Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Review--Stories in Stone

Keister, Douglas. Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. MJF Books, New York, NY. 288 pages. Color photos, b/w photos, index.

Originally published in 2004, this is a book that anybody doing cemetery research should consider owning. In addition to providing photographic clues as to what headstone symbols mean there is detailed discussion on each as well.

A chapter that I feel to be particularly useful is the chapter on Secret Societies, Clubs, and Fraternal Orgainzations. I know I have seen some of these and had no idea what they are. In an easy to use format now I would have the ability to figure it out. In addition there is a 24 page listing of Acronyms of Societies, Clubs, and Organizations. It's amazing what looks to be a harmless marking actually has vast meaning to those who understand.

There are chapters dealing with plants, fruits, animals, reptiles, fish, body parts, worldly symbols and much more. A large portion of the book is given to religious symbols covering christian, hebrew, chinese and japanese, heavenly messengers, and the cross. The book concludes with an interesting section called Final Impressions. This includes photos of many famous or unusual headstones. There's the rocket on Carl and Constance Bigsby's memorial to the Davis memorial in Kansas which includes multiple statues of John and Sara Davis at various stages of their lives, to race cars, to the famous Black Dog at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA.

This is a book that anybody doing research in older cemeteries should own. I found my copy at a local Barnes and Noble for about $10. It is well put together and looks like it will stand up to a fair amount of usage. This book will no doubt open up a whole new understanding to the memorials we look at.

Book Review--Sacred to the Memory

Mitchell, Florence A. Sacred to the Memory: A History of the Huguenot Cemetery 1821-1884 St. Augustine, Florida . Friends of the Huguenot Cemetery, St. Augustine, FL. 1998. 75 pages, notes, bibliography, b/w photographs, drawings, maps.

If you visit St. Augustine, FL and stop by the visitors center you can't help but be taken in by the Huguenot Cemetery next door. If it is open it is well worth a stop in even if just for a few minutes. Even if not open for a walk through you can still see over the walls.

Florence Mitchell has written a very brief history of the cemetery one which hopefully will lead another author to write a more thorough work with better photos and maps. The book is a locally published work with the aim of helping to raise funds for the upkeep of the cemetery. It really shows that this is not a large budget book. If it was however the price would of course be much higher. Trade offs I guess.

The first order of business is the name Huguenot. There appears to be no REAL reason for the cemetery being called this. It has been called many things but somehow the name Huguenot has stuck despite it not being a cemetery for Huguenots. An early Huguenot settlement at Fort Caroline was destroyed by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1564. St. Augustine was to remain primarily a Catholic town for over 200 years. Catholics were buried in Tolomato Cemetery several blocks away.

In 1821 a half acre of land just outside the city gate was allocated for a cemetery after the Yellow Fever outbreak. This outbreak took lives of young and old, rich and poor. Some of the remaining stones make reference to the disease that swept through the city. After some legal wrangling as to who the owner of the cemetery truely was it was determined that the Presbyterian Church was the owner with the stipulation that all protestants be allowed to be buried there. By 1884 a hysteria over city cemeteries was sweeping the country with people being concerned over disease and the possible smell coming from cemeteries. This caused both Tolomato and the Huguenot cemeteries to be closed to future interments.

The cemetery fell into disrepair and eventually in 1946 the city accepted a quit claim deed and became responsible for maintenance. This only lasted a few years and the Presbyterian Church again reclaimed ownership. Eventually the cemetery was closed to the public. By 1990 enough repairs had been done that it could be opened to the public with supervision.

Mitchell goes on to talk about stonemakers from Charleston, various materials used, the use and then disuse of gates and fences to monuments, symbolism, the reason that the graves face to the east, and provides a listing of the known burials with a seperate listing of monuments.

While overall an interesting book and one which should hold anybody interested in cemeteries there are some major drawbacks. Overall I found the writing to be just ok. Nothing great, nothing bad, but probably in need of a good edit. The book is somewhat disjointed. As I said there is a listing in the middle, with a pitiful looking map that is not drawn to scale, of the current headstones. At the back of the book there is a listing of known burials. I found it somewhat confusing trying to keep track of where the information on the burials came from. It seems maybe these should have been together. The photographs and drawings are really poorly reproduced. It's possible this happened during the layout process and that the originals are much better. I passed by most of them without a second thought except to wish they were better. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a $7.95 booklet geared toward tourists and not a scholarly monograph that would cost many many times this price. As I stated at the beginning maybe someone will work on that one day though I would have to say the market would be extremely limited.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Review--The History Buff's Guide to Gettysburg

Flagel, Thomas R. and Ken Allers, Jr. The History Buff's Guide to Gettysburg. Cumberland House, Nashville, TN, 2006. 352 pages 280 pages of text. Index, bibliography, notes, orders of battle, time line, b/w photos.

Top ten lists are a staple in our world and since opinions are like noses just about everybody has one. This book is a series of top ten lists (opinions) for various subjects dealing with most aspects of the Battle of Gettysburg. I went in with high hopes but didn't find my expectations met. The opinions don't bother me but the factual errors and occasional odd comments did.

The book is broken down into five major sections with each section having several sub-sections. The major sections are: 1) Coming to the Crossroads--deals with events leading up to the battle including why the South invaded Pennsylvania 2) The Battle--deals with each of the three days individually as well as top and worst performing commanders (for those who hold Robert E. Lee to the highest you might wish to skip this section. He's number 3.) 3) The Last Full Measure--death and destruction including corps and states with the highest casualty rates 4) Post Battle--reactions to the events that took place and more 5) Pursuing Gettysburg--best books, monuments, myths and more.

I was curious to compare Flagel and Allers top 10 books to the top ten list compiled last year by Brett at TOCWOC. Both list Edwin Coddington's massive The Gettysburg Campaign as number one. Flagel lists Stephen Sears Gettysburg at number two while it comes in at number 10 on the list from bloggers that Brett published. Overall 6 of the 10 books match up. Contact me if you would like the full list from Flagel and Allers.

While overall the book read pretty well there are some concerns that need to be addressed. The first is a major factual error (usually if there's one like this there are more). When discussing the casualty percentage of the Florida Brigade (page 149), Flagel and Allers refer to the commander being Col. David Perry. The commander was in fact Col. David Lang of the 8th Florida. Lang took over command of the brigade due to the absence of Brigadier General Edward Perry who was ill with typhoid fever.

A second concern is with the targeted audience. Maybe it's just me but when I look at a book of this type I generally feel that I don't have to have a lot of prior knowledge to understand it. Not so in this book. Gettysburg was a complex battle that had much going on in many different areas. To try and simplify it does not do justice to the battle nor does it help the reader. I don't have encyclopedic knowledge of Gettysburg but I have enough to get through this work. If you haven't read other works forget it. The names and locations will be a blur to you. That is what makes this comment from the authors in regards to Coddington's work so strange "To read that Jones's, Nicholl's, and Steuart's brigades were reinforced by Daniel's, O'Neal's, Walker's, and Smith's might make sense to those already familiar with the figures, but to the general public the Greek tragedy might simply read like Greek." (page 217) Pot please meet the kettle.

The illustrations are not of any real help in my view. The black and white photos are very small and miss the mark. In the section dealing with changes to the battlefield (page 259) they really missed a great opportunity by not visually presenting the changes. The sub-chapter dealing with monuments (page 237) has small and uninteresting photos. This would have been a great chance to heighten enthusiasm for those not familiar with the field. The maps are few and far between and those are of little overall value. If this book goes to a new edition I would hope the editors and publisher really take a look at this area and consider improvements.

Overall not a bad book. It can certainly be improved however. The writing is fine but if you don't have a grasp on the major players and fields of combat you might want to hold off and look elsewhere. For those looking to compare your thoughts on the battle and battlefield with others this might be your book.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Review--Widow's Weeds and Weeping Veils

Loeffel-Atkins, Bernadette. Widow's Weeds and Weeping Veils: Mourning Rituals in 19th Century America. B.L. Atkins Publishing, Gettysburg, PA, 2008. 40 pages, bibliography, end notes, b/w photos.

Bernadette was kind enough to send me a signed copy of her booklet dealing with a subject near and dear to her. For those who don't know Bernadette (OK I don't personally know her but that's not the point) she's quite a remarkable woman. In addition to writing, lecturing, and documenting cemeteries she is in the process of opening what looks to be a great bookstore in Gettysburg. The name of her store will be Battlefields & Beyond Military History Book Shoppe. Sounds like a winner and with her background having worked at the Gettysburg Visitor's Center Bookstore (correct me if I am wrong Bern) this will be a must see location when visiting.

This short booklet is really a brief introduction to different aspects of the way death was looked at and dealt with in the 19th century. Times were much different then with "high infant mortality rates, poor sanitation, death during childbirth, poisons, ignorance, and war..." (p. 6). Death was a much more common occurrence and had to be dealt with in ways difficult for us to understand.

Few of us today would likely possess mourning jewelry or have post-mortem photos taken of a deceased child. However before the turn of the 20th century these were common. Photography was not as common and these photos may have been the only ones families had of the child (p. 12). Wearing jewelry containing a departed loved one's hair was seen as a way of keeping them close (pp 18-19).

Subjects such as wakes and funerals, cemeteries, caskets and coffins, spiritualism, stages of mourning, etiquette, and others are also briefly covered. Each usually receives a page.

Overall this is an interesting quick look at how death was dealt with in a different time. The booklet is brief and can easily be finished in one sitting. From there it's up to you to follow up and learn more. The notes and bibliography (the listing is not alphabetical for some reason) will help point you further.

For those wondering "widow's weeds" is a term that describes a Victorian woman in full mourning. Her clothing is completely black including bonnet, veil, and dress. This was part of paying tribute to and honoring the dead.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Civil War Book Review--Winter 2010

Just received this email and thought I'd pass it along just in case you can't decide what to read next.

The Civil War Book Review, a quarterly journal published by the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections Division, has released its Winter 2009 issue at

Historians of the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods often face the task finding new approaches in their studies because of the thriving popularity of these areas throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Scholars have discussed many topics thoroughly but, due to the constantly changing methodologies and evolution of the profession, new ground always remains. Ground-breaking scholarship succeeds in finding new avenues to discuss previously trodden subjects or uncovering new episodes of history altogether.

This, the Winter 2010 issue of Civil War Book Review, features exceptional scholarship that breaks ground in many different areas of specialization. In many ways, they look at topics that previous scholars have examined but they achieve new and promising heights through unique conclusions and a careful reinterpretation of the source material. Our first feature, Brian Schoen’s The Fragile Fabric of Union considers the dominant role that “King Cotton” played in the increasing sectional thinking and budding nationalism throughout the antebellum period, culminating in secession and the American Civil War. Next, David Work explores the role that politically appointed generals played in solidifying Lincoln’s presidency as he sought to build a national coalition to fight and win the war in Lincoln’s Political Generals. William L. Shea, prominent Civil War campaign historian, illustrates the importance of the Prairie Grove Campaign in effectively eliminating Confederate hope west of the Mississippi River. Based on daunting research and deft analysis, Shea shows readers, in great detail throughout Fields of Blood, the tactical maneuvers of the campaign. In our last feature, Barbara Brooks Tomblin turns the readers’ attention to the role that African Americans played in fighting the Civil War while projecting a broader message about what the war meant to African Americans who fought and died for their own freedom. Bluejackets & Contrabands will serve as an excellent bridge between the struggle for emancipation and the end of slavery during the war and the battle for civil rights and equality after the war.

Civil War Book Review is proud and honored to share an interview with Lacy K. Ford, Jr. who discussed with us, his latest book Deliver Us from Evil: The Question of Slavery in the Old South. He graciously took time to explore some of the highlights and themes of his book in which he breaks down the idea of a monolithic South in unanimous support of slavery, breaking ground en route to showing a more complex and evolving region.

In her column, Leah Wood Jewett has kindly shared some of the prized possessions of the Special Collections at Louisiana State University to illustrate and narrate the connection between our university and the American Civil War.

This quarter, we are blessed to feature an excellent and insightful column, written by Frank J. Williams, that explores the question of Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, providing his own analysis and using William Blair and Karen Fisher Younger’s recent collection of essays as a backdrop. The proclamation, Williams suggests is very complex and provides many opportunities for historians to consider or re-consider Lincoln’s politics, civil rights, and the meaning of the American Civil War to the American memory.

Again, I would like to thank the Special Collections Department and the staff at Louisiana State University for helping me to bring this issue to fruition. I believe we have a very strong Winter 2010 issue of Civil War Book Review that speaks to the evolving studies of the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods. It certainly is a treat, an honor, and a privilege to be able to share in this discussion with our readers.

Civil War Book Review is published in the first week of the months of February, May, August, and November. If you would like to receive e-mail reminders of upcoming issues and special features on the website, click on “Sign me up for CWBR Updates!” link at the bottom of any page in the journal. From there, you can provide us with your contact information so that you will receive these e-mail reminders. Of course, we will NEVER share your personal information with any third party.

Civil War Book Review is the journal of record for new or newly reprinted books about the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras, and is a project of the United States Civil War Center, LSU Libraries Special Collections. A reader’s survey can be accessed through the CWBR homepage.

To contribute to the Civil War Book Review fund, or for information on editorial matters, contact Nathan Buman, Editor, by phone at (225) 578-3553 or by email at

Civil War Book Review
Louisiana State University
Agnes Morris House
Raphael Semmes Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
(225) 578-3553 phone
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Visit us on the web at!

SEVHS February Meeting

Southeast Volusia Historical Society February Meeting

Local history is not my interest but I feel it important to support local history groups. I was finally able to attend a meeting of the SEVHS after being a member for more than a year. My work schedule usually is such that I can't make the Thursday evening meeting that takes place once a month. It was an interesting group. That's the word I would use for it.

The talk was worth attending. Sarah Miller, from The Florida Public Archaeology Network, gave a talk that centered around ground penetrating radar especially when it comes to cemeteries. Ms. Miller was obviously at home in giving this talk and this is no doubt a subject near and dear to her. She talked about discoveries made in St. Augustine, FL while being careful to explain that while GPR may indicate something below ground it may not always be what they are hoping for. She had a couple of interesting brochures including one on the organization she works for and another dealing with Florida's Unmarked Burial Law.

Overall I have to say I was disappointed by the Society however. Remember, I have never been to a meeting and have only been to the museum twice. Nobody there knows me. Not ONE person could be bothered to say hello, to ask my name, to welcome me, or to find out if I intended to rob them all. NOT ONE! I was there about 15 minutes before start time wandering around and stayed about ten minutes after the presentation. NOT ONE PERSON! Mind you I am not exaggerating when I tell you that other than Ms. Miller I was the youngest person there by a minimum of 25 years and really probably 35 years younger than the average attendee. Just seems that maybe some younger blood is a good thing to encourage but maybe age was the problem. For me this stands in complete contrast to a Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting I went to in order to hear Russell Bonds speak. I would guess no fewer than a dozen people talked to my wife and myself. When I say talked I mean more than just saying hello.

Will this experience keep me from attending another meeting? Probably not if my work schedule permits. Is it a positive way to run an all volunteer organization when you have someone with time and energy to help? Not really. So any way, the next historical society meeting you attend, be sure to welcome the newbie (or at least say hello). They may turn into long time members.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Civil War Times Index Now Online

Thanks to Brett at TOCWOC for sharing this great piece of news. Civil War Times magazine is now indexed online. It looks like you can search by year and then issue or you can enter a keyword or author name in their search engine. This should prove to be a great help and time saver for researchers or those looking to just read articles by their favorite author.

Richmond to install 16 markers on slave trail

Here's an interesting article on a Richmond, VA project to install markers along the "Richmond Slave Trail". This trail, at just over 2.5 miles, helps trace the slave trade history in the area until 1775. This certainly seems like a worthy project and a story that should be told. Guided tours are available this month though the article does not say if these will continue.

Richmond to install 16 markers on slave trail Richmond Times-Dispatch

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Newsletter Review--The Arch

The Arch. Green-Wood Historic Fund. Winter 2010.

The Arch is a newsletter published by the Green-Wood Historic Fund to keep people up to date on the happenings at Green-Wood Cemetery located in Brooklyn, NY. Green-Wood encompasses over 450 acres and is the final resting place of over 550,000 people. This is a beautiful newsletter, professionally published and printed and loaded with full color photos

The issue starts off with an update on the competition for an "Angel of Music" that will adorn the grave of composer and pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Next up is a photo article titled "Restoration in Progress" which documents work being done in the cemetery including much bronze work. A listing of spring 2010 events is also included for those lucky enough to live close by. Green-Wood is the final home for many artists and the Historic Fund has made a goal of collecting work by these men and women. A brief article on this is included. In 1934 the S. S. Morro Castle, a luxury cruise ship, caught fire off the coast of New Jersey killing 135 people. Captain Robert Willmott, who had died just hours before the fire, in interred in Green-Wood and a brief article discusses this.

For those of us with an interest in the American Civil War Green-Wood is a treasure. This issue of The Arch includes several items of interest. Gilbert Elliott was the builder of the CSS Albemarle, a very successful, but short lived, battleship. When he died in 1895 Elliott was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery. Also included is a brief write up discussing John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry and the fact that John Cook, who was hanged for his part in the raid, is buried in Green-Wood.

For those wishing to know even more about Civil War soldiers buried at Green-Wood you should consider the following items they have for sale. Final Campground is a collection of writings by soldiers identified as being buried in Green Wood. In addition now available is an updated cd with a biographical dictionary of over 4,300 identified soldiers who are buried there. If these are of the quality of the newsletter they would be nice items to have.

If you are interested in cemeteries or their history I can highly recommend joining this group.

Friday, February 12, 2010

2010 Lincoln Prize

Thu Feb 11 21:00:02 2010 Pacific Time

Colossal Biography of Lincoln Wins 2010 Lincoln Prize

GETTYSBURG, Pa., Feb. 12 (AScribe Newswire) -- A two-volume biography that was 30 years in the making, by one of the foremost living authorities on Abraham Lincoln, has won the 2010 Lincoln Prize.

Michael Burlingame will receive the $50,000 Lincoln Prize for his book, "Abraham Lincoln: A Life" (Johns Hopkins University Press), as well as a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens life-size bust, "Lincoln the Man." Burlingame is the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. The prize, sponsored by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, will be awarded April 27 at the Union League in New York.

The prize was co-founded in 1990 by businessmen and philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, Co-Chairmen of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection - one of the largest private archives of documents and artifacts in the nation. The Institute is devoted to history education, supporting magnet schools, teacher training, digital archives, curriculum development, exhibitions and publications, as well as the national History Teacher of the Year program.

The book is a comprehensive look at Lincoln's life - from growing up impoverished in rural Kentucky and Indiana, to building a career as an ambitious politician that led him to become the 16th president of the United States. Burlingame writes about the trials and tribulations he experienced as commander-in-chief and focuses on his leadership during the Civil War. Nothing is off limits for Burlingame, from private sorrows to public disasters, as he tells the whole story of one of America's greatest presidents.

"Burlingame's massive biography of Abraham Lincoln is a landmark of American historical scholarship. Nothing surpasses Burlingame's comprehensive and detailed research into the entire life of Lincoln," Lehrman said. "His prose and arguments are always clear and straightforward, even if some judgments will be vigorously debated. Because the author of this extraordinary biography has unearthed new evidence and reviewed all previous scholarship, these debates will have to contend with the vast document-based evidence, which this Lincoln Prize winner brings to bear on the life of Lincoln. Every member of the literate general public, interested in Abraham Lincoln, is surely indebted to Burlingame for his tireless research into archives and newspapers never before examined."

"Michael Burlingame's 'Abraham Lincoln: A Life' is meticulously researched and provides a multi-faceted portrait of a man who grew into greatness," said Janet Morgan Riggs, president of Gettysburg College. "Though its length may be intimidating to some, Burlingame's narrative is accessible and engaging. No one who reads this powerful work will ever look at Lincoln quite the same way again," Riggs said.

The three-member 2010 Lincoln Prize jury - Douglas Wilson, the George A. Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus and co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College; Joseph R. Fornieri, Associate Professor of Political Science at Rochester Institute of Technology; and James Oakes, Distinguished Professor and Graduate School Humanities Professor at CUNY Graduate Center - considered 118 titles for the award before recommending the finalists to the Lincoln Prize board which makes the final decision. In addition to Lehrman, Gilder, and Riggs, the Board includes James G. Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute; Gabor Boritt, Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies emeritus at Gettysburg College; and Edwin T. Johnson, Gettysburg College Trustee emeritus.

Finalists for the prize included Robert McGlone's "John Brown's War Against Slavery" (Cambridge University Press) and Mark Wahlgren Summers' "A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction" (University of North Carolina Press).

Past Lincoln Prize winners include Ken Burns in 1991 for his documentary, "The Civil War," Allen Guelzo for his books, "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President" in 2000 and "Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America" in 2005 and Doris Kearns Goodwin in 2006 for her book, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." Last year's co-winners were James McPherson for his book, "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief" and Craig Symonds for his book, "Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy, and the Civil War."

About Burlingame

Born in Washington, D.C., Burlingame attended Phillips Academy, Andover. As a freshman at Princeton University, he enrolled in the Civil War course taught by the eminent Lincolnian David Herbert Donald, who took him under his wing as a research assistant. When Donald moved to Johns Hopkins University, Burlingame followed him upon his graduation from Princeton. Burlingame received his Ph.D. in 1968 from Johns Hopkins University and joined the history department at Connecticut College in New London, where he taught until retiring in 2001 as the Sadowski Professor of History Emeritus. He joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Springfield in 2009. Burlingame is the author of "The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln" (University of Illinois Press, 1994) and has edited volumes of Lincoln primary source materials. Burlingame has received the Abraham Lincoln Association Book Prize (1996), Lincoln Diploma of Honor from Lincoln Memorial University (1998) and an Honorable Mention for the Lincoln Prize (2001). He was inducted into the Lincoln Academy of Illinois in 2009.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition that includes Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate and other distinguished scholars among its alumni. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, founded in 1994, is a not-for-profit organization that oversees the Gilder Lehrman Collection and conducts history education programs in all fifty states, serving more than 3,000 teachers, their students and their communities, across the country every year.

- - - -

CONTACT: Kendra Martin, Gettysburg College Media Relations, 717-337-6801,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: Years of Change and Suffering

Schmidt, James M. and Guy R. Hasegawa, ed. Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine. Edinborough Press, Roseville, MN. 2009. 182 pages, 158 pages text, end notes, bibliography, index, b/w photos, charts, author information.

James Schmidt and Guy Hasegawa have put together an interesting series of essays that deal with many facets of Civil War medicine. I found all of them to be interesting and readable but as with any collection like this some were of more interest than others. Each chapter was brief enough to easily be read at a short sitting. Each included end notes and the majority were illustrated with b/w photos.

I'm going to provide just a brief description of each chapter and then talk about my favorites in a bit more detail. In order of publication: Jodi L. Koste discusses the Medical College of Virginia in the years 1860-1865, James Schmidt introduces us to Scientific American magazine and Civil War medicine and inventions, Alfred Jay Bollet outlines Civil War doctors and amputations, F. Terry Hambrecht writes on J. J. Chisolm the Confederate medical and surgical innovator, Harry Herr discusses urological wounds and their care, Guy R. Hasegawa writes about Southern resources and medicine, D.J. Canale talks about "the Firm" and Civil War neurology, and rounding out the book is Judith Andersen with her important work on combat exposure and mental health.

As I was reading through the table of contents before starting all I could think was "the more things change the more they stay the same". Many of these articles deal with issues that are still relevant for today's military and I got to thinking that maybe our current military brass should take a look at Schmidt and Hasegawa's book to see that while different in some ways war is war. I would suggest they begin with Judith Andersen's contribution "Haunted Minds: The Impact of Combat Exposure on the Mental and Physical Health of Civil War Veterans" Andersen begins by telling us the story of Nellie Kinsman Lang and her husband the Union veteran Frank Lang. Frank was a member of Co. K of the 7th Michigan Infantry who saw combat at places such as Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and The Wilderness. As a hospital attendant Lang of course saw the carnage left by these battles and his post-war anger and violence toward his family was a direct result of what he witnessed firsthand. Obviously post-traumatic stress disorder is nothing new for soldiers. I would also highly recommended military leaders read Alfred Jay Bollett's "Amputations in the Civil War" and "The Privates were Shot: Urological Wounds and Treatment in the Civil War" written by Harry Herr. Despite our huge improvements in medicine and in the care of injured soldiers we also need to deal with the psychological aspects of these injuries and these articles help point out the importance of this.

Several of the articles had a more historical slant including one written by F. Terry Hambrecht titled "J. J. Chisolm, M.D.: Confederate Medical and Surgical Innovator". Chisolm wrote the major book on surgery that was available in the Confederacy: A Manual of Military Surgery , for the Use of Surgeons in the Confederate Army. This went through several editions with updates made each time. Despite being against the use of whiskey in hospitals Chisolm sought out better quality goods "...that our sick soldiers should not be poisoned by the vile stuff sold as whiskey..." (p. 78).

To continue with cliches "necessity is the mother of invention" and James Schmidt writes in "A Multiplicity of Ingenious Articles: Civil War Medicine and Scientific American Magazine" how the magazine has dramatically changed over the years. During the Civil War years the magazine reported on inventions that would have battlefield impact. Improvements came in areas such as ambulances, medicines, and great improvements in prosthetics. There were also large advances in coffins, biers, and in embalming. In discussing these improvements Scientific American said "...any invention which will tend to ameliorate these afflictions and assist in the performance of this sad duty is worthy of special notice" (page 48). Schmidt also points out the increase in the number of women receiving notice in SA for patents.

Overall Schmidt and Hasegawa have put together a highly readable volume that gives the reader much to think about. Each article stands on its own and no level of medical knowledge is needed to read them. Highly recommended!

While I am including a link to Amazon (only the hardcover edition is available but the trade paperback is now out) I would personally suggest heading to Jim's blogs here and here. Besides being able to order nicely signed and inscribed copies you can keep up with his research. I can guarantee you'll be fascinated with what he finds!

Newsletter Review: Surratt Courier Jan. & Feb. 2010

The Surratt Courier. The Surratt Society. Volume XXXV Issues 1 and 2, January and February 2010.

A brief update on the last two issues from the Surratt Courier.

In my mind these issues could have been combined as a double issue. The heart of the issues is a two part excerpt from an upcoming book Dixie Reckoning written by Rick Stelnick. (As an FYI, this book does not show on Amazon as being available for purchase or preorder) According to the February issue "...this new work is said to contain documentable evidence that persons in New York had ties to the Lincoln kidnap plot." The article runs to 12 pages over the two issues and has a section of "end notes". I only call them end notes because that is how they are cited in the February issue. The problem is many are not real end notes at all nor do they really seem to correspond to the text. An example: The text for number 3 "James Hall"...the corresponding note number 3 "Henrietta Elizabeth Demill {1821-1881}" I kid you not when I write that note 94 says "Yes, that Cecil B-of stage and screen!" The text associated with 94 is "Thomas Hindman". Confused? Me too. The documentation doesn't get any better either. By the end of article the end note numbers are up to 155 but the notes end at 102. I started to read this once the February issue arrived so that I could do it at one sitting. After starting and finding this mess I didn't even bother. Poor editing? Poor writing? Who knows. Maybe the March issue will clear it up. Gotta say though I don't hold out hope. Very disappointing as I expect better.

Otherwise, the issues contain the normal President's Message, Mark Your Calendars, and new member listing. The January issue also contained an announcement of a presentation called "The Birth of the Banjo" presented by George Wunderlich, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. This event will be held March 20, 2010 from 6-9:30pm which coincides with the Surratt Society's Annual Conference.