Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review--Burying the Dead But Not the Past

Janney, Caroline E. Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies' Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause (Civil War America) . University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC. 2008. 290 pages, 199 pages text. Index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9780807872253, $24.95.

The "Lost Cause" is a standard mythology in Confederate history as to why the states in rebellion against the Union were unable to secure their freedom. One of the groups responsible for the Lost Cause mythology were the Ladies Memorial Associations, the subject of a fascinating book by Caroline Janney.

Ladies Memorial Associations, or LMAs as they are called in the book, were groups of mostly elite, solidly white women that took shape almost immediately after the war. Within a year of the surrender at Appomattox there were more than seventy such groups. With the federal government of course giving priority to Union soldiers and dead the LMAs in effect took on a governmental role. Some of their goals were the helping of the poor and injured but most important was memorializing the dead and bringing dead Confederate soldiers home for a proper burial.

For Janney the women of the LMAs were becoming more political despite the traditional view that women were not interested in politics. Janney's definition of politics is the "ability of individuals or groups to wield influence in their community, state, or region". Using this definition there can be little doubt that many Southern women were indeed becoming more political.

While there were Associations across the former Confederate states this book focuses almost exclusively on those from Virginia with those from the cities of Richmond, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Lynchburg, and Winchester. The Hollywood Memorial Association and Oakwood Memorial Association, both of Richmond, appear to have been the leading organizations and take the lead in this work.

These groups experienced much success including the formation of Confederate Memorial Day which helped lead to the celebrating of our current Memorial Day. Due to the hard work and fund raising undertaken by various LMAs many Confederate monuments, including the famous Pyramid at Hollywood Cemetery, were built. Perhaps the greatest achievement however was the finding and returning of Confederate dead and burying them in what Janey calls National Confederate Cemeteries. Thousands of Confederate dead were eventually brought "home" due to the efforts of these women.

While there were great accomplishments all was not roses for these groups. There was the constant struggle to raise money. In fact the Hollywood Memorial Association was unable to pay for the removal of all the Confederate dead from the Gettysburg battlefield. This debt haunted them for many years. Another struggle was with former Confederate men who were regaining their ability to be active politically. The men who had played a supporting role to women for many years in the immediate aftermath of the war expected the women to return to their prewar social position. These women were having no part in this and fought the men bitterly. Another struggle was declining membership as time went on. During the 1890's the rise of the United Daughters of the Confederacy also raised concerns as the UDC was seen as a younger and more vibrant organization.

Janey has put together an impressive listing of sources. She has scouted through many manuscript repositories, has referenced the remaining records of several LMAs, and has a large listing of other primary and secondary sources. The research looks to be very thorough and it shows in the writing which is smooth and easy to read.

This is a book that should be read by anybody with an interest in the post Civil War period, those wanting to learn about a seldom discussed aspect of Confederate women's history, or those interested in the memorializing of Confederate dead. Highly recommended!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Review: The Houses of St. Augustine

Nolan, David, Jean Ellen Fitzpatrick, and Ken Barrett Jr. The Houses of St. Augustine . Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL. 1995. 102 pages, index, bibliography, color photos and illustrations. ISBN 9781561640690 $24.95.

Founded in the mid 1500's the city of St. Augustine, FL is heralded as the oldest continually inhabited city in the nation. It has survived several changes in "ownership", war and peace, boom and bust, and progress and preservation. The architecture of the city is a testament to these changes and author David Nolan along with artist Jean Ellen Fitzpatrick and photographer Ken Barrett, Jr. take us on an educational, fun, and at times moving tour of the city.

What we have here is part travel guide, part art/photography book, and part history. This slim and handsome volume melds the three together well. The chapters are broken into seven time frames each of which contains a descriptive essay and many photos of houses corresponding to the essay. Each photo includes a description some of which are in more depth than others.

Like most cities with a historical significance St. Augustine can boast of houses with a wide variety of influences. The Victorian era includes houses with towers and turrets features seldom, if ever, used in building today. The late 19th century brought about an interest in the Moorish Revival style and St. Augustine is home to one of the largest collections of this Hispanic influenced style of building. The early part of the 20th century brought the Bungalow style house to the city and with modern stylings the condominium and subdivision have taken root.

Not all has been a historical preservation success however. As author David Nolan points out the city has been through what is called "preservation by bulldozer". In a rush to recreate historical looking buildings true historical homes and buildings have been lost. Nolan points out the example of the main tourist area, St. George St., that features many new buildings featuring the look, but not feel, of Spanish Colonial architecture. These buildings are the home to many t-shirt, souvenir, ghost tour, and other tourist related shops. Lest we feel that developers are the only ones destroying architecturally significant buildings. Flagler College has played a role as well having torn down a building known as "The Shingles". Built by impressionist painter Felix de Crano the home served as an artist haven before being used by a local hospital. Despite its significance as the last "shingle style" house in the city it was demolished in 1994.

While maybe a bit dated in feel this is a fascinating book for those interested in historic preservation and for those wanting to take a deeper look at our "Oldest City". A map, or maybe several, would be an improvement for this book. If you are wanting to take a walking tour to see some of these houses a map would make planning the journey a whole lot easier. The photo captions do include addresses so modern GPS makes finding the locations easy however.

A reminder: Most of the locations included in the book are private. Please respect the owners privacy!

Villa Zorayda Museum. A fine example
of Moorish Revival Architecture in
St. Augustine.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

American Experience--Death and the Civil War

A recent mail delivery brought a preview copy of an upcoming PBS episode of American Experience. The episode scheduled to air on September 18 from 8pm-10pm is titled Death and the Civil War. The work is directed by Ric Burns, the brother of filmmaker Ken Burns, with whom he produced The Civil War.

Based upon the book This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Vintage Civil War Library) written by Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, Death and the Civil War traces the history of how the war became more deadly as it went along through the nations attempt to deal with the resulting huge death toll after the last shot was fired. With an estimate of up to 750,000 dead the country saw a nearly two and a half percent drop in population. That would translate to approximately seven million deaths today.

I have not yet watched this but am eagerly looking forward to it. I really enjoyed This Republic of Suffering and invite you to see my review here. Once I get a chance to sit down and watch this I will post my thoughts.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Press Release--New Civil War Book from Robert Burns Clark




Advance praise from Amazon Reviewers:

PITTSBURG LANDING is a powerful story centered on the brutal Civil War battle of the same name, also known by the Union as Shiloh , which was fought April 6-7, 1862. Far beyond an accurate and moving chronicle of a Civil War Battle, PITTSBURG LANDING (Definitive Words; July 2012) is a seamless melding of true characters and events from the Civil War era and imaginative fiction, showing how real men and women, husbands and wives, lovers, families and children were affected by those turbulent and wrenching events. PITTSBURG LANDING is as beautiful as it is stirring, with complex characters and masterful storytelling that puts the reader right in the middle of one of the most dramatic and tragic periods in our nation’s history.

On April 6 and 7, 1862, twenty-three thousand men were killed or wounded at a battle fought at obscure post on the Tennessee River . PITTSBURG LANDING tells the story of two of those men: their bravery, their loves and their loss.

Major William Moore, a forty-two-year-old Union Officer and West Point graduate, only reluctantly volunteers for a war where brother is turned against brother. Training his troops in Indiana he is reacquainted with Sarah Delaney, the now grown daughter of an old friend. She is twenty-two, a skilled surgical assistant, beautiful, determined and fiercely anti-war. Still suffering from the loss of his wife and child, Will finds himself falling in love. Sarah unashamedly pursues the romance, and they marry. Ten days later, he is called to the front. Believing that she will never see her husband again, she joins a surgical unit and arrives to find him on the field, critically wounded.

Amos Bingham of Alabama is a veteran of the Mexican War, during which, in one night, he single-handedly killed thirty-four men and boys. Shaken by that deed, he has sworn to never take a life again. When his son runs away to join the fighting, he rushes to save him, vowing to destroy anyone who gets in his way, no matter the color of the uniform.

Robert Burns Clark, a native of the North Carolina hills, produced Moonrunners, which was the basis for the hit TV show, The Dukes of Hazzard, and wrote many episodes of the TV hit show. Clark meticulously researched and worked on PITTSBURG LANDING for more than a decade. The book is a heartfelt attempt to rip away the mythology—though there was great heroism—from a bloody and brutal era. Its purpose is to show how real Americans—men, women and children—were affected by those events in the hope that Americans will only ever be led into the jaws of war through serious and sober deliberation.

PITTSBURG LANDING was recently recognized as a 2012 Honorable Mention Winner for General Fiction by the prestigious San Francisco Book Festival.

For more information, please visit