How Will Historic Sites Be Interpreted?

30 06 2010

A wonderful, thought-provoking post by John Hennessy at Fredericksburg Remembered.  Static, on site interpretative devices like the battlefield wayside exhibit will likely be replaced by wireless digital media in the not too distant future.  And consumers will also likely have a number of sources from which to choose.  While it’s true that such services will not be cheap to produce, I’m not sure that means all of them will be commercial ventures.  I suspect there are a number of folks out there who might be motivated to develop these programs by the same forces that compel them to share their research free of charge in the forms of websites and blogs.  Giving it away is still a great way to stick it to the man.

Those guys at Fredericksburg always provide great food for thought.





Live Blogging from Gettysburg

26 06 2010

Gettysburg battlefield stomper and photographer extraordinaire Will Dupuis intends to blog live from the Gettysburg Battlefield during the upcoming anniversary battle walks.  This should be interesting and visually impressive.  Check it out here (sorry, I had the wrong link in there before).

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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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While You’re Waiting…

21 06 2010

Wow – no new posts here for a full week.  Sorry about that, but I’ve been very, very busy.  Hopefully I’ll get back to posting soon.  I have some new developments on the writing front, but it’s too early yet to talk about them.  In the meantime, check out these video blogs by friend and Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf.  I don’t know how often we’ll be seeing new ones, but if you bookmark the page or add it to your feed reader you can stay up-to-date.





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.





SHAF Sponsored Tour of Phase I of the Maryland Campaign of September, 1862

11 06 2010

Dr. Tom Clemens

 On Saturday, July 31, 2010, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) will sponsor a tour of “Phase I” of the Maryland Campaign of September, 1862.  The tour will be led by SHAF board members Dennis Frye, National Park Service Chief Historian at Harper’s Ferry, and Dr. Thomas Clemens, editor of Ezra Carman’s “The Maryland Campaign of September, 1862, Volume I: South Mountain”. 

NPS Historian Dennis Frye

The tour will begin at 8:30 AM at the parking lot of the Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor’s Center in Frederick Maryland, where the guides will cover the action up to the discovery of General Robert E. Lee’s “Lost Order” by Union forces.  Then the tour will proceed to Harper’s Ferry, covering the fighting and siege operations and capture of that place, as well as the escape of Union cavalry. 

Lunch will be served at The Anvil Restaurant in Harper’s Ferry.  Choices of a wrap, cheeseburger, or Reuben sandwich, each with French fries and drink. 

From there, participants will travel to and discuss the importance of the sites of the Battles for South Mountain, including Burkittsville, Gathland, and Crampton’s, Fox’s, and Turner’s Gaps. 

This is a “caravan” tour.  Car pooling is strongly encouraged.  Participation is limited to 30 individuals.  Fees, including lunch, are $30 for SHAF members.  Non-member fee is $50, which will include a one year membership to SHAF.  Members receive a quarterly newsletter and member rates for SHAF sponsored events.  Also, copies of Dr. Clemens’ edition of Ezra Carman’s “The Maryland Campaign of September, 1862, Volume I: South Mountain” will be made available at a $5 discount the day of the tour. 

A firm number of participants is required by July 21, 2010.  Make your reservations by sending an email with the names of those who will attend to tours@shaf.org.  You will receive instructions on where to send payment. 

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to tour the sites of the Maryland Campaign of September, 1862 with recognized experts Dr. Thomas Clemens and Dennis Frye.





Bull Run on Blog Divided

8 06 2010

Blog Divided has a bit up on First Bull Run today.  Check it out.

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Fredericksburg Remembered

5 06 2010

The good folks at Mysteries and Conundrums have started a new blog, Fredericksburg Remembered.  From the About page:

This blog, Fredericksburg Remembered, focuses on stories, ideas, memory, and the challenges of bringing them before the public.

Fredericksburg Remembered is a collective effort to illuminate and discuss in a public way the challenges, adventures, and occasional triumphs involved in bringing the story of the Fredericksburg region’s vivid history to both a local and national audience. We’ll offer something of a behind-the-scenes look at exhibits and programs in development and some of the issues we wrestle with as we take them from idea to reality.  (We’re focusing here on the really interesting part of our jobs; we’ll spare you the mundane.)  We want to engage you the public in something of a conversation about what we do and how we do it, stimulating along the way from you what we hope will be some useful, illuminating commentary and feedback.

Fredericksburg is blessed with an uncommon abundance of historic resources and sites–from battlefields to the boyhood home of Washington to the plasterwork of Kenmore to the newly expanded Fredericksburg Area Museum to no fewer than four sites owned by Preservation Virginia. Some call it “the most historic city in America” (sounds like a good topic for a blog post and discussion). Bringing that story and these sites to the public is an intensely interesting and challenging undertaking–one that compels some of us to long hours of toil punctuated by triumph when we touch a chord or change the world just a little bit.

We, like the society around us, struggle with distinguishing memory from history, and we constantly hunt for the right balance between narrative and interpretation, objects or sites and ideas, and “good history” and the expectations of the “heritage tourism” industry. Little does the public realize how powerful they are in shaping what we do; if you don’t show up at a program, then you can be sure you’ll never see that program repeated again. The public historian who talks only to himself is doomed to a very short career.

Like our sister site, Mysteries and Conundrums, our purpose here is to share the best and most interesting of what we do. The blog is the domain of no single organization, nor will it be confined solely to the Civil War.  Rather staff at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP, the Fredericksburg Area Museum, and hopefully the George Washington Foundation and others to help lead the conversation.  And if you have a thought, reaction, or insight, we hope you will share it.  As is the case with all we do, our hope is to use local examples and case studies to illuminate larger ideas of memory and public history.

The NPS staff who contribute to Mysteries and Conundrums have been cranking out consistently top-notch stuff, some of the best the Civil War blogosphere has to offer.  I’m confident that Fredericksburg Remembered will be of similar quality, if the first series of posts on Fredericksburg’s Disputed Auction Block is any indication.

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Preview: Jeff Applequist, “Sacred Ground: Leadership Lessons from Gettysburg & The Little Bighorn

3 06 2010

I’m a little leery of the recent crop of books that attempt to draw leadership lessons from military history.  Friends have attended seminars in Gettysburg that relate modern business decision-making to incidents of the battle.  They tell me about what they read and what they were told, and most of the time I’m left shaking my head – I find they learn more legend or Civil War dogma than facts, which take a backseat to the more important lessons they supposedly support.  The same with books and programs that hold Abraham Lincoln up as some sort of model for today’s managers.  I’ve asked before and I’ll ask again – would you want to work for a boss who tells you one thing and does another; who interacts directly with your subordinates without consulting or informing you; who has no knowledge of the technical aspects of your job yet meddles in them constantly?  (I did once and it was a catastrophe.)  Though he was many other, perhaps more important things, Lincoln was no manager; certainly not one after which to model oneself.

OK, so I’m not a big fan of these books or programs.  However, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Jeff Applequist’s Sacred Ground: Leadership Lessons from Gettysburg and The Little Bighorn.  He’s a former Marine Corps officer who founded and runs Blue Knight Battlefield Seminars, which teaches leadership lessons and team building on the battlefields of Gettysburg and Little Bighorn.  From the inside jacket:

As leaders we have all faced moments of truth throughout our professional careers.  Important decisions directly impacting the success or failure of our teams and organizations have sometimes rested in our hands.  Is it possible that we could actually learn from historical examples how to make better decisions?  Is it possible to use lessons from history to improve in other dimensions of our leadership as well?  The answer is a resounding yes.

These questions should sound familiar: How do we manage through profound change?  How can we motivate our people in chaotic circumstances?  How do we make good decisions despite imperfect information?  How can we communicate more effectively?  How do we see things from another person’s point of view?  How can we better understand another culture in a global economy?  How will we win or even survive in a highly competitive and uncertain world?  The challenges leaders faced long ago are the same as those that leaders confront today.

In Sacred Ground, Jeff Applequist takes us on an amazing journey of exploration and discovery to the Gettysburg and Little Bighorn battlefields.  By studying these momentous events through the lens of individual leadership and team dynamics, we see that the stories from history are fascinating, the parallels to today are memorable, and the principles of leadership enduring. 

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Preview: Dick Stanley, “Knoxville 1863″

1 06 2010

Dick Stanley of Austin, TX sent me a copy of his new book, Knoxville 1863, a novel about, well, Knoxville in 1863.  (For you folks who have wholeheartedly entered the 21st century, this is also available as an ebook.)  I’ve only skimmed the book, but this fictional account of the seige of Knoxville and the battle at Ft. Sanders seems to focus primarily on the 79th NY (the Highlanders) and Barksdale’s Mississippi brigade.  Stanley’s narrator is a Knoxville resident, the widow of a Confederate officer, through whose eyes and recollections the reader is brought up to speed on the war and Tennessee up to the point of the Confederate encirclement of the city and beyond.  From the back cover:

Gettysburg held.  Vicksburg has fallen.  Now rebel flags ring Knoxville in East Tennessee.  Longstreet means to wrench this railroad hub away from the occupying Union army.

To do it his ragged and starving men, veterans of Gettysburg such as Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade, must climb the icy, clay walls of Fort Sanders.

Inside are the New York Cameron Highlanders who are on half-rations and have never won a battle.  Yet they have special faith in the young lieutenant who leads them.

In Washington President Lincoln waits for news.  He sees the struggle as one more key to preserving the Union, freeing the slaves, and victory in the Civil War.

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