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!