Sunday, December 27, 2009

Upcoming Posts

Recently I've acquired some great books that I hope to actually have time to read. With the busy season coming up at work it'll take a bit longer than normal but I'll get through.

I recently finished reading Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine written by Thomas A. Desjardin and enjoyed it. I hope to the review posted shortly. I have a 40 minute drive each way to work and home so my wife has gotten me started on audio books. I've recently listened to A. Lincoln by Ronald White and also to General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse written by Joseph Glatthaar. I enjoyed both and even though I couldn't really take notes on either I'll put up some details regarding them shortly.

Within the last month or so I have been in contact with Scott Mingus Sr. and have purchased two books directly from him that I am looking forward to. The first is Flames Beyond Gettysburg and the second is The Louisiana Tigers in the Gettysburg Campaign. Scott writes a couple of interesting blogs that you can visit here and here. Contact him directly (his email is on his blog or if you are a friend through Facebook contact him there) for inscribed and signed copies.

Jim M. Schmidt is another blogger that I follow. His blogs are here and here. Through his blogs I recently ordered his books Years of Change and Suffering (OK he's a co-editor but he does have an essay in the book) and the book I am currently reading Lincoln's Labels. Check out his interesting blogs and order a book if you are inclined. It's easy to do and can be paid through paypal.

Just as an FYI both Scott and Jim shipped their books very quickly and were both great to deal with and very appreciative of a future reader. It's always good to support authors directly when possible, plus you can get really nice inscriptions in your books. The reviews I have seen on their books have been positive and I am looking forward to all of them.

Some others in the pipe are War Like the Thunderbolt written by Russell S. Bonds. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bonds and if you get a chance to hear him speak don't miss out. This book was recently named by as a top history book for 2009. If it is anywhere near as good as Stealing the General it will be a great read. I am also looking forward to Like a Meteor Blazing Brightly written by historian, author, blogger, attorney, etc. Eric Wittenberg. Last but not least is a Christmas gift from my wife; The New Civil War Handbook written by Mark Hughes and published by Savas Beatie.

As if this wasn't enough there's the ever increasing pile of magazines!

Happy reading!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Newsletter Review--The Lincoln Forum Bulletin

The Lincoln Forum Bulletin. Issue 26, Fall 2009.

I recently received the new issue of the Lincoln Forum Bulletin published by the Lincoln Forum. This is only the second issue I have received but I have been impressed by both. The quality of the writing as well as the physical quality of the newsletter are above most.

The lead article this issue is titled Sandra Day O'Connor Earns the Lincoln Forum Award of Achievement. In addition to being the first woman Supreme Court justice O'Connor has written several books, chaired the 2007 400th anniversary of Jamestown, founded the website, and was the featured speaker at the 1998 Gettysburg ceremony honoring the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's speech dedicating the Soldier's National Cemetery. This just scratches the surface of the achievements of this remarkable woman.

Further articles include News From the Lincoln Bicentennial: The Celebration Continues, Abraham Lincoln: Made in New York which focuses on the New York Historical Society exhibition titled Lincoln and New York, Lincoln Briefs: Recent News and Notes, and The Lincoln Forum Scholarship Essay. A full page article titled In Memoriam: William Safire, Merrill Peterson, Milton Metzler memorializes these great writers. The back cover article is titled Rededicating A National Landmark: The Lincoln Memorial at Four Score and Seven. This briefly discusses the ceremony that took place 87 years after the original dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. The issue wraps up with New on the Lincoln Bookshelf, which contains brief overviews on nine new Lincoln books.

The article I may find most interesting though is a very brief one titled Thanks for Family which discusses the reality of the Lincoln family in light of the scene painted by Francis Carpenter (shown at left). It discusses how this painting was really pieced together as a "composite dream of what might have been had the Lincolns lived ordinary lives around the dinner table." The main pose is based upon the famous Matthew Brady photo of the president and son Tad. Mary provided photos of herself, Robert, and her late son Willie from which Carpenter was to work. The work is still popular today and is included in the NYHS exhibit and is also available for purchase as a fine art print.

Yet again a nice newsletter from a fine organization. If you are interested in Lincoln this is an organization you should consider being a member of.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Federal grant to help digitize Lincoln documents

OK $50,000 is just a drop in a $600,000 bucket but it's a pretty good start and considering what a lot of federal money goes for this is a great change of pace. Once completed this project will allow everyone access to the Lincoln Collection held at the Allen County Public Library.

Read further here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Russell Bonds speaks on Stealing the General

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting Russell Bonds and hearing him speak on his wonderful book Stealing the General. Mr. Bonds was the guest speaker at the Christmas meeting of the W.W. Loring Camp 1316 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Mr Bonds uncle, the late Jan Parham, had invited him to speak. Mr. Bonds gave an interesting talk which was enhanced with a PowerPoint presentation. While I have read and highly recommend Stealing the General I was able to learn some new things. The city now known as Atlanta went through several name changes but did you know that Atlanta is actually an old Cherokee word for "to change planes"? (See Russ we really were paying attention).

In all seriousness Russ gave a very interesting talk and if you get a chance to see him I highly recommend making the time. In addition to a great talk Russ was genuinely glad to "press the flesh". When I walked in he recognized me within literally just a couple of minutes and came and introduced himself. He introduced my wife and I around to several people including is aunt and charming wife Jill. He really made a positive impression on me as an author, speaker, and person. My wife, who despite having been a history major is not enthralled by the Civil War, told me the talk was interesting enough she may have to read the book herself. She'll have to get her own copy though because she can't have my signed hardback copy!

I had never been to a SCV event before and was not sure what to expect. I must admit my wife and I were treated with kindness and respect by everybody. I was wearing my FSU windbreaker and stepped outside for a few minutes. A young man who happens to be a University of Florida fan struck up a conversation with me about college football and we had a really nice talk. Many others came up to say hi to the "new couple" and all were pleasant. Even new camp commander James Davis talked to me and made a point to tell me I was always welcome and he'd love to see me again. The United Daughters of the Confederacy even talked to my wife and promised to send her information. Whether we have any interest in joining these groups isn't relevant it's that they tried to make sure we didn't feel like outsiders.

Overall 5/5 stars on the presentation. And to think all it cost me was a trip to the St. Augustine Outlet Mall afterwards! That's a whole different story though.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Newsletter Review--The Surratt Courier

The Surratt Courier. The Surratt Society. December 2009, Volume XXXIV No. 12.

The December issue of the Surratt Courier arrived in the mail today. Included is the normal brief President's Message, Mark Your Calendar for upcoming events, New members listing, and a brief update on "cosmetic surgery" going on at the Surratt House and surrounding buildings.

The main article this month is a six page article titled "The Missing Confederate Gold: Raid at Chennault, Georgia, May 24, 1865" written by Marshall P. Waters III. The article briefly discusses what happened to the Confederate treasury that left Richmond with Jefferson Davis and his cabinet. An interesting article that doesn't seem to have a direct relation to the Surratt family or the Lincoln assassination.

The book linked to below deals with the Confederate treasury after the war. I have not read the book so I have no comment as to whether it is good or not. The Amazon reviews are positive for whatever that is worth.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Help Franklin's Charge Battlefield and get great cookies

Christie's Cookies is offering to donate 20% of your online purchase price to the Franklin's Charge Battlefield charity now through December 25th. Be sure to use Special Offer Keycode: 25K19 so that the donation can be made.

Franklin just fell short in the contest Christie's had earlier this year on their website so here's a chance to get some great cookies and support a worthy cause!

Painless way to help the CWPT

For most of us the Civil War Preservation Trust is a cause we deeply support. In addition to being a member I'm sure many of us contribute to the long list of preservation efforts that we receive mailers or email on. Here's another way we can help out. Do you sell on eBay? If so, consider donating a portion of your sales to the CWPT. It's as easy as selecting "giving works" when setting up your auction. You can choose amounts from 10-100% of each auctions final bid price. eBay will even credit part of your fees back in the percentage of your donation. If you donate 10% they will refund 10% of your listing AND final value fees. Remember donations can also be tax deductible for some people.

Do you bid on eBay? Be sure to check out the listings that qualify for donations to the CWPT. It's not many right now but how about bookmarking the site and checking occasionally. Support sellers that support a much needed group. You can also go to the main giving works page and by typing in "civil war" you get this list of groups that are Civil War related.

It may not be much but every dollar helps these organizations carry on the vital services they provide.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Book Review--The Mule Shoe

Trouche, Perry. The Mule Shoe. Star Cloud Press. Scottsdale, AZ. 2009, 216 pages. $18.95.

I would imagine every soldier who goes off to war has lingering doubts as to whether they are good enough. They also have concerns about those they have left behind. To top it all off those in war see sights the rest of us never dream of in our worst nightmares and many are never able to forget them. Dr. Perry Trouche, a psychiatrist from Charleston, South Carolina, has written a quick moving story dealing with these issues in his fictionalized account of a Confederate soldier whose regiment is on their way to Spotsylvania.

Connor Dumont is the newbie who is often picked upon by veteran soldiers. Characters (voices in his head) from his past including Grandma Mamere who berates him and constantly tells him he's not brave enough or good enough, Ezekiel the slave who condemns him for being a slaveholder, and others show up on a regular basis. As Connor loses friends and fellow soldiers in battle they too end up in his mind gnawing away to what sanity is left. Many times these voices battle for space in Connor's mind all looking to exert influence over him. Connor survives and begins working towards normalcy all the while changed due to the horrors he has witnessed and participated in.

The Civil War was not pretty and Dr. Trouche does not attempt to mask the violence. Soldiers are killed and their deaths are not sugar coated. This is how it should be. If you are going to write a war-time story tell it like it was. Overall I found Dr. Trouche to write engagingly and the book flowed well. The speech worked for me and sounded realistic.

For me however this story really could have been any war and Connor transported in time. For whatever reason I didn't really get a "Civil War vibe" out of the book. I can't put my finger on why however. Maybe it's because the main focus is on the lead character rather than the war itself.

A couple of small issues I noted...There were times when I found it difficult to keep track of what was real vs. what was being played out in Connor's head. I found myself on occasion rereading sections to make sure I understood what was happening. Maybe putting the sections that are in Connor's head in italics would make it easier for readers. On a picky note there are some spelling and grammatical errors spread throughout that could have been picked up during the editing process. And for me what I really didn't understand was why in a book dealing with Spotsylvania is the cover photo "Confederate Soldiers after the Battle of Gettysburg". It's a great Matthew Brady photo but it seems a bit out of place. I suppose though casual reader would not even notice such or care one way or the other.

While not the best work of fiction I have read this is a story that moves along well. The writing is enjoyable and accessible. Dr. Trouche creates atmosphere nicely. You are not going to learn anything about the Civil War here but that's not the point as I see it. You will however be entertained and that is the point. Overall a good read and recommended for times when you don't want anything too involved.

Thanks to the good people at Star Cloud Press for providing a review copy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Historic photos found under Ft. Worth bridge

A group of historic photos including those of John F. Kennedy's Dallas motorcade, Jesse Owens, Gwendolyn Brooks, and many others were found dumped under a bridge in Ft. Worth, Texas. These are items that may have been stolen five years ago from the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society. They were discovered by Ft. Worth Code Compliance.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

CWPT New Goal--Appomattox Station

The Civil War Preservation Trust has a new goal. If they are able to raise a mere $15,000 they will be able to use federal and state matching funds along with a private donor to purchase 46 acres at Appomattox Station . The CWPT has put together an amazing $115 to $1 set of matching funds. Check the site to learn more about this incredible opportunity and to see the great maps they have available.

If you can, please consider a donation to help preserve this important land forever.

World's Ugliest Buildings

I came across this just now and wanted to share it. With libraries being such an important part of life for researchers and readers I found it interesting that there were several on the Travel and Leisure listing of World's Ugliest Buildings. The monstrosity on the left is the National Library in Minsk, Belarus.

Just a warning this loaded ran extremely slow on my computer even with high speed internet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Review--Stealing the General

Bonds, Russell S. Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor. Westholme Publishing, Yardley, PA. 2006. 444 pages, 374 pages of text, maps, b/w photos, notes, bibliography, index.

It's a story many have heard of but how much do most people really know. Once you read Russell Bonds masterful work Stealing the General you'll know just about all there is to know on "the great locomotive chase". Forget the Disney film read this book!

Bonds skillfully incorporates a large list of primary and secondary sources to paint a complete picture of the plan hatched by civilian James Andrews and Union Brigadier General Ormsby Mitchel. This daring plan called for Andrews and a group of Union soldiers to sneak behind enemy lines and steal a train in Atlanta, they would then head north leaving destruction, including burned bridges, torn up railroad tracks, and cut telegraph wires behind them on their way to Chattanooga where they would meet up with Mitchel's troops to capture the city and effectively cut the Confederacy in half.

Andrews and 24 recruits (Andrews Raiders) made it to Atlanta, not without difficulties, where they proceeded to steal the train engine, The General. What they did not count on was being followed by the Generals conductor William Allen Fuller and several others. Despite the difficulties of following on foot, hand car, and later on a train engine running in reverse, the Confederates did not give up and the raiders were all eventually captured and arrested.

Bonds proceeds to tell the story of trials, jails, evil jailers, prison escapes, recaptures, executions (Andrews was the first to be executed and Bonds paints a grim picture of what happened), prisoner exchanges, the Medal of Honor, life after the war for the remaining raiders (some good and some bad), GAR reunions, friendships made amongst former enemies, and later infighting amongst the survivors as to what actually happened and the role each played.

Bonds has proven himself a writer of remarkable skill. As mentioned he has covered all the sources. His bibliography itself is 12 pages and his notes run 45 pages. Bonds incorporates maps and black and white photos to help readers visualize the action and put faces to names and places. Even more impressive than all this is the readability of his work. The writing itself is a joy to read. Bonds keeps the story moving at a fast clip all the while seeming to cover all the bases. For anybody researching this story Bonds has written what can no doubt be considered at this time the definitive work.

For further information please be sure to visit Mr. Bonds website for this book. It's full of interesting information and is well worth a look.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Newsletter Review--Surratt Courier

The Surratt Courier. Volume XXXIV No. 11 November 2009.

The Surratt Society has issued it's latest monthly newsletter. The issue starts off with the normal monthly items such as the President's Message and Mark Your Calendars. This month also includes a letter to the editor which is really a followup by Guy Moore to the October article dealing with how authorities came to suspect the Surratt Boardinghouse.

S. J. Ackerman writes an article titled The Navy Yard Bridge and the Lincoln Assassination. This nearly 3 page article discusses the history of the bridge and how security surrounding it helped change Booth's plan from kidnapping to murder. This is a nicely endnoted article for those interested in following up on sources.

Lowell Edminster follows with a somewhat confusing article titled A Penny For Your Thoughts. This deals with the Lincoln cent coin. I say confusing because he discusses the 1909 minting and claims there are 6 versions. I only count 4 that he discussed.

Patrick Dunigan and Rick Smith close out the issue with an article titled Points on Powell To Ponder--Apparel Wise. This goes over clothing worn the night of the attempt on Secretary of State William Seward's life.

Overall a better issue than has been printed lately. Good to see more articles showing up. Hopefully a sign of future issues. If you are a member don't forget dues are due!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Olustee Battlefield

Located about two hours east of Tallahassee and about 5 miles off of I-10 sits a little known Civil War battlefield that seems like it has been forgotten. Granted not too much of importance happened in Florida battle-wise during the war however the Olustee Battlefield is certainly not a way to create interest amongst youth. In fact this is without doubt one of the most disappointing Civil War sites you will ever visit.

Once you turn in it starts to go downhill. Parking is not clearly marked and in fact--just park anywhere really. There is a little building that houses the "museum" if you wish to call it that. After you get past the crude sign on the door telling you to keep it closed so the air conditioning doesn't get out (trust me the air left long ago as it was hot in the building) you step into a small and dark room that contains a few minnie balls and a couple of uniforms that you can't tell if they are authentic or reproduction. The most interesting item on display is a battle flag but there was no marker to tell the visitor anything about it. Off in a side room is a tired television playing an old video about the park. We sat and watched for a few minutes but it didn't do anything for me.

Located in a display box is an assortment of pamphlets/books that are supposed to be available for purchase. Alas there is no bookstore, gift shop, or even human being anywhere to be seen. In fact there weren't even any maps or handouts with information on the battle or what is there.

Things don't get too much better once you step back outside. Seeing that you don't have any information to orient you to what is what the next logical step would be to look for interpretive markers or any kind of signs for help. Again, don't look too hard, you won't find them. What you will find are a couple of cannons with no signage to tell you whether they are authentic and if so if they were actually at the battle. There are also a couple of makers that have been placed to commemorate the battle. Once you have seen this I would suggest taking a pass on the nature trail. The portion we walked is like every other nature trail in Florida--pine needles, mosquitoes, some brush, lizards, and not a heck of a lot more. We walked the first portion and took the cut through that led back towards where we started. If there was more to see it was not marked at all so I doubt we missed anything by not going further.

Olustee Battlefield does host a large reenactment every February that might be worth going to but I don't think I'll be doing that. Unfortunately the battlefield is a long way from just about everything and does not make for a worthwhile day trip. If you are driving by then by all means stop but don't make a special trip.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Amelia Earhart records now online

I found this to be interesting and thought maybe some of my readers might as well. This file appears to be free fo the time being.

The following announcement was written by Allows Americans to Investigate for Themselves, 'What Really Happened to Amelia Earhart'PROVO, UT -- 10/23/09 -- There are multiple theories surrounding the mysterious disappearance of iconic aviator Amelia Earhart in 1937, but a unique case file published online for the first time ever by reveals more details., the world's largest online resource for family history, has published a 73-page file consisting of letters and telegrams sent in the 1960s by an interesting cast of historical characters, including Congressman J. Arthur Younger, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur II and members of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Department of State.

Now accessible for free on, the records give the public a first-hand view of the investigation into the claim that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were taken prisoner and executed in Saipan (then governed by Japan). Through the years, this adaptation of Earhart's death has become one of many theories surrounding her mystery-riddled disappearance."These records leave you wondering if historians and Hollywood have gotten Amelia's story right," said Quinton Atkinson, director of content acquisition for "They shed light on a theory of her disappearance that has all but been brushed aside."In the records, Congressman Younger asks the U.S. Department of State to look into Earhart's disappearance based on "increasing evidence that she did land and was executed in Saipan." Younger asked the department to investigate a lead by Thomas E. Devine, who stated that "he actually saw the grave of Amelia Earhart" while he was stationed in Saipan."It's been more than 70 years, yet Amelia's disappearance remains one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries," said Atkinson. "These files are a great representation of how historical records offer clues to our past. With records like these now accessible online, Americans can delve deeper into the mysteries and lore that shroud their family histories."The Earhart file is part of the Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad collection on, now searchable for free for a limited time. Digitized in conjunction with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), this Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad collection spans the 1960s and 1970s and comprises more than 80,000 records of Americans who died abroad.Whether a conspiracy theorist, a casual historian or simply curious -- learn more about the investigation into Amelia Earhart's disappearance and decide for yourself what happened by visiting Or see if you have a hero in your own family tree on is the world's largest online resource for family history and has digitized and put online over 4 billion records over the past twelve years. Ancestry users have created over ten million family trees containing over one billion profiles. has local Web sites directed at nine countries, and more than 8 million unique visitors spent more than 5 million hours on an Ancestry Web site in May 2009 (comScore Media Metrix, Worldwide). For more information on and its other family history resources, visit

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Magazine Review

Here's a very quick overview of a couple of magazines I have picked up recently. I haven't gotten into them in depth but I did want to post they are out with a brief look at what is included.

Blue & Gray. Volume XXVI Issue #2. $5.95. The main focus of this issue is the Battles of Bristoe Station written by J. Michael Miller. Included with the article are campaign and battle maps and also orders of battle for both 1862 and 1863. Also included is a driving tour of the battlefields that would prove invaluable when touring the area.

The monthly Wiley Sword's War Letters Series discusses Shiloh-Before and After with letters from a Sergeant of the 7th Illinois Infantry. A nice section of book reviews rounds out this issue.

A highly recommended magazine with nice maps that are easy to read. Both vintage and contemporary photos help round out the articles nicely.

North & South. Volume 11 Issue #5. $6.99. William Garrett Piston has this month's lead article with Struggle for the Trans-Mississippi. Alex Mendoza writes about the issues between Confederate generals Braxton Bragg and James Longstreet. Several other articles round out this issue including an article dealing with the making of the film Glory.

Overall not a bad looking issue. Period engravings and photos are mixed with some maps to help add to the articles. For me the maps are not of the quality that other Civil War magazines provide and this is something that should be addressed considering the scholarly bent that the magazine strives for.

I apologize for the bare bones nature of this post. I've gotten behind on my reading and just haven't gotten to these. I hope to be able to do a better job on future magazine issues and give them their due.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Upcoming posts

It seems like all I have done lately is add new books to my collection. I just ordered 5 from Nick and the Rocky Mountain CWRT, Brett just posted information on a great sale at UNC, and a few finds here and there on ebay and locally. Well I've got to start somewhere I guess so here are some that are in the works.

Currently I am reading Russell Bonds book Stealing the General. I've only just started but it's pretty good. He's been talking about loyalists in eastern Tennessee and since I have an ancestor from the area who was in the Union Cavalry he already has my interest even though the book won't focus on that. The writing is clear and I anticipate this to be a good read.

While at my local B&N a while ago I found a copy of Eric Wittenberg's Glory Enough For All on the bargain table (sorry Eric). I got started on it and admit I was kind of confused since I don't know much about the subject. It's one I'll be starting again though with more focus. I've read many good things about Eric's work and I can't imagine this is any different.

Recently I received in the mail a review copy of The Mule Shoe by Perry Trouche published by Star Cloud Press. I don't read a lot of fiction but this looks pretty interesting as Trouche melds "historical narrative with a clinical case study of Civil War trauma". The book is set along a backdrop of the battle at Spotsylvania. Could be good reading and thanks again to the good folks at Star Cloud Press for sending along a copy.

Happy reading!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Top 5 Most Metal Civil War Generals

Here's something you don't come across every day. I found this top 5 listing of "Most Metal Civil War Generals" in Revolver Magazine. This list was created by William Murderface of the band Dethlok and is included in the book The Official Heavy Metal Book of Lists.

5) Zebulon York--Zebulon! What a cool fucking name! It's like he was from outer space...And he graduated from fucking Transylvania University of Kentucky! What the fuck? Now that's metal!

4) Daniel Ruggles--Ruggles had the hugest fucking beard of the Civil War, and everyone knows that long hair is metal.

3) Stonewall Jackson--This guy was insane! Just look into his eyes. Definitely metal.

2) Maxcy Gregg--Tell me that name doesn't sound like a great fuckin' Southern metal band. Ladies and gentlemen, Maxcy Gregg! And he was fucking shot in the spine! Metal.

1) Ulysses S. Grant--In 1864, he made a brutal fucking mistake at Cold Harbor and got 7,000 dudes killed in half an hour. Plus, he was a drunk! Metal!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Review: The Story of Lee's Headquarters

Smith, Timothy H. The Story of Lee's Headquarters: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Thomas Publications. Gettysburg, PA. 1995. 92 pages, 67 pages of text. Index, notes, maps, b/w photos.

On the Chambersburg Pike, situated on Seminary Ridge, near the Quality Inn sits a small but extraordinary building today known as General Lee's Headquarters Museum. Author Timothy H. Smith takes us on a brief but enjoyable tour through the history of this building and the surrounding area that despite it's importance in the first days fighting is still not part of the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Built in 1833 or 1834 by Michael Clarkson the property was purchased by Thaddeus Stevens in trust for Mary Thompson in 1846. Ms. Thompson lived in the house until her death in 1873.

The house and it's occupants were witness to some of the heaviest fighting of the battle during the first days fight. The Confederates eventually were able to gain control of the area and force a Union retreat. The main escape route for Union soldiers was the Chambersburg Pike into Gettysburg toward Cemetery Hill. This came to be known as having to "run the gauntlet" due to the fact that Confederates were closing in on three sides. On the first day of battle more than 2,000 Union soldiers were taken prisoner here and also by being caught in the railroad cut just north of the Pike.

General Lee arrived during the late afternoon on July 1, 1863 and Smith uses many eyewitness accounts to place him inside the Thompson House. After the war the home became known as General Lee's Headquarters. Tourists came to see where Lee commanded from. In the fall of 1863 John Bachelder published a map with the Thompson House being labeled "Gen Lee Hd Qt's" (page 50). Many other maps labeled the house in a similar way.

Around the turn of the century a movement sprang forth to try and discredit the story that Lee used the Thompson House as his headquarters. One author, Henry Dustman, went so far as to claim Lee never set foot in the house. Another writer claimed to have interviewed a woman (he insinuated it was Mary Thompson) who claimed Lee did not stay at the house. The problem was the interview took place a year after Ms. Thompson died.

Brief mention is given to later owners of the house such as Clyde Daley and more recently Eric F. Larson. I would like to have known more about these men and the development of the museum and the grounds around it. That really does not seem to be important to the story Smith is telling and the book is not lessened in any way.

Smith has written a brief but fulfilling book on the Thompson House. He uses a nice mix of primary and secondary sources to prove that Lee was indeed at the Thompson House and that while he did not use it as an exclusive headquarters that is not what is important. What is important is that this house and the land surrounding it saw brutal fighting and we should remember what happened there. Overall a highly recommended book for anybody interested in the history of Gettysburg.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Newsletter Review--The Surratt Courier

The Surratt Courier. The Surratt Society. October 2009.

This issue of the Courier begins with the President's Message where Mary Kauffman announces that Tom Buckingham has been elected as the new President. There is also a list of upcoming events at the Surratt House. A brief listing of new books that are available through the Museum and a short word on the upcoming Robert Redford film The Conspirator wrap up the announcements.

The first article, written by Jim McKee, deals with the role that Fort Anderson State Historical Site played in the Lincoln assassination story. During the long bombardment of Fort Anderson several navy gunboats took part including the Montauk. After this battle the Montauk returned to the Washington Navy Yard for refitting where it was visited just hours before President and Mrs. Lincoln went to Ford's Theatre. After the assassination many of the conspirators were held aboard navy ships including the Montauk. Once John Wilkes Booth was found and killed at Garrett's Farm on April 26 his body was returned to Washington D.C. where it was taken to the Navy Yard and was placed where? You guessed it...on the Montauk.

The second article, written by Randal Berry, is titled "That Was A Night of Horrors" and deals with the question of how did detectives end up at the Surratt Boardinghouse within hours of the fatal shot being fired. By 2a.m. on April 15 detectives were knocking on the door looking for John Wiles Booth and John Surratt, neither of whom were there. The author provides five possible "tipsters" who might have led police to the the Surratt home. All five however are given reasons that they were most likely NOT the reason police arrived quickly. Another theory is put forth that the War Department already had information on the boardinghouse but the author believes this to have been "unsubstantiated paranoia" on the part of conspirators. Unfortunately the author fails to provide his reason that detectives were so quick to land at the Surratt Boardinghouse. For some reason the article concludes by telling us that the Surratt House now houses a Chinese restaurant. A brief series of end notes is included all of which are from secondary sources.

Membership in the Surratt Society is a bargain at $7 per year. For the price of a fast food meal you can help this organization continue providing it's services.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Magazine Review--Civil War Times December 2009

Civil War Times. Weider History Group. December 2009.

How is it possible that December magazine issues are out already? Well they are.

The cover article this month is titled "A Promise Fulfilled" written by noted Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. Here Holzer deals with the thorny issue of what did the Emancipation Proclamation really do. While maybe not immediately freeing the slaves Holzer says that Lincoln "...all but guaranteed democracy's life and slavery's death...He not only ended the shame of human bondage in America, but helped guarantee the survival of America itself." We meet up with Holzer again on the last page of this issue for his column "Looking at Lincoln" where he deals with a photograph of President Lincoln. This issue deals with the last photo of Lincoln taken: him lying in his coffin in the New York City City Hall Rotunda. The only known copy, squirreled away by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was found in the Nicolay Papers in 1952.

Gary Gallagher discusses the ups and downs in the perception of U.S. Grant in his article "Why Doesn't Grant Get the Love?" George Deutsch introduces us to the Weldon Railroad Raid in "Murder and Mayhem Rides the Rails". In "A White Man's War" Michael Fellman discusses William Sherman and his not wanting black troops. Sherman was many times quoted as saying that black troops were inferior and would run at danger. Fellman puts forth the view that Sherman was allowed to go against the wishes of President Lincoln only because Sherman was a fighter whose victories helped push the larger picture that Lincoln was trying to achieve.

In an interesting article noted British historian John Keegan is asked to rate many of the U.S. Civil War generals. The results are probably not a large shock. Union generals U.S. Grant and William T. Sherman are rated as great with Grant being given the nod as the greatest general of the war. Just below these two is Robert E. Lee who Keegan says "...would have shone in any of the contemporary European wars of maneuver." Just below Lee are Philip Sheridan and Stonewall Jackson who Keegan says could "...psychologically dominate his opponents." George McClellan is given the dishonor of being the lowest rated. Keegan believes him to have been "...utterly incapable of overcoming difficulty."

The issue is rounded out with a series of book reviews. Overall this is a nice issue that is accompanied by vintage photos and many maps. Well worth checking out or subscribing to.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

CWPT Photo contest winners

The Civil War Preservation Trust has announced the winners of it's 2009 photo contest. Some great photos here. The grand prize winner is a photo taken at the Monocacy National Battlefield in Maryland. My personal favorite however is the 2nd place winner in the Battlefields category. It is a view taken from atop the Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg.

This year more than 2,500 submissions were made to the annual contest which is co-sponsored by History and The Center for Civil War Photography.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Book Review--The Killer Angels

Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War. Ballantine Books, New York, NY. 374 pages, 18 maps.

I am really not much of a reader of fiction. There are of course always exceptions to the rule and there are a few fiction books that are worth the time to read. For me the more hyped a book is the less likely I am to find them worth my effort. A pack mentality for fiction is usually a bad thing. The Killer Angels however is an exception. It is a wonderful book to read and should be required reading before any trip to Gettysburg. I wish I had read it before my first (and so far only trip).

For me good fiction should have several characteristics all of which Shaara accomplishes skillfully. The story should interest me just from reading the jacket. Accomplished. Second, the author should be able to set a mood and make you feel you are really there. Accomplished. For me a good example of this comes in the death scene of General John Reynolds. "A moment later Buford looked that way and the horse was bare-backed. He did not believe it. He broke off and rode to see. Reynolds lay in the dirt road, the aides bending over him. When Buford got there the thick stain had already puddled the dirt beneath his head. His eyes were open, half asleep, his face pleasant and composed, a soft smile. Buford knelt. He was dead." (pages 101-102) In a brief few lines Shaara has brought his readers onto the battlefield as if we were really there at the scene of Reynolds death. The language is not overdone nor does Shaara go overboard in his description. Third, and in many ways the most difficult, is speech has to sound realistic. Accomplished. More authors should read out aloud what they write and see if it sounds natural. The interplay between Generals Lee and Longstreet or maybe the exchanges between Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and his brother Tom show Shaara's mastery of this. Lastly, and maybe of less importance, is that side characters should be interesting and not just space filler. Accomplished. Arthur Freemantle fills this role nicely.

Let's face it this is not history at it's finest. It doesn't claim to be. What it is however is a powerful read that doesn't gloss over the horrors of war. Fighting is not glamorous and Shaara doesn't make it out that way. What I think a reader will take away from this work is a rudimentary knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg and the major players. Before my visit to Gettysburg over a year ago I had read a long work on the battle. I was not prepared for what I was reading. Once I got back I read Killer Angels for the first time and much of what I had read previously made more sense. I can highly recommend this as a good starting point for the study of the battle and a book that is well worth rereading for those with in depth knowledge.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Magazine Review--Hallowed Ground Fall 2009

The fall 2009 issue of Hallowed Ground from the Civil War Preservation Trust arrived this week in the mail. Despite the ever present pleas for money it's another good issue. The subject this time is John Brown.

There are a couple of nice articles dealing with John Brown and the Harper's Ferry raid. Both were written by Dennis Frye who is Chief Historian at Harper's Ferry National Historical Park. Frye is also a former editor of Hallowed Ground as well as the author of several books. The first article, Purged Away With Blood, gives a brief but solid overview of Brown and his raid on the federal arsenal and the aftermath. The second article, John Brown's Smoldering Spark, deals with Brown's legacy and the planning that was being done by the Civil War Centennial Commission. This is a really interesting article on a subject I had never heard about. It shows the battle between the CWCC, the National Park Service, and local community leaders. Also included is a detailed listing of those who took part in the Harper's Ferry raid, and also a nice listing of events commemorating Brown's raid.

Also included is a brief interview with author Robert Hicks who discusses his work at Franklin Battlefield and also his new book A Separate Country. The full interview can be read here. There is also the usual "From the Trenches" section that discusses current preservation activities.

The issue is nice to look at and is printed on good quality paper. Articles are reinforced with vintage and modern photos and art. The normal high quality maps produced by Steven Stanley are included as well. If you aren't a member of CWPT and get this magazine, what are you waiting for?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Off topic--Florida State football game

Tomorrow morning we are leaving for Tallahassee to see the Florida State vs. University of South Florida football game. Even though FSU is no where near their prime and USF is hurting this year it should be a good game. FSU is coming of a thrashing of formerly high ranked BYU so they should be riding high. Here's hoping for no let down. The game is at noon so wish us luck with the heat.

My wife is a graduate of FSU so she's a die hard. I'm kind of a "Johnnie come lately" as the college I attended didn't have a football team. We're meeting a friend of hers and her husband. Should be a good time even when not at the game.

Large group of Civil War letters now online

Archives of Michigan Offers Digitized Ewing Collection of Civil War Letters

The following announcement was written by the Archives of Michigan:

Lansing – The Archives of Michigan today helped put history into the hands and on the computer screens of Michigan and Civil War enthusiasts everywhere. Today marked the launch of the digitized collection of Mack and Nan Ewing Civil War Letters, available on the Seeking Michigan Web site, The collection – believed to be the largest set of Civil War letters ever given to a state archives – was donated by Grand Haven resident Dr. Wallace K. Ewing, the great-grandson of Mack and Nan Ewing.

“We have truly extended the walls of the Archives of Michigan with this project, allowing researchers from around the world keyword access to the text of the letters as well as full-color images of the letters and their accompanying envelopes,” said State Archivist Mark Harvey. “Dr. Ewing’s generosity cannot be overstated. He, along with the remarkable support of the Talbert and Leota Abrams Foundation and the staff of, has made this digitized collection a reality.” Harvey added that the digitization of the Ewing materials is “a huge step” toward the Archives of Michigan’s goal of being the first state archives to offer its entire Civil War collection online.

According to Dr. Ewing, the collection includes letters penned by his Ewing ancestors and their friends and covers a roughly nine-year period from 1856 to 1865, though the bulk of the letters were written in 1864 and 1865. The collection has been passed down through the generations for some 150 years and includes 291 well-preserved letters, nearly all of which have matching envelopes with canceled stamps.

The majority of the letters were written by Mack Ewing, who (in 1864-65) was serving with the Army of the Potomac in Virginia and recuperating from a bullet wound to the head, and Nan Ewing, who initially stayed on the home front in Michigan but later returned to her parents’ Ohio home. Dr. Ewing said that the letters “offer vivid and detailed descriptions of life in the trench and at home.”

Dr. Ewing thought carefully about the decision to donate the prized collection of his family’s history to the Archives of Michigan. After meeting with State Archivist Harvey and feeling convinced of the agency’s commitment to not only properly preserve but also freely share the historic letters with the public, Dr. Ewing took the last critical step. He met with Professor James McPherson of Princeton University – a Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and nationally renowned Civil War authority – who fervently agreed that this collection of letters were valuable archival material that ought to be safeguarded.

“The letters had been in the family for nearly 150 years, and it became increasingly important to permanently store them in a protected environment where they could be easily accessible to professional researchers and readers interested in understanding everyday details of life before and during the Civil War,” explained Dr. Ewing. “Most important, I – and anyone who has access to the Internet – can go to the Archives of Michigan Web site and view the letters as they were written several lifetimes ago.”

The Mack and Nan Ewing Civil War Letters are a huge boost to the already popular and evolving Web site. Originally introduced in March this year, was touted as a growing collection of unique historical information that – through digitized source documents, maps, films, images, oral histories and artifacts – creatively tells the stories of Michigan’s families, homes, businesses, communities and landscapes. With this comprehensive Civil War collection, has introduced a truly unique chapter.

Since its March 2009 launch, has had 213,008 visits from 98 countries/territories; 735,044 page views; and a site average of 3.45 pages per visit. In fact, interest in was so high the first day that by midnight the site saw an increase in traffic of 2,600 percent, overwhelming the capacity of its servers.

Seeking Michigan’s first major project was the digitization of roughly 1 million death records covering the years 1897 through 1920. These records – never before available electronically – are indexed for easy searching by name, death date, location and age, and hold tremendous research opportunities for genealogists, historians and students.

Whether they are interested in Civil War records, photographs, architecture, music, photography or family history, Michigan enthusiasts are sure to discover a brand new side to Michigan through this unique online resource, a longtime collaboration between the Archives of Michigan and the Library of Michigan. Site design and digitization of resources were funded through various grants.

With plans in place to add much more material, currently includes:

More than 100,000 pages of Civil War documents;
Approximately 10,000 photographs;
A variety of Michigan sheet music;
Roughly 1 million death records;
A rich section about Michigan’s 44 past governors;
Works Progress Administration data (circa 1936-1942) about land and buildings throughout rural Michigan; and
Oral histories with notable Michigan residents.
Seeking Michigan was made possible with generous funding from the Talbert and Leota Abrams Foundation, a Lansing-based nonprofit that primarily focuses on funding library and educational science programs. Since the mid-1980s, the Abrams Foundation has provided more than $2.5 million toward the development of the Library of Michigan’s and Archives of Michigan’s genealogy collections, including the digitization of the death records so crucial to family historians’ research efforts. The National Historic Publications and Records Commission provided additional funding.

The Archives of Michigan ( is part of the Michigan Historical Center, a state agency that is also supported by the Michigan History Foundation. The Michigan Historical Center and the Library of Michigan are agencies within the Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL). Dedicated to enriching quality of life and strengthening the economy by providing access to information, preserving and promoting Michigan’s heritage and fostering cultural creativity, HAL also includes the Mackinac Island State Park Commission and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. To learn more, visit

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Magazine Review--America's Civil War November 2009

America's Civil War. Weider History Group. November 2009.

The November issue of America's Civil War has hit mailboxes recently and has several interesting articles.

The cover article, written by Ron Soodalter, is titled Fury in Vermont. In late 1864 the small town of St. Albans, VT was the scene of an attempted takeover by Confederates who had crossed the border from Canada. The rebels ended up taking off with a large sum of cash from local banks and crossed back into Canada which helped set up a difficult diplomatic issue for President Lincoln.

In A Tall Tale of Chickamauga written by Gordon Berg we find out if Ambrose Bierce was telling the full truth in his recollections dealing with the battle. Tamela Berg takes on an interesting Civil War oddity in her article Sweet Subversive Scribes where she tells the story of three Virginia women who published the pro-Union Waterford News. Check the Waterford Foundation website for further information or to purchase a copy of all eight issues. In Rebelling Against the Rebellion Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer tell the story of Newton Knight who was forced to fight for a cause he did not believe in. This is adapted from their book The State of Jones.

Further content includes book reviews including one on fellow blogger J.D. Petruzzi's wonderful book The Complete Gettysburg Guide. Please see my review of this book here. Noted blogger Harry Smeltzer returns with his Smeltzer's Six Pack. Monuments, maps, and George H. Thomas dominate his always worth reading reviews.

Another nice issue dealing with several different subjects. Well illustrated with contemporary and vintage photos. Several maps are also included. Well worth purchasing or subscribing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Win $$$ for Franklin Battlefield

Help win anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 for the Save the Franklin Battlefield organization. The Christie Cookie Company is donating a total of $25,000 to charities that receive the most votes. Register and vote at this link. When I checked earlier today Franklin was number 7 which would qualify it for $1,000. Not bad but lets try to get it up to number 1 or 2 and earn it even more money. Voting is quick and easy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pre Civil War duel kills anti-slavery Senator

This Sunday marks the 150th anniversary of a California duel between anti-slavery Democratic Senator David Broderick and California Supreme Court Chief Justice David Terry. Despite Broderick being a Democrat he was a leader of that party's anti slavery wing thus causing the rift with Terry, originally from Kentucky. Terry believed the Douglass the anti-slavery men followed was Frederick, the black abolitionist, and not Stephen, the pro slavery candidate for President. As tempers rose a duel was demanded in which Broderick fired first but misfired. Terry then followed with a clean shot to Broderick's chest inflicting a wound that would kill the Senator three days later. Depsite dueling being illegal Terry was later acquitted of murder charges. Terry left politics and joined the Confederate army. He was later killed by a bodyguard after striking Supreme Court justice Stephen Field.

Please read a more in depth article here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Civil War books in odd places

I guess you just never know where you'll find that next Civil War book. My wife and I were in Big Lots of all places the other day and I found a copy of Father Abraham: Lincoln's Relentless Struggle to End Slavery for a bargain price of $5. The book was written by Richard Striner and published by Oxford University Press . I haven't searched for reviews on it but there are nice words from James McPherson and Harold Holzer on the jacket. I've got more than enough to read so what's one more really? Keep your eyes open...that treasure may be in a place you're not expecting.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Abraham Lincoln Book Shop newspaper article

The Abraham Lincoln Book Shop is the subject of a nice recent article in the Chicago Tribune. What a place this must be to visit!

Returning soon!

I haven't been able to post much for the last couple of weeks due to work demands. I am the manager of a large college bookstore so the last couple weeks have been crazy with school starting last Monday. We'll still be busy this week but I hope to be able to get some writing done. I have a review of David Herbert Donald's Lincoln in the works and am currently rereading Killer Angels.

Until then, boycott Wal-Mart whenever possible!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Book Review--The Complete Gettysburg Guide

Petruzzi, J. David and Steven Stanley. The Complete Gettysburg Guide: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and other Topics of Historical Interest. Savas Beatie, New York, New York. 2009. 304 pages. Maps, index, bibliography. $39.95.

Calling a book complete in most instances will open you up to complaints that it is not "really" complete and reviewers, bloggers, and complainers will pick it apart. The Complete Gettysburg Guide however is not one of those type books. It really is complete and then some. Not only is it complete it is a treat to look at and also to read.

J. David Petruzzi runs the blog Hoofbeats and Cold Steel in addition to his day job. He is the co-author of several other books and is considered an expert on the Battle of Gettysburg. Steven Stanley is a well known cartographer whose work is known by anyone who is a member of the Civil War Preservation Trust. These gentlemen are well qualified to write such a book.

For the average tourist the $40 price tag isn't going to sit well. But this is not just a travel guide in the conventional sense and you aren't going to find paid advertisements, diamond ratings, shopping sites, where to stay or eat in this guide. What you are going to find is an experts look at the city of Gettysburg and it's surroundings. If you are only looking for the other stuff stay away this isn't for you. If you are serious about learning what is at Gettysburg you can't do any better than this.

The first thing you will notice about the book is the physical quality. This is a heavy book printed on quality paper. This is meant to stand up to a good amount of usage. When you open the book you can't help but be impressed with the overall quality. The printing, photos, and maps are all top notch. Did I mention maps? You'll get one just about every 3-4 pages. The maps are bright, large, and easy to follow. The book is also filled with beautiful contemporary photos as well as period pieces that really help tell the story. Each chapter also includes an excellent "additional reading" section which leads readers who want more information to further sources.

The book starts out with an excellent overview of the Gettysburg campaign and battle. Petruzzi gets us off on the right food even if you know little about the battle. From there we move to various driving and walking tours. If you follow along you will get to see many places that most visitors never get to see while still not missing the highlights. Petruzzi gives excellent driving directions and urges caution in areas that are congested or dangerous. He is also correct to point out and remind us that many of the areas are on private property and he cautions us to use courtesy and pay respect to property owners. Just good common sense but an excellent reminder none the less.

To me the strong point of the book is the lesser known areas. The National Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery tours are highlights in my opinion. There is also an excellent tour of historical sites in the city of Gettysburg including the David Wills House, where it is believed Abraham Lincoln put the finishing touches on his Gettysburg Address, the Jeannie Wade House, amongst others. If you are interested in rock carvings there is a great tour here that will take you to all the currently known locations. Some are from the war and many are from after but this is an interesting tour idea in my view. If Civil War medicine is your bag there is a great tour that outlines the known locations of Union and Confederate field hospitals. There are also tours dealing with skirmishes on the outskirts of the main fields of battle.

If you are really interested in learning about Gettysburg and getting the most out of a trip there you will do no better than going to Petruzzi and Stanley's website and getting a copy of this book. Normally I would include an Amazon link but how about you order direct from the authors, get an autographed copy and cut out the middleman. You may need to buy a second copy--one to keep and one to take on the battlefield. Your book(s) will be in your mailbox before you know it.

This book is highly recommended for anybody who is interested in Gettysburg. No matter your level of knowledge there is much to be gained from this book. This will be the book against which all others will be judged. Guides like this are needed for other battlefields and this should be the standard that authors and publishers use when comparing their work.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Off Topic--I Love My Librarian Award

For those of us who love books I would imagine that possibly next to a bookstore our favorite place would be a library. For those who are researchers libraries are a vital part of what we do. Here's a chance to give back to those who are so helpful. Carnegie Corp. and the New York Times are teaming up with the American Library Association to sponser the I Love My Librarian award. The nomination deadline is October 9th and nominations must be done online. Up to 10 winners will receive a $5,000 prize, an award plaque, and a travel stipend to attend the awards ceremony in December. If you have a favorite or someone who has really helped you out here's your chance to honor them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Center For Civil War Photography 2009 Seminar

The 2009 seminar of the Center For Civil War Photography will be presented October 24-26, 2009 in Charleston, South Carlolina. Ed Bearss will be a featured speaker with his presentation My Career and Civil War Photography. Other highlights will include a bus tour of Civil War Charleston, a private tour of Ft. Sumter, and much more. Prices for members are $290 and $325 for non members. The Center's main webpage is here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Off Topic--Brandywine Battlefield to remain open

A "short term" argreement has been reached between the state of Pennsylvania and Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates to keep the park open using volunteers until a longer term solution can be reached. An announcement was made on State Senator Dominic Pillegi's website regarding this.

While in theory this is good news I have several reservations about this...1) The state appears to just be backing out and letting others take over even though they still will own the property. 2) Volunteers? How long will many of these individuals be able to hang on without income? I am sure those employed there are very dedicated to what they do but will their dedication be the same without pay and benfits? 3) Does the state have any real motivation to work on a long term solution? The park is open and they aren't footing the bills. Let's hope my negativity is misplaced and that the state steps up and finds funds to operate the park as it should be. Let's also hope that Civil War parks don't meet the same kind of fate!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Off Topic--Brandywine Battlefield

Off the Civil War topic for a minute this is also of importance to those who study history.

The Revolutionary War's Brandywine Battlefield in Pennsylvania is being threatened due to lack of state funding. The Revolutionary Times battle reenactment has already been cancelled for 2009. Possibilities also include the closing of the Visitor's Center, the closing of Washington's and Lafayette's headquarters, and more. You can help by visiting the Save Brandywine Battlefield website.

With all the issues we face regarding Civil War battlefield preservation we should not turn a blind eye to those whose interest is the American Revolution. Who knows when our favorite battlefield could be next.

Save Brandywine Battlefield

Magazine Review--Civil War Times

Here are some quick overviews of recent Civil War Times issues. In the future I hope to discuss these individually and give them more attention. Issued bi-monthly by Weider History Group this magazine is always worth a read. It is filled with contemporary and vinatge photos/art and has maps included to help readers follow the action. Well worth picking up or subscribing to.

Civil War Times. June 2009.

The feature article in this issue is titled "Toward a Better Understanding of George McClellan" written by Ethan Rafuse. Ernest Furgurson tackles Abraham Lincoln's folksy ways in "Oh, that reminds me of a story" where he discusses the President's penchant for humor and colloquial language. What Civil War magazine is complete without a Gettysburg article? In this issue we have an article/letter discussing General John Gibbon and his commentary on the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Gerald Henig introduces us to William H. Carney who was the first black soldier to win the Medal of Honor in his article "Glory at Battery Wagner". Gary Gallagher discusses the film Glory, his favorite Civil War film. Included amongst other articles is a section of book reviews.

Civil War Times. August 2009.

Eric Campbell asks "What was Dan Sickles thinking when he practically destroyed his own corps' at Gettysburg" in his article "Death of the III Corps". Continuing with Gettysburg we have transcripts from letters written by Augustus Hesse of the 9th Massachusetts Battery. These make for interesting reading. This issue also features an interesting photo article titled "Tools of the Trade" which describes the equipment used by Union artillerymen. Ron Soodalter adapts his book by the same name to an article titled "Hanging Captain Gordon.". Gordon was the only American to be executed for transporting slaves under the Piracy Act of 1820. I own this book but have yet to read it. The story does look interesting enough to justify a further investigation. Included are also multiple book reviews including a look at three books dealing with the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. See my review of one of these titles here. Also included is a review of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, MD.

Civil War Times. October 2009.

Just about everybody knows that General Ulysses S. Grant was known to have a drinking problem. Peter Cozzens attempts to figure out who helped keep him sober in "General Grant's 'Living and Speaking Conscience' ". John Brown continues to be a controversial figure in Civil War studies and Robert E. McGlone attempts to pinpoint Brown's mental state in "The 'Madness' of John Brown". McGlone concludes that Brown showed few signs that modern psychiatrists would identify with a mental disorder. The story of one family's attempt to retrieve a loved one's remains from Gettysburg is detailed in "So Far From Home: The family of a Confederate colonel killed at Gettysburg learned that the dead must sometimes remain truly and forever lost." written by Glenn W. LaFantasie. Gary Gallagher discusses famed historians Bruce Catton and Douglass Southall Freeman in his Blue & Gray column. If you are travelling to Manassas National Battlefield you won't want to miss the field guide "The First Manassas You've Missed" put together by Harry Smeltzer, Craig Swain, and Jim Burgess. Also included are book reviews and the monthly last page column "Looking at Lincoln" where famed historian Harold Holzer takes a look at a photo of Lincoln.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bob Younger book collection for sale

Bob Younger, the founder of Morningside Books and also Gettysburg Magazine, collected books for more than 50 years. His wide ranging collection is now being sold. The first portion of the list is available here. Books are being cataloged and listed so be sure to check back.

Website Review--Civil War Book Review

The summer 2009 Civil War Book Review has been posted by LSU Library.

The features this issue cover a wide range of topics from Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War written by Marc Egnal to Harold Holzer's new work Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861.

Of note to many blog readers however will be the review of One Continuous Flight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 written by Eric Wittenberg, J. David Petrucci, and Michael Nugent. The book was published by Savas Beatie. Reviewer William Bushnell gives the book high marks calling it "entertaining, thoughtful, and well presented history,..." I'm sure many of us will be adding this to our collections soon.

There are many other books reviewed that can no doubt fill the hours until the weather begins to cool down. Overall a highly recommended site if you are looking for what to read next.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Magazine Review--North & South

North & South: The Official Magazine of the Civil War Society. Volume 11 Number 4. $6.99

The new issue of North & South has arrived. The main article is a discussion involving several Civil War scholars over what the main target should have been. Should the main Union target have been the cities in order to disrupt supply lines and infrastructure as put forth by Allen Guelzo or was Lee's army (and others) a better target as subscribed to by James McPherson and others . An interesting back and forth discussion.

Other articles included "Tactics in the Wilderness" written by Reid Ross, "Missourians and the War on the Western Rivers" written by William Garrett Piston and Thomas P. Sweeney, "Snake Creek Gap and the Campaign That Never Happened" written by Steven Newton, and "The Savage War" written by Daniel Sutherland. The issue wraps up with book reviews which for some reason are also printed on the inside back cover. I guess advertising wasn't sold for this page so they made use as best they could.

The articles contained small period photos mostly of the major names that were mentioned. None did a lot for me or helped the articles too much in my view. A couple of maps were thrown in but again I found these to be lacking--they were small and one of them almost seemed like it had been reduced so much it was almost grainy. Maps are essential and they should do better than this. Fortunately the notes are still included with each article for those who wish to do further reading or fact checking.

Much has been written about this magazine as of late. I must admit to not being overly familiar with earlier issues but I certainly hope they are able to return to the form I have read about. This issue didn't quite seem up to those high standards.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Magazine Review--Blue and Gray

It's amazing how quickly you can fall behind on magazines if you aren't careful. I realized I have a whole pile to weed through let alone try to post about. Well I'll try to get started here by discussing a couple recent issues of Blue and Gray magazine.

Blue and Gray: For Those Who Still Hear the Guns. Blue and Gray Enterprises, Inc. Volume XXV #6 2009. $5.95.

The 150th issues of Blue and Gray focuses on Richmond, Kentucky and the late August 1862 battle that took place there. The feature article was written by B. Kevin Bennett. A nice article that contains many period photos, mostly of the major players, numerous detailed maps, and end notes. Bennett's sources include both primary and secondary resources. I'm a believer magazines should include notes for those who wish to do further research or want to verify what the writer has said. B&G is to be commended for this.

In addition to the article there is the normal "General's Tour" article that provides a nice driving tour to many points of interest for this battle. The article is accompanied by more maps and also contemporary photos to help you find your way. Very interesting.

Also included are the normal slate of book reviews and an article I found extremely fascinating that concerned Union Identification Discs. These are basically a precursor to government issued "dog tags". Author Joseph W. Stahl points out there are 49 known styles of tag and he proceeds to discuss the three most common. This is an interesting sideline article helping to bring a human element to the war.

Blue and Gray: For Those Who Still Hear the Guns. Blue and Gray Enterprises, Inc. Volume XXVI #1 2009. $5.95.

Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White treat us to an in depth article on this months feature which is Spotsylania Court House. The article is titled " The Battle of the Bloody Angle or 'Mule Shoe': Spotsylvania Court House May 12, 1864". I haven't finished up this article yet but have enjoyed it so far. Included are the expected maps, period photos, and a long selection of end notes. "The General's Tour" for this issue provides both driving and walking tours. Start at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center and go from there. The tour article contains several detailed action maps and contemporary photos for armchair travellers and also to help you get oriented.

A round of book reviews are included as is a very interesting article about a city that you wouldn't normally associate with the Civil War. The article is titled "Sacramento's Civil War Legacy" and was written by Robert Bundy. Several locations are discussed including Historic City Cemetery which is home to over 250 Union soldiers, several Confederates, and a General from each side, George B. Cosby (CSA) and George Wright (USA). Another must see stop is the Stanford Mansion, where wartime governor Leland Stanford's wife and friends met to make underclothes for Union soldiers. After a recent $22 million upgrade the home is open for tours and is still used as a reception center for the California governor.

Overall I enjoyed these issues. I have a couple others but must admit to never having gotten around to reading them. I'll need to pull those out and also look at ordering back issues.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ford's Theatre Museum Reopens

Ford's Theatre Museum reopened earlier this month. Read the press release here. While the theatre itself opened earlier this year the full downstairs museum is now open for viewing. It appears this is quite an upgrade and well worth the wait. I was in Washington D.C. while the theatre was closed so this will be a must see the next time. If you have had a chance to go please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eagerly awaiting this one

Just about anybody who has read a Civil War blog in the month or so knows about The Complete Gettysburg Guide by J. D. Petruzzi. I've read so much good about it I had to break down and spend the $40. I just ordered it and can't wait to get it in a few days. If it's even half as good as the reviews it will be money well spent. If you have it already please feel free to leave comments with your thoughts. I'd love to see them.

Book Review--The Radical and the Republican

Oakes, James. The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics. W.W. Norton and Co. New York, NY. 328 pages 288 pages text. Bibliographic essay, index, footnotes.

As the anti-slavery movement slowly grew two of it's leaders came from divergent backgrounds, went about things differently, and yet despite earlier animosity grew to be friends and respect each other. In his Lincoln Prize winning work James Oakes shows the intertwined yet different paths of Frederick Douglass, the radical, and Abraham Lincoln, the Republican.

Lincoln began his political life as a devoted follower of Henry Clay and the Whig party. While Clay was against slavery he also believed that once freed they should be relocated to Africa. From this Lincoln's views developed and led him to a group that ultimately became the Republican party. Republican beliefs included the fact that while slavery was wrong it would be allowed to continue where it was and that the Fugitive Slave Act would be enforced. Slavery however would not be allowed to expand to any new territory. Slavery would eventually die out due to it's inefficient use of labor. Douglass on the other hand was born a slave and after escaping north became a devoted follower of noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Garrisonians were pacifists who believed that slavery degraded everything and everybody it touched. They worked through "Moral Persuasion" which in effect meant that they denounced anybody or thing that was not blatantly anti-slavery. In their mind this included the Constitution which they condemned as being pro-slavery. After returning from England Douglass began taking a more active interest in anti-slavery politics and after moving to Rochester, NY he began publishing The North Star, a newspaper with an anti-slavery bent. Here he also began to slowly convert to the views of Gerrit Smith who believed that the Constitution was actually not a pro-slavery document. He reasoned that the words of the document are what mattered and not what people felt the intent was. Seeing that slavery was not specifically mentioned clauses could not be assumed to apply to slavery itself. By 1851 he had converted to this view.

In October 1859 John Brown led his ill fated raid on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, VA. This attempt to lead a slave uprising failed completely and ultimately cost Brown his life. Douglass considered Brown a hero and his relations with Brown led to Douglass going into exile for several months first to Canada and then to Great Britain. He would not be gone long however. Northern politicians, including Lincoln, were quick to distance themselves from the "madman". Lincoln was a believer in the rule of law in the attempt to end slavery. Actions like John Brown's raid were unacceptable and could actually work against the abolition movement.

As the 1850s came to a close the major difference between Douglass and Lincoln was in their views of the Constitution and what it allowed. Douglass, believing it to be an anti-slavery document thought that the federal government was obligated to work aggressively end slavery. Despite his personal views Lincoln believed that the Constitution recognized slavery where it already existed and thus the government could not interfere. It could prevent expansion but not eliminate it where it already existed. Here Oakes points out a key difference in the two men. Douglass demanded action and that by eliminating slavery racism could be eliminated. Douglass thought northern racism was the "spirit of slavery" making its way into other parts of the country. For Lincoln race and slavery were not the same; not having a black woman for a slave did not mean he wanted her for a wife. Lincoln felt that slavery was a dying institution and was being killed by southern states continuing to make a focal point of it. In addition, once states seceded from the Union Lincoln felt he was no longer obliged to keep his promises regarding the protection of slavery.

Lincoln and Douglass met on three occasions. A mutual respect was earned with Lincoln enrolling Douglass to help spread the word of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln, the Republican, made a lasting impression on Douglass, the radical, in his sincerity toward ending slavery. Even after Lincoln's death Douglass continued to promote Lincoln and the ways he went about ending slavery.

This is an enjoyable book to read. It is accessible without being simple. Oakes has used the words of these great men as much as possible and has noted them well for further research if you are inclined. While certainly not a "Civil War" book this is one that should be read by anybody interested in the wars time frame, who has an interest in Lincoln or Douglass, or wishes to further understand the issues that brought our country to war.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Magazine Review--America's Civil War September 2009

America's Civil War. Weider History Group, Inc. September 2009.

The cover article this issue is titled John Brown's Midnight March written by Tim Rowland. Nothing too original here but a decent article none the less. There is also an article regarding the 1st South Carolina Volunteers who were a group of former slaves led by Major General David Hunter. Also included is an article written by Daniel Sutherland entitled The Missouri Guerrilla Hunt and one written by Jared Frederick discussing the loyal governors meeting in Altoona, PA during 1862.

For me the highspot of the issue dealt with the monument to the 90th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment located at Antietam National Battlefield. Originally this was placed in the 1880's when veterans returned and leaned three Springfield rifles against each other in a pyramid formation and from the point where the barrels met they hung a coffee boiler. The original was removed during the 1930's due to deterioration and vandalism. A bronze recreation by Gary Casteel was placed during the anniversary weekend in 2004. After this article is a nice series of photos of the Sharpsburg area taken after the battle. Most of these are from the Library of Congress collection.

Also included are the normal book reviews including a review of an interesting travel guide for Antietam that I have linked to below. There is a film review of The Prisoner of Shark Island which deals with Dr. Samuel Mudd and his confinement as a Lincoln conspirator. We wrap up this issue with noted blogger Harry Smeltzer and his Smeltzer's Six-Pack where he gives brief reviews of six books from his collection. Always interesting.