Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve 1862

I came across this Thomas Nast print from the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly. I thought it was a pretty moving piece of art. Online I found a description that I thought appropriate:  "Christmas Eve, 1862. Engraving from Harper's Weekly dated January 3, 1863. Nast used prints like these to raise the morale of the soldier in the field and of their families back at home, and help them to bear the hardships of a war dedicated to the preservation of the Union." As we celebrate Christmas Eve we should take a moment to remember those who can't be with their loved ones. While technology may have made it easier for those far apart to communicate that doesn't make the distance any smaller.

Thomas Nast
Library of Congress
c. 1860-1875
Nast, September 7, 1840-December 7, 1902, is perhaps most remembered for creating a modern view of Santa Claus and also the elephant symbol for the Republican party. Nast worked with Harper's Weekly almost continuously from 1859-1886.

A fuller look at the life of Thomas Nast may be found here. A scholarly look at the Nast can be found in the recently released Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons written by Fiona Deans Halloran.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Press Release--Revolutionary Cooking: Over 200 Recipes Inspired by Colonial Meals

I received information on this soon to be released book a couple of days ago and want to share it with you. If you are at all interested in the Revolutionary War and colonial period in American history you will want to take a look at this book. It is going to contain over 200 recipes for modern Americans based upon foods that our ancestors would have eaten. I like that the recipes are being adapted to modern palates; that should make the book appeal to a wider audience.

By Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanahan
Illustrated by Betty T. Duson

Time warp: now you can eat like the colonial men and women who lived during the American Revolution, sampling mincemeat, drinking beer for breakfast, and slurping Queens soup. Ranging from the simple to the sumptuous, always authentic, Revolutionary Cooking: Over 200 Recipes Inspired by Colonial Meals (Skyhorse Publishing, January 2014) tailors recipes discovered in cookbooks, family journals, and notebooks from 250 years ago to fit modern American palates.
Did you know that breakfast in the eighteenth century was also on the run, but instead of muffins, colonial men and women scarfed down mush and molasses? Or that, like many of us, the settlers enjoyed highly spiced foods, but unlike us, also relished the taste of slightly spoiled meat? Or that, at first, colonists didn’t understand how to make tea and instead stewed the tea leaves in butter, threw out what liquid collected, and munched on the leaves? These peculiar facts precede tried and tested recipes, some of which include:
      ·        Cold grapefruit soup
·        Madras artichokes
·        Apple-shrimp curry
·        Lemon flummery
·        Pumpkin chiffon pie
·        Raspberry tartlet
·        Stewed Cornish game hens
·        And many more!
Each chapter of recipes is introduced with accounts of how early Americans breakfasted, dined, drank, and entertained. The illustrations of utensils, tankards, porringers, and pots used in the early days are drawn from actual objects in major private and public collections of early Americana and make Revolutionary Cooking a great resource for American history enthusiasts.
History buffs can get a taste of our colonial roots with every meal, thanks to the exhaustive research and foolproof recipes featured in Revolutionary Cooking.

About the Authors and Illustrator
Virginia T. Elverson, Mary Ann McLanahan, and Betty T. Duson were members of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and its Bayou Bend Collection of American decorative arts. In addition to their research for this book, they studied and lectured in the field of early American furnishings and lifestyles. Virginia Elverson died in 2011 in Texas, Betty Duson died in 2003 in Texas, and Mary Ann McLanahan lives in Texas.
Revolutionary Cooking
Over 200 Recipes Inspired by Colonial Meals
By Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanahan
Illustrated by Betty T. Duson
SkyhorsePublishing hardcover, also available as an ebook
On Sale: January 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62636-416-5
Price: $16.95


Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review--Greyhound Commander: John G. Walker's Civil War West of the Mississippi

Lowe, Richard, editor. Greyhound Commander: Confederate General John G. Walker's History of the Civil War West of the Mississippi. Baton Rogue: LSU Press. 2013. Maps, index, bibliography, footnotes. 135 pages, 120 pages of text, ISBN 9780807152508, $36.00.

If the war in the west is overlooked in comparison to the war in the east the fighting done in the trans-Mississippi area is many times buried and forgotten about without a second thought. First hand accounts written by commanders from the area are rare thus making John G. Walker's work a must read for anybody studying the war in the trans-Mississippi theater of the war.

The book opens with an interesting and easily readable treatment by editor Richard Lowe. Lowe is the author of Walker's Texas Division, C.S.A: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) and The Texas Overland Expedition of 1863 (Civil War Campaigns and Commanders Series) and is the perfect editor to have taken this work from the vaults at the U. S. Army Military History Institute and presented it to a wider readership. Lowe gives readers a nice biographical introduction to John Walker allowing those who do not have a strong background in the trans-Mississippi theater of the war (myself included) to have a better idea of what is going on in Walker's writings.

Walker was an officer in the regular army before resigning in 1861 to join the Confederacy. He began fighting in the east, under Robert E. Lee, earning rapid promotions. He particularly distinguished himself during the Antietam Campaign. By November 1862 however Walker found himself sent westward, a move generally given to those who had failed to meet expectations. Editor Lowe puts forth that this move was probably due to Walker's association with Theophilus H. Holmes, who had served as a mentor and helped Walker receive his promotions. Holmes was a friend of President Jefferson Davis so when Holmes was sent to the trans-Mississippi it is likely that he asked for Walker to be sent west as well. (p. 13) Walker was a division commander in charge of three hard marching brigades of Texans. These men covered hundreds of miles in a short period of time thus earning the nickname "Greyhounds." General Walker was wounded during the Red River Campaign but returned to command later in 1864.

The editing of Walker's text is light with only minor adjustments to the text. First names are added in order to help the reader. It appears that all of Lowe's adjustments are bracketed [ ] for easy spotting. Where Lowe's editorial pen is most evident though are in the large amount of footnotes (yes FOOT notes, no having to flip to the back of the book) that are included. These notes provide readers with further source material, provide information on people and events as need be, and where necessary make corrections and clarifications to Walker's statements.

After having left the United States after the war, due to fear of prosecution, Walker dictated his work to his daughter while they were living in England during 1866-1867. Walker's story begins in 1861 discussing events in Missouri and concludes with the ending of the Red River Campaign in May 1864. The major events covered are the previously mentioned Red River Campaign and the Texas Overland campaign. While the text portion of the book runs 120 pages Walker's narrative is approximately 85 pages long.

A common theme in Walker's writing is a condemning of higher leadership with Edmund Kirby Smith receiving plenty of negative commentary. Walker wrote that had Smith gone after Ulysses Grant's lines between Milliken's Bend and New Carthage Grant would have had to suspend actions against Vicksburg and allow a reinforcement of or an orderly retreat of, Confederate forces. Walker went further in claiming that by John Pemberton not following orders from Joseph Johnston regarding a retreat led to a loss that "was one of the principal links in the chain of misfortune by which the Confederacy was dragged down to failure and ruin." (p. 68). Smith is later condemned during the Red River Campaign for having sent Texas troops to Arkansas instead of leaving them to support Richard Taylor as he followed the retreating Union troops of Nathaniel Banks (p. 101).

While certainly not a complete telling of any of the trans-Mississippi battles this is a resource that should no doubt be consulted. Lowe has included eight maps:  the trans-Mississippi theater, Civil War Missouri, Civil War Arkansas, Civil War Louisiana, Battle of Milliken's Bend, Battle of Mansfield, Battle of Pleasant Hill and Battle of Jenkins' Ferry that are a considerable help. Strongly recommended.

Thank you to LSU Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review--Mosby's Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia

Connery, William S. Mosby's Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia (Civil War Sesquicentennial). Charleston: The History Press, 2013. 158 pages, 147 pages of text, index, bibliography, b/w photos, 1 map. ISBN 9781609498931, $19.99.

Don't be fooled by the title of this book. It is really about more than John S. Mosby's service to the Confederacy during the Civil War. The war does take probably 75% of the book but there is more to be had. While clearly not a definitive or complete biography of Mosby (it does not claim to be) this is certainly an excellent introduction to "the Gray Ghost."

While in jail for a shooting that he was later granted a pardon for, Mosby studied the law and was later admitted to the Virginia Bar. Unlike many of the most famous Civil War personalities Mosby did not attend West Point and he had no prior military training. Like many Confederate generals though he started as a pro-Union man only changing his mind when his state joined the Confederacy.

Mosby originally enlisted as a private in the Washington Mounted Rifles, serving under William "Grumble" Jones. For a short while he served as adjutant to Jones before Jones lost a regimental election to Fitz Lee. Lee did not like Mosby and thus he was returned to being a private. He quickly became a courier on J.E.B. Stuart's staff and that led to his taking an active part in Stuart's ride around McClellan's troops in June 1862.

This event sealed it for Mosby; he wanted the life of a Partisan Ranger. Partisan Rangers were military units who took part in guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines. While serving as part of the army they were also awarded cash bonuses for captured munitions. By December 1862, Mosby was leading men on dangerous, yet often successful, missions. Connery effectively takes us through various engagements that Mosby and his men fought. Perhaps the most successful part for Mosby was that he and his men were so unpredictable to the Union armies that he helped keep them from being able to engage in other areas of the war.

Post war, Mosby was again unpredictable. He was originally denied a pardon by Andrew Johnson but was eventually pardoned by Ulysses S. Grant. He worked for several years as a lawyer with much of his work having to do with railroads. By 1869 he was stumping for conservative political candidates. By 1872 however he was campaigning for Ulysses S. Grant, a fact that eventually led to the failure of his law practice. The Democrats (the conservative party of the day) considered Mosby a traitor with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes. Mosby moved to Washington D.C. in 1876 and in 1878 sold his Virginia home. In 1879 he was appointed American consul to Hong Kong, a position he would hold until 1885 when he returned to the States choosing to live in California. It was here that Mosby met and mentored young "Georgie" Patton; later known as the famous World War II General George S. Patton.

As with most History Press titles this one is heavily illustrated which I am a fan of. There is a nice selection here covering both modern and vintage images. There is one map but it is so detail heavy as to be unusable in my opinion. There are three appendices: the poem, The Scout Toward Aldie written by Herman Melville, Mosby's recommendation from J.E.B. Stuart (presumably contained in the Official Records) and an Appreciation of Mosby from the Photographic History of the Civil War, Volume Four. As is the case with many History Press titles there are no notes (most likely due to space constraints), there is however an index and bibliography.

This is certainly a book that can be recommended for anybody interested in starting to learn about John S. Mosby or perhaps guerrilla/partisan warfare. The writing was well done and the book read quickly.

Thank you to The History Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

World War II Book Give-Away

As promised in an earlier blog post (see here) Crown Publishing has been kind enough to send a copy of their new book The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis as a give-away to readers of this blog.

So how do you win this free copy? Easy! Leave a comment saying why you would like the book and be sure to let me know where the island of Crete is located. Also, be sure I have a way to contact you. I know that sounds simple but in the past I have been unable to contact book give-away winners.

The best answer gets the book!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Press Release--Prince George's County and the Civil War

The History Press is pleased to introduce the new title:
Nathania A. Branch Miles & Monday M. Miles
Bordered by the Federal capital but separated from Virginia and the Confederacy only by the Potomac River, the citizens of Prince George’s County found themselves on the front lines of the Civil War. As Maryland’s largest slave-owning county, some—including members of the Bowie and Surratt families— joined the Confederacy. Many remained loyal to the Union, losing sons and property for the cause. Three forts in the county were dedicated to the capital’s defense: Fort Foote, Fort Washington and Fort Lincoln. This did not prevent Confederate general Jubal Early’s troops from invading in July 1864. The Rebel forces blew up rail lines in Beltsville and took the Rossborough Inn near the Maryland Agricultural College—now the University of Maryland, College Park—as their headquarters. Prince George’s County and the Civil War: Life on the Border charts the course of a community caught in the midst of the bloodiest conflict in American history.

Monday M. Miles is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, with a bachelor’s degree in history. She also has a master’s degree from Trinity Washington University in nonprofit management/human resources management. She lives in Bowie, Maryland.
Nathania A. Branch Miles is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, with a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning. She is the coauthor of three books on the history of Prince George’s County and an active member of several genealogical, historical and community organizations. She lives in Hyattsville, Maryland.

ISBN: 978-1-60949-848-1 •  Paperback   •   128 pages   •   $19.99  •  November 2013

This new book is available at local stores and online at www.historypress.net
It retails as an E-BOOK via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iBookstore, Kobo & OverDrive.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lecture Dealing with St. Augustine National Cemetery

The Veterans' Council of St. Johns County and The St. Augustine 450th  Military Commemoration Committee

 is proud to announce a

Presentation by LTC. ret. Gregory A. Moore, Florida National Guard Command Historian:

The National Cemetery at St. Augustine - A Testament to Military History and Heroes

Tuesday, 19 November, at 7 PM

In the Ringhaver Student Center , Virginia Room , at Flagler College

Public Invited - Free Program

Colonel Moore will be drawing from his newly published book

Sacred Ground: The Military Cemetery at St. Augustine , the Nation’s oldest, and copies will be available after his talk for purchase and signature by the author. Call  823-0696 for questions.

Gregory A. Moore
Biographical Data: Lt. Col (Ret.) Gregory A. Moore

Gregory A,  Moore ( B.A. , U.S.  Military Academy , 1974: J.D., University  of Notre Dame Law School , 1982) is Command Historian of the Florida National Guard, where he has served since June 5, 2001. In addition to his responsibilities of preserving the history and traditions of the  Florida National Guard he is tasked with  educating members of the public, as well as the organization, about  that history through publications of monograms, maintenance and operation of the St. Francis Barracks Museum, and guided tours of the  Barracks and Post of St. Augustine, to include the national Cemetery. Over the years, Colonel Moore has served as a board member or trustee of a number of historically-oriented organizations, to include the Seminole Wars Foundation, St. Augustine  Historical Society and Fort Mose Historical Society. His paper, "The 1702 Siege of St. Augustine: English Miscalculation of Spanish  Good  Fortune," was read at the symposium, "Firestone and Ashes: the Siege of 1702," sponsored by the St. Augustine Historical Society, and appeared in El Escribano in 2002.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Museum of the Confederacy and The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar to Join Together

This was in my email this morning, despite prior claims to the contrary. So far it appears that reaction has been pretty well in the concerned to negative realm. I can certainly understand that. There are times where I think museums have gone too far into the "interpretive" and not in showing artifacts. Any time there is to be large amounts of "interpretive" efforts, you are going to offend a large amount of people. Some neo-Confederates who still can't accept that slavery was ultimately the largest cause of the Civil War, and in some ways still fight the war to this day, will no doubt be against this merger. I bristle at words like storage and wonder will the White House of the Confederacy continue to exist despite what the press release says. In addition  the new museum, which has yet to be named (a new name is supposed to be announced in January 2014), will have Co-CEOs. That seems unlikely to be a long term, workable solution. A management hierarchy will need to be established quickly in order for this to be a viable entity. A clear vision must quickly be adopted to gather support from members of both institutions.
The bottom line, so to speak, is I have little doubt this is a financial decision meant to try and save both institutions. Fund raising continues to be an issue for almost all non-profit institutions. There are a limited amount of Civil War enthusiasts and they have a limited amount of money. It will be interesting to see how this merger affects fund raising. I am a member of the MOC but not the ACWC. Perhaps the combined membership numbers will allow for attracting larger grants, which can be a good thing if put to good use.
At this point it is too early to condemn or praise this merger. There is little doubt however that it will be closely watched and that watchdogs on both sides, neo-Confederate and politically correct, will jump on any opportunity to put this new entity down. That is unfortunate but it is the world we live in. For now, I have to wish them the best and hope that this is a museum that anybody interested in the Civil War would be proud to visit, whenever it might open.
To the Members of the Museum of the Confederacy,
For 123 years, the Confederate Memorial Literary Society has assembled, protected, and interpreted the most important collection of artifacts pertaining to the Confederacy in the world.  In the 1890s, the CMLS reached out to aging veterans and their families, humbly asking them to share their artifacts from the War before they were lost to history. In the 1970s, the Museum building in Richmond was constructed to better house those artifacts, and during the 1980s, the White House of the Confederacy was restored to the splendor enjoyed by Jefferson Davis and his family. In the 1990s we began a series of groundbreaking exhibits, and we opened our second site at Appomattox last year. Now, the CMLS is taking the next step in our long history of education and preservation.
The largest priority of the Museum of the Confederacy has always been the protection of its incredible collection. Artifacts like those that belonged to Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee, and many others need to be properly preserved for generations to come.  However, the MOC building in Richmond is nearly 40 years old, and the Confederate Memorial Literary Society must take bold steps to ensure the safety of these artifacts. Space is needed to expand and add interactive components to their display and to give visitors better accessibility to living history demonstrations.

This morning, we announced that the Museum of the Confederacy is joining forces with the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar to make Richmond the “foremost Civil War destination in the United States.” The $30 million project, of which $20 million has been committed, will result in the construction of a brand new museum building at the historic Tredegar Iron Works site. This undertaking will put the whole institution on a much firmer financial foundation. The project will span 4-5 years, and the current museum in Richmond will remain open to the public until the new galleries are ready.
The new museum will provide better storage for the collection, improved displays, and a larger and better venue for hosting educational programs. At the same time, the White House of the Confederacy will be enhanced with new exhibits in time for its 200th birthday in 2018. The White House will continue to operate as normal, as will the Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox.

We have retained Edelman Berland, an independent market research firm, to conduct a brief survey of our members and visitors to help us better understand how we can meet your needs. Our goal is to gather feedback that we can use to continually improve our exhibits, programs, and activities. Look for an email invitation in the next week. The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, and your responses will be kept confidential.               

This is an exciting time for the Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center. We rely on your support to help us see this project through. Caring for the collection is our biggest concern. This new venture will ensure that the artifacts of the Confederacy are available for future generations just as they have been since 1890.

For more information, a copy of the press release, or for answers to questions you may have, click here.
I am your most obedient servant,
S. Waite Rawls III
President and CEO

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lecture on Forgotten Cemeteries in St. Augustine

Tolomato Talk 2013

Forgotten  Graveyards: St. Augustine's Buried Cemeteries

The Tolomato CemeteryPreservation Association is sponsoring a talk by Dr. Kathleen Deagan on the hidden First Spanish Period cemeteries of St Augustine. The event will be held on Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 3:00 pm at the Bishop Baker Center, located on the grounds of the Cathedral Parish School at 259 St George St. (between Bridge and St Francis Streets) in St Augustine.

The cemeteries that are still visible in St. Augustine are only the most recent chapter in the history of the town's reverence for the deceased. Less well-know are the many hidden graveyards from St. Augustine's First Spanish Period (1565-1763) that have been largely forgotten and obscured by development over the centuries.   At least six of these cemeteries have been located and studied by archaeologists and bioarchaeologists, and Dr. Deagan's presentation will focus on what we have learned from their work over the past 75 years.

Bishop Augustin Verot is buried in the
center walkway of Tolomato Cemetery.
Courtesy Robert Redd
Dr. Kathleen Deagan is an historical archaeologist who is currently the Distinguished Research Curator of Archaeology Emerita and the Lockwood Professor of Florida and Caribbean Archaeology at the University of Florida's Florida Museum of Natural History.  She has taught at the University of Florida since 1982 and is the author of more than 70 publications, most of them relating to early Spanish settlement of the Caribbean. Dr. Deagan was awarded the J.C. Harrington Medal for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement by the Society for Historical Archaeology in 2003, and in 2006 she received the "Order of La Florida," awarded by the city of St. Augustine.

The event is free of charge and on-site parking is available.

For further information, pleases contact board@tolomatocemetery.com.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Press Release--New World War II Book Dealing with German Occupied Crete

From my good friends at Crown Publishing this is a book that looks like it would be of interested to anybody interested in World War II. If this looks of interest please be sure to check back. Crown Publishing is generously going to provide a copy for a giveaway on this blog. Please be sure to support them in return by visiting their site and seeing the other fine  books they have available.
The true story of an unlikely band of courageous men--British intelligence officers and Cretan resistance fighters--who waged an underground war against the German occupation of Crete and pulled off an improbable and remarkable mission: kidnapping the German commander of the island.

by Wes Davis

Advance Praise for The Ariadne Objective
“History both crucial and swashbuckling.” Library Journal
“An exciting, tense narrative that unfolds like an espionage novel.”Booklist
“An exciting, earnestly narrated World War II story.”Kirkus Reviews
“Meticulously researched and gracefully narrated. The Ariadne Objective shows close-up the final gaudy flowering of the imperial swashbucklers—indifferent to discomfort, fluent in many languages, reckless, eccentrically decadent, mischief-makers, never unintentionally ill-mannered—who made their home in the world, before George Smiley took over his grudging service to the Empire.”
—Geoffrey Wolff, author of A Day at the Beach
“Wes Davis’ brilliant chronicle of the battle for German-occupied Crete is doubly rich in its description of character and of the perilous varieties of combat. This story tells how classically literate and well-nigh fearless Britons allied with brigandish locals to confound, confuse, and finally defeat the Nazi occupiers. It reveals how completely British improvisation and perception of local realities served to overcome a ruthless enemy.”
Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers
“In the grand tradition of John le CarrĂ©, Wes Davis has created a thrilling tale of espionage in the face of great peril. This is gripping history, masterfully told.” —McKay Jenkins, author of The Last Ridge
The Ariadne Objective is a ripping yarn, and Wes Davis is the perfect person to spin it. Ariadne will appeal to fans of Ben Macintyre books like Double Cross and Operation Mincemeat and, in fact, to anyone who enjoys a good story well told. This book kept me up well past my bedtime: I couldn’t go to sleep until I finished it.”
—Ben Yagoda, author of About Town and How to Not Write Bad

In 1991, while working on an archaeological excavation in Crete, WES DAVIS learned of a daring, little-known military operation that disrupted Hitler’s control of the island during World War II. A group of unconventional British soldiers infiltrated occupied Crete, charged with the task of sabotaging Nazi objectives in the region by joining forces with Cretan partisans. Their acts of espionage culminated in a cunning plot to abduct the island’s German commander.

After decades of research that took Davis from Crete, to the depths of London’s National Archives, where he combed through thousands of declassified documents, and to the Imperial War Museum, where he found the unpublished diary of one of the amateur spies, this incredible true story comes to life in THE ARIADNE OBJECTIVE: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis (Crown Publishers; November 12, 2013). Davis’s brilliant debut re-creates this secret war from the perspective of the gentlemen soldiers who found themselves serving in Crete because, as one of them put it, they had made “the obsolete choice of Greek at school.” The group of unlikely heroes included Patrick Leigh Fermor, a Byronic figure and future travel-writing luminary; John Pendlebury, a swashbuckling archaeologist with a glass eye and a swordstick; Xan Fielding, the writer who would produce the English translations of books like The Bridge on the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes; and Sandy Rendel, a future Times of London reporter, who prided himself on a disguise that left him looking more ragged and fierce than the locals he fought alongside.

Anchored by a fascinating cast of characters and set in one of the war’s most exotic locales, THE ARIADNE OBJECTIVE sheds light on the pivotal mission to save Crete and block Hitler’s march to the East.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: WES DAVIS served for two years as an assistant to the director of excavations at Kavousi in Eastern Crete, not far from the plateau where Patrick Leigh Fermor parachuted onto the island during WWII. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University and is a former assistant professor of English at Yale University. Editor of the Harvard University Press Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, he has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The Nation, among other publications.

Crown Publishers • November 12, 2013 • Price: $26.00 hardcover • 352 pages
ISBN 978-0-307-46013-4

Also available as an ebook
Visit www.crownpublishing.com

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Press Release-Arkansas Civil War Heritage

The History Press is pleased to introduce the new title:
Arkansas Civil War Heritage
A Legacy of Honor
W. Stuart Towns
The American Civil War shaped the course of the country’s history and its national identity. This is no less true for the state of Arkansas. Throughout the Natural State, people have paid homage and remembrance to those who fought and what was fought for in memorial celebrations and rituals. The memory of the war has been kept alive by reunions and preservationists, continuing to shape the way the War Between the States affects Arkansas and its people. Historian W. Stuart Towns expertly tells the story of Arkansas’s Civil War heritage through its rituals of memorial, commemoration and celebration that continue today.
W. Stewart Towns, PhD, has spent more than forty years following his passion for Southern history. Towns attended the University of Arkansas on a track and cross-country scholarship, where he received his BA degree in 1961. He continued his education at the University of Florida, where he received his MA in 1962 and his PhD in 1972. He served as chair of the Communication Departments at the University of West Florida, Appalachian State University and Southeast Missouri State University. Dr. Towns had a parallel second career in the U.S. Army. While on active duty, he earned a spot on the U.S. Modern Pentathlon team and competed in the 1964 Olympic Trials in modern pentathlon, fencing and the marathon. After completing his active-duty tour, he served the rest of his military career in the active army reserves in the civil affairs branch, mostly with the 361st CA Brigade in Pensacola, Florida. He became a member of the Consulting Faculty Program at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1973 and served in that role until 1996. Dr. Towns retired as a colonel in the active reserves in 1996.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Book Review--Confederate General Leonidas Polk

White, Cheryl H. Confederate General Leonidas Polk: Louisiana's Fighting Bishop. The History Press, Charleston, SC. 2013. 124 pages, 109 pages text. Index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9781609497378, $19.99.

Bishop General or General Bishop? That is the dichotomy of Leonidas Polk. Attempting to answer this question is Dr. Cheryl White, professor of history at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. Polk was a complicated man with many facets and to fully cover him in less than 110 pages is a near impossible assignment. White puts forth the statement that her book "is not an attempt to rewrite that which has already been written about the life of Leonidas Polk but, rather, to add to that literature by simply looking at him through a more localized lens using the historical backdrop of his episcopacy in Louisiana."

Polk was born into a family with revolutionary history. Family members served proudly in the Revolutionary War. His father, William, was part of the North Carolina welcoming party for the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825. The name Leonidas seems to have foreshadowed the complexity in young Polk's life. Leonidas was the name of a Spartan warrior whose fame stems from the Battle of Thermopylae. A different Leonidas however was a third century bishop who was martyred at Corinth.

Polk attended West Point where he was to become friends with both Jefferson Davis and Albert Sydney Johnston, both of whom would figure into Polk's later life. While at West Point Polk fell under the spell of academy chaplain Charles Pettit McIlvaine, eventually being baptized in 1826. Polk graduated eighth in his class and then entered the Virginia Theological Seminary being ordained a priest in 1831.

Leonidas Polk. Courtesy: Library
of Congress
It wasn't until 1838 that Leonidas was appointed as missionary bishop to the southwest. In 1841 he purchased a sugar plantation in Louisiana and became a large slaveholder. The plantation was prosperous until 1854 when a yellow fever epidemic led to Polk going bankrupt. This was also the period of time known as "the great awakening", a period of religious revival in America. Going against the grain of slaveholders Polk believed in Christianizing slaves and appeared to see no conflict between slave holding and his religious calling.

With the secession crisis brewing Polk put his allegiances with his state and ultimately the Confederacy. His West Point training along with his friendship with new Confederate President Jefferson Davis led to his appointment as a Major General. He was assigned command of the Western Department No. 2 which included the important state of Kentucky. This position was above Polk's ability and looking back it is obvious he should not have been appointed such a large command given his lack of recent military experience.

During the war Polk continued his religious practice. When Louisiana seceded he believed that the Episcopal Church of the state no longer belonged to the national church. His goal was to set up a new national church once the Confederacy won it's freedom. He also believed that religion could play a role in stemming violence and calming the passions on both sides. He was known to baptize men before he sent them into battle, knowing many would not come back.

Polk served under Braxton Bragg, a situation which neither man was happy with. They did not get along and Polk was eventually suspended for not following orders after the escape of Union General William Rosecrans and his men after the battle at Chickamauga. It was again Polk's connections that served him well as Davis transferred him to command of the Department of Mississippi and east Louisiana. After Bragg was relieved of duty Polk served under Joseph Johnston during the Atlanta Campaign. As the armies maneuvered around each other Confederate leaders met Johnston, Polk, and William Hardee met on Pine Mountain. It was here that Polk was hit with artillery fire, dying instantly.

In this short work neither Polk the religious man nor Polk the soldier take priority. There just was not enough word count to delve too deeply into either realm and that is a shame. In addition a further edit might have done this book well, there are several typos including the mention of John Q. Hood instead of, I assume, John Bell Hood. Aside from this the book is readable and while I have not read any of the other couple of Polk biographies this seems like a good introduction to the Fighting Bishop.

For a man as complex as Polk seeming little has been written on him. Joseph Parks General Leonidas Polk, C.S.A. (Southern Biography Series) and Glenn Robins The Bishop of the Old South: The Ministry and Civil War Legacy of Leonidas Polk look to be the only full length modern biographies.