Monday, December 26, 2011

News---St. Nick Visits Military Camps In The Republic of Suffering

Cartoonist Nast Drew One Of First Santa Claus Images In A Time Of Political Turmoil, A Holiday Hero, Frank Reeves, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 26, 2011.

By Christmas 1862, more than 200,000 Union soldiers and sailors had been killed, wounded, died of disease or gone missing since the Civil War began 20 months earlier. So staggering were the casualties on both sides that the United States had become, in the words of one modern historian, a "republic of suffering." It was against this background of death and despair that Harper's Weekly -- then one of the country's leading illustrated newspapers -- published its annual Christmas issue, dated Jan. 3, 1863. The magazine had well more than 150,000 subscribers who paid $2.50 a year for its fare of news articles, short stories by authors such as Dickens, and its wood engravings of the war.

To illustrate the cover of its holiday issue, Harper's selected Thomas Nast, a 22-year-old artist who had been on the magazine's payroll for only a few months. He was one of a cadre of artists, including Winslow Homer, hired by Harper's to cover the war. For Nast, it was the beginning of a 25-year career with Harper's that would see him rise to a level of fame and fortune such as no other American cartoonist before him had ever achieved, said V.C. Rogers, a North Carolina-based freelance illustrator and unofficial historian of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

Harper's would be the forum through which Nast would excoriate Southern sympathizers, the Ku Klux Klan, corrupt politicians and, perhaps most regrettably to many today, Irish immigrants and their Catholic faith. Even though he opposed slavery and would support the cause of black rights during Reconstruction, his depictions of African-Americans have often been criticized as racist.

During his political crusades, he created some of the nation's most enduring caricatures and symbols, such as the elephant as a symbol of the Republican Party. Nast's drawing of a fat man, with an ample paunch and a money bag for a head, would become synonymous with the corrupt politician and, later, the greedy plutocrat. He would popularize the use of the donkey as the symbol of the Democratic Party, although he wasn't the first cartoonists to do so, Mr. Rogers said.

And, yes, Virginia, it is to Nast that we owe our modern conception of Santa Claus -- a composite drawn from German folklore and "St. Nick" in Clement Moore's " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas." The jolly old elf, sitting in his reindeer-drawn sleigh, would make one of his first public debuts on the Harper's cover for Jan. 3, 1863. "Nast was with only slight exaggeration the father of us all," Mr. Rogers said, referring to the generations of American political and editorial cartoonists who have followed in his wake.

In the 1860s, Nast was a staunch Union man. Family lore has it that he considered joining the Union army after President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861. But family and friends convinced the young man that he could do more to support the Union cause by using his paint brushes, pens and sketch books than by carrying a rifle. Their confidence in him was amply rewarded by the numerous sketches he drew from life about the war and the Union army. So effective were Nast's illustrations, which became the basis of some of Harper's most popular wood engravings, that Lincoln reportedly said Nast "is our best recruiting poster."

One of Nast's early masterpieces was "Christmas in Camp," the wood engraving for the cover of Harper's Jan. 3, 1863, issue. In the voice of a Victorian father, the editors provided an explanation of the drawing for their young readers: "Children, you mustn't think that Santa Claus comes to you alone." Soldiers bundled against the cold stand in the snow as they welcome Santa. "See how the soldiers have decorated their encampment in honor of the day. They have erected a triumphal arch to show how welcome [Santa] is," the editorial note continues.

Some of the men eagerly open the gifts Santa has brought them. One soldier pulls out a sock -- a Christmas stocking containing holiday goodies. In the foreground, a youngster, described as a drummer-boy, plays with a jack-in-a-box while his comrade looks on. Drummer-boys were popular subjects with Civil-War era artists. The boys in Nast's drawing look to be eight or nine years old. In reality, drummer boys were usually older. Children under 16 would probably not have lasted very long in an Army camp. The threat of disease and the rigors of infantry life would have killed them off quickly, said Michael Kraus, historian and curator at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland. (The museum recently acquired original editions of Harper's, many of which contain Nast's illustrations.)

In the background (get your magnifying glasses at this point), soldiers "are playing football, getting a fine appetite for their Christmas dinner which is cooking on the fire." Despite the attempt by Nast and his editors to invoke holiday cheer, the grim business of war is an ever-present reality even in this fanciful scene. Nast's Santa was hardly a neutral figure in the conflict that was tearing the country apart. This Santa, wearing a star-spangled jacket and striped pants, is a staunch Union man like Nast himself. He wouldn't have been welcome around a Confederate campfire.

On first glance, Santa appears to be playing with a puppet for the innocent amusement of the men. Instead, as the edtiors tell us, Santa "is entertaining the soldiers by showing them Jeff Davis's future. He is tying a cord pretty tightly around his neck and Jeff seems to be kicking very much at such a fate." Jefferson Davis was, of course, the hated president of the Confederacy, often depicted in Harper's and other Northern newspapers as a rat.

The impact of the war did not fall on soldiers and sailors alone but also on their families at home. At war's end, many women and children would be widows and orphans. Then, as now, military families felt the grief of separation most acutely at Christmas. Nast tapped into this feeling in a double-page wood engraving entitled "Christmas Eve." It, too, appeared in Harper's Jan. 3, 1863, edition.

On the left panel, children are shown asleep in their bed while their mother kneels in prayer. We can imagine she is thinking about her soldier-husband at an Army camp far away. On the right panel, a soldier sits, bayonet in hand, while reading a letter from home. A small fire burns beside him to keep him warm. Nast surrounded these larger panels with contrasting scenes of holiday joy and the business of war. In the foreground, he drew a picture of four soldiers' graves. Even amid holiday joy, the war dead were not to be forgotten. "Letters from every corner of the Union poured into Harper's weekly with messages of thanks for that inspired picture," Thomas Nast St. Hill, the illustrator's grandson, wrote in an account that was published in 1971 of the elder Nast's Christmas illustrations.

"A colonel wrote the weekly to say that he had received his copy of the magazine and had unfolded it by the light of his campfire," St. Hill continued. " He was so touched by Nast's drawing that tears had fallen on the page. 'It was only a picture,' he wrote, 'but I couldn't help it.' " For the rest of his career, Nast would continue making pictures that touched the emotions of his audience. In the years immediately after the Civil War, he would play a pivotal role in bringing down New York City's corrupt Democratic political machine headed by William M. Tweed, the infamous "Boss Tweed." "I don't care a straw for your newspaper articles, my constituents don't know how to read," the boss reportedly said. "But they can't help seeing those damned pictures."

Nast died in 1902 of yellow fever while serving as a U.S. consul in Ecuador. But his place was already secure in the pantheon of political cartoonists. "We constantly refer back to Thomas Nast. We all take a piece of his legacy," said Rob Rogers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial cartoonist. "His main influence on us has been the idea that a cartoonist could use his art to combat evil."

Text and Image Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

News---States' Sesquicentennial Efforts Uncover Civil War Antiques

Civil War's 150th Stirs A Trove Of Memories, Steve Szkotak, Associated Press, December 26, 2011.

A diary with a lifesaving bullet hole from Gettysburg. An intricate valentine crafted by a Confederate soldier for the wife he would never see again. A slave's desperate escape to freedom. From New England to the South, state archivists are using the sesquicentennial of the Civil War to collect a trove of wartime letters, diaries, documents and mementos that have gathered dust in attics and basements.

This still-unfolding call will help states expand existing collections on the Civil War and provide new insights into an era that violently wrenched a nation apart, leaving 600,000 dead. Much of the Civil War has been told primarily through the eyes of battlefield and political leaders. These documents are adding a new narrative to the Civil War's story, offering insights into the home front and of soldiers, their spouses and African-Americans, often in their own words.

Historians, who will have access to the centralized digital collections, are excited by the prospect of what the states are finding and will ultimately share. "I think now we're broadening the story to include everybody—not just a soldier, not a general or a president—just somebody who found themselves swept up in the biggest drama in American life," says University of Richmond President Edward Ayers, a Civil War expert. "That's what's so cool."

In Virginia, archivists have borrowed from the popular PBS series "Antiques Roadshow," traveling weekends throughout the state and asking residents to share family collections, which are scanned and added to the already vast collection at the Library of Virginia. Started in September 2010, the Civil War 150 Legacy Project has collected 25,000 images. Virginians have been generous, knowing they can share their long-held mementos without surrendering them, said Laura Drake Davis and Renee Savits, the Library of Virginia archivists who have divided the state for their on-the-road collection campaign. "They think someone can learn from them rather than just sitting in their cupboards," Savits said of the family possessions. "And they're proud to share their family's experience."

Patricia Bangs heeded the call when a friend told her about the project. She had inherited 400 letters passed down through the years between Cecil A. Burleigh to his wife, Caroline, in Mount Carmel, Conn. "I felt this would be useful to researchers, a treasure to somebody," said Bangs, who works for the library system in Fairfax, Va. In one letter, she said, Cecil writes of Union troops traveling from Connecticut to Washington, crowds cheering them along the way.

The letters, like many collected by archivists, are difficult to read. Many are spelled phonetically, and the penmanship can be hard to decipher. Typically, they tell of the story of the home front and its daily deprivations. Researchers in Tennessee, a battleground state in the war, teamed up with Virginia archivists earlier this year in the border town of Bristol. Both states have seen their share of bullets, swords and other military hardware. "We have grandmothers dragging in swords and muskets," said Chuck Sherrill, Tennessee state librarian and archivist.

Documents are fished from attics, pressed between the pages of family bibles and stored in trunks. Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and many other states have similar programs, or at least are trying to gather materials for use by scholars and regular folks. Pennsylvania has been especially ambitious in adding new layers to the state's deep links to the Civil War, including a traveling exhibit called the "PA Civil War Road Show." The 53-foot-long museum on wheels also invites visitors to share their ancestors' stories and artifacts in a recording booth. The remembrances will be uploaded on the website One visitor brought in a bugle that an ancestor was blowing when he was fatally shot at the Battle of Gettysburg. "He wouldn't let anyone touch it," said John Seitter, project manager of the Pennsylvania Civil War project. "It shows you how deeply these artifacts connect people with the Civil War. There's some serious memorialization going on here."

The George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State University is also amid a survey of all the public archives in the state to produce a searchable database. The ambitious project aims to shed light on small, underfunded public historical societies where records are often "hidden from historians and scholars" and not used, Matt Isham of the "The People's Contest: A Civil War Era Digital Archiving Project" wrote in an email.

Some people are even donating items unsolicited. In Maine, for instance, some residents have submitted letters from ancestors who served in the war, but the sesquicentennial also saw an unusual submission from James R. Hosmer. Hosmer's mother, Mary Ruth Hosmer, died in 2005. He was going through her possessions in Kittery, Maine, when he made a discovery: dozens of carte de viste, small photographs carried by some Union troops, an early version of dog tags. They were stored in a suitcase in an attic. "The state archives was quite thrilled with it," Hosmer said.

The Virginia archivists said they were especially pleased by a submission from the family of an escaped slave who wrote of his love for a woman named Julia at the same time he fled his master for an outpost on the Chesapeake Bay, where Union ships were known to pick up men seeking their freedom. David Harris found his freedom in 1861, serving as a cook for Union troops. "I love to read the sweet letters that come from you, dear love," David Harris wrote to Julia. "I cannot eat for thought of you."

A valentine made of pink paper and shaped into a heart using an intricate basket weave was addressed to Confederate soldier Robert H. King to his wife Louiza. He was killed in 1862. As for the diary tucked in a soldier's breast pocket that shielded him from death at Gettysburg, "He kept using the diary," Savits said. "He just wrote around it."

Text and Image Source: Civil War's 150th Stirs

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Newsstand---- The Atlantic Commemorates Civil War With Greatest Hits Issue

The Atlantic Monthly, founded in 1857, was created as a literary and cultural commentary magazine. Quickly achieving a national reputation, it became important by recognizing and publishing new writers and poets, and encouraging major careers by publishing leading writers' commentary on abolition, education, the War Between The States and other issues in political affairs.

Marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, The Atlantic’s special commemorative edition, featuring an introduction by President Barack Obama, showcases some of the most compelling stories from the magazine’s archives. Contributors include such celebrated American writers as Mark Twain, Henry James, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott.

Through reporting, essays, fiction, and poetry, The Atlantic chronicled the conflict firsthand—from the country’s deepening divisions in the years leading up to the conflict, to the horrors of the battlefield, to the reshaping of society after the war’s conclusion. This 148-page edition captures the voices of the witnesses to the war and its aftermath. With memorable images from the National Portrait Gallery, this rich collection of contemporary reflections on the dramatic story of America’s most transformative moment. Print copies are available at bookstores, newsstands and ordered online in digital format for iPad and Kindle.

Following is the table of contents for the issue Atlantic's contents:


Where Will It End?
In its second issue, The Atlantic urged readers to take a stand against slavery.

Nat Turner's Insurrection
An account of America's bloodiest slave revolt and its repercussions

A True Story, Word for Word As I Heard It
In his first Atlantic contribution, the author tells the story of a mother's surprise reunion with her son, a former slave.

The Freedman's Story
An escaped slave recalls his violent showdown with slave-catchers.

Paul Revere's Ride
The famous Revolutionary War poem that's really about slavery

John Brown and His Friends
How a coterie of New Englanders-- including the author--secretly funded the raid on Harpers Ferry

Bardic Symbols
The author's first Atlantic poem

The Reign of King Cotton
In 1861, the grandson of John Quincy Adams argued that slavery could still end without war. BY CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS JR.

Recollections of Lincoln
A journalist who covered the Lincoln-Douglas debates recalls the future president's bawdy appeal.

The Election in November
In 1860, The Atlantic endorsed Abraham Lincoln for president.

Charleston Under Arms
A Northern journalist records his visit to Charleston during the Fort Sumter standoff.


Our March to Washington
A dispatch from a Union soldier who was later killed in action

A poem in praise of soldiers who gave their lives for the Union

Bread and the Newspaper
In 1861, an Atlantic editor captured the anxious mood on the home front.

The Advantages of Defeat
A scholar argues that the Union debacle at Bull Run was not such a disaster.

Chiefly About War Matters, by a Peaceable Man
The novelist visits Washington in wartime--and is then censored by The Atlantic.

The Cumberland
A poem commemorating a mighty Union ship done in by the Virginia, a rebel "ironclad"

My Hunt After the Captain
An account of the author's frantic search for his wounded son, who lived to become a Supreme Court justice

Barbara Frietchie
The classic poem mythologizing an old woman who flew her Union flag as the rebels marched past

The Man Without a Country
The famous short story about an Army officer who learns, too late, to love his country

American Civilization
An Atlantic founder argues vehemently for emancipation of the slaves.

The President's Proclamation
Seven months after his call to free the slaves, Emerson hails the Emancipation Proclamation.

Women, Unite Against Slavery
The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin urges other women to action.

The Story of a Year
One of the earliest pieces published by the author, who was 21 years old at the time

The Ladies of New Orleans
A Union general is stymied by the ornery women of the South.

Leaves From an Officer's Journal
The white colonel of the first official black regiment recounts his experience.

Life on the Sea Islands
A young black woman describes her experience teaching freed slaves.

The Brothers
Set in a wartime hospital, a short story about a family with a poisonous secret

The Words That Remade America
The significance of the Gettysburg Address

A Rebel's Recollections
A Confederate soldier from a plantation family provides a Southern perspective.

Lee in Battle
A Northerner pays tribute to the general's humility and heroism.

Toward Appomattox
Reliving the war's final battles

Late Scenes in Richmond
A reporter describes the rebels' flight from Richmond, and Lincoln's surprise visit two days later.


The End, and After
A Confederate soldier recalls the chaotic days following surrender.

Three months after Lincoln's murder, The Atlantic seeks to make sense of it.

Ode to Lincoln
The magazine's first editor gives poetic voice to the nation's grief.

Three Months Among the Reconstructionists
In 1866, a journalist offered a scathing report on post-war life in the South.

The Mistress of Sydenham Plantation
The famous novelist's tale of an elderly Southerner, oblivious to what the war has cost her

The Case of George Dedlow
An absurdist short story about a Union doctor--which many Atlantic readers erroneously believed at the time to be nonfiction

For the Union Dead
The classic 1960 poem pays tribute to the glory of the Civil War era.

The Freedmen's Bureau
A leading black intellectual surveys the government's efforts to aid the freed slaves.

Reconstruction, and an Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage
A former slave urges Congress to grant black Americans the vote.

The Death of Slavery
A poem hailing the demise of slavery's "cruel reign"

The Result in South Carolina
A Southerner describes mounting racial tensions in the aftermath of Reconstruction.

The Awakening of the Negro
An educator's controversial argument contends that blacks should advance by making themselves useful to whites.

Of the Training of Black Men
Taking issue with Booker T. Washington, the author argues that blacks should attend college. BY W. E. B. DU BOIS

Strivings of the Negro People
Du Bois gives voice to the aspirations of black Americans in the post-Civil War world.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Text Source With Edits: The Atlantic

Off Topic---Richard Matheson, Master of the Uncanny

Shadow On The Sun, Richard Matheson, TOR Books, 192 pages,$13.99 and Other Kingdoms, Richard Matheson, TOR Books, 320 pages, $24.99.

Richard Matheson is the author of the classics I Am Legend, Hell House, Somewhere in Time, The Incredible Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, The Beardless Warriors, What Dreams May Come and others. Now forget the movies made from his books. Remember The Twilight Zone episodes.

Named a Grand Master of Horror by the World Horror Convention, and a recipient of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement, Matheson has won the Edgar Award for Mystery and Detective writing, the Spur for Western novels and stories, and several of the Writer's Guild awards. In 2010, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Yes, this is the author that the best storytellers, such as Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Peter Straub and others, read.

Matheson has authored screenplays for film and television. His most recognizable work is for The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” based on his short story and featuring a very young William Shatner. Born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, and a World War 2 combat infantryman, Matheson earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.

Shadow On The Sun, originally published as a mass-market Western in 1994, has been out of print for years. This tale of supernatural terror is best described by a comment of a friend who had just finished the book. "Wow! Couldn't put it down. I wonder if the makers of Cowboys and Aliens [the film] read this before they made their movie." Set in Arizona, a century ago during a truce between the remote frontier community and the Apaches. A delicate peace is literally shredded when the mutilated bodies of two white men are found. Billjohn Finley, the local Indian agent, fears that darker, more unholy forces may be at work: a tall, dark stranger who rides into town and is wearing the dead men’s clothes.

In Other Kingdoms the setting spans decades in France, England and Brooklyn. In 1917 a young American soldier is recently wounded in the Great War. The young veteran, Alex White, travels to Gatford, England because of a promise made to a dying comrade. This pastoral English village, seems to be the perfect spot to heal his wounded body and soul. In truth for the reader, Gatford and its forests are not as distant as Narnia but closer that Brigadoon. The neighboring woods are said to be haunted by capricious, even malevolent spirits, but surely those are just old folk tales.

In the forest dwells Magda Variel known as a witch but confesses to Alex that she is merely a practitioner of Wicca and has healing powers. She warns him of a more real danger, one that is located deeper into the forest. It is another kingdom. A World War One veteran, Alex is bold and undaunted. He becomes a resident in three kingdoms: rural England, the Wicca religion, and live among shape-sifting spirits. He willing enters bondage to love, sex and magic and has dual citizenship in two of kingdoms. Each has a dominant woman who wants him.

To read these two shorter works by Matheson is to engage a master storyteller who will very subtly cause you to suspend your disbelief. The literary genre of The Uncanny deals with the notion that a person or a thing has or seems to have a supernatural basis. The Uncanny genre deals this events that are beyond the ordinary, that are mysterious, superstitious, fearful or dreadful. Like Stephen King's work, Richard Matheson work is both an uncomfortably strange but a comfortably thoughtful experience.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Film News---Spielberg Films Team of Rivals in Virginia; Release Date 2013

Daniel Day-Lewis Has a Great Honest Abe Beard Going for ‘Lincoln’, Tim Grierson, The Projector, December 2, 2011.

It was just over a year ago that it was announced that Daniel Day-Lewis would be the star of Steven Spielberg's Abraham Lincoln film. There's no question that the two-time Oscar-winner is an astonishingly gifted actor, but when you're playing a revered American president there will always be questions about whether you can do justice to a mythic figure in U.S. history -- especially when some people refuse to accept Day-Lewis in the role since he's English. But we think most folks will be willing to look past such minor issues after checking out this first photo of Day-Lewis sporting his beard for "Lincoln." You have to admit, the resemblance is pretty striking -- and rather presidential.

The photo (the first we've seen of the actor as Lincoln) was snapped by Michael Phillips (via Badass Digest), who took the picture presumably while Day-Lewis was enjoying a lunch break during the filming of "Lincoln" in Virginia. While a lot of unofficial on-set photos capture stars at their most unflattering, this casual shot actually gives Day-Lewis a regal, dignified air that's synonymous with most people's impressions of our 16th president. Even in repose, the guy just exudes rugged authenticity.

"Lincoln," which is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals" is said to follow Lincoln during the final months of his life when the Civil War was coming to a close. The film won't open until December 2012, but it already has to be considered an Oscar front-runner simply because of the pedigree of the material, the director and the star -- and that it's not even mentioning the rest of the cast, which includes Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Strathairn and Hal Holbrook. Spielberg has two movies coming next month -- "The Adventures of Tintin" and "War Horse" -- but after seeing this Day-Lewis photo it's hard not to focus on what the director has coming our way next year. We always knew Day-Lewis could play the part. Today, we learned he definitely looks the part, too.

Text Source: The Projector

Image Source:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Robert Todd Lincoln
Daniel Day-Lewis/Abraham Lincoln
Tommy Lee Jones/Thaddeus Stevens [Pennsylvania, US Congressman]
Lee Pace/Fernando Wood [Mayor NYC]
Sally Field/Mary Todd Lincoln
Jackie Earle Haley, Alexander Stephens [CSA, Vice President]
Jared Harris, Ulysses S. Grant
Joseph Cross, John Hay [Secretary to Lincoln
David Strathairn, Secretary of State William Seward
Bruce McGill, Edwin Stanton [Secretary of War]
Jeremy Strong, John Nicolay [Secretary to Lincoln]
Grainger Hines, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles
Reed Birney, James Speed [Kentucky friend of Lincoln]
Mike Shiflett, CSA Senator RMT Hunter
John Hutto, Senator Charles Sumner [Massachusetts, US Senator]
Lincoln (original screenplay) (filming)

John Logan is the development screenwriter; his works include: 2004 The Aviator, 2003 The Last Samurai, 2000 Gladiator, 1999 Any Given Sunday. Tony Kushner is the onset screenwriter; he also wrote the screenplay of Munich

Information Source:

On The News Stand---Robert E. Lee and John Brown Share Lead Stories In Military History Quarterly

'John Brown’s Blood Oath' by Tony Horwitz shows that before The Harpers Ferry Raid, the abolitionist promised a campaign of violence. It began with a gruesome midnight massacre in Kansas in 1856. ‘A Moment Full of Peril’ by Noah Andre Trudeau discusses the fear in the Buchanan administration that John Brown might touch off a national insurrection at Harper's Ferry and the decision by Washington officials to turn to Robert E. Lee to assess the situation and capture the rebels.

Readers may be familiar with Horwitz's and Trudeau's previous works. Horwitz wrote the informative and entertaining Confederates In the Attic and Trudeau wrote Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage.