Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Sad News: Confederates in the Attic Author Tony Horwitz Dies, Age 60

Image result for confederates in the attic book imageHorwitz viewed American History and contemporary media dysfunctions:

TH:  People are staking out extremes at either end, rather than saying there's a common history here," he told Fresh Air [National Public Radio] during 1998.

TH: "There's this attitude towards history that we have to lobby for it now — almost that objective truth doesn't exist, and that it's kind of hopeless to look for it. And that instead you just sort of stake out your position and cling to it in the hopes that that you'll swing the pendulum your way," he added. "I found this very dispiriting."

Image result for confederates in the attic book imageTH: "And I hope they occasionally remember me," Horwitz wrote recently of the many Southerners he met in researching his books. 

"Not as a Fox-induced boogeyman on the bar TV, one of those 'coastal elites' dripping with contempt and condescension toward Middle America. But rather, as that guy from 'up north' who appeared on the next bar stool one Friday after work, asked about their job and life and hopes for the future, and thought what they said was important enough to write down."

Full Text and a review of Horwitz's most recent book Spying on the South available: National Public Radio 

CWL:  I met Tony Horwitz at a Civil War reenactment in the early 2000s. If I recall correctly, it was in the middle the Manassas reenactment of 2001 and hot as blazes. He was not a reenactor on this day but a journalist standing in the midst of reenactors who did not recognize him. 'The battle' had just been fought and the reenactors were meandering off the field. We discussed the variety of opinions about the book. He was well aware of the criticisms and the praises about Confederates In The Attic.  I asked him if he would ever write a follow up book. He replied that the publisher was begging for a sequel but that his other interests would come first. I thanked him for Confederates In The Attic.  

Tony Horwitz, may you rest in peace.

Emerging Civil War review of Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Started the Civil War

Wall Street Journal obituary here

New York Times obituary here

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

New and Noteworthy: The Strange Journeys of the Cotton Gin, The Confederate Constitution, The Confederate Gold, The Stone Mountain Memorial, The Boll Weevil and The KKK Among Other Pieces of Georgia History Strange Journey of the Confederate Constitution and Other Stories from Georgia's Historical Past, William Rawlings, Mercer University Press, 288 pages, 2017, illustrations, maps, bibliographic notes, bibliography, appendix, index, $29.00.

William Rawlings offers a clear and concise collection of essays organized as themes in Georgia history: the cotton gin's actual history, land frauds in colonial and revolutionary era Georgia, the creation and post-war travels of the Confederate States' constitution, what exactly the Confederate gold was and how it was spent and not buried, the creation of the Stone Mountain Memorial [and what was supposed to be but is not on it], and the first, second and third Ku Klux Klans.Also murder trials, fraud trials, and a pastor who shoots a blue jay bird and a chicken.

Rawlings offers an extensive appendix entitled: Exploring Our Past: A Short Practical Guide to Historical Research for Writers which is suitable for aspiring writers, Advanced Placement History students, college graduates and journalists.  Overall, Rawling's The Strange Journey of the Confederate Constitution and Other Stories for Georgia's Historical Past is a superb example of well writing, interesting and insightful state and local history with applications to the nation's story.

From the Publisher: The Strange Journey of the Confederate Constitution and Other Stories f\rom Georgia's Historical Past  is a collection of seventeen articles and essays on topics in Georgia and Southern history. Individual chapters are arranged by era and cover subjects ranging from The Great Yazoo Fraud of the 1790s, to Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Treasure of the 1860s, to the Reign of Terror visited by the Ku Klux Klan in Macon of the 1920s. While academic, the book’s varying topics are aimed at readers with a general interest in the intriguing and often convoluted history of the South. Some articles focus on events, others on people (e.g. Gutzon Borglum or Eli Whitney), and still others on more controversial topics, such as the place of The Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind in modern society. The author’s writing style is one that promotes relaxed recreational reading, treating each topic as an unfolding story as the chapter progresses. As a bonus to those interested in research and writing about historical subjects, the Appendix contains advice in the form of “A Short Practical Guide to Historical Research for Writers.”

News--The Future, Or Lack of a Future, of American Civil War Reenacting

Civil War Battlefields Lose Ground as Tourist Draws: As recent events change how visitors see Confederate imagery, sites work to broaden the audience, Camerion McWhirter, Photographs by Jarrett Christian, The Wall Stree Journal,may 25, 2019.

Photo above: A recent re-enactment of the battle of Resaca in Georgia.

FORT OGLETHORPE, Ga.—Is Civil War tourism history?

Once a tourism staple for many Southern states and a few Northern ones, destinations related to the 1860s war are drawing fewer visitors. Historians point to recent fights over Confederate monuments  and a lack of interest by younger generations as some of the reasons.
The National Park Service’s five major Civil War battlefield parks—Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, Chickamauga/Chattanooga and Vicksburg—had a combined 3.1 million visitors in 2018, down from about 10.2 million in 1970, according to park-service data. Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, the most famous battle site, had about 950,000 visitors last year, just 14% of its draw in 1970 and the lowest annual number of visitors since 1959. Only one of these parks, Antietam, in Maryland, has seen an increase from 1970.
When Louis Varnell opened a military-memorabilia store near Chickamauga Battlefield here in the 2000s, he had several competitors. Today, his store is the only one left. Only about 10% to 20% of his sales are Civil War-related; he mostly sells stuff from World War II or other conflicts, he said.

The number of Civil War re-enactors, hobbyists who meet to re-create the appearance of a particular battle or event in period costume, also is declining. They are growing too old or choosing to re-enact as Vietnam War soldiers or cowboys, said Mr. Varnell, 49 years old. “Cowboy re-enacting is where bitter, jaded Civil War re-enactors go,” he said, standing by a cash register surrounded by Civil War relics and flags.

Mike Brown, 68, still plays part of the cavalry at Civil War re-enactments and recently helped organize a recreation of the Battle of Resaca in Georgia. “The younger generations are not taught to respect history, and they lose interest in it,” he said.
More recent history is also damping interest, said Kevin Levin, author of a coming book on the war. The  fatal 2015 shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., by a white man who had embraced the Confederate battle flag and the 2017 white-nationalist rally around a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Va., has transformed how people view Confederate imagery and, in turn, Civil War-related historic sites.

Rum Creek Sutler in Jonesboro, Ga., sells memorabilia for re-enactors and spectators.
For decades, the focus of many historic sites and events was on “who shot who where,” said Glenn Brasher, an adjunct history instructor at the University of Alabama. “It had no explanation of why people were there shooting each other,” he said.

Now, some museums and historical sites are working to draw a broader audience—younger visitors as well as more minorities and women—by telling a more complete story about the great conflict. Once underplayed subjects, such as slavery’s role in causing the war, are getting more prominence, with new exhibits in Richmond, Va., Atlanta and elsewhere.
This month, the new American Civil War Museum opened in Richmond with expansive exhibits, including of battles and generals, but also information on slavery and the war’s impact on civilians. The new museum was born from the merger six years ago of two Richmond museums, one of which was the Museum of the Confederacy.

Chief Executive Christy Coleman said the new museum’s goal is to explore the stories of more people involved in the conflict, including slaves and women.“We’re taking [the Civil War] back from the crazies,” she said, referring to people who argue slavery wasn’t a central issue of the conflict.

In February, the Atlanta History Center opened a new exhibit displaying the cyclorama, an enormous painting of the Battle of Atlanta. The new exhibit more than doubled attendance at the center from February to May compared with the same period last year, according to the museum. The exhibit includes displays dispelling myths about the war and slavery.

In recent years, the National Park Service launched an effort to have more exhibits and programs about causes of the war and the slave experience, said Brandon Bies, superintendent of Manassas National Battlefield Park in Virginia. Some battlefields closer to major cities have seen more visitors, but many are interested in hiking and other outdoor activities, not necessarily the war, he said.
On a recent weekday here on Lookout Mountain, a modest stream of mostly older visitors came to see the scenic park marking a Union victory. They studied the monuments and cannons and enjoyed the vistas of Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Tennessee River.

Bonnie Knott, 72, from Amherst, N.H., who was visiting with her husband and friends, said learning that her ancestors fought for the Union pulled her into reading about the war, and she thought genealogy could work to lure younger people, too.

Antron Benbow, 42, who was visiting from the Tampa, Fla., area, said Americans should study the battles and the causes behind them. “It’s important to know how it happened,” he said, “and why it happened.

At the time of this post: 550  comments were posted at The Wall Street Journal.

Full Text Link: Wall Street Journal 

News and Reflection: Roman Catholic Nuns, Charity and Mercey

Nuns on the Civil War Battlefield: In a time of anti-Catholicism, they somehow became a unifying force, Nic Rowan, Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2018

Illustration: “Our Women and the War,” a wood engraving of women helping the Union Army, 1862
During the 1863 Chattanooga campaign, nuns from the Sisters of Charity tended to wounded soldiers in a Nashville, Tenn., field hospital. As they prepared to move on to another site, the men cried out in protest. Nuns on the battlefield had become a great comforts to the dying, and the soldiers passed around a petition urging them to stay.

As it circulated, one sick soldier delivered a speech praising the nuns, according to Pvt. William H. Nelson of the 19th Illinois Infantry. “I want to sign that paper. I would sign it 50 times, if asked,” the wounded soldier said. “For the sisters have been to me as my mother since I have been here and, I believe, had I been here before, I would have been well long ago. But if the sisters leave, I know I shall die.” More than 230 men signed the petition, and the nuns stayed.
Some 700 religious sisters ministered Civil War battlefields, offering respite from the horrors of combat. Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Sisters of Charity were the largest group, with more than 300 sisters ministering to Union and Confederate troops alongside Catholic priests and Protestant ministers.

Shortly after the war, Catholic historian David Power Conyngham compiled testimonies, letters and newspaper clippings about the veteran Catholic chaplains and religious sisters. After his death, Conyngham’s manuscript was forgotten in the University of Notre Dame’s archives. Now it is being published as “Soldiers of the Cross.”

It’s telling that the sisters left little in testimony about themselves. What we know comes almost exclusively from the men they helped, and the book’s collection of primary documents shows soldiers offering high praise to the sisters. It’s unusual, considering the prevalent anti-Catholicism of antebellum America. But their service to American men of all faiths was living proof that these Catholics did not only take orders from the pope in Rome.

“I am not of your Church, and have always been taught to believe it to be nothing but evil,” an imprisoned Union soldier wrote to the Sisters of Mercy’s mother superior in an 1864 letter. “However, actions speak louder than words, and I am free to admit, that if Christianity does exist on the earth, it has some of its closest followers among the Ladies of your Order.”

Confederates shared similar sentiments. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard commended the “indefatigable” and “unremitting” service of the religious sisters who administered to his troops throughout the war. “Even Protestant commanding officers were always happy to avail themselves, in our hospitals, of the self-sacrificing, untiring and generous assistance of the ‘sisters’ who were so kind and devoted to the poor, helpless, sick, and wounded soldiers placed under their care, that these heroes of many hard fought battles, looked upon them as their own sisters or mothers,” he wrote.

The response was similar among the North’s leadership. Conyngham includes letters from Union Gens. George B. McClellan, George Meade and Philip Sheridan, all thanking the sisters for their intercession. Gen. Ambrose Burnside offered the highest praise, saying that his words could never describe the gratitude his men felt for the sisters’ deeds. “Of the Sisters of Mercy there is little need for me to speak,” he wrote. “Their good deeds are written in the grateful hearts of thousands of our soldiers, to whom they were ministering angels.”

Officers wrote personal commendations of the sisters. John E. Michener, a Union soldier captured in the summer of 1864, in a letter thanked the Sisters of Mercy at the Confederate hospital in Charleston, S.C., for bravely administering to men dying of yellow fever—even when Confederate officers were “too much alarmed to even furnish water for the sick and dying.” He added, “I know full well, that but for your untiring devotion to our helpless and unfortunate officers and soldiers, thousands to-day would have been sleeping the sleep that knows no waking.”

In one typical episode at a Kentucky hospital served by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, a Protestant chaplain witnessed a nun serve the sick without rest from daybreak until well past sunset. “It is as mystery to me, how those sisters can stand at their post without ever giving up,” he told a friend. Then, turning to the sister, he asked, “How do you account for it?” The nun only smiled at him and gestured to the rosary on her hip.

Mr. Rowan is a media analyst at the Washington Free Beacon.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

New and Noteworthy--The Army of Tennessee's Failure To Win

ConqueredConquered: Why The Army of Tennessee Failed, Larry J. Daniel, University of North Carolina Press, 440pp., 5 maps, 7 tables, 7 illustrations, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index, $35.00

Why did the Confederate Army of Tennessee consistently suffer military defeats? The Army of Northern Virginia won most of their battles until 1864. Was it just a matter of a different caliber of generals?  Some notable historians answer the question with an affirmation and that personalities made the difference and that there were Virginians and then there was everybody else.

Larry J. Daniel states that generalship of one of several factors and the other factors included sectionalism inside the Army of Tennessee's ranks, geography and rivers defied tactical solutions. Regional politics which included reluctant Kentuckians and eastern Tennesseans were also a cause of dissent among officers and enlisted men. An ill-trained officer corps lacked both skills and a depth of talent. Its cavalry corps was handicapped by a lack of disciplined leadership and a preponderance of strategic mis-directions, and tactical mis-fortunes. If the Army of Northern Virginia is a exhibit of the vitality of the Confederacy then the Army of Tennessee is an exhibit of the fragility of the Confederacy.  And yet the Army of Tennessee stayed on the field.

Stanley Horn's 1941 The Army of Tennessee and Thomas Connelly's 1971 two volumes, The Army of the Heartland and The Autumn of Glory, Richard McMurray's Two Great Rebel Armies each present political, logistical, and geographic factors combining with dysfunctional personalities and naive, independent spirits. Daniel's work is much like Joseph Glatthaar's and George Rable's works which combines war, society, and the natural environment to evaluate Confederate military commanders and their troops. Daniel views the Army of Tennessee of 1861 and 1862 as having flawed foundations resting on sectionalism and professional incompetence. Redeeming characteristics include the brotherhood of Tennesseans and the sway of evangelical Christianity in general over the troops of several states. Also, Daniel's review of arms and ammunition supplies, food and horses availability was sufficient in general but the ability to transport these to an army on campaign or in winter quarters was sadly lacking.

Daniel offering of diaries, letters to home and letters to newspapers is notable and convincing of the larger points which he makes. His coverage of the Army of Tennessee's campaigns and battles is insightful and at times, even suspenseful. Conquered: Why The Army of Tennessee Failed is a cogent and clearly written exposition of the victories and defeats, the tribulations and trials, and perseverance of volunteer soldiers pressed on all sides but enduring through the last days.

From the Publisher:  Operating in the vast and varied trans-Appalachian west, the Army of Tennessee was crucially important to the military fate of the Confederacy. But under the principal leadership of generals such as Braxton Bragg, Joseph E. Johnston, and John Bell Hood, it won few major battles, and many regard its inability to halt steady Union advances into the Confederate heartland as a matter of failed leadership. Here, esteemed military historian Larry J. Daniel offers a far richer interpretation. Surpassing previous work that has focused on questions of command structure and the force's fate on the fields of battle, Daniel provides the clearest view to date of the army's inner workings, from top-level command and unit cohesion to the varied experiences of common soldiers and their connections to the home front. Drawing from his mastery of the relevant sources, Daniel's book is a thought-provoking reassessment of an army's fate, with important implications for Civil War history and military history writ large.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

New and Noteworthy--Chaplains, Missionaries and Soldiers On Campaign

In God's Presence: Chaplains, Missionaries and Religious Space During the American Civil War, Benjamin Miller, University of Kansas Press, 256 pages, illustrations, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index. $39.95

Benjamin Miller sheds light  on how wartime clergy interacted with soldiers, both blue and gray. Could soldiers and pastors construct roles and a spaces for religious faith in the midst of winter encampments, campaigns, battles, hospitals, prisons and graveyards? To do so successfully, some practices had to be jettisoned and new practises had to be created.

The author compares and contrasts our current notions of religious space with the notions that mid-19th century individuals held. He defines religious space as the place where one confers with the divine, a physical site that offers spiritual guidance and fulfillment. It is a space both inside a building or tent or outside of any structure and located in the natural environment. Religious spaces may in the midst of profane space where gambling, profanity and drunkenness competes with the presence of the sacred.

In God's Presence offers detailed evidence from soldiers' and chaplains' diaries, letters and recollections. During the pre-war era, there were substantial differences in religious practices of the North and the South, in the enthusiastic or emotional, and reflective or meditative worship practices.
With few exceptions, the author finds that chaplains and missionaries ministered to men regardless of religious beliefs, racial identities or army affiliations.

The  environment of encampments, marches and prison camps fostered the abandonment of denominations and  sectarian differences.  Ecumenicism fostered by the limited resources of chaplains who lived and traveled along side soldiers. The antebellum lives of clergy, their worldviews and practices are examined. The changes that occurred among the clergy is discussed, as is the worldviews, patriotism, and near-death experiences of the soldiers.

Soldiers as worshipers are thoroughly presented: antebellum religious beliefs and practices, wartime adaptations in the roles and work of pastors, and the creation of literature devoted to soldiers' considerations of the role of providence during wartime.Throughout In God's Presence: Chaplains, Missionaries and Religious Space During the American Civil War, Benjamin Miller offers the words of the soldiers as they describe their inner conflicts, psychological changes, and their sense of loss and even abandonment of previously held understanding of their faith. What is remarkable is that Miller includes the a consideration of the creation, development and change over four years of war and during the post-war years of the soldiers' beliefs regarding American civil religion.  In God's Presence is a balanced work of both personal and public histories, both individual and denominational confessions of faith, and the experience of personal grief and societal shock at the loss of lives on battlefields and prison camps.

From the publisher: When thousands of young men in the North and South marched off to fight in the Civil War, another army of men accompanied them to care for these soldiers spiritual needs. In God’s Presence explores how these two cohorts of men, Northern and Southern and mostly Christian, navigated the challenges of the Civil War on battlefields and in military camps, hospitals, and prisons.
In wartime, military clergy—chaplains and missionaries—initially attempted to replicate the idyllic world of the antebellum church. Instead they found themselves constructing a new religious world—one in which static spaces customarily invested with religious meaning, such as houses and churches, gave way to dynamic sacred spaces defined by clergy to suit changing wartime circumstances.

At the same time, the religious beliefs that soldiers brought from home differed from the religious practices that allowed them to endure during wartime. With reference to Civil War soldiers’ diaries, letters, and memoirs, this book asks how clergy shaped these practices; how they might have differed from camp to battlefield, hospital, or prison; and how this experience affected postbellum religious belief and practice.
Religion and war have always been at the center of the human condition, with warfare often leading to heightened religiosity. The Civil War cannot be fully explained without understanding religions role in the conflict. In God’s Presence advances this understanding by offering critical insight into the course and consequences of America’s epochal fratricidal war

Monday, May 20, 2019

New and Noteworthy—The Seventh West Virginia Infantry: Embattled Regiment for the War’s Most Divided State

978-0-7006-2753-0The Seventh West Virginia Infantry: An Embattled Union Regiment From the Civil War’s Most Divided State, David W. Mellott and Mark A. Snell, University of Kansas Press, 354 pages, epilog, 4 appendices, index, 38 illustrations, 11 maps, bibliographic notes, bibliography, $34.95.

Some regiments were known as ‘Bloody’, ‘Hard Luck’, ‘Cowards’; some brigades were known as ‘Iron’, ‘Irish’ or ‘Excelsior’.  There was one Gibraltar Brigade and the Seventh West Virginia was a four year member of it.  The Seventh West Virginia had a four year enrollment of 1,528 soldiers and 315 total deaths in battles, wounds and disease. Of the 315 deaths, 108 were killed outright or mortally wounded on the battlefields. During the Battle of Antietam  the Seventh sustained a casualty rate higher than 45 percent with 12 percent of those killed or mortally wounded when it took flanking fire from Confederate troops in the Sunken [Bloody Lane] Road. 

Through much of the war, the Gibraltar Brigade was composed of the 4th Ohio Infantry, 8th Ohio Infantry, 14th Indiana Infantry, and the 7th West Virginia Infantry. The brigade was augmented by the 24th and 28th New Jersey before the Battle of Fredericksburg. Before the Overland Campaign in early 1864, its ranks were bolstered by the addition of the 1st Delaware, 12th New Jersey, and the 10th New York Battalion. It was commanded by brigadier generals Nathan Kimball, Samuel S. Carroll, and Thomas A. Smyth.  By the battle of Gettysburg, the Seventh West Virginia’s ten companies were consolidated into five companies and recognized as a battalion.

On April 17, 1861, the Virginia state convention in Richmond declared secession. Nearly all delegates from counties west of the Allegheny Mountains voted against secession. On May 15, western Virginia Unionists convened in Wheeling, Virginia located in the northern panhandle of the state. The convention only denounced secession and called for a formal election of delegates. Elected delegates met in the second session on 11 June 11 and on the 20th created the Restored Government of Virginia.

Comparatively speaking, Mellot’s and Snell’s is much like the ‘drum and bugle’ histories similar to Pullen’s 20th Maine, Gibbs’ 11th Pennsylvania Reserves and Moe’s 1st Minnesota regimental histories but Mellot and Snell have crafted their Seventh West Virginia story similar to Gordon’s A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut and Brandt’s 87th Pennsylvania works. Yet, socioeconomic, military, medical, political and personal perspectives are blended together. 

In four appendices the authors provide the age distribution, the birth places and the prewar occupations of all enrolled soldiers. Additionally hospitalization statistics are offered. Statistics, letters, diaries, journals, newspapers, official correspondence are honed and balance to create a compelling story of a distinctly ‘bloody’ regiment. The authors acknowledge the assets offered by Shepherd University [WV] and the George Tyler Moore Center which have compiled both pertinent West Virginian statistical databases and primary source collections. 
The Seventh West Virginia Infantry: An Embattled Union Regiment From the Civil War’s Most Divided State is a splendid contribution to the field of American Civil War regiments. 

From The Publisher: Though calling itself “The Bloody Seventh” after only a few minor skirmishes, the Seventh West Virginia Infantry earned its nickname many times over during the course of the Civil War. Fighting in more battles and suffering more losses than any other West Virginia regiment, the unit was the most embattled Union regiment in the most divided state in the war. Its story, as it unfolds in this book, is a key chapter in the history of West Virginia, the only state created as a direct result of the Civil War. It is also the story of the citizen soldiers, most of them from Appalachia, caught up in the bloodiest conflict in American history.

The Seventh West Virginia fought in the major campaigns in the eastern theater, from Winchester, Antietam, and Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Petersburg. Weaving military, social, and political history, The Seventh West Virginia Infantry details strategy, tactics, battles, campaigns, leaders, and the travails of the rank and file. It also examines the circumstances surrounding events, mundane and momentous alike such as the soldiers’ views on the Emancipation Proclamation, West Virginia Statehood, and Lincoln’s re-election. The product of decades of research, the book uses statistical analysis to profile the Seventh’s soldiers from a socio-economic, military, medical, and personal point of view; even as its authors consult dozens of primary sources, including soldiers’ living descendants, to put a human face on these “sons of the mountains.” The result is a multilayered view, unique in its scope and depth, of a singular Union regiment on and off the Civil War battlefield—its beginnings, its role in the war, and its place in history and memory.

About the Authors
David W. Mellott is a lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio. Several of his ancestors fought in the Seventh West Virginia.
Mark A. Snell is the retired professor of history and director of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Shepherd University, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Snell is the author of many works on Civil War history, including West Virginia and the Civil War: Mountaineers Are Always Free.