Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer 2013 Civil War Book Review Now Available

The Summer 2013 Civil War Book Review published through LSU Special Collections is now available online here. There look to be a couple of interesting books being discussed this quarter. Well worth a look.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

El Galeon--Replica Spanish Galleon

El Galeon sitting at the St. Augustine marina.
St. Augustine, Florida recently was home for a two month stay by El Galeon, the wooden replica of a 16th-18th century Spanish galleon.

The history of galleons is an interesting one. These large ships were primarily made of hardwoods such as oak, teak, and mahogany. Masts were traditionally made of pine. The ships were multi-decked with the forecastle being lowered and the hull being long. This design helped give the large and tall ship stability in the water while also helping the ship be able to travel faster. Galleons would typically be outfitted with artillery and the crew would also have hand-held weapons as well.

Due to their size and the complexity of the work involved in building a galleon these were expensive investments so it was vital that she ship become profitable quickly. Many were used as merchant vessels. A bonus on this type of ship however was its flexibility with many being converted to warships.

The romance of the galleon is through the stories of the Spanish treasure fleet which operated from roughly 1570-1800. This fleet was really a convoy system used to bring goods, raw materials and also treasure; gold and silver, back to Spain while sending manpower and finished goods back to Spanish colonies in the "new world". Certainly there were no precious metals coming from Florida but other parts of the Spanish crown were able to supply gold and silver in abundance.

Sailing on a galleon could prove dangerous. Rough seas, pirates, illness, and bad weather including hurricanes were just some of the dangers crew and passengers faced. Treasure hunters continue to search for the remains of shipwrecks and the treasures that they might hold. A prime example being Mel Fisher's search for the Atocha and other Spanish wrecks near Key West. These salvage operations often lead to long and expensive legal fights as to who the actual owner of these wrecks is.

Don Pedro Menendez
de Aviles
The first galleon to arrive in St. Augustine was the San Pelayo in 1565. This ship was the flagship of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, considered the founder of the first permanent European settlement in the United States. The San Pelayo itself weighed approximately 650 tons and was part of a group of ships that brought 800 colonists and supplies to Florida.

The El Galeon, which recently called St. Augustine home, is a replica of a 16th century galleon. It measures 180.4  feet high, has a main beam of 35.7 feet and a draft of 19.9 feet. The ship has three masts, seven sails, and over 10,000 sq. feet of sail area.

El Galeon is owned by the Nao Victoria Foundation from Seville, Spain. The galleon is on a long term tour that has taken it from Spain, to Puerto Rico, to several stops in Florida, and now the crew of almost 30 is taking her to New York City. Judging by the success she had in St. Augustine, 12,000-13,000 paid visitors (total visits are much higher including school tours, free tickets, and private events) and the stay being extended several times due to high demand, she will have a long visit in New York.

For those who did not visit the El Galeon while she was in St. Augustine do not fret; she will be back soon enough. The city and the ships owner have signed an agreement by which St. Augustine will become the Florida home to any of the Nao Victoria ships. City officials believe that El Galeon will return by spring of next year and possibly sooner.

The details of the agreement are not completely known but the city does receive ten percent of ticket sales, fifteen-forty percent of fees for private events depending on what source you use (you can rent the ship for approximately $5,000 if you have a cocktail party in mind), and fifty percent of merchandise revenues.

Overall this is a really cool ship. It's not like you will get to see a replica galleon every day. The detail work is really nice, this is a sailing ship after all. The "crew" that we met were friendly enough and willing to answer questions. Most questions seemed to come from younger visitors of course. There is a short film on the bottom level of the ship, but boy is it hot down below. There were a couple of box fans but that didn't do much. There are of course parts of the ship you are not allowed to visit as would be expected. Admission cost while in St. Augustine was $15 for adults, $8 children ages 6-12, and children 5 and under free. I did not see anything about a senior discount but I suppose it doesn't hurt to ask. It's not cheap considering that for most people they will probably spend an hour or less on board. The ship was not handicapped accessible while in Florida. Also, if you have issues with climbing stairs or steep ramps this is not for you. Remember also that you are on water so the boat will rock while you are aboard. It's not like being in the ocean but if you have balance issues be forewarned. Personally though, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to others.

By way of full disclosure neither the owners of El Galeon nor the City of St. Augustine have asked for this piece to be written. I paid the $15 admission price to tour the ship.

Much of the information above came from the brochure that was available to guests on board. It is titled El Galeon St. Augustine: Explore America's Oldest Seaport.

No pesky pirate cruise ship is ever going to take
the El Galeon. We will blow you and
your tourist captives from the water.

The flags flying over the ship.
Some of the nice detail work found aboard
the ship.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Press Release--Hidden History of Civil War Tennessee

James B. Jones Jr.

Tennessee’s Civil War history is an oft-told narrative of famous battles, cunning campaigns and
renowned figures. Beneath this well-documented history lie countless stories that have been forgotten and displaced over time. Discover how Vigilance Committees sought to govern cities such as Memphis, where law was believed to be dead. See how Nashville and Memphis became important medical centers, addressing the rapid spread of “private diseases” among soldiers, and marvel at Colonel John M. Hughes, whose men engaged in guerrilla warfare throughout the state. Join author James B. Jones Jr. on an exciting journey through the unknown and hidden history of Civil War Tennessee.

Meet the author
Wednesday, July 31 at 7 p.m. {Book Launch} @ Belmont Mansion Museum |1700 Acklen Ave, Nashville
Saturday, August 17 @ Hastings | 1660 Memorial Blvd, Murfreesboro
Saturday, August 24 at 2-4 p.m. @ Vanderbilt U. B&N Bookstore | 2501 West End Ave Nashville
Tuesday, February 4 at 2:30 p.m. @ Metropolitan Archives (First Tuesday at the Archives Meeting)
James B. Jones Jr. is a public historian on the staff of the Tennessee Historical Commission/State Historic Preservation Office in Nashville. He has published many books and articles on many topics about Tennessee history, including but not limited to the Civil War. He serves also as the editor of the THC newsletter, the Courier. He earned a doctor of arts degree in history and historic preservation from Middle Tennessee State University in 1983. He resides with his spouse in Murfreesboro.

ISBN: 978-1-60949-899-3  •  Paperback   •   128 pages   •   $19.99  •  July 18, 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, Apple’s I-bookstore, Google’s  E-bookstore, & Overdrive.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Review--Young Men and Fire

MacLean, Norman. Young Men and Fire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. B/W photos, maps. ISBN 9780226500621, $16.

While it might seem that fighting wild fires should have become safer in the years since the 1949 Mann Gulch fire recent events have proven that to be not the case.

Norman MacLean, in his masterpiece Young Men and Fire, takes readers closer than they would ever want or realistically need to be to a wild fire.

On a hot dry August afternoon 15 young men, 13 were under 24 years old, jumped out of an airplane into the remote forests of Montana to cut and dig a fire break in hopes of containing a fire in Mann Gulch. They carried limited supplies and tools.  They were confident in the abilities and planned on working through the night and being back at camp the next day. By late afternoon only three were still alive.

With a skill few authors could match MacLean works through the history of smoke jumping, the lives these young men would have been leading, the flight to the fire and the decision to jump, the awful turn of events as mother nature showed her wrath, the tragedy of the following day, the questions regarding those that were there and their actions and his research into the fire. Readers will meet the last two remaining survivors and follow along as they struggle to remember events that had happened nearly fifty years before.

The Mann Gulch memorial, installed in 1999,
 located at the mouth of Meriwether Canyon.
All along we see an author facing his own mortality through the deaths of twelve young men. MacLean interweaves stories of his life and we realize he understands he could have been one of those who left a lasting memory on Mann Gulch in the form of a concrete cross. Instead he was allowed to live a full life and devote the last of it to paying homage to these young men and making sure they were not forgotten.

This book is not for everybody. It does get a bit rambling at time. It doesn't always flow the way you might expect. The book had not been edited for publication at the time of MacLean's death nor was it complete. The publisher of the book has done little to change the book. That is good. For some readers there will also be a bit too much fire science involved. In researching the fire it became imperative to figure out what happened and why the fire behaved as it did. While certainly being far from a textbook readers will finish with a much better understanding of fire behavior and the danger that it can pose.

This is a book I have read on multiple occasions and will no doubt be returning to again. Highly recommended!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Press Release--The History Press Releases Civil War Soldiers of Greater Cleveland

The History Press is pleased to introduce the new title:
Civil War Soldiers of Greater Cleveland
Letters Home to Cuyahoga County
The Civil War interrupted the area around Cleveland, Ohio, in the middle of its great leap into prosperity, redirecting its men into military camps and its industrial strength into munitions and provisions. Dale Thomas roots his story in the letters that kept the ordinary soldiers from Cuyahoga County tethered to their families and friends on the home front, even as they moved from battlefield to battlefield, through sickness and captivity. For many, these letters were the only part of them to make it back—their final legacy to a community they had helped to build.
Dale Thomas graduated from Kent State University (BS in social studies and education) and Case Western Reserve University (MA in history). Before retiring, he taught social studies for thirty-one years at Bay High School in Bay Village, Ohio. In addition to serving as a judge for History Day at Case Western Reserve University, he has been an advisor for tours at the Western Reserve Historical Society and historian for the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable. Thomas is the archivist and vice-president for the Olmsted Historical Society and a member of the North Olmsted Landmarks Commission. He is the author of the books Images of America: North Olmsted and Then & Now: Olmsted. In 2012, The History Press published his third book, Lincoln’s Old Friends of Menard County, Illinois.

ISBN: 978.1.62619.088.7•  Paperback   •   144 pages   •   $19.99  •  July 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, Apple’s I-bookstore, Google’s  E-bookstore, & Overdrive.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

GrantLee's Florida Brigade Restaurant Update

Some of you might remember that a while back I wrote a review about a Civil War themed restaurant called GrantLee's Florida Brigade Tavern and Grill. Overall it was a disaster to put it mildly. You can read the review here and be sure to take a look at a couple of follow up comments that were left; none by the management you will notice. Well, less than four months later I have some updated news for you that was posted on their Facebook page today:

TO ALL THE LOYAL CUSTOMERS: We are sorry to say that GrantLee's Florida Brigade is officially closed for business... due to lack of income/business, we regret to inform everyone that we are closing the doors for good tonight. We thank all of you for your continued support! We worked hard day in and day out to make this place work, but at the end of the day: it wasn't enough. Next year we are opening something a little smaller, in a better location. See everyone around!! (and a special thanks to all our very LOYAL employees that stuck it out with us up until the end!! We cant say thanks enough to you guys!!)

That is correct, they made it less than four months before having to close the doors. Unfortunately for them there were a lot of strikes working against them: a location that forced folks to drive by many other options before getting there, poor food, poor service, poor management based upon other reviews I have read, a most unusual name that really meant nothing to those not interested in the Civil War and was completely ridiculous to those that are interested, and did I say bad food and service. The owners supposedly operated another restaurant (in Maine if I remember correctly but I could be wrong on that) but based upon this I find it hard to believe. It's really too bad considering there is not a good bar-b-que restaurant around here. This place COULD have done better. Of course it SHOULD have had good food and service.

Thinking back to the parade of restaurants that have tried to operate in this building all I can say is: NEXT!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book Review--Civil War Pittsburgh

Barcousky, Len. Civil War Pittsburgh: Forge of the Union (PA). Charleston, The History Press., 2013. Index, bibliography, b/w photos, 128 pages, 122 pages text, ISBN 9781626190818, $19.99.

Certainly Pittsburgh is not in the top dozen cities one would name when discussing the Civil War. Author Len Barcousky however shows us that while there were no battles fought here and that no Confederate army seriously threatened the area the Pennsylvania city played a role in the Union success.

While heavily for the Republican party and Abraham Lincoln, Pittsburgh did have a strong states rights wing. This difference is borne out buy the city having two newspapers, one supporting each party: the Gazette was Republican with the Post being Democratic. They each spun events their way. Author Len Barcousky, an editor and reporter with what is now the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had access to both papers and has used this archive in creating his interesting look at "The arsenal of the Union."

The book begins with a visit from President-elect Abraham Lincoln in February 1861. The author tells the contrasting stories of Lincoln's visit to the city. The Post of course plays up the visit and the Gazette instead chooses to talk about the physical appearance of Lincoln.

Other interesting stories include a telling of the tragedy at the Allegheny Arsenal, killing over 75 persons mostly women and girls. The explosion happened on the same day as the Battle of Antietam so Barcousky puts forth that the tragedy was under-reported due to the great los of life in Maryland. He does make what I though an unusual comment comparing the reporting of the destruction to that of reporting on 9/11/2001 in New York City. I'm not sure this was really the best choice here nor do I see the relation of a terrorist attack to management and employee negligence.

The late 1860 story of more than 100 pieces of artillery almost being sent south makes for good reading as does the story of POW Josiah Copley who compliments some southern officers for doing the best they could for the prisoners.

The book wraps up nicely discussing the 1939 GAR meeting held in Pittsburgh and also a story of the last Allegheny County Civil War soldier dying 1946, Joseph Caldwell.

Readers may see Mr. Caldwell's Findagrave memorial by clicking here.

With no notes and a small bibliography this is really more a book for a casual reader or somebody with a passing interest rather for somebody wanting in-depth information on the "Steel City" during the war. The book has many b/w illustrations though I think a map showing just how close Pittsburgh is located to what was the Confederacy would have been a nice addition. Overall though, still worth a look.

For a different look at Pittsburgh during the Civil War readers might want to find a copy of Pittsburgh during the American Civil War 1860-1865 written by Arthur Fox.

Thanks to The History Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

Monday, July 8, 2013

New Arrivals--Lincoln & Reconstruction; Reconstructing the Campus

Thanks going out to the good people at Southern Illinois University Press and University of Virginia Press for sending copies of a couple of new release books. Both look interesting and will move high in my "to be read" pile.

Reconstructing the Campus: Higher Education and the American Civil War (A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era) written by Michael David Cohen.
The Civil War transformed American life. Not only did thousands of men die on battlefields and millions of slaves become free; cultural institutions reshaped themselves in the context of the war and its aftermath. The first book to examine the Civil War’s immediate and long-term impact on higher education, Reconstructing the Campus begins by tracing college communities’ responses to the secession crisis and the outbreak of war. Students made supplies for the armies or left campus to fight. Professors joined the war effort or struggled to keep colleges open. The Union and Confederacy even took over some campuses for military use.

Then moving beyond 1865, the book explores the war’s long-term effects on colleges. Michael David Cohen argues that the Civil War and the political and social conditions the war created prompted major reforms, including the establishment of a new federal role in education. Reminded by the war of the importance of a well-trained military, Congress began providing resources to colleges that offered military courses and other practical curricula. Congress also, as part of a general expansion of the federal bureaucracy that accompanied the war, created the Department of Education to collect and publish data on education. For the first time, the U.S. government both influenced curricula and monitored institutions.

The war posed special challenges to Southern colleges. Often bereft of students and sometimes physically damaged, they needed to rebuild. Some took the opportunity to redesign themselves into the first Southern universities. They also admitted new types of students, including the poor, women, and, sometimes, formerly enslaved blacks. Thus, while the Civil War did great harm, it also stimulated growth, helping, especially in the South, to create our modern system of higher education.

Lincoln and Reconstruction written by John C. Rodrigue and is part of the Concise Lincoln Library.

Although Abraham Lincoln dominates the literature on the American Civil War, he remains less commonly associated with reconstruction. Previous scholarly works touch on Lincoln and reconstruction, but they tend either to speculate on what Lincoln might have done after the war had he not been assassinated or to approach his reconstruction plans merely as a means of winning the war. In this thought-provoking study, John C. Rodrigue offers a succinct but significant survey of Lincoln’s wartime reconstruction initiatives while providing a fresh interpretation of the president’s plans for postwar America.

Revealing that Lincoln concerned himself with reconstruction from the earliest days of his presidency, Rodrigue details how Lincoln’s initiatives unfolded, especially in the southern states where they were attempted. He explores Lincoln’s approach to various issues relevant to reconstruction, including slavery, race, citizenship, and democracy; his dealings with Congressional Republicans, especially the Radicals; his support for and eventual abandonment of colonization; his dealings with the border states; his handling of the calls for negotiations with the Confederacy as a way of reconstructing the Union; and his move toward emancipation and its implications for his approach to reconstruction.

As the Civil War progressed, Rodrigue shows, Lincoln’s definition of reconstruction transformed from the mere restoration of the seceded states to a more fundamental social, economic, and political reordering of southern society and of the Union itself. Based on Lincoln’s own words and writings as well as an extensive array of secondary literature, Rodrigue traces the evolution of Lincoln’s thinking on reconstruction, providing new insight into a downplayed aspect of his presidency.

Press Release--Andrew Jackson, Southerner From LSU Press

Mark R. Cheathem’s New Book Argues for a Reassessment of Andrew Jackson

LSU Press to Publish "Andrew Jackson, Southerner" October 2013

Baton Rouge— Many Americans view Andrew Jackson as a frontiersman who fought duels, killed Indians, and stole another man’s wife. Historians have traditionally presented Jackson as a man who struggled to overcome obstacles and helped create a more democratic United States. In his compelling new biography of Jackson, Mark R. Cheathem argues for a reassessment of these long-held views, suggesting that in fact “Old Hickory” lived as an elite southern gentleman.

Cheathem contends Jackson had already started to assume the characteristics of a southern gentleman by the time he arrived in Middle Tennessee in 1788. After moving to Nashville, Jackson further ensconced himself in an exclusive social order by marrying the daughter of one of the city’s cofounders, engaging in land speculation, and leading the state militia. According to Cheathem, through these ventures Jackson grew to own multiple plantations and cultivated them with the labor of almost two hundred slaves. His status also enabled him to build a military career focused on eradicating the nation’s enemies, including Indians residing on land desired by white southerners. Jackson’s military success eventually propelled him onto the national political stage in the 1820s, where he won two terms as president. Jackson’s years as chief executive demonstrated the complexity of the system of elite white southern men, as he earned the approval of many white southerners by continuing to pursue Manifest Destiny and opposing the spread of abolitionism, yet earned their ire because of his efforts to fight nullification and the Second Bank of the United States.

By emphasizing Jackson’s southern identity, characterized by violence, honor, kinship, slavery, and Manifest Destiny, Cheathem’s narrative offers a bold new perspective on one of the nineteenth century’s most renowned and controversial presidents.                                       

Mark R. Cheathem is an associate professor of history at Cumberland University and the author of "Old Hickory’s Nephew: The Political and Private Struggles of Andrew Jackson Donelson."

October 2013
320 pages, 6 x 9
Cloth $39.95, ebook available
Biography / Southern History
Southern Biography

Monday, July 1, 2013

Southern Illinois University Press Fall & Winter 2013 Catalog

I received the Fall and Winter 2013 catalog from Southern Illinois University Press recently and as would be expected there are some titles of interest.

There will be two new additions to the excellent Concise Lincoln Library series both scheduled for November release.

Lincoln and the U.S. Colored Troops written by John David Smith.

Drawing on a broad range of sources, including many letters and texts by the men of the USCT, Smith’s welcome study illuminates this critical period in Civil War history and reveals how Lincoln’s evolution changed not only the war, but America and even Lincoln himself.
Lincoln and the Union Governors written by William C. Harris.

By emphasizing the difficult tasks that both the governors and President Lincoln faced in dealing with the major issues of the Civil War, Harris provides fresh insight into the role this dynamic partnership played in preserving the nation’s democratic and constitutional institutions and ending the greatest blight on the republic—chattel slavery.
The Vicksburg Campaign, March 29-May 18, 1863 edited by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear.

Volume 1 of a planned 5 volume look at the Vicksburg campaign. This volume dealing with the early stages of the campaign sheds new light on the intelligence network put together by Ulysses S. Grant. Following in the tradition of the other fine works they have edited on Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and Shiloh this looks like a must have for anybody interested in the western theater of the war.      October

Also scheduled for release are:

Union Heartland: The Midwestern Home Front during the Civil War  edited by Ginette Aley and J. L. Anderson.  This book looks at how intensifying political and ideological turmoil affected the Midwestern home front.    September

The Long Shadow of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address written by Jared Peatman.   This book deals with the evolving significance of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.     December

We Called Him Rabbi Abraham: Lincoln and American Jewry, a Documentary History edited by Gary Phillip Zola.  The first collection of primary source documents revealing how American Jews have regarded Lincoln.     February

The Rhetoric of Rebel Women: Civil War Diaries and Confederate Persuasion written by Kimberly Harrison: How the everyday writing and speech of southern white women impacted Confederate national identity.     October