Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Press Release--New Brunswick and the Civil War

The History Press is pleased to introduce the new title:
New Brunswick and the Civil War
The Brunswick Boys in the Great Rebellion
Joanne Hamilton Rajoppi
At the beginning of the Civil War, New Brunswick was positioned at the transportation and manufacturing hub of New Jersey. Many of the city’s young men exchanged manufacturing equipment for rifles, and those whom they left behind witnessed the war through letters from their sons, brothers and husbands. Patriotism, a longing to earn more money and adventure lured these “Brunswick Boys”—close friends and coworkers—to enlist. Their recollections offer insights into everyday life in New Jersey during the war—New Brunswick’s factory system, education and medicine. These letters also reveal their struggles to survive amid battles and close encounters with death that so many soldiers faced, as well as their difficult transition back to civilian life. Local author Joanne Hamilton Rajoppi presents the fascinating stories of New Brunswick and the Civil War, gleaned from the letters of those who experienced it.

October 15 at 6:30 p.m. @ Roselle Park Library (404 Chestnut St,  Roselle Park, NJ 07204)
October 27 at 2 p.m. @ Somerset Historical Society (9 Van Veghten Drive, Bridgewater, NJ 08807)
October 21 at 7 p.m. @ New Brunswick Historical Society (58 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick NJ 08901)

Joanne Hamilton Rajoppi, a former journalist, is a history aficionado. Serving as a trustee of the Union County Historical Society, she currently chairs the county’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Exhibit and is the author of several pamphlets and calendars detailing the history of the region. A lifelong resident of New Jersey, she loves the rich history of the area and its people. She serves as the county clerk of Union County and is a former mayor of her hometown.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review--Lincoln and McClellan at War

Hearn, Chester G. Lincoln and McClellan at War. Baton Rouge, LSU Press. 2012. Index, notes, bibliography, 4 maps, 257 pages, 221 pages of text. ISBN 9780807145524, $45.

The  difficult relationship of Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan is certainly not a new one to readers of Civil War literature. Thus, while not breaking much new ground here, Chester Hearn has written an interesting and easy to read volume on the strained relationship between president and general.

What we have here are two people new to their commands. Lincoln was still a relatively inexperienced politician and McClellan, despite already being called the "Young Napoleon" in some circles, was new to leading an army this large. Of course McClellan might say leading an army this small but that's another issue.

Lincoln put his faith in McClellan to be able to end the war quickly. However Lincoln was unable to stay out of the way and McClellan bristled at what he considered to be the interference of Washington. In McClellan's eyes Lincoln was a gorilla and an unwelcome distraction. In Lincoln's eyes McClellan had a case of the "slows" and he even went so far as asking McClellan if he could borrow his army it he wasn't going to use it. The mutual distrust and sarcasm did not bode well for their relationship.

McClellan was a Unionist and certainly wanted to end the war however he and Lincoln had different strategies on how to do such. Lincoln wanted an aggressive general who would attack Robert E. Lee while McClellan preferred to be more cautious and fight a war of maneuvers. When Lincoln proposed a campaign to take the Rebel army located near Bull Run McClellan declined immediately and countered with what was to become the Peninsula Campaign. In traditional McClellan manner this was a slow and plodding campaign that while ultimately getting near Richmond did not achieve what McClellan had promised.

An area that is covered multiple times is the continued requesting of troops by McClellan. He consistently tells Washington he is out manned by the Confederate forces and promises to attack if only he had X number more troops. When the Secretary of War provided more men suddenly the Confederate army had even more. Whether McClellan actually believed the numbers provided by his spy Allan Pinkerton or if Pinkerton is providing numbers to prop up claims by McClellan is an interesting aspect to ponder. Of course Washington was on to McClellan and several times Lincoln called him on soldier counts.

After much back and forth McClellan was given what amounts to a final chance when the Confederate army went north of the Potomac in September 1862. The battle of Antietam gave McClellan a chance to inflict a large amount of damage on Robert E. Lee's troops. While certainly not a grand victory the major opportunity was lost when Union forces did not follow the damaged Confederates out of Maryland despite having fresh troops with which to carry on the battle. McClellan made what to him would be another blunder by calling the battle a Union victory. This proclamation gave Abraham Lincoln enough to go on in order to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. McClellan, not being an abolitionist, despised that the war was turning into one of emancipation rather than reconciliation.

By November 1862 the president was left with few options and removed McClellan from command. It does appear though that Lincoln learned from his time with McClellan as future generals were not given the time and leeway that McClellan was.

While not a cut and dried book saying that McClellan was bad and Lincoln was good as is so often the case, the book does seem to come down harder on McClellan and his failings than it does on Lincoln and his inexperience. Time and research have shown this to be the correct assessment however.

Overall, this was an interesting and easy book to read. I would have liked to have seen a couple of more maps and maybe some illustrations throughout but that is just me. Really just a minor quibble in what is otherwise a fascinating read for anybody interested in the eastern theater of the Civil War. Recommended.

Thanks to LSU Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Press Release--Smithsonian Civil War

By the Smithsonian Institution; Edited by Neil Kagan; Foreword by Jon Meacham

The Smithsonian offers an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at its incomparable Civil War treasures in Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection. This stunning book features 150 entries commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Each entry tells a unique Civil War story illustrated by objects handpicked by Smithsonian curators and historians. Tens of thousands of objects in the national collection were evaluated; the objects that shined as the most valuable, significant, and interesting have been artfully arranged in the ultimate Civil War coffee-table gift  book of the season.

The treasures range from famous historical icons—notably the original “Old Glory” flag and the hat Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theatre on the night he was assassinated—to rare, fragile, and seldom-seen artifacts selected from cabinets, store rooms, and locked vaults. The Smithsonian’s Civil War collection has never been showcased like this before, because many of these historical gems are brought to light for the very first time.
The entries cover the full range of this devastating conflict, from pre-war through the war and Reconstruction, and draw objects from twelve national museums and archives. The National Portrait Gallery provides rare early photographs of Stonewall Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant. From the National Museum of American History comes a slave-ship manifest listing its human cargo as well as secret messages that had been hidden inside Lincoln’s gold watch for almost 150 years. The National Air and Space Museum contributes futuristic aircraft designs from the Civil War era. Objects as diverse as sculptures and posters, jewelry and military uniforms, and weaponry and battlefield objects complete this unique, panoramic view of the Civil War.

Smithsonian Civil War is authoritatively written by the Smithsonian curators responsible for preserving and interpreting priceless treasures from America’s past. The narratives are illustrated with more than 450 color photographs of the Civil War treasures from the national collection, including all-new photography of three-dimensional objects. Featuring a foreword by acclaimed historian Jon Meacham, Smithsonian Civil War is a must-have for history lovers and Civil War buffs alike. This is history as only the Smithsonian can tell it.

About the author:

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION is the largest museum complex in the world. Smithsonian Civil War features objects from 12 Smithsonian museums and research centers and text by 49 curators with expertise in a variety of fields. NEIL KAGAN specializes in producing innovative illustrated books. As the former publisher for Time-Life Books, he created numerous book series, including Voices of the Civil War, Our American Century, and What Life Was Like. He has edited Great Battles of the Civil War, Great Photographs of the Civil War, Concise History of the World, Eyewitness to the Civil War, Atlas of the Civil War, and The Untold Civil War.

About the book:
Title: Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection
By Smithsonian Institution; edited by Neil Kagan; foreword by Jon Meacham.
On-Sale Date: 10/29/2013
Price: $40.00 / Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-1-58834-389-5
Smithsonian Books

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Liberty University 2013 Civil War Seminar


LYNCHBURG, VA — Liberty University will present its 17th annual Civil War Seminar, “1863—The Conflagration Continues,” on Friday, Sept. 13-Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center, located on the main campus of LU.
The following nationally renowned speakers will cover key topics of 1863:
Rod Gragg—“Gettysburg: An Eyewitness History" (Key Note Address)
                          “The 26th North Carolina at Gettysburg”
Dr. John Brinsfield—“Chaplains at Gettysburg”
Hunter Lesser—"Lincoln's Odd Trick:  Heroes, Rascals & Rogues of West Virginia Statehood" 
Major John Plaster—“Sharpshooters of the Civil War”
                                           “The Rifles of Gettysburg”
Michael Leavy—“Railroads of the Civil War: An Illustrated History”
In addition to the lectures, papers will be presented by scholars from around the country.
Numerous exhibits of Civil War artifacts and memorabilia will be on display for the public and vendors will have various Civil War items for sale.
Special tours of the National Civil War Chaplains Museum on Liberty’s campus will be conducted in the afternoon each day.
The seminar will conclude with a special period church service at Liberty’s prayer chapel on Sunday, September 15, led by the Rev. Alan Farley of Re-enactor’s Missions for Jesus Christ.
A special banquet will be held Friday night; admission is $25. The cost for Saturday’s lectures is $25/person or $35/family.
A silent auction will be held at the banquet to raise funds for the National Civil War Chaplains Museum’s purchase of the only known surviving US Christian Commission flag.
For more information about the seminar, including times, go to or call 434-592-4366.
Everyone is encouraged to secure reservations for the seminar by Monday, Sept. 9.  Go to or call (434) 582-SEAT (7328).
Special lodging rates at the Wingate by Wyndham of Lynchburg are available for seminar attendees. For information, call (434) 845-1700 or go to Wingate’s website.
For a map of Lynchburg, click here.cid:image005.png@01CE77EE.0C7F6380 
Continuing Education (CEU) credits are available. For more information, call Liberty’s Center for Professional and Continuing Education at (434) 592-4718, email, or visit