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.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

TOCWOC has posted the combined Gettysburg top 10

Not like you need me to tell you but Brett Schulte at TOCWOC has posted the combined top 10 Gettysburg books from his recent poll of bloggers. To take it a step further Brett has gone to the trouble of ranking all 60 different books that received votes.

I can't imagine you are reading my blog and don't know about Brett but if not you need to check his site. It's well worth the time.

Brett if you read this I again congratulate you on a job well done. I loved reading the posts and your effort at combining them is appreciated.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Burlingame's Abraham Lincoln available online-FREE

In a rare move a current book is being made available on the internet for free. The book is Michael Burlingame's masterpiece Abraham Lincoln: A Life. Knox College, in cooperation with Johns Hopkins University Press and Michael Burlingame, is now presenting in pdf format the original manuscript. This includes some extra material and documentation that did not make it into the final books. Currently the first volume is available with the second to follow shortly.

While I have not read or purchased this work yet it seems that nobody has anything bad to say about the work itself. The binding is a different matter if you read customer reviews. Kudos to all involved in making this massive work available to the masses. Personally I hope to own a physical copy myself one day.

Oh by the way, remember the work is under copyright so don't go posting it on your own site or making illegal copies.

Thanks to Brett at TOCWOC for the heads up on this great news!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Newsletter Review--The Surratt Courier

The Surratt Courier. Volume XXXIV, Number 7, July 2009.

I just received the latest copy of the Surratt Courier from the Surratt Society yesterday and I have to say for the second month in a row it's a bit of a disappointment. Maybe submissions are low though if that was the case perhaps a call for articles could be included in an issue.

The issue starts as always with the President's Message which mentions the passing of long time member Elysebeth Mays. On the front page is also a listing of upcoming events. There is a small article on the finding of an unknown note believed to be written on April 14, 1865 by Abraham Lincoln. The main "article" of the issue is a listing of people and places that are tied to both the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and to Gonzaga College in some way. The listing contains good endnotes and I suppose is of interest to some but I didn't get anything out of it and have quickly filed the issue away.