Monday, June 27, 2011

Research Help Requested

Some readers will know that I am researching the Civil War in Volusia County, FL (OK not much really happened but there's also not much written). Since there's not much out there I am also researching Confederate veterans who are buried in the county. I'm gathering my own headstone photos and getting GPS coordinates. Some burials are on private property so that will be a bit tricky but we'll work through that.

My questions regard Masons. Several of the headstones I have found have Mason symbols on them. Not being a Mason I have no idea how they are organized or how the group works. Have any of you ever used Mason lodges for research and with what success? Is there any standard form or procedure that should be followed? Do lodges have a "historian" or somebody similar that inquiries should be directed to? Any other suggestions?

Thanks for any help or guidance you can provide!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Adelbert Ames Follow Up

I recently posted an article about a home owned by Union general Adelbert Ames and the repair work that is needed. You can read that post here.

While looking through old posts at Gettysburg Daily I came across this article featuring Licensed Battlefield Guide Christina Moon discussing general Ames. This is well worth reading and the site is worth a daily visit. There's always something to learn.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Review--A Glorious Army

A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph, 1862-1863Wert, Jeffry D. A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph, 1862-1863. Simon and Schuster, New York, NY. 2011. 383 pages, 295 pages text. Index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos, maps. ISBN 9781416593348, $30.

For decades Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia have been hailed as one of the greatest fighting machines in history. What is it that has led us to this belief? What was it about Robert E. Lee that caused many of his troops to to follow his orders with such devotion and also to keep the home front supportive. Discovering the answer is the aim of Jeffry Wert's new book.

Wert convincingly argues that Robert E. Lee helped change the Confederate outlook, taking the war from a defensive one and turning it to the offensive. Using the time frame from his promotion before Seven Days through Gettysburg Wert shows how Lee searched for a large and decisive victory understanding that a long war would favor the Union. Being aggressive and showing the Union army an audacity not encountered prior to his promotion, Lee believed he could beat down northern will before their industrial and manpower advantages came into play.

Wert shows Lee as a fighter willing to take risks to achieve his goals. While Union general Grant is often called a butcher based upon the number of troops he lost Robert E. Lee lost considerable numbers as well. The problem is the Confederacy did not have the population base to replace massive losses. In addition to the losses of foot soldiers Lee and the Confederacy suffered mightily due to losses in the officer ranks. The loss of key generals such as Stonewall Jackson, William Dorsey Pender, Lawrence Branch, Maxcy Gregg, Samuel Garland, George B. Anderson, Charles Winder, Lewis Armistead, Richard Garnett, Paul Semmes, William Barksdale, J. Johnston Pettigrew, William Starke, and  Thomas Cobb during the time frame discussed led to a leadership vacuum that hurt the Confederacy in the later years of the war. (p 292-293)

As Lee continued to rack up victories his confidence in his army grew to a level that was unrealistic helping cause the defeat at Gettysburg and thus the turning point of the war. The eleven month period culminating at Chancellorsville, while costing nearly 60,000 Confederate casualties saw the ANV defeat, and help lead to the removal of, Union generals George McClellan, John Pope, Ambrose Burnside, and Joseph Hooker. Only with the promotion of George Meade and later Ulysses S. Grant did Lee meet generals finally willing and able to confront the bravado shown by the ANV. While terrain was a large help to the Union and there can be no doubt that Meade did not aggressively follow the defeated Confederates Meade has gone down as the general who helped turn the battle for the Union with his victory at Gettysburg.

The book is handsomely produced including a large bibliography and notes section as would be expected from Wert. There are also numerous b/w photos and a few maps scattered throughout. The writing is clear and easy to read. While not recommended for those who do not have some background knowledge this is a book that should be in the library of any student of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gettysburg Visitor's Center Price Increase

I wanted to post a follow up to my earlier post regarding a proposed fee increase to see the museum, Cyclorama, and film at the Gettysburg Visitor's Center. The NPS has approved a fee increase of $2 per adult and has restructured the fees charged for children. Read more about this change at the Gettysburg Times website.

I know many have big issues with the Gettysburg Foundation and the fact that there is an admission charge at all. I'm not going to argue this point because there is no changing people's mind on this. My knowledge on the Foundation only goes back a couple of years so I'm not at full speed on everything that went on years ago when it was founded. Anyway, does it matter at this point? What I will say is, if you wish to visit the museum, see the Cyclorama, or the film you can become a member of the Foundation or pay the $12.50. For most reading this blog I imagine this might be something you will do once and then if you visit Gettysburg again will probably pass on.

Eisenhower Farm
Even if you don't want to tour the museum (I do highly recommend seeing the Cyclorama even though you won't get anywhere near enough time to see it before being ushered out) I think you shouldn't miss the VC at least on your first trip. There's an excellent bookstore there. Now personally I like Bern at Battlefields and Beyond, Lucas and Julie at Pages of the Past, and of course the good folks at the American History Store but the VC Bookstore should not be missed. Also, if you want to take a LBG tour it will probably start here though guides can be flexible and the two I took earlier this year started at my hotel. And let's not forget a lesser known gem at Gettysburg, the Eisenhower Farm. If you want to visit there you will need to take a bus from the VC.

Whether we as devotees of this hallowed ground agree with the Foundation it's here to stay: good or bad, right or wrong. Rather than continue to argue with and run down the Foundation maybe this energy should be put to better use. There are plenty of worthwhile groups out there that would appreciate the support.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Adelbert Ames House in Need of Repairs

This article is courtesy of the Daytona Beach News Journal. A house once owned by Union General Adelbert Ames is in desperate need of repairs. So far there's no real grass-roots effort that I am aware of. Of course with it being a government owned building I'm not sure how many private citizens will be willing to put money or effort into the cause.

Sorry for the weird formatting on the photos. They came out this way when I pasted the article and after messing it up a couple of times trying to move them and make more sense of it I gave up.

Ormond Beach debates historic house repairs
Posted in:       
Ames House, used for the city attorney’s office, has problems, including leaking windows and mold. Repairs would cost the city more than $284,000. (N-J | Nigel Cook)
Gen. Adelbert Ames and his wife, Blanche, were the owners of Ames House in the early 1900s. The home and grounds stayed in the family until Ormond Beach acquired the property in 1973. The grounds are a public park. (Ormond Beach Historical Society)
Some of the repairs that need to be made at the Ames House deal with leaks around the windows. The first phase of the Ames House improvement program could begin later this year with replacement of 12 historic windows at $22,000. (N-J | David Tucker)
The gardens at Ames Park on the south side of the Ames House are “pretty well used,” including by students and photographers, according to City Attorney Randy Hayes. (N-J | David Tucker)
City Attorney Randy Hayes (N-J | David Tucker)
ORMOND BEACH -- In the early 1900s, Blanche Ames became a golf widow -- rocking her days away on the veranda of the Ormond Hotel while her husband, former Union Army General Adelbert Ames, strolled the fairways with John D. Rockefeller, the city's most famous winter resident.

She looked for something to occupy her time so she began buying real estate, including land on the mainland along the Halifax River, and a block house at 173 S. Beach St., according to historic material displayed in a gazebo there. The blocks are molded masonry designed to simulate rough-cut limestone, according to the records.

The house offers an expansive view of the water and riverfront homes on the opposite side from its location on a jut of land south of the Granada Bridge.

In 1973, the city acquired the land, now Ames Park, south of Granada Boulevard. The stone house was used for city services, and since 1999 as the city attorney's office.
But the building has problems, including leaking windows and mold. Repairs in a three-year proposed improvement plan to be considered by city commissioners would cost more than $284,000.

Commissioners will learn more about the costs at a capital improvement workshop at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the training room at City Hall, prior to a 7 p.m. commission meeting in commission chambers.

The first phase of the Ames House improvement program would begin later this year with replacement of 12 historic windows at $22,000. Masonry work, moisture protection, drywall replacement and other initial improvements would total more than $57,000, according to a report submitted by Acting City Engineer John Noble.
The second phase includes more masonry work, doors, windows and disinfecting for nearly $175,000. Phase three includes more of the same for an additional $52,000, the report said.

"It blows my mind," said Commissioner Troy Kent of the proposed cost at a recent commission meeting.

"I want to fix the Ames House, but not for $300,000," Kent said at the meeting.
Commissioner Rick Boehm said the government-required arrangement of having a single contractor for city projects has advantages but a drawback is there are no competitive bids to compare.

Mayor Ed Kelley has some different ideas for the building.

"I have been talking to an individual who would be possibly looking at a joint public/private partnership," Kelley said at the meeting. "We have more than enough vacant space at City Hall for the legal department to move into.

"It will cost us a half-a-million dollars by the time it's done, because this does not include the top floor," Kelley said.

A public/private partnership could also include restoring the MacDonald House at 38 E. Granada Blvd., home of the Ormond Beach Historical Trust, he said.
Commissioner Bill Partington said he understood repairs might be "costly because it's historic" but he would like to keep the Ames House as a city facility.

Commissioner James Stowers said at the meeting he was "inclined to keep the city attorney and his staff over there," and City Attorney Randy Hayes said he would like to "be involved in any decision to be anywhere other than where we currently are."

In a separate interview, Hayes said the park is "pretty well used," including by students and photographers. Visitors often stop by the building with questions, although it is not open to the public, he said.

"The Ames House was owned by my great uncle -- built by an artist in 1910," said T.P. Plimpton of Ormond Beach in a phone interview. Plimpton, brother of the New York aristocrat and famed writer George Plimpton, lives across from the Ames house and describes its condition as "poor."

Local attorney Greg Snell, award winner for restoration of a 1940s coquina structure at 160 E. Granada Blvd., believes promoting local history is important.

Ames House," he said. "Whether or not it remains property of the city, I would like to be involved (with Ames House). I have a lot I could contribute.

"If they are looking at a private/public partnership, there might be incentive for someone to invest," Snell said.

"It's a great building and aesthetically appealing as well," he said. "It would be great to have that restored and accessible to visitors."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Lincoln Documents Discovered

Not brand new news but worth reporting anyhow.

Intern makes Lincoln document discovery

Listen up, interns tasked with endless hours of filing. Museum intern David Spriegel was organizing a stack of documents last month at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. when he made a shocking discovery.

Spriegel, a college student who had just begun his summer internship, noticed an inscription that read: "The above memorandum is in the inscription of Abraham Lincoln."

Spriegel had just discovered two previously unknown documents that Lincoln wrote in 1844 while the future president was working as a lawyer in Springfield.

"To tell you the truth, I doubted that these documents could really be authentic," Spriegel told the Lake County News-Sun Wednesday, after word had gotten out about his finding. "I figured a discovery like this would have been made by somebody else over the years. I didn't think somebody in their first week on the job would find this."
Experts with the library's Papers of Abraham Lincoln project have since confirmed the authenticity of the documents, as has a curator with the Lincoln Collection, the newspaper reports. The papers are now catalogued with 5,600 additional Lincoln legal cases; the library will make them available for viewing this fall.

"It really doesn't happen very often," Glenna Schroeder-Lein, a manuscripts librarian and Spriegel's supervisor told the paper as she described her intern's discovery. "I've found some letters to Lincoln, but I've never found letters by Lincoln."

(Photo of Lincoln in Mathew Brady's studio in Washington, under the supervision of George A. Story, Curator Emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum, 1861, via AP)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Author and Book Information--Nancy Brewer

I received some information from author Nancy B. Brewer today and thought I would pass it along. Ms. Brewer is the author of Carolina Rain and the recently released Beyond Sandy Ridge.
As she says about her work "I must say my writing has opened the eyes of Yankees and Southerners alike. Many of whom would have never read a history book about the so called, "Civil War". Yet, they were happy to read a romance/historical fiction novel. My books are well researched and they do not bash the North."

From her website:
"Carolina Rain"

A fiction novel based on history. The story takes place in the 1860's with The War Between The States in the background, but the real story revolves around the life of Thedosia Elizabeth Sanders.

Listen as she tells you about her life, the joys, the sadness and the unbearable.
Step back in time and find out the details and the secrets of daily living in the 1860's.
Beyond Sandy Ridge

As The War Between the States closes in, Lizzie flees her home leaving behind her hopes and dreams. She finds a new home, where finery and social graces will buy nothing, not even friends. To the people of Stanly, County North Carolina, Lizzie is a familiar story. She is just another young widow with a babe in her arms. Her secret past will forever be buried deep in the sandy soil of Charleston.

"Beyond Sandy Ridge," is one woman's journey of survival, a collection of her most intimate desires and her passion for a man named Joel. Many of those she loved are forever silent. It was for their sake, she found the courage to tell her story.

Also on her website you may order books, listen to audio previews, and watch Ms. Brewer's YouTube videos or get a nice blackberry cobbler recipe. While I haven't read either of her books Ms. Brewer looks to be the type author who would appeal to those who read historical fiction/romance.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Magazine Preview--Civil War Times

The August 2011 Civil War Times is now available and has some excellent content.
The letters column is heavily slanted toward the June 2011 article dealing with the best and worst Gettysburg monuments.

The Civil War Today column has several interesting items including the release of the first Sesquicentennial stamps being released by the USPS.  Try to guess who the most searched for Civil War General is at the National Archives. Did you guess George Armstrong Custer? If so you are correct. The Virginia Historical Society will soon be releasing a database of Virginia Slave Names. They hope to have the site open in September. Check here for more information. The books and personal papers of Shelby Foote have found a permanent home at Rhodes College. A smartphone app is available for visitors to Fredericksburg. Those of us with droids are out of luck. iPhone only.
Gary Gallagher writes "Did the Fall of Vicksburg Really Matter?"  I haven't read the whole article but it appears Gallagher puts forth that while important it wasn't the end all many attribute to it.

Prominent blogger Harry Smeltzer's Collateral Damage column discusses "Wilderness Woes for the Widows Permelia". Editor Dana Shoaf conducts an interview with Sam Waterson, most famous for his role in Law and Order, but who also portrayed Abraham Lincoln in Gore Vidal's Lincoln. A tour of Civil War sites in Frederick, Maryland is this month's Field Guide location. Dana Shoaf editorializes that the 150th anniversary of the Civil War should not be called a celebration.
Susannah Ural and Rick Eiserman write the lead article this issue: "The Winter that Made the Texas Brigade". If the Texas Infantry interests you this article on John Bell Hood and the winter of 1861 is for you. In "Yankee Super Gun" Craig Swain questions whether the 4.5 inch siege rifles of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery could have prevented Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. Historian William Marvel brings new evidence to the question of who was the Civil War's youngest general. Jennifer Murray reminds us that Gettysburg, PA was not only vital to the Civil War but also played a key role for the United States in World War II. John Singleton Mosby's post Civil War life is the subject of an article by Douglas Gibboney.

Reviews are abundant with Harold Holzer kicking it off with his take on The Conspirator. New books by Jeffry Wert, Gary Gallagher, John David Hoptak, Donald A. Clark, and Michael Ballard are reviewed. See my review of Hoptak's book here. Susannah Ural's Ural on URLs discusses the NPS website for First Manassas. Museum exhibit reviews on Divided Voices: Maryland in the Civil War and When Duty Whispers: Concord and the Civil War wrap up this issue.
Well done and a subscription is recommended to anybody interested in the Civil War.

Magazine Preview--Blue & Gray

Blue & Gray Magazine Volume XXVII #6

Contents of this issue include:

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House May 13-20, 1864. Written by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White. This article concludes a four part series begun in 2001 with Greg Mertz's feature on Upton's Attack at Spotsylvania. The second piece is from 2004 and was also written by Mertz. This covered the march of Grant and Lee's armies from the Wilderness battlefield to Spotsylvania May 7-8, 1864. Part three from 2009 was written by Mackowski and White and covers the fighting that took place at the Bloody Angle on May 12, 1864. Loaded with maps and photos this is a must have for students of the battle. A nice secondary article is included in this issue that discusses a local newspapers reporting of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery and their participation at the Battle of Harris Farm. The 1st Maine suffered a 67% casualty rate during this battle.

Also included is the regular feature of Wiley Sword's War Letter Series. The letter this month details fighting at Columbia, TN on November 24, 1864 from a civilian point of view.

Fort Abercrombie is the subject of "On the Back Roads" this issue. Known as the "Gateway to the Dakotas" Fort Abercrombie was the first military fort established in North Dakota. This was mostly used during battles with Indians. Be sure to check out their nice website.

A nice selection of book reviews is included.

The issue wraps up with the always helpful General's Tour driving tour. Fifteen stops, beginning at the Spotsylvania Battlefield Exhibit Shelter, are discussed in depth and shown in modern photos. Excellent maps and GPS coordinates are included.

This magazine consistently puts out a quality product and should be purchased or subscribed to by any student of the war.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Da Capo Press Release--Genius of Place

I received the following press release from author Justin Martin and Da Capo Press about the release of Martin's new book Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted (A Merloyd Lawrence Book). The book has received several positive reviews on Amazon and through traditional news outlets already.

Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted (A Merloyd Lawrence Book)

Da Capo Press

 “Olmsted had a big life, but also a tough one. He faced more—much more—than his share of tragedy, even by nineteenth-century standards. He contended with the untimely deaths of children, close relations, and dear friends. He suffered various physical ailments, such as the ravages of a near-fatal carriage accident. And he endured assorted forms of psychological torment: insomnia, anxiety, hysterical blindness, and depression…Olmsted spent his final days in an asylum; in a great irony, it was one for which he had earlier designed the grounds. But first he accomplished more than most people could in three lifetimes. As a park maker, environmentalist, and abolitionist, Olmsted helped shape modern America. This is his extraordinary story.”—from the Introduction: Why Olmsted Matters

Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted
By Justin Martin

Most people have heard of Central Park and Prospect Park in New York, Stanford University in California, the Back Bay Fens and Franklin Park in Boston, and the Capitol Grounds in Washington, D.C.—but few can identify Frederick Law Olmsted as the man behind some of America’s most iconic public spaces.

Of those who do know Olmsted, even fewer know him as anything other than a landscape architect. In Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, Justin Martin explores Olmsted’s roots as a reformer. As a journalist, Olmsted championed the abolitionist cause to Northern and British audiences in the 1850s and 60s, exposing the evils of slavery; as an environmentalist, he created public spaces that preserved the already-existing endangered natural world. Olmsted’s conservation efforts are still felt today in places like Niagara Falls and Yosemite.

Genius of Place also delves into Olmsted’s personal life. Despite previous portrayals of Olmsted as a devoted family man with a tranquil home life, Martin exposes the tensions of Olmsted’s marriage and familial relationships, as well as Olmsted’s struggle with illness and personal tragedy, to paint a comprehensive picture of one of the most influential people of the nineteenth century. 

Justin Martin, author of highly praised biographies of Alan Greenspan and Ralph Nader, was married in Central Park and lives in Forest Hills Gardens—an enclave of New York City designed by Olmsted’s son.

 June 1, 2011 Hardcover $30.00 462 Pages Biography ISBN: 978-0-306-81881-3

Events: Politics & Prose (D.C.) 7/6; Barbara’s Bookstore (Chicago) 7/14; Harvard Bookstore (Cambridge) 7/21

 “The remarkable story of America’s first, and still foremost, landscape architect…Martin helps explain the driven, artistic temperament that informed the famed landscapes. He persuasively casts Olmsted as essentially a social reformer whose passion for meaningful work found its most complete expression in the creation of public spaces intended for the enjoyment of all. A revealing look at a still-under appreciated giant whose work touches posterity more intimately and more delightfully than many of his distinguished Civil War-era "contemporaries."—Kirkus Reviews

Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Review--Confederate Outlaw

McKnight, Brian D.  Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia.  L.S.U. Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 2011. Index, bibliography, notes, map, b/w photos. 252 pages, 192 text. ISBN 9780807137697, $34.95.
Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)Guerrilla fighters during the Civil War were a feared breed and perhaps the most feared of all was the legendary, or maybe infamous is a better word, Champ Ferguson. In his new book Confederate Outlaw, Brian McKnight shows Ferguson for what he was; a ruthless cold blooded killer who could still at rare times show compassion. Ferguson was at times working with small groups while at other times he served under men like John Hunt Morgan, Basil Duke, and George Dibbrell. This service and its ramifications is the subject of part of this book.

McKnight begins his book with an introduction where he discusses the literature of guerrilla warfare and Ferguson's place. Ferguson is portrayed as a product of his time and place. Home front paranoia, questions of loyalty and pragmatism are all related in the attempt to understand not just Ferguson but the Appalachian region during the Civil War period. Throughout, Ferguson claims his acts are in self defense. If he didn't act first his victims would have killed him instead.

Ferguson's murderous spree begins with the murder of Constable Reed in a particularly violent fashion. Ultimately Ferguson is tied to over 50 murders many of which are graphically detailed by McKnight. While graphic, these descriptions are needed to help paint the picture of the type man Ferguson was. Guerrilla war was often kill or be killed and Ferguson was an aggressor who cared little as to who he killed or how he did it.

When finally arrested in May of 1865 and brought to trial later that year there could be little doubt as to the ultimate outcome. Brought up on 23 cases involving 53 murders Ferguson plead not guilty. Ferguson and his attorney attempted to portray the guerrilla fighter as a captain in the Confederate army. As such he would be entitled to be treated as other officers based upon the terms of surrender. The defense was unable to provide proof of any appointment and this defense was denied ultimately leading to a guilty verdict. Champ Ferguson's reign of terror came to an end at the end of a rope on October 20, 1865.

McKnight nicely wraps up his work with a chapter outlining attempts to explain the Champ Ferguson mythology. Often repeated, but false, stories about his family having been assaulted or killed by Union soldiers led to the theory of revenge and family protection being motives for his actions. Other stories revolve around the murder of Ferguson's three year old son. Again this untrue story is given as a reason for Ferguson and his aim of vengeance. Perhaps the biggest claim however is of Ferguson being a Confederate officer. Ferguson however was never able to produce proof of an officer's commission and McKnight's extensive research does not validate the claim. Finally, as with almost all notorious individuals, there was an escape mythology. Stories ranged from Ferguson having "bought" his freedom and another man being hung to a dummy being hung in his place to an empty coffin being buried.

Brian McKnight has written an extremely readable book that should be on the shelves of anybody studying Civil War guerrilla warfare or the Civil War period in the Tennessee and Kentucky Appalachian area. Any future research on Champ Ferguson should go through this work as a starting point.

Thanks to the fine folks at L.S.U. Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New Arrivals

Inventing Stonewall Jackson: A Civil War Hero in History and Memory (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)
The Shenandoah Spy
A couple of recent arrivals compliments of publishers I would like to share with you. I hope to be caught up on my backlog of posts soon and get the book pile down a bit.

In an earlier post I mentioned a new book coming out from LSU Press. Thanks to LSU Press for sending a review copy of Inventing Stonewall Jackson: A Civil War Hero in History and Memory.

Thanks also to Francis Hamit and Brass Cannon Books for sending a copy of The Shenandoah Spy: Being the True Life Adventures of Belle Boyd, CSA, The "Confederate Cleopatra". This is a fictionalized account of the first two years of the Civil War and it's effect on Isabelle Boyd, a seventeen year old who becomes a Confederate spy.