Liberia Tour

1 11 2010

Opportunity for a detailed tour of Liberia on November 13.  Check it out here.

I will be at the Manassas National Battlefield this coming Friday doing field work for an upcoming Collateral Damage.  On Saturday I’ll be at Antietam National Battlefield with the Save Historic Antietam Foundation for our work day and board meeting.





Civil War Times December 2010

1 10 2010

Inside this issue:

Letters

  • One is not mad at Gary Gallagher, one is.  Of course, the one that is mad is mad because, as we all know, Slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War, and in fact saying it did have anything to do with it should never be allowed to appear in print.  Another is mad at Gallagher because he ranked George Thomas too low as the fourth greatest Union commander.   And still another is upset with Dana Shoaf for not hammering the great villain of the war, George McClellan, hard enough in his op-ed on Stanley McChrystal.  That reader should be pleased with America’s Civil War’s November issue in which Harold Holzer goes ape-shit on Mac’s ass.

News

  • Brandy Station expands.  Camp Lawton site found.

Departments

  • Blue & Gray – Gary Gallagher on what Union soldiers fought for.
  • Collateral Damage – Yours Truly on Bennett Place
  • Interview - Waite Rawls of the MOC
  • Field Guide – Chris Howland at 2nd Bull Run
  • Editor Letter - Dana Shoaf on the GBPA’s endorsement of the Gettysburg Casino

Features

  • General Disobedience - McClellan hatchetographer Edward Bonetopickemper’s hit piece on the centennial’s favorite punching bag.
  • Substitute for a Corpse - David Lowe & Philip Shiman on creative battlefield photography.
  • Joseph Whitworth’s Deadly Rifle – Fred Ray on the favorite weapon of Southern sharpshooters.
  • All Glory and No Gore - Doug Dammann on Elmer Ellsworth’s militia tour of 1860.  This is followed by a photo gallery of Ellsworth memorabilia.
  • Crisis of Faith - George Rable on spiritual revivals

Reviews

  • The USS Carondelet: A Civil War Ironclad in Western Waters, by Myron J. Smith, Jr.
  • Gentlemen Merchants: A Charleston Family’s Odyssey, 1828-1870, Philip N. Racine
  • Kilted Warriors: Music of the 79th New York Volunteer Infantry, 79th Regimental Band (CD)
  • Double Death: The True Story of Pryce Lewis, the Civil War’s Most Daring Spy, Gavin Mortimer
  • Plus a list of eleven books for the holidays.




America’s Civil War November 2010

30 09 2010

Sorry to be so late with this.  Inside this issue:

Letters

Everybody’s mad at Harold Holzer because as we all know Slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War and if it hadn’t ever existed in the first place there still would have been a war because of, ummm, er, ah, TARIFFS – yeah, that’s the ticket!

News

  • Segways on the battlefield and other high-tech touring trends.
  • Gettysburg Casino debate.
  • Interview with Gettysburg College Civil War Institute’s Pete Carmichael (which put the kibosh on one that was in the works for Bull Runnings).  Read it online here.

Features

  • Dateline: Gettysburg (Richard Pyle) – a reporter on the Gettysburg Address.
  • Shooting Above the Clouds – Photos at Lookout Mountain
  • Uncivil Action (Jonathan Turley) – The legality (or not) of Secession.
  • Bring Out the Big Guns – Pros and cons of siege guns
  • The Tactical Genius of Bloody Bill Anderson (Sean McLachlan) – Hunh?
  • Twilight at the White House (David Selby) – The actor who portrayed Quentin Collins on Dark Shadows weighs in on Abe and Nosferatu.  I’ve written a bit on that here.

Reviews

  • The Confederate Alamo: Bloodbath at Petersburg’s Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865, John J. Fox, III
  • Indiana’s War: The Civil War in Documents, Richard Nation and Stephen Towne, eds.
  • Union Combined Operations in the Civil War, Craig L. Symonds, ed. (this review is notable because Symonds is quoted as criticising Rowena Reed’s similarly titled book not because of methodology or handling of evidence or inaccuracies, but because  of what some perceive as the author’s “determination to portray [George] McClellan as a military genius of war.”  Very curious criticism indeed – I wonder how this determination is proven.)
  • The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of  1864, Jack H. Lepa
  • Libby Prison Breakout: The Daring Escape From the Notorious Civil War Prison, Joseph Wheelan.
  • Jews and the Civil War: A Reader, Jonathan D. Sarna and Adam Mendelsohn, eds.
  • An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, Robert Enrico, Director.  View the film as presented on The Twilight Zone here.
  • In this issue, I was Just Wild About:
    • Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol, William C. Davis (reissue).
    • Lincoln and McClellan: The Troubled Partnership Between a President and His General, John C. Waugh.
    • Louisianans in the Western Confederacy: The Adams-Gibson Brigade in the Civil War, Stuart Salling.  See Stuart’s blog here.
    • A Friendly Little War, John Sherman.  Fiction by a descendant of Cump’s brother.




Antietam’s Roulette House

22 08 2010

As I noted here, the October 2010 issue features the third installment of my column which  is now titled Collateral Damage.  The subject is the Roulette house on the Antietam battlefield.  Though I took lots of photos, and also had a few by friends Mike Pellegrini and Mannie Gentilenone were used in the article.  So I present them here for your perusal.

Let’s start with some exterior shots.  The left side of the front of the house is south, the right north.  The second and third photos were taken by my friend Mike.

  

Here’s the rear of the house.  Mr. Roulette kept his beehives in this back yard.  Confederate artillery, advancing Union troops, and upset hives combined here for an often repeated story.

 

The barn sits east of the house.  In the orchard to the southeast is a pear tree that survives from the time of the battle.

 

Here’s the basement door (I call these “Dorothy Doors”) out of which Mr. Roulette burst to encourage the advancing Federals to “Drive ‘em”.  The interior photo was taken by Mannie.  On the day I was there, my NPS guide Keven Walker warned me that the hot day and cool basement meant lots and lots of snakes, so we opted not to go downstairs.  I did see two large black snakes that day.

 

Inside the house Keven, a historian with the Cultural Resources division, pointed out that many of the fixtures dated from before the war, and could have been installed as early as the mid 1700s.

  

We entered the house via the kitchen, in the north end of the house.  One of the cool features in here is the beehive oven.  No flame inside – kind of like a pizza oven.  The fuel (wood) was put in outside, via this little addition on the north end of the house.  Must have been a pain cooking in winter, but was probably state-of-the-art.

  

Here’s the large dining/entertaining room in the center of the house.  You can see by the shot of the window how thick the walls are in this section of the house.  The construction is log at the south end, stone in the center, and frame on the north end.

  

The south end of the dwelling on the first floor is a living room or parlor.  There’s a little problem here with falling plaster, but a collection of the debris on the fireplace mantel shows how the plaster was made in those days.  It was heavy stuff.

 

The main stairway leads up to two smaller bedrooms in the south end of the house. 

   

On Sept. 17, 1862, a bullet fired from the vicinity of the sunken Pig Trough Road to the south of the house entered the window of the southwest bedroom, went through the wall above its door, traveled across the hall and exited inside the closet of the middle bedroom.  That’s Keven pointing to where the bullet entered the wall in the hallway.

   

There is a middle bedroom and a large bedroom at the north end of the house over the kitchen.  You can see in the sagging ceilings the effect of the heavy plaster over 200+ years.

 

The tour of the Roulette house was one of the great perks of my “job”.  Much thanks to Keven Walker, who has a book coming out soon on the farms of the battlefield.  Be sure to check out this and all the Collateral Damage columns in Civil War Times.

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Thanks for the Thanks

17 08 2010

Today I received a nicely inscribed hardcover copy of War Like The Thunderbolt from its author, Russel Bonds.  This replaces the advance reading copy (ARC)/uncorrected proof/bound galley I was provided for review (read that review here).  Russ also included a handwritten Thank You note on a cool card with an embossed image of The General, the subject of Mr. Bonds’s preceding work.

As you can see, my review while generally positive was not free of criticism.  And lots of folks with much bigger wigs than mine reviewed Russ’s book, and some in more glowing terms.  This is the first time any author has gone to such lengths to thank me for a review (though most are generally gracious).  Bloggers who review books – as far as I know - don’t usually receive any compensation for doing so outside of the book itself.  ARCs are first very, very difficult to review (they typically have no indexes or maps and very poor quality images if any) and second they are, well, worthless – we don’t like to put them on our shelves.  So Russ’s gift was very thoughtful and fortunate, as this very successful book has gone into paperback and hardcovers are tough to come by.  And don’t get me started on publishers who offer to provide pdf copies of the book.  Double yoi! 

Still, sometimes folks want to get the word out before the product is finished.  Such was the case with Thunderbolt.  Authors and publishers take note – this is the way to do things.  Thanks, Russ – you’re one classy guy!





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.





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




Those Pesky (and Just Plain Wrong?) Roman Numerals

8 07 2010

Of course there were no corps in either army at First Bull Run, but just bear with me and maybe you guys can help straighten me – or the powers that be – out.

I received a digital copy of my next Civil War Times article in what is now known as the Collateral Damage department – it was first called In Harm’s Way.  As usual, and as anyone who writes for a periodical should expect, there were some editorial changes.  One in particular caught my attention.  I have two really big pet peeves.  The first I’ve written about many times, and that is the use of an before variants of the word history.  The H is pronounced in all forms of history (unless you’re Cockney), therefore it should be preceded by a, not an.  Check out any style manual.

I know better than to give anyone an opportunity to foul that one up in the editing of anything I write, as much as it’s in my power to do that.  But it’s a little tougher when it comes to Union corps designations.  I always use Arabic numerals (1,2,3), while many, including my editors, prefer Roman numerals (I, II, III).  My thoughts have been that Roman numerals were not used during the Civil War to denote corps, so I shouldn’t use them either.  It’s been pointed out to me that the compilers of the Official Records usually spelled it out (First, Second, Third), but did not use Roman numerals.

Perhaps because today’s readers expect Roman numerals, what was 2nd Corps became II Corps in the final version of my article.  So when, and how, did the use of Roman numerals to designate Union corps come into vogue?  What’s your preference, and why: any middle-schooler will tell you that Arabic is way easier than Roman!

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Old Stuff Coming Up

24 06 2010

Still really busy, with no end in sight.  A few things on the Civil War plate left undone, and my apologies to Tom Clemens and Vikki Bynum for my failure to write previews of their new (and very good) books, The Maryland Campaign of September, 1862 and The Long Shadow of the Civil War.  As a bonus, I have already confirmed an interview with Vikki that will run with the preview, and hope to set one up with Tom as well.

On the personal front, it looks like I will be a contributor to a Bull Run related article to run in a national, quarterly journal, and I’ve been asked to lead a specialized bus tour of First Bull Run for a university affiliated institute in 2011.  Never being one to count unhatched chickens, I’ll let you know more if and when I’m sure these things are definitely going to happen (true to my glass-half-empty nature, this may be after they’ve occurred).

The other day I was at my local Half Price Books and came across nine bound volumes of Civil War Times Illustrated, ranging from mid-60′s to early-80′s.  At $3.98 a pop I couldn’t pass them up.  I thought it might be fun to go through them every now and again and pick out bits that might seem interesting or ironic given the passage of time, particularly reviews of books that perhaps have proven to be classics or stinkers, validating or repudiating the reviewer.  So keep an eye out for that.

Sorry – that’s all I have for now.

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See the Crap I Have to Put Up With?

14 06 2010

Warning: This is NOT an invitation to violate the prime directive of this site, which prohibits the discussion of modern politics.

I received this from a reader as a comment:

Hay Harry great way to advance you Obama agenda by using the Civil War Times so show you hate for the Tea Party.

Nice.  Beyond the assault on my senses presented by this guy’s spelling, I have no idea how he so completely misread my quote in Civil War Times (you can read the full version of what I submitted here).

I was inclined to let this reader’s comment die an obscure death, but I was informed today that he also sent a note to the magazine, calling my quote a “cheap short”.  I assume he meant “cheap shot”.

My thoughts on the whole controversy surrounding Governor McDonnell’s Virginia Confederate History Month proclamation boiled down to disappointment that, rather than being used as an opportunity to discuss historical issues such as the diversity of the population of the Confederacy and of Virginia before and during the war, it was being used to forward agendas on both ends of what is viewed as the political spectrum in our country these days.  That’s why my references to the Tea Party movement included characterizations of it by extremists, both opponents and supporters.

At the extremes, we see reactions ranging from claims that Confederates were nothing more than terrorists, that slavery had little or nothing to do with the Confederate cause, that the Tea Party movement is primarily a gathering of neo-Confederate racists, and that the same movement reflects frustrations similar to those felt by the slaveholding south.  All are gross distortions of the truth, and politically motivated.

It could be that the reader confused me with one of the other folks quoted.  There was at least one opinion expressed that could be considered polemic.








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