Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review--Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass

Freedman, Russell. Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship. Clarion Books, Boston, MA. 128 pages, notes, bibliography, b/w photos. 2012. ISBN 9780547385624, $18.99.

The parallels and evolving relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass is not a new subject. In fact it has been the subject of several full length books including The Radical and the Republican written by James Oakes and Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln written by John Stauffer. With that in mind is there really a need for yet another work on this subject? When you consider that this book is aimed at young readers ages 9 and up and that the author is Newberry Award winner Russell Freedman the answer is a resounding yes!

Freedman adroitly shows readers the backgrounds of both men starting with their youth and events that helped shape their views. Dougalss began life as a slave named Frederick Bailey who didn't even know his birth year. Lincoln was born to a poor farming family and lost his mother at the age of nine. We learn of the hardships endured by the young Douglass and his path to freedom where he became famous on the lecture circuit. Lincoln worked to study law without benefit of schooling and worked his way through several political offices ending with the presidency.

The paths of Lincoln and Douglass finally crossed after the election of 1860 brought Lincoln to the presidency. Despite Lincoln's anti-slavery views the abolitionist Douglass was unable to support him in the election. Lincoln and the Republican party were more concerned with outlawing the spread of slavery rather than ending it in locations where it existed.

The two men first met in 1863 when Douglass came to the White House to air his grievances regarding the unequal treatment given to black soldiers in the Union army. Both Lincoln and Edwin Stanton were receptive to some of Douglass's views and agreed to approve promotions for those recommended. After hearing Lincoln's reasoning for not moving more quickly on the issue of slavery Douglass left with a firmer understanding of where the President stood. The two met again in 1864 and worked to develop a plan to make more slaves aware of the Emancipation Proclamation. Around this time the fortunes of the Union army began to improve and Lincoln was able to easily win reelection. With reelection secured Lincoln was able to help pass the 13th amendment to the Constitution which forever abolished slavery. It was after Lincoln gave his second inaugural address that the two men met for the final time. At an event after the speech Douglass was originally denied entry but was eventually granted entrance. It was here that Lincoln is said to have spoken the words "Here comes my friend Douglass." The two embraced and talked for a few minutes. Just over a month later Lincoln was dead leaving Douglass to carry on the war for equality.

While this is certainly a work for younger students this does not mean the book is without merit. The research is sound, the illustrations are relevant and help bring life to the text, and the writing does not "dumb down" the subject but rather shows a respect for the reader and their intellect. For adults looking for a brief introduction to the relationship of these two men this would be a good read. For students in the late elementary to middle school age range this is would be an excellent read and fills a need in the Civil War literature for this age range. For those wanting to read further the notes and bibliography section are a nice addition. Public and school libraries as well as home schoolers would be advised to look for this work and to make it widely available! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

University of Tennessee Press Catalog

Today I received a copy of the Spring/Summer 2012 University of Tennessee Press catalog. For those of us interested in the Civil War there are three titles of interest.

A Yankee Horseman in the Shenandoah Valley: The Letters of John H. Black, Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry. Edited by David J. Coles and Stephen D. Engle and scheduled for a June release. This is the only known large collection of letters from a member of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry. The letters span 1862-1865 and were written to his fiance/wife Jennie Leighty Black. The letters offer an insight into not only Black's thoughts but the regiments work which included tracking guerrillas such as John Singleton Mosby. The book is scheduled to be about 200 pages and have 3 photos and 1 map. $39.95.

Lee and His Generals: Essays in Honor of T. Harry Williams. Edited by Lawrence Lee Hewitt and Thomas E. Schott. No publication date is listed in the catalog but Amazon estimates June. "In this collection, ten of those former students, along with one author greatly inspired by Williams's example, offer incisive essays that honor both Williams and his career long dedication to sound, imaginative scholarship and broad historical inquiry." Approximately 368 pages, 14 photos, 6 maps. $45.95 but is on sale already at Amazon for $30.33.

David Schenck and the Contours of Confederate Identity written by Rodney Steward. "...Steward opens a window into the heart and soul of the Confederate South's burgeoning professional middle class and reveals the complex set of desires, aspirations, and motivations that inspired men like Schenck to cast for themselves a Confederate identity that would endure the trials of war, the hardship of Reconstruction, and the birth of a New South."
Scheduled for a May release, 184 pages, 5 photos. $39 but currently on sale at Amazon for $25.74.

CWT--Cedar Creek Battlefield

I received the following information from the Civil War Trust regarding an important upcoming fundraising campaign.

Media Advisory: Government Officials, Preservation Advocates Gather to Anounce Major Fundraising Campaign at Cedar Creek

(Middletown, Va.) – On Thursday, February 9, 2012, officials from the Civil War Trust, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the National Park Service and national and local historic preservation groups will gather to announce a $1.3 million fundraising campaign to preserve 77 acres of hallowed battlefield land on the Cedar Creek Battlefield in Frederick County, Va. 

The news conference will be held at historic Belle Grove Plantation, a key battlefield landmark, beginning at 9:30 a.m. (rain or shine). James Lighthizer, President of the Civil War Trust, will serve as the emcee for the event. He will be joined by Diann Jacox, superintendent of Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park; Kathleen Kilpatrick, Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources; and eminent historian and author Dr. Gary Gallagher, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia.

WHAT: News conference announcing fundraising campaign to save historic land at Cedar Creek Battlefield

WHO: Virginia Director of Historic Resources Kathleen Kilpatrick, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park Superintendent Diann Jacox, historian Dr. Gary Gallagher, and Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer

WHEN: February 9, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. ET

WHERE: Belle Grove Plantation, 336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown, Va.

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its goal is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 32,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including nearly 533 acres at Cedar Creek. Please visit the Trust’s website at, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.
(For more information about Battle of Cedar Creek, visit


  • Jim Campi, (202) 367-1861 x7205
  • Mary Koik, (202) 367-1861 x7231

Related Links


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review--The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War

Wagner, Margaret E. The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War. Little Brown and Co., New York, NY. 2011. 254 pages, 233 pages text. Index, bibliography, notes, color and b/w photos, maps. ISBN 9780316120685, $35.

With access to the resources of the Library of Congress the reader should expect nothing less than an exceptional book. Author Margaret E. Wagner has certainly delivered upon this expectation.

Wagner serves as a senior writer and editor in the Publishing Office of the Library of Congress and has written, co-written, or edited several other works including The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference, The Library of Congress World War II Companion, Maxfield Parrish and the Illustrators of the Golden Age amongst others. Her background with the available resources at the LOC makes her an obvious choice for this work.

Published in a "coffee table" format the book works perfectly as a conversation piece as well as a book that can be referred to regularly or just perused at the readers' leisure. The book is broken into four logical chapters based upon major events or shifts in the war. In a timeline work such as this though I don't really feel chapters are needed.

Being written in chronological order the reader is able to follow the war on an almost daily basis. For parents working to instill an interest in history in their children a book like this is ideal. The family can read the events of the day together. Mind you, the book is not written with children as a target market however. As would be expected some days have much more information than others. No days however dominate the book. Even the mystique that surrounds the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg does not lead it to more than it's fair share. Most days events can be read within a matter of a couple of minutes.

Wagner and "picture editor" Athena Angelos have done a masterful job in choosing the illustrations that grace practically every page. With over 350 in the book even the most hard core of Civil War historians is likely to see something new. From famous portraits, to copies of letters, to maps and artworks you will find it here. For those wanting copies for themselves there is a useful section that includes LOC image call numbers. This is invaluable for finding copies on the LOC website.

The book wraps up with a full set of notes and a large bibliography. The bibliography also includes website information for many listings that are in the public domain and that can be downloaded for free. A nice inclusion is also a section describing the various collections of Civil War material available through the LOC.

This is a worthwhile book for those with a passing interest in the war or for those who already have an in depth knowledge of events. The book is beautiful to look through and contains a wealth of information for those of all knowledge levels. While the price may seem high once you see the book I am sure you will agree the price is worth it, especially if you can find it at a discount.

Thanks to Little Brown for sending a complimentary review copy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Civil War Cinema Announcement

2nd Annual Civil War Cinema!

Join the Museum of the Confederacy and the Historic Byrd Theatre for the 2nd Edition of Civil War Cinema. The feature presentation will be "The Conspirator," Robert Redford's historical drama about the trial of Mary Surratt starring Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson and Kevin Kline. Prior to the movie, a chocolate and champagne reception will be held in the theatre's lobby and Mary Surratt biographer Elizabeth Trindal will give a short lecture after the film.

In addition, Ms. Rita McClenny from the Virginia Film Office will be making a few announcements regarding the recent filming of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln in Richmond as well as news on what the future has in store for the Virginia Film Office.

All proceeds benefit the Museum of the Confederacy and The Byrd Theatre Foundation.

Sunday, January 29th from 1:00pm to 4:00pm

$25 (includes reception, lecture and film)
$15 with student ID or 13yrs. and younger (ID must be presented at the door)

You may purchase tickets at the Museum's front desk, Chop Suey Books in Carytown, or by clicking "Buy Tickets" below.


Date: Sunday, January 29, 2012
Time: 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
2908 West Cary Street
Richmond, VA 23221

Friday, January 6, 2012

Savas Beatie Author Interview

Having recently had the pleasure of visiting Antietam National Battlefield I have gained an interest in and appreciation for this complex battle. Publisher Savas Beatie has a new book out titled Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862 written by Brian Matthew Jordan. Here Jordan tells the story of an often overlooked battle that is seen by many as just a prequel to Antietam. Using many primary sources readers will be able to see the importance of the action that took place at the three gaps (Fox's, Turner's, and Crampton's) on South Mountain. If the author achieves his goal the battle will no longer be seen as just a trivial part of the Maryland Campaign that led to Antietam but will be seen as an important turning point in the campaign in and of itself. The book contains maps, photos, index, and bibliography. While I have not seen a copy of the book yet this looks like it will be a winner. Knowing the quality of other SB books this will no doubt be an attractive book as well.

For those wanting further information about the book, the author, or the author's methods and goals of the book SB has been kind enough to post an interview with Mr. Jordan. Read the full interview here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ocala, FL Civil War Monument

Located in the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park stands a reminder to the brave men from Marion County who fought for the Confederacy.

Unveiling of Confederate Monument in at corner
 of Ocala County courthouse grounds.

(Courtesy Florida State Archives, Florida Memory

Project, rc03941,
Standing 23 feet tall the monument was originally created by McNeel Marble Company from Valdosta, GA. The J. J. Dickison Chapter No. 56 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy had the memorial erected at the Marion County Courthouse and official dedication took place on May 1, 1908.

The monument stood at the courthouse, despite changes to the building, for over a century. Until recently the statue had been located in a corner of the building relegating the memorial to an afterthought rather than the tribute it was designed to be. When plans were made to build a new courthouse annex ideas were put forth as to what to do with "Johnny Reb" as the statue is affectionately called by some. Ideas included leaving the statue where it was, moving it to the entrance of the county historical museum, or moving the statue approximately two miles to a location at Veterans Memorial Park. While cost played a role in the final outcome, the decision was made to move the statue to a location in Veterans Memorial Park. With a public/private joint venture the funds were raised and the statue now sits in a prominent location at the park. A rededication ceremony took place on April 16, 2011 featuring Civil War reenactors and authentic weaponry from the war. You may read a local news article on the ceremony here.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing this monument while I was in Ocala to attend a wedding. Unfortunately it was a cloudy and rainy day when we got to the park so my personal photos are only OK at best. The gray clouds and rain spot or two on the lens didn't really make them usable here. I have managed to find better quality photos that you will see below. Thanks go out to the Florida Public Archaeology Network for the photos and some of the information used in this post.

Veterans Memorial Park is located at the corner of East Fort King Street and SE 25th St.

GPS Coordinates: N 29 11.186  W 082 06.157    elevation approximately 113 feet

Sign in Veterans Memorial Park, the new
 location of the Confederate monument.
(Photo by William Lees, FPAN, May 2011)

View of the monument and its new setting and landscaping in Veterans Memorial Park. Photo was taken facing towards the southeast.
(Photo by William Lees, FPAN, May 2011)
The front or northwest face of the monument is the most elaborate:





(Photo by William Lees, FPAN, May 2011)

(Photo by William Lees, FPAN, May 2011)

On April 16, 2011 the monument was
 rededicated atits new permanent
 location in Ocala's Veteran's Park.
(Photo by Doug Engle, Ocala Star-Banner,

 April 16, 2011)

View of the soldier statue, feature a wide brimmed hat, blanket roll across his shoulder, Enfield bayonet in sheath, and standing at rest with musket on the ground in front.

(Photo by William Lees, FPAN, May 2011)

The southeast face of the monument features
 crossed flags above which is "1861 - 1865."
(Photo by William Lees, FPAN, May 2011)

View of the rear of the soldier statue,
clearly showing the Enfield bayonet
in scabbard, canteen, and blanket roll
 held together by a wide band.
(Photo by William Lees, FPAN, May 2011)

The southwest face of the monument
 features a bas relief of a partially furled
 Confederate battle flag, with "CSA" above,
 and the following below the flag:

(Photo by William Lees, FPAN, May 2011)