Bull Runnings on Civil War Memory

25 05 2011

Kevin Levin has some nice comments on the new issue of the journal Civil War History and the inaugural Historians’ Forum in which I participated.

As I write this I realize that I haven’t mentioned the publication of this article yet here on the blog, so look for that as well as the contents of this issue of the journal in the days ahead.

Thanks Kevin! Check it out on Civil War Memory.





Back From the Vale

25 05 2011

Last Thursday evening I presented The First Gun at Bull Run, a program on Peter Conover Hains, to the good folks at the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehurst, NC. This was the first of three presentations I’ll be giving through Julne 14, and it went off pretty well. There were some paper rustling moments I wasn’t real happy with, but hopefully I can rearrange my outline to avoid a repeat in DC on June 6.

Thanks to host Teej Smith for the wonderful hospitality shown on Thursday and Friday – perfect walkin’ ’round weather for Chapel Hill. Also thanks to RBCWRT president Frank Jones and everyone at the meeting for a fine event.





Social Media Update

25 05 2011

In addition to feed readers, bookmarks, search engines, and good old-fashioned typing in the URL to the browser, some folks choose to follow Bull Runnings via social networks Facebook and Twitter. Right now we have 260 followers on Facebook, and 88 on Twitter. Not only are these other ways to be notified of new posts here (you’ll still need to come here to read them, of course), but on occasion I’ll post items to those forums that I don’t post here.

If you’re interested in following Bull Runnings in a slightly different way and you have a Facebook and/or Twitter account, you can use the links in the column to the right to follow us there!





Ellsworth Artifacts on Display

23 05 2011

NY State Military Museum highlights artifacts of 1st Union officer killed in Civil War. Check it out here.





City to Focus on Pieces of War at Camp Manassas

23 05 2011

Check it out here.





Yakkin’ in the the Vale of Humility

18 05 2011

Tomorrow evening, May 19, I’ll be presenting a program to the good people of the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehurst, NC. My talk, which I’ll be giving two more times in June, is on Peter Connover Hains, who “opened the ball” at First Bull Run with a shot from his 30-pdr Parrott rifle, Long Tom. I’ll discuss Hains’s long and distinguished army career, aspects of his interesting personal life, and the memoir of First Bull Run he wrote on the golden anniversary of the battle.

This is my second trip to this roundtable – they’re a great bunch and I’m looking forward to seeing them and good friend Teej Smith again. Be sure to stop by if you’re in the area.





Preview: Orlando Figes, “The Crimean War”

15 05 2011

The folks at Henry Holt and Company sent me a copy of a new book by Orlando Figes, The Crimean War: A History. It’s a big one – 493 pages of text and about 40 more of notes. Earlier this year I finished reading my first comprehensive study of the conflict, Trevor Royle’s Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854-1856. I knew virtually nothing about the Crimean War prior to that, other than Into the Valley of Death rode the 600. But it became obvious to me that anyone studying the Civil War owes it to themselves to at least get a handle on what happened in the Crimea in order to put our American war in some kind of context. It quickly became apparent that many of the “firsts” we attribute to the later war were at best seconds.

Royle’s book was published in 2000, so the first question is what sets Figes’s book apart? It claims to have drawn on “untapped” Russian, Ottoman, and European sources. If you compare the bibliographies of the two books, it’s obvious that Figes lists a lot more book titles in languages I can’t understand (OK, I remember enough high school German to decipher parts of a few) than does Royle. On the other hand, Figes’s select bibliography does not include the archival unpublished collections that are in Royles. But that’s the thing about select bibliographies – what was the selection process?

The real issue for me is whether Figes can do a better job than Royles at keeping all the military and political figures involved straight in the reader’s head. The diplomatic aspects of the Crimean War are labyrinthine, to say the least, and I think Royle took the readers’ familiarity with such things for granted at times. As for pacing, the Light Brigade’s Waterloo is reached at about the midpoint in each book.

Royles’s book concludes with the historical impact of the war and its aftermath, which was far-reaching and resonates to this day. While Figes doesn’t ignore this, he chose to wrap things up with The Crimean War in Myth and Memory, which should be interesting to Civil War readers who have been inundated with similar topics over the past 15 years. (I realize that there is much, much more to the literature than these two books, but I’m limited in my exposure.)

I’m not sure when I’ll get to this one, but if anyone has read it or has a better idea of how it fits into the extensive historiography of the Crimean War, please let us know in the comments section!





Middle School Movie Makers

13 05 2011

Another WaPo article, this time about some sixth-graders at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Manassas and their film project on First Bull Run. Nice photo gallery, too.





Manassas Sesqui in the News

13 05 2011

Check out this WaPo article on Manassas and the sesquicentennial. Nice photo gallery.





Virginia Historical Society

12 05 2011

I received a note today that the Virginia Historical Society is adding an analytic of my article in the July, 2011 issue of America’s Civil War magazine (Irvin McDowell’s Best-Laid Plans) to its online catalog for use by research patrons.

What does it all mean?

I’m not really sure.

But it sounds cool.

I searched my own name in the catalog to find I am already in there for my contribution to a piece on Gov. McDonnell’s proclamation in the April 2010 issue. Best of all, this public listing of my name (Smeltzer, Harry J.) gives me yet another opportunity to insert this clip (excuse the reverse image). Things are going to start happening to me now.








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