Resources and Articles

27 02 2009

OK, I’ve been doing a little thinking this morning (not always a good thing).  If you haven’t caught on yet, this site consists oftwo types of posts: Resources (official reports, orders of battle, biographical sketches, all that stuff listed under “Pages” to the right); and articles, like this one.  So at this late stage, I am going to go back and add the tags and categories Article and Resource to my existing posts, and use them going forward.  That way you can use those filters to find the types of posts you’re most intersted in.  This will be a long-term project: I’ll get to it as time permits. 





Another Good Email

10 02 2009

I got another good email today:

Harry:

Read your review of my “Confederate Colonels” in “America’s Civil War” and just wanted to say I appreciate all the kind things you said.

I have a lot more in my files on all these officers, than I could fit in the book. Be happy to share anytime.

Best wishes,

Bruce Allardice

Bruce is the author of More Generals in Gray and Confederate Colonels, among others.  He maintains this website, and is happy to answer any questions you may have about Confederate colonels.  You can reach him at bsallardice1 at earthlink dot net (I write email addresses that way to keep folks from geting spammed).

I’m so grateful to folks like Bruce, John Hennessy, Mike Musick, Jim Burgess and all you others I’m leaving out and irking by so doing for all the wonderful help you’ve offerred and provided.  This project is infinitely better for your contributions, and in many ways that’s what Bull Runnings is about.





I Love Emails Like This!

3 02 2009

I received this earlier today:

Hi Harry:

I enjoy your blog very much–it’s interesting to me to read (again) source material that I had once intensely examined, long ago, before I knew much of anything about the world, and to see if my take on it remains as it was.  Generally it does, but I’m always curious.  I know I could go back and read the stuff myself, but it’s more fun (to be honest) just reading it as you string it out there.  Anyway, you do a very nice job.

My question:  I have files full of First Manassas stuff, which I would be happy to share if you’d like.  Every once in a while you put something up that stimulates me to go find other things–for example, I found that I have a WONDERFUL letter about Upton at Blackburn’s, busting him as a pretty West Point boy, after you had put up a couple of Upton related things a while back.  But, I don’t know whether you have all this stuff already…or even want it.

So, I ask.  Want me to send cool stuff along? 

John [Hennessy]

For those of you who don’t already know, John Hennessy is the NPS Chief Historian for Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park and author of a fine study of First Bull Run as well as one of the all-time classic Civil War campaign histories.  Of course I said YES.  This site has benefited tremendously from contributions by readers, and it looks like it will continue to do so.  Thanks, John!





Blackburn’s Ford

2 02 2009

So far this site has been mostly silent on the fight at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18, 1861.  It was initially known as the Battle of (or at) Bull (or Bull’s) Run, before the bigger battle three days later.  I’m not really sure why I chose to treat the actions separately, but I’ve changed my mind.  I’m going to go back and start posting the ORs pertaining to Blackburn’s Ford.  For now, the actions in the Valley will not be a part of this site, though that may change at some point.

I think I’m also going to try to post the tables from the ORs as well – numbers and losses.  This requires a little more work converting the files into images that I can post, but I think I have the hang of it.

I hope you enjoyed the last few of letters from W. T. Sherman and T. J. Goree.  Other letters and diaries to come.  Be sure to read the comments to these – I have some pretty bright readers who contribute mightily to this site via the comments section.





Shout Out

1 12 2008

Thanks to reader Robert Moore II of Cenantua’s Blog for the numerous contributions he has made to this site over the past few days, while most of us were in turkey induced comas.  As a result, I have fixed a couple of inaccuracies in my CSA and CSA Artillery orders of battle (I had conflicting info noted on the OOBs – I try to do that when I’m not sure).  Check out the comments to posts here, here, here, and here.  Now it’s a question of me getting all this other good stuff incorporated into the site.  Thanks Robert for this and all the other help you’ve provided.  This type of reader participation is what I had in mind when I started this blog.  No blogger is an island.

Lest you think I just take anyone’s “word” for stuff, I do check everything out as much as possible.  In the case of the Culpeper/Newtown artillery, Robert is uniquely qualified to render advice because he has authored books on four of the Confederate batteries (including Newtown) present at First Bull Run.  These books are part of the Virginia Regimental History Series (VRHS), aka the Howard Series (those thin, gray volumes you see at NPS bookstores).  I plan on collecting the volumes for those units present at Bull Run, but individually and new they are not cheap.  Anybody want to trade any for OR volumes?

In the course of the flurry of comment exchanges this weekend, I wrote something along the lines of the the following, but it must have gone MIA.  Tell me if this is something you’d like to see:

I plan to write regimental biographies, which will work as follows:

  • A master page with all regiments listed and linked (one page for USA and one for CSA);
    • A page for each regiment with links to the following three posts:
      • Companies and commanders, including other names the companies were known as, along with county of origin.  Also numbers and losses for 7/21/61;
      • A very brief summary of the regiment’s movements on 7/21/61;
      • A full biographical sketch based on sources like Dyer, The Union Army, and Crute.  This will be easier for USA units than CSA, I think.




The Figure a Poem Makes

20 11 2008

In this post, I tried to explain – ineloquently – my “vision” for this site (I’ll use the word “site” to include both the blog part and the digital history (DH) part, though some might argue that the blog is DH too, and I guess it is, but by “DH part” I mean the Bull Run Resources).  This time, instead of using philosophy as a way to differentiate between DH and what I’ll call TNH (Traditional Narrative History), let me try poetry.  Prose, poetry, neither better than the other, like oysters and clams (as Crassus explained to Antoninus in that scene deleted from Spartacus).  But just as I’m not a philosopher, neither am I a poet.  So I’ll let a poet do the talking.

Robert Frost wrote the following in 1939 as an introduction to a collection of his poems (see here):

robert-frostAbstraction is an old story with the philosophers, but it has been like a new toy in the hands of the artists of our day. Why can’t we have any one quality of poetry we choose by itself? We can have in thought. Then it will go hard if we can’t in practice. Our lives for it.

Granted no one but a humanist much cares how sound a poem is if it is only a sound. The sound is the gold in the ore. Then we will have the sound out alone and dispense with the inessential. We do till we make the discovery that the object in writing poetry is to make all poems sound as different as possible from each other, and the resources for that of vowels, consonants, punctuation, syntax, words, sentences, metre are not enough. We need the help of context – meaning – subject matter. That is the greatest help towards variety. All that can be done with words is soon told. So also with metres – particularly in our language where there are virtually but two, strict iambic and loose iambic. The ancients with many were still poor if they depended on metres for all tune. It is painful to watch our sprung-rhythmists straining at the point of omitting one short from a foot for relief from monotony. The possibilities for tune from the dramatic tones of meaning struck across the rigidity of a limited metre are endless. And we are back in poetry as merely one more art of having something to say, sound or unsound. Probably better if sound, because deeper and from wider experience.

Then there is this wildness whereof it is spoken. Granted again that it has an equal claim with sound to being a poem’s better half. If it is a wild tune, it is a Poem. Our problem then is, as modern abstractionists, to have the wildness pure; to be wild with nothing to be wild about. We bring up as aberrationists, giving way to undirected associations and kicking ourselves from one chance suggestion to another in all directions as of a hot afternoon in the life of a grasshopper. Theme alone can steady us down. Just as the first mystery was how a poem could have a tune in such a straightness as metre, so the second mystery is how a poem can have wildness and at the same time a subject that shall be fulfilled.

It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life – not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement. It has an outcome that though unforeseen was predestined from the first image of the original mood – and indeed from the very mood. It is but a trick poem and no poem at all if the best of it was thought of first and saved for the last. It finds its own name as it goes and discovers the best waiting for it in some final phrase at once wise and sad – the happy-sad blend of the drinking song.

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground. There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows. Step by step the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing. The impressions most useful to my purpose seem always those I was unaware of and so made no note of at the time when taken, and the conclusion is come to that like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may Want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere. The line will have the more charm for not being mechanically straight. We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick. Modern instruments of precision are being used to make things crooked as if by eye and hand in the old days.

I tell how there may be a better wildness of logic than of inconsequence. But the logic is backward, in retrospect, after the act. It must be more felt than seen ahead like prophecy. It must be a revelation, or a series of revelations, as much for the poet as for the reader. For it to be that there must have been the greatest freedom of the material to move about in it and to establish relations in it regardless of time and space, previous relation, and everything but affinity. We prate of freedom. We call our schools free because we are not free to stay away from them till we are sixteen years of age. I have given up my democratic prejudices and now willingly set the lower classes free to be completely taken care of by the upper classes. Political freedom is nothing to me. I bestow it right and left. All I would keep for myself is the freedom of my material – the condition of body and mind now and then to summons aptly from the vast chaos of all I have lived through.

Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ. Both work from knowledge; but I suspect they differ most importantly in the way their knowledge is come by. Scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. They stick to nothing deliberately, but let what will stick to them like burrs where they walk in the fields. No acquirement is on assignment, or even self-assignment. Knowledge of the second kind is much more available in the wild free ways of wit and art. A schoolboy may be defined as one who can tell you what he knows in the order in which he learned it. The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic. More than once I should have lost my soul to radicalism if it had been the originality it was mistaken for by its young converts. Originality and initiative are what I ask for my country. For myself the originality need be no more than the freshness of a poem run in the way I have described: from delight to wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

Yeah – for me history, like life, is more like poetry than prose.  More like art than science.  I guess that’s why I bridle at anything more than very general boundaries for it.  And why I’m so excited about the possibilities for the presentation of history on the web.

Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout a new way of walkin’.  Do ya wanna lose your mind? Walk right in, sit right down.  Daddy let your mind roll on.

What do you think?

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The Blog Lebowski

16 11 2008

I’ve been thinking about some recent discussions bouncing around on several blogs regarding the form “information compilation” blogs should take.  Whenever we start speaking in terms of should instead of could I get a little nervous.  Now, I believe that certain basic tenets need to be followed when dealing with history, including digital history - proper citation and attribution especially.  But when I hear some suggest that there necessarily be interpretation and analysis, I have to wonder.  Of course, narrative form history requires an interpretive framework that is the product of the author’s analysis (see here).  But do we want to constrain ourselves with the narrative format when we don’t have to?

im-a-lebowskiIn a comment I made to this post, I mentioned that I think of the digital history portion of this blog, the Bull Run Resources, as being like the Buddha: not the moon, but the finger pointing at the moon.  Now, I didn’t come up with that on my own – I don’t know much about philosophy (about all I learned from the one philosophy course I took in college was the very valuable lesson that it’s less important to provide a correct answer than it is to provide the answer the instructor wants).  No, I got the Buddha thing from none other than The Dude, or His Dudeness, or The Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.  That is, the actor who made The Dude famous, Jeff Bridges.  In the foreword to the book I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: Life,The Big Lebowski, and What-Have-You, the actor wrote [emphasis and brackets mine]:

“I often take these little walks in the evening at sunset and listen to different things.  Recently I played some Alan Watts [a British philosopher], and it reminded me of my conversation with Bernie [Glassman, founder of Zen Peacemakers] and how Zen relates to Lebowski.  Watts says, ‘The whole art of poetry is to say what can’t be said.’  I suppose that’s true for any art, including filmmaking.  He goes on to say that ‘Every poet, every artist feels when he gets to the end of his work, that there is something absolutely essential that was left out, so Zen has always described itself as a finger pointing at the moon.’  The Big Lebowski is a lot like that.

“The guys who wrote this book say the Coens [the writers, director and producer of The Big Lebowski] have kept clear of them entirely, and that tickles me.  Like all of you reading this, I’d be interested to know what the Coen brothers think, but it’s kind of beautiful that they don’t want to say anything definitive.  Let ‘em be the pointing finger.”

So that’s kind of how I view Bull Runnings.  I’ll give my opinion and analysis on the blog part of this site.  But for now let the Bull Run Resources section serve as a pointing finger.  Depending on who explores the data, why, how, and in what order, the story will be different.  To me, that’s what really distinguishes digital history from traditional narrative.  And perhaps what makes it more like real life.

More on poetry and digital history later.

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New Blog Category

4 11 2008

If you’ve been following the conversation here, you already know that Robert and I have added a new blog category to our sites, Civil War “Information Compilation” Blogs.  This is to identify those Civil War websites that, like Bull Runnings, use blog platforms to also serve as a repository for data.  Not all the same types of data, not all in the same ways.  For instance, you’ll find my stuff listed under Bull Run Resources over to the right and in the header, with pages set up for indexing.  It’s not perfect, but so far it works.  Some of the blogs I’ve listed in this category don’t organize by pages (though I think they should, of course!).  I’m hoping – and I think Robert’s hoping too – that this may help bring other similar blogs out in the open, and more importantly help us like minded folks to make our projects more user friendly and organized, and to more fully realize potentials.  If you have a similar blog and think you should be listed, or if you know of anyone you think should be listed, let me know.





Paydirt!

31 10 2008

Reader Linda Mott left the following comment on this post:

I ran across an article written about the 14th Brooklyn’s missing report and their actions at Bull Run. The report had been misplaced, and found forty years later. According to the article, the report and other papers found with it were forwarded to the War Veterans Association. The report was finally published 40 years later in the Brooklyn Daily Leader on Mar. 17, 1901. The Brooklyn Public Library has some of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspapers online. Their website is: http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/

There are other articles about the 14th Brooklyn regiment if one has the patience to search for them. It’s best to search by subject rather than dates. However, the article about the report can be located by date. If not successful try “Old Bull Run Report”. The report is written by Lt. Col. E. B. Fowler. Just thought I’d pass this along, and thank you for the OR’s their organization and presentation are wonderful. I had been looking them up at e-history.com from OSU very tedious. Have you looked there for the Supplemental Volume with the later reports? The site has the atlases and several Supplemental Volumes.

Lo and behold, following Linda’s tip I found the report on page 6 of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for Mar. 17, 1901.  I’ll post the report and the text of the Daily Eagle article later.

As an aside, there are two different supplements we are talking about.  Linda is I think referring to Series III, Vol. 2 of the ORs, which contains supplemental reports and correspondence not filed where they should have been filed in the rest of the ORs.  It’s part of the set referred to as The Official Records.  I’ve already posted all the reports from that volume, that pertain to First Bull Run.  When I refer to The Supplement, I’m talking about the Broadfoot set compiled much more recently.

Thanks Linda!





Good Talk Elsewhere

31 10 2008

Some interesting discussion going on over at Cenantua’s Blog in the comments to this post.  Rather than rehash the whole thing here, I’ll just send you there to read for yourself.  Any suggestions on how to make this site better are appreciated, but please leave comments about Robert’s post there, and comments about my site here – I think that’s the polite way to go about it.








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