From the Archives: Grace Bedell

17 02 2011

Since we’re commemorating Lincoln’s train trip to the inauguration in 1861 and I’ve been too busy to post anything lately, here’s a link to an earlier article on the statues of Lincoln and pen-pal Grace Bedell in Westfield, NY.  Check it out.





Preview – John Hoptak: “The Battle of South Mountain”

12 02 2011

Ranger, blogger and author John Hoptak has published The Battle of South Mountain with The History Press.  It’s 182 pages of text plus 13 pages of notes, a bibliography, full index and orders of battle. Two things I notice off the bat are Ezra Carman’s history of the Maryland Campaign is listed as a primary source (I’m not sure it is), and John is a little ambiguous about the timing of McClellan’s telegram to Washington communicating the finding of SO 191. Maybe he’ll comment here.

The book has lots of photos and illustrations and tres cool maps by Ranger Mannie Gentile. You can read a little more about it at John’s blog.





New in Paperback: “One Continuous Fight”

11 02 2011

Yesterday’s mail brought One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863.  This 2008 offering from Eric Wittenberg, J. D. Petruzzi, and the blogless Mike Nugent has been re-released in paperback by publisher Savas Beatie.  You can find a website set up for the original hardcover here.

You can also find any number of positive reviews for this book on the web. The paperback edition includes a lenghty interview with the three authors. Even if you have the hardcover, you may want to pick up a beater copy to use while following the fine driving tour.  Perfect for highlighting and marking up any of the eighteen original maps.





Gettysburg College Civil War Institute Tours

10 02 2011

Here’s a description of the tours for the upcoming 29th Civil War Conference of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.  The conference runs from June 27 through July 1 – here’s the registration brochure.  You have to be enrolled in the conference to attend the tours.

Manassas Battlefield Tours

Buses depart college campus at 8:00 a.m., arrive in Manassas at 10:00 a.m.  Meet tour guides in Manassas.  Lunch on the battlefield (brown bag).  Dinner location to be determined en route home.

*Bus #1 – Ray Brown/Jim Burgess
A View from the Ground: On the frontlines of First Manassas

National Park Service Historians Ray Brown and Jim Burgess will explore significant areas of the battlefield where much of the heaviest combat occurred and where key decisions were made that shaped the outcome of the action, as well as the circumstances that propelled Thomas J. Jackson and his brigade into a pivotal role on Henry Hill.  The tour will require considerable walking over rolling terrain on Henry Hill and Chinn Ridge.    On the actual ground CWI participants will gain a better understanding of how the field actually looked at the time and learn the location of key landmarks and terrain features that help define the location of opposing battle lines This tour by bus and foot will cover sites associated with the battle, including Stone Bridge, Van Pelt house site, Sudley Springs Ford Portici, Robinson House site, Henry Hill, and Chinn Ridge
 
*Buses #2 & #3 – Joe Rizzo caravan with Greg Wolf 
From the First March to the Final Rout:   A Comprehensive Tour of First Manassas

Where Thomas J. Jackson earned the nickname “Stonewal,”on Henry Hill is the focal point of virtually every Manassas tour.  If you are searching for a deeper explanation into the operations and strategy that led to this pivotal moment, if you want to follow in the footsteps of the armies before Jackson helped turn the tide, and if you want to study other critical moments of the campaign that took place away from the towering Jackson monument near the National Park Visitor Center, then this is tour to take, since it includes both a general treatment of the battle and specialized stops for the personal who already has a firm knowledge of the engagement.   Even the veteran visitor of Bull Run will see place–such as Manassas Junction, “Liberia,” Blackbrun’s Ford–that are rarely available to the every-day-visitor of Manassas.

Bus #4 – Ethan Rafuse
Staff Ride

In 1906 officers from what is today the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College executed the school’s first “staff ride”.  Carried out under the direction of Maj. Eben Swift, this exercise involved in-depth study of the great 1864 campaign across northern Georgia that ended with the fall of Atlanta.  The idea behind the staff ride (a concept borrowed from the Prusso-German officer education system) is to use historic battlefields as open-air classrooms to help military professionals better understand the real world challenges of command.  Participants in the 2011 Civil War Institute will have the opportunity to travel to Virginia to participate in a staff ride of First Manassas.  In addition to studying and critically analyzing the course and conduct of one of the Civil War’s truly great campaigns and the terrain where the fighting took place, the ride will provide participants with an appreciation of how the professional military uses history, and its place in the development of leaders for the current and future operational environments.  Unlike the traditional battlefield tour, the emphasis of the staff ride is on analysis of events and the development and application of critical thinking skills.  Thus, it is presumed that participants in a ride have some familiarity with events and are prepared to actively engage with the instructor and other participants. What value does studying campaigns and battles fought over rolling hills by armies wearing fancy uniforms and equipped with single-shot muskets have for officers as they think about the present and future of war in 2010?  Come along and find out!

Bus #5 – Harry Smeltzer [I will be on the bus down and back]
Hidden Mysteries of First Bull Run

This tour explores the battle through a series of personal vignettes that offer an intimate view July 21, 1861.  Even for the veteran tourist of First Manassas, “Hidden Mysteries” will offer a fresh perspective through the stories of participants like Peter Hains, Daniel Tyler, William Falkner, and E. B. C. Cash.    These individuals might not be household names, but their experiences reveal critical and often overlooked moments of the First Manassas Campaign. We will visit the critical portions of the battlefield, as well as a few spots not commonly visited by the casual tourist like the remnants of the war’s first monument and an 1861 road trace. Led by Smeltzer, a noted expert on First Manassas and host of the blog “Bull Runnings,” is geared toward a CWI participant who is familiar with the battle and visited the site before. There will be a moderate amount of walking as part of this tour, with some hilly terrain.
 
Bus #6 – Ed Bearss
Advanced Tour of First Manassas/Bull Run





Manassas Book Project

7 02 2011

No, not one of mine.  Blogger John Cummings (Spotsylvania Civil War Blog) hopes to have a new book on the Manassas battlefields published in time for the 150th anniversary of First Bull Run, and he talks about it here.  Check it out.





Is A Puzzlement

4 02 2011

I admit it – I’m a sucker for The King and I. In 1977 I actually got to see a revival of the musical at the Uris Theater on Broadway. Orchestra seats. Yul Freakin’ Brynner. Close enough to see all the gears and stuff and the line where his face panel met his robot head.  OK, just kidding about that last bit, but he was awesome in Westworld, too. But yes, we were close to the stage, and Brynner in his late fifties looked like he could still kick ass, even while doing the polka.  And I love the film, though my wife gets very annoyed when I correct her on occasions when she inadvertently allows her head to be higher than King’s…er, mine.  But why am I talking about this?  The Civil War Trust has a Primary Sources entry up on their website about Abraham Lincoln’s rejection of the offer of Siam’s King Rama IV (aka Mongut at left as portrayed by The Man) of war elephants to help defeat the Confederacy.  Check it out.

And now for a little singin’ ‘n dancin':





Sign of the Apocalypse?

3 02 2011

Friend Jim Morgan sent me a note this morning about a new book on Ball’s Bluff. He informed me that the book is actually made up of Wikepedia entries.  Yep – you read that right. According to Alphascript Publishing they make thousands of these print-on-demand books available each year. As far as I can see, they’re all edited by the same three people. In addition to the book on the battle that gave birth to the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome, and John McBrewster have edited titles ranging from Cloud Seeding to Franco-Belgian Comics!  They must be the three smartest people in the world.

Here’s a Q & A on their site. I love this one:

We are of the opinion: Of course you can have all these contents free of charge from Wikipedia, but there is a reason for having bought a book on a specific topic. Under certain circumstances you are more up-to-date with an Alphascript-book instead of buying a book of last year the contents of which are possibly not up-to-date any more.

We do live in rapidly passing times.

Here’s how they describe themselves (remember, they publish, in book form, stuff from Wikipedia):

Alphascript publishing publishes academic research worldwide – at no cost to our authors.

Annually, we publish more than 10,000 new titles and are thus one of the leading publishing houses of academic research. We specialize in publishing copyleft projects.

From the large number of texts that are continuously being completed, we identify those which – due to their quality and practical relevance – are suitable for publication. In this way, the latest research is conveyed quickly and tailored to the needs of the respective specialist audience.

What’s a “copyleft project”?  I’m glad you asked (I had to look it up – on Wikipedia, of course):

Copyleft is a play on the word copyright to describe the practice of using copyright law to offer the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work. In other words, copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well.

Copyleft is a form of licensing and can be used to maintain copyright conditions for works such as computer software, documents, music and art. In general, copyright law is used by an author to prohibit others from reproducing, adapting, or distributing copies of the author’s work. In contrast, an author may give every person who receives a copy of a work permission to reproduce, adapt or distribute it and require that any resulting copies or adaptations are also bound by the same licensing agreement.

Copyleft licenses require that information necessary for reproducing and modifying the software to be made available to recipients of the executable. The source code files will usually contain a copy of the license terms and acknowledge the author(s).

Copyleft type licenses are a novel use of existing copyright law to ensure a work remains freely available. The GNU General Public License, originally written by Richard Stallman, was the first copyleft license to see extensive use, and continues to dominate the licensing of copylefted software. Creative Commons, a non-profit organization founded by Lawrence Lessig, provides a similar license called ShareAlike.

Notice this line:

Copyleft type licenses are a novel use of existing copyright law to ensure a work remains freely available. 

So Alphascript sells – SELLS – books consisting of material that copyleft is supposed to ensure remains freely available.  Sells them at a pretty hefty price, too – $68 for the Balls Bluff title.

Here’s my favorite answer from the Q&A on the company’s site, in response to the question of whether or not Alphascript should fully disclose that the books are from Wikipedia:

It is pointed out in every Alphascript book that contents are Wikipedia articles. Do we now have to write in Amazon-books: “Attention! Books contains Wikipedia!”?

Then other publishing houses would have to point out in their books: “Attention! Book contains nonsense!”, or: “Attention! Book has only sex-scenario!”

OK, so inside each print-on-demand book they clearly disclose that the contents come from Wikipedia.  Hunh?  Have these guys ever heard of barn doors and horses? (Wikipedia in its entry on barns has this to say: To “lock the barn door after the horse has bolted” implies that one has solved a problem too late to prevent it.)

And yes, there is a Wikipedia entry for Alphascript.  Check it out – funny stuff.

Here’s an interesting blog post on the operation:

Part of me wonders why I didn’t think of this. And as always, if I’ve mischaracterized what Alphascript is all about, set me straight.








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