Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New Fiction---The Lincoln Letter: Two Plots and Four Characters Chase A National Treasure in Two Centuries

The Lincoln Letter, William Martin, Tom Doherty Associates Publishing, 450 pages, one map, $25.99.

In a novel that is both clever and precariously balanced, William Martin offers two plots which are separated by 150 years.  Archivist Peter Fallon and media consultant Evangeline Carrrington are modern treasure hunters who are on the trail of a pocket diary kept by Abraham Lincoln which he lost in the military telegraph office during 1862. Does it contain Lincoln's private thoughts as he contemplates the emancipation of those slaves held by Southerners in rebellion?

Fallon has found a letter written by Lincoln that hints that the diary existed.  Is waiting to be found?  Scholars from different academic camps and multi-millionaires with political agendas are on the diary's trail.  Some want the journal for political prestige, symbolic value, or in order to denigrate Lincoln and take him off his pedestal.  Some hope that the diary reveals  the dark truth about Lincoln's emancipation proclamation that may enhance or destroy certain scholars' and politicans' reputations.

In 1862 Lieutenant Halsey Hutchison, wounded veteran of an 1861 battle is a telegrapher and courier in the military telegraph office that Lincoln frequently visits. Upon finding Lincoln's pocket diary, he gaines new adversaries: Pinkerton detectives who may be involved in a coup d'etate with McClellan at its center, a brothel owner who has a lot of politicans in his pocket, and an abolitionist who seeks to keep the diary out of the hands of proslavery Democratic politicians.

The 1862 setting allows for a certain frequency in the use of guns and knives that the 2012 does not allow. Both the 1862 and the modern Washington D.C. are well described and the characters manners and behaviors reflect the eras.  African Americans are key characters in both eras. Civil War reenactors inhabit the modern era.   Martin handles the two plots well; neither gets too far behind or too far ahead of the other. Characters are unique to their era.  Overall, The Lincoln Letter page turner in which readers are offered fine descriptions of Washington D.C. in 1862 and 2012.

News--How Much History Is In The Film Lincoln? Four Questions and Four Suprising Answers

How True Is Lincoln?, David O. Stewart, History New Network, November 21, 2012.

"With history-minded Americans flocking to see Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln movie, many are beset with questions about the accuracy of some of the neglected facts and episodes featured in the film."

"Lincoln focuses closely on about five weeks in early 1865, when the House of Representatives was debating the 13th Amendment and Confederate peace commissioners explored a way to end the Civil War. Weaving the two stories together with an intimate view of President Lincoln, his official family and his real family, the movie presents a compelling portrait of a leader in a time of extraordinary strain and challenge. Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Lincoln distills the man’s humor, intelligence, sadness, and power. At least four fundamental questions will arise for any viewer who is not a Civil War junkie.", states David O. Stewart who is the  author of  Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy. His novel about the John Wilkes Booth conspiracy, The Lincoln Deception, will issue in September 2013.

Here are the questions that Stewart addresses.

Were the House vote on the 13th Amendment and the Peace Conference with the Confederates really so closely intertwined?

Did Secretary of State Seward field a group of backstairs lobbyists to recruit Democratic votes for the 13th Amendment, even offering patronage jobs as inducements?

Did Pennsylvania Representative  Thaddeus Stevens really have a romantic liaison with his black housekeeper?

The movie attributes its story to Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals but how much of the book is in the film? 

Full Text Available  History News Network, November 21, 2012.

History News Network, November 21, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

New and Noteworthy---NPS Rangers Offer Illustrated Walking Tour of Battle of Fredericksburg, 1862

Simply Murder: The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 2012, Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White, 171 illustrations, 168 pp., $12.95.
"They melted like snow on the ground, one officer said—wave after wave of Federal soldiers charging uphill across an open muddy plain. Confederates, fortified behind a stone wall along a sunken road, poured a hail of lead into them as they charged . . . and faltered . . . and died. “I had never before seen fighting like that, nothing approaching it in terrible uproar and destruction,” said one eyewitness to the slaughter. “It is only murder now.”

The battle of Fredericksburg is usually remembered as the most lopsided Union defeat of the Civil War. It is sometimes called “Burnside’s folly,” after Union commander Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside who led the Army of the Potomac to ruin along the banks of the Rappahannock River. But the battle remains one of the most misunderstood and misremembered engagements of the war. Burnside started with a well-conceived plan and had every reason to expect victory. How did it go so terribly wrong?  Authors Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White have worked for years along Fredericksburg’s Sunken Road and Stone Wall, and they’ve escorted thousands of visitors across the battlefield.

Simply Murder not only recounts Fredericksburg’s tragic story of slaughter, but includes invaluable information about the battlefield itself and the insights they’ve learned from years of walking the ground. Simply Murder can be enjoyed in the comfort of one’s living room or as a guide on the battlefield itself. It is also the first release in the new “Emerging Civil War Series,” which offers compelling and easy-to-read overviews of some of the Civil War’s mostimportant battles and issues.

Release date is December 3, 2012.

About the Authors:

Chris Mackowski is a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York, and also works with the National Park Service at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, which includes

the Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania battlefields.
Kristopher D. White is a historian for the Penn-Trafford Recreation Board and a continuing
education instructor for the Community College of Allegheny County near Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. He served for five years as a staff military historian at Fredericksburg &
Spotsylvania National Military Park, and is a former Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg. Longtime friends, Mackowski and White have co-authored several books and numerous articles for various Civil War magazines. They also co-founded the blog Emerging Civil War, which can be read at:
Text Source:  Savas-Beatie Publishing

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

News---Lincoln's Voice In Spielberg's Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis Listened To His Inner Ear To Find Abe Lincoln’s Voice, Associated Press, Washington Post, November 13, 2012.


“There are numerous accounts, contemporary accounts, of his speaking voice. They tend to imply that it was fairly high, in a high register, which I believe allowed him to reach greater numbers of people when he was speaking publicly,” Day-Lewis said in an interview. “Because the higher registers tend to reach farther than the lower tones, so that would have been useful to him.”

“I don’t separate vocal work, and I don’t dismember a character into its component parts and then kind of bolt it all together, and off you go,” Day-Lewis said. “I tend to try and allow things to happen slowly, over a long period of time. As I feel I’m growing into a sense of that life, if I’m lucky, I begin to hear a voice.

“And I don’t mean in a supernatural sense. I begin to hear the sound of a voice, and if I like the sound of that, I live with that for a while in my mind’s ear, whatever one might call it, my inner ear, and then I set about trying to reproduce that.”

“And I feel that he probably learned how to play with his voice in public and use it in certain ways in certain places and in certain other ways in other places. Especially in the manner in which he expressed himself. I think, I’ve no doubt that he was conscious enough of his image.”

Full Text Source Available: Washington Post, November 13, 2012.
Image SourceHollywood Reporter

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Research Query and a Reply----Ten Union Spies Hung At Natchez?

Here is a post requesting aid in research.  Intriguing topic . . . .

The request was posted November 12 2012 on H-Net Civil War History listserv. 

From: Ellen Garvey []

Subject: Union Spies Hanged At Natchez?

An African American dealer in old newspapers, Robert M. Budd, who I have been writing about said in an interview with a reporter in the 1932 that his father was "one of ten Union spies sent SOuth to report on the Confederacy's preparations for war. He and several of his companions were discovered, their identity revealed, and they were hanged at Natchez." I don't know Budd's father's name, and don't know whether he was black or white. He seems to have been born in Washington
DC. Does anyone know how I might find more out about this?           Thanks,  Ellen            

[Reply to Ellen Garvey]

Image Is Of Civilians Hung For Burning Railroad Bridges En East Tennessee, 1862
Image Source: CivilWarDailyGazette
Reply to Ellen Garvey
A H-Net Civil War Response from Charles F. Ritter, Ph.D., Professor of History Emeritus, Notre Dame of Maryland University: 
" You may wish to consult Winthrop Jordon's Tumult and Silence at Second
which is a very good account of the Natchez Insurrection"

Friday, November 09, 2012

News---$2.5 Million 'The Soldier Experience Opens at Army Education Center, Carlisle PA

AHEC Prepares To launch Interactive Exhibit, Tammie Gitt, The Sentinel, November 8, 2012.
Explosions rattle the wooden benches as Chinese soldiers stream toward you.
Just as you’re being overrun, a voice yells, "We’re coming through!" The firefight quiets down and you have survived another night in Korea.
In 1950, you might have stepped out of the bunker into a cold, dangerous night. Today, you step out into the safety of the exhibit area telling the story of the soldiers who fought in Korea.
Experiences like this are just one aspect of a $2.5 million exhibit, "The Soldier Experience," opening today at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Middlesex Township. The grand opening of the exhibit will be held from 4 to 6 p.m., but the exhibit will be open throughout the weekend. Living veterans featured in the exhibit, as well as re-enactors representing earlier soldiers, will be at the opening ceremony.
Col. Matt Dawson, director of the Army Heritage and Education Center, said the exhibits combine documents with photographs and other artifacts to tell a story.
"What we hope is that as people walk through the museum, they will find something that they are interested in," he said.  He added that he hopes people will then take that interest further by using the center’s collections to research it. John Leighow, director of the Army Heritage Museum, said the experience, which took a little more than two years to come together, exhibits items in the center’s collection in a way that allows visitors to understand the Army through the eyes of a soldier on the ground.
Full Text Continues at The Sentinel.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Film---Engaged in a Great Civil War, Speilberg's Lincoln

A President Engaged in a Great Civil War: Lincoln by Steven Spielberg with Daniel Day-Lewis, reviewed by A. O. Scott, New York Times, November 8, 2012.


"After a brutal, kinetic beginning — a scene of muddy, hand-to-hand combat that evokes the opening of Saving Private Ryan  “Lincoln” settles down into what looks like the familiar pageantry and speechifying of costume drama. A flock of first-rate character actors parades by in the heavy woolen plumage of the past".

"The script, by Tony Kushner is attentive to the idioms of the time without being too showy about it. Lincoln is eloquent in the manner of the self-taught provincial prodigy he was, his speech informed by voracious reading and also by the tall tales and dirty jokes he heard growing up in the frontier country of Kentucky and Illinois. He uses words like “shindee” and “flib-flub” and likes to regale (and exasperate) his cabinet with homespun parables, shaggy dog stories and bits of outhouse humor. His salty native wit is complemented by the clear and lofty lyricism that has come down to us in his great speeches."

"The main business of “Lincoln” is framed by two of those, the Gettysburg Address — quoted back to the president by awed Union soldiers on a January night in 1865 — and his Second Inaugural Address, which he delivered a little more than a month before the end of the Civil War and his own assassination. These are big, famous words and momentous events, and the task Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Kushner have set themselves is to make this well-known story fresh and surprising. Mr. Day-Lewis, for his part, must convey both the human particularity and the greatness of a man who is among the most familiar and the most enigmatic of American leaders. We carry him around in our pockets every day, and yet we still argue and wonder about who he was."

"This is, in other words, less a biopic than a political thriller, a civics lesson that is energetically staged and alive with moral energy. Lincoln, having just won re-election, faces a complex predicament. The war has turned in the Union’s favor, but the Capitol is in some turmoil. Lincoln must contend with a Democratic opposition that reviles him as a dictator (“Abraham Africanus,” they call him) and also with a deep, factional split within the Republican Party. "

"The question facing Lincoln is stark: Should he abolish slavery, once and for all, even if it means prolonging the war? The full weight and scale of this dilemma are the central lesson “Lincoln” asks us to grasp. The film places slavery at the center of the story, emphatically countering the revisionist tendency to see some other, more abstract thing — states’ rights, Southern culture, industrial capitalism — as the real cause of the Civil War."

" . . . this is finally a movie about how difficult and costly it has been for the United States to recognize the full and equal humanity of black people."

"There is no end to this story, which may be why Mr. Spielberg’s much-noted fondness for multiple denouements is in evidence here. There are at least five moments at which the narrative and the themes seem to have arrived at a place of rest. (The most moving for me is a quiet scene when the 13th Amendment is read aloud. I won’t give away by whom.) But the movie keeps going, building a symphony of tragedy and hope that celebrates Lincoln’s great triumph while acknowledging the terror, disappointment and other complications to come."

Full Text and Image SourceNew York Times, November 8, 2012


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

News---Hurricane Katrina versus Colonial New Orleans' Slaves In Court Documents

Preservation Work Of Decaying Slave, Colonial Records From Louisiana Sheds New Light On US History, Associated Press, Washington Post, October 29, 2012.
The following are excerpts for an Associated Press article appearing in the Washington Post regarding the salvaging of the colonial New Orleans court records regarding free and enslaved African Americans:

"A marathon project is under way in New Orleans to digitize thousands of time-worn 18th-century French and Spanish legal papers that historians say give the first historical accounts of slaves and free blacks in North America."

" "Yellowed page by yellowed page, archivists are scanning the 220,000 manuscript pages from the French Superior Council and Spanish Judiciary between 1714 and 1803 in an effort to digitize, preserve, translate and index Louisiana’s colonial past and in the process help re-write American history."

" “No single historian could ever live long enough to write all the books that are to be written from all these documents,” said Emily Clark, a Tulane University historian who has worked in the papers." "

" “We don’t think of American society simply built from east to west, but we think of it as built from south to north,” said Ira Berlin, a University of Maryland historian. “As you begin to think of a different kind of history, you’re naturally looking for new kinds of sources to write that history." "

"This massive trove mostly describes domestic life as found in civil court papers, because the colony’s administrative records were taken back to Europe when the United States took possession of Louisiana in 1803.  So they tell of shipwrecks and pirates, of thieves and murderers, of gambling debts and slave sales, of real estate deals and wills. One finds pages signed by historical figures like Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, better known as Bienville, the founder of New Orleans, and Louis XVI, the king of France. And the bizarre, as in the case of a man accused of selling dog meat to Charity Hospital. "

"Melissa Stein, the full-time staffer, looks for intriguing cases, like one about exhuming the body of an unbaptized 13-year-old slave girl, baptizing her and moving her body into the cemetery."

" “It blurs the boundary between freedom and slavery,” Clark said. “It’s not a two-dimensional picture: What do you make of it when you find an enslaved man who himself possesses two slaves and he does so when he is a teenager?” "

Full Text at Washington Post October 29, 2012
Image Source: Fox8Live

Monday, November 05, 2012

Noteworthy and Now In Paperback---The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine

The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine, Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein. M.E. Sharpe Publishing, 200812, 419 pp., 16 illustrations, chronology, bibliography, index, softcover, $34.95.

This history of Civil War medicine in encyclopedia form offers 200+ A to Z entries on people, medical terms, disease, wounds, treatments, hospitals and volunteer organizations. Both Battles of Manassas, Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Chickamauga, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Shiloh have entries listed in the table of contents. Other battles, such as Olustee, are found in the index. Clearly written, well annotated, and concisely organized, this one volume encyclopedia is reminiscent of Mark Boatner's Dictionary of the Civil War and Terry Jones' Historical Dictionary of the Civil War.

Schroeder-Lein's work encompasses the most recent scholarship on the medical aspects of the war. There are usually three or more bibliographic notes for each entry along with usually five or more 'See Also' links. The chronology runs twelve pages and the bibliography spans fourteen. The reading level is accessible to the high school student who has a desire to learn new medical terms such as hydrotherapy, allopath, varioloid, and quotidian.

From the table of contents there are entries such as  'medical historiography, 'The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion', Hunter Holmes Maguire and Silas Weir Mitchell; from the index the terms libraries, nuns, nursing schools received attention are covered as topics

Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein received a PHD in history from the University of Georgia and is the author of Confederate Hospitals on the Move: Samuel H. Stout and the Army of Tennessee. She has assisted in the editing of the Andrew Johnson Papers and is currently the manuscripts librarian at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.

Previously published in 2008 as a hardcover at $104.95, the book was beyond the means of most readers. Now $34.95for the softcover edition, American Civil War buffs and reenactors seeking the a greater depth and breadth of what historic characters knew should add a copy to their personal library.  For supporting members of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and reenactors of Civil War medicine,  the book to be essential. Once you have it your hands, it is likely that you will be spending quite a bit of time in 'The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine.

Friday, November 02, 2012

News---Lincoln Through The Eyes of Daniel Day Lewis

Abe Lincoln As You Have Nerver Heard Him: Daniel Day-Lewis On Playing Abraham Lincoln, Charles McGrath, New York Times, October 31, 2012.

A Portion of the Text from the New York Times Interview With Daniel Day-Lewis

" Mr. Day-Lewis prepared for the part not by splitting rails or doing sums on the back of a shovel but mostly by reading. He started with Ms. Goodwin’s book, pored over Lincoln’s own writing and finished up with the Carl Sandburg biography. He also spent a lot of time studying the photographs taken toward the end of Lincoln’s life by Alexander Gardner. “I looked at them the way you sometimes look at your own reflection in a mirror and wonder who that person is looking back at you,” he said.
“Everyone’s jaw was on the floor,” he said. “It was one of the great things I’ve ever seen. To do that, you have to be there, in that moment. It’s not psychosis; it’s sustained concentration. Is all that necessary, the staying in character? It makes sense to me.” He added: “I’ve never seen a great actor do a major role that didn’t cost a lot. They’re sacrificial animals of a sort.”
Mr. Day-Lewis said that he felt a “great sadness” when the movie was done and that he still feels connected to it. “I’m woefully one-track-minded,” he said. “Without sounding unhinged, I know I’m not Abraham Lincoln. I’m aware of that. But the truth is the entire game is about creating an illusion, and for whatever reason, and mad as it may sound, some part of me can allow myself to believe for a period for time without questioning, and that’s the trick.” He laughed. “Maybe it’s a terrible revelation about myself that one does feel able to do that.”  "
Text Source, Image Source and Full Text Link:   New York Times, October 31, 2012

New and Noteworthy---The Very Remarkable Civil War Photographs of the Maryland Historical Society

Maryland's Civil War Photographs: The Sesquicentennial Collection, Ross J. Kelbaugh, Maryland Historical Society, 228 pages, 475+ photographs and images, black/white/color/colorized, appendices, index, 2012, softbound, $30.00.

In a very remarkable collection, the Maryland Historical offers 450+ photographs that are black and white, or colorized black and white.  Commemorating the sesquicentennial, this finely bound and printed book presents the work of skilled photographers who captured  soldiers and civilians, prisoners of war and working artisans while they were at the studio, on the battlefield, in the campsite, the hospital and the home front. These visual records have been preserved by institutions and private collectors and this edition presents the stories behind the subjects and the photographers. Editor and narrator, Ross J. Kelbaugh, founder and CEO of, is a veteran collector, interpreter, and educator. Over four decades, he has assembled the largest private collection of vintage Maryland photographs and related material in the state.

The first photograph is a wonderfully detailed image of William Weaver's photographic studio and gallery located at 147 Baltimore Street, Baltimore. Four stories tall, with a second story porch, a third story dormer and a fourth story mansard roof with a floor to ceiling window that likely shone light on to the third story studio, Weaver's store/gallery/studio appears majestic. The book's introduction is a clear and concise introduction to photographic processes, formats, sizes, papers and traveling studios of the era. In 16 chapters Kelbaugh presents and describes familiar and rarely scene photographs related to Maryland.

Among these non-Maryland subjects by non-Maryland photographers is Pennsylvanian and African America Nicholas Biddle, 'the first man wounded in the Great American Rebellion' who suffered his wound in Baltimore on April 18, 1861.  W.R. Mortimer of Pottsville, Pennsylvania is the photographer. Biddle is the credited with being the first African America to be pictured on a carte de visite that was mass-produced for sale.

In the book are rarely seen locations that are very important to Civil War history such as Baltimore's Front Street Theatre, the location of the second [Rump] 1860 Democratic Party presidential nominating convention, Baltimore's Pratt Street at which the 6th Massachusetts was attacked April 19th, 1861, and West Patrick Street in Frederick which the Army of Northern Virginia used during its two invasions of the North and which the Army of the Potomac used during its pursuit.

Included in the Antietam chapter is photograph that is a view that may have been included in Mathew Brady's October 1862 farmhouse exhibition of the Dead at Antietam. This image is in the author's private collection; this might be its first publication.  "In the rarest of the series and the only known period print, Gardner recorded Confederate dead near what is believed to be the Mumma family cemetery." On two board, a body may have been in the process of being moved to a grave. A hat has been laid over the corpse's groin.

Nineteenth century photograph enthusiasts, military and civil Civil War reenactors, historians of material and popular culture, architecture preservationists and historians of  African American history will find treasures throughout Maryland's Civil War Photographs: The Sesquicentennial Collection which is reasonalby priced considering the treasures it holds.