Moving Forward With This Tour

12 01 2016
King Painting

“The Capture of Rickett’s Battery” by Sidney King, 1964 (oil on plywood). On display in the Henry Hill Visitor Center at Manassas National Battlefield Park.

I’ve heard from a good number of you who are interested in attending a tour of First Bull Run at Manassas National Battlefield Park. You’ve been leaving comments on the post here, and I want you to continue to do so. That is, don’t leave a comment here, leave a comment here. There are over 20 folks who find the April 23, 2016 date workable, among them some big hitters. This is a great opportunity to tramp the field for the first time, or to revisit it with like minded folks and some experts like John Hennessy. More details will be provided here on the blog as they develop and as the date draws near. If there are any materials to accompany the tour, I’ll make them available here in PDF for downloading beforehand – that will keep the cost at a desirable level (that is, $0). Simplicity is the goal: caravan, no bus; bring your own lunch. Get the picture?

 





Carnegie Library, Carnegie, PA 1/9/2016

11 01 2016

12507567_10153921327127962_979802319226606305_nI had a great time presenting Kilpartick Family Ties to a nice crowd of about seventy-five at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie, PA this past Saturday. It’s always a boost to see the venue scramble for additional seating before a talk begins. Diane Klinefleter, the curator of the Library’s Civil War Room, puts on great events there known as the Second Saturday Lecture Series. If you’re local, or even if you’re not, you should check it out.

A lot of what was included in the program has been covered here in some fashion in the past, but a good bit has not. If your group is interested in hearing this program, let me know.

Thanks to everyone who showed up, including Seton LaSalle High School history teacher Mr. K., who assigned the lecture to his AP students as extra credit and had about eighteen turn up. Just doing my part to help turn Bs into As.

The room itself displays original prints of one hundred of the known photographs of Abraham Lincoln. And an adjacent room is a fully restored Grand Army of the Potomac post. Follow the links and check them out.





Saturday, January 9, 2016

4 01 2016

 

 

From the Carnegie Library website:

Harry Smeltzer, Kilpatrick’s Family Ties

Saturday, January 9, 2016, 1:00 pm

Harry Smeltzer, host and blogger of “Bull Runnings” a digital history project on the First Battle of Bull Run, will talk on Hugh Judson Kilpatrick. “Kill Cavalry” as he was so nicknamed for his ruthless tactics was the first United States Army officer to be wounded in the Civil War.

Harry’s talk “Kilpatrick’s Family Ties” is a mix of Civil War history and family genealogy. To quote Harry,

“Let’s just say this one has a little bit of everything. Love, infidelity, murder, royalty, ragtime, madness, natural disaster, TV stars, tight blue jeans, World War I flying aces, you name it. Fun talk for all ages and genders.”

Light refreshments served. Registration not required. Free and open to the public. 2nd Saturday Lecture Series made possible by the Massey Charitable Trust.

Come one, come all. The Steelers don’t play until 8:30. Plus, see original prints of 100 photos of Abraham Lincoln, and the restored Espy GAR post!

Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall

300 Beechwood Avenue

Carnegie, PA 15106

See more at their website here.





Tour First Bull Run

30 12 2015

DSCN0698

As hinted at in this interview, plans are afoot for a Bull Runnings outing along with John Hennessy, the author of The First Battle of Manassas, an End to Innocence. This will be a fairly informal day on the field. Right now, we’re looking at Saturday, April 23, 2016. Tentatively, we’ll start bright and early, break for lunch, and finish up in the afternoon. Logistics are in the formative stage, but this will likely be a caravan. But no planning can begin until we have an idea how many folks want to join us. So, with that in mind, sound off in the comments section here on the blog if you’re in.





Popular History – What’s the Problem?

18 12 2015

563274521907e.imageI last wrote about my recent foray into popular history works concerning the American Civil War here. I wrote then that I was cutting the author, T. J. Stiles, slack in relation to what I described as errors of fact not necessarily substantial to the study. If you read the comments or follow Bull Runnings on Facebook, you know that shortly thereafter I gave up the, umm, endeavor, because it became evident that the author was building a case regarding the personality traits of the subject based on what I considered to be shallow and antiquated characterizations of a parallel subject. In addition I felt that those characterizations of that parallel subject were based on scholarship that was far from exhaustive at best and, well, biased at worst. Long and the short of it – I gave up on that book, something I am loathe to do.

So I picked a new read, Stacy Schiff’s The Witches: Salem, 1692. I’m finishing it up now. I like it. A lot. And that’s got me to thinking: why the different reaction? It’s not based on the authors’ skills as writers – both Stiles and Schiff have garnered awards, including Pulitzer Prizes. And it can’t be the quality of their research because I don’t know crap about the Salem Witch Trials, or for that matter 17th Century Massachusetts (which in many ways seems as confounding and contradictory as 19th Century Massachusetts and, let’s be real, 21st Century Massachusetts and everything in between). But therein I think lies the answer: I don’t know anything about Schiff’s subject. And so, I have to take her word. Not so Stiles.

Both Stiles and Schiff have written multiple books about historical figures and events. Both are wonderfully skilled writers. Why don’t they stick to one specific time period? Why? Because they don’t have to, that’s why. They’re that good. And if an author is that good, why limit him/herself? Which leads me to my ongoing complaint about the quality of Civil War literature, real Civil War literature, by authors whose main focus is that particular period of our history, often narrowed to a fine point within even that tight time frame (say Gettysburg, or Lincoln, or even Bull Run – though I try to read more broadly). For most of us, it’s all, by and large, tough to read. Even the super-rare, well crafted stuff. And why is that? Well, part of that probably lies in the opportunities available to really good writers like Stiles and Schiff to pick their targets and sell more copies of more generally appealing books. But another, big part has nothing to do with who writes these more focused books and everything to do with who reads them.

Us.

We know too damn much for our own good – at least, from a pleasure standpoint. We’re doomed to read these focused books as if it’s a job, analyzing every footnote. And we’re doubly doomed when it comes to popular histories that touch on our particular field of study, because we’re probably more familiar, to varying degrees, with the material and its nuances than any generalist author could ever hope to be. We have at least formed our opinions based on a lot of reading. Hopefully. And so, these works (like Civil War films) are typically enormously frustrating. For us.

It ain’t right, it ain’t wrong. It just is. (Dutchy in Ride With the Devil.)

It’s sad in a way, but we have to accept it. So I’m probably done with pop ACW. (I realize that some might argue that there are “specialist pop-historians” working in the genre, that is, who write shallowly on many ACW topics, but let’s leave that alone for now.) Conversely, I’ll probably not read more on Salem, or Carthage, or Montcalm & Wolfe, or Agincourt, or Gallipoli, to name a few, so as not to spoil what have been great one-off reads for me. Well, maybe more on Gallipoli. But that’s it. That is it. No more. I don’t think.





Preview – Schultz and Mingus, “The Second Day at Gettysburg”

10 12 2015

51k02MDWMtL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_New from Savas-Beatie is The Second Day at Gettysburg: The Attack and Defense of Cemetery Ridge, July 2, 1863, by David L. Schultz and Scott L. Mingus, Sr. Word has it that this is more than a simple re-working of Schultz’s (with co-author David Weick) 2006 The Battle Between the Farm Lanes, and in fact is an entirely new book covering the same time frame. It’s hard for me to say because believe it or not I don’t have the older book here, but that one weighed in at 300 pages, while Second Day is 531, with 494 pp of narrative and 17 pp bibliography, including five pages of newspaper and manuscript sources. All of this, along with plenty of illustrations throughout, bottom-of-page footnotes, and fine Phil Laino maps tells the story of Anderson’s Confederate division as it slammed into Winfield Scott Hancock’s Union command along Cemetery ridge. While this aspect of the battle often takes a back seat to what was going on farther south, the authors do not look at it in a vacuum, but consider how the two not-separate phases affected one another, and focus on terrain and its effects on intent and execution.





I’m a Bigger Jagoff Than I Thought!

8 12 2015

Jethro-Tull-Aqualung-Live-2005

Go here. Find out what a jerk I am, in a Usenet kind of way. They’re right – I never wrote a Varney review. I did post the Hood one though, right here.








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