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.





Interview: Jeffry Wert, “A Glorious Army”

9 05 2011

I first met prolific author Jeffry D. Wert (and his charming wife, Gloria) during a Civil War seminar almost 13 years ago, and the following summer spent an amazing few days riding at the back of a bus with him and the late Dr. Joseph Harsh during another conference. I probably learned more about the conflict in those few hours than I had up to that point, just by keeping my mouth shut (mostly) and my ears open.

Jeff’s latest book is A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee’s Triumph, 1862-1863, and below he discusses the project.

BR: While I’m sure my readers are very familiar with your works, how about telling us about yourself?

JW: I am a native Pennsylvanian and taught history at Penns Valley Area High School in the central part of the state for 33 years.  I am now retired from the profession.  I am an avid Atlanta Braves and Penn State football fan.

BR: Your new book is about the Army of Northern Virginia from 1862-1863, from Seven Days to Gettysburg.  What prompted you to look at this army for this period?

JW: Lee and the army’s record during those thirteen months is arguably unmatched in America’s military annals.  Although I have covered the army in previous books, I wanted to write a more analytical study on the reasons for their successes and do it, hopefully, in a smooth-flowing narrative.  My book is not a detailed tactical work but looks at leadership, morale, and the common soldiers’ fighting prowess.

BR: What did you turn up during your research that surprised you?

JW:  The amount of straggling in the army was endemic during 1862.  It reached a climax in the Maryland campaign but was a problem with the rank and file until Chancellorsville.  It appears from the evidence that straggling was minor during the Gettysburg Campaign.  Secondly, my research convinced me more that Lee’s aggressiveness offered the Confederacy its best chance for independence.  Admittedly, it is a controversial subject, but the results, I think, speak for themselves.  Finally, I address whether Lee took the so-called “bloodiest roads” and concluded that he chose the tactical offensive when circumstances dictated it, except for July 3, 1863 at Gettysburg.  Malvern Hill resulted in a tragedy because of misinformation.

BR: Can you sum up for us, in a nutshell, how Lee was able to be successful for most of this period, and what caused his setbacks?

JW:  When Lee assumed temporary command of the army on June 1, 1862, it was as though all the stars aligned for the Confederacy.  The Union Army of the Potomac’s subordinate leadership could not match the likes of Jackson, Longstreet, Stuart, Ewell, A. P. and D. H. Hill, and others.  To be sure, the caution of McClellan, the incompetence of Pope and Burnside, and the unraveling of Hooker contributed to the Confederates’ victories.  Lee’s infantry’s incalculable ‘élan in battle was a significant factor.

BR: What is your research and writing process? Did you visit archives and sites, and how much of a role did online research play?

JW:  I am old-fashioned in my methodology.  I put my research on note cards and write my books on legal-sized paper.  I am blessed with a wife who is an excellent assistant, and she transcribes my words into a word document.  I edit from printed pages.  During my research, I visit archives and libraries.  I use the internet to locate manuscript collections and fortunately for historians more institutions are putting letters and diaries online, making it unnecessary to travel as much.

BR: How has the book been received so far?

JW:  The book has been reviewed in a few places and has been praised.  None of the major Civil War magazines have had a review in as of today.  I am gratified to have been a main selection of History Book Club and Military Book Club.

BR: What’s next for you?

JW:  For the first time in many years, I am not under contract on another project.  I may do another book in the future but not at the present.

So for the first time in years, Mr. Wert is taking a break. I have a feeling it won’t be too long before something catches his eye and we hear from his pen – really, his pen! – once again.





Memorial Day at Bennett Place

6 05 2011

Bennett Place, Durham, NC

I received the following from John Guss, the site manager at Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham, NC:

This month we remember the American soldier with a special living history program at Bennett Place in Durham. We will have American soldiers/living historians from various time periods in American history, The American Revolution, American Civil War, Spanish-American War, WWII, and others.

Please join us as we honor the American soldier Saturday, May 28th, 10 am – 4 pm.

Thank you for supporting North Carolina State Historic Sites and our United States Military.

I wrote about Bennett Place in my Collateral Damage column for America’s Civil War a couple of issues ago, and I couldn’t have done it without John and my friend Teej. If you’re in that area, be sure to stop by.

See the event poster here.





America’s Civil War July 2011

6 05 2011

Inside this issue:

Field Notes:

5 Questions:

Cease Fire:

  • Harold Holzer discusses Civil War fiction

Legends

  • Ron Soodalter discusses Ivan Turchin and the sack of Athens, GA

Features

  • United We Stand – Gary Gallagher: Union as the northern cause
  • How to Market a Milestone - photos by Jennifer E. Berry: merchandise from the Civil War Centennial
  • Buying Time – Jeffrey Maciejewski: the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg
  • “We Are All Rebels” – Jim Bradshaw: a Louisiana youth wages war withe the Yankees on his doorstep
  • Irvin McDowell’s Best Laid Plans – Your Host: all about McDowell’s plans and expectations for the march on Manassas

Reviews





New Gettysburg Movie on “History”

5 05 2011

Gettysburg is a 2-hour History special that kicks off a week of programming commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Executive produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, this special strips away the romanticized veneer of the Civil War. It presents the pivotal battle of Gettysburg in a new light: as a visceral, terrifying and deeply personal experience, fought by men with everything on the line. Compelling CGI  and powerful action footage place viewers in the midst of the fighting, delivering both an emotional cinematic experience and an information packed look at the turning points, strategic decisions, technology and little known facts surrounding the greatest engagement ever fought on American soil.

The special begins in the high stakes summer of 1863, as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia crosses into Pennsylvania.   Trailed by the Union’s Army of the Potomac, Lee¹s 75,000 strong army heads towards Harrisburg, converging instead near a quiet farm town, Gettysburg.  Known then only as a crossroads where ten roads running in all directions converge like a wagon wheel, this small town would become site of an epic battle between North and South.  For three days, each side fought there for their vision of what America should be.

In collaboration with highly esteemed Civil War historians, History combed through hundreds of individual accounts of the battle to find the unique voices of struggle, defeat and triumph that tell the larger story of a bitterly conflicted nation.

This program is set to air Monday, May 30th at 9 PM. For more info, see here.

OK, I’m a little concerned about those crossed muskets on the Hardee hat. But I’m willing to put up with little things like that if it’s a good flick. I’ve seen two too many movies  Stitch Nazis love that were just horrible cinematic experiences. The Scotts are Oscar winners. And I love the use of this song in the trailer – always thought it would fit an ACW soundtrack.








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