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