Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review--Gettysburg: A Journey in Time

Gettysburg: A Journey in TimeFrassanito, William A. Gettysburg: A Journey in Time. Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, PA. 1975, 248 pages, index, notes, b/w photos, maps. ISBN 0939631970, $18.95.

As Robert E. Lee and his Confederate army were heading away from Gettysburg after a grueling three day battle there was another "army" headed in to the small Pennsylvania city. The photographers. Thus begins William Frassanito's fascinating look at the the photos of perhaps the Civil War's greatest battle.

While these photographs have traditionally been used either as art or as an illustration, Frassanito argues they should be used as historical documents. He then asks the following questions: who were the photographers, when were the photos taken, what parts of the battlefield were covered and what was neglected, has each photo been attributed to the correct photographer, and are the accepted captions correct and if not why.

From here Frassanito goes on to discuss each of the major photographers who were on the battlefield in the period of 1863-1866. Primary photographers included Alexander Gardner who it is estimated took his first photos of the field on July 5, 1863. The majority of his photos deal with death and showing the horrors of war. Matthew Brady arrived shortly after and is believed to have taken his first photo on approximately July 15, 1863. Brady is typically known for his photos of landmarks and the general terrain of the battlefield. Charles and Isaac Tyson, owners of the Excelsior Gallery in Gettysburg, were on the field approximately two weeks after Brady. The Tyson brothers photos were similar to those taken by Brady. They took photos in both 8x10 and as album cards. Later in the period of 1864-1866 they issued a series of stereoscopes. Several other minor photographers are briefly discussed.

Frassanito divides the battlefield into six areas and puts the photos into their respective areas. The areas discussed are: the first day's field, Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top and Devil's Den, and The Rose Farm. From there he discusses each photo and also tries to include a modern (OK the book was originally published in 1975 so the photos look extremely dated) photo of the area. Through his research Frassanito was able to find the location of almost all the original photos. He has also helped show how photographers staged many of the scenes they shot. Everything from weapons to bodies would be moved if it suited the needs of the photographer.

Written in a clear and easy to follow style this book is recommended for anybody with an interest in the Civil War. For anybody who collects Civil War photography this is a must have and should be in the library of every Gettysburg historian.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Morningside Bookshop Sale

I received this just a couple of days ago through email about the Morningside Bookshop and thought I might pass it on to those interested.

Morningside Bookshop

Morningside Bookshop has a new owner. Andy Turner, associated with Morningside since 1993 and owner of The Gettysburg Magazine, has taken over ownership of Morningside. His goal is to continue on in the tradition of quality books that was established by Bob and Mary Younger. Morningside, along with The Gettysburg Magazine, are now part of Gatehouse Press. Gatehouse will continue to print and sell Morningside titles with the Morningside name on them.

Morningside has always carried many Civil War books by other publishers as well. As the business is reorganizing, we are adjusting our inventory. As part of this reorganization, we are offering many books for sale. These are books that will be sold at the sale price until they are gone and not restocked. Many of them are down to one copy left. Please see the pdf file listing books for $5, $10, $15, and $20 each. Click here for the list

To order, you can call or email, as we need to check stock to make sure the book you're looking for isn't sold out. Once we've verified it's still here, you can pay with a credit card, or we'll hold the book if you prefer to send a check. Please make checks payable to Gatehouse Press. Shipping is $6.00 for the first book and $2.00 for each additional book.

We're currently reworking the Morningside and Gettysburg Magazine websites to update them and combine them into a Gatehouse Press website. We'll let you know when it goes online. We'll also be sending out soon a listing of some of our rare and used books for sale.

With regards,

Andy Turner
Gatehouse Press
PO Box 1311
Dayton, OH 45401

Upcoming Museum Exhibit

Thanks go to my mother for alerting me to this upcoming exhibit at the Orange County Regional History Center.  Read more about the exhibit here.

Quoted from the website: Florida in the Civil War highlights the state’s rarely acknowledged sacrifices and contributions in the "War between the States." Although often overlooked, Florida played an important role in the Civil War. The exhibit reveals how Florida overcame adversity to ship salt and beef to the Confederacy and how the state's citizens survived the Union blockade of its coastline.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Kind of Fallout?

It is hardly news any more that author Thomas Lowry has admitted, and then recanted, that he lied about discovering an Abraham Lincoln pardon after having changed the date on the document himself. By changing the year on the pardon he made it seem as if the pardon were written on the day of Lincoln's assassination. All of this was done not on a fake document but on a holding of the National Archives. Bloggers everywhere have been commenting on this. Some of the most thorough that I have seen belong to Brooks Simpson at Crossroads and also to Harry Smeltzer at Bull Runnings where there is a great, and somewhat heated at times, exchange between Brooks and Harry. On these blogs you'll find links to others if you are so inclined.

Who's to blame? Well, it sure looks bad for the Lowry's. If you read through the National Archives press release it would be hard to find otherwise. As far as prosecution goes the statute of limitations has expired so Lowry is off the hook. Legally that is. His reputation is shot and he has been barred from all NARA facilities. As far as book sales, well we'll have to see.

The main issues on this are to be debated by men and women smarter and more involved than myself. I have large concerns about this though that I haven't really seen addressed though please let me know if I have missed this elsewhere. What will episodes like this do to those of us who are not scholars, academics, or grad students with reference letters from professionals? If a well known (at least to many NARA employees) researcher can manage to sneak a fountain pen in against all rules and damage an Abraham Lincoln document what do they think a small time blogger who hasn't published anything might try to do. Will damage such as this cause NARA to rethink it's policies regarding archive usage? And what of the thousands of other repositories, whether a state archive, a local historical society or what have you? Will they take this as a sign that they need to tighten access? Sure, your local county historical society is unlikely to have a Presidential pardon signed by Abraham Lincoln but what they do have is just as priceless and important to them.

Let's hope this concern is all for naught. In many ways it probably is. Once the furor of this dies down, and it will, historical research will go on. While there may always be a bad seed, whether it be a forger, plagiarist, or scoundrel looking to get his name in lights, the large amount of historians out there are good people who would no more think of changing the date on an Abraham Lincoln pardon than they would hitting themselves with a hammer. Most historians want to present the truth though we may not always agree with their interpretation. Let's just hope this one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bunch for historians.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wal Mart Withdraws Wilderness Battlefield Plan

From the National Trust For Historic Preservation this morning. Read their blog here.  Now if some casino pushers in Gettysburg would just get the idea.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LSU Press Spring 2011 Catalog

Thanks to Jim Schmidt for the heads up that the LSU Press Spring 2011 Catalog is available online. Looks like there are some interesting books for Civil War readers due out soon. Download a PDF of the catalog by clicking here.

I am particularly interested in reading Confederate Outlaw since I have family that came from the area and also The Last Battle of the Civil War seeing that I just reviewed an excellent book on Arlington National Cemetery.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

University of Virginia Press Spring 2011

I recently received the University of Virginia Press Spring 2011 catalog.  There are just a small handful or releases that might apply to those of us interested in the Civil War.

Civil War Sites in Virginia  This is a revised edition of the 1982 work by James I. Robertson Jr. and Brian Steel Wills. Retail is $12.95. 136 pages with b/w illustrations and 6 maps. ISBN 9780813931302.  February.

Contesting Slavery: The Politics of Bondage and Freedom in the New American Nation   Essays covering various political aspects of slavery prior to 1840. Edited by John Craig Hammond and Matthew Mason. 320 pages, 1 map. Retail is $49.50. ISBN 9780813931173. May.

The Enemy Within: Fears of Corruption in the Civil War North  Written by Michael Thomas Smith. 256 pages b/w illustrations. ISBN 9780813931371. Retail is $35. June.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review--Vicksburg: Sentinels of Stone

Isbell, Timothy T.  Vicksburg: Sentinels of Stone. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, MS. 2006. 170 pages, color photos, index, bibliography, website listing. ISBN 1578068401 $40.

Vicksburg: Sentinels of StoneAs the Civil War worked its way through the third year both Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis understood the importance of Vicksburg and control of the Mississippi River to the ultimate winning of the war. Lincoln is quoted as saying "Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket." He also believed "As valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be more so." Davis believed Vicksburg to be "the nailhead that held the South's two halves together."

As we all know after failed attempts to win the city Ulysses S. Grant lay siege to Vicksburg and after a brutal 47 day term Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrendered on July 4, 1863. In total approximately 29,500 men and their arms were lost. Coupled with the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg the day prior and the fortunes of the Confederacy were in rapid decline.

Timothy Isbell has produced an interesting book on the Vicksburg battlefield and the monuments that now dot the landscape. Part history and part coffee table book at first I was not quite sure which way to take the book. Ultimately I think it is really more a coffee table/photo book and looking at it that way it succeeds for the most part. In 170 pages we have 85 full page color photos. On the opposite page from each photo we have a brief essay discussing the photo and what it is or describing the person pictured.

The photos are beautiful. Many were attempts at "art" it appears. There are extreme close-ups of statues such as on page 60 of William Loring, or there are attempts at showing depth such as on page 68 for the Men of West Virginia. There are photos were taken at different times of day and the sky shows colors that are unbelievable (were some photoshopped--maybe but I don't know). Then there are photos that are really "normal" such at the Bethel Church on page 47 or perhaps the monument to Isaac Quinby shown on page 121.

The essays are brief, as mentioned, one page. This makes it easy to pick up and put down this book. As for the scholarship of the writing I am not knowledgeable enough on the battle to comment fairly. I did find them to be easily readable and that they reinforced each other well.

An area of concern for me however was that there is no map of the area included. In a large coffee table book such as this a nice fold out map should have been included. In addition, the photos are just kind of put out there. There appeared to be no particular order to them. They weren't alphabetical nor were they grouped by subject. If they are by location there is no way to know. The photos aren't given any kind of location information. A big help would be GPS coordinates or at least road names or directional information. I know a book of this size is not something you would take with you on the battlefield but readers who have never been to Vicksburg might make notes from it.

Well constructed and beautiful to look at this is a book that would make a nice addition to many Civil War libraries. It is also the type book that many tourists might be interested in taking back as a souvenir though the price tag might make it a bit out of range. As a photography book this is top notch but as a history of the battle/siege you would be better off looking elsewhere.

For more information on Vicksburg National Military Park visit their website here. Also, visit the Civil War Trust's page for Vicksburg here. They have lots of links, photos, maps, reading ideas, and more.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Interview--Jim Schmidt: Notre Dame and the Civil War

I consider it my pleasure to have Jim Schmidt as my first interview on this blog. Jim is the author or editor of three books and writes two excellent blogs: Civil War Medicine and Notre Dame in the Civil War. Jim's new book Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory is now available and is a must read. Please read my review of it here.

CBR: Jim, I know you will be familiar to most of my readers but can you please fill us in on your background?
Familiar? Yikes! I think you overestimate my notoriety! I appreciate the thought, though.

Well, in the words of Austin Powers: “Allow myself to introduce…myself”:

I was born in Topeka, KS, and grew up there and in Joplin, MO, before moving to Oklahoma City during college. I attended Benedictine College (Atchison, KS) for a couple of years before finishing my studies at the University of Central Oklahoma (Edmond) where I earned a B.S. in Chemistry. I’ve worked in private, government, and industrial laboratories for the past 25 years as a bio-analytical chemist and am currently employed with a biotech firm in The Woodlands, TX, north of Houston, where I support our discovery and development programs as part of the Drug Metabolism department. I’ve been happily married for 25-plus years and have three terrific kids.

 I began writing for publication 12 or so years ago. I’ve been blessed and fortunate to have articles published in great magazines such as North & South, World War II, Learning Through History, Chemical Heritage, and Today’s Chemist, and – since 2000 - a regular column about 19th-century medicine in The Civil War News.

 I am the author, editor, or contributor to three books: “Lincoln’s Labels: America’s Best Known Brands and the Civil War” (Edinborough Press, 2008), “Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine” (Edinborough Press, 2009), and “Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory” (The History Press, 2010).

CBR: What led to your interest in history and the Civil War in particular?
I’ve always been interested in history since I was a kid, but my interest in the Civil War didn’t blossom until well into adulthood. As a kid, I was an avid reader and soaked up biographies and “Landmark” books. My dad might be surprised when he reads this, but I really owe my general interest in history to him. My ancestors – “Volga-Germans” - arrived in western Kansas in the mid-1870s. My dad is a treasure-trove of information about that heritage: genealogy, traditions, language, etc., and shared it with us as kids. That really made an impression on me, I think, and I’m only just now beginning to appreciate that quiet but important influence.

 As for the Civil War, about 15 years ago I was in Richmond, VA, on business. I had no particular interest in the Civil War at that time, but on a lark I visited the Cold Harbor battlefield. While I was looking at a wayside exhibit, an NPS ranger, Eddie Sanders, came up and asked if I’d like to join a van tour of the field with some senior citizens, which I did. His tour was amazing and I’ve been hooked ever since! I got back in touch with him a few years ago and thanked him for the inspiration.

CBR: Can you provide some insight into your research and writing process? Do you use a professional researcher? What are some of your favorite research tools or websites?
What a GREAT question!

 Generally, I do some background reading first. Then, I begin to “mine” endnotes and bibliographies for other sources…I depend very much on the archives (if they exist) of the institutions about which I am writing. My best contacts are the archivists themselves – as stewards of the material they can really help answer questions about what you are looking for or suggest other material. Most of my archival work is done over “snail mail” and many of the institutions have great online “finding aids” to help find relevant material. I strive to always incorporate previously unpublished material in my work…I don’t just want to be a “compiler”…I want to add something to the existing scholarship on a particular subject so that hopefully other people can learn from it and/or build on it further still. My local library interlibrary loan service is invaluable as are historical societies and other libraries.

 As for professional researchers, I haven’t ever employed someone on a hourly or per diem basis to visit another archive and browse or search on my behalf. That said, I have used some fee-based services such as “” to get quicker access and copies to Compiled Service or Pension records.

 As for websites, a few public domain websites – esp. the “Abraham Lincoln Papers” at the Library of Congress and or Google Books for documents and books – prove especially helpful. Two subscription-only websites have been especially helpful: and

 Once I’ve gathered research I develop an outline…I’m a firm believer in outlines…and then I start writing. Whenever possible, I try to write some shorter articles or columns first, or develop a lecture for the local Civil War Round Table, all of which give me something to build on.

 I try to do some type of writing or research every evening (or at lunch) and a good outline allows me to split a seemingly large project into smaller bits that can be “knocked out” over time…the small “accomplishments” do provide a sense of progress so one doesn’t get discouraged (especially for a procrastinator like me).
 Most institutions have very modest/nominal copying and postage fees. Generally the largest expense is paying for copies, user fees, and permissions for illustration material.

 There is no way I would have been able to write this particular book without the kind, expert, and enthusiastic assistance of the great folks at the University of Notre Dame Archives. Most of them have been there for ten years or more so we had developed a good working relationship. They have great online finding aids and were really supportive when I found material that actually added to their knowledge and collection. I also got great support from the archivists with the priests and sisters of the Holy Cross, each of which maintains additional collections. Genealogists also happily shared information about their own families or local history.

 In short, the Preface to this book is a single paragraph about me and more than two pages about the people who helped me, and with good reason.

CBR: In the preface to Notre Dame and the Civil War you mention that the book has been the product of more than a decades research. Why the interest in Notre Dame?
When I first became interested in the Civil War and began reading about it in earnest I was quickly introduced to the Irish Brigade and thus to Fr. William Corby. I wanted to learn more about him – and in Catholic military chaplains in general - and in doing so learned more about the bigger picture of Notre Dame’s participation in the war. The interest in Notre Dame goes back farther, though, and like many people can be traced to their personal faith tradition, an interest in “Fighting Irish” sports and personalities, or – as in my case – a combination of the two.

 I hope that other people who are more familiar with Notre Dame’s heroes of the gridiron, basketball court and other playing fields will also become familiar with – and admire – her heroes of the battlefield.

CBR: With your scientific background and being known to many as a medical/science writer what did you find that would tie this interest to your interest in Notre Dame?
The easy answer is that the Holy Cross sister-nurses have a good medical angle for this project, but I think the book is actually independent of my interests in science and medicine.

 In addition to the interests in Notre Dame, specifically, that I mentioned earlier, I also have an interest in “institutional history.” My first book, “Lincoln’s Labels,” was very much along this line, as I studied how well-known companies participated in, affected, and were affected by the Civil War. The same holds true for an article I wrote a few years back for World War II magazine describing the role of the Squibb drug company in the war.

 Such it is, then, with this book about Notre Dame in the Civil War: certainly at its heart the book is about people – and as much as possible in their own words – but it also follows my interest in how institutions are affected by war.

CBR: In your book you touch on South Bend, Indiana having been a prominent stop on the Underground Railroad. Did you find South Bend to have been a vocal abolitionist area?
This is a great question, but – for better or worse – my research on the book did not include a lot of reading on the Underground Railroad in Indiana or abolitionist sentiment in the state. I think, like Illinois, the northern part of the state was fiercely abolitionist but the southern part of the state included immigrants from slave-holding states and thus had a different outlook.

CBR: With Notre Dame having contributed so much to the Union war effort it begs the question...Do you feel the men and women sent to be chaplains and nurses go willingly or was it because it was their religious duty?
Oh, absolutely they went willingly; in almost all cases, Notre Dame’s priests volunteered to go; the same held true for the first cadre of sister-nurses that went to the front. Certainly it’s true for the rush of students who volunteered at the outbreak of the war. In any event, the vows that the Holy Cross priests, sisters, and brothers took (in addition to poverty and chastity) as part of their profession to the order included one of “obedience” or submission to legitimate superiors such as Fr. Sorin or Mother Angela. Even so, I don’t think their duty of obedience or their personal willingness are mutually exclusive.

CBR: If you were able to meet with any of the men or women from your research who would it be and why?
That’s a good question...there are so many to choose from, but I think I’d want to meet Fr. Joseph Carrier, a chaplain attached to Grant’s army around Vicksburg, who – like me – was a scientist.

 What I’m most proud of about this book – and these are fellows I’d like to meet as well – is the attention I was able to give to Notre Dame’s student-soldiers, who aren’t mentioned much in the Notre Dame historical literature. I am trying to build a database of the young men from the school who enlisted, fought, and sometimes died.

CBR: Can you briefly describe William T. Sherman's association with Notre Dame and the value of his papers to your research?
On his own, General Sherman might never have been connected with Notre Dame. Sherman's wife, Ellen Ewing, was related to the Gillespie and Phelan families, both of which had strong connections to the university and her sister school, St. Mary's…the Shermans sent their children Willy, Minnie, and Tommy to Notre Dame and St. Mary's during the war…Ellen Sherman arranged for Notre Dame to send one of its priests – the aforementioned Fr. Joseph Carrier - as a chaplain to Grant's army at Vicksburg…Fr. Carrier was at the bedside of the Sherman's young son Willy when he died of "camp fever" at Memphis in 1863…General Sherman gave the commencement address at Notre Dame in 1865.

1959, Miss Eleanor Sherman Fitch, the granddaughter of General Sherman, deposited the “William Tecumseh Sherman Family Papers,” in the University of Notre Dame Archives. The university archives has an excellent online finding aid for the Papers, including hyperlinks to actual images and/or transcripts of material.

 The Papers were especially helpful in yielding correspondence between Ellen and the general about sending their children to Notre Dame and St. Mary’s and between the general and his children while they were at school.

 *Any* serious scholarship about Sherman or his family begins with the Papers at Notre Dame.

CBR: You compiled some interesting enrollment data regarding Notre Dame during the war. Can you describe what you found?
The University of Notre Dame archives has a great online database, “Index of Early Notre Dame Students, 1849 – 1912,” which is searchable by a number of “strings.” Admittedly, mine was not a “scientific” survey, and I had to make some compromises. For example, each student was counted for each year they were enrolled; for some students this was a single year (they counted once), and for others it could be as many as five terms (they were counted five times). Also – for simplicity – I counted all the students: college students, “minims” (in the elementary/prep school program) and “Manual Labor” students (generally destitute or orphans who were learning a trade).

 Nevertheless, some definite rends emerged: increasing enrollment over the course of the war (when other schools were losing students or closing their doors) and an increase in students from Confederate states (esp. Tennessee) and Border states (esp. Kentucky) as the war progressed. Just as interesting was the pre-war enrollment data allowed me to identify and follow up a few students from the South who left school and joined the Confederate army. Due to the “compromises mentioned above, I almost certainly underestimated the proportion of students who came from the South.

 In addition to the online database, wartime Notre Dame catalogs also proved very helpful.

CBR: In your book you mention issues that many colleges had during the war. Can you discuss this and also why you feel Notre Dame was not affected to the same degree as others?
Actually, for my part, this was one of the most interesting parts of researching the book! One of the best books I read in my background research was “The Campus and a Nation in Crisis: from the American Revolution to Vietnam” by Dr. Willis Rudy (1993). I highly recommend it to everyone.

 Indeed, the Civil War had significant effects on colleges and universities across the country: declining enrollments due to student and faculty enlistments in the Union and Confederate armies; fiscal problems brought on by declining enrollment and exacerbated by wartime inflation; concerted enemy movements in or around campuses; and inflamed partisan and sectional passions among the students. At the least, these challenges could disrupt the order of campus life; at worst, they could result in the institution closing its doors.
 Student unrest on American college campuses—while more famous and familiar in Vietnam-era protests—can actually be traced as far back as the American Revolution. Likewise, students in the Civil War era demonstrated their feelings and opinions—pro-Union, anti-administration or (very suspicious to some) apparent indifference—through patriotic meetings, mock funerals, commencement exercises, student literary magazines, visiting speakers and other events and outlets. Not surprisingly, some of these turned quite violent.

 Notre Dame did not face all of these challenges but they faced several. Despite the increasing enrollment at the school, wartime inflation caused price increases and so the university had to rely on stricter budgets. There were some tussles and fistfights on campus but – fortunately - not the “town vs. gown” riots that plagued other schools.

 In spite of the challenges – or because of them – Fr. Sorin felt that morale at the school among students and faculty was higher than it might have been. The bottom line for me is that he was an extremely able and savvy administrator; the school might have not have been as successful under a less steady hand.

CBR: How has Notre Dame and the Civil War been received?
Well, the reviews are starting to “roll in” and they have have been very positive so far, which I appreciate very much. The interesting thing about this book is that it has (at least) two distinct audiences: Civil War enthusiasts and Notre Dame alumni (“bona fide” *and* “subway”), and whatever overlap there is between the two. I had a great Skype video chat with the “Notre Dame Club of Topeka” (my hometown!) and they asked some great questions. The newspaper and radio stations in South Bend, IN, have given some press to the book as well.

 People who are interested in Irish-American history and/or the history of the Catholic Church in America have also expressed interest and good words.

 I have to give thanks to The History Press: they have a wonderful Marketing and Publicity department which has really helped get the word out. The rest is up to me!

 In any event, my goal in all my writing is to produce original and “readable” material backed by equally original and solid scholarship. Hopefully I’ve done that in this case.

CBR: So what's next for you? Rumor has it you already have your next book project!
I’ve been fortunate enough to secure another contract from The History Press for a book on Galveston (TX) and the Civil War, tentatively entitled: “Galveston and the Civil War: An Island People in the Maelstrom.” Many people know of the “Battle of Galveston” and Edward Cotham, Jr., has a really great and fairly recent (1998, I think) book on the subject: “Battle on the Bay,” which is one of my favorites. My goal is to complement and build on the Cotham book by emphasizing the wartime experience of the island’s civilians – including enslaved African-Americans – and to take advantage of The History Press’s own emphasis on well-illustrated books tailored to community history. It is due to the publisher in mid-2012.
 I’m really looking forward to digging into primary material at the “Galveston and Texas History Center” at the Rosenberg Library in Galveston. It’s not a long drive from here so I expect to visit it several times over the next year-and-a-half.

 I have some other projects/proposals I am working on, including the possibility of offering some 19th-century material – some of it rare - in my collection as affordable “e-books.” I also have an increasing interest in the Spiritualist movement during the war years.

I also want to complete some feature articles I’ve started for some of the popular Civil War magazines, keep up better with my regular column on medicine in the Civil War News, and also with my blogs.

CBR: Jim, thank you for your time and I wish you continued success with your book
Thank me? Thank You! It’s been a pleasure! I really appreciate your interest and support. I love interacting with other readers and Civil War enthusiasts – especially ones with shared interests – so they should feel free to contact me through my blogs or Facebook!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Review--On Hallowed Ground

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery. Walker Publishing Co., New York, NY. 352 pages, 274 pages text, index, notes, b/w photos, map. ISBN 9780802715487 or 9780802715494, $28.00 or $17.00.

On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National CemeteryThe story of Arlington National Cemetery is one that can be told from many vantage points. Everybody would have their own favorite monument or story or agenda. Robert Poole has done an excellent job of covering this monumental task. The cemetery story is monumental both in size and scope and also in it's symbolic nature and importance to the United States.

No history of Arlington can be told without the story of the Lee family. Poole spends a large amount of time covering the Lee (or Custis family if you prefer) history in regards to the land. Robert E. Lee's fateful decision to join the Confederacy and the repercussions carried out by a vengeful Montgomery Meigs are thoroughly covered as is the attempt of Custis Lee to regain title to the property. After the government gains clear title through a $150,000 payment to Custis Lee ownership was never again in doubt. With this, efforts began to remove the freedmen who had taken up residence on the property during and after the Civil War. What was at the time a small cemetery would grow to take on a much larger place in history.

As further wars such as the Spanish-American War and World War I took place the importance of finding, identifying, and burying the dead continued to be a prime goal. Through time better science, more research, and the simple use of dog tags helped in identifying American dead even long after the death took place. Despite advances though some wars produced remains that could never be identified. On February 24, 1921 burial of a World War I Unknown Soldier was authorized at Arlington National Cemetery. Further burials from Korea and World War II were enshrined at later dates.  Unfortunately political ambition has crept into the history of the Unknown Soldier and the Reagan administration made a critical error in hurriedly burying remains from a Vietnam soldier. The remains were later removed and proven to belong to Lt. Michael Blassie. Poole puts forth that with the advances made in science it is possible that no further burials will take place at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

While the famous are what many people go to Arlington for, Poole credits the burial of President John F. Kennedy with causing both an increase in visitors and burials, the common soldier makes up Arlington National Cemetery. From Richard McKinley, a casualty of the nations first nuclear accident, to cemetery foreman Darrell Stafford, to PFC Alton W. "Knappie" Knappenberger, who singlehandedly slowed a German attack during World War II thus earning the Medal of Honor, to dozens of dead from the Pentagon attack on 9/11 Poole adeptly tells their stories. These stories are moving and heartfelt.

My only real issue with the book is I would have liked a better map. There is a two page map of the cemetery located at the front of the book however I found it woefully inadequate to refer to. It is broken up over the pages and also is generally hard to read. A nice foldout map would be a great addition to this book. Publishing costs however have to be taken into account and this might just not have been in the budget. For those looking for a photo history of Arlington you should look elsewhere. This is not that kind of book If however, you are interested in a good read about one of our nation's most famous locations this is your book!

Is this book the definitive word on Arlington? No. Was it written to be that? No. It is however an excellent work. Whether you are taking a trip to the Washington D.C. area and would like some knowledge about Arlington before visiting or if you are already a student of this remarkable monument Poole has written a book you should have on your shelves.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Military Museum puts 360,000 Civil War soldiers online

The New York State Military History Museum and Veterans Research Center has posted a listing of the 360,000+ soldiers from New York who served during the Civil War.

Read more information here.

The online archive can be found here.

Thanks to Dick Eastman and his genealogy blog for the alert to this site.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

CWPT Receives Coveted 4 Star Rating

I'm a bit late with this one. Somehow it slipped by me when I originally scanned the Civil War Preservation Trust  December email.

For the second year in a row CWPT has earned a coveted 4 star rating from Charity Navigator, the leading charity evaluator. CWPT received 68.84 out of 70 points. Makes you proud to support an organization that stays true to it's values and uses every dollar wisely. Congratulations to Jim Lighthizer and the entire organization!

Read the full story here.