Sunday, June 27, 2010

Updated Review--Gettysburg Medal of Honor Recipients

Hanna, Charles. Gettysburg Medal of Honor Recipients. Bonneville Books, Springville, Utah. 2010.271 pages, index, bibliography, b/w photos.

I recently wrote a brief preview on what I thought was going to be a quite fascinating book. I even put it on the "fast track" to be read. Unfortunately I came out feeling underwhelmed and a bit disappointed.

The book is a brief look at each of the brave men who have been awarded the Medal of Honor for their deeds at the Battle of Gettysburg. In this format most should not be long pieces and the average is probably less than 4 pages though Joshua Chamberlain is of course given ten pages (yawn). I have absolutely no problem with the format and it is probably how it should be for a work like this.

What this book really needed was a good history publisher with an editor who could have fixed the problems. It was clearly lacking here. Much of the book read like a high school essay with very simplistic sentences that make you feel like you are not reading a book geared toward those with an interest in history but rather an assignment that was put together right before the due date. In addition there were numerous spelling and grammatical errors that were probably even more a bother due to the writing. Then we get to the unneeded stereotypes. "...but McCarren was an Irishman, and it is difficult for an Irishman to stay out of a good fight." (p. 191). This stereotype is repeated several times in the book. Considering Cpl Bernard McCarren is allotted less than two full pages comments like this are unfounded, unwelcome, and should not have been included.

These issues aside I have a bigger problem and that is with the documentation or lack thereof. First up are the appendices and how they don't seem to match up with the text. Reading through I counted 63 men having been awarded the MOH according to the text. However when reading what I though would be useful charts at the end with breakdowns by state, rank, or regiment, I get different totals in each. This is an unforgivable error that is left unexplained. As far as notes go they are practically non-existent. For over 60 brief biographies barely a dozen have any kind of notation on sources. The most common source is the two volume work Deeds of Valor, which has been reprinted many times in a single volume. In multiple instances Hanna quotes from letters but gives no source as to where they came from or how another researcher may access them. His bibliography is less than three pages broken down into articles, books, and websites.

If you are looking for a very brief overview of a particular soldier or if you have a passing interest in the Medal of Honor and don't need further references this might be your book. However if you are looking to do further research on any of these brave men I would suggest looking elsewhere.

Friday, June 25, 2010

LSU Press Fall 2010 Catalog

I received the Fall 2010 LSU Press catalog in yesterday's mail. You can download a copy here. Here are some highlights related to the Civil War.

Flora and Fauna of the Civil War--written by Kelby Ouchley. "...blends traditional and natural history to create a unique text that explores both the impact of the Civil War on the surrounding environment and the reciprocal influence of plants and animals on the war effort."

Patriotic Envelopes of the Civil War--written by Steven R. Boyd. "...explores their imagery to understand what motivated soldiers and civilians to support a war far more protracted and destructive than anyone anticipated in 1861."

Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky--edited by C.L. Innes. Includes two narratives written by Francis Fedric, who escaped slavery in 1854 and in 1857 traveled to England.

Slavery, Civil War, and Salvation--written by Daniel L. Fountain. Fountain argues that only after emancipation did African Americans consistently turn to Christianity.

Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri--written by Dennis K. Boman. "...illustrates the difficulty of suppressing dissent while upholding the Constitution".

Civil War Senator--written by Sean M. Kelley. The first biography of Maine Senator William Pitt Fessenden in over 40 years.

Fenians, Freedmen, and Southern Whites--written by Mitchell Snay. Paperback reissue. 

Los Brazos de Dios--written by Sean M. Kelley. "...the first examination of Texas slavery as a borderland institution and reveals the difficulty with which southern plantation society was transplanted to the West.

Flora and Fauna of the Civil War: An Environmental Reference GuidePatriotic Envelopes of the Civil War: The Iconography of Union and Confederate Covers (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky: A Narrative by Francis Fedric, Escaped Slave (Library of Southern Civilization)Slavery, Civil War, and Salvation: African American Slaves and Christianity, 1830-1870 (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)Civil War Senator: William Pitt Fessenden and the Fight to Save the American Republic (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)Fenians, Freedmen, and Southern Whites: Race and Nationality in the Era of Reconstruction (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)Los Brazos De Dios: A Plantation Society in the Texas Borderlands, 1821-1865 (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Newsletter Review--The Lincoln Forum Bulletin

The Lincoln Forum Bulletin. Issue 27, Spring 2010.

I recently received the spring 2010 Lincoln Forum Bulletin published by The Lincoln Forum.

The cover article of this issue deals with the upcoming annual symposium that will be taking place in November. Please see the link for further information. Also included is a nice spread of photos from last years event and also an article detailing attendees ratings from last years event. Speaker Ronald White, the author of A. Lincoln: A Biography, appears to have been the hit of the event scoring the highest marks. Looks like a great time. Hopefully I'll get to go at some point.

A nice article written by Jane Gastineau talks about the new homes for the Lincoln Financial Collection. Items are now housed at the Indiana State Museum and also at the Allen County Public Library. The Allen County Public Library also has plans to digitize the more than 20,000 books and pamphlets, several thousand photos, and over 10,000 pages of 19th century newspapers. It sounds like great work is being done here and anybody interested in President Lincoln should be thankful.

Elizabeth Keckly, an African-American seamstress who worked in the Lincoln White House and was a close friend of Mary Lincoln, is also given attention. The Lincoln Forum, the Black Women United for Action, and the Surratt Society joined forces to mark the grave of Ms. Keckly in National Harmony Memorial Cemetery in a May 26th ceremony. National Harmony Memorial Cemetery became the final resting place for approximately 37,000 remains from the historically black Columbian Harmony Cemetery in the late 1950's. From what I can tell the original cemetery was moved due to construction of a metro station. See this site for more information.

The Lincoln Forum has also published a new book: The Lincoln Assassination: Crime & Punishment, Myth and Memory, edited by Harold Holzer, Craig Symonds, and Frank Williams.

As with everything this group does the newsletter is top notch. Professionally edited and printed with excellent photos. If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln I can highly recommend this organization.

The Lincoln Assassination: Crime and Punishment, Myth and Memory A Lincoln Forum Book (The Lincoln Forum: the North's Civil War) A. Lincoln: A BiographyBehind the Scenes in the Lincoln White House: Memoirs of an African-American Seamstress

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book Review--The Confederacy's Secret Weapon

Bostick, Douglas W. The Confederacy's Secret Weapon: The Civil War Illustrations of Frank Vizetelly. The History Press. Charleston, SC., 2009. 158 pages, bibliography, b/w illustrations. ISBN 9781596295926, $19.99.

I think we sometimes forget just how advanced our world has gotten. We can hear about, see photos of, or watch live video or events happening around the world. Just turn on CNN, Fox, or fire up your computer and news of the world is yours for the asking. It wasn't so easy during the 19th century. People had to rely on newspapers which could be notoriously slow and behind. That was especially true when it came to news from overseas locations. Such was the case of the Civil War as England and France were desperate for news.

To try and satisfy the cravings of it's readers the Illustrated London News sent war correspondent Frank Vizetelly to the States to cover the war. Vizetelly began covering the war from the Union side and travelled with various regiments until being barred by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Beginning in July 1862 Vizetelly began travelling with various Confederate brigades and began calling the war the "War Between the States".

Vizetelly was present at many important sites and battles including Fredericksburg, Second Manassas, Charleston, Chickamauga, Belle Isle Prison, and others. For Vizetelly the problem was not having access to the war but rather getting his reports and artwork home. As the Union blockade continued to strangle the Confederacy blockade runners were the only way for Vizetelly to file his reports. While many made it through many others did not with those either being intercepted or sunk. While the Illustrated London News was able to publish 133 of his engravings many were also used in Union newspapers. This was due to art being confiscated from blockade runners or also due to copying from the ILN.

After the war Vizetelly continued his reporting and after a brief "retirement" he was drawn to the Sudan to report on the Mahdist's insurrection against Egyptian rule. It is believed Vizetelly was killed during a massacre of British soldiers at the Battle of Kashgil in November 1883.

Douglas Bostwick has written a very interesting and easily read book. Due to it's size this is a quick read and an excellent introduction to the subject. The brief bibliography will lead interested readers to other related titles. I was not familiar with Frank Vizetelly but after reading the book and seeing many examples of his art I have a true appreciation for what he was able to do. This book is part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Series being issued by The History Press. Be sure to check their website for more titles. I personally look forward to discovering more of their work.

A special thanks to Jim Durney at the Suncoast Civil War Society who sent this book as a thank you for joining and also to The History Press for providing these books to Jim and our group.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rare slave children photo found

A rare photo thought to be of two slave children or just recently emancipated slave children was recently discovered in a moving sale that took place in North Carolina. The photo was possibly taken by a follower of Matthew Brady. Read the full article here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Asylum papers on Mary Todd Lincoln to be Auctioned

I found reference to this article in a genealogy blog I occassionaly read. Seems that not all the papers regarding Mary Todd Lincoln being committed to an asylum were destroyed. A stash of forgotten documents will soon be seeing the light of day at auction. See the auction page here. I'm betting they go for way over the $8-10,000 estimate. Read the article regarding the papers and Mary Lincoln here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

University of Virginia Press Fall 2010 Catalog

Just received the fall 2010 University of Virginia Press book catalog in the mail at work today.  There are a few books of interest coming out soon.

America on the Eve of the Civil War. Edited by Edward Ayers and Carolyn Martin. Scheduled for an October release. $23.95. 9780813930633.  17 top scholars and historians took part in an unscripted discussion on the state of the union just before the South seceded.

Jefferson, Lincoln, and Wilson.  Edited by John Milton Cooper Jr. and Thomas Knock. Scheduled for August release. $39.50. 9780813930046.  "...seeks to explore how the collision of reaces shaped American democracy in the lives, thought, and actions of three of the nation's most important presidents."

Radical Reform . Written by Deborah Beckel. Scheduled for January. $45. 9780813930022.  "...portrays the largely unkown leaders of the interracial Republican party who struggled for political, civil, and labor rights in North Carolina after the Civil War.

The Big House After Slavery.  Written by Amy Feely Morsman. Scheduled for August. $45. 9780813930039. "...examines the economic, social and political challenges that Virginia planter families faced following Confederate defeat and emancipation."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Florida Historical Sites vs. BP Oil Spill

Thanks to Dale Cox at Civil War Florida for this update regarding the status of coastal historical sites since the massive BP oil leak. He also provides some great resources for checking on individual park statuses. Dale is the author of several books with several of them being related to the Civil War.

As the fallout from this disaster hits us let's hope there is a resolution/fix/whatever coming soon. No matter your political beliefs this is a huge problem that is going to take a long time and a lot of money to fix. Rather than arguing it is time to put heads together and get this fixed. And afterwards once the facts are clear it will be time for heads to roll and charges to filed as needed.
The Battle of Marianna, FloridaThe Battle of Natural Bridge, FloridaThe History of Jackson County, Florida: The War Between the States (Volume 2)The Battle of Massard Prairie: The 1864 Confederate Attacks on Fort Smith, ArkansasTwo Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts