Friday, September 30, 2011

Preservation News----Lacy House of Chatham Manor on Stafford Heights At Fredericksburg Needs Friends

Chatham May Get 'Friends' Group, Clint Schemmer, Fredericksburg.Com, September 26, 2011.

Lynda Baer admits she fell in love with Chatham at first sight. The beauty of the estate's physical setting, the elegance of its great house and the fascinating tales from the 18th-century home's long history worked their magic on her, starting years ago.

Now, the Fredericksburg woman wants to help ensure others who visit Chatham Manor for the first time can have that sort of magical moment, and feel a connection with the place. Tomorrow evening, Baer and other longtime area residents are inviting people to the Stafford County historic site to toss around ideas and organize a group to help the National Park Service care for the old plantation--the only home in America to have hosted George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. "It's a 'witness building' built before the American Revolution. That's amazing to me; just think about all of the people who have walked across its floors," Baer said.

"The Park Service and volunteers do a great job in interpreting it and keeping it open to the public. But these days, Chatham needs a little more TLC. It needs more money." That's where a Friends of Chatham group could be vital, she believes. A private, tax-deductible entity could fund costly and out-of-the-ordinary repairs, upgrade exhibits and finance special programs, Baer said. "I got to thinking, 'Wouldn't it be fun to start a nonprofit friends group to raise money and give the buildings and grounds a real shot in the arm?'"

That was more than a year ago. The thought took Baer to Mount Rushmore and a national conference where she met people from across the country who are doing all sorts of things to support national parks in their communities. Back home, she roamed all of the Fredericksburg-area Civil War battlefields, talked to friends and neighbors, and consulted local history-minded groups about the work they do. A few weeks ago, Baer and five others--Jane Conner of Stafford, Charlie McDaniel of Fredericksburg, Jim Padgett of Stafford, Sara Poore of Stafford and Scott Walker of Fredericksburg--wrote history-minded people proposing such a group. Tomorrow's meeting starts at 7 p.m.; everyone is welcome. Baer made clear that a new group, should it be established, would have a mission quite different from other local organizations such as the Chatham volunteers, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield or Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields. Pure and simple, it would be focused on fundraising.

Chatham's volunteers put in thousands of hours each year keeping the house--the largest and stateliest in the area--open to the public. FOWB does the same at Ellwood Manor on the Wilderness battlefield, and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the circa-1790 house. FOFAB supports the park's education programs and has recently partnered with it in publishing a series of snappy, richly illustrated histories of Chancellorsville, Ellwood and the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. "Friends of Chatham would be super-inclusive," said Baer, who has volunteered her time at Chatham since 2005. "But all of its dollars would go to fix up Chatham and support programs there. It wouldn't duplicate what people are already doing."

The need for such a group became clear to Baer, she said, as she guided visitors through its ground-floor rooms and their historical displays. Those exhibits are the same "temporary" ones that the Park Service put in when it acquired the property as a gift from the estate of its last private owners, industrialist John Lee Pratt and his wife, Lillian.

Park Superintendent Russ Smith welcomes the idea, noting the strides that friends groups have made at places such as Ellwood, Gettysburg, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Philadelphia's revolutionary-era sites. "Ellwood is open only because the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield staffs it for visitors, takes care of its grounds, and provides other programs and services," Smith said. "Because of them, Ellwood went from being a shell of a building to being a very nice introduction to the whole Wilderness battlefield for park visitors. We're very grateful for that."

Similarly, Chatham is kept open because of its dedicated volunteers, he said. Overall, volunteers do 25 percent of the work that gets done in the park, Smith said. "People have the idea that a lot of federal agencies have unlimited resources," he said. "The National Park Service has a $10 billion backlog in unmet maintenance needs. So we really count on friends groups to help the national parks achieve their mission. Chatham has a lot of physical needs, big and small, that we would like to tackle with help from the community."

"Parks' needs outweigh their resources," Smith added. "And there is every indication the federal budget will shrink. The National Park Service, as part of the government, isn't held harmless from budget cuts." With four major battlefields, the park includes 7,342 acres spread over 145 square miles in four counties. Of its $4.5 million annual budget, 98 percent goes to keeping buildings open, maintenance, interpretations and other things, Smith said. That leaves 2 percent for everything else. "For new programs or services, we have to rely on our friends for a lot of help," he said.

Text Source: Fredericksburg.ComTop

Image Source

Middle Image Source: Trip
Bottom Image Source: Flickr

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Forthcoming----Midnight Rising: John Brown And The Raid That Sparked The Civil War

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, Tony Horwitz, Henry Holt and Company, 384 pp, notes, illustrations, appendices, bibliography, index, $29.00. Release date: October 25, 2011.

Others have noted that John Brown and his raiders are the stone in the shoe of historians. On October 18, 1859,thirty-six hours after launching 'the great work of of my life' he sat with two dead sons and a saber slash on his skull. Captured in the fire engine house of the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry Virginia, Brown was interogated by future CSA general Governor Henry Wise. "He is a fanatic, but firm, and truthful, and intelligent," Wise told a newspaper correspondent. Virginian and ardent secessionist Edmund Ruffin described Brown as he stood for 15 minutes on his gallows' trapdoor, hooded and a noose around his neck. "He seems to me to have had few equals." Thomas Jackson saw Brown behave "with unflinching firmness." In the past 150 years, in the eyes of others Brown has been viewed as inept, unrealistic, insane, saintly and a willing martyr.

Regarding Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising: John Brown Ant the Raid That Sparked The Civil War, Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts states "There’s a brilliance to this book that put me in mind of Truman Capote'sIn Cold Blood, only Horwitz’s Midnight Rising is set deeper in America’s dark past. With stunning, vivid detail, he has captured the sheer drama and tragedy of John Brown and that bloody raid at Harpers Ferry that helped propel America toward civil war."

Other notable historians are enthusiastic about Midnight Rising. "Tony Horwitz's gifts as a vivid narrator of dramatic events are on full display in this story of John Brown's wars in Kansas and his climactic Harpers Ferry raid in 1859. Brown's family and the men who joined him in these fights against slavery receive a more fully rounded treatment than in any other account. Of special note is the discussion of Brown's self-conscious emulation of Samson by pulling down the temple of bondage and dying a martyr in its ruins" states James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom.

"With his customary blend of rich archival research, on-location color, and lyrical prose, Tony Horwitz has delivered a John Brown book for our time. Part biography, part historical narrative, Midnight Rising is a riveting re-creation of the Harpers Ferry raid, told with an unblinking sense of Brown's tragic place in American history. Writing with enveloping detail and a storyteller's verve, Horwitz shows why Brown was—and still is—so troubling and important to our culture" recommends David W. Blight, author of American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era.

"Beautifully written and sparkling with fresh insights, Midnight Rising resurrects the multiple faces of John Brown: avenging angel or murderous terrorist; slavery's nemesis or deluded fanatic; abolitionist hero or subversive insurrectionist. In this thrilling, magnificent and essential book, Tony Horwitz shows how one man and a single event set the nation on a doomed course where the crimes of a guilty land could only be purged by blood" reports James L. Swanson, author of Manhunt and Bloody Crimes

News---Museum of the Confederacy Celebrates First Anniversary of Ground Breaking At Appomattox With Programming

The Museum of the Confederacy and Appomattox Court House National Historic Park present the Sesquicentennial Civil War Conversation Series of monthly lunchtime talks upstairs at Baine's Books and Coffee in Appomattox, VA. The topics and speakers are October 12, 2011 Jim Godburn, Hospital Systems, November 9, 2011 Linda Lipscomb, Letters and Diaries, December 14, 2011 Candace Hart, Christmas Traditions.

On November 5, 2011 from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM at the Central Virginia Community College's Appomattox Center will host three sessions on music, medicine and emancipation. On music David Wooldridge and Corbin Hayslett from the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park will cover Appomattox’s own Sweeney brothers and Teresa Roane of the Museum of the Confederacy will show copies of sheet music and other materials from the Museum’s archives. On medicine Dr. Peter Houck will lecture on the military hospital system and Jim Godburn of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park will focus on the civilian side of medicine. On emancipation: Reverend Thomas Tillerson will lecture on the different forms of emancipation throughout the war, from Ft. Monroe early on to Appomattox at the end. Pre-registration is required; tickets are $25 per person and $40 per couple. Admission ticket includes a continental breakfast and a boxed lunch.

The $7.5 milliom Museum of the Confederacy project in Appomattox broke ground a year ago on September 23. Upon raising $6 million toward the $7.5 million project, construction began in that autumn and is expected to end by spring 2012. The 11,700-square-foot museum is near the intersection of Virginia 24 and U.S. 460 and will house Civil War artifacts and exhibits. “There’s nowhere better to do it than Appomattox,” said S. Waite Rawls III, CEO and president of the Museum of the Confederacy. “The very word ‘Appomattox’ carries so much meaning in history.”

In 2010, Rawls said the museum’s exhibits would encompass three major areas: the events before the Civil War ended, the surrender at the McLean House and the reunification of the country. Williamsburg-based architect Carlton Abbott has designed the building Rawls has said it will evoke reverence so that visitors “are fully aware they’re on an important spot.”

Members of local governing bodies hope the new museum serves as an economic boost both to the Town of Appomattox and Appomattox County. “What I’m hoping will happen is more hotels and restaurants,” said Gary Tanner, chairman of the Appomattox County Board of Supervisors. “It’s not a big city, it’s relaxed — but it’s definitely where the Civil War ended and people should visit here.” Appomattox Mayor Paul Harvey said the museum would complement the Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, located about a mile from the museum site. “It’s a great connection with the (national) park and we see it as an increase in tourism and the number of people that visit Appomattox each year.”

Members of the museum’s board of trustees personally donated about $2.5 million to the project. “We have put our money where out mouth is,” Rawls said. Another $2.8 million came from the Virginia Tobacco Commission. The Appomattox museum is part of planned multi-site museum system, with three more museums proposed for Fredericksburg, Fort Monroe and Spotsylvania. Though the museum in Appomattox won’t be completed until 2012, Rawls said, museum officials plan to schedule Civil War lectures at libraries and schools in the area as a way to reach out to the community.
“The door may not be open, but we’re here,” he said. “This is all systems go.”

For more information: Museum of the Confederacy or contact Linda Lipscomb at 855-649-1861 x23 or

Monday, September 26, 2011

News---The Civil War's Body Count: Was It Three Quarters Of A Million?

Recounting the Dead, J. David Hacker, New York Times, September 20, 2011.

Even as Civil War history has gone through several cycles of revision, one thing has remained fixed: the number of dead. Since about 1900, historians and the general public have assumed that 618,222 men died on both sides. That number is probably a significant undercount, however. New estimates, based on Census data, indicate that the death toll was approximately 750,000, and may have been as high as 850,000.

The notion that we’ve drastically undercounted the Civil War dead is not a new idea: in fact, Francis Amasa Walker, superintendent of the 1870 Census, estimated that the number of male deaths was “not less than 850,000.” So how did the lower number come to be the accepted count — and why does it matter that it was wrong?

Efforts to identify, rebury and count the dead began as soon as the war ended. A precise count proved impossible, however: both armies lacked systematic procedures to identify the dead, wounded and missing in action, as well as an official means to notify relatives of a soldier’s death. Men went missing; battle, hospital and prison reports were incomplete and inaccurate; dead men were buried unidentified; and family members were forced to infer the fate of a loved one from his failure to return home after the war.

United States Census Bureau History StaffFrancis Amasa WalkerInstead, postwar counts of the Union dead drew from regimental muster-out rolls and battle reports. An 1866 report compiled under the direction of Provost Marshal General James B. Fry estimated that 279,689 men in the Union forces died in the war. The estimated death toll increased to 360,222 by the late 19th century, partly as a result of widows and orphans bringing forward information when applying for pensions and survivors’ benefits.

But a direct count of the Confederate dead proved impossible. The destruction of the Confederate army and many of its records limited investigators to partial counts. The Fry report documented just 133,821 Confederate deaths from incomplete returns. That number didn’t change much: since Confederate widows and orphans were ineligible for federal benefits, the estimate was never supplemented with information from survivors.

Francis Amasa Walker’s interest in estimating the number of war-related deaths was a result of the 1870 Census returns. The final Census count put the population at 38,558,371, up just 22.6 percent from the count in 1860. All previous 19th-century censuses had documented decennial growth rates between 32.7 percent and 36.4 percent, a near-constant rate of increase that 19th-century Americans had come to expect and celebrate as a measure of the nation’s strength, progress and future prosperity.

The 31-year-old superintendent was understandably defensive. City boosters in Philadelphia and New York had charged the 1870 enumeration with excessive coverage errors, and President Grant had taken the unusual step of ordering a recount of those cities. Although the second counts failed to turn up many additional residents, the Census remained suspect. After all, if past growth patterns had continued, the population should have been 41.5 million. Had the Census somehow missed 3 million people?

Walker acknowledged that the 1870 census was far from perfect, but he refused to concede that it was more deficient in its coverage of the population than preceding censuses. Instead, he reasoned, the war was to blame. The disappointing growth rate, he countered, was the result of the “notorious and palpable effects of the war, which hampered the growth of the black population, checked immigration, limited marriages and births and led to the direct loss of close to a million men.”

Although the Surgeon General’s Office had at that point documented 304,000 Union deaths, Walker noted that the number was based only on those men who died during their terms of service. About a third of the 285,000 men discharged for disabilities and many of the remaining 2 million men who survived the war, he argued, subsequently died as a result of diseases and wounds contracted while in the Army. “Tens of thousands were discharged to die; tens of thousands died within the first few months after discharge,” he wrote. “Tens of thousands more lingered through the first or second year.” Together with the losses calculated by the Surgeon General’s Office, Walker concluded that “500,000 will surely be a moderate estimate for the direct losses among the Union armies.”

Walker’s estimate of Confederate losses was necessarily rougher. He started with a guess at the number of men participating — about half of the aggregate number participating on the Union side — and his assumption that Confederate soldiers’ longer average terms of service and relative lack of nourishing food, medicine and skilled physicians resulted in a greater risk of death. “Without attempting to deal at all nicely with this subject,” he argued, “it is difficult to see how anyone could, upon reflection, place the losses of the confederate armies at less than 350,000 men.”

Unfortunately, Walker did not pursue the line of inquiry further. After his reappointment as superintendent for the 1880 Census, he had to explain the overly rapid growth of the South’s population between 1870 and 1880 and defend the Census from charges of fraud in the form of over-counting. After a field investigation by the Census geographer Henry Gannett failed to turn up any evidence of fraud, suspicion returned to the 1870 census. Gannett charged that many of the 1870 enumerators were appointed for their Republican political connections, not for their local knowledge or ability to conduct a census. The inevitable result, he concluded, was a large undercount.

This time Walker agreed. Having been successful in pushing through many costly reforms for the 1880 census, one of which was to shift enumeration responsibilities from federal marshals answerable to the Justice Department to a much larger field force selected for their qualifications and answerable to the Census Office, Walker must have felt some measure of justification from Gannett’s report.

But with the census discredited — a crude calculation by the 1890 census office subsequently indicated that the 1870 Census had undercounted the South’s population by 1,260,078 (10 percent of the region’s and 3 percent of the nation’s population) — the opportunity for a more comprehensive examination of the war’s human cost was lost to the political winds. The estimate of 360,222 Union deaths stood.

The count of Confederate dead was, however, heavily debated. William F. Fox, a private citizen and Union army veteran whose 1889 book on regimental losses remains a classic reference work for Civil War historians, relied on battle reports and unofficial estimates to obtain a total of 94,000 Confederate battle deaths. He complained, however, that records were incomplete, especially during the last year of the war, and that battlefield reports likely under-counted deaths (many men counted as wounded in battlefield reports subsequently died of their wounds). In 1900 Thomas L. Livermore, who, like Fox, was a private citizen and Union army veteran, put the number of Confederate non-combat deaths at 164,000, using the official estimate of Union deaths from disease and accidents and a comparison of Union and Confederate enlistment records.

Livermore’s estimate assumed Union and Confederate troops suffered an equal risk of death from disease, a conservative assumption that Walker had explicitly rejected. Despite acknowledging that his estimate of disease mortality likely undercounted Confederate deaths and his concern that Fox’s estimate of battle deaths could “be accepted only as a minimum,” Livermore combined the two estimates to arrive at a total of 258,000 Confederate deaths, a total that remains unrevised more than a century later.

So why should we now doubt that number? For one thing, Fry, Walker, Fox, Livermore and other early investigators were limited by the quality of the data available. Using new quantitative sources, we can now make a more comprehensive and accurate estimate of war-related deaths. With one exception, microfilm copies of the original manuscript returns have been preserved for all censuses since 1850 (the 1890 Census manuscripts were lost in a fire). Census microdata samples created from these returns at the Minnesota Population Center make it possible to estimate undercounts by age and sex in censuses back to 1850 and to construct a Census-based estimate of male deaths caused by the war.

Census undercounts are estimated using multiple censuses and a demographic method known as back projection. The results confirm that, indeed, the 1870 Census was the most poorly enumerated. It was not nearly as bad as Walker feared and as 1890 census officials charged, however: the net undercount was 6.5 percent in 1870, compared to 6.0 percent in 1850, 5.5 percent in 1860, and 3.6 percent in 1880.

War-related losses are estimated by comparing sex differences in mortality during the 1860s with sex differences in mortality in the 1850s and 1870s. The results indicate that the war was responsible for the deaths of about 750,000 men (using less conservative assumptions, the total may have been as high as 850,000). Although that estimate is 100,000 fewer than the 850,000 deaths suggested by Walker, it is closer to his guess than it is to traditional estimate of 618,222 deaths, which has been cited uncritically for too long. If the Census-based estimate is correct, the traditional estimate is about 20 percent too low.

Although there are limitations to using Census data to estimate of Civil War mortality — civilian deaths are too few to be measured accurately, and deaths cannot be reliably divided into Union or Confederate subtotals — the method provides a more complete assessment of the war’s human cost. In addition to the men who died during their terms of service, the Census-based estimate of male mortality includes men who died between the date of their discharge and the 1870 Census from diseases and wounds contracted during the war, as well as non-enlisted men who died in guerilla warfare and other war-related violence. It excludes, however, men dying from war-related causes who would have died under the normal mortality conditions of the late 19th century. This final group, included in all direct counts of the Civil War dead, represents about 80,000 men.

So what? Above a certain count, do the numbers even matter? Well, yes. The difference between the two estimates is large enough to change the way we look at the war. The new estimate suggests that more men died as a result of the Civil War than from all other American wars combined. Approximately 1 in 10 white men of military age in 1860 died from the conflict, a substantial increase from the 1 in 13 implied by the traditional estimate. The death toll is also one of our most important measures of the war’s social and economic costs. A higher death toll, for example, implies that more women were widowed and more children were orphaned as a result of the war than has long been suspected.

In other words, the war touched more lives and communities more deeply than we thought, and thus shaped the course of the ensuing decades of American history in ways we have not yet fully grasped. True, the war was terrible in either case. But just how terrible, and just how extensive its consequences, can only be known when we have a better count of the Civil War dead.

Sources: Drew Gilpin Faust, “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War”; Joshua B. Howard, North Carolina Civil War Death Study; Francis Amasa Walker, Report of the Superintendent of Census to the Secretary of the Interior, Dec. 26, 1871; Henry Gannett, “The Alleged Census Frauds in the South”; Francis Amasa Walker, Documents Relating to the Taking of the Census of South Carolina, Oct. 5, 1880; Robert P. Porter, Henry Gannett and William C. Hunt, “Progress of the Nation, 1790 to 1890″; William F. Fox, “Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, 1861-1865″; Thomas L. Livermore, “Number and Losses in the Civil War in America, 1861-65″; Steven Ruggles et al., “Integrated Public Use Microdata Series.”

J. David Hacker is an associate professor of history at Binghamton University, SUNY.

Text Source New York Times September 20, 2011

Image Source: Civil War Librarian

New: A Pocket History of the Civil War

A Pocket History of the Civil War: Citizen Soldiers, Bloody Battles and the Fight for America's Future, Martin F. Graham, Osprey Publishing, 248 pp., bibliographpic notes, 54 charts, 19 b/w illustrations, appendices, index, $15.95.

With 98 quotations from participants, 54 charts, 80 quiz questions, and 56 entries in a glossary A Pocket History of the Civil War is practical and reaches a wide variety of readers.

The charts include the organization, uniforms, ranks, equipment, muskets/rifles/ carbines and pistols loading procedures of both the infantry and cavalry. Artillerymen are likewise covered. And that's just the first chapter. Twenty-two battles and campaigns are covered in the next four chapters with charts of commanders, engagements in the campaign, and casualties. The chapters' text is clear and concise.

Additional chapters offer the 1860 census, total casualty figures, number of major battles and engagements in each state, greatest percentage of regimental losses by state, nunbers of soldiers engaged by theatre, roles of commanders in battle, and higher ranking generals killed in battle. A chapter on prisons considers paroles and exchange issues, a listing of 12 Federal and 11 Confederate with population and death figures. The chapters' text is direct and extends the figures used by the charts.

Ten brief discussions of interesting characters and events include Sam Davis of Tennessee, Henry and Clara Rathbone [Lincoln's guests at Ford's Theatre], Sergeant Richard Kirkland of the 2nd South Carolina, Ambrose Bierce of the 9th Indiana, The Great Locomotive Chase of Georgia, Federal drummer John Clem, and the reunion at the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg among others.

Of course, something is always left out of a pocket history. In this case, Forts Henry and Donelson, a consideration of the Federal blockade, the fall of New Orleans, emancipation issues, the Lincoln assasination, and any mention of Reconstruction. On the other hand, there are 183 notes for particular sources used in the text. Each of the charts relating to prisons receive a bibliographic citation. Overall new and general readers of Civil War history are well served by Osprey's Publishing's A Pocket History of the Civil War: Citizen Soldiers, Bloody Battles and the Fight for America's Future.

Friday, September 23, 2011

HNet Review: Were Southern Military Academies Making Southerners Into Yankees?

Military Education and the Emerging Middle Class in the Old South, Jennifer R. Green, Cambridge University Press, 2008. Illustrations. xiii + 300 pp. $80.00.

Reviewed by Jeffrey Thomas Perry (Purdue University), Published on H-Education (July, 2011)

In her 2008 book, Military Education and the Emerging Middle Class in the Old South, Jennifer R. Green seeks to fill a gap in the historiography of middle-class formation in the antebellum United States, as well as in the history of education. Compiling demographic data on over one thousand cadets who attended state or private institutions in the Old South during the 1840s and 1850s, Green contends that military education is one location to view the development of the middle class in regional and national terms. Families from the middle ranks of southern society--largely nonmanual, nonagricultural professionals--“mirrored their northern counterparts in leveraging education to develop professional occupations” (p. 2).

Taking advantage of funding opportunities and a nonclassical curriculum, southern, middle-class families sent their sons to such academies as the Virginia Military Institute, the South Carolina Military Academy, and the Kentucky Military Institute, among others, to attain an education with the hope that it could promote both social stability and social mobility. Many cadets, she claims, adopted northern, middle-class values stressing industry, morality, and self-regulation, yet at the same time their vision of manhood retained some southern variations. The emerging middle class in the South never threatened the southern elite’s dominance of the region, she insists, which was based on slave ownership and landholdings. Instead, members of the middling rank hoped to separate themselves “from the yeomanry, plain folk, and any developing urban working class” (p. 181). The benefits of a military education, however, coupled with alumni networks and the increased professionalization of certain occupations, does suggest that the standards for mobility and social status were changing during these years.

Green argues that the middle class in the antebellum United States did not possess a class consciousness. Rather, they were a class “in itself,” whose members realized they held similar economic, occupational, and behavioral characteristics with a larger group of people but lacked a shared sense of identity. She agrees with much of Jonathan Daniel Wells’s book, The Origins of the Southern Middle Class, 1800-1861 (2004) but she furthers his analysis by “defining the group more specifically” to investigate what social mobility, status, education, and professionalism meant to the middling ranks of southern society (p. 20).

Although one-third of military cadets’ fathers labored in agriculture, most worked in professional occupations--“they were attorneys, physicians, and ministers, in order of frequency”--and looked to military education to instill discipline and useful knowledge in their sons to solidify or enhance their social status (p. 25). They were successful, Green asserts, as matriculates from the academies were more prevalent in professional occupations than their fathers.

The book review is continued at the following link. Text Source: HNet/HCivilWar

CWL: With an $80 price tag, readers may wish to go to their local library and request it through inter-library loan.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

News---Gettysburg NMP Adds The Josiah Benner Farm To the Battlefield Park

NPS Acquires Benner House, Mark Walters, Gettysburg Times, September 22, 2011.

The Gettysburg National Military Park announced its most recent property acquisition Wednesday afternoon, the Josiah Benner House in Straban Township. Purchased in May, GNMP took possession of the nine-acre, 980 Old Harrisburg Road property Monday. In 2001, the park purchased the three-acre parcel next door, which includes the Josiah Benner barn, but this $405,000 purchase of the farmhouse and springhouse completed the package.

The farmhouse, springhouse and barn are all contributing features to the park's listing on the National Register of Historic Places according to GNMP spokesperson Katie Lawhon. Lawhon said that the property was previously a private residence and that billboards removed from the site in June. "Even though there is a Congressionally authorized boundary of the park, inside that boundary there is still more than 900 acres of non-protected lands," said Katie Lawhon of the 5,989 acre park.

Lawhon said that GNMP received help from the Civil War Trust, America's largest non-profit organization devoted to the preservation of America's Civil War battlefields. In a 24-year span, the Civil War Trust has worked to preserve more than 30,000 acres of battlefield land at 110 battlefields in 20 states.

"It's a really exciting property," said Civil War Trust spokesperson Mary Koik of the Josiah Benner property. "Not just the land itself but the historic structures that played a role in the battle and its aftermath." According to Lawhon, the Josiah Benner Farmhouse predates the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. Lawhon said that the house's location on Old Harrisburg Road placed it in line of advance by Gen. Jubal Early's Confederate Division on the afternoon of July 1, 1863, the first of the three-day battle.

"In an effort to attack and outflank Union positions on and near Barlow's Knoll, Confederates had to pass around these solid obstacles," Lawhon said of the two-story brick houseset on a stone foundation and the two-and-a-half story stone, Pennsylvania Barn. "The walls of the buildings provided cover for skirmishers of both sides during various portions of the July 1 conflict. At the close of fighting on that day, the house and barn were pressed into use as temporary Confederate field hospitals. Several Union soldiers and officers were also carried there for treatment."

Lawhon added that the one-story springhouse just east of the farmhouse was likely used as a temporary cover for skirmishers of both armies and would have provided water and "refrigerated" food for wounded soldiers in the hospitals of the Benner house and barn. Lawhon said the National Park Service works closely with the Civil War Trust in acquiring historically significant properties, primarily from willing sellers. She said the poor economy and housing market contributed to the recent selling of many properties.

In March, GNMP purchased the 95 acre Gettysburg Country Club in Cumberland Township for $1.4 million, protecting what is now known as the Emanuel Harman Farm from future development. In June, the Adams County Commissioners sponsored the Civil War Trust for two grants totaling approximately $217,000 to partially fund the acquisition of two properties along the Baltimore Pike - 1200 and 1230 Baltimore Pike - which are part of what once was Henery Spangler's farm, where scores of Union and Confederate dead were buried.

Text Source: Gettysburg Times
Image Source: Gettysburg Daily

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

News--- From Wills and Court Records A Database Of Virginia Slave Names Emerges

Database Of Virginia Slave Names Made Public, Linda Wheeler, Washington Post, September 15, 2011.

Names of people enslaved in Virginia, pulled from some of the Virginia Historical Society ’s 8 million documents, have been compiled into Unknown No Longer, a searchable database now available to the public.

The online tool includes more than 1,500 names found in letters, wills, court records and other sources. Each name is connected to a digital copy of the original document in which it was found. Society spokeswoman Jennifer Guild said the work of extracting the information began more than a year ago. “It is possible these names have never been seen before,” she said. “This is the first time we have published them.”

The database can be searched by keywords such as name, occupation and plantation. “For instance, if all you knew was your great-great-great-grandmother was named Ann and she had been a slave in Virginia, that is enough to begin a search with this database,” Guild said. “Or, if all you have is a plantation name, you go to that name and you will find what we have on the slaves who lived there.”

It is a continuing work: the society will add new information to the database as it continues to go through the 8 million documents in its collection. This is the society’s first database that specifically compiles names of enslaved people from Virginia and is taken from their own materials. In the past, all that was available to anyone searching the society’s holdings online was a list of the titles of books or other published material that contained slave-related information; anyone wanting to know more about what those papers contained would have to go to the society to do the research.

Text Caption: Ambrotype from Virginia Historical Society's collection shows an unidentified woman. The organization has launched Unknown No Longer, a database of slave names. (Courtesy Virginia Historical Society)

Text and Image Source: Washington Post September 15, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

News---John Brown's Gallows Site For Sale

For Sale: Historic Mansion On Site Of John Brown's Hanging, Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 11, 2011.

A few weeks before Christmas of 1859, John Brown, the fiery abolitionist convicted for treason, swung from a gallows in Charles Town, W.Va.

John Gibson, who commanded the first troops to battle Brown after his ill-fated raid on a federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, built a mansion on that historic ground more than 30 years later. Now, the five-bedroom, 6 1/2-bath home, which has undergone a restoration overseen by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will be offered for sale today in an Internet auction that starts at 6 p.m. EST. The minimum bid is $950,000. The website is

Located on a one-acre corner lot, the home was built in 1891 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Current owners Gene Perkins, a contractor and entrepreneur, and his wife, JoAnn, are moving to Florida. A previous owner, Mrs. Augustin Jacquelin Todd, donated it to the trust in 1982. In November of 1989, the Perkinses submitted a successful sealed bid to buy the property from the National Trust.

The Perkinses finished the third floor, installed a gourmet kitchen, a new heating system and upstairs plumbing. They also restored elegant woodwork and a widow's walk. They put in an outdoor pool. All of the mansion's eight fireplaces are wood-burning. There's one in each bedroom. "It's been on the market for probably a year," said Gary Gestson, who works for a marketing firm in Gaithersburg, Md. and believes the mansion would make a great bed and breakfast. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, he added, had to approve all restoration plans before the Perkinses began the work.

"They did a lot of restoration. There were rooms that had been bricked over. They opened up the house. They are responsible for bringing it back," said Mr. Gestson, who has toured the property. His favorite space is the large dining room. "There is china in the china cupboard that was designed for the house," he said, adding that the china will be sold with the property. The main floor has 11-foot-high ceilings. On the second floor, ceilings are nearly 10 feet high.

A two-story barn being used as a garage could be turned into guest accommodations, too. The front of the property has wrought-iron fencing while a 6-foot brick wall at the back affords privacy. In the closet of one bedroom, there are signatures and notes from past visitors, including Amy Vanderbilt, Mr. Gestson added.

The mansion is two blocks from Main Street in Charles Town, an hour-and-a-half drive from Washington, D.C. Laid out by and named for George Washington's brother, Charles Town has thoroughbred racing, casinos, outdoor activities and Lollapaloosa, a music festival. Col. Charles Washington's home, Happy Retreat, was built in 1790 and still stands.

If the Perkinses do not receive the price they want, they can cancel the auction. They may consider financing up to $1.5 million. There is a white plaque on the property marking the historic execution. Every five years, re-enactors recreate the drama of John Brown's execution, minus the hanging, of course. But there's a gallows in the background.

Image Caption: Abolitionist John Brown was hanged on the grounds of this home in Charles Town, W.Va., in 1859.

Text and Image Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 11, 2011.

New and Noteworthy---The Civil War, A Visual History: Rare Images and Tales of the War Between the States.

The Civil War, A Visual History: Rare Images and Tales of the War Between the States, no author, Paragon Press, 225 pages, index, photocredits, 2011, $14.95.

Amazingly, The Civil War, A Visual History: Rare Images and Tales of the War Between the States has no author because it is an extensive collection of primary text sources with period illustrations. 100% of the text is authored by those who participated in the Civil War, as soldiers or civilians.

For example, there are three highly detailed images of the Great Seal of the Confederacy, the resolution to create the Great Seal, and the letter of authenticity Langham Chambers Company of London, England that designed and engraved it. Two paragaphs of South Carolina Governor Robert Haynes' inaugural speech are presented along side a Lincoln campaign button. Federal accounts of life in Andersonville Prison appear with period photographs of the camp. Sketches by soldiers and news journalists, engravings from newspapers, carte d'vistes, front pages of Harper's Weekly and other newspapers, and posters that include the regulations for training camps.

Nearly all the photographs, documents and letters are from the Library of Congress. Some are familar and have appeared in many books and magazines. Others have been less often seen. Many have been enlarged and cover two pages, which reveals greater details. Overall, as a coffee table book, The Civil War, A Visual History: Rare Images and Tales of the War Between the States, is satisfactory and will capture the attention of those between the ages of 8 and 80 whose attention is being drawn to the Civil War's sesquicentennial.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New----National Geographic Offers Exploring History With Lincoln and the CSS Hunley Featured

What propelled Abe Lincoln from the obscurity of frontier life to leading the nation, and becoming the most written about president of the United States? Understanding the young Abraham Lincoln -- his early life, influences and motivations -- takes center stage in “Exploring History,” a new National Geographic magazine special issue. The history-themed magazine, priced at $6.99, will be available on newsstands beginning Sept. 13, or by ordering online at

Offering a feast for history lovers, the lavishly illustrated special issue also probes the inner workings of the Roman Legion, examines Aztec Emperor Moctezuma’s tragic fall, follows Joan of Arc’s incredible teenage journey and uncovers the little-known story of the medical heroes who stemmed the tide of bubonic plague in San Francisco a century ago. Additionally, there are articles on the earliest Egyptian pyramids, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley and the life of Viking raiders, as well as listings of the best new history books, TV specials and apps.

For the Lincoln cover image, illustrator Tim O’Brien peeled back layers of age to create a never-before-seen portrait of the young, future president as he may have appeared in his mid-30s, long before the war years and the presidency furrowed his brow.

In cover article “Born Radical,” writer K.M. Kostyal looks for clues to understanding Lincoln’s character in his early years. A poor, rawboned, self-educated frontier boy, Lincoln had a sharp intellect and a natural streak of independence. As a youth, he went against the grain when he saw fit: In a world of overt religiosity, he was a skeptic; in a family where his father abhorred bookishness, he was a “constant and stubborn reader”; in a society preoccupied with physical labor, he disdained it; and in a rough-cut male culture, he didn’t smoke, chew, curse, gamble or drink.

Inordinately ambitious, Lincoln had a clear sense that he was destined for high things. A legal colleague said three things propelled Lincoln toward greatness: a super-magnanimity that made him a very poor hater; deep intelligence; and a profound sense of justice. Illustrated with photographs, drawings and a map from 1857, the article includes a timeline of major moments in Lincoln’s life and a sidebar profiling him as a family man.

Text And Image Source: National Geographic

CWL: Last night, CWL bought it from a supermarket magazine rack and spent some time with it. Fine text, well illustrated, good maps. A social studies teacher's delight. Subscriptions are six issues for $18.00. Seems a good buy.

New---Handy and Dandy: The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Civil War

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Civil War, William L. Barney, Oxford University Press, 2001, revised and updateted 2011, 378 pp., b/w illustrations, maps, index, appendices, $18.95.

With about 250 entries, a general chronology, a list of museums and historic sites, a list of websites and a bibliography, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Civil War is a fine resource at a reasonable price. The binding is well made and the book opens easily and the spine does not crease. The illustrations are on nearly every page and support the text. Cartoons, sheet music, portraits, sketches, posters, flags and black and white period photographs are among the illustrations, some of which are familar and others are those that are less frequently seen.

Among the entries are military commanders, political leaders, legislation, social groups, advocates, ideologies, and documents. The range of the entries run from antebellum to postbellum subjects. How about the Kenner Mission? Yes, Jefferson Davis sent Duncan Kenner to Europe in January 1865 with authority to state that the Confederacy would emancipate its laves in return for the immediate recognition of it exstence as a legal government. A surprise to Confederate ambassadors abroad, they gave the opportunity to England and France, which rejected it. Upon learning of the rejection, Davis lobbied for the for a Confederate programs of arming and then freeing slaves.

What was the role of gold during the war? What role did political dissent play in the Union and the Confederacy? What was the platform of the Constititional Union party during the 1860 election? What was the role of the U.S. Congress' Committee on the Conduct of the War? These questions, as well as others, are addressed in the The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Civil War. Each entry is concluded with 'Further Reading' that mentions of the standard books on the topic. Also, See Also guides users to related topics. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Civil War well serves both casual and frequent readers of Civil War history.

Monday, September 05, 2011

1861 News---Letters To The Editor From Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Regiments Aim For Quality Civil War Gear, Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 2011.

Harrisburg's Camp Curtin, set up by and named for Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin, did not meet the standards of Col. Samuel Black, commander of the 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers, when the regiment shipped out from Pittsburgh in the summer of 1861. So Black "scoured the country around" the state capital and found "the most beautiful camp ground in the country" for his men, according to a report in the August 14 edition of The Daily Pittsburgh Gazette and Commercial Journal.

The men set up their tents and dug their latrines on farmland just east of Harrisburg belonging to Simon Cameron. Cameron was a Pennsylvania politician recently named secretary of war by Abraham Lincoln, and the soldiers named the site Camp Cameron in his honor. As was common during the Civil War, the report to the newspaper on the activities of the 62nd was submitted by a soldier in the unit, identified only by his initials: J.T.C

"Our tents are of good material, afford ample protection against rain, and are situated just west of a fine woodland of stately forest trees," he reported. A nearby stream provided water for bathing and washing clothes. The camp was laid out with names familiar to soldiers from Pittsburgh and Allegheny City, now the North Side. They included East and West commons and Federal and Liberty streets.

Their commander, Pittsburgh-born Samuel Black, had fought in the Mexican War and later became territorial governor of Nebraska. He was a no-nonsense officer. "No obscene language or swearing whatever is tolerated," J.T.C. wrote. "Discipline of a very strict character is enforced, and six or seven men are detailed every morning to clear away all rubbish, 'level the ground,' pull up roots &c." Cameron himself made a brief visit to the camp, "promising to send our uniforms, and equipments, &c, from Washington city directly."

Conditions were much less promising during the early months of the war for another local regiment: the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. The unit, primarily Allegheny County volunteers, was assigned to Camp Tennally, northwest of Washington, D.C. The Pennsylvania Legislature had promised the men that they "were to be equipped in a superior manner," a soldier correspondent wrote in the August 17 edition of the Gazette. He identified himself with the single initial "K."

Instead "they were armed with old Harper's Ferry altered muskets, the general appearance of which would indicate that they were manufactured by some backwoods blacksmith and wagon maker," he wrote. "Not one bayonet out of every dozen can be fixed or unfixed in under fifteen minutes," he claimed. He wrote that the musket barrels were so thin that "after firing three or four rounds they become so hot, it is almost impossible to hold them ..."

In an effort to cover up the defects in the outmoded weapons, the muskets had been given a fresh coat of paint. The inadequacies of their guns placed the men in danger from nearby Confederate forces. "I really wished a few days since, when on picket duty, almost in sight of the enemy, that Curtin himself occupied the position of the men in the ranks," K wrote. The Allegheny County men risked being "picked off at the distance of a thousand feet, when our beautiful, well painted muskets would not reach half that distance. "K" closed with a challenge to Pennsylvania legislators and the governor. "If Govenor Curtin wishes to redeem his character ... let him at once procure with the millions at his disposal, ten thousand stand of improved arms.

Text and Image Source: Pittsburgh

Image Caption: Andre Curtin, Governor of Pennsylvania

New---Two From The History Press: Antietam and African American Federals at Petersburg

Battle of Antietam: The Bloodiest Day, Ted Alexander, History Press, softcover, $19.95.

From The Publisher: The heavy fog that shrouded Antietam Creek on the morning of September 17, 1862, was disturbed by the boom of Federal artillery fire. The carnage and chaos began in the East Woods and Cornfield and continued inexorably on as McClellan's and Lee's troops collided at the West Woods, Bloody Lane and Burnside Bridge. Though outnumbered, the Rebels still managed to hold their ground until nightfall. Chief historian of the Antietam National Battlefield Ted Alexander renders a fresh and gripping portrayal of the battle, its aftermath, the effect on the civilians of Sharpsburg and the efforts to preserve the hallowed spot. Maps by master cartographer Steven Stanley add further depth to Alexander's account of the Battle of Antietam.

Ted Alexander is the chief historian at the Antietam National Battlefield, where he has worked for more than twenty-six years. He is the author, editor or contributor to ten books on the Civil War and other aspects of American history. Ted is also the author of more than two hundred articles and book reviews for publications such as the Civil War Times, Blue and Gray, North and South and the Washington Times.

The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will Be Theirs by the Sword, James S. Price, History Press, 128 pages, softcover, $19.95.

From the publisher: In the predawn darkness of September 29, 1864, black Union soldiers attacked a heavily fortified position on the outskirts of the Confederate capital of Richmond. In a few hours of desperate fighting, these African American soldiers struck a blow against Robert E. Lee's vaunted Army of Northern Virginia and proved to detractors that they could fight for freedom and citizenship for themselves and their enslaved brethren. For fourteen of the black soldiers who stormed New Market Heights that day, their bravery would be awarded with the nation's highest honor--the Congressional Medal of Honor. With vivid firsthand accounts and meticulous tactical detail, James S. Price brings the Battle of New Market Heights into brilliant focus, with maps by cartographer Steven Stanley.

James S. Price is a Civil War historian, blogger and educator who specializes in the history of African American Union soldiers. He has worked for many Civil War sites and museums, including Petersburg National Battlefield, Pamplin Historical Park and the American Civil War Center at historic Tredegar. In 2009, he received his MA in military history from Norwich University. For the past three years, he has dedicated himself to the study of the Battle of New Market Heights and has sought to raise awareness of this important battle by leading specialized tours of the preserved portions of the battlefield, lecturing throughout the metro Richmond area on the topic and writing about different aspects of the battle on his weblog. It is his hope that by raising public awareness of the services rendered by United States Colored Troops that the fields on which they fought will be preserved for future generations.

Forthcoming---The Civil War In The Light of the Civil Rights Era

American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era, David W. Blight, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 328 pages, Publication Date: September 26, 2011, $27.95.

Text From Publisher: Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, a century after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King, Jr., declared, “One hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.” He delivered this speech just three years after the Virginia Civil War Commission published a guide proclaiming that “the Centennial is no time for finding fault or placing blame or fighting the issues all over again.”

David Blight takes his readers back to the centennial celebration to determine how Americans then made sense of the suffering, loss, and liberation that had wracked the United States a century earlier. Amid cold war politics and civil rights protest, four of America’s most incisive writers explored the gulf between remembrance and reality. Robert Penn Warren, the southern-reared poet-novelist who recanted his support of segregation; Bruce Catton, the journalist and U.S. Navy officer who became a popular Civil War historian; Edmund Wilson, the century’s preeminent literary critic; and James Baldwin, the searing African-American essayist and activist—each exposed America’s triumphalist memory of the war. And each, in his own way, demanded a reckoning with the tragic consequences it spawned.

Blight illuminates not only mid-twentieth-century America’s sense of itself but also the dynamic, ever-changing nature of Civil War memory. On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the war, we have an invaluable perspective on how this conflict continues to shape the country’s political debates, national identity, and sense of purpose.

1861 News--- Cannons' Tests Became Public Spectacle In Pittsburgh

Eyewitness 1861: Testing Of War Cannons Became Public Spectacle, Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 7, 2011.

In the summer of 1861, cannons like this one, now installed at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, were tested at a "proving ground" near Tarentum. Testing, or "proving," Pittsburgh-made artillery was combined with "al fresco" dining by local businessmen and their wives during the summer of 1861.

On June 5 crews transported 10 cannons, called "columbiads," and four mortars by train from the city to a "proving ground" across the Allegheny River from Tarentum. There the guns were subjected to day-long tests. "Some experiments were also made to ascertain the effect of projectiles on heavy iron plates," according to a next-day story in the Pittsburgh Daily Dispatch.

"The experiments on the iron plate, together with the novelty of the Government proof, attracted quite a large party, chiefly gentlemen connected with the iron interest," the story said. "A number of ladies also accompanied the party, for whose special delectation the aid of a city confectioner had been called in to prepare a banquet 'al fresco.'" Several lawyers and "gentlemen of leisure were also added to the party, engrafting the lighter amusement of an impromptu picnic on the graver business of Uncle Sam," the report went on.

Such weapons tests were especially important in the opening months of the Civil War as Pittsburgh's workshops, foundries and "manufactories" geared up to supply the Union forces with weapons, ammunition and uniforms. The site of the former proving ground is now private property, according to local historian Arthur Fox, who has identified the spot. Although the location was more than 20 miles upriver from Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle, the area was by no means wilderness in the 19th century.

The site lacked "a large extent of waste country or a body of water ... on which the balls or shells may fall without risking life," the story said. Mortars were usually tested by angling their barrels at 45 degrees, but the Dispatch story said that the weapons for these tests were aimed almost parallel to the ground in an effort to keep spent rounds from landing close to nearby houses. Later tests included mortar firings at near point-blank range -- a mere 100 yards -- at iron plates of various thicknesses. "The plates were invariably hit, and generally at approximately the center, which would not have disgraced many riflemen," the reporter wrote.

Gun crews then carried out similar checks on the 8-inch columbiads, smooth-bore cannons that fired 64-pound balls. During the proving ground trials, one of the targets for two of the guns was a5-inch-thick iron sheet. When the smoke cleared away after one test firing, observers found two trees had been toppled and the plate had been hit twice and broken in half. "The result of all the firing proves that at short range no ordinary, or practicable iron sheeting would resist the power of a columbiad shot," the reporter concluded.

That conclusion, however, would be proved at least partially wrong nine months later. In March 1862 the Union's Monitor and the Confederate's Merrimac, both ironclads, battled each other to a draw, at the mouth of the James River in Virginia. The results of that otherwise minor engagement showed that iron plate could be very effective in protecting ships and their crews from cannon fire. In the years that followed, navies around the world rapidly converted their fleets from wood to iron.

Image Caption:In the summer of 1861, cannons like this one, now installed at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, were tested at a "proving ground" near Tarentum, Pennsylvania.

Text and Image Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette, August 7, 2011