Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Scholar Richard Nelson Current Passes Away



The Executive Committee of The Lincoln Forum announces with profound sadness--along with great gratitude for a long life well lived--the passing of a founding member, peerless mentor, and major inspiration. The long-reigning "dean of Lincoln scholars"--a title he deservedly held for decades--Richard Nelson Current, died in Massachusetts on Friday, October 26, twelve days after his 100th birthday.

Richard Current, born October 5, 1912 in Colorado City (now a part of Colorado Springs), CO, earned his BA from Oberlin, his MA from The Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts, and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Over a long and distinguished career in academia, he taught at Rutgers, Hamilton College, Northern Michigan University Lawrence University, the University of Illinois, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the University of Wisconsin. He also served as a Harmsworth Professor of History at Oxford and a Fulbright Lecturer. As most members know, for 17 years the Forum's annual award of achievement has borne his name--a sign of our respect, affection, and gratitude for his original and steadfast support of our organization. Though too frail in recent years to attend our annual symposia, his presence remained keenly felt--and we will continue to strive to live up to his example of great scholarship and great friendship.

Among Richard Current's many seminal works on Lincoln were: The Lincoln Nobody Knows and Lincoln and the First Shot. He completed J. G. Randall's multi-volume Lincoln biography with the magisterial Lincoln the Man: Last Full Measure, which won the coveted Bancroft Prize. He also won a Logan Hay Medal from the Abraham Lincoln Association and a lifetime achievement Lincoln Prize. His other books included Speaking of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln's Loyalists, Those Terrible Carpetbaggers and Loie Fuller: Goddess of Light--which he coauthored with his beloved wife, Marcia Ewing Current.

The Lincoln Forum family extends its sincerest condolences to our longtime dear friend, Marcia. Knowing that a genuine giant and dear friend has left us, we feel that we share her loss.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Museum of the Confederacy Upcoming Event

I received this information the other day from the Museum of the Confederacy and thought readers might be interested.

The Museum of the Confederacy and Maymont proudly present a Special Presentation:
An Irish-American Experience in the Confederate Army
John Dooley's Civil War

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
Location: Maymont's Garden Hall Building
1700 Hampton Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220
Dr. Robert Emmett Curran, Georgetown University Professor Emeritus of History, gives us fresh information from a keen observer of life in the Confederate Army. The younger brother of Maymont's James H. Dooley, John E. Dooley left a riveting, highly literate and vivid first-person account of his experiences in the 1st Virginia Regiment. Previously known only through an abbreviated edition, Dr. Curran's expanded edition, published in 2011, reveals the full scope of John E. Dooley's war-time experience: from the Richmond home front to 20 months in a Federal prison camp on Lake Erie, from bloody Antietam to Gettysburg, where he fell wounded leading his company of Irish-Americans in Pickett's Charge. Join us for Dr. Curran's introduction to a fascinating young Richmonder and his captivating story.

Reception and book signing follow the lecture. $10 per person/ $5 for members of Maymont and The Museum of the Confederacy. Reservations recommended. To register, call (804) 358-7166 ext. 329 or email kalcaine@maymont.org. Register online by clicking here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New releases from LSU Press

A couple of new releases from my great friends at LSU Press have arrived in the mail in the last couple of weeks.

First up from prominent western theater author Larry J. Daniel is Battle of Stones River: The Forgotten Conflict Between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland. This three day battle led to nearly 25,000 casualties. Daniel uses seldom used primary sources to tell the story of this battle pitting William Rosecrans against Braxton Bragg. While there was no clear cut winner the Union army portrayed this as such helping keep "peace Democrats" at bay. This looks to be a massively researched volume. The bibliography stretches to over 20 pages and the notes section is over 40 pages. 13 maps are also included.

Chester G. Hearn brings us Lincoln and McClellan at War. This book looks to take a look at the differing strategies for pursuing the war. McClellan being more defensive minded while Lincoln wanted the war to be fought offensively. This difference of opinion and McClellan's personal dislike for the President helped lead to his ouster and the start of a revolving door of  generals leading the Army of the Potomac. The bibliography is seven pages and there are nearly 20 pages of notes. A brief glance shows four maps.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review--The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine

Schroeder-Lein, Glenna R. The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine. M. E. Sharpe, Inc., Armonk, NY. 2012. Index, bibliography, b/w illustrations. 421 pages, 348 pages of text. ISBN 9780765621306, $34.95.

For those of us who don't have an extensive science or medical background we will often come across a term we are unsure of or would like more information on. Where should we turn? The answer is the recently released paperback edition of The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine. Now available at a more wallet friendly price this is a book that any serious Civil War student should consider putting on their bookshelf. It will be referred to many times.

Arranged alphabetically by subject there are a wide array of topics covered. Individual battles such as Antietam, Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and others all have their own entries. Medical issues related to the specific battle are covered in these entries. Some of the other topics covered include hospitals, various diseases, types of wounds and treatments, relief organizations, medical curiosities, and many of the doctors and nurses who played such a vital role in the war effort. This reviewer was particularly happy to find Dr. Esther Hill Hawks included. She was one of the rare female doctors working during the war. Post war she and her husband played a large role in founding the area in which I now reside.

Each topic receives a brief discussion; most entries being two or three pages. More important topics sometimes receive a longer treatment. Each topic includes a list of suggested topics readers may want to follow up on. For each topic bibliographic information is included with titles ranging from one to five. A full twelve page bibliography is also included at the conclusion of the book.

The book is visually appealing and the font is such as to make for easy reading. I would have like to see a few more photos included but that's really a minor quibble for a work such as this. The topics I have read are accessible and the writing clear and therein lies the value of this book. This looks to be a book that will be kept handy and used regularly.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review--Mending Broken Soldiers

Hasegawa, Guy R. Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, IL, 2012. 126 pages, 80 pages of text, 2 appendicies, index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9780809331307, $24.95.

The Civil War is without doubt the most deadly and life changing war that the United States has been part of. While the charged feelings on both sides were a huge part of this technology however was a major driver in the carnage that took place on the battlefield. The development and spread of rifled weapons along with the use of the minie ball led to injuries never seen before. When a soldier was struck by a minie ball the result was often shattered bone and massive tissue damage in the surrounding area. This type of damage often led to amputation of the injured limb. The Civil War led to somewhere in the neighborhood of 60,000 such amputations.

With the large number of maimed soldiers returning home it became imperative that these men be taken care of. In his new book Guy R. Hasegawa introduces us to the artificial limb industry and how it developed during the Civil War.

The artificial limb industry was not new during the war however it did expand dramatically both in terms of patents and also in manufacturers. In the two decades leading up to the Civil War there were less than 25 patents issued dealing with artificial limbs. In the decade of the 1860s this exploded to over 100. None of these patents were issued to citizens living in the states of the Confederacy.

As was the case with headstones for the dead the federal government was willing to provide for Union soldiers but not those from the Confederacy. During the war the United States government agreed to pay authorized vendors $50 for an artificial leg. The program was later expanded to include payment for artificial arms as well. While this program went through growing pains the basics stayed the same with the government picking up the tab, including replacements, for Union soldiers.

Confederate soldiers were not so lucky. They did however have the Association for Relief of Maimed Soldiers (ARMS) which was a private organization formed by the Reverend Charles Marshall to help raise funds for and provide soldiers with artificial limbs. As with most things in the south at this time this was a struggle. A lack of everything: skilled workers, raw materials, technological knowledge and of course money, led to difficulties. These obstacles, and a lack of understanding, led to peg legs being seriously considered for a short while as they were thought to be cheaper, needing less repair and replacement, and also more useful for most men as they returned to daily life. Fortunately wiser thought prevailed however. Money was of course the overriding concern as inflation caused costs to be higher than the amount able to be paid. This led to issues with quality and consistency. As money continued to be a problem ARMS turned to various ways to raise funds including individual donations, with Robert E. Lee himself giving $500, state governments, and finally appeals to European countries thought to be friendly toward the Confederacy.

While the programs may seem to be different in many ways they had many similarities. In both the Union and Confederacy programs were led by energetic surgeons. These men, while considering cost, were interested in finding the best available product for soldiers. Quality and consistency from vendors was of paramount importance. Both organizations were concerned about the inconvenience to soldiers during the process. It was important for them to minimize the travel distance required. Both the federal government and ARMS provided no cost travel and lodging to soldiers during the fitting process.

The success of these programs could be debated of course and there is an interesting Appendix that outlines the various makers and the amount of limbs provided. While the government and ARMS provided limbs rehabilitation was unheard of. As the author says about soldiers "...a veteran with an artificial limb could not look to the government for assistance in mastering his prosthesis, finding a job, or dealing with the other difficulties that attended his injury."

Don't be put off the size lack of size on this book. Page counts do not matter when there is this much information provided. Well documented, with a full set of end notes and extensive bibliography this is a well researched book that anybody with an interest in Civil War medicine or technological advances to come out of the war would be wise to read and have on their shelves. Highly recommended!

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for providing a complimentary review copy.