July 2010 America’s Civil War

1 05 2010

I received the new America’s Civil War in the mail yesterday.  Again, lots of good stuff inside.

  • Rebels in Check by Ethan Rafuse – Nobody played the game better than Bobby Lee.  Until his luck ran out at Gettysburg.
  • Could This Man Have Stopped the War? by Thomas Horrocks – James Buchanan left a monumental mess for the next guy to clean up.
  • “It’s No Use Killing Them” by Zack Waters and James Edmonds – The 2nd Florida fought in Lee’s army, but forged its own stature.
  • Tracing Natchez by Joe Glickman – From Grant’s mansion quarters to funky watering holes, Natchez oozes atmosphere.

These are but prelude to the real reason folks buy the magazine: my reviews.  As I mentioned before, Smeltzer’s Six-Pack has bitten the dust.  In the last couple of installments we had fallen off the formula of pairing new releases with older books on the same or similar topic – a formula which I felt set the column apart, but which fell victim to the need to preview an increasing number of new books in every issue.  July debuts Harry’s Just Wild About…, in which I’ll preview four or five new or re-issued titles (I’m not sure what they’ll call it if I happen to not be wild about any of the books).  Here’s a glimpse of what it looks like – that’s me at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival a few years ago:As you can see, I lead off with Ed Bearss’s new Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg, the Campaigns that Changed the Civil War.  Also in this issue: The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of the Civil War, by William Marvel; Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby, by James A. Ramage; and The Battle of Cedar Creek: Victory From the Jaws of Defeat, by Jonathan Noyalas.

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I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Stangers

1 05 2010

OK, well maybe not strangers, but certainly folks who are under no obligation to help me.  I’m back from my day trip to Antietam.  NPS historian Ted Alexander provided me with more information on my In Harm’s Way subject house than I could ever fit into an article of under 1,000 words.  I could have read through the material all day, but I only had a couple of hours and with the help of my buddy Mike waded through the material and made copies of the most essential stuff.  Cultural Resources Specialist and historian Keven Walker took us over to the house and gave us a fine tour of the structure along with detailed history of the building and its occupants.  Thanks to both Ted and Keven for their expert and enthusiastic assistance.

We decided to drive back to Pittsburgh via Gettysburg (kind of like Uneasy Rider driving to LA from Jackson, MS via Omaha).  We ran into Antietam ranger John Hoptak on the street there, outside the Farnsworth House bookstore.  It was a beautiful, warm day – lot’s of folks milling about.  Curiously, many merchants stuck to their 5:00 PM closing times.  Of course I’m not privy to their financial records, but it seems odd to me, especially considering many of these are small businesses actively staffed by their owners, implying more flexibility in scheduling operating hours (that is to say, “Look Marge, the hotel parking lot is full and there are a bunch of people eating outside O’Rorke’s.  Maybe we should stay open until 6:00 or 7:00″).  I’m just sayin’.

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