Book reviews and other American Civil War related news. Despite being from a "Confederate" state reviews are as unbiased as possible.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Amelia Earhart records now online
I found this to be interesting and thought maybe some of my readers might as well. This file appears to be free fo the time being.
The following announcement was written by Ancestry.com:
Ancestry.com Allows Americans to Investigate for Themselves, 'What Really Happened to Amelia Earhart'PROVO, UT -- 10/23/09 -- There are multiple theories surrounding the mysterious disappearance of iconic aviator Amelia Earhart in 1937, but a unique case file published online for the first time ever by Ancestry.com reveals more details. Ancestry.com, the world's largest online resource for family history, has published a 73-page file consisting of letters and telegrams sent in the 1960s by an interesting cast of historical characters, including Congressman J. Arthur Younger, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur II and members of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Department of State.
Now accessible for free on Ancestry.com, the records give the public a first-hand view of the investigation into the claim that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were taken prisoner and executed in Saipan (then governed by Japan). Through the years, this adaptation of Earhart's death has become one of many theories surrounding her mystery-riddled disappearance."These records leave you wondering if historians and Hollywood have gotten Amelia's story right," said Quinton Atkinson, director of content acquisition for Ancestry.com. "They shed light on a theory of her disappearance that has all but been brushed aside."In the records, Congressman Younger asks the U.S. Department of State to look into Earhart's disappearance based on "increasing evidence that she did land and was executed in Saipan." Younger asked the department to investigate a lead by Thomas E. Devine, who stated that "he actually saw the grave of Amelia Earhart" while he was stationed in Saipan."It's been more than 70 years, yet Amelia's disappearance remains one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries," said Atkinson. "These files are a great representation of how historical records offer clues to our past. With records like these now accessible online, Americans can delve deeper into the mysteries and lore that shroud their family histories."The Earhart file is part of the Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad collection on Ancestry.com, now searchable for free for a limited time. Digitized in conjunction with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), this Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad collection spans the 1960s and 1970s and comprises more than 80,000 records of Americans who died abroad.Whether a conspiracy theorist, a casual historian or simply curious -- learn more about the investigation into Amelia Earhart's disappearance and decide for yourself what happened by visiting www.ancestry.com/amelia. Or see if you have a hero in your own family tree on Ancestry.com.About Ancestry.com
Ancestry.com is the world's largest online resource for family history and has digitized and put online over 4 billion records over the past twelve years. Ancestry users have created over ten million family trees containing over one billion profiles. Ancestry.com has local Web sites directed at nine countries, and more than 8 million unique visitors spent more than 5 million hours on an Ancestry Web site in May 2009 (comScore Media Metrix, Worldwide). For more information on Ancestry.com and its other family history resources, visit http://corporate.ancestry.com.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Blue & Gray. Volume XXVI Issue #2. $5.95. The main focus of this issue is the Battles of Bristoe Station written by J. Michael Miller. Included with the article are campaign and battle maps and also orders of battle for both 1862 and 1863. Also included is a driving tour of the battlefields that would prove invaluable when touring the area.
The monthly Wiley Sword's War Letters Series discusses Shiloh-Before and After with letters from a Sergeant of the 7th Illinois Infantry. A nice section of book reviews rounds out this issue.
A highly recommended magazine with nice maps that are easy to read. Both vintage and contemporary photos help round out the articles nicely.
North & South. Volume 11 Issue #5. $6.99. William Garrett Piston has this month's lead article with Struggle for the Trans-Mississippi. Alex Mendoza writes about the issues between Confederate generals Braxton Bragg and James Longstreet. Several other articles round out this issue including an article dealing with the making of the film Glory.
Overall not a bad looking issue. Period engravings and photos are mixed with some maps to help add to the articles. For me the maps are not of the quality that other Civil War magazines provide and this is something that should be addressed considering the scholarly bent that the magazine strives for.
I apologize for the bare bones nature of this post. I've gotten behind on my reading and just haven't gotten to these. I hope to be able to do a better job on future magazine issues and give them their due.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
It seems like all I have done lately is add new books to my collection. I just ordered 5 from Nick and the Rocky Mountain CWRT, Brett just posted information on a great sale at UNC, and a few finds here and there on ebay and locally. Well I've got to start somewhere I guess so here are some that are in the works.
Currently I am reading Russell Bonds book Stealing the General. I've only just started but it's pretty good. He's been talking about loyalists in eastern Tennessee and since I have an ancestor from the area who was in the Union Cavalry he already has my interest even though the book won't focus on that. The writing is clear and I anticipate this to be a good read.
While at my local B&N a while ago I found a copy of Eric Wittenberg's Glory Enough For All on the bargain table (sorry Eric). I got started on it and admit I was kind of confused since I don't know much about the subject. It's one I'll be starting again though with more focus. I've read many good things about Eric's work and I can't imagine this is any different.
Recently I received in the mail a review copy of The Mule Shoe by Perry Trouche published by Star Cloud Press. I don't read a lot of fiction but this looks pretty interesting as Trouche melds "historical narrative with a clinical case study of Civil War trauma". The book is set along a backdrop of the battle at Spotsylvania. Could be good reading and thanks again to the good folks at Star Cloud Press for sending along a copy.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Top 5 Most Metal Civil War Generals
Here's something you don't come across every day. I found this top 5 listing of "Most Metal Civil War Generals" in Revolver Magazine. This list was created by William Murderface of the band Dethlok and is included in the book The Official Heavy Metal Book of Lists.
5) Zebulon York--Zebulon! What a cool fucking name! It's like he was from outer space...And he graduated from fucking Transylvania University of Kentucky! What the fuck? Now that's metal!
4) Daniel Ruggles--Ruggles had the hugest fucking beard of the Civil War, and everyone knows that long hair is metal.
3) Stonewall Jackson--This guy was insane! Just look into his eyes. Definitely metal.
2) Maxcy Gregg--Tell me that name doesn't sound like a great fuckin' Southern metal band. Ladies and gentlemen, Maxcy Gregg! And he was fucking shot in the spine! Metal.
1) Ulysses S. Grant--In 1864, he made a brutal fucking mistake at Cold Harbor and got 7,000 dudes killed in half an hour. Plus, he was a drunk! Metal!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Book Review: The Story of Lee's Headquarters
Smith, Timothy H. The Story of Lee's Headquarters: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Thomas Publications. Gettysburg, PA. 1995. 92 pages, 67 pages of text. Index, notes, maps, b/w photos.
On the Chambersburg Pike, situated on Seminary Ridge, near the Quality Inn sits a small but extraordinary building today known as General Lee's Headquarters Museum. Author Timothy H. Smith takes us on a brief but enjoyable tour through the history of this building and the surrounding area that despite it's importance in the first days fighting is still not part of the Gettysburg National Military Park.
Built in 1833 or 1834 by Michael Clarkson the property was purchased by Thaddeus Stevens in trust for Mary Thompson in 1846. Ms. Thompson lived in the house until her death in 1873.
The house and it's occupants were witness to some of the heaviest fighting of the battle during the first days fight. The Confederates eventually were able to gain control of the area and force a Union retreat. The main escape route for Union soldiers was the Chambersburg Pike into Gettysburg toward Cemetery Hill. This came to be known as having to "run the gauntlet" due to the fact that Confederates were closing in on three sides. On the first day of battle more than 2,000 Union soldiers were taken prisoner here and also by being caught in the railroad cut just north of the Pike.
General Lee arrived during the late afternoon on July 1, 1863 and Smith uses many eyewitness accounts to place him inside the Thompson House. After the war the home became known as General Lee's Headquarters. Tourists came to see where Lee commanded from. In the fall of 1863 John Bachelder published a map with the Thompson House being labeled "Gen Lee Hd Qt's" (page 50). Many other maps labeled the house in a similar way.
Around the turn of the century a movement sprang forth to try and discredit the story that Lee used the Thompson House as his headquarters. One author, Henry Dustman, went so far as to claim Lee never set foot in the house. Another writer claimed to have interviewed a woman (he insinuated it was Mary Thompson) who claimed Lee did not stay at the house. The problem was the interview took place a year after Ms. Thompson died.
Brief mention is given to later owners of the house such as Clyde Daley and more recently Eric F. Larson. I would like to have known more about these men and the development of the museum and the grounds around it. That really does not seem to be important to the story Smith is telling and the book is not lessened in any way.
Smith has written a brief but fulfilling book on the Thompson House. He uses a nice mix of primary and secondary sources to prove that Lee was indeed at the Thompson House and that while he did not use it as an exclusive headquarters that is not what is important. What is important is that this house and the land surrounding it saw brutal fighting and we should remember what happened there. Overall a highly recommended book for anybody interested in the history of Gettysburg.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Newsletter Review--The Surratt Courier
This issue of the Courier begins with the President's Message where Mary Kauffman announces that Tom Buckingham has been elected as the new President. There is also a list of upcoming events at the Surratt House. A brief listing of new books that are available through the Museum and a short word on the upcoming Robert Redford film The Conspirator wrap up the announcements.
The first article, written by Jim McKee, deals with the role that Fort Anderson State Historical Site played in the Lincoln assassination story. During the long bombardment of Fort Anderson several navy gunboats took part including the Montauk. After this battle the Montauk returned to the Washington Navy Yard for refitting where it was visited just hours before President and Mrs. Lincoln went to Ford's Theatre. After the assassination many of the conspirators were held aboard navy ships including the Montauk. Once John Wilkes Booth was found and killed at Garrett's Farm on April 26 his body was returned to Washington D.C. where it was taken to the Navy Yard and was placed where? You guessed it...on the Montauk.
The second article, written by Randal Berry, is titled "That Was A Night of Horrors" and deals with the question of how did detectives end up at the Surratt Boardinghouse within hours of the fatal shot being fired. By 2a.m. on April 15 detectives were knocking on the door looking for John Wiles Booth and John Surratt, neither of whom were there. The author provides five possible "tipsters" who might have led police to the the Surratt home. All five however are given reasons that they were most likely NOT the reason police arrived quickly. Another theory is put forth that the War Department already had information on the boardinghouse but the author believes this to have been "unsubstantiated paranoia" on the part of conspirators. Unfortunately the author fails to provide his reason that detectives were so quick to land at the Surratt Boardinghouse. For some reason the article concludes by telling us that the Surratt House now houses a Chinese restaurant. A brief series of end notes is included all of which are from secondary sources.
Membership in the Surratt Society is a bargain at $7 per year. For the price of a fast food meal you can help this organization continue providing it's services.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Magazine Review--Civil War Times December 2009
Civil War Times. Weider History Group. December 2009.
How is it possible that December magazine issues are out already? Well they are.
The cover article this month is titled "A Promise Fulfilled" written by noted Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. Here Holzer deals with the thorny issue of what did the Emancipation Proclamation really do. While maybe not immediately freeing the slaves Holzer says that Lincoln "...all but guaranteed democracy's life and slavery's death...He not only ended the shame of human bondage in America, but helped guarantee the survival of America itself." We meet up with Holzer again on the last page of this issue for his column "Looking at Lincoln" where he deals with a photograph of President Lincoln. This issue deals with the last photo of Lincoln taken: him lying in his coffin in the New York City City Hall Rotunda. The only known copy, squirreled away by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was found in the Nicolay Papers in 1952.
Gary Gallagher discusses the ups and downs in the perception of U.S. Grant in his article "Why Doesn't Grant Get the Love?" George Deutsch introduces us to the Weldon Railroad Raid in "Murder and Mayhem Rides the Rails". In "A White Man's War" Michael Fellman discusses William Sherman and his not wanting black troops. Sherman was many times quoted as saying that black troops were inferior and would run at danger. Fellman puts forth the view that Sherman was allowed to go against the wishes of President Lincoln only because Sherman was a fighter whose victories helped push the larger picture that Lincoln was trying to achieve.
In an interesting article noted British historian John Keegan is asked to rate many of the U.S. Civil War generals. The results are probably not a large shock. Union generals U.S. Grant and William T. Sherman are rated as great with Grant being given the nod as the greatest general of the war. Just below these two is Robert E. Lee who Keegan says "...would have shone in any of the contemporary European wars of maneuver." Just below Lee are Philip Sheridan and Stonewall Jackson who Keegan says could "...psychologically dominate his opponents." George McClellan is given the dishonor of being the lowest rated. Keegan believes him to have been "...utterly incapable of overcoming difficulty."
The issue is rounded out with a series of book reviews. Overall this is a nice issue that is accompanied by vintage photos and many maps. Well worth checking out or subscribing to.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
CWPT Photo contest winners
The Civil War Preservation Trust has announced the winners of it's 2009 photo contest. Some great photos here. The grand prize winner is a photo taken at the Monocacy National Battlefield in Maryland. My personal favorite however is the 2nd place winner in the Battlefields category. It is a view taken from atop the Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg.
This year more than 2,500 submissions were made to the annual contest which is co-sponsored by History and The Center for Civil War Photography.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Book Review--The Killer Angels
Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War. Ballantine Books, New York, NY. 374 pages, 18 maps.
I am really not much of a reader of fiction. There are of course always exceptions to the rule and there are a few fiction books that are worth the time to read. For me the more hyped a book is the less likely I am to find them worth my effort. A pack mentality for fiction is usually a bad thing. The Killer Angels however is an exception. It is a wonderful book to read and should be required reading before any trip to Gettysburg. I wish I had read it before my first (and so far only trip).
For me good fiction should have several characteristics all of which Shaara accomplishes skillfully. The story should interest me just from reading the jacket. Accomplished. Second, the author should be able to set a mood and make you feel you are really there. Accomplished. For me a good example of this comes in the death scene of General John Reynolds. "A moment later Buford looked that way and the horse was bare-backed. He did not believe it. He broke off and rode to see. Reynolds lay in the dirt road, the aides bending over him. When Buford got there the thick stain had already puddled the dirt beneath his head. His eyes were open, half asleep, his face pleasant and composed, a soft smile. Buford knelt. He was dead." (pages 101-102) In a brief few lines Shaara has brought his readers onto the battlefield as if we were really there at the scene of Reynolds death. The language is not overdone nor does Shaara go overboard in his description. Third, and in many ways the most difficult, is speech has to sound realistic. Accomplished. More authors should read out aloud what they write and see if it sounds natural. The interplay between Generals Lee and Longstreet or maybe the exchanges between Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and his brother Tom show Shaara's mastery of this. Lastly, and maybe of less importance, is that side characters should be interesting and not just space filler. Accomplished. Arthur Freemantle fills this role nicely.
Let's face it this is not history at it's finest. It doesn't claim to be. What it is however is a powerful read that doesn't gloss over the horrors of war. Fighting is not glamorous and Shaara doesn't make it out that way. What I think a reader will take away from this work is a rudimentary knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg and the major players. Before my visit to Gettysburg over a year ago I had read a long work on the battle. I was not prepared for what I was reading. Once I got back I read Killer Angels for the first time and much of what I had read previously made more sense. I can highly recommend this as a good starting point for the study of the battle and a book that is well worth rereading for those with in depth knowledge.