Slow Here, I Know

1 06 2011

Sorry for the lack of posts. Lots of stuff going on. I have RT programs to present on June 6th and June 14th, and the Gettysburg College tour on June 29, and possibly another engagement on July 2nd or 3rd (you can check out the details on those appearances here). As I get time, I’ll post some articles on the new Civil War Times and my Collateral Damage column, as well as the new Civil War History and my participation in a roundtable discussion in its pages. Bear with me for the next few weeks.





Back From the Vale

25 05 2011

Last Thursday evening I presented The First Gun at Bull Run, a program on Peter Conover Hains, to the good folks at the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehurst, NC. This was the first of three presentations I’ll be giving through Julne 14, and it went off pretty well. There were some paper rustling moments I wasn’t real happy with, but hopefully I can rearrange my outline to avoid a repeat in DC on June 6.

Thanks to host Teej Smith for the wonderful hospitality shown on Thursday and Friday – perfect walkin’ ’round weather for Chapel Hill. Also thanks to RBCWRT president Frank Jones and everyone at the meeting for a fine event.





Yakkin’ in the the Vale of Humility

18 05 2011

Tomorrow evening, May 19, I’ll be presenting a program to the good people of the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehurst, NC. My talk, which I’ll be giving two more times in June, is on Peter Connover Hains, who “opened the ball” at First Bull Run with a shot from his 30-pdr Parrott rifle, Long Tom. I’ll discuss Hains’s long and distinguished army career, aspects of his interesting personal life, and the memoir of First Bull Run he wrote on the golden anniversary of the battle.

This is my second trip to this roundtable – they’re a great bunch and I’m looking forward to seeing them and good friend Teej Smith again. Be sure to stop by if you’re in the area.





Change of Plans

17 03 2011

Rayburn House Office Building

Thanks to potential jury duty, the appearance of Bull Runnings before the JCCW – er, the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable set for April 4 has been rescheduled. I will be presenting my Bull Run themed program in the Judicial Hearing Room of the Rayburn House Office Building (where the Watergate hearings were held!) on June 6, 2011. Yep, D-Day. The presentation will look at the Battle of First Bull Run through the aged eyes of participant Peter Conover Hains.

Thanks to President George Franks III for his understanding and flexibility in rescheduling this engagement which I absolutely did not want to cancel.





Gettysburg College Civil War Institute Tours

10 02 2011

Here’s a description of the tours for the upcoming 29th Civil War Conference of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.  The conference runs from June 27 through July 1 – here’s the registration brochure.  You have to be enrolled in the conference to attend the tours.

Manassas Battlefield Tours

Buses depart college campus at 8:00 a.m., arrive in Manassas at 10:00 a.m.  Meet tour guides in Manassas.  Lunch on the battlefield (brown bag).  Dinner location to be determined en route home.

*Bus #1 – Ray Brown/Jim Burgess
A View from the Ground: On the frontlines of First Manassas

National Park Service Historians Ray Brown and Jim Burgess will explore significant areas of the battlefield where much of the heaviest combat occurred and where key decisions were made that shaped the outcome of the action, as well as the circumstances that propelled Thomas J. Jackson and his brigade into a pivotal role on Henry Hill.  The tour will require considerable walking over rolling terrain on Henry Hill and Chinn Ridge.    On the actual ground CWI participants will gain a better understanding of how the field actually looked at the time and learn the location of key landmarks and terrain features that help define the location of opposing battle lines This tour by bus and foot will cover sites associated with the battle, including Stone Bridge, Van Pelt house site, Sudley Springs Ford Portici, Robinson House site, Henry Hill, and Chinn Ridge
 
*Buses #2 & #3 – Joe Rizzo caravan with Greg Wolf 
From the First March to the Final Rout:   A Comprehensive Tour of First Manassas

Where Thomas J. Jackson earned the nickname “Stonewal,”on Henry Hill is the focal point of virtually every Manassas tour.  If you are searching for a deeper explanation into the operations and strategy that led to this pivotal moment, if you want to follow in the footsteps of the armies before Jackson helped turn the tide, and if you want to study other critical moments of the campaign that took place away from the towering Jackson monument near the National Park Visitor Center, then this is tour to take, since it includes both a general treatment of the battle and specialized stops for the personal who already has a firm knowledge of the engagement.   Even the veteran visitor of Bull Run will see place–such as Manassas Junction, “Liberia,” Blackbrun’s Ford–that are rarely available to the every-day-visitor of Manassas.

Bus #4 – Ethan Rafuse
Staff Ride

In 1906 officers from what is today the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College executed the school’s first “staff ride”.  Carried out under the direction of Maj. Eben Swift, this exercise involved in-depth study of the great 1864 campaign across northern Georgia that ended with the fall of Atlanta.  The idea behind the staff ride (a concept borrowed from the Prusso-German officer education system) is to use historic battlefields as open-air classrooms to help military professionals better understand the real world challenges of command.  Participants in the 2011 Civil War Institute will have the opportunity to travel to Virginia to participate in a staff ride of First Manassas.  In addition to studying and critically analyzing the course and conduct of one of the Civil War’s truly great campaigns and the terrain where the fighting took place, the ride will provide participants with an appreciation of how the professional military uses history, and its place in the development of leaders for the current and future operational environments.  Unlike the traditional battlefield tour, the emphasis of the staff ride is on analysis of events and the development and application of critical thinking skills.  Thus, it is presumed that participants in a ride have some familiarity with events and are prepared to actively engage with the instructor and other participants. What value does studying campaigns and battles fought over rolling hills by armies wearing fancy uniforms and equipped with single-shot muskets have for officers as they think about the present and future of war in 2010?  Come along and find out!

Bus #5 – Harry Smeltzer [I will be on the bus down and back]
Hidden Mysteries of First Bull Run

This tour explores the battle through a series of personal vignettes that offer an intimate view July 21, 1861.  Even for the veteran tourist of First Manassas, “Hidden Mysteries” will offer a fresh perspective through the stories of participants like Peter Hains, Daniel Tyler, William Falkner, and E. B. C. Cash.    These individuals might not be household names, but their experiences reveal critical and often overlooked moments of the First Manassas Campaign. We will visit the critical portions of the battlefield, as well as a few spots not commonly visited by the casual tourist like the remnants of the war’s first monument and an 1861 road trace. Led by Smeltzer, a noted expert on First Manassas and host of the blog “Bull Runnings,” is geared toward a CWI participant who is familiar with the battle and visited the site before. There will be a moderate amount of walking as part of this tour, with some hilly terrain.
 
Bus #6 – Ed Bearss
Advanced Tour of First Manassas/Bull Run





Cancellation

25 01 2011

I received word today of the cancellation of the Rocky Mountain Civil War Symposium, The Eastern Theater from First Manassas Through the Seven Days Campaign in Aurora, CO, at which I was to speak on October 1, 2011.

Sell your stock in airlines and Denver area dining and lodging establishments, as the estimated 125,000 folks who wanted to see my dog and pony show have been forced to change their plans.  Sorry Chamber of Commerce, it’s not my fault!





An Expert? Ummm…No.

6 01 2011

Will Rogers defined an expert as a man fifty miles from home with a briefcase, while Mark Twain said it was an ordinary person from another town.  Regardless of the definition you choose, I am no expert.  I can’t imagine ever considering myself an expert, and I’m frankly confounded when I hear anyone describe themselves as one – an expert, that is.  I’ve even heard-tell of folks who have moved on to “other wars” because they’ve learned just about all they can learn about the Civil War.  Come on, get real.  You’re bored, you need a new challenge, a change of pace, I get it.  But spare me the “my work is done here” stuff.  Unless your specialty is percussion caps used on Burnside breech loaders or something similarly obscure, I ain’t buyin’ it. 

I realize that event organizers are going to use the E word in promotional materials.  But I want to make one thing perfectly clear – I don’t consider myself an expert on the Civil War or even the First Battle of Bull Run.  I’m confident I have readers who have studied the war and the battle for a longer period and in greater detail than have I.  [That being said, I can still entertain a room for an hour or two without boring the heck out of everybody (there are always exceptions) and pretty much guarantee that anyone who stays awake the whole time will learn something they didn’t know before, so don’t let my admission deter you from booking me, Danno.]

I know there’s a real definition of “expert” and it doesn’t mean “knows everything”, but you know what the word connotes, and you know what I mean by this.  I don’t mind so much when others call someone an expert, but it bugs the hell out of me when I hear people refer to themselves as one.

There.  I just needed to get that off my chest.  As always, you’re free to be wr…I mean, you’re free to disagree.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.








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