Friday, June 19, 2015

Civil Rights Pioneer Elbert Williams to be remembered

I received this information on an event that will be taking place tomorrow. Sorry for not getting it posted earlier.

On Saturday, June 20, 2015, the Brownsville, Tennessee community will gather for the delayed memorial of Civil Rights Pioneer Elbert Williams at Haywood High School. Williams is the first known National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) official to be killed for his involvement in the local civil rights movement.
Light refreshments will be provided. The memorial service will begin promptly at 9 a.m. in the gymnasium and will feature NAACP National President Cornell William Brooks as the guest speaker.

At 11 a.m., a state historical marker will be unveiled in downtown Brownsville.

Following the unveiling, members of the Elbert Williams Memorial Committee will be available for media interviews at the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, 121 W. Main Street, on the first floor level.

A brief service will be held at 1 p.m. at Taylor Cemetery, where Williams is buried.

Follow this link to view a map and directions for Saturday’s memorial service:

A live stream of the memorial service will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.  Log on to to view. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Book Review: The Civil War Navy in Florida

Mattson, Robert A. The Civil War Navy in Florida. Self published, Palatka, FL. 2014. 194 pages, 161 pages of text. 2 appendices, bibliography, index. B/w photos. ISBN 9780692258743, $18.99.

The Civil War in Florida is an area that is starting to receive more and more interest. In the past few years there have been several major academic works to be published including those by Zach Waters and also by Jonathan Sheppard. I have made my own small contribution to the literature on the state during the war. Historians often find source material thin and many times interest low. "Oh, nothing happened there" is often heard.

An area that has been often ignored is the role of the Navy, both Union and Confederate, during the War. George Buker has written a very good book but it deals strictly with the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Living historian and blogger Rob Mattson has written a book that helps fill in some of the gaps.

The book starts out with a chapter outlining Civil War navies including a look at the major players, a listing of ranks and a discussion about integration in the US Navy; 16% of enlisted sailors were black according to Mattson. The second chapter gives a general overview of the Navies at the start of the war and their role in Florida. The Confederates really had none while the Union was taking over major ports and yards while attempting to impose a blockade.

The next four chapters discuss various geographic points in Florida and the actions that took place there: the Panhandle, Northeast, South and Tampa Bay. These chapters generally run chronologically. The final chapter covers 1865 and Mattson's concluding thoughts.

The book concludes with an appendix covering the major ships including type, dimensions and known armaments. This information is compiled from the ORN. A second appendix covers historical sites associated with the Navies that can be visited. The bibliography is broken down by books, articles and web resources.

As with many self published (and for that matter traditionally published) books there are some editing issues. On page 11 James McPherson is referred to as Bruce McPherson. Later on the Union ship Ethan Allen is spelled both Ethan and Ethen. These are really minor quibbles in an otherwise fine book.

While certainly not the final word on naval actions in the state of Florida this is a very good start and one that anybody studying the subject, or Florida in the War, should considering owning.

By way of full disclosure: Mr. Mattson has provided a review copy of this book and will also be speaking at the museum where I am employed.

New Releases from Southern Illinois University Press

Thanks going out to Southern Illinois University Press for sending along copies of two new releases. The Grant book looks particularly interesting especially since I have failed to read his Memoirs yet.

Marszalek, John F. editor. The Best Writings of Ulysses S. Grant (The World of Ulysses Grant) .
Famous for his military acumen and for his part in saving the Union during the American Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant also remains known for his two-volume memoirs, considered among the greatest military Memoirs ever written. Grant’s other writings, however, have not received the same acclaim, even though they show the same literary skill. Originally published in the thirty-two volumes of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, the letters and speeches are the major source of information about Grant’s life and era and have played a key role in elevating his reputation to that of the leading general of the Civil War and the first of the modern presidents. In this collection, editor John F. Marszalek presents excerpts from Grant’s  most insightful and skillfully composed writings and provides perspective through introductory comments tying each piece to the next. The result is a fascinating overview of Grant’s life and career.

In sixteen chronological chapters, selections from Grant’s letters and other writings reveal his personal thoughts on the major events of his momentous life, including the start of the Civil War, the capture of Vicksburg, Lincoln’s reelection, Lee’s surrender, his terms as president, the Panic of 1873, and his bouts of mouth and throat cancer. Throughout, Grant’s prose reveals clearly the power of his words and his ability to present them well. Although some historians have maligned his presidency as one of the most corrupt periods in American history, these writings reinforce Grant’s greatness as a general, demonstrate the importance of his presidency, and show him to be one of the driving forces of the nineteenth century.

With this compendium, Marszalek not only celebrates the literary talent of one of America’s greatest military figures but also vindicates an individual who, for so long, has been unfairly denigrated. A concise reference for students of American history and Civil War enthusiasts as well as a valuable introduction for those who are new to Grant’s writings, this volume provides intriguing insight into one of the nineteenth century’s most important Americans.

Medford Edna Greene. Lincoln and Emancipation (Concise Lincoln Library).

In this succinct study, Edna Greene Medford examines the ideas and events that shaped President Lincoln’s responses to slavery, following the arc of his ideological development from the beginning of the Civil War, when he aimed to pursue a course of noninterference, to his championing of slavery’s destruction before the conflict ended. Throughout, Medford juxtaposes the president’s motivations for advocating freedom with the aspirations of African Americans themselves, restoring African Americans to the center of the story about the struggle for their own liberation.

Lincoln and African Americans, Medford argues, approached emancipation differently, with the president moving slowly and cautiously in order to save the Union while the enslaved and their supporters pressed more urgently for an end to slavery. Despite the differences, an undeclared partnership existed between the president and slaves that led to both preservation of the Union and freedom for those in bondage. Medford chronicles Lincoln’s transition from advocating gradual abolition to campaigning for immediate emancipation for the majority of the enslaved, a change effected by the military and by the efforts of African Americans. The author argues that many players—including the abolitionists and Radical Republicans, War Democrats, and black men and women—participated in the drama through agitation, military support of the Union, and destruction of the institution from within. Medford also addresses differences in the interpretation of freedom: Lincoln and most Americans defined it as the destruction of slavery, but African Americans understood the term to involve equality and full inclusion into American society. An epilogue considers Lincoln’s death, African American efforts to honor him, and the president’s legacy at home and abroad.

Both enslaved and free black people, Medford demonstrates, were fervent participants in the emancipation effort, showing an eagerness to get on with the business of freedom long before the president or the North did. By including African American voices in the emancipation narrative, this insightful volume offers a fresh and welcome perspective on Lincoln’s America.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Week of Losses

This week has been a tough one for those of us who study history.

April 14 and 15 mark the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

April 15 marks the 103rd anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Today I also received the news of the passing of a true Civil War scholar; Elizabeth Brown Pryor who passed away in an automobile accident yesterday. You may read more about her and the accident here. The book she is most known for in Civil War circles would be Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters.

Friday, March 27, 2015

New World War I DVD Available in April

An outstanding cast of acclaimed British actors bring the First World War to life;
Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) narrates this touching documentary which stars Claire Foy, Matthew McNulty, Alison Steadman, Daniel Mays, Romola Garai, and Brian Cox
DVD Debut from Athena on April 14, 2015
“An incredibly moving testament” Daily Express
“Fascinating insight” The Newcastle Journal
“Outstanding actors…read earnestly, with heartfelt honesty” Daily Mail
“Beautifully captured an era” Daily Mail
Silver Spring, MD — Following the centennial of WWI, World War One: The People’s Story makes it’s DVD debut on April 14, 2015 from Athena, an RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) brand. An outstanding cast of acclaimed British actors bring the First World War to life in this stirring documentary created to commemorate the conflict’s centennial in 2014. This unique four-part series mixes archival footage with reenactments by actors playing real participants in the war and performing excerpts from their original letters, memoirs, and diaries of the time. The series is narrated by Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) and stars Claire Foy (Little Dorrit), Matthew McNulty (The Paradise, Jamaica Inn), Alison Steadman (Pride & Prejudice), Daniel Mays (Ashes to Ashes), Romola Garai (Emma), and Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy). This DVD 2-disc set features four episodes plus a 21-page viewer’s guide ($39.99, Originally broadcast in the UK on ITV in August 2014, The People’s Story premiered in the US on Acorn.TV, the premier British TV streaming service in North America, in February 2015, and is available to available to stream any time on Acorn TV at www.Acorn.TV.
Through original diaries, letters, and memoirs, this unforgettable documentary tells how the lives of regular British men and women were transformed by the Great War. A reservist leaves for the front determined to write to his mother every few days. A newlywed says goodbye to his pregnant wife. A young woman fears that when her fiancĂ© sails for France, her hopes of marriage will disappear. For parents and children, soldiers and factory workers alike, life and love go on but never again as they did before. Few could imagine the horrors ahead: hundreds of thousands would never return, and those who did would carry wounds—physical, emotional, psychological—that would change their lives forever.
Along with historical footage, an outstanding cast of actors reenact first-hand accounts uncovered from attics, archives, and libraries across Britain. Narrated by Olivia Colman, this four-part series re-creates the extraordinary stories of ordinary people, told in their own words.
BONUS FEATURES: 12-page viewer’s guide with a map of the western front; an overview of WWI; and articles on trench warfare, the suffragist movement, and the WWI poets
Street Date: April 14, 2015                                SRP: $39.99     
DVD 2-Disc Set: 4 episodes – Approx. 192 min. – SDH Subtitles
UPC 0-54961-2324-9-9                           ISBN 978-1-62172-324-0
An RLJ Entertainment, Inc. brand (NASDAQ: RLJE), Athena releases provide an authoritative and entertaining learning experience through high quality, informative, non-fiction programming. Athena’s 2014 releases included: Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey, Secrets of Ancient Egypt, The Science of Measurement, Talks About Nothing, The Story of Medicine, Civil War: The Untold Story, Theatreland, The Rise of the Nazi Party, Alexander’s Lost World and David Suchet: In The Footsteps of St. Paul. 2015 releases include: The Story of Women and Art, World War I: The People’s Story, and Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets. Athena DVD sets are available from select retailers, catalog companies, and direct from RLJ Entertainment at (888) 870-8047 or

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Michigan Civil War Landmarks--New Book Release from The History Press

On Monday, April 13, The History Press will add Michigan Civil War Landmarks to its catalogue. Authors David Ingall and Karin Risko guide readers through the Civil War sites and landmarks of Michigan.

When America faced its greatest internal crisis, Michigan answered the call with over ninety thousand troops. The Story of that sacrifice is preserved in the state’s rich collection of Civil War monuments, markers, forts, cemeteries, reenactments, museums and exhibits. Discover how General George A. Custer and the famed Michigan Cavalry Brigade “saved the Union.” Visit the chair that President Lincoln was assassinated in at Ford’s Theatre, and view the grave of the last African American Union veteran. With a foreword by Civil War historian Jack Dempsey, this work is the first of its kind to chronicle the many Civil War Landmarks in the Wolverine State.

David Ingall is the former assistant director of the Monroe County Historical Museum and was the chairman of the monument dedication ceremony for the Monroe County Civil War Fallen Soldier’s Memorial. He is a sought-after Civil War speaker and tour guide. He’s a member of the Civil War Trust, Monroe County Civil War Round Table, and many other prestigious organizations.

Karin Risko is the founder of Hometown History Tours, a local tour company that shows off the rich history of Detroit and southeast Michigan, including its Civil War and Underground Railroad history. A member of the Detroit Metro CVB, Karin is frequently called on by local professional and social organizations to speak on local history.

New Fiction title-Daughter of the Regiment

For those who like historical fiction I received this press release recently from Hachette Book Group.

Stephanie Grace Whitson
“Whitson celebrates the strong but unknown heroines who marched off to war with their men, as well as those who maintained the home front in this Civil War-era inspirational...Based on true events, [Daughter of the Regiment] will capture the hearts of historical fiction fans.” —Publishers Weekly
During the American Civil War, thousands of women organized to join the war efforts, turning their attention from household to battle in support of the soldiers. In her new novel, DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT, Stephanie Grace Whitson describes this time in history through life-threatening encounters and action-filled romance, sweeping readers into the world of Irish immigrant Maggie Malone and her privileged neighbor Elizabeth Blair.

Maggie Malone inevitably experiences the effects of war firsthand—first, when her brothers join the Missouri Irish Brigade, and again when a group of unknown bandits attack her farm. Desperate to hear news from her brothers, Maggie sets off to find them at the Federal Army camp. There she quickly captures the admiration of Sergeant John “Colt” Coulter, who immediately notices her skill and dedication. When Maggie realizes that she must stay among the brigade, she discovers that there’s a lot a good woman can do to help these brave soldiers in need.
As the hostess to an acclaimed Missouri plantation, Miss Libbie Blair has learned to play her part and remain uninvolved in the business affairs and political aspirations of her brother, Walker. When his endeavors lead him to organize the “Wildwood Guard,” a group of locals in support of the Confederacy, Libbie must gracefully manage the house with officers camped out on the lawn. With war drawing closer to her doorstep, she must find a way to protect those who depend on her.
Despite being neighbors, Maggie and Libbie have led such different lives that they barely know one anotheruntil war brings them together, and each woman discovers that friendship can come from the unlikeliest of places.
Whitson brings extensive research on the role women played in the military during the American Civil War to life in DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT. These women, known as “vivandiers” or “daughters of the regiment,” were continuously finding ways to work on the front lines of battle. With Missouri as a border state in the war, Maggie and Libbie represent the efforts from two opposing sides and demonstrate that we all have potential for determination and courage in times of uncertainty.
About the Author
Stephanie Grace Whitson is the author of over 20 inspirational novels and two works of nonfiction. She received her Master of Arts degree in history in 2012. Whitson is a frequent guest lecturer for quilt guilds, civic organizations, libraries and historical sites, and she has keynoted conferences throughout the Midwest. When Stephanie isn’t writing, speaking, or trying to keep up with her five grown children and perfect grandchildren, she loves to take long distance rides aboard her Honda Magna motorcycle named Kitty. Her church and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum take up the rest of her free time. Stephanie resides with her husband in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Pub date: March 24, 2015 | 978-1-4555-2903-2| 336 Pages | $15 | Trade Paperback Original  | Available where books are sold.