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.





Civil War Times August 2010

29 05 2010

I received my copy of the new Civil War Times magazine yesterday.  Inside:

Second Guessing Dick Ewell by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White: Is it fair to blame General Richard Ewell for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg?  Plus Five Battle Maps by David Fuller

The Great Libby Prison Breakout by Steven Trent Smith: Engineering the war’s most daring escape – one furtive shovel at a time.

Unwritten History by Noah Andre Trudeau: The war memoirs Robert E. Lee chose not to write.

“Villains, Vandals and Devils” by Ken Noe: Rebels fought to the bitter end because they hated the Yankee invaders.  See Ken’s book.

This month’s Civilians In Harm’s Way (the name change took me by surprise) by yours truly features Chickamauga’s Snodgrass house.  Once again, thanks to friends Dave Powell and Lee White for their assistance.  I didn’t get to travel for this one, so I don’t have any additional photos to share here.  That won’t be the case with next installment.

I also make an appearance in a feature on Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s recent Confederate History Month proclamation, The Proclamation and the Peculiar Institution.  Though it’s not the longest bit I’ve ever published, it’s certainly the largest and boldest font in which my stuff has appeared.  I share space with William Marvel, Susannah Ural, Lesley Gordon, S. Waite Rawls III, Kevin Levin, Catherine Clinton, Harold Holzer and Michael Fellman.  Here’s my full, unedited contribution (though I think the edited version was well done and a fair representation of my thoughts):

I think the Governor’s proclamation was nothing more than a dusting off of previously issued proclamations, made at least in part in fulfillment of promises given prior to his election.  I believe not much thought at all went into it, and that the apology issued was genuine.

 I find most of the reactions to the proclamation and the apology repugnant, outside of the obvious disappointment of those who objected to either and, in curious cases, both.  Pendulums are funny things, and after watching them for a while you get the impression they spend most of their time at either end, and not much in the middle.  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.  Unfortunately little attention has been given to valid historical issues raised by the issuance of the proclamation, notably that of the diversity of the people of the State of Virginia before and during the Civil War.  I’m left with the feeling we let an opportunity slip through our fingers in favor of forwarding political agendas.

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July 2010 America’s Civil War

1 05 2010

I received the new America’s Civil War in the mail yesterday.  Again, lots of good stuff inside.

  • Rebels in Check by Ethan Rafuse – Nobody played the game better than Bobby Lee.  Until his luck ran out at Gettysburg.
  • Could This Man Have Stopped the War? by Thomas Horrocks – James Buchanan left a monumental mess for the next guy to clean up.
  • “It’s No Use Killing Them” by Zack Waters and James Edmonds – The 2nd Florida fought in Lee’s army, but forged its own stature.
  • Tracing Natchez by Joe Glickman – From Grant’s mansion quarters to funky watering holes, Natchez oozes atmosphere.

These are but prelude to the real reason folks buy the magazine: my reviews.  As I mentioned before, Smeltzer’s Six-Pack has bitten the dust.  In the last couple of installments we had fallen off the formula of pairing new releases with older books on the same or similar topic – a formula which I felt set the column apart, but which fell victim to the need to preview an increasing number of new books in every issue.  July debuts Harry’s Just Wild About…, in which I’ll preview four or five new or re-issued titles (I’m not sure what they’ll call it if I happen to not be wild about any of the books).  Here’s a glimpse of what it looks like – that’s me at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival a few years ago:As you can see, I lead off with Ed Bearss’s new Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg, the Campaigns that Changed the Civil War.  Also in this issue: The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of the Civil War, by William Marvel; Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby, by James A. Ramage; and The Battle of Cedar Creek: Victory From the Jaws of Defeat, by Jonathan Noyalas.

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I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Stangers

1 05 2010

OK, well maybe not strangers, but certainly folks who are under no obligation to help me.  I’m back from my day trip to Antietam.  NPS historian Ted Alexander provided me with more information on my In Harm’s Way subject house than I could ever fit into an article of under 1,000 words.  I could have read through the material all day, but I only had a couple of hours and with the help of my buddy Mike waded through the material and made copies of the most essential stuff.  Cultural Resources Specialist and historian Keven Walker took us over to the house and gave us a fine tour of the structure along with detailed history of the building and its occupants.  Thanks to both Ted and Keven for their expert and enthusiastic assistance.

We decided to drive back to Pittsburgh via Gettysburg (kind of like Uneasy Rider driving to LA from Jackson, MS via Omaha).  We ran into Antietam ranger John Hoptak on the street there, outside the Farnsworth House bookstore.  It was a beautiful, warm day – lot’s of folks milling about.  Curiously, many merchants stuck to their 5:00 PM closing times.  Of course I’m not privy to their financial records, but it seems odd to me, especially considering many of these are small businesses actively staffed by their owners, implying more flexibility in scheduling operating hours (that is to say, “Look Marge, the hotel parking lot is full and there are a bunch of people eating outside O’Rorke’s.  Maybe we should stay open until 6:00 or 7:00″).  I’m just sayin’.

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Day Trip to Maryland

29 04 2010

Tomorrow early AM I’m off for Antietam National Battlefield with my friend Mike.  I have some work to do with NPS historian Ted Alexander at his office, then will spend some time at one of the farmhouses on the battlefield.  We should have a little time to bum around before heading for home, but this trip is feels more like work than fun.  Fun work, nonetheless, and it pretty much beats anything I do in my “real job”.  This is for a future installment of In Harm’s Way for Civil War Times, which is going very well thanks for asking.  I admit to preferring the subjects of the articles which allow me to visit the site and look through the files myself.  The subject of the article which will appear in the next issue that hits the stands – I submitted it last week and reviewed the edited pdf file yesterday – is on a Western Theater battlefield, and I had to write it remotely, with the help of others (a friend on the NPS staff sent me copies of the file, and another friend took photos – they did right by me).  I feel more connected to the house if I can crawl around it, measure it, and take photos – lots of photos – myself.  But I’m not complaining; this is a good gig.

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Done and Doner

21 04 2010

The second installment of In Harm’s Way has been sent to my editors at Civil War Times, and the third victim has been chosen.  I’ll be back in the Eastern Theater, and will again get to personally visit the subject property and get lots of photos.

I also sent in my two cents on the Virginia Confederate History Month controversy as discussed here.  I don’t know if it’s exactly what they were looking for, but it’s what I think.  I may post my full comment here, but not until after the magazine ships.

Today, for the first time ever, Bull Runnings topped 1,000 WordPress hits in a day.  I topped my previous high month a few days ago, and there are nine days left in the month yet.  Last week, I doubled my previous high week.  For mysterious reasons not fully understood by me, the site since April 6 has been receiving two-and-a-half to three times as many hits as it has in recent months.  Thanks and welcome to all my new readers.  I hope you’ll come back regularly.  I haven’t written many new articles this month, but hope to get back to regular posting of original content and Bull Run Resource material soon.

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