New Blog – “Blog Divided”

7 10 2009

I just ran across a new blog (hat tip to Jim Beeghley) run by Dickinson College called Blog Divided, which says it is for anyone teaching or studying the house divided era, 1840-1880.  I’ll add it to my blogroll on the next update, but until then check it out.

I should add that this blog is new to me.  I don’t know how long it’s been around.





Review Policy

7 10 2009

In light of the recent FTC ruling concerning requirements for product reviews, I’ve posted a Review Policy.  I realize that perhaps this ruling doesn’t apply to book reviews, but I’d rather not take the chance.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Any suggestions are appreciated.





Breaking News – FTC Ruling Affects Bloggers

5 10 2009

OK, have to break a rule here: I don’t typically regurgitate a news item here that originates elsewhere on the web – I just provide a link.  But this is pretty big news for us Civil War bloggers, many of who review books regularly.

FTC: Bloggers must disclose payments for reviews

PHILADELPHIA — The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.

It is the first time since 1980 that the commission has revised its guidelines on endorsements and testimonials, and the first time the rules have covered bloggers.

But the commission stopped short Monday of specifying how bloggers must disclose any conflicts of interest.

The FTC said its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final guidelines, which had been expected. Penalties include up to $11,000 in fines per violation.

The rules take effect Dec. 1.

See here.

Up until recently, most of my reviews have concerned books that I’ve purchased.  Lately I’ve been receiving more unsolicited, free books for review.  I’m not sure that I’ve been clear when those are reviews of books I’ve received in this manner.  When I say I received a book for review, that means I didn’t buy it.  But I guess I need to come up with some sort of stock comment that states the case more clearly – I don’t want a “free” book to end up costing me $11,000.

See NYT article here.





Books, Trips, Letters, Apologies

5 10 2009

I’ve updated a number of links on my Books and Articles On-Line page that were rendered useless by the demise of Microsoft’s book digitization project.  If you run across any digitized versions of Bull Run related books or articles not on my list, please let me know and I’ll get them posted.

My family is taking me on a trip to Springfield, IL for my birthday coming up in November (the birthday is in November, the trip is not that far away).  We’ll be gone a few days, and I don’t anticipate making any posts during that period (blogging on a sight-seeing trip doesn’t appeal to me; blogging on a sit-on-your-butt trip is a different story).  I should have plenty of photos to post when I get back, and Mike over at the The Abraham Lincoln Observer (my favorite among a sea of Lincoln blogs) has been kind enough to send me some tips for the trip.  In the main, I plan to visit the ALPMuseum (the library will be closed), his home, the tomb, and drive to New Salem.  There are also some other oddball sights I’d like to hit, like the funeral museum Andrew Ferguson visited in Land of Lincoln (oops, reading Mike’s tips I see that museum has folded).  If you haven’t read that book yet, you should: it’s a hoot.

If work permits, this week I hope to post the letter from the member of Company D, 5th AL I talked about here, along with some related material.  The generous reader who shared the letter has been unable to look again at the original to get two missing lines, and has given me the go-ahead to post the letters without them.  When he does get the missing lines, I’ll amend the letter at that time.

I’ve also got a number of other letters to post, and need to apologize to many folks who have been kind enough to take the time to pass them on.  Friend Mike Peters has sent me a number of New York soldiers letters published in various newspapers, friend Terry Johnston has sent me some good stuff on the 79th NY Highlanders, friend Eric Wittenberg sent me a letter concerning Hampton’s Legion, and of course I have all that Brent Nosworthy material to wade through.  I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I have planned for the resources section.  Let’s hope I live long enough to make a dent.

Also keep an eye on what Jonathan Soffe is doing over at First Bull Run.com.  Cool stuff that he has graciously allowed me to use when I get around to writing my unit biographies.





Antietam’s Bloody Lane Trail

4 10 2009

On September 18, 2009, I found myself at Antietam National Battlefield with time on my hands, and decided to fill it by walking the park’s new Bloody Lane Trail.  The 1.5 mile loop begins and ends at the park visitor center, and covers the attack and defense of the Sunken Road.  It was just about a perfect day, weather-wise, though it wound up being warmer than I at first thought.  So, I stopped into the VC bookstore and bought one of the NPS Bloody Lane Trail pamphlets for $0.99 (you can get a trail pamphlet for free at the front desk, but it’s bare bones).  Setting out about 4:00 PM, I snapped some photos along the way.  Click on the thumbs for larger images.

From the VC, I walked north to the New York monument.  From there I looked southwest towards the Sunken Road (the end of which is plainly marked by the red roof of the observation tower) and northeast toward the Mumma (m-you-ma) Farm.

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Here at the monument the pamphlet gives a quick overview of the battle’s morning phase, and an only slightly less general description of Sumner’s 2nd Corps and what transpired through the end of the fighting in the Sunken Road.

I decided to follow the instructions dutifully; though I had walked the grounds before, the official NPS trail is a little shorter than the tours I had been on.  So I walked from the NY monument generally east to the Mumma Farm lane, and then made a left toward the picturesque farm, stop #1.  The farm buildings were burned during the battle, and only the stone spring house (and spring) are wartime structures.  Right about where the spring house sits on the gravel lane, I followed the trail right (southeast).

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At the head of this path is an NPS wayside marker.  The trail took me towards the even more picturesque Roulette Farm.  Along the way I saw one of the many outcroppings that litter the field, all oriented about 23 degrees east of north – I guess glaciers don’t zig or zag much.

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The trail brought me to the bucolic Roulette Farm’s (stop #2) outbuildings, and inside one was a surprise – a limber (or was it a caisson missing a chest?) in disrepair.  I don’t think this is an original.  Regardless of budget constraints, I can’t imagine the NPS storing a 145-plus-year-old item like that in a shed.  I got a couple of nice shots of the house and a fuzzy one of the barn – it’s a new camera and this is the first time I used it.  It has about a dozen pixies flying around inside, and I think they make the camera shake when they get rambunctious.

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The trail snakes around the barn and continues straight while the Roulette Lane makes a right and continues southwest to the sunken lane.  The Three Farms Trail shoots off to the northeast, and then the ground gets really interesting. 

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As I walked towards the line on which the Irish Brigade (among others) advanced on the Sunken Road, I was confronted with this hill and the sudden disappearance of the top of the observation tower.  It comes back into view at the top of this hill (stop #3).

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The ground still rises from this point, and I made a right turn southwest toward the Sunken Road.  Using the Irish Brigade as an example, they were deployed from left to right across this scene.  The ground leveled off as I approached the #4 tour stop, but still the lane is not visible in front (though it is to the left, toward the tower).  However, unfurled colors and bayonets would have been plainly visible to the men in the lane.

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Continuing  on I descended into the lane (stop #5), where I could view the Confederate positions left (southeast) and right (northwest).

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At this point I took a detour from the tour, which leads northwest toward the Roulette Farm lane, to take a walk up the tower.  Unfortunately I’ve been having knee problems more severe than usual, and only made it up 21 steps.  So deciding discretion was the better part of valor, I descended (not as easy as it sounds) and proceeded back to where the trail joined the lane.  Here you get a good idea of the terrain, not just in front of the lane…

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…but behind it…

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…and in it.  Note that the Sunken Lane descends toward the Roulette Farm Lane, then ascends sharply towards where the trail turns right (north) off the Sunken Lane.

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It was in this area (stop #6), left and right of the Roulette Farm lane, that French’s division – the brigades of Weber, Morris, and Kimball – took their heavy casualties before Richardson’s division and the Irish Brigade even reached the field.  It’s true: you can look it up.

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From there it was a nice walk back up and across the Mumma Lane to Tompkins’s Battery and the visitor center.

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You can check out the experiences of other bloggers with the Bloody Lane trail, from around the same time,  here and here.

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My Reference Shelf

29 09 2009

Library

I have one shelf of books that sits right over my desk on which I put what I refer to as my “reference books.”  I like to have them there because my library is in some disarray, and I want to be able to find most of these quickly.  I’m going to share these with you now, for no particular reason.  I’ll move left to right, and provide links to where you can find the books for purchase and/or descriptions.  The ORs aren’t on this shelf, obviously, though I do keep a few volumes on the next shelf up and have the DVD in my laptop all the time (I’ve rearranged things since the above photo was taken, and almost all of my ORs are in storage now, waiting for a good home).  Also further up are volumes of the Army Register and The Rebellion Record and The Union Army and The Military Historical Society of Massachusetts papers and Lincoln’s Collected Works and Lincoln Day-by-Day.  But this shelf is for the most used books.

I have other reference works, encyclopedias, desk references and such, but I don’t use them nearly as much as I use these.

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Potomac Crossing 9/19/2009

26 09 2009

On Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009, I joined about 25 somewhat adventurous souls and followed in the footsteps of men of the 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac who crossed the Potomac River 147 years to the day earlier in pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s defeated but dangerous Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of Antietam.  (That’s right, Union Major General George McClellan did in fact execute a pursuit after the battle – you can look it up).  The occasion was a fundraising event of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association.  Twenty-five bucks got us a guided tour of the battlefield including the crossing, followed by a reception at the Association president’s home in Shepherdstown hard-by the battlefield.  The inaugural event last year drew 10-15 participants.  This year, there were two groups of 25.  I was in the 2:30 group led by SBPA board member Tom Clemens.  Another group started off at 3:30 and was led by Tom McGrath, author of Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign.  What follows here is a simple photo-essay.  See also Jim Rosebrock’s fine post on his blog.

Dr. Clemens first gave us an overview of the battle along the C&O Canal towpath on the Maryland side of the river (click thumbnails for larger images).

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Then we waded into and across the clear and fairly calm Potomac in the vicinity of Boteler’s or Packhorse or Shepherdstown Ford.

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Here are shots up and down river, from about the middle.

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Once on the (West) Virginia side, Tom re-oriented us at the intersection of the River and Trough Roads.  Then we hiked to the ruins of the cement mill.  Who knew the Rebels were Deadheads?

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We moved further up to the cement mill kilns.  About where Tom is standing, you can see a change in the color of the stone in a vertical line between the 3rd and 4th kilns.  The three kilns to the right are wartime, the three to the left were added later.  In these three kilns, Union soldiers took shelter from their own artillery fire coming from Maryland.  At least one soldier was killed by a direct hit in these kilns.

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The remains of the mill-dam are visible from the (West) Virginia side.

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These bluffs played a critical and tragic role in the retreat of the Federal forces.  An officer of one of the units,  the 118th PA Corn Exchange regiment, was also present with the 71st PA at Ball’s Bluff, where he was captured.  Talk about deja vue.  You can read his accounts in this book.

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Hikers head up a ravine and then towards the Osbourne farm, scene of the furthest Union advance.  The Osbourne house shows evidence of the battle, and its fields were the scene of the repulse of the Federals.

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All in all, a fine tour on a beautiful day.  The SBPA is planning on a repeat next year, so mark your calendars.

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