Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve 1862

I came across this Thomas Nast print from the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly. I thought it was a pretty moving piece of art. Online I found a description that I thought appropriate:  "Christmas Eve, 1862. Engraving from Harper's Weekly dated January 3, 1863. Nast used prints like these to raise the morale of the soldier in the field and of their families back at home, and help them to bear the hardships of a war dedicated to the preservation of the Union." As we celebrate Christmas Eve we should take a moment to remember those who can't be with their loved ones. While technology may have made it easier for those far apart to communicate that doesn't make the distance any smaller.

Thomas Nast
Library of Congress
c. 1860-1875
Nast, September 7, 1840-December 7, 1902, is perhaps most remembered for creating a modern view of Santa Claus and also the elephant symbol for the Republican party. Nast worked with Harper's Weekly almost continuously from 1859-1886.

A fuller look at the life of Thomas Nast may be found here. A scholarly look at the Nast can be found in the recently released Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons written by Fiona Deans Halloran.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Press Release--Revolutionary Cooking: Over 200 Recipes Inspired by Colonial Meals

I received information on this soon to be released book a couple of days ago and want to share it with you. If you are at all interested in the Revolutionary War and colonial period in American history you will want to take a look at this book. It is going to contain over 200 recipes for modern Americans based upon foods that our ancestors would have eaten. I like that the recipes are being adapted to modern palates; that should make the book appeal to a wider audience.

By Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanahan
Illustrated by Betty T. Duson

Time warp: now you can eat like the colonial men and women who lived during the American Revolution, sampling mincemeat, drinking beer for breakfast, and slurping Queens soup. Ranging from the simple to the sumptuous, always authentic, Revolutionary Cooking: Over 200 Recipes Inspired by Colonial Meals (Skyhorse Publishing, January 2014) tailors recipes discovered in cookbooks, family journals, and notebooks from 250 years ago to fit modern American palates.
Did you know that breakfast in the eighteenth century was also on the run, but instead of muffins, colonial men and women scarfed down mush and molasses? Or that, like many of us, the settlers enjoyed highly spiced foods, but unlike us, also relished the taste of slightly spoiled meat? Or that, at first, colonists didn’t understand how to make tea and instead stewed the tea leaves in butter, threw out what liquid collected, and munched on the leaves? These peculiar facts precede tried and tested recipes, some of which include:
      ·        Cold grapefruit soup
·        Madras artichokes
·        Apple-shrimp curry
·        Lemon flummery
·        Pumpkin chiffon pie
·        Raspberry tartlet
·        Stewed Cornish game hens
·        And many more!
Each chapter of recipes is introduced with accounts of how early Americans breakfasted, dined, drank, and entertained. The illustrations of utensils, tankards, porringers, and pots used in the early days are drawn from actual objects in major private and public collections of early Americana and make Revolutionary Cooking a great resource for American history enthusiasts.
History buffs can get a taste of our colonial roots with every meal, thanks to the exhaustive research and foolproof recipes featured in Revolutionary Cooking.

About the Authors and Illustrator
Virginia T. Elverson, Mary Ann McLanahan, and Betty T. Duson were members of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and its Bayou Bend Collection of American decorative arts. In addition to their research for this book, they studied and lectured in the field of early American furnishings and lifestyles. Virginia Elverson died in 2011 in Texas, Betty Duson died in 2003 in Texas, and Mary Ann McLanahan lives in Texas.
Revolutionary Cooking
Over 200 Recipes Inspired by Colonial Meals
By Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanahan
Illustrated by Betty T. Duson
SkyhorsePublishing hardcover, also available as an ebook
On Sale: January 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62636-416-5
Price: $16.95


Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review--Greyhound Commander: John G. Walker's Civil War West of the Mississippi

Lowe, Richard, editor. Greyhound Commander: Confederate General John G. Walker's History of the Civil War West of the Mississippi. Baton Rogue: LSU Press. 2013. Maps, index, bibliography, footnotes. 135 pages, 120 pages of text, ISBN 9780807152508, $36.00.

If the war in the west is overlooked in comparison to the war in the east the fighting done in the trans-Mississippi area is many times buried and forgotten about without a second thought. First hand accounts written by commanders from the area are rare thus making John G. Walker's work a must read for anybody studying the war in the trans-Mississippi theater of the war.

The book opens with an interesting and easily readable treatment by editor Richard Lowe. Lowe is the author of Walker's Texas Division, C.S.A: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) and The Texas Overland Expedition of 1863 (Civil War Campaigns and Commanders Series) and is the perfect editor to have taken this work from the vaults at the U. S. Army Military History Institute and presented it to a wider readership. Lowe gives readers a nice biographical introduction to John Walker allowing those who do not have a strong background in the trans-Mississippi theater of the war (myself included) to have a better idea of what is going on in Walker's writings.

Walker was an officer in the regular army before resigning in 1861 to join the Confederacy. He began fighting in the east, under Robert E. Lee, earning rapid promotions. He particularly distinguished himself during the Antietam Campaign. By November 1862 however Walker found himself sent westward, a move generally given to those who had failed to meet expectations. Editor Lowe puts forth that this move was probably due to Walker's association with Theophilus H. Holmes, who had served as a mentor and helped Walker receive his promotions. Holmes was a friend of President Jefferson Davis so when Holmes was sent to the trans-Mississippi it is likely that he asked for Walker to be sent west as well. (p. 13) Walker was a division commander in charge of three hard marching brigades of Texans. These men covered hundreds of miles in a short period of time thus earning the nickname "Greyhounds." General Walker was wounded during the Red River Campaign but returned to command later in 1864.

The editing of Walker's text is light with only minor adjustments to the text. First names are added in order to help the reader. It appears that all of Lowe's adjustments are bracketed [ ] for easy spotting. Where Lowe's editorial pen is most evident though are in the large amount of footnotes (yes FOOT notes, no having to flip to the back of the book) that are included. These notes provide readers with further source material, provide information on people and events as need be, and where necessary make corrections and clarifications to Walker's statements.

After having left the United States after the war, due to fear of prosecution, Walker dictated his work to his daughter while they were living in England during 1866-1867. Walker's story begins in 1861 discussing events in Missouri and concludes with the ending of the Red River Campaign in May 1864. The major events covered are the previously mentioned Red River Campaign and the Texas Overland campaign. While the text portion of the book runs 120 pages Walker's narrative is approximately 85 pages long.

A common theme in Walker's writing is a condemning of higher leadership with Edmund Kirby Smith receiving plenty of negative commentary. Walker wrote that had Smith gone after Ulysses Grant's lines between Milliken's Bend and New Carthage Grant would have had to suspend actions against Vicksburg and allow a reinforcement of or an orderly retreat of, Confederate forces. Walker went further in claiming that by John Pemberton not following orders from Joseph Johnston regarding a retreat led to a loss that "was one of the principal links in the chain of misfortune by which the Confederacy was dragged down to failure and ruin." (p. 68). Smith is later condemned during the Red River Campaign for having sent Texas troops to Arkansas instead of leaving them to support Richard Taylor as he followed the retreating Union troops of Nathaniel Banks (p. 101).

While certainly not a complete telling of any of the trans-Mississippi battles this is a resource that should no doubt be consulted. Lowe has included eight maps:  the trans-Mississippi theater, Civil War Missouri, Civil War Arkansas, Civil War Louisiana, Battle of Milliken's Bend, Battle of Mansfield, Battle of Pleasant Hill and Battle of Jenkins' Ferry that are a considerable help. Strongly recommended.

Thank you to LSU Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review--Mosby's Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia

Connery, William S. Mosby's Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia (Civil War Sesquicentennial). Charleston: The History Press, 2013. 158 pages, 147 pages of text, index, bibliography, b/w photos, 1 map. ISBN 9781609498931, $19.99.

Don't be fooled by the title of this book. It is really about more than John S. Mosby's service to the Confederacy during the Civil War. The war does take probably 75% of the book but there is more to be had. While clearly not a definitive or complete biography of Mosby (it does not claim to be) this is certainly an excellent introduction to "the Gray Ghost."

While in jail for a shooting that he was later granted a pardon for, Mosby studied the law and was later admitted to the Virginia Bar. Unlike many of the most famous Civil War personalities Mosby did not attend West Point and he had no prior military training. Like many Confederate generals though he started as a pro-Union man only changing his mind when his state joined the Confederacy.

Mosby originally enlisted as a private in the Washington Mounted Rifles, serving under William "Grumble" Jones. For a short while he served as adjutant to Jones before Jones lost a regimental election to Fitz Lee. Lee did not like Mosby and thus he was returned to being a private. He quickly became a courier on J.E.B. Stuart's staff and that led to his taking an active part in Stuart's ride around McClellan's troops in June 1862.

This event sealed it for Mosby; he wanted the life of a Partisan Ranger. Partisan Rangers were military units who took part in guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines. While serving as part of the army they were also awarded cash bonuses for captured munitions. By December 1862, Mosby was leading men on dangerous, yet often successful, missions. Connery effectively takes us through various engagements that Mosby and his men fought. Perhaps the most successful part for Mosby was that he and his men were so unpredictable to the Union armies that he helped keep them from being able to engage in other areas of the war.

Post war, Mosby was again unpredictable. He was originally denied a pardon by Andrew Johnson but was eventually pardoned by Ulysses S. Grant. He worked for several years as a lawyer with much of his work having to do with railroads. By 1869 he was stumping for conservative political candidates. By 1872 however he was campaigning for Ulysses S. Grant, a fact that eventually led to the failure of his law practice. The Democrats (the conservative party of the day) considered Mosby a traitor with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes. Mosby moved to Washington D.C. in 1876 and in 1878 sold his Virginia home. In 1879 he was appointed American consul to Hong Kong, a position he would hold until 1885 when he returned to the States choosing to live in California. It was here that Mosby met and mentored young "Georgie" Patton; later known as the famous World War II General George S. Patton.

As with most History Press titles this one is heavily illustrated which I am a fan of. There is a nice selection here covering both modern and vintage images. There is one map but it is so detail heavy as to be unusable in my opinion. There are three appendices: the poem, The Scout Toward Aldie written by Herman Melville, Mosby's recommendation from J.E.B. Stuart (presumably contained in the Official Records) and an Appreciation of Mosby from the Photographic History of the Civil War, Volume Four. As is the case with many History Press titles there are no notes (most likely due to space constraints), there is however an index and bibliography.

This is certainly a book that can be recommended for anybody interested in starting to learn about John S. Mosby or perhaps guerrilla/partisan warfare. The writing was well done and the book read quickly.

Thank you to The History Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

World War II Book Give-Away

As promised in an earlier blog post (see here) Crown Publishing has been kind enough to send a copy of their new book The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis as a give-away to readers of this blog.

So how do you win this free copy? Easy! Leave a comment saying why you would like the book and be sure to let me know where the island of Crete is located. Also, be sure I have a way to contact you. I know that sounds simple but in the past I have been unable to contact book give-away winners.

The best answer gets the book!