Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Restaurant Review--GrantLee's Florida Brigade Tavern and Grill

My mother always taught me that if you can't say something nice it is best not to say anthing at all. Fortunately I don't live with my mother any longer so I can make some honest commentary regarding this new restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, FL.

GrantLee's Florida Brigade Tavern & Grill  Located on U.S. 1 next to the New Smyrna airport in the old Stella's Skyline building.

The outside of GrantLee's which is
located near the New Smyrna
Airport in the old Stella's Skyline
building on U.S.1
Photo from the GrantLee website
I was assuming this was going to be a Civil War themed restaurant based upon the name and the information on the website. I suppose it is but I didn't really get much of a Civil War vibe. Sure there are a few prints on the wall and there's a small bookcase with what I assume to be Civil War books (I didn't bother looking) but when Michael Jackson is belting out Thriller over the in-house music it's pretty tough to take it very seriously. In addition the staff shirts have what is supposed to be Generals Grant and Lee I am guessing at Appomattox. If I didn't know who they were I would have really had to work at it to figure it out. I am pretty sure that none of the staff know much about the Civil War but call me a snob.

So we went a just a bit before 8pm on a Sunday night. There weren't more than three other parties, all of whom had food on their tables, and a couple at the bar who were just at the edge of sober. It's not busy is what I am getting at. The elapsed time before a server gets to our table--7 minutes. The busboy (I am assuming that's what he was) brought us our iced teas 5 minutes later. This was not a real good beginning in the first week of being open.

I found the menu to be a bit weird. On the dinner menu there were only 14 entrees to choose from but yet there were 16 side dishes available. Some of the entrees had what were supposed to be clever names like "Johnny Reb Country Fried Steak"or "Chickamauga Chicken". Most however just had regular titles. On the dinner menu there was not a burger to be seen despite two being advertised on the front page of their website. After looking at the online menu it appears these are only available at lunch. Can't say that I understand this decision.

After being informed that two of the 14 entrees were not available my wife ordered the Yankee Pot Roast and a side of cheese biscuits. I ordered the Georgia Pulled Pork Platter with fries. The waiter bounded off only to return a few minutes later to tell my wife that they don't have any biscuits and recommends the corn muffins (plural) instead. She opted for that.

Somewhere oh, around a half hour later, our food arrived in two seperate trips. My wife gots hers and several minutes later mine arrived. Presentation wise my wife's was OK. Mine however looked like a can of cat or dog food had been turned over. I've ordered pulled pork at many restaurants but never have I had something like this served. This was not pulled, it was chopped, and chopped, and then chopped again. There was no resemblance to meat here. The taste was only mildly better once I loaded it up with sauce. For a restaurant that is supposed to pride itself on bbq this does not cut it on any level. Then there were the unseasoned frozen french fries. According to the website there is an option for handcut fries. I didn't notice it on the menu and the server did not offer. Maybe I missed it maybe they don't offer that option in Florida.  Just an all around disappointing meal.

Like I said my wife ordered the Yankee Pot Roast. As with mine this should have been pretty simple and straight forward. Note my words should have been. Have you ever had Yankee Pot Roast with raw onion and carrots that have to be cut with a knife? Neither had my wife until dining here. Her side of corn muffins (plural) was actually one very large muffin kind of like you would get at a Starbucks. Not really made for sharing if that is your goal. The meat was OK but needed seasoning.

Once finished we wait a bit but finally get the bill. We anticipated the corn muffin being on the bill since it did not appear the pot roast came with a side item. It wasn't there. Maybe it was comped because they were out of biscuits. Perhaps the waiter forgot. Who would know or care at that point. My wife put her card in the holder and left the end sticking out so the waiter can see we are ready. Now it's time to once again play the GrantLee waiting game. So we wait. And move the holder around on the table. And wait. And move the holder again trying to get anybody to see we are ready. Various employees walked by at least a dozen times but of course our waiter has gone on sabbatical at this point and has not been seen. My wife finally got up and asked a woman (waitress, busser, owner, who knows) if she could take the card and cash us out. The employee left to find the waiter who after a few minutes made an appearance. He did at least bring the card and receipt for tip and signature back promptly.

Unfortunately the story doesn't end there as both my wife and I ended the night with stomach cramps. Neither one of us ate more than a bite of the others meal so the culprit appears to have been bad unsweet tea. Anybody who has ever been hit with this will understand why this night turned into a complete washout and how and where the night ended.

Overall a really bad experience. Considering the location and the fact that most folks living in the area have to drive by many other restaurants to get to GrantLee's they will need to pick it up tremendously in order to survive. Perhaps they will. Whether we would eat there again is open for debate. If we do it won't be in the near future.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Press Release--PBS to Air Program on Female Latino Confederate Spy


ON PBS FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2013 AT 10:00 P.M. ET

New Documentary Explores the Secret Life of Loreta Velazquez --

Cuban immigrant, Confederate Soldier turned Union Spy

Release image tiny.jpg
Romi Dias as Loreta Janeta Velazquez.
Credit: Gerard Gaskin

Shrouded in mystery and long the subject of debate, the amazing story of Loreta Velazquez is one of the Civil War’s most gripping forgotten narratives. While the U.S. military may have recently lifted the ban on women in combat, Loreta Janeta Velazquez, a Cuban immigrant from New Orleans, was fighting in battle 150 years ago — one of the estimated 1000 women who secretly served as soldiers during the American Civil War. Who was she? Why did she fight? And what made her so dangerous that she has been virtually erased from history? Directed by María Agui Carter, REBEL premieres as a special presentation of the Latino Public Broadcasting series VOCES ON PBS, airing nationally on PBS on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings).

Deftly weaving lushly dramatized scenes of Loreta’s riveting tale with historical commentary and archival material, REBEL explores the story of a complex woman, a myth and the politics of national memory. The story of a wealthy Cuban planter’s daughter sent to New Orleans in 1849, REBEL chronicles Loreta’s rebellious relationship with her traditional family and her early marriage to an American soldier known only as William. After the devastating sudden death of William and her three young children, Loreta turned her grief into transformation. She embarked on a new secret life, disguising herself as a man and, under the name of Harry T. Buford, served first as a soldier in the Confederate Army and later as a Union spy.

REBEL is based on Loreta’s 600-page memoir, A Woman In Battle, which caused a sensation when it was published in 1876 and remains in print to this day. For over a century, Loreta was dismissed as a liar and a prostitute, but new evidence indicates she was no hoax. “Loreta’s memoir gives us rare insight into war from a woman and a Latina ’s point of view. She was an immigrant serving her country by fighting for it, as so many generations have done. Growing up in New Orleans she naturally aligned herself with the South and even kept a slave, but records show she would end up spying for the North. She was a complex woman who ultimately turned against war as a solution to the world’s problems,” says writer/director María Agui Carter. Although Loreta’s memoir, which most historians acknowledge to be somewhat embellished, was dismissed as a hoax for over a century, historians have recently discovered documents in the National Archives as well as newspaper articles and letters proving that she did indeed exist. “Loreta Velazquez was a rebel who flouted all the rules to become a part of American history,” says Ms. Agui Carter.

“We’re delighted to present REBEL as a special presentation of VOCES ON PBS,” says Latino Public Broadcasting’s Executive Director Sandie Pedlow. “The film rescues this fascinating story from obscurity, and shines a light on an amazing Cuban American woman who was not afraid to defy expectations and blaze her own path.”

REBEL is a co-production of Iguana Films, L.L.C. and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), in association with WPBT2/Miami and Latino Public Broadcasting with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

* * *

About the Filmmakers

María Agui Carter (Writer/Producer/Director) emigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador , grew up an undocumented “Dreamer” in New York City and graduated from Harvard College . A filmmaker and scholar, she has won George Peabody Gardner, Warren and Rockefeller Grants, been a visiting scholar at Harvard and Tulane, and her work has shown at film festivals and been broadcast internationally. Based in Boston , she is an advocate for Latino and social issue filmmakers, serving as Chair of NALIP, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.

Calvin Lindsay, Jr. (Producer) has worked in television production for more than two decades, beginning at WGBH-TV where he served as Series Producer for Say Brother, one of public television’s longest running local series. Lindsay has produced seven Emmy Award winning documentaries and productions and has collaborated on countless others.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book Review--Abraham Lincoln Images

This is a double book review. The two books are set up the same and written by the same author and so rather than do separate reviews it is easier to do them together.

Reed, Fred. Abraham Lincoln: The Image of His Greatness. Whitman Publishing, LLC, Atlanta, GA, 2009. Index, bibliography, notes, color and b/w photos, ISBN 9780794827045, $29.95.

Reed, Fred. Abraham Lincoln: Beyond the American Icon. Whitman Publishing, LLC, Atlanta, GA, 2013. Index, bibliography, notes, color and b/w photos, ISBN 9780794837419, $29.95.

For any collector of Abraham Lincoln items these books are great starting points to see the array of fields and items available. The books have a nice mix of text and illustrations and are appropriate for any level.

The text is chronological. Both books are broken into five chapters: 1809-1865, 1865-1909, 1909-1959, 1959-2009, and 2009-beyond. The text is in small bites with most showcasing a particular day and important events. The text is not a biography of Lincoln but rather an assortment of Lincoln and Lincoln related facts. There is plenty to learn even for those who have read widely on the 16th president.

While there is a good amount of text make no mistake, the illustrations are the central point of these books. Each page is jam packed with photos most appropriate to the time frame of the text. From vintage campaign items to modern items such as comic books and trading cards Reed has done an excellent job showcasing just how pervasive Abraham Lincoln has been and continues to be in our culture. If you are reader like me you will be amazed at the variety and sheer volume of items with the likeness of "The Great Emancipator".

Published by Whitman, which is known for publishing coin and stamp collecting books, these could be considered collecting books but they are not price guides. That is actually a plus in that it allows the books to stay in print and available for readers. I enjoy just flipping through the pages and looking at the great memorabilia. The only problem with these two volumes is that I am eagerly anticipating the possibility of a third volume in a few years. It will be interesting to see the variety of items that are released during the remaining years of the sesquicentennial bearing the likeness of our most famous president.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Upcoming Posts--History Press and SIU Press

Thanks go out to The History Press and Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a couple of new release books.

From SIU Press comes 1863: Lincoln's Pivotal Year edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard. Contributors include Frank J. Williams, Craig L. Symonds, John Marszalek, William C. Davis, Bob Zeller and others.

From the publisher:

Only hours into the new year of 1863, Abraham Lincoln performed perhaps his most famous action as president by signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Rather than remaining the highlight of the coming months, however, this monumental act marked only the beginning of the most pivotal year of Lincoln’s presidency and the most revolutionary twelve months of the entire Civil War. In recognition of the sesquicentennial of this tumultuous time, prominent Civil War scholars explore the events and personalities that dominated 1863 in this enlightening volume, providing a unique historical perspective on a critical period in American history.
Several defining moments of Lincoln’s presidency took place in 1863, including the most titanic battle ever to shake the American continent, which soon inspired the most famous presidential speech in American history. The ten essays in this book explore the year’s important events and developments, including the response to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation; the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and other less-well-known confrontations; the New York City draft riots; several constitutional issues involving the war powers of President Lincoln; and the Gettysburg Address and its continued impact on American thought. Other topics include the adaptation of photography for war coverage; the critical use of images; the military role of the navy; and Lincoln’s family life during this fiery trial.
With an informative introduction by noted Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer and a chronology that places the high-profile events of 1863 in context with cultural and domestic policy advances of the day, this remarkable compendium opens a window into a year that proved decisive not only for the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidency but also for the entire course of American history.
Recently released by The History Press is Mosby's Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia (Civil War Sesquicentennial). The book is written by William S. Connery who has written for on the Civil War in northern Virginia for the History Press in the past.

From the publisher:

The most famous Civil War name in Northern Virginia, other than General Lee, is Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the Gray Ghost. He stands out among nearly one thousand generals who served in the war, celebrated most for his raids that captured Union general Edwin Stoughton in Fairfax and Colonel Daniel French Dulany in Rose Hill. By 1864, he was a feared partisan guerrilla in the North and a nightmare for Union troops protecting Washington City. After the war, his support for presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant forced Mosby to leave his native Virginia for Hong Kong as U.S. consul. A mentor to young George S. Patton, Mosby's military legacy extended to World War II. William S. Connery brings alive the many dimensions of this American hero.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Review--Confrontation at Gettysburg

Hoptak, John David. Confrontation at Gettysburg: A Nation Saved, a Cause Lost (Civil War Sesquicentennial). Charleston: The History Press, 2012. Index, Selected Bibliography, Order of Battle, b/w photos, maps. ISBN 9781609494261, $16.99.

John Hoptak is quite a busy man. Just a quick rundown of his roles would include author, blogger, educator (that's his face you see in the ads featured in Civil War Times and other magazines), and Park Ranger at the Antietam National Battlefield.

The historiography on the battle of Gettysburg is filled with broad pieces covering the whole campaign such as those by Coddington, Sears, and Trudeau to those dealing with small aspects of the battle such as those written by Wittenberg and Cocco.  There seems to be an author for every regiment that was on the field. The choices for the student are almost overwhelming and for those who don't know anything about the battle the choices are at best problematic. Where to begin? I asked myself that several years ago when first learning about the battle. I chose what is a good book but it was quite overwhelming and I was pretty confused despite having learned a lot. John Hoptak has written a book that surely should be recommended as the starting point for anybody wanting to learn about the Gettysburg campaign.

Mr. Hoptak's introduction probably describes his own book better than I can. With the vast amount of literature available this is not an attempt to be a complete history of the battle let alone the entire campaign. Nor was the author attempting to search out new resources or make new interpretations of those available. To quote the author: "...from the start, my approach has been to be more storyteller than historian." After reading this work this reader feels the author accomplished both.

The book is broken in to five chapters: the lead up to the battle, each of the three days of battle, and the aftermath of the battle. The battle itself is the key of this book and as such takes up around two thirds of the text portion. Each day is given a thorough discussion and while not delving into minute detail the battle is covered in good order. Once finished the reader will have a strong basic understanding of events that happened on those fateful days in southern Pennsylvania.

While not having an agenda that does not stop Mr. Hoptak from voicing his views on some of the major events and players of the battle. The author feels that it was probably a wise move for Richard Ewell to not have tried to take Cemetery Hill at the close of the first days fighting. Similarly the "failure" of George Meade to attempt take the Army of Northern Virginia after the battle is seen as probably a wise move when all is taken in to account. Dan Sickles, while not escaping blame, is given his due for having done what the general thought was best. While Sickles gets off a bit easy Joshua Chamberlain and the troops of the 20th Maine are downplayed and their importance to the overall success of the Union army is left to the reader to ponder.

Mr. Hoptak has a nice style of writing and the book moved along at a good pace. The look of the book is nice as well with many illustrations. These are not all the same worn out Library of Congress photos but rather a broad assortment from many sources. They are well worth looking at. The Order of Battle is nice and is a great way for readers to keep track of the major players.

The book does have a couple of "oddities" for lack of a better word. For those looking for end or foot notes you will be disappointed. Each chapter does however end with an essay titled "Chapter Notes" that covers the major sources referenced. For a book such as this on a subject as massive as it is I think this is appropriate and will suffice for most readers. The other thing I noticed were the two styles of maps. Cartographers Hal Jespersen and Manny Gentile both provided maps in their own unique style. The maps are two completely different types however and this might bother some readers.

The Civil War community has really needed a book such as this: a book written by a knowledgeable authority but yet accessible to a new student. The length of the book is not intimidating and will give the reader the foundation to move on to other, more in depth, works. When your friends or family ask you for the thousandth time why you are so interested in Gettysburg (or the war in general) hand them a copy of this book. For me, this is a book that I will no doubt be re-reading. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Press Release--"The Problem of Democrary in the Age of Slavery

W. Caleb McDaniel Reveals New Insight into Garrisonian Abolitionists
LSU Press to publish "The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery" in May 2013

“W. Caleb McDaniel carefully captures the complex relationship between abolitionism and American democracy, but his research will also change the way we think about the tensions, both creative and destructive, wrought by international support for a national anti-slavery crusade.”—Richard Huzzey, author of "Freedom Burning: Anti-Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain"

Baton Rouge—In "The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery," W. Caleb McDaniel sets forth a new interpretation of the Garrisonian abolitionists, stressing their deep ties to reformers and liberal thinkers in Great Britain and Europe. Between 1830 and 1870, American abolitionists led by Garrison developed extensive networks of friendship, correspondence, and intellectual exchange with a wide range of European reformers—Chartists, free trade advocates, Irish nationalists, and European revolutionaries. Garrison signaled the importance of these ties to his movement with the well-known cosmopolitan motto he printed on every issue of his famous newspaper, "The Liberator": “Our Country is the World—Our Countrymen are All Mankind.” That motto serves as an impetus for McDaniel’s study, which shows that Garrison and his movement must be placed squarely within the context of transatlantic mid-nineteenth-century reform.

Garrisonians’ transatlantic activities reveal their deep patriotism, interest in using public opinion to affect American politics, and similarities to other antislavery groups. McDaniel argues for an image of Garrison’s band as politically savvy, intellectually sophisticated liberal reformers, all well informed about transatlantic debates regarding the problem of democracy.

W. Caleb McDaniel is assistant professor of history at Rice University.

May 6, 2013
360 pages, 6 x 9
Cloth $48.00s, ebook available
Slavery Studies