Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blog Roll additions

I have added a few new blogs to the blog roll recently. First and foremost is one familiar to most readers already but somehow slipped through the cracks on getting listed. Please be sure to check out Mike Noirot's This Mighty Scourge.  Also added is Brooks Simpson's new blog Crossroads. Both are well worth the time to read!

Do you have a favorite blog I don't have listed? Please feel free to drop me a line or post a comment. I'd love to add more!

Civil War Book Review--Fall 2010

I recently received word that LSU Libraries had posted the new edition of their very popular and interesting Civil War Book Review.

The Civil War Book Review, a quarterly journal published by the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections Division, has released its Fall 2010 issue at

While it is easy to question how anyone can possibly say anything new about the Civil War, time and again, we are encouraged by the richness and freshness of recently-published works by both young scholars and veteran historians. Civil War historians push one another to test the limits of historical research, seeking to approach old areas with a fresh perspective while continuing to uncover new subjects. Civil War Book Review is honored and proud to be a part of this public discussion as we seek to promote the further study of the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods, while providing accountability through peer review.

Continuing our Sesquicentennial recognition of those who fought in the American Civil War, the Fall 2010 issue features a portrait of Private George Henry Graffam, a member of Company B, 30th Maine Infantry, U.S.A. He was eighteen-years-old when he enlisted in the Union army.

In this issue, we feature the most recent books by two of our field’s leading experts, in addition to some stellar first-book scholarship from two young, promising scholars who continue to give us hope that the study of this period remains in capable hands. First, Daniel W. Crofts provides us with an intriguing mystery as he attempts (he succeeds) to uncover the true identity of the author of “The Diary of a Public Man” in A Secession Crisis Enigma, William Henry Hurlbert and the “Diary of a Public Man.”  Next, Michael T. Bernath’s first book, Confederate Minds: The Struggle for Intellectual Independence in the Civil War South, analyzes the Confederate efforts to achieve “intellectual independence,” the attainment and promotion of a southern identity through its own literature and periodicals, as part of the larger war effort. Mark W. Geiger examines the political and social upheaval which resulted from the failed attempt by a group of prominent Missouri state politicians and bankers attempted to fund Confederate volunteers using money from the state treasury in Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861-1865. Finally, in
Edmund J. Davis: Civil War General, Republican Leader, Reconstruction Governor, Carl H. Moneyhon seeks to bring an important figure in Civil War-era Texas history into a more positive light, resurrecting his reputation through a better understanding this man’s complex life.

This fall, Leah Wood Jewett reminds us of the tolls that Civil War soldiers and their families paid as she uses the superb Special Collections at Louisiana State University to highlight the death inherent in any war. As part of a larger exhibition that features the women’s experience during the Civil War at Hill Memorial Library on the campus of LSU, Jewett’s column sheds light on the ways in which Civil War women confronted the death or potential of death for their loved ones.

In further recognition of the Sesquicentennial, Frank Williams has graciously provided us with a survey of the existing scholarship on Abraham Lincoln. He has generously taken the time to highlight a score of books that show the complex character of Lincoln and the range and diversity of historians’ efforts to better understand this prominent historical figure.

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide an author interview in this issue. We are still working to include the interview that we conducted for this issue but we have encountered technical difficulties that have waylaid our efforts to include the interview in the publication at this time. We will certainly continue our efforts to process the interview and we appreciate your understanding this quarter. This issue, and everything in it, would not be possible were it for the efforts of the staff at Civil War Book Review, LSU Libraries and Special Collections. I am, as always, grateful for their continued support. We certainly appreciate our readers as well and wish you all a wonderful, safe, and fulfilling Holiday season.

Civil War Book Review is published in the first week of the months of February, May, August, and November. If you would like to receive e-mail reminders of upcoming issues and special features on the website, click on “Sign me up for CWBR Updates!” link at the bottom of any page in the journal. From there, you can provide us with your contact information so that you will receive these e-mail reminders. Of course, we will NEVER share your personal information with any third party.

Civil War Book Review is the journal of record for new or newly reprinted books about the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras, and is a project of the United States Civil War Center, LSU Libraries Special Collections. A reader’s survey can be accessed through the CWBR homepage.

To contribute to the Civil War Book Review fund, or for information on editorial matters, contact Nathan Buman, Editor, by phone at (225) 578-3553 or by email at
Civil War Book Review

Louisiana State University
Agnes Morris House
Raphael Semmes Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
(225) 578-3553 phone
(225) 578-4876 fax

Visit us on the web at!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Civil War Message in a Bottle Decoded

A Civil War message in a bottle from the Museum of the Confederarcy has been opened and decoded. It reinforced the grim possibilities for Vicksburg.

By STEVE SZKOTAK, Associated Press Steve Szkotak, Associated Press – Sat Dec 25, 11:13 am ET

RICHMOND, Va. – A glass vial stopped with a cork during the Civil War has been opened, revealing a coded message to the desperate Confederate commander in Vicksburg on the day the Mississippi city fell to Union forces 147 years ago.

The dispatch offered no hope to doomed Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton: Reinforcements are not on the way.

The encrypted, 6-line message was dated July 4, 1863, the date of Pemberton's surrender to Union forces led by Ulysses S. Grant, ending the Siege of Vicksburg in what historians say was a turning point midway into the Civil War.

The message is from a Confederate commander on the west side of the Mississippi River across from Pemberton.

"He's saying, 'I can't help you. I have no troops, I have no supplies, I have no way to get over there,' " Museum of the Confederacy collections manager Catherine M. Wright said of the author of the dispiriting message. "It was just another punctuation mark to just how desperate and dire everything was."

The bottle, less than 2 inches in length, had sat undisturbed at the museum since 1896. It was a gift from Capt. William A. Smith, of King George County, who served during the Vicksburg siege.

It was Wright who decided to investigate the contents of the strange little bottle containing a tightly wrapped note, a .38-caliber bullet and a white thread.

"Just sort of a curiosity thing," said Wright. "This notion of, do we have any idea what his message says?"

The answer was no.

Wright asked a local art conservator, Scott Nolley, to examine the clear vial before she attempted to open it. He looked at the bottle under an electron microscope and discovered that salt had bonded the cork tightly to the bottle's mouth. He put the bottle on a hotplate to expand the glass, used a scalpel to loosen the cork, then gently plucked it out with tweezers.

The sewing thread was looped around the 6 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch paper, which was folded to fit into the bottle. The rolled message was removed and taken to a paper conservator, who successfully unfurled the message.

But the coded message, which appears to be a random collection of letters, did not reveal itself immediately.

Eager to learn the meaning of the code, Wright took the message home for the weekend to decipher. She had no success.

A retired CIA code breaker, David Gaddy, was contacted, and he cracked the code in several weeks.

A Navy cryptologist independently confirmed Gaddy's interpretation. Cmdr. John B. Hunter, an information warfare officer, said he deciphered the code over two weeks while on deployment aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. A computer could have unscrambled the words in a fraction of the time.

"To me, it was not that difficult," he said. "I had fun with this and it took me longer than I should have."

The code is called the "Vigenere cipher," a centuries-old encryption in which letters of the alphabet are shifted a set number of places so an "a" would become a "d" — essentially, creating words with different letter combinations.

The code was widely used by Southern forces during the Civil War, according to Civil War Times Illustrated.

The source of the message was likely Maj. Gen. John G. Walker, of the Texas Division, who had under his command William Smith, the donor of the bottle.

The full text of the message to Pemberton reads:

"Gen'l Pemberton:

You can expect no help from this side of the river. Let Gen'l Johnston know, if possible, when you can attack the same point on the enemy's lines. Inform me also and I will endeavor to make a diversion. I have sent some caps (explosive devices). I subjoin a despatch from General Johnston."

The last line, Wright said, seems to suggest a separate delivery to Pemberton would be the code to break the message.

"The date of this message clearly indicates that this person has no idea that the city is about to be surrendered," she said.

The Johnston mention in the dispatch is Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, whose 32,000 troops were encamped south of Vicksburg and prevented from assisting Pemberton by Grant's 35,000 Union troops. Pemberton had held out hope that Johnston would eventually come to his aid.

The message was dispatched during an especially terrible time in Vicksburg. Grant was unsuccessful in defeating Pemberton's troops on two occasions, so the Union commander instead decided to encircle the city and block the flow of supplies or support.

Many in the city resorted to eating cats, dogs and leather. Soup was made from wallpaper paste.

After a six-week siege, Pemberton relented. Vicksburg, so scarred by the experience, refused to celebrate July 4 for the next 80 years.

So what about the bullet in the bottom of the bottle?

Wright suspects the messenger was instructed to toss the bottle into the river if Union troops intercepted his passage. The weight of the bullet would have carried the corked bottle to the bottom, she said.

For Pemberton, the bottle is symbolic of his lost cause: the bad news never made it to him.

The Confederate messenger probably arrived to the river's edge and saw a U.S. flag flying over the city.

"He figured out what was going on and said, 'Well, this is pointless,' and turned back," Wright said.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book Review--Notre Dame and the Civil War

Schmidt, James M. Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory. The History Press, Charleston, SC. 2010. 142 pages, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9781596298798. $19.99.

Notre Dame and the Civil War (IN): Marching Onward to VictoryWhen it comes to big name schools there are a few that will get mentioned by almost everybody. At the top of many lists will be Notre Dame. While much of this is due to the legacy created by Knute Rockne and the football program he and others were instrumental in creating, the university is of course MUCH more than that.

Author Jim Schmidt has written an enjoyable, fascinating, and needed book dealing with Notre Dame and the contribution it's students and administrators made during the Civil War. The culmination of more than a decades research Schmidt has proven that the young college did more than just contribute Father Corby to the war effort.

We begin with a short history of Notre Dame beginning with it's founding in 1844 by Father Edward Sorin. Also critical during the early years was Mother Angela Gillespie and the Holy Cross sisters. The first bachelor's degree was granted in 1849.

The book is broken into logical chapters each of which deal with a different aspect of Notre Dame's contribution to the war. In one chapter we learn the origin of the word chaplain and that there were only approximately 30 Catholic chaplains out of more than 300 in the Union army. Notre Dame contributed seven of which three perished either directly or indirectly due to the war. While Father Corby, of the famed general absolution speech, is probably the most widely known the others including Father Gillen and his portable "cathedral" and Father Dillon and his temperance campaign made a strong showing and earned the respect of those around them. Schmidt points out the anti-Catholic bias of the time and how the bravery of these men helped lessen this.

Notre Dame contributed more than 60 nuns who served as nurses during the war. The conditions these women endured were horrible but Schmidt ably points out how the religious vows taken by these women served them well under trying conditions. In fact the experiences they gained allowed the The Sisters of the Holy Cross of Notre Dame to expand their mission to health care which is still carried on today.

Perhaps the most famous association between Notre Dame and the Civil War comes from somebody who was neither a student nor a Father there. William T. Sherman and his wife Ellen sent their older children to Notre Dame prep schools as Ellen was impressed with "the campus, academics, and, of course, the religious training." (p. 62). Just after the completion of the war Sherman was visiting when he was asked to deliver remarks at the commencement. He gave some unprepared remarks in which he reminded the students of self reliance and a belief in Union and God. Sherman held the institution in such high regard that he eventually donated his family papers which now reside in the University of Notre Dame Archives.

As the war dragged on longer than any originally thought possible problems began popping up for colleges across the country. Fiscal problems were first and foremost in most minds. With declining enrollments and rampant inflation many schools were in dire straits with many closing their doors. While there may have been concerns Notre Dame actually fared well in this regard. With its distance from the main areas of fighting Notre Dame was actually able to increase its overall number of students when looked at across all programs. Not surprisingly much of this increase came from students living in border or Confederate states where much of the fighting took place. An interesting statistical analysis is provided.

The book is nicely wrapped up with a chapter dealing with monuments relating to Notre Dame and the Civil War. From the Notre Dame campus to Gettysburg to Washington D.C. and other places, statues and memorials to the brave men and women from Notre Dame can be visited.

This is an interesting book and a must read for anybody interested in the history of the University of Notre Dame and also anybody with an interest in the Civil War. The chapters are easy to read and the book can be read as a whole or the chapters as stand alones. The book is well illustrated with b/w photos both vintage and modern. End notes wrap up the work nicely. There is no bibliography included but Mr. Schmidt has provided a full accounting on his blog which I recommend you visit.

Please also be sure to check back as I will be conducting an interview with Mr. Schmidt in the very near future.

Thanks go to Katie Parry at The History Press for providing a complimentary review copy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Co K. 1st Michigan Sharpshooter Descendents Meet at Petersburg

An often overlooked area of study is the contribution of American Indians to both sides in the Civil War. Recently Petersburg National Battlefield played host to descendents of members from Co. K 1st Michigan Sharpshooters. Co. K consisted entirely of American Indians from Michigan.

Read the full story about the meeting and future plans here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Magazine Review--Blue & Gray

Blue & Gray. Volume XXVII Issue 3. 66 pages $5.95.

Feature article--Van Dorn's Holly Springs Raid by Thomas E. Parson

• Where Was Julia Grant During the Raid? by Tom Parson

• WILEY SWORDS WAR LETTERS SERIES— A Massachusetts Socialite Gets A V.I.P. Tour of the Custis-Lee Mansion in April 1864, and Tells All In A Letter Home, Including Lee Family Items Taken As Souvenirs and Her Views on Emancipation

• DRIVING TOUR—The Holly Springs Raid by Dave Roth with Tom Parson.

The magazine lives up to its reputation. Excellent mix of current and historical photos along with a boat load of maps. Also included is a section of book reviews. If you like a magazine to be tightly focused on one subject Blue & Gray is for you.

Magazine Review--North & South

North & South. Volume 12 Number 5. 64 pages, $6.99.

Here's a brief run down on the highlights from the new issue. I have not read this issue so I will just list the articles.

Border War 1788-1860 written by Stanley Harrold    Discusses the decades of violence before the Civil War.

War Comes to West Point written by Brian R. McEnany   The problems caused to the U.S. Military Academy in the wake of secession.

Robert Bullock: Florida's Forgotten General written by Zack C. Waters  (Please be sure to see my review of Waters excellent book: A Small But Spartan Band)    A little known Brigadier General from Florida.

Gott Mit Uns written by George C. Rable    Religious explanations from both sides as to the results of First Bull Run.

Freemasons in the Civil War written by Michael A. Halleran

Also included is a small section of book reviews, letters to the editor, and Knapsack ( a series of brief Civil War items).  Overall it looks like a good issue with a couple of articles I will be interested to read. Zack Waters being the prime one for me. The article on Freemasons also looks promising even though in the contents listing it is shown as starting on a page different from it's true starting page (easy editing mistake to catch). Each article is accompanied end notes. Each article has photos but I'm not sure they are adding much. Also, I did not notice any maps. This is always a problem for a history magazine. In addition, does anybody know if there is a website for this magazine? I was unable to find one that was active.

Newsletter Review--The Lincoln Forum

The Lincoln Forum Bulletin. The Lincoln Forum. Issue 28, Fall 2010. 12 pages.

Another fine edition from a first rate organization. The lead article announces Mark Neely as being named the winner Richard Nelson Current Award of Achievement. Among his other works Neely is known for his Pulitzer Prize winning work The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties.

Other articles include an update on the Elizabeth Keckly Project, how New York helped Abraham Lincoln win the 1860 election, a memorial to member Budge Weidman, a longer article on Robert Todd Lincoln's love of golf, and a very interesting article written by John Marszalek and Ryan Semmes concerning Lincoln related items in the Ulysses S. Grant Association which is now located at the Mitchell Memorial Library at Mississippi State University.

If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln this is a group you might want to consider joining.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Review--Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Grahame-Smith, Seth. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Grand Central Publishing, New York, New York. 2010. 336 pages, b/w illustrations. ISBN 9780446563086, $21.99.

It was really only a matter of time I suppose before somebody happened upon new information regarding the life of Abraham Lincoln. I suppose we all thought it would be someone like Harold Holzer or Michael Burlingame. Little did we know it would be Seth Grahame-Smith the fiction writer. Somehow Smith was chosen by a stranger to be the recipient of a package of previously unknown writings from Lincoln. These writings came in the form of a diary titled the Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln. Here we gain insight into the true Lincoln and the events that helped shape him and ultimately our nation. The beloved emancipator was actually a blood thirsty vampire hunter.

Forget everything you know about Lincoln and his legend, it is all wrong. Almost all the sorrow and sadness in Lincoln's life is due to vampires. His beloved mother did not die from illness but was rather taken as payment for a debt owed by his father Thomas Lincoln. Ann Rutledge--vampire victim. You get the picture. Lincoln is befriended by a mysterious character (i.e. vampire) by the name of Henry who helped save his life during an early encounter with another vampire. Henry helps guide the young Lincoln and kept him on the trail of vampires throughout his life.

Throughout the book we meet many people including Edgar Allen Poe, Martin Luther King Jr., John Wilkes Booth (of course), Stephen A. Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and others. Are these characters vampires? Is Abraham Lincoln himself a vampire and still amongst us today? You'll have to read the book and find out. As you read the book be sure to check out the b/w illustrations. Are they the real thing and have we been fooled all these years? You judge.

There are two ways to look at this work. The first is to read it and get upset with the liberties that Grahame-Smith has taken with known fact. It's obvious that he has done a certain amount of research in order to write this book. He does play loosely with fact however and that can be dangerous. We live in a world where many people feel if something is printed it must be fact. As serious readers we know that to be false and that leads me to the second way to look at this book and that is the way I choose to view it. It's a work of fiction. Of course the author has to play loose with the facts. We all know vampires do not really exist. Have you ever met one? Has anybody you know ever met one? That's what I thought. That said just read this as a work of fiction. In that realm this is a pretty good book. It moves along well and kept this reader entertained.

Far-fetched? Yes. A decent enough read when you don't want anything too serious? Absolutely!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Smoky Mountains Trip--Part 3

After leaving South Carolina it was off to North Carolina for the night before heading on to the mountains. Once we arrived and found a motel it was time for dinner. The front desk suggested an italian restaurant that was around the corner. We headed there. We ended up at Villa Antonio. It's a little concerning when you arrive and there are only about 2 cars in the parking lot but we went ahead and stayed. The food was good but not as good as the prices would want you to believe. By the time we left there were more people there.

First on our list of things to do the next morning was family business that needed attending to. Chris's father, Sgt Robert Howie, is buried in Sharon Memorial Park in Charlotte, NC. As you can see the North Carolina clay had started to take over so we had to clean up his marker a bit. Next time we'll have a small brush or broom so we can properly clean the marker. We also took photos of the markers for several other family memebers. 

Robert Howie as a boy.

Robert Howie grave marker

Carl Sandburg 1955

From Charlotte we headed out toward the mountains. On the way we saw a sign for the Carl Sandburg home, called Connemara, and with his connection to Abraham Lincoln it was a must see. Well there was some road construction and I think the GPS was also having issues but it seemed to take forever to get there. In fact we drove by the entrance to the parking lot. When we got there the weather was cold, windy, and damp so we decided against taking the walk back to the house and instead were satisfied to take photos around the front lake area. It is really a beautiful and secluded area and one can see why the Sandburgs moved there. I did not realize that Lilian Sandburg was a champion goat breeder. The home has decendants from her original goat heard.

In front of the lake at the Sandburg house

Carl Sandburg home

From along the trail leading to the Sandburg home.

Smoky Mountains Trip--Part 2

Continuing the details from our recent vacation to the Smoky Mountains. On our drive north we stopped the first night in Columbia, South Carolina.

The main reason for the stop there was to see the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. What a great place this is. As the third oldest museum in SC it concentrates on the history of South Carolina military troops from the Revolutionary War until today. It's strong points are Civil War artifacts and the museum has a large collection of battle flags on display. It would be easy to spend a large chunk of a day here. A surprise to us however was an exhibit titled Forgotten Stories: SC Fights the Great War. This is part of a multi museum exhibit dealing with South Carolina and World War 1. Visit the website Forward Together for more information. This alone was worth the $5 entry cost as we got to see uniforms, relics and more from the period. The layout was easy to follow and even walked you through a recreated World War I trench. We bought the combination ticket ($9) which also allowed us to visit the SC State Museum. For me this was not the greatest part of the day. A fairly straight forward museum with a science section, a natural history area and other standard fare. We were a few days too early for a new exhibit which is now open called The Coming of the Civil War. Currently there is also a "pirate" exhibit but we decided against paying an additional $5 to see it.

From there it was off to walk around the area and see the close by sites. The main site I was looking for was the Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery where Civil War Generals Ellison Capers (who has a tie in to research I am doing on a local Confederate soldier), Wade Hampton III, and States Rights Gist are buried. After a short miscue reading the map we easily found the church and cemetery. While not large it is very full so Chris and I split up in order to find their monuments. After a few minutes we had gone through the whole cemetery and collected photos of the three generals graves along with a few other interesting finds.

States Rights Gist
Ellison Capers

Wade Hampton III

South Carolina State House
 From there we walked around the city some more and took in the close by sites. One I just had to have a photo of was this sign in the photo to the right. Notice the reference to Count Pulaski. Well you can't see it but I was wearing my Fort Pulaski hat. OK, I'm dumb sometimes. Towering over most of the area is the South Carolina State House. It is quite an impressive looking building and is surrounded by many sidewalks, grassy areas, and statues. It's really quite a nice area to walk around.

Every government needs money and the Confederates were no exception. Of course they printed large quantities of bills which were virtually worthless. Columbia was the home of the Confederate Printing Plant. The building was originally designed by Evans and Cogswell and employed mostly young women who signed bills by hand. The building was burned in February 1865 with only the foundation and walls remaining. Architect Frank Milburn redesigned the building as office and warehouse space in 1901 for the South Carolina Dispensary Board of Control. The state sold the building in 1913 for just over $125,000. During the Great Depression the federal government used the building for the Seed Loan Program. During World War II the building was used as a warehouse for military supplies. The building was later used by Morris Furniture Distributors before becoming vacant for many years. In 2004 the building was renovated and now houses a Publix grocery store. This historic building is located in the now fashionable Vista district. (1)
Confederate Printing Plant now a Publix

Milledge Bonham

Maxcy Gregg

Our next stop was a drive to Elmwood Cemetery. This cemetery is the final resting place of Confederate Generals Maxcy Gregg and Milledge Bonham. In addition there is a large section of Confederate burials most of whom are unknown. This is a fairly large cemetery but we were able to find both Generals without having to stop at the cemetery office for assistance.

Confederate Soldiers burial ground

This was a great city and I kind of wish we had had more time. If you are interested in the Civil War and visit Columbia be sure to pick up a copy of the brochure "General Sherman's March on Columbia, South Carolina-Self Guided Tour". This contains well over 2 dozen sites the majority of which are open to the public. You may also find more information here.

We then headed on toward North Carolina.

1) SC Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum. The Confederate Printing Plant Building, Gervais and Huger Streets, Columbia, SC.  2 sided pamphlet available at the museum.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Smoky Mountains Trip Part 1

Last week Chris and I took the week off and spent several days in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. On the way there and back we made a few stops. When we were leaving we were unable to cross through the mountains due to snow and ice build up. Only 4 wheel drive vehicles and cars with tire chains were being allowed through. So we had to make a change in driving direction so we headed for the interstate.

On the way we passed the Bush's Beans visitor center, museum, and canning plant in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee. What a cool little place this turned out to be. The visitor center/museum contains an interesting time line of the family business including many original items. A theatre shows a Bush history film approximately every hour.  A general store is also there where you can purchase all kinds of Bush's related items. Prices are very good as well. Chris picked up a nice t-shirt for under $15. If you want any of the Bush's product they are available here as well. If we had known about this place we would have waited to have lunch at the cafe located on property. The menu looked pretty good and prices reasonable.

Of course the big stars of the stop are Jay and his canine sidekick Duke. Duke is known for trying to sell the secret family recipe at any chance he gets. If you go be sure to stop by the photo kiosk inside where you can get your picture taken "with Duke". The day we were there they were giving the photos away free. Looked to be 1 to a family but still a very nice gesture.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Maine's Civil War Stories

This came through today compliments of Dick Eastman and his excellent genealogy blog. If you are at all interested in the state of Maine and it's contribution to the Civil War the site linked to below is for you.

The following announcement was written by the Maine State Archives:

 AUGUSTA - The stories of Maine people, the events, and issues of the Civil War are now available online. “The first installment of stories is ready. People all over the world will be able to learn about and appreciate the extraordinary involvement of Maine people in the Civil War,” State Archivist David Cheever said.

The stories begin with the results in the federal election of 1860, when all of the State’s electoral votes were won by Abraham Lincoln and his vice presidential running mate, Maine’s Hannibal Hamlin. “The voting here and across the country led to the secession of South Carolina and its sister states in the South. Maine sentiment against slavery and against secession fueled the response here following the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, in April of 1861,” Cheever said.

The narratives,, address a wide range of events and issues. “The stories deal with Maine people, first, but they also address everything from health care, race relations, gender equity, intergovernmental relations, taxation policy, and, of course, the military,” Cheever said.

The stories each contain a Maine-based person, the location for which that person is known, an event or issue, and a follow-up question. “Our first audience is the public, but the stories have been produced with students in mind,” Cheever said.

The presentations online contain illustrations, primary source document transcripts, and accessible images of those documents. “Most of the stories come from the holdings at the Archives, but we have a growing number that come from historical societies, museums, and other repositories throughout Maine,” Cheever said.

More than 25 contributors, including student interns, volunteers from the public, and staff, have helped bring the project to fruition. The original goal for the project was to have one story for each week of the Civil War. “More than 150 stories are now available, and another 100 are in process. We expect that we will have more than 400 by the time the project ends,” Cheever said.

"The remarkable sequence of events that led to conflict is a matter of history we take for granted," said Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. "In the election of 1860 and the subsequent re-election of Lincoln in 1864--remarkable for the fact that this nation conducted a presidential election in the midst of a terrible civil war--we have plenty to observe and be thankful for. Not many countries would see a peaceful change of power of the scope we have witnessed in the 2010 election cycle. Much of that is due to the sacrifice of Mainers on the battlefields of America those many generations ago."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oxford University Press Sale--Up To 65% Off

I received the following information from Oxford University Press today. Please use this link to access the sale books directly. Looked to be nearly 90 titles with "civil war" included.

You've been waiting for it, and now it's here! Our Holiday Sale has arrived bringing with it savings of up to 65% on over a thousand of our finest titles. Start your holiday shopping now and avoid the rush!

We’re featuring books from a wide variety of disciplines—including Philosophy, History, Gift Books, Religion, and many more—so everyone is sure to find something special for their wish list.

To purchase the perfect title, simply:

1. Click on the subject area you are interested in, and filter by a discount-savings range—30% off, 50% off, or 65% off.
2. Add your books to the cart.
3. Once your books are in the cart, the discounted price will display in red. Complete your order as usual.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Internet-Genealogy Blog: Special Issue on Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors Available January 2011

For anybody who is researching a Civil War family member this may be something you want to keep an eye out for. Maybe a bit expensive but if you learn just one thing from it the money spent is well worth it. Read more at the link below.

Internet-Genealogy Blog: Special Issue on Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors Available January 2011

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Civil War Era Toys Used for Smuggling

Here's an interesting article from Yahoo this evening. Turns out that dolls now owned by the Museum of the Confederacy had hollowed heads that could have been used to smuggle quinine or morphine to Confederate troops through Union blockades. One theory is that the dolls came from Europe and already had the medicines inside with the thought being that if Union troops boarded a ship they would not closely examine children's toys. When you click on the link be sure to click on the photo to see other photos of the dolls and also a couple of x-ray images that have been taken.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dave Powell Interview at Bull Runnings

Considering I just had a post with comments from Dave Powell I thought it right that I point out an interview with him just published on the excellent Bull Runnings blog. Check out the interview here. Dave has a new book coming out that looks like a winner. Just another one to add to the want list and already bulging reading pile.

Documents at risk at the National Archives

I opened up Yahoo to this great bit of news. Not that this is anything new or unexpected really but now the Government Accountability Office has released an audit showing that records and documents at the National Archives are at risk. The highest risk factors are theft (big shock since money is involved), deterioration (estimates show that up to 65% of holdings need some form of preservation care with many already being unreadable), and ignorance of the law (some federal documents and electronic media are destroyed illegally by agencies before proper permissions are granted).

Say what you will about federal spending but based upon everything that NARA is supposed to take care of and with the explosion of electronic records I'm not sure that the $470 million budget quoted in this article is enough.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Robert Partin update

A few days ago I posted about an interesting find I had made in my great great grandfathers Florida Confederate pension application. Jim Schmidt suggested contacting Chickamauga expert Dave Powell for his input. Dave was kind enough to reply and allow me to post his thoughts. Some great information especially considering I knew next to nothing about this battle. This is an area I hope to increase my knowledge on in the future especially with the family connection there!


Thanks for the post.

Since Chickamauga was the first national military park, states created commissions starting in the late 1880s to determine how to site monuments. The northern states led the way here, with the goal of having most monuments in place when the park was scheduled to open in 1896.

The idea was that each regiment would form a committee to decide where their monument belonged and what text it should include. Then the ideas would be vetted at the state level, and finally by the park commission.

The ex-confederate states, having much less money to throw at monuments during this period, were slower to respond and often created a single state monument instead of individual regimental ones. Florida was one such - their monument stands just south of the Visitor's Center today.

The 4th Florida was in Stovall's Brigade, Breckinridge's Division, and fought very near where the state monument sits today. On September 20th 1863 Stovall's men routed part of John Beatty's Federal brigade (principally the 104th Illinois and part of the 15th Kentucky) and then turned south to strike into the flank of George Thomas' line at Kelly Field. The 4th did reach Kelly Field, but then Union reserves ejected them again. The 4th suffered 87 casualties out of 238 engaged, or 37%, in about an hour's fighting.

Dave Powell

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reading suggestions please!

I came across a small advertisement in a local magazine that on November 20 the Ormond Beach Historical Society will be presenting a talk on General Adelbert Ames. I did not realize that Ames had retired to Ormond Beach. Hopefully this will be an interesting talk and nothing will come up in the mean time.

Does anybody know of a good book on Ames or his command? I scanned quickly through Amazon and didn't see anything that looked too promising. I'll be checking Larry Tagg's The Generals of Gettysburg and also Ezra Warner's Generals in Blue but was hoping for something a bit more in depth. I mean it's not like I don't have tons to read already.

As always, thanks for your help!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Charting a More Perfect Union

I received a notice through Family Tree Magazine regarding a new online set of Civil War maps that are available. Click the image below to access the collection. Nearly 400 maps put together by the Office of the Coast Survey are available. Read the Family Tree Magazine blog article regarding this collection here.

Pennsylvania Grand Review

In November 1865 citizens of Harrisburg, PA gathered to honor the black Union troops who were not allowed to march in Washington D.C. in the Grand Review of the Armies. November 4-7 will be a commemoration of this event.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Interesting Family Find

My father's side of the family contributed several soldiers to the Confederate effort through various Florida regiments. My great great grandfather was Robert Charles Partin.

Robert Partin was born March 15, 1840 in Tattnall County, Georgia the son of Hugh Gilmore Partin and Nancy Elizabeth Smith. The family moved to Florida in 1852. Partin enrolled in the Confederate Army on September 14, 1861 at Cedar Key, Florida joining Company F of the 4th FL Infantry. He served through the war apparently never being captured and injured only slightly. After the war he married Narcissus C. Ballard on July 19, 1876. I believe them to have had three children, Nellie B., Homer M, and Charles D. .According to his death certificate Robert worked as a farmer and died on June 14, 1927 from senility. He is buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Osceola County, FL.

An interesting find about him came from his Florida Confederate Pension application. It turns out that on December 14, 1906 Florida governor Napoleon Broward appointed Partin to be "Honorary Chickamauga Park Monument Commissioner for Osceola County, to exercise, perform, and enjoy all the duties and privileges appertaining to said position." I can't say I know what this means and have not done any further research on it or on Partin's service record. I just thought it was a neat item and the type that is not in every soldiers application. You may view the document here. If any readers have knowledge on this please feel free to comment.

Most information in this post came from Robert Charles Partin's Florida Confederate Pension application which may be viewed in PDF format here.

A photo I have found of Robert Partin's headstone and also a newspaper article in papers from my grandmother, Louise Redd. Unfortunately, I do not know the date or what newspaper this is from.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Asking for advice

A bit off subject buy maybe this can be of value to others as well. I'm working on my Civil War book collection. You know the has spilled out on to the floor, isn't in very good order, you can't remember if you have a  book but can't find it if you do. Yeah that one. For those of you with considerable libraries how do you shelve your books? Is it straight by author? Do you divide by subject? If so, how? How do you keep track of  biographies? Are they by author or by the subject matter? If by subject how do you deal with authors with a large and varied body of work such as maybe Eric Wittenberg?

I have tried LibraryThing but have to admit that I just can't get motivated to enter everything. While that would help record keeping should something terrible happen it doesn't address the shelving issue.

Any ideas are appreciated before the shelves become completely out of control.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

LOC Receives Nearly 700 Photo Donation

Please check out this post on Rea Andrew Redd's Civil War Librarian blog

A Virginia collector has donated almost 700 rare Civil War era photos to the Library of Congress. The majority are ambrotypes (on glass) or tintypes (on metal) and are of common soldiers. Some are identified while others names have been lost to history. The LOC is planning an exhibition of the photos in April 2011 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the start of the war. Many have already been digitized and are available online.

Click here for the LOC announcement.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NARA Opens Part Two Of Civil War Exhibit On November 10, 2010

Posted yesterday on the National Archives website. Discovering the Civil War Part 2 will be opening on November 10, 2010 and will feature a rare chance to see the original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. While the entire exhibit will run through April 17, 2011 the Emancipation Proclamation will only be available for 4 days, November 11-14, 2010.

NARA Opens Part Two Of Civil War Exhibit On November 10, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Review--Knoxville 1863

Stanley, Dick. Knoxville 1863. Createspace. 2010, 221 pages. ISBN 9781451580310, $14.50.

Fellow blogger Dick Stanley was nice enough for send me a copy of his historical fiction work, Knoxville 1863. As I have not read anything on this battle I really didn't know what to expect. Would I need to have knowledge of the battle? Would I be able to follow the action? Would it be historically accurate?

After reading this work I have come to the conclusion that a reader doesn't really need to know anything about this battle to enjoy the book. The action is easily to follow but with each chapter being told from a different viewpoint you do need to pay attention. The characters do show up in each others chapters in ways that make sense. I really can't say if the battle scenes are historically accurate but I have to say I'm not sure it really matters. As a work of fiction this stands on it's own.

I didn't get the feeling that Stanley was trying to teach us the history of the Battle of Knoxville despite the fact that he seems to have done his research. Weaving true life characters with those he has created Stanley has created a work that keeps moving while not getting bogged down in details the way a non-fiction work might. Be sure to read his interesting Afterword where he discusses the characters, true and fictional, and also goes on to discuss some of the sources he has used in his research. Well worth the additional few minutes!

As Mr. Stanley works his way through the history of the siege and Longstreet's attack on Fort Sanders he shows us the difficulties of camp and battle life. Soldiers are subjected to bad weather, poor food, and lack of sanitation. The Confederate attack on Fort Sanders is shown as it might have happened. With poor information Longstreet sends his men into a nearly impossible situation. Stanley doesn't hide the gore but nor did I find it gratuitous. Afterwards, under a flag of truce, Stanley shows us how soldiers many times had to care for the wounded or bury the dead. Again, Stanley paints a picture showing how war is not glamorous to those fighting it.

This is a work of fiction I can recommend. While it helps to have some knowledge of the Civil War it isn't mandatory. The work should be accessible to any reader. The storyline moves along well. While this is not published by any of the big boys I didn't find the spelling and grammar mistakes I thought I might.

Dick Stanley is the author of several blogs that you might find worth checking out. The one I read most often is 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. Be sure to check his website for the book Knoxville 1863 as well. There is good information on both sites.

Thanks to Dick Stanley for providing a free review copy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review--Sultana

Huffman, Alan. Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History. Smithsonian Books, New York, New York. 2009. 300 pages, 281 pages text, index, bibliography. Hardcover ISBN 9780061470547.

 A seldom studied aspect of the Civil War is the immediate aftermath. Thousands of soldiers were far from home and needed to be returned to civilian life. Boat owners were more than anxious to cram every soldier possible on their boats and so was the case with the Sultana. Huffman estimates that nearly 2,600 men were on board though there is no passenger list. At least 1,700 of these men perished in the disaster. All of this plus the conspiracy theory that the Confederates played a role in the explosion of the boilers should have led to a fast paced and exciting story. Unfortunately that's not what we get.

Huffman takes the long route to get to the meat of the story. We read about friends from Indiana who join the military. We get to meet people like Big Tennessee who really have nothing at all to do with the story. He may (or most likely was not) on the Sultana and legend has it he swam away. We read about prison camps and the hope and despair they caused. Finally we get to the joy of being able to go home and the tragedy that awaited.

Ultimately what we have here is a disjointed work that doesn't really seem to have a focus. The book is 281 pages of text yet we don't hear of the Sultana until page 168. By this point this reader was just hanging on hoping for something to improve. Unfortunately it really didn't. There is no serious discussion regarding the theory that the Confederates had something to do with the explosion. Whether or not Huffman puts any weight to the story it should be addressed if for nothing else but to put it to rest. This could have been done as an appendix if nothing else. I couldn't really get a feel for the ship or the people aboard. While I should have cared about both I found myself looking for the end rather than not wanting it to end.

I can't personally speak for the research that went into the book but scholarship seems to be lacking. The bibliography comes in at just over a scant two pages with more than half being secondary sources and websites. There are no footnotes or end notes so don't bother trying to follow up on Huffman's research. There also are no illustrations or maps which become a serious failing in a modern Civil War book.

This is a book where I think Huffman would have been better off writing it as a fictionalized account. In that way the characters he introduces could have been developed and worked their way through the entire story allowing the reader to have gotten to know them and care about them. As it is I can't recommend this to anybody with a serious interest in the Civil War. Those who like an adventure but don't really care about the war may find this worthy of reading however.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Review--This Republic of Suffering

Faust, Drew Gilpin. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, New York. 346 pages, 271 pages text. B/w photos, notes, index.

The Civil War was an event unprecedented in American history. Casualties on a scale never seen before or since affected life in every way. With approximately 620,000 deaths (2% of the population) Faust estimates this would equate to around six million deaths today. 1 in 5 Southern men of military age did not survive the war.

Faust puts forth that each generation approaches death in ways shaped by history, culture, and conditions that change based upon space and time. The focus of this book is not to compare these approaches but rather to try and explain how those living at the time were affected by these deaths and how they dealt with them.

Central to this work is "the good death" or Ars moriendi. As a way to lessen the mental burden soldiers tended to look at the war with a focus on dying rather than killing. Dying on a battlefield prevented soldiers from achieving all aims of a "good death". Being far from family and loved ones prevented both the dying and the family from observing the death and preparing for the meeting in the afterlife. In place of the family it was important for fellow soldiers to witness the death. This allowed the final words to be heard and for those left behind to understand that the dying was ready to meet his fate. These witnesses often promised to visit family or deliver written word proclaiming that the soldier had passes in a proper way. Obviously many were unable to have a "good death". Sudden death on a battlefield flew in the face of the tradition and left family wondering as to the eternal soul of the departed.

Killing was a difficult factor for many in the war. Often times fighting was in close confines or even face to face. To combat this soldiers would mentaly try to dehumanize the enemy and often times atrocities were committed against officers or blacks. With the magnitude of death the next aspect of the book becomes the burying of the dead. Both sides were unprepared for the numbers of dead and many men were buried on the spot often times in graves so shallow they were dug up by animals. Families were left to try and sort out the remains if they wished to bring their loved one home for a proper burial. Officers would often be accorded more respect. Many times officers bodies were gathered from the field of battle and shipped home or to more formal cemeteries which in some cases became national cemeteries. Embalming was rare on the battlefield and only available to those families able to afford it.

With the large number of dead and the violence of the war it was common for soldiers to be wounded beyond recognition. Many soldiers died without identification and were buried in large plots marked unknown. After battle casualty lists were put together but many times these lists contained inaccurate information. Those at home would not know for sure that they had lost a loved one without a body. Unfortunately many were in graves marked unknown. Mourning rituals were important at this time. Symbols of grief were common and expected. To not participate in such rituals was considered disrespectful. For those left behind they often dealt with the issue of the fate of the soul. Death was often redefined as the beginning of eternal life and there was the assumption of meeting again. For those who just couldn't wait spiritualism began to become more prominent promising to help the dead and living communicate.

After the war was over many still felt an obligation to the dead and attempts to bring the physical bodies of relatives home began in earnest. Helping to keep sectional differences going was the federal government spending $4 million to help find and bury Union soldiers while those with Confederate relatives were left to their own devices. This led to grass roots movements such as the Hollywood Memorial Association of the Ladies of Richmond. Groups such as these helped find, bring home, and properly bury Confederate soldier bodies. Closure could often only be had with the burial at home.

Faust has written an excellent book. The reader does not have to have a large knowledge of the time frame to understand her points. A basic knowledge of the Civil War is helpful but not required. The research is thorough and the book contains almost 50 pages of notes. Included is much research in library archives using primary sources. The book is illustrated with many b/w photos that help further the discussion. Overall a highly recommended book for anybody interested in the Civil War or death customs.