What’s Up With Me

15 08 2010

For those many, many fans of Bull Runnings who just have to know what’s going on in the exciting, fun-filled life of its host, I have a couple of things going on right now. The most immediate is the completion of the next installment of Collateral Damage for Civil War Times. This will feature a home on a Western Theater farm, though it’s not really on a battlefield and it’s on the Eastern seaboard. I checked the CWT website but don’t see that they’ve ever put one of these articles online. If they ever do, I’ll let you know.  And yes, I will be putting up all the photos I took of the Roulette Farm, my subject of the current issue of the magazine, in the near future.

You may have noticed that I have a speaking date coming up at the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehurst, NC in 2011.  After much deliberation, I’ve decided to make a presentation on Peter Conover Hains, the young artillery lieutenant who opened the ball for the Union at Bull Run with a shot from his 30 pdr Parrott, Long Tom.  I’ve been fascinated with his story for a long time, but haven’t really buckled down on it.  Of course I’ll share the fruits with you all here, when the time is right.

Other than the above mentioned date, I really don’t have any firm commitments to speak in 2011, or the rest of 2010 for that matter.  A couple of roundtables have expressed some interest, but I haven’t nailed anything down for sure.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be leading at least on bus tour on the battlefield, but even that isn’t official yet.  Keep in mind that I have incredibly high standards: I pretty much won’t speak to any group unless they say Hey, would you like to speak to our group?

If your group is interested in a Bull Run related program – or one on any of the other Civil War topics I’ve written on here or elsewhere – you can contact me at the email address in the right hand column.

Last, the Facebook fan page is doing well – Bull Runnings has 136 “likers” as of this morning.  If you want to follow on Facebook, you can use the link in the right hand column.





13th Mississippi at First Bull Run

13 08 2010

Dick Stanley has a few posts up on his 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment blog about that unit and First Bull Run.  Check them out here.





New Blog – Gettysburg Civil War Institute

13 08 2010

There’s another blog in the hot tub, this one from the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute.  Check out Civil War Institute.  OK, maybe this first post is pandering a bit – a version of that wink-wink nudge-nudge McClellan remark that some NPS rangers and other guides throw out there when they feel like they’re losing the crowd.  But I can’t blame them for putting up an attention grabber: it’s a very crowded hot tub, after all!

I’m not sure who will be contributing posts to this blog, but imagine it will be a team of folks headed up by Institute Director Peter Carmichael.  So my expectations are high.





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.








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