Thinking About a New Theme

11 08 2010

No, not a theme on why I deserve an Official Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle with a Compass in the Stock and this Thing which Tells Time for Christmas (and for which Miss Shields would certainly have awarded me an A++++).  I’m talking about a new theme for this blog – that is, the template that makes this page appear as it does.  Unlike most blogs of similar vintage, in nearly four years I’ve only had two themes for Bull Runnings.  But at the suggestions of WordPress.com and fellow blogger Craig Swain, I’m considering a switch.  The Coraline theme offers some pretty cool options,  In fact, it looks a lot like my current theme (Freshy), but it’s more flexible with regards to colors and widgets (those little items that appear in the right hand column of this page) and other blogger-geek things.  If any of you have seen this theme in use or used it yourself, I’d love to hear from you.  And while we’re at it, if you have any recommendations for this blog regarding appearance or navigation, let me hear them.





Interview: Donald Stoker, “The Grand Design”

10 08 2010

Donald Stoker is the author of The Grand Design: Strategy an the U. S. Civil War.  Publisher Oxford University Press sent me a copy of the book, and Professor Stoker agreed to answer a few questions for Bull Runnings.

BR: Professor Stoker, please tell us a little about yourself.

DS: I’m Professor of Strategy and Policy with the U.S. Naval War College program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. I’ve taught for the Naval War College for 11 years. The Grand Design is my sixth book.

BR: What made you decide to write a book about strategy in the Civil War?

DS: We were teaching the Civil War as a case study in our Strategy and Policy: The American Experience course. But I wasn’t happy with the texts we were using. One was an exceptional book, but it didn’t deal with the subject in a manner that made it as useful for teaching as we would like, in other words, it didn’t really deal with strategy and operations. I began casting around for something else and the more I looked the more I realized that what we needed didn’t exist. There are a lot of Civil War books that deal partially with some elements of strategy, and a lot that say “strategy” in the title that are really about battles and/or operations, but none that examined the strategic sweep of the entire contest.

BR: Can you summarize The Grand Design in a nutshell?

DS: The Grand Design is the only comprehensive study of the evolution of strategy in the Civil War. It looks at both sides of the struggle, on the land and at sea, and charts (while analyzing), how each combatant used its military power in pursuit of their respective political objectives. It’s most important task is showing “Why” both sides waged the war as they did, as well as “How.” It does this by looking at the strategic and operational (campaign) plans of the presidents and military leaders. And takes as its foundation the pursuit of the political objectives sought and examines how the strategic and operational actions of each side contributed (or not) to the achievement of their political desires.

BR: How long was the book writing process in this case?

DS: This is a difficult question to answer. The full process was around seven years, but its not accurate to say that it took seven years to write the book because I published three other edited books in this time as well as a number of articles on various subjects. The last two years or so before publication were consumed in finishing The Grand Design.

BR: Can you describe your research and writing processes?

DS: I began by trying to write the book from secondary sources. I envisaged it taking a year or so and being about 60,000 words. But the more I read the secondary material, the more I found problems. So I decided to write it from primary sources, which are wonderfully abundant and easily acquired. I just spent an enormous amount of time reading, especially the primary documents. So many of the Civil War leaders were superb writers. Most, in fact. Lee, in particular. And reading Sherman’s letters is ceaselessly entertaining. I highly recommend the Simpson & Berlin version of these.

BR: What challenges did the project present?

DS: The enormity of the project and the volume of material. Covering the war in a single volume, in a coherent manner, while still getting the sweep of the war, is an interesting task. And it is literally impossible to read all of the books on the subject.

BR: Did you find out anything while researching The Grand Design that changed – or reinforced – any opinions you had before you started the process?  What will surprise readers?

DS: I found much to change my mind. The first “big” thing I found was that the offensive-defensive strategy supposedly authored by Jefferson Davis never existed. It’s all based upon a misreading of the primary sources by historians taking a tactical event and concept and trying to apply it to the broad sweep of the war. My opinions of Bragg and McClellan improved; there is more there strategically than is generally credited. I think this will surprise readers.

BR: How has the book been received?

DS: Generally very well. The History Book Club chose it as a Main Selection and most of the reviews have been very good. There are some who hate it, but that’s to be expected. I think some expect a “battle book,” so to speak, and then don’t get it. I’m not against “battle books”. I love them. And the Civil War field has some great ones. But I wanted to do something different.

BR: What’s next for you?

DS: A biography of Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian general and military theorist.

If any of you have read The Grand Design, I’d love to hear what you think.  Perhaps we can entice Prof. Stoker to participate in a discussion here.

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Civil War Times October 2010

5 08 2010


Inside this issue:

  • Susannah Ural and I get complemented by one letter writer for level-headedness in our contributions to last month’s piece on the Governor of Virginia’s Confederate History Month proclamation.  Another contributor wasn’t so lucky.  Of course, other letter writers attacked all the contributors to the piece.  Go figure.
  • Susannah Ural is interviewed about her research on Irish and Texan common soldiers.
  • Gary Gallagher’s Blue & Gray column examines the phenomenon of emancipated slaves in the wake of advancing Union armies.
  • Yours Truly offers up his third installment of what is now known as Collateral Damage with Antietam’s Roulette farm.  Keep an eye out here for the photos that weren’t used.
  • This issue’s Field Guide by Chris Howland features sites in Atlanta.

Features include:

  • Kevin Levin: “Until Every Negro Has Been Slaughtered“- Did Southerners see the Battle of the Crater as a slave rebellion?
  • Eric Niderost: Mad as a Hatter – John Wilkes Booth’s killer Boston Corbett.
  • Dana B. Shoaf: Loose Cannon - A visit with cannon collector Charlie Smithgall.
  • J. David Petruzzi: Cemetery Hill’s Forgotten Savior – John Buford at Gettysburg
  • Thomas G. Clemens: Memories of America’s Bloodiest Day – Ezra Carman
  • Peter Cozzens: Blunder at the Bridge – Union troops miss a rare opportunity to destroy a Rebel force near Corinth.

Reviews

  • Chester G. Hearn, Lincoln, the Cabinet and the Generals
  • B. R. Burg, ed., Rebel at Large: The Diary of Confederate Deserter Philip Van Buskirk
  • Robert Hunt, The Good Men Who Won the War: Army of the Cumberland Veterans and Emancipation Memory
  • Thomas G. Reynolds, General Sterling Price and the Confederacy
  • Charles R. Knight, Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market and the Opening of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, May 1864
  • Richard L. Armstrong, “God Alone Knows Which Was Right”: The Blue and Gray Terrill Family of Virginia in the Civil War
  • Ural on URLs – www.Footnote.com




Bull Runnings on Facebook

4 08 2010

I think I’ve figured this out.  To follow Bull Runnings on Facebook, try clicking this link.  Then click the “Like” button.  Let me know if it works or not.





West Point Atlas Maps

4 08 2010

Two of the seven Bull Run maps from The West Point Atlas of the Civil War:

Situation July 18, 1861

Situation 1400 Hours July 21, 1861





Key Harpers Ferry Battlefield Land Threatened

3 08 2010

Most of you are no doubt aware of the impending construction of a Wal-Mart on land near the Chancellorsville Battlefield.  Likewise you probably have heard the hue and cry surrounding the possible development of land outside Gettysburg as a casino complex.  These two parcels of land have something other than their proximity to major NPS parks in common: they’re NOT situated on battlefield land.

On Bolivar Heights-South at Harpers Ferry, development threatens property that IS battlefield land: on the evening of September 14-15, 1862, the right wing of Stonewall Jackson’s three division force under the command of A. P. Hill occupied Bolivar Heights-South as he maneuvered to turn Union General Dixon Miles’s position on Bolivar Heights, a move that effectively compelled the Federal commander to surrender the town.

Now that land, 406 acres known as Old Standard Quarry, is slated for 2.3 MILLION square feet of commercial space.  That’s more than 16 Super Wal-Marts, according to Harpers Ferry NHP Chief Historian Dennis Frye.  Add to that floor space acres of asphalt parking, streets, and lighting.  Last fall, under the guise of a timber harvest, the developers clear-cut the western face of the hillside, which you can see in the picture below, on the far side of the central strip of vegetation,  as viewed from the position of Jackson’s center on School House Ridge.

These are the same developers who in 2006 notoriously and illegally dug up and installed water and sewer lines on the School House Ridge battlefield ground on NPS property!  These lines, which make the development of Old Standard Quarry possible, are still functional thanks in part to our Department of Justice, which for some unknown reason has never taken action against the scofflaws.  The developers have somehow obtained a regulatory exemption through the State of West Virginia that absolves them of adherence to local planning and zoning ordinances – that’s right, these guys are obligated to follow almost no regulations.  What’s up with that?

The National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Friends of Harpers Ferry Park, and the Harpers Ferry Conservancy have united to counter the developers.  If you want to know how you can help, follow the links provided.

Steven Mynes beat me to the punch on this here.





Coming Up, Sometime Soon

2 08 2010

Lots of stuff in the works.  A recap of this past weekend’s trip to Frederick, MD for a Save Historic Antietam Foundation tour of the 1862 Maryland Campaign up to South Mountain and side trips to Monocacy Battlefield, and Gettysburg; a preservation alert on Harper’s Ferry; a couple of author interviews and perhaps one with a small publisher; the new Civil War Times is out, with my regular column – now titled Collateral Damage - on Antietam’s Roulette house (surprisingly no modern photos ran with the article, so I’ll post a few here); some interesting stuff from two diaries on the Battle of Fredericksburg; and one other topic that I can’t recall just now but will probably come to me at the most inopportune moment.

Also, in the course of working on my book-like-thingy I came across some errors in my Orders of Battle – mostly first names, initials and spelling).  I’ll correct them eventually too, but if you notice any in the meantime please let me know.

Stay tuned!








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