern states had serious grievances with their Northern counterparts over economic policies. Foreign visitors and commentators noted that Southerners had developed a distinctly different regional culture. And there was a long history of disagreements about how much political autonomy individual states possessed within the federal Union created by the Constitution. But if slavery was not the only issue that went into the making of the Confederacy, it was unquestionably the paramount one.

None of the others would ever have brought matters in 1861 to civil war had it not been for the razor-edge given them by slavery. And you do not have to dig very far into the letters, diaries, and speeches of Confederate soldiers and civilians to find out how important the defense of slavery and white racial supremacy was to them.

“Slavery is the only base on which a stable republican government ever was or ever will be built,” announced a Nashville newspaper on the eve of secession. Although only a third of white Southern households owned slaves at the outbreak of the Civil War, as many as 50 percent of Southern households had owned a slave at some time.

Even those who did not own slaves regarded slavery as the bulwark of white supremacy: “The strongest pro-slavery men in this States,” boasted a Louisville newspaper editor, “are those who do not own one dollar of slave property.” And slaveholders and the sons of slaveholding families were generously represented in the Confederate armies. In Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, rates of slaveholding ran as high as 47 percent.

Defending the slave system is scarcely something Virginians can look back on with pride. But even less admirable was the willingness of Virginians to commit treason as part of that defense. Treason is not an easy word to use these days. In modern ears, it has the ring of jingoism and Joe McCarthy, and in our multicultural reverence for diversity, we find it’s become easier to label as “dissenters” people who ask God to damn America or who sell their country’s weapons blueprints to the highest bidder.

But what other word are we to use for American soldiers (like Robert E. Lee) who repudiated the oath he had sworn to defend the Constitution? Or for US senators (like Jefferson Davis) who raised their hand against the flag they were born under and brought on the deaths of 620,000 Americans?

And why is Virginia’s governor celebrating secession, when 31 of Virginia’s westernmost counties in 1861 balked at joining the Confederacy and formed, first, a pro-Union government-in-exile, and then a completely new state of West Virginia in 1863?

If treason has become too embarrassing a word, then so has loyalty, and we may as well forget the courage of the west Virginians, as well as those 300,000 other Southerners from Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and (yes!) Virginia who stayed faithful to the Union and fought in its ranks during the Civil War.

We are now within a year of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and unfortunately, McDonnell’s proclamation has been the most prominent reminder of that anniversary. Congress has failed to create a national commission like the one it authorized for the Civil War Centennial, and the states that have formed local Sesquicentennial Commissions have generally stacked them with political hacks and low-visibility museum managers.

The brouhaha over the proclamation forced McDonnell to issue a belated codicil to his proclamation Wednesday, apologizing for the omission of slavery. But this will probably only have the result of forcing celebrations of the Sesquicentennial further into the shadows, as it dawns on the politicos that any public mention of the Civil War is going to alienate some constituency. The only thing worse, as Frederick Douglass might have warned us, than remembering the Civil War wrongly, is not to remember it at all.

Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, and the author of “Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President.”

Text Source: Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 2010

Image Source: Top, Gilbert Gaul; Middle and Bottom, Don Troiani

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reenactment: Battle of Bentonville, 2010

Re-creating the Civil War: Bentonville Battle Was Largest in N.C.,Drew Brooks, Fayetteville Observer, March 21, 2010.

With thousands of spectators cheering and shouting encouragement, one might have thought a major sporting event was being held this weekend in Bentonville, a small town just north of the Johnston County line.

But the "teams" the crowd was cheering for weren't playing a game. They were Civil War re-enactors and aimed guns and cannons at each other while playing out one of the last major Confederate offensives of that war.

Officials with the state Department of Cultural Resources, which oversees the event, said they expect well over 30,000 spectators over the weekend. The estimated 15,000 to 20,000 that came Saturday enjoyed steady breezes and a clear sky - that is, until smoke from cannons and muskets wafted over the crowds from the battlefield. Thousands watched the battle, including large contingents of uniformed Boy Scouts and soldiers.Jennifer Sakeagak, of Jacksonville, said she, her husband and three young children spent much of the day exploring mock civilian and military camps before watching the battle.

A self-described history buff, Sakeagak said she was impressed by the event, which is held once every five years. "We've been wanting to see a Civil War re-enactment for some time," she said. "I enjoyed everything." Sakeagak particularly loved the cannons, which shook the battlefield and rattled the rib cages of spectators. Her 5-year-old son also liked the battle, but he preferred watching the many Union and Confederate soldiers pretend to die.

While most re-enactors simply fell to the ground and were then either left there or "treated" by combat medics, others had more dramatic deaths. One Confederate soldier-turned-thespian, shot a few dozen feet from the Union front lines, fell to his knees and clutched his chest for more than a minute before finally falling over in a theatrical flourish. The re-enactment portrayed an event known as "the Fight for Morris Farm."

The Battle of Bentonville, which began on March 19, 1865, actually included three days of pitched battle involving 80,000 soldiers - 20,000 Confederates and 60,000 Union soldiers, according to state officials. It was the largest battle ever fought in North Carolina. The battle has been marked by a re-enactment every five years since 1990.

Text Source: Fayetteville Observer
Image Source: Civil War Librarian

Reenactment: Battle of Bentonville on Original Battlefield

Thousands Restage 1865 Civil War Fight,Sadia Latifi, Charlotte Observer, March 21, 2010.

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman brought about 60,000 Union men and boys to Bentonville in March 1865, ready to crush Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate army.

This weekend, only about 1,100 of Sherman's troops - compared to about 2,500 Confederate soldiers - showed up at Bentonville Battleground to re-create the fight, the largest and last major Civil War battle in North Carolina.

Every five years, thousands flock to the site to remember and re-enact. They take great care to uphold historical accuracy. When they can. "Nobody wants to be a Union soldier," said Raleigh resident Wes Jones, 58, of North Carolina's 6th Cavalry Regiment, Company I. "Playing a Confederate is more fun. Even though we lose, you get to play the underdog."

The Union soldier shortage is a recurrent problem for Southern Civil War re-enactments. To participate at Bentonville, interested Yankees must often take vacation days and travel long distances to an area about 50 miles southeast of Raleigh. "You have to take off almost five days to come here," said Peter DellaVedova, 56, of the 104th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, based in Chicago. "We lost six of our guys on the way down here because a car broke down."

That part is historically accurate - sort of. Many members of the original Illinois unit died while traveling to North Carolina for the battle, DellaVedova said. To deal with the Union shortfall, organizers allow any Federal units to join the battle up to the day of the event. Confederate units must be invited. Sometimes a Confederate soldier, such as Jones, will don a navy blue jacket the first day to level out the numbers. And sometimes, dead Union soldiers come back to life to shore up the North's numbers. Not the boys from Chicago, though. "Our unit says that once you've been hit, you stay on the ground," DellaVedova said.

More than 3,500 war buffs have camped out in tents for days in Bentonville to re-enact the battle on its 145th anniversary. The original battle lasted three days - from March 19 to March 21, 1865 - and spread over 6,000 acres. Confederate dead or wounded . totaled 2,606. The much-larger Union army had 1,646 dead or wounded.

Text Source: Charlotte Observer, March 21, 2010
Image Source: Civil War Librarian