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This is the archive for November 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So tomorrow is the last day and the response has been less than stellar.

So far the winning entry is a review from my son. Don't get me wrong, he is good but I was expecting some cool stuff from the readers of Touch the Elbow. So ask yourself, can you really let a 9 year old beat you on this?

Of course your can't!

Read the rules below, write something and send it to the email address located in the right sidebar under "Contact Us"

Down in Charleston the Coastal Carolina Fair has opened and that means tons of cool prizes are to be won at the Exchange Park. Since most of the readers can’t make it to Charleston, we thought we would have a contest of our own.

There is an old saying that everyone has at least one good story in them, here is your chance to prove it. Between now and November 30th, write a post for Touch the Elbow. We will pick three winners who will have their entries posted on our site and will win some fabulous prizes.

And, the winners will get their prizes before Christmas so you can keep them as a present to yourself or regift them to a loved one.

What exactly are the rules?
1. “Best” is subjective but Donald, Stephen and I will decide what entries we think are the best and our decision is final. "Fabulous prizes" is also subjective and we feel the prizes that are offered are fabulous. If you disagree, just pretend that you like the prizes and enter anyways.
2. The entry can be as long or short as you want, just be entertaining and make a point. The entry must be original and not have been published previously on any other site, magazine or book.
3. All entries must be sent via email to us at mass18th(AT) dated no later than 11:59 pm, November 30, 2006
4. By entering this contest you agree to letting us post your entry on the site
5. I really can’t think of any thing else but I am sure that I will wish I had later. Let’s just try to keep this easy and simple and have some fun!

So what are the prizes?

Second Runner-Up:
One Limited Edition 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Coffee Mug

First Runner-Up:
One Copy of
Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney
Slavery, Secession and the President’s War Powers

By James F. Simon

One Limited Edition 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Coffee Mug

Grand Prize Winner:
One copy of Union 1812
The Americans who fought the Second War of Independence

By A.J. Langguth


One Copy of Gettysburg Gospel
The Lincoln Speech that Nobody Knows

By Gabor Boritt – Director, Civil War Institute, Gettysburg College
November 19, 2006 (anniversary of the Gettysburg Address)

One Limited Edition 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Coffee Mug

A special thank you goes out to Donald for providing the mugs and to Simon & Schuster for providing the books!

Now stop reading and start typing!


New readers, be sure to check out our Best of the Blog post, a list of our bests posts so far!
Last night I watched my favorite new show of the season, Heroes. It is an NBC show about people who all of a sudden discover they have special abilities – at least that is the official version, I like to call it Super Powers (flying, telekinesis, time travel, super healing). Really, at the core of the show, it is a comic book on TV. More specifically, it is what comic book readers like to call an origin story, the story of how they came to be.

It is also a show of many stars. The show revolves around a good 10 people and multiple minor characters around most of the main characters. It can be hard to keep track but the writing and acting are all good. It helps that the show feels real, filmed in combination of stages and outside spots. And to top it off, because there are Super Powers, there has to be special effects, which also come out really well.

According to one article from October it costs $2.7 million an episode to produce and recoups $171,000 for each 30 second ad and since the show is doing well, it looks like the prices were going to go up.

This is state of modern entertainment.

And as much as I like it, I was happy to view “Legends of the Lowcountry – Folk Tales of Historic Charleston, SC” a DVD from Storyteller Tim Lowry. It is an experience that harks back to a different era of entertainment, when one person would act as all the players and the special effects where props that sat around the storyteller or sounds and expressions coming from the storyteller.

Too be honest, I was surprised at how entertaining and engrossing this “lost art” is. My middle child could not stop talking about Mr. Lowry’s presentations that he had seen at school. So together with my oldest child we sat down and watched Mr. Lowry work his magic.

Mr. Lowry had no extra cast; it was just him telling eight stories from the past of Coastal South Carolina. It was divided into three groups, Colonial Tavern Tales, Gullah Folk Tales and Civil War Ghost Stories. With each telling, he became the story. From the story itself, the costume, the body language, the sound effects to his amazing facial expressions, they all combined to tell a story so much better than our modern fare and for so much less.

I was very impressed with the Gullah Folk Tales. For those of you that are unaware of Gullah, it is a culture that was created from the combination of slaves from different areas, forced to exist in a new land – striving to keep something from home be it food, art, music, framing or stories.

Their language is a mixture of different African languages and English. As time went by it became more and more ingrained in the area of Georgia, North and South Carolina. You may have heard it without even knowing it, if you ever watched the 1990’s Nickelodeon show “Gullah Gullah Island”.

As a teenager I worked in a tomato packing plant and for a landscape maintenance operation, both on St Helena Island, outside of Beaufort. At both places most of my coworkers spoke Gullah. Although it took awhile for this transplanted Yankee to understand them, it truly is a beautiful language to hear. Mr. Lowry took the stories and spoke in a wonderful accent that gave the viewer a chance to hear the old language and the stories that were told to generations of children here in the South.

The two Civil War tales, one of them, Soldier Jack, the longest of the DVD – clocking in at 12 minutes will not expand your knowledge of Civil War History but any fan of the Civil War will truly enjoy them. It is interesting to see how the war affected the story telling and how soldiers would continue being heroes, long after the war is finished.

How good is the DVD? It is beyond excellent.

It is rare that I can sit with my kids and all of us truly enjoy entertainment, too often I am finding myself wishing that time will speed up so I don’t have to sit through a show any longer but with this DVD, I was sorry to see it end. I know my children liked it for two reasons. The first, they have watched it several times, laughing and jumping at all the right times. Second, they walk around singing one of the tales, Peter Parker’s Pants – fighting over who has it right or wrong.

Recently, I told them that they were both wrong, just so we could watch it again. Something I would strongly suggest that you do too.

Legends of the Lowcountry – Folk Tales of Historic Charleston, SC” along with 5 Storytelling CDs and a book, How to be a Super Storyteller, can be purchased directly from Storyteller Tim Lowry at

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A new theory now suggests that Robert E. Lee pushed his armies into Pennsylvania and set his sights on Philadelphia because he had a hankering for a good Philly Cheese Steak. Philly Cheese Steak connoisseur and part-time Civil War enthusiast Rocco Bonaducci wrote about Lee’s tactical move and fondness for the legendary staple of City of Brotherly Love residents in an article appearing in the October issue of Cheese Steak Quarterly magazine.

To test Bonaducci’s theory as to whether Lee would have risked destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia in pursuit of his craving for a “belly buster,” Nichole, who works in my office and grew up in West Philadelphia, came in today, after a Thanksgiving visit to her home town, armed with Cheese Steaks and Strombolies from Larry’s Steaks & Hoagies, an eating establishment located across from St. Josephs University on North 54th St. “Don’t be fooled by Pat’s and Geno’s. That’s where all the tourists go,” Nichole cautioned. In fact, according to her, there are lots of other places in Philly, such as Jim’s, that leave Geno’s and Pat’s wanting. After eating a third of a 15 inch belly buster for lunch, I can see the how Bonaducci’s theory may have some merit. Um, um, good!

Speaking of food, let me put in an unabashed plug for Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries. If you’re not on the Atlantic seaboard then you don’t know about them. If you’re planning a visit to the Washington area, look them up in the yellow pages or go on line for the nearest location. A word of caution if you do decide to eat there. Don’t go alone, as you’ll need one or two other people to assist you in eating a "regular order" of fries.

Did you hear the joke about the Starbucks store that decided to open new stores in their men’s and ladies rooms? No Grande vanilla soy latte with a double shot for me, please. Regular coffee with some half and half will do just fine. And what’s with this idea of filling the cup up to the rim so that you have to dump some coffee into the wastebasket in order to add milk or half and half? Is Starbucks recycling that stuff?

Speaking of coffee, many of you know that two of the most important commodities to a soldier were coffee and tobacco. A treatise on tobacco will follow at a later time, but here are some thoughts from the 18th Massachusetts on caffeine addiction.

The coffee was made in large iron kettles and was not always a success; it had a sort of bluish color, and did not look inviting, but we had to drink something. [It] was generally called, throughout the regiment, "blue ruin," and when the cooks took exception to that, they were told, "by an act of Legislature the name had been changed"; however, we managed to drink it ...”
Corp. Amasa Guild, Co. F

Our rations, at this time, were not what would be called satisfactory... the quantity was generally abundant, but the quality was hard to get accustomed to. The coffee was good, but was spolied in the making, as it was difficult for the company cooks to get the clearest of water, and then it was boiled in large iron kettles...
Corp. Amasa Guild, Co. F

I was rather hungry when I got back to camp to night and stowed away a pound of good beef steak with sweet potatoes and toast bread to match and a quart of coffee.
Capt. Joseph Collingwood, Co. H

Lieut [William V.] Smith had a box come filled with condensed cofee, cocoa, and milk beside sardines and other luxuries. So we make our own coffee.
Capt. Joseph Collingwood, Co. H

The mud is every where and sticks to ones boots like putty. Our wattering place has of late been whitened with the clay which is washed into it by the rains. Our coffee looks very good, the clay giving it coller like cream but it tastes rather rough. I do not drink much of it; I noticed in the bottom of a can brought in to our tent this morning with about four quarts of coffee that the clay settled forming a thick coat.
Sgt. Solomon Beals, Co. D

Isaac Shaw, Wm. Atwood, Eli Atwood, George B. Thomas have succeeded in bagging six more rabbits and we had a fine meal I assure you; quite a treat after eating salt junk, rice, dry-bread, and coffee without milk and only a sprinkling of sugar.
Corp. James H. Graham, Co. C

Yesterday morning I offered half a dollar for a cup of coffee and could not get it, but by being independent I have good meals in the Stewards room, 50 cts a meal.
Capt. Joseph Collingwood, Co. H

We have been somewhat pinched for rations during the last ten days, but we are now getting more to eat. We have lived on 4 hard breads a day and coffee without sweetning, but the famine is past and beans and salt-junk and rice have made their appearance to our gracious satisfaction.
Corp. James H. Graham, Co. C

To day I went to the Brigade Commisary and laid in a stock of provisions, fresh beef, coffee, sugar, molasses, salt beef, hominy, rice, pork & potatoes &c. For 4 of us we have a coffee pot, 4 dippers, 2 plates and one knife and fork, so you percieve we have to use our fingers. That is what we call going back to first principles.
Capt. Joseph Collingwood, Co. H

I expect when we get home we shall have to build fires out in the yard so as to keep our hands in. Each one can have a quart pot to boil his coffee in and a stick to broil his meat on. No matter about salt and bread as those are luxuries not be though of.
Capt. Joseph Collingwood, Co. H

This morning some of us contributed what food we had and made quite a breakfast. Apiece of steak, some pork, and a few potatoes and a pot of coffee, but no bread.
Capt. Joseph Collingwood, Co. H

We were called out at 4 this morning. Received three days rations of sugar, coffee and hard bread, and a slice of raw pork, and packed knapsacks for a march.
Corp. Harrison O. Thomas, Co. D

It ceased raining at 8 o’clock A.M. After building fires, drying our cloths and making coffee, we were called into line about 11 o’clock.
Corp. Harrison O. Thomas, Co. D

And to add emphasis to the idea that an army is only as good as the strength of it's coffee, Brig. Gen. John H. Martindale, then commanding the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps, made this statement in a report.

We remained in position, covering the retirement of other portions of our troops, all day. We had no food but hard bread and coffee.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The New York Times Book Review released their list of the 100 most notable books of 2006.

Not surprisingly, there were no Civil War related books on the list.

It’s sad to think that out of all the books on the Civil War that came out this year, not one ended up on the list. Maybe with the increased presence of the major publisher houses, we will see something different next year.

They did include a book that I really enjoyed and posted about in the past, Mayflower : A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick .

You can check out my review of the book here and their review here (you may need to register with the site to read the articles)


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dimitri recently had a post about the lack of Trans-Mississippi enthusiasm, quoting Drew Wagenhoffer’s interview with Camp Pope’s Clark Kenyon:

I’ve pondered the question for years of how to attract more people to the study of the Trans-Miss Theater, and I have found that unless you had an ancestor who fought here or you yourself live here, you don’t really care. Interest in the Trans-Miss cannot be manufactured.

Honestly, I never cared about anything outside of the Army of the Potomac range, including battles that literally happened in my backyard here in South Carolina. Why? For the exact reason Mr. Kenyon states, because of where my relatives fought – over with the Army of the Potomac.

Lately though, I have been more and more interested in the other areas of the war too. It started off with a diary of a soldier and it’s been keeping my interest as the days go on. Unfortunately, I really know little of the actually battles that took place but have been enjoying the books that I have read.

Now, I’ll have something that will help me a bit more with understanding what happened out there with a book that I just got from the publisher, "Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide with a Section on Wire Road” by Earl J. Hess, Richard W Hatcher III, William Garrett Piston and William L. Shea and published by University of Nebraska’s imprint Bison Books. Upon a quick glance it looks like it will fill that awful void that I have when it comes to this section of the war.

I know there are different views of Battlefield Guides and for the most part I fall in the camp of liking them. Most citizens of America are not experts on the battles much less the Civil War so having a cheat sheet for a beginner looking to enjoy the history of their country. It helps that fellow blogosphere citizens Mark Grimsley, Brooks D Simpson and Steven E Woodworth (Civil Warriors and Blog them out of the Stone Age) are the series editors of This Hallowed Ground, which this book is a member of.

Set up to take a person on a car ride to the three battlefields and the reader/rider will find an overview of the battle, highlights of the importance of each stop, most stops have an analysis of the battle along with it, while others have a neat little vignettes that deal with the battle or the men/area involved with it. It comes in at 284 pages and includes 45 maps and multiple pictures and other illustrations with an expected publication date of December 22, 2006.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I’m marking this date on my calendar. Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006. It’s the day the three of us, Steve, Tom, and me finally screwed on enough courage to jump off the high dive. Courage and high dive may not exactly be synonymous with what we’re trying to do. Getting unstuck is more like it. We’ve been seriously researching the 18th Massachusetts Infantry for close to ten years and, with the exception of about the first three or four months, the goal has been to write and publish a history of the Regiment.

The task of actually writing of the history started last February. After writing seven pages of material, none of which held any mention of the 18th, it came time to introduce them. And that’s where the getting stuck part comes in. I couldn’t figure out how to transition from what I had written to the 18th Massachusetts Infantry. A week turned into weeks and weeks into months with no progress being made. I began to doubt myself, felt totally overwhelmed and intimidated, and, as the calendar pages flipped, began talking less and less about writing the history. Recently, perhaps in desperation I finally wrote out my confessional Email to Tom and Steve, telling them I didn’t think I could do it. I even went so far as to suggest we turn our research material over to a “professional" writer; worse yet, I even suggested a candidate for the job.

Tom replied with a glass of virtual ice water to my face, shaking me by the shoulders with his words. “Not so fast bucko! These are our guys!” Not his exact words, but you catch my drift.

On Wednesday, while walking a block from my office building to a Starbucks, I was thinking about a comment in an Email I had sent. I’m always thinking. I wake up thinking. I can’t fall asleep because I’m thinking. Heavy thoughts? Sometimes. Work thoughts? That too. Life in general? Most all the time.

The recipient of the Email and I had been exchanging information on one particular individual from the Regiment. And suddenly, out of the blue, by connecting one thought to another, it hit me. The missing transition piece! Can you say hallelujah? I said, can you say halleluiah? Let me hear you say it!

Today I wrote roughly two pages. It was slow going because I wanted every word to be a perfect choice. I wrote, read what I wrote, revised what I wrote, reread what I revised, re-revised the revisions, and reread the re-re-revised sentences and paragraphs. Not that it was radical surgery with each revision. A word here; a couple of words there. And you know what? At the end of this day I like those two pages. I realize I shouldn’t be striving for perfection at this point, because perfection at this point is not, in fact, the point. The point is to just keep tapping those keys.

With all that in mind, we’ll update you periodically on the trials, tribulations, and, hopefully, triumphs of writing a modern day history of a Civil War regiment.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln


Have a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I'd like to begin with a quick recommendation for an excellent history dealing with the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. As a tease to encourage people to read James Horn's A Land As God Made It, you'll finally learn the fate of those who comprised the lost colony at Roanoke. And now for the post.

We’re contacted by descendants of men who served with the 18th Mass. on a fairly regular basis. Most are, of course, looking for information about their ancestor’s war service. There are times when we’re able to provide a fair amount of information, but other instances where we can’t do any better than what’s documented in Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the War of the Rebellion, in spite of concerted research efforts. It’s always sad in a way when we’re forced to sum up a man’s entire existence in two or three short sentences. There are the other times when we’re on the receiving end of the information and we’ll be told something about a soldier we didn’t know previously. The greatest gift though comes through the exchange of a picture. Then, and only then, when you’re able to see the face of a man who marched off to war do you fully understand that here was a living, breathing human being capable of laughter, of love, of compassion, fully ready to do his duty and honor his flag, his home, his country, and, if necessary, to take a life or surrender his.

Sometimes when receiving a query we have to shatter illusions that have been passed from generation to generation. One recent contact was under the assumption their ancestor witnessed Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The reality was the soldier had been mustered out on September 2, 1864 and did not see any further military service. Another individual was almost reduced to tears because we had to confirm that, yes, their ancestor really did desert from the Regiment.

In my own case it was difficult coming to grips with the fact that my third great-grandfather, Sgt. George Washington Thompson, had not been “severely wounded” at the Wilderness, but had instead been sent to the hospital for a sprained ankle; even more difficult to accept the fact he spent six months in the hospital before deserting. While the slaughter and grind continued he kept himself in hiding for another six months before accepting an offer of a blanket amnesty and was honorably discharged on June 29, 1865. There is proof that he followed the Regimental flag into every battle through the Wilderness, but it begs the question of what it is that we want to find when we go looking for our Civil War ancestors. Do we want confirmation that they were brave? Confirmation that their regiment was the toughest and baddest in the neighborhood? Or is it somehow a confirmation of ourselves? Certainly one can garner a greater sense of satisfaction knowing their ancestor’s regiment fought at Gettysburg than if they were assigned to a “do nothing” heavy artillery battery garrisoned at Washington. Yet are we willing to accept the reality that our ancestor was discharged for disability after one month of service, or that they were by reputation a shirker, a court-martialed drunk, or worse yet, that they ran away in battle?

For many the answer to the last part of that question may never come; whether someone was so gripped by fear that they turned their backs on their comrades and ran. Sgt. William P. Alderman, Co. I, wrote a post-war newspaper column about men he termed “constitutional cowards;” those who by their nature were predisposed to disappear before a battle. Alderman told of one man who was so consumed by the fear he might go into a fight that others in the company took great delight in tormenting him with tales of carnage. After a particularly harrowing night on picket, that man, George F. Booth, arriving back in camp in the morning, went into his tent, rigged up his musket, placed the barrel against his chest and pulled the trigger.

In most cases we don’t even know if an ancestor was engaged in any battles during their military service. The only proof positive their ancestor was engaged at Hanover Court House, Spotsylvania, Shiloh, or Port Hudson, etc. is if they were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. And, if they were taken prisoner, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were taken at the battle, as they may have been captured while straggling or after deserting. One of the most famous pictures from Gettysburg shows three Confederate prisoners captured shortly after the battle, nonchalantly standing by a wooden barricade. As Thomas Desjarden pointed out in his book These Honored Dead, which examines the myths and legends of the battle of Gettysburg, “these three were likely stagglers or deserters rather than heroes.” The only two options left thereafter to determine if a man was engaged in a fight would be confirmation by regimental records or to read it in a letter.

I ran into an interesting case scenario when reviewing a particular pension record. The claimant swore on oath that he had been wounded at Fredericksburg by a shell fragment. The pension examiner interviewed two other veterans of the regiment, both of whom were certain the claimant couldn’t have been wounded at Fredericksburg, because there was "no Confederate artillery fire" during that battle. The claimant was denied, in part, on the basis of their depositions, whereas the truth is that there was Confederate artillery at the battle, making it likely the two witnesses weren’t there either. That the claimant made a false statement to the examiner is borne out by the fact that he was not listed in any of the casualty reports issued for or by the 18th Mass., as well as a medical report which found no physical evidence to support his contention of a wound to his left leg.

Do we also sense a far greater nobility if a man fell on the battlefield than if they succumbed to the putrid ravages of chronic diarrhea or typhoid? Was the sacrifice any less? Col. James Barnes said it far more eloquently and purposefully than I could have.

“The soldier who in the faithful discharge of his duty encounters the dangers from disease arising from his unavoidable exposure to the changes of climate and the inclemency of the seasons is no less entitled to the grateful acknowledgements of his country than he who more fortunately perhaps, encounters the dangers of the field of Battle. Let due respect therefore be always rendered to his memory.”

Whatever the case may be, whatever truth may be revealed, we all trust at the beginning of our search that our ancestors served nobly, with a sense of right purpose, with a sense of duty, with a sense of honor, and with steeled determination. We do not want, ever, to learn they made a career of bounty jumping. That would be a truth that would settle in our minds like the words of Colonel Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now “Ah, the horror of it all.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It has been just over a week since I went to New York and figured it was past time to talk about the trip. Believe me when I say that it is not because of a lack of enthusiasm that I waited before posting, mainly it was exhaustion and catching up with everything else that was going on.

First off what exactly was it all about?

Well, recently Robert E. Bonner, wrote a book –THE SOLDIER’S PEN: Firsthand Impressions of the Civil War- on the experience of the Civil War soldier in what I consider quite a unique way. Mr. Bonner took the expressions of 16 soldiers and grouped the specific experiences (think life as a soldier, hospitals and injuries, battles, connections to home) into chapters. The expressions are unique in several ways. First although all infantry, they are not limited to side, theatre that they fought in, background of the soldier, race or what would happen to the soldier during or after the war. Secondly and perhaps most intriguing is that it is not just letters but also diaries and then more rare, artistic expressions in the view of a series of cartoons (think Beatle Bailey done by a Civil War soldier) and watercolor paintings.

One of the neat things about the documents is that they are all from the same place, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History – which is worthy of a post by itself and most certainly will be in the near future. Mr. Bonner went through over 60 different collections to find the right 16 candidates for the book and from where I stand, found just the right collection.

The event itself was held at the offices of the The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History , which is located in the New York Historical Society right off of Central Park. My hotel was about 50 blocks away from the Historical Society and I didn’t want to take the chance of being late, so took a cab.

Of course I was a bit late. The cab driver didn’t know where we were going and kept looking at a map. As we would stop for lights he would glance until he could find it. When he finally found it, he replaced the map with a Russian crossword puzzle.

We finally made it and was just a tad bit late but still ecstatic to be there. I was a bit underdressed (I had brought a suite but instead went casual and felt a bit out of place as everyone else was in a suite – I am sure they all thought dang redneck from the south) but it didn’t stop me from having a great time.

The room was set up with several tables full of original letters, diaries and artwork that were used for the book. I had missed about 20 minutes but Mr. Bonner didn’t seem to hold it against me. As I sat there and listened, I could tell that here was a gentleman that cared for his subjects, they were not just some soldiers that fought long ago. His enthusiasm for the book, the war and the state of document collection itself was bursting from his soul. Almost like those super bouncing balls out of the gum ball machines, once you threw it, it never stopped – Mr. Bonner was the same way while discussing any question thrown out to him.

During the time I spent with him, he discussed if there was anything he had wished had been included but wasn’t, the lack of POWs in the book, if he had wished for different soldiers, private dealers selling our history, eBay, did he find anything else out about the soldiers since publication and a host of other questions. I will have a separate post on this and he has also agreed to a one on one interview that we will have posted later.

Although Mr. Bonner gave those there a great background on why the book was written and why it was so important to write in this new way; seeing the documents really hit home on what the book was about. As I mentioned previously, the book shows several watercolors in full, it also looks into specific details throughout the book, as well as using two in the cover art. Seeing them in person was breathtaking. They were amazing and just so different in person. Not different in a bad way – just so much more than what one can view in a book.

It was a fantastic event and I have to thank Ami Grecko with publisher Hill and Wang for inviting me, the fine folks at The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for hosting the event and Robert Bonner for taking the time to talk to me, no matter how silly my questions were.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Erik Calonius author of "The Wanderer, the Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy That Set its Sails", sent a note to let us know that groups in Savannah are planning a walking tour with hopes of an April starting date and the creation of a memorial to The Wanderer and those stolen from their homeland.

You can read more about the walking tours here and we will provide an update on the memorial as more information comes.

Devotion by Julia Oliver

By Julia Oliver
The University of Georgia Press
$24.95 - 209 pages

When I first started the blog, one of the things I thought I would do was post links to Civil War related news. No one else seemed to be doing it and it seemed like a niche that would bring people to the blog. What I didn’t realize was just how much work that would be – there are about 100 news stories each week and then I found that Civil War Interactive already does it. So I decided to just drop it unless there is a story that interests me.

Out of that time came an article about an upcoming book, Devotion, that would deal with the life story of Winnie Davis, daughter of Jefferson Davis and known as “The Daughter of the Confederacy” and would do so in a fictionalized manner.

This intrigued me as I can’t just read history book after history book – I need to take breaks and normally do so with a fiction book or two. Devotion seemed like it would make a great “break book” and I was looking forward to it.

I don’t know what I was expecting but it was not the book I read. That is not to say that this was a bad book, it just was a bit different than I thought it would be.

Taking a step back, it is well written and that is where we should to start. Ms Oliver does an excellent job of writing from different perspectives, starting with a sick and delirious Winnie, then moving to her friend Kate Pulitzer, a not so delirious Winnie, her mother’s maid Margaret Connelly, back to Winnie, to her sister Maggie Hayes, and finally her one time fiancé and northerner Alfred Wilkinson.

The delirious Winnie threw me at first, not quite knowing what Ms. Oliver was trying to do and then going to Kate made an even harder transition then was probably intended. The saving grace of this was Ms Oliver’s ability to write in the different voices of the characters and make the reader believe that they are listening to the wife of the famous newspaper publisher one moment and an Irish Catholic maid the next.

The book itself is less about Winnie and more about a dysfunctional family and the roles the different members fill throughout the years. Winnie just seems to be the focal point that tells the story of the rest of the family, its place in the country after the war and her lost love. Her mother, believing that her fiancé is not good enough for her, while the South cannot believe that she would dare marry a Yankee, cause the termination of the engagement – the only one she would have. In the end, it is the love that is never fulfilled that seems to be an analogy to a country that never seemed to have a chance, destroyed by both internal and external forces.

Overall Devotion is a decent book and if I was a member of the target audience, I would probably say it was a great book. I normally judge books on whether I would reread them at a future date. Although I do not feel it was a waste of my time, it does not quite fit into my normal reading habits and would not reread it. So it falls into the “it's an OK book" standard. That being said, if you like these types of fictionalized books, it is worth a read. If instead you are looking for a more “warlike approach” or historical study, this one is just not for you.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Our policy with comments from the readers is simple, please comment.

I am normally happy to see comments as most of the time, it tends to bring a different perspective to the post. In our “About” paragraph, it even states

We encourage you to post your comments on our posts, especially if you disagree with us. Although we doubt you will change our minds, an honest discourse of the issue is always encouraged.

I have to admit that a recent comment actually pushed me a bit to reconsider this philosophy. I guess we should give some background to help you understand where I am coming from.

Recently Deanna Bernstein went to the Coastal Carolina fair outside of Charleston, SC. While walking the fairgrounds, she saw a shirt that offended her and complained to the management of the fair. The T-shirt in question shows two Confederate Battle Flags with the words “Confederately Correct Civil Rights for Southern Whites”

The management felt that nothing was wrong with it and told Deanna they would not force the vendor to stop selling the shirt. A friend bought one of the shirts and she proceeded to protest at the front gate. After being asked to leave on six separate occasions and refusing to leave, she was arrested and spent the night in jail.

She made the Charleston Post and Courier with an article which I posted about here. Donald then proceeded to survey his coworkers about their reactions to seeing the shirt which you can read here. The Post and Courier did a follow-up article based off of emails and letters that they received which I also posted about.

One e-mail from Bill White, who identified himself as commander of the American National Socialist Workers' Party, said, "The only tragedy in this case is that her count of trespassing doesn't carry a sentence of execution. Lynching her and burning her home in the manner of the Union armies she so loves would set a just example for the community."
White formed the party about two or three months ago as a fledgling neo-Nazi group, said Allen Kohlhepp with the Anti-Defamation League. The blog where the messages about Bernstein were posted is also known as a white supremacy network, Kohlhepp said.
Membership or affiliation with white supremacy groups is in the tens of thousands, Kohlhepp said.
However, Kohlhepp said Bernstein's courage in the face of serious threats is admirable.
"It may not be Bill White who shows up on someone's doorstep, but it may be someone who shares his ideology and who may be a lone wolf. They provoke or inspire the ones who actually commit the crimes. This woman has every right to be fearful."

Mr. White also decided to grace us with his presence, commenting on Donald’s post with the following –

Sounds like you don't have enough racists in your office. I stand by my comments -- lynch the Yankee, burn her home, and let her understand what the Tankees mean to Southern whites.

Instead of deleting Mr. White’s quote, I will publicize it and the person behind it, following my own advice in the post “How do we hate the hate groups.” I'll let you decide what to think of Mr. White and his comments but will leave you with Donald's response

You're just overflowing with compassion for the entire human race. I wish I could say I feel and share your pain, but I don't. Herman Hesse once said that one person hates another because they recognize something in that person that they hate about themselves. Think about that for a while.

View -
His own site by clicking here
His blog by clicking here
His blog entry about his comments in the Post and Courier by clicking here
His bio on his site by clicking here
And finally, the entry about him on Wikipedia by clicking here

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I’ve mentioned before that I do not consider myself an expert of the Civil War but that I am pretty knowledgeable on one particular regiment from Massachusetts. I do though, think I am pretty darn good when it comes to the process of researching the war and its soldiers– after all I just happened to co-author a book on it.

So, I have to admit I was bit perplexed when my son told me about the Union soldier A.B. Young (see Stephen’s guest post) how and why he served and died for his country and I was unable to find any real information about him. I spent a good three hours going through the usual tools of the trade and came up empty or with leads that would all turn out nothing but a wild goose chase.

To say I was a bit perplexed and a bit down over the situation would be an understatement. Here I was supposed to be a Karate Master but I couldn’t walk over the rice mat without breaking it, I was but a grasshopper.

Then Storyteller Tim Lowry contacted me about the stories he told at my son’s school. Turns out A.B. Young was not one soldier but a composite character of several soldiers that fought in the battle. As he told me, “it is difficult to explain all the ins and outs of historical fiction to fourth graders” and bases his oral retelling on the Paul Fleischman’s Bull Run.

So, I am feeling a ton better about not being able to find Mr Young since he didn’t really existed.

On a side note I got one of Tim’s storytelling DVDs which had a few Civil War tales included. I was very impressed with it and Stephen and I will be reviewing the whole presentation later.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I’m back in Charleston and thought I would throw up some quick thoughts.

The weather in New York was miserable as was all the tourist stuff I did.

The book event was a totally different story.

It was amazing. Not only did Robert E Bonner, the author of THE SOLDIER’S PEN: Firsthand Impressions of the Civil War spend an hour and a half going over the book, why he did it and how he went about doing it but it was enhanced by having some of the source material there for viewing.

One of the items he uses is a series of watercolors that document one soldiers life during the Civil War (two of which are used as the cover art of the book), throughout the book we get to view details of the art and all 9 are fully reproduced in color in the middle of the book. To see it in person though is a totally different experience and one I am so glad I was able to see.

I’ll have more up later on the event, the book, the author and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Apparently Donald was not the only one who thought to report on the reaction to Deanna Bernstein’s protest (read original post here and Donald’s survey post here). The Charleston paper, The Post and Courier did the same thing - click here for their version of the story. Luckily Donald posted his a full two days before they did and we can’t be accused of plagiarism (at least not for this article). Good for us!

Of course we may still be accused of giving reviews away for free books but I think Dimitri has an excellent post that shatters that view of thought.
We are experiencing a lot of first time readers and to help them get acquainted with our site, we have created a “Best of the Blog” list. This list showcases what we feel are the best gems of our posts. To read it, just click here.

Also, don’t forget our Contest to end all Contests – The First Annual Win your own Civil War Christmas contest! Great prizes including some of the newest in Civil War Historical studies and limited edition 15 oz Coffee Mugs (for the serious coffee drinkers out there). Find out the rules and how to enter by clicking here.

And we keep getting asked why “Touch the Elbow”? Well, we don’t want to share the reason right now, so let's save that for a seperate post for another day.

Just use your imagination for now and no, it’s not because of what you are thinking. :)

- Tom, Donald and Steve

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

In what shall forever be known as A.A.Y.S.R.E., Part One, I asked the question in that November 2nd posting, “Where is the 18th Mass. Infantry’s Adjutant Fisher Ames Baker buried?” It took all of eleven (11) days to receive the answer.

In recap, the information I had that Baker was interred at Oakland Cemetery in Yonkers, NY was incorrect. Brian Downey read the post and responded the same day, pointing me in the direction of Westchester County, NY and was kind enough to provide a link to their Web site. Sure enough, there was Fisher’s name listed along with other Civil War veterans, confirming he was buried in the County. As Brian said in his comment, “I should finish digging before posting, but this is too much fun. Baker is buried in a Westchester County (NY) cemetery. He's listed here:”

Excuse me while I cue up some appropriate dead guy music; maybe the love song from George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” A letter was put in the mail to New York on November 4th. Nine days later came the response that Fisher A. Baker was buried in Section 2, Lot No. 2227, Grave No. 1 at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in North Tarrytown, N.Y.

And who says dead guys can’t or won’t talk?

I don’t know how soon I’ll get to North Tarrytown, but you’ll know when you see the post “Chasing the Dead in New York.”
Tonight sees the continuation of the Daniel Library Friends book and lecture series. If you are in the area, this is a great way to learn a bit more about the city and it's role in the Civil War.

Tuesday, Nov. 14
Lectures begin at 6:30 p.m. in Bond Hall Room 165

Dr. Stephen Wise, director of the Museum at Parris Island and author of “Gate of Hell: Campaign for Charleston Harbor, 1863,” will address the blockade of the harbor by the Union squadron under Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren, and the attack on Morris Island in 1863 – a crucial battle for Charleston since it was the South’s premier blockade running port, and the Union invested time and money in its bombardments of the city.

Having grown up in Beaufort as a military brat I spent a lot of time on Parris Island and went to the museum on a regular basis. I was really looking forward to going to this one but will be trying to get back from New York City at that time. Hopefully I'll get to meet Dr. Wise another time.

Check out the museum's website here, particularly the Local Military History part which has a nice overview on the exhibit of the Beaufort area in the CIvil War.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Well I have just arrived in New York City and sitting in my hotel room catching up on a few things. The plane was delayed an hour so I was able to get some serious reading of THE SOLDIER’S PEN: Firsthand Impressions of the Civil War done before landing.

I probably could have completed (just 20 pages left) but I always love watching the scenery as I travel from the airport to the city. Instead, I will wait to read it a bit later, maybe after the event itself.

So what is the event? According to the invitation,

Publisher Hill and Wang and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History would like to invite you to a viewing of the Gilder Lerhrman Collection (located in New York City) that Robert E. Bonner drew from for his book THE SOLDIER’S PEN: Firsthand Impressions of the Civil War . On hand will be the author and James Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, both able to lead you on a tour through these firsthand sources as well as answer any questions attendees might have.

I am really looking forward to this as I am thoroughly impressed with what Robert Bonner has done. He is able to tell a story of what the soldiers went through on a personally and emotional level, drawing from the experiences of several different soldiers of different backgrounds, beliefs, race and side. He does not limit himself to letters and diaries but includes one soldier’s expression through a series of paintings, while another uses comic relief through illustration.

I’ll have an update later this week on the event and a review of the book pretty soon too.

Now I am off to do a little tourist stuff before the event.

So, do you remember what you were doing on this day, November 13th, last year, five years ago, or even twenty years ago. Me neither, except my guess is, without looking at the calendar, that I was probably working. There is always work.

Wednesday, November 13, 1861

The Regiment was encamped at Camp Barnes, Hall’s Hill, VA, which is in present day Arlington and across the Potomac River from Georgetown. Corporal Harrison O. Thomas of Company D described the day as beautiful and the evening as very pleasant, mentioning that the Regiment played football, the teams comprised of the right wing of the Regiment captained by Lt. Col. Timothy Ingraham and the left wing by Major Joseph Hayes.

Captain Joseph Collingwood of Co. H thanked his wife Rebecca and the ladies of Plymouth, MA for sending a box to the Company, which contained not only food, but socks and blankets which he was planning on distributing to his men. Collingwood related that the biggest fear of soldiers was not the danger they faced on the battlefield, but the dread of becoming ill and having to be admitted to the hospital.

Thursday, November 13, 1862

The Regiment was in camp near Warrenton, VA. Lt. Col. Joseph Hayes, who was commanding, issued General Order No. 40 informing the Regiment that Gov. John Andrew had approved the promotion of 1st Lt. Benjamin F. Meservey to Captain of Company K. The Regiment was still reeling from the reading of McClellan’s farewell address on the 10th, while the previous day, the 12th, Fitz-John Porter had been stripped of his Fifth Corps command. Second Lieutenant George Barnard confided to his mother the belief that spies in Burnside’s Ninth Corps had brought McClellan down, cautioning her to maintain confidentiality. According to Barnard, “The army looks like a grand funeral party.”

The reality of a protracted war was settling in for Sgt. Lorenzo Brown. In a letter to his mother he wrote, “But I suppose we are to see a great many more bloody battles before we are to see the end of this unholy rebellion.” Brown had additional concerns. He was flat broke, as the Regiment had not received pay for months, and was out of tobacco.

Friday, November 13, 1863

The day before the Regiment was engaged in battle at Rappahannock Station, Gardner Tufts of the Massachusetts Military State Agency continued his feud with Lt. Col. Joseph Hayes over the ownership of the Chasseur Au Pied uniforms awarded to the Regiment two years before, following a review of troops at Bailey’s Crossroads. Tufts position was that the uniforms were gifts of the citizens of France to the Regiment and therefore property of the men and not the government as Hayes contended. Hayes would have the last word when he threatened to arrest and charge any man attempting to ship the uniforms home with theft of government property. That put a stop to the activity, but not before some, like Nathan Weeks of Co. C, had sent theirs home via express mail. Weeks’ uniform, minus the shako, is now in the hands of a private collector, who stated he paid $8,000 for it at auction.
Leander Alden in his Chasseur uniform

Sunday, November 13, 1864

Pvt. Charles Simpson, who had been transferred from the 18th Massachusetts to Co. B of the 32nd Massachusetts, stated that the weather was cold and snow fell in the Petersburg, VA area.

November 13, 1901

Private Edmund Whalley of Co. B, whose left leg was amputated six inches below the knee due to a gunshot wound received at Fredericksburg, died at age 66 at Madbury, N.H.

November 13, 1922

Corporal Nehemiah D. Davis of Co. D, who saw action with the Regiment at the siege of Yorktown, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Shepherdstown, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station and the Wilderness, died at age 88 in Wareham, MA. Davis was one of ten men of Company D cited for their courage at the battle of Fredericksburg. Davis also saw action with the 32nd Massachusetts, suffering amputation of his right forefinger after being wounded at Hatcher’s Run.

November 13, 1925

Private Henry H. Lawton of Co. D, who had been mustered as a Fifer and later served as a cook for the Regiment’s hospital before his transfer to the Veterans Reserve Corps, and who later became disabled by heart and kidney disease, rheumatism, and fading eyesight, died at age 88 in Ada, Oregon.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Tom’s post on Deanna Bernstein’s reaction to, protest of, and arrest for objecting to a slogan on a Tshirt got me to thinking. I had my opinion, which was supportive of Deanna’s action and expressed this through a comment to Tom’s post. At the same time I was puzzled by Dot Scott’s (Charleston branch of the NAACP) reaction, in which she essentially said the slogan was part and parcel of her experience of living in Charleston, and she had developed a “thick skin.” Not to put words in Dot’s mouth, but I interpreted that to mean that she and other blacks come face to face with racial bias on a regular basis and to the realization you have to choose your battles.

Since the newspaper story carried divergent opinions as to whether the Tshirt in question was offensive I decided to conduct my own survey, to learn what other people thought and felt. I printed out a picture of the Tshirt, took it to it to work and asked. I should add that this was not a scientific poll, but it did involve a random sampling of people, both black and white, who represented a wide range of ages. The results are not broken down by age, sex, or ethnicity.

I began with the statement, “I’m going to show you a picture of a Tshirt. There is no right or wrong answer, I’m simply asking for your reaction.” I then presented them with four options: A. They found the Tshirt objectionable; B. They did they not find the Tshirt objectionable; C. They had no opinion either way; D. They didn’t understand the meaning of the Tshirt. I then showed them the picture and waited for their response. For anyone who found the Tshirt objectionable, I then asked a follow-up question. If they saw someone selling or wearing the Tshirt, would they say anything to the seller or wearer?

Of the twenty people who were questioned:
3 found the Tshirt objectionable and would have confronted the seller or wearer.
13 found the Tshirt objectionable, but would not have said anything
2 had no opinion
2 did not understand the meaning of the Tshirt

The survey also opened up some meaningful dialogue. Barbara, who is white, would have done the same thing Deanna Bernstein did. She talked about her experience of being a Northerner and teaching at a Head Start program in a small rural town in Mississippi during the 1960’s. Ricky, who is black and grew up in the “deep South,” expressed an opinion similar to Dot Scott’s, saying he seen so many symbols like those on the Tshirt he was used to it. Yvonne, who is black, told a story about her son wearing a Tshirt with Malcom X’s picture to a recreation center and being told to remove it by a white person. Cheryl spoke of talking to a fifteen year old about a Tshirt he had designed, in which he listed what he hated most in life. The list included Whites, Jews, and Hispanics on the front and God on the back.

Lloyd expressed the opinion that young blacks lack appreciation for the struggles and advances achieved through the Civil Rights movement, a sentiment echoed by Carrie, who said her 22-year-old daughter, a recent college graduate, has told her repeatedly she doesn’t want to hear it whenever Carrie starts talking about events that occurred thirty and forty years ago.
When the Hunley was raised from its original not so deep sea grave, I was amazed at how intact it was after spending almost a century and a half under water. Turns out it is much more fragile than previously thought. A new report by those in charge of the conservation effort details how fragile the sub is and how they plan save it.

Check out the original article here

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Battle of Secessionville will be reenacted Saturday and Sunday at Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant, SC (just outside of Charleston) proceeds will benefit the Confederate Heritage Trust.

A few years ago I took my kids to this and we had a blast. The Sutler Row was just as interesting as the battles. Nothing like drinking some home made root beer and kettle pop corn to watch people pretend to die.

And yes, it is too easy to comment on a Civil War battle being reenacted on a former plantation that was filled with slaves to benefit the Confederate Heritage Trust.

Too easy….

Just go there, have fun, enjoy yourself and don’t think about it.

For More information on:
Boone Hall, click here

The Battle of Secessionville, click here

The reenactment of The Battle of Secessionville, click here

The Civil War Heritage Trust, click here
Donald has a strong belief that there is something that is out there guiding us, helping us in our quest to document the history of the 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He can’t quite put his finger on it but has said on more than one occasion, that it might be due to the failure of the regiment to write a history back when they had a chance – they are not going to let it slip through their fingers again. By telling you this, I am not putting words in his mouth or telling any secret that he would not want me to say.

Too be honest, at one time I was not too sure about it but have slowly been coming around to his thinking more and more.

It seems that whenever we hit a roadblock of finding new information, when we feel we won’t be able to fill a gap in the information or we just get tired of it, something miraculously appears. You might ask why we would ever get tired, well combined; the three of us have been researching the unit for over 60 years, a unit that existed for only 3 years. Every now and then one just has to wonder if it is worth all the effort?

So many times we have found new information or new friends when we were just about to give up. Once I spent 5 nights at the Boston Public Library looking for newspaper articles from during the war. I found very little and although knew I would need to return, did not put it high on my list of things to do. Donald decided to visit Boston one day and on a lark, went to the library and looked up a different paper and hit a gold mine of information. The findings rejuvenated us and we had a massive spurt of research that filled many gaps.

It was like the men were telling us to keep looking, even in places we had before.

Recent events provide a perfect example of the opinion that it does not look like it is going to stop.

I’ve mentioned before that the website brings many people to us – it’s a magnet for those who are looking for it. This week we received an email from a descendant of several members of the unit who still has original documents and letters from his ancestor and offered copies to us. The same day we received an email from a Massachusetts Librarian that had been given a trunk that had uniform items, documents, letters and even a portrait of one of the soldiers. They made a huge display of it and wanted to know if we wanted copies of the information.

Then we received an invitation to attend an event in New York City that corresponded with the release of THE SOLDIER’S PEN: Firsthand Impressions of the Civil War by Robert E. Bonner. Living in South Carolina and not having been to New York for almost 5 years, I politely declined. Then out of the blue an opportunity arose that would put me in the City the day after the event. A bit of fast work and now I’ll be there for the event. I have no idea if this will provide any groundbreaking work for the 18th but who knows what I might find that I would not have otherwise.

Could these all be coincidences of good luck and I am just a bit superstitious? Maybe but it sure feels better thinking that you have someone looking over your back making sure you do this right and getting the legwork done for you. A lot less work and stress that way too.

And to the question that we ask ourselves every now and then, is it worth it? We always come back with the same answer, of course it is. But like so much out there that has worth, it can be hard to get there.

I am confident that we’ll get there; we have guides that have proven that they won't let us lose our way.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

As in all things in life, I guess it depends on the circumstances.

So, let’s start with the circumstances.

1. You are in South Carolina but from California
2. You are in Charleston – hotbed of the Confederacy
3. You are at a county fair
4. You have paid a fee to enter the fair and partake in the festivities
5. There are vendors everywhere selling all sorts of things
6. One vendor is selling a T-Shirt that you think is a bit racist
7. The T-shirt in question shows two Confederate Battle Flags with the words “Confederately Correct Civil Rights for Southern Whites”
8. You tell the director of the fair, who feels there is nothing wrong with selling the shirt
9. Your friend buys one and the two of you go to the entrance of the fair and start protesting in front of the crowds as they enter the fair - most ignore you
10. Staff of the fair ask that you stop or leave
11. You stay
12. The Charleston City Police ask that you stop or leave
13. You stay
14. You are asked a total of 6 times to stop or leave
15. You stay
16. You are arrested and spend the night in jail
17. The ACLU feels both the fair and you are in the right
18. The local NAACP branch won’t take a position on whether the shirt is in taste or not
19. You at least get your picture in the paper for taking a stand when no one else would

Find the original article here

Best quote of the article –
“"I probably have thick skin, because I am so used to seeing it.”
- Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Birthday greetings are extended to the following members of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry:

Washington King
Born Nov. 8, 1832 at Plymouth, MA, the son of Robert and Sarah (Holmes) King. He married Janette T. Brewster and they were the parents of Maria F., born May 11, 1856; Hellen E., born Oct. 7, 1859; and Janette F., born March 20, 1861. Janette (Brewster) King died during childbirth at Duxbury, MA on March 20, 1861. King was a 28 year old Shoemaker from Duxbury, MA, when he enlisted in that town on May 23, 1861 and was mustered into the 18th Mass. Infantry on August 24, 1861 as a Private in Co. E. He was wounded in the left thigh at the battle of Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862. On Dec. 27, 1862 he was promoted to the rank of Corporal, to take effect Nov. 1, 1862 . King was admitted to to Harewood General Hospital on Dec. 16, 1862 due to his wound, where he remained until April 21, 1863, when he was granted a 30 day furlough. He was then on detached recruiting service at Boston from May 23, 1863 until transferred to Unassigned Veteran Reserve Corps on Dec. 30, 1863. King reenlisted on July 29, 1864 and was subsequently transferred to Co. G, 13th Veteran Reserve Corps on Oct. 20, 1864. He was mustered out of military service at Gallops Island, Boston on Nov. 17, 1865 per General Order No. 155.

Bradley Sweetser Bryant
Born Nov. 8, 1840 at Boston, the son of Thomas and Laura (Sweetser) Bryant. He was a 20 year old Shoemaker from Hanover, MA, when he enlisted in that town on May 7, 1861 and was mustered into the 18th Mass. Infantry on August 24, 1861 as a Private with Co. G. He served as First Sergeant for Company G, having been promoted on an unknown date. Bryant was absent from the regiment on a 15 day furlough from Feb. 13, 1862 due to ill health. During the Regiment's march from Cumberland, VA to White House Landing, VA in May 1862, Bryant was disabled by sunstroke. He was admitted to the General Hospital at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD on May 22nd, being diagnosed with Intermittent Fever and remained there until discharged due to disability caused by heart disease on July 16, 1862.

William Green
Born Nov. 8, 1838 in Sheffield, England, the son of Jonathan J. and Hannah (Downing) Green, and brother of Jonathan J. and George H. Green, both of Co. B, 18th Mass. Infantry. He married Cynthia Brown, age 25, at Taunton, MA on Feb. 9, 1860. She was the daughter of Josiah and Senetha (Gardner) Brown, both born in Nova Scotia. There were no children born of the marriage. Green was a 23 year old Britannia Worker employed by Reed and Barton in Taunton, MA, when he enlisted in that city on July 15, 1861 and was mustered into the 18th Mass. Infantry on August 24, 1861 as a Private in Co. B. He was promoted to the rank of Corporal on an unknown date. He was mustered out of military service on Sept. 2, 1864 at the expiration of his three year enlistment.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

“One of the most obvious and striking facts is the utter falsehood of those who inaugurated this terrible reign of anarchy and misrule. When they told us the Northern men were a race of cowards, and would not fight, they probably believed it; when they assured us that one Southern man was the equal in a fight of five Yankees, or abolitionists…they may have believed that…. Indeed the ignorance of this lordly and insolent oligarchy is equaled only by its ineffable baseness. I say oligarchy, for it is known that the men who concocted…the Southern Confederacy, are not as numerous… as the figures on a chessboard. It is eminently a closed corporation, and was so intended to be. The men who compose it are…the same clique well known for years…as claiming exclusive jurisdiction over the Democratic party, and assuming such absolute authority over ‘the South,’ that even now a great many people suppose there are other persons of consequence…
“There are those…who can testify to their utter perfidy, who have been the victims of their want of principle, and whose self-respect has suffered from their insolent and overbearing demeanor…. To hesitate, to doubt, to hold back, to stop, was to call down a storm of wrath that few men had the nerve to encounter, and still fewer the strength to withstand. Not only in political circles, but in social life, their rule was inexorable, their tyranny, absolute.”

Using these words of Horace Maynard, a legislator from Tennessee, Erik Calonius writes his conclusion and epitaph for the Confederate cause in his book "The Wanderer, the Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy That Set its Sails."

This is not simply a book about a luxury racing yacht that was built in East Setauket,New York for the sinister purpose of refitting it as a slave runner with the ability to outsail the combined British and American fleets of the African squadron patrolling the coast of the Dark Continent. Nor is it entirely about efforts to try the owners and members of the crew in a Federal courtroom in Savannah, Georgia after 400 slaves unloaded on Jekyll Island in November 1858 became public knowledge. Rather it is a book about a powerful few who railed against the North and who perceived their native Southern land being strangled both economically and politically. And it is a story that hints of what might have been had the Confederacy succeeded with their revolt; a slave holding empire that would have stretched from Charleston to San Diego and from Richmond to Del Fuego on the tip of South America; an empire that would have claimed the Caribbean Ocean as its own lilly pond.

Prior to 1858 the “Fire-eaters,” so called because of their militancy and outspoken views on their God given right to enslave the peoples of Africa, were in a decided political minority throughout the South. The importation of slaves had been banned by Constitutional amendment effective in 1818 and violation of this law became punishable by death in 1820. South Carolina was, in fact, one of the leading proponents for passage of the amendment. All seemed to be in agreement that, while the ownership of slaves was an accepted fact of life in the southern United States, the further forcible removal of men, women, and children from their homelands in Africa and transport of them to America was repugnant. Fears abounded that the resumption of slave trafficking would cause an unbalance to the Southern way of life, that new slaves would be less accepting of their bondage, more prone to rebel. The Fire-eaters saw it as a matter of economics. The cost of purchasing slaves was escalating, zooming out of sight. Too, if slavery was to be expanded westward there simply weren’t enough slaves to make large-scale plantations viable.

The Fire-eaters saw it as a matter of political representation, too. With European emigrants flooding northern cities, supplying the workforce, and thereby helping to fuel the industrial boom, the South lagged behind badly. It had no industry to speak of and what few goods it could produce found little demand when those same goods could be had from the North in greater abundance and at cheaper cost. But the North, too, was filled with social experiments, with fornicators, with those who defiled the Holy word of God, and those who would claim the white man was not superior to all other races of this planet, so said the Fire-eaters. It was time, said the Fire-eaters, to challenge Northern supremacy through a society based on chivalry and a moral code, led by men of their aristocratic breeding, courage, and intellect.

Talk, political rallies, and newspaper editorials were all well and good, but the movement also needed men of action like Charles Lamar. To this end Calonius sets out to document Charles Lamar’s start in life as a blue-eyed child of fortune, how a tragic maritime accident apparently warps his psyche, and finally, under the spell of the Fire-eaters, declares his open defiance of the U.S. Constitution. After a number of failed attempts to smuggle slaves into the U.S. he finally throws down the gauntlet, by publicly announcing the African Squadron would have to catch his boat The Wanderer before they could dream of placing a noose around his neck. Insulated, wealthy, and powerful, he calculated those qualities alone would be sufficient to forestall conviction in a Southern courtroom. When the Wanderer was found out and criminal trials began, it was evident Lamar had read the political climate well. Federal efforts to bring he or his co-conspirators to justice were thwarted through kidnapping, evidence tampering, and intimidation of prosecution witnesses, all under his direction, as well as juries predisposed to acquit the defendants.

As Calonius points out, slave trading was alive and well not only in the Caribbean, and Cuba in particular, but the hub for making arrangements for ships and men lay in New York City. A small fortune could be made by those willing to risk their money on the crossing to and from Africa. In Cuba, for example, one slave could fetch the trader between eight and twenty times the cost paid in Africa. The average seaman could earn $1.50 for each slave safely landed. For the plantations on the island, one slave equaled one ton of increased sugar production. Against a flagging Southern economy, a growing consensus that slavery should be contained where it was already established, the dreamers of a slave holding empire were prepared to strike.

Contrary to popular belief, the Fire-eaters welcomed the election of Abraham Lincoln. He was the lightning rod that furthered their cause and rallied those who previously lacked the same convictions to their sides. The prospect of Stephen Douglass occupying the White House would have hindered their cause, would have continued the union of North and South. Instead, here was the “Laughing President,” the man who believed slavery should continue, but would not agree to its expansion; the man who would stand in the way of empire building. In the words of Charles Lamar, “We shall have disunion, certain if Lincoln is elected. I hope Lincoln is elected. I want dissolution and have, I think, contributed more than any man South for it.” Lamar’s was not a view shared by all. As Calonius states, a modern analysis of Georgia’s vote for secession indicates the motion carried by a margin of 1,000 votes out of over 80,000 cast and there is reason to suspect fraud influenced the outcome.

In many ways the Wanderer itself, Charles Lamar, and the Confederacy are parables to one another. Fast, defiant, and proud at their start. At the end each a shell of its former self, stripped of pride while approaching the decay of death’s door, and finally sinking beneath the waves of defeat.

Calonius’ book stands out for a history. Most historians can write fairly well, but what they lack are the skills “a writer” can bring to that same event. This is a beautifully written book full of imagery that fills the reader’s mind with those images, of historical characters that have been fully breathed to life. Even without the pictures which accompany the book we can visualize Charles Lamar, the city of Savannah, the Congo River, the boat Wanderer and its miserable human cargo confined in a space that allowed four feet by one foot for each of them.

I have an eclectic taste when reading history and have reacted as positively and enthuiastically only one time before, that being to Nathaniel Philbrick’s “In the Heart of the Sea.” Neither Calonius or Philbrook are historians, but what they do have in common is an ability to do meticulous research and weave those documents into a story that can and will appeal to even a casual reader. To those who focus on the Civil War, this St. Martin’s Press release will add to their knowledge of the swirl of events that brought this nation closer to the precipice of war. I would add too, that an excellent companion book to "The Wanderer," is Don Fehrenbacher's "The Slaveholding Republic," a book which examines constitutional issues and the Federal government's relations to slavery.

In sum, "The Wanderer" is a highly recommended and fascinating read.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Well, Globe Trekker did not have a Civil War specific show this weekend, at least not in the South Carolina showing. I'll keep looking, who knows it might eventually show up when the listing tells me it's about snails in the Amazon.

My kids were all ready to watch it and since they didn’t show it,I was treated to an episode of Avatar: the Last Airbender on Nickelodeon. I thought it only fair to watch something they liked since they were going to subject themselves to a show for me.

Man, I wish cartoons had been that cool when I was growing up! :)

I also finished up Devotion by Julia Oliver, released by University of Georgia Press

Devotion by Julia Oliver

My first impression was that it was one strange book, until I digested it a bit. The book is told from several different perspectives and Miss Oliver does a great job giving each voice a distinct tone and character. It threw me off at first that the beginning of the book seemed so haphazard until I realized that it was done on purpose, to hear Winnie Davis’ thoughts as she was suffering in the end.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

This weekend, the PBS show Globe Trekker will be visiting the American Civil War. The official summary states

A tour of key Civil War sites includes stops at Manassas, Antietam, Gettysburg, Richmond, Appomattox and Harpers Ferry. Also: a reenactment in Standardsville, Va.

Check out PBS’ website for local airtimes

Friday, November 03, 2006

I’ve mentioned previously, I am out to clear General James Barnes’ tarnished name. I may not succeed but I will do everything possible to see it happen. Tonight, I took a little baby step forward towards the goal.

The best place to start is the beginning, unless it is a mystery, then you start at the end. I’m not sure what to call this so let’s start with what is fact and not up for any discussion.

  • James Barnes was classmates with Robert E Lee at West Point
  • He spent some time in the army and then worked on Railroads
  • When the Civil War started, he was appointed to lead the 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, a bit of an anomaly as he was one of the few Colonels who had actual military experience
  • He would lead the regiment, brigade and finally a division at Gettysburg
  • He was injured the second day and pulled off the field
  • After he recuperated, he was the Military Governor of Norfolk under Butler and then in charge of the prison at Point Lookout, Maryland.

Everything else is a mess.

If you take a look at what most websites describe General Barnes they would do so in the following manner (or worse) “He did not perform well at Gettysburg”.

Unfortunately, with much in the Civil War History, it seems one person writes something and so many others copy and then even more copy the first copiers. In this case, it was a letter to a newspaper from someone who courageously gave their name as Historicus (in itself was a ripoff of a Roman historian) to the New York Herald. The letter was critical of General Meade and several of his generals, while at the same time praised the actions of General Sickles. General Meade was very critical of Sickles in his official report so many have assumed that it was Sickles who wrote the letter.

Since Meade could not prove this, he was advised to let it blow over and be forgotten, unfortunately, most have not forgotten what was in the letter as it has been used against General Barnes for a century and a half.

Civil War Home has a great page on the controversy and I would highly suggest you taking a look at it. You can also view General Barnes’ reply to the Herald

On some other day, I’ll have a better summary but I wanted to give a brief background before sharing something new.

There were several accusations against James Barnes actions, all equally damning. Even so, one that has really irked me is the insuation that Barnes’ division laid down in order to let men willing to fight go forward into the lines:

"An alarming incident, however, occurred. Barnes' division, of the Fifth Corps, suddenly gave way; and Sickles, seeing this, put a battery in position to check the enemy if he broke through this gap on our front, and General Birney was sent to order Barnes back into line. 'No,' he said; 'impossible. It is too hot. My men cannot stand it.' Remonstrance was unavailing, and Sickles dispatched his aides to bring up any troops they met to fill this blank. Major Tremaine, of his staff, fell in with General Zook, at the head of his brigade (Second Corps), and this gallant officer instantly volunteered to take Barnes' place. When they reached the ground, Barnes' disordered troops impeded the advance of the brigade. 'If you can't get out of the way,' cried Zook, 'lie down, and I will march over you.' Barnes ordered his men to lie down, and the chivalrous Zook and his splendid brigade, under the personal direction of General Birney, did march over them and right into the breach. Alas! poor Zook soon fell, mortally wounded, and half of his brigade perished with him."

Barnes would reply in his letter:

All this is pure invention. No such occurrence as is here related took place. There is not a particle of truth in it. No order was given to me by General Birney. None was received by me through any one from General Sickles. I did not see or hear from General Zook. I did not meet him in any way. I did not know he was there, and the article above referred to is the first intimation that I have had that any one pretended that any such event took place. There was no order to advance-no refusal; no order to lie down given to the command by me or by any one else to my knowledge; no passing over my command (I should be sorry to see any body of men attempt to do such a thing in my division); nothing of the kind occurred that ever came to my knowledge, and I think I should have heard of such a thing before this late day if it, or anything like it, had taken place; the whole story is untrue in every particular, and my astonishment at now hearing of such a thing for the first time may possibly be imagined.

Unfortunately Historicus would raise his ugly head again and send a reply to the Herald to answer General Barnes’ defenses:

As General Barnes denies all this roundly, under his own signature, it is proper I should give the names of those who cheerfully came forward to corroborate in every point the facts I stated. I refer General Barnes, first to the letter of General de Trobriand, in the Herald of March 29, where he states that a portion of Barnes' division fell back and took position in his rear, and that in spite of his remonstrance they finally withdrew altogether without being engaged. This confirms what I alleged; but I have positive testimony in a private letter from General Birney, which he will not object I am sure, to my using. When he saw Barnes withdrawing his troops before they had received a shot, he remonstrated at Barnes' leaving a dangerous gap in his line, as well as abandoning the good position. It was of no avail, for Barnes retired. I copied the following from General Birney's letter:-
"He (Barnes) moved to the rear from three to four hundred yards, and formed in the rear of the road which passed from the Emmettsburg Road to the Round Top. When Zook's Brigade, the first one brought to me, came up, Barnes' troops (being in the way) were, at my request, ordered to lie down, and the Brigade from the Second corps passed over their prostrate bodies into the fight, under my command, relieving de Trobriand's left. A portion of the troops of Barnes were afterwards detached and fought splendidly under another commander. I mentioned the conduct of General Barnes to his corps commander General Sykes, and also to General Sedgwick, that night, after the Council; and Sykes told me that Colonel Sweitzer who commanded one of Barnes' Brigades, had reported the same thing."

Soon after General Meade would ask President Lincoln for a Court of Inquiry to clear his actions at the battle. President Lincoln would respond

…It is quite natural that you should feel some sensibility on the subject; yet-I am not impressed, nor do I think the country is impressed, with the belief that your honor demands, or the public interest demands, such an inquiry. The country knows that at all events you have done good service; and I believe it agrees with me that it is much better
And at this point General Meade and General Barnes would stop trying to defend themselves. Unfortunately, so many of the original historians would take Historicus’ letter as the pure truth, it would be repeated by those that would follow.

Unfortunately, President Lincoln was a bit off with this one as it never did quite blow over and history has seemed to take Historicus’ side of the affair as truth and has been repeated so often by so many historians who did not further their research, it has become gospel.

Until one Al M. Gambone would write a book about General Zook - if tomorrow night finds me dead ... The Life of General Samuel K. Zook, Another Forgotten Union Hero (Baltimore, Maryland: Butternut and Blue, 1996) and follow it up with an article on Military History Online DATE WITH DESTINY ... and DISTORTION: The death of Union General Samuel K. Zook where he puts forth the following:

Tradition tells us that as Zook led his men into the Wheatfield, they found the ranks of General Barnes strewn on the ground. That condition caused Zook to holler: "Get out of the way [or] lie down and I'll come over you directly." Barnes' men then reportedly did lie down and Zook's men "did march over them and right into the breach." This entire scenario can only be viewed as typical Civil War hyperbole. Imagine for a moment that you are one of Barnes' men. You are in a thick, blue woolen uniform, men are shooting at you - trying to kill you, you are hot, frightened [or at least worried], you have a loaded rifle and someone is telling you they intend to send men and heavy horses to walk over you. I don't think so! ... [This leads me to my favorite saying ... be careful of that which you read, hear or see about the American Civil War]

Someone in Zook's brigade recorded the following as they actually entered the Wheatfield. This plus all the facts surrounding Zook's access, demonstrate that the earlier entry-story is a figment of Sickles' invention.

... we marched forward to the attack ... alongside the mountain, the tumult was deafening ... We were enveloped in smoke and fire, not only in front, but on our left, and even at times on the right.
So it looks like we have some solid evidence to knock out the troops had to lie down so others could fight and I am quite happy for it.

Granted there are still a lot of other things that need to be looked at, like General Barnes pulling his men off early – but I am taking this one baby step at a time.

Hopefully I’ll be running soon and General Barnes will have a much better reputation and I will be able to sleep a bit better, knowing I was able to help an innocent man.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Recently a story teller, Tim Lowry, came to my middle child’s school. He does a pretty neat program of telling stories and then having the kids
write newspaper articles about them. He comes back later and tells some more stories and has a newspaper with a collection of the stories that he sells and donates the money to charity.

I thought that I would let my son post his story on the blog.

Blogosphere, this is Stephen.

Stephen, this is the Blogosphere.

A.B. Young :Civil War Soldier
A.B. wanted so very badly to get married. He joined the army to impress his girlfriend’s dad. He thought Army life would be easy and the war would be over soon. Boy was he wrong. Young fought at the battle of Bull Run, that was a mistake.

He killed a child’s mom with a cannon, Well, sadly he died on the battlefield. He was charged by a Confederate soldier and shot in the chest, he fell to the ground in shame. Well, poor ol’ A.B. never saw his gal again ‘cause he was buried at Bull Run.

Tom back again.

I emailed Mr. Lowry for more information on Mr. Young but have yet to hear back. I did a quick search on artillerymen
with first name starting with an A and last name of Young – there were quite a few. So, I’ll spend some time looking to see if I can’t find more information out about Mr. Young and see if there is anything else out there about him.

Also, check out Mr. Lowry's site, he has some interesting things for sale with Civil War connections.
A couple of days ago Tom sent an Email which included some archived articles from Civil War era newspapers he found on line which mentioned the 18th Massachusetts. One, in particular, nearly bowled me over, simply because I had been trying to find the article for years. Nine to be precise. That article was written by William Russell, a correspondent for the Times of London, in which he paid a complement to the18th. I first learned Russell had written such an article from a letter composed by a member of the Regiment. My failed efforts to find the article included online searches, sending an Email to the Archivist at the Times of London, and purchasing a book by Russell detailing his trip to America, which not only recorded his observations of a country at war with itself, but also some his columns.

Along came Tom’s Email and Russell’s three sentences about the Regiment. The word count didn’t matter, finding the article was all that did. I told Tom that every time I had a question about the Regiment that needed an answer, one was always forthcoming. It might take a while, but there was always an answer. I informed Tom the delay in finding Russell’s article was probably due to the time it took to deliver a Trans-Atlantic telepathic message to and from a dead guy in England. If you’ve read my stuff, then you know I’m saying this tongue in cheek, sort of.

Another example that comes to mind was trying to find information on Camp Convalescence, which had been located in Alexandria, VA. The camp was used as a rendezvous point for new recruits, deserters, and invalided or wounded Union soldiers who were determined well enough not to remain in the hospital while awaiting further orders. A large number of latter group were eventually transferred to the Invalid Corps, later renamed the Veterans Reserve Corps. Again, all sorts of search techniques were employed without success, until I stumbled on Mary Livermore’s memoirs “My Story of the War.” I then read about the hell hole “Camp Misery” really was.

In the large encampment at Alexandria were included four camps. One was for "new recruits awaiting orders to join regiments in the-field." Another was for paroled prisoners waiting exchange. Another for stragglers and deserters, captured and soon to be forwarded to their regiments. And the fourth was for convalescents from the Washington and Maryland hospitals. The first two were in anything but a good condition, there being great destitution of everything needful and convenient. The stragglers' camp was neglected and disorderly, as might be expected; but the convalescent camp was a perfect Golgotha…The convalescents were camped at the foot of the slope, where it was forever damp, even in dry weather, from the drainage of the camps above.

Here, ranged in streets named from the states to which they belonged, were fifteen thousand feeble men, all of them unfit for duty, and sent here to recover. "Recover!"---this was the governmental fiction which glossed over the worst condition of things I had ever beheld.

Most of the men were poorly clad, without blankets, straw, or money, though many had seven or eight months' pay due them. They were lodged, in the depth of a very severe winter, in wedge and Sibley tents of the smallest pattern, five or six to a tent, without floors or fires, or means of making any, amid deep mud or frozen clods. They were obliged to cook their own food and obtain their own fuel; and, as all the timber in the neighborhood had been cut, it was necessary for them to go a mile for even green wood.

They slept on the bare ground, or, when it rained, as it did while we were there, in the mud. Their food was the uninviting rations of the healthy men. There were but three surgeons for the four camps; and if the boys needed medicine, they must go to one of them. The surgeons only visited the hospital of the camp, which was full and running over, so that many were refused admission who were seriously sick, and who remained in their tireless and bedless tents. Such destitution, squalor, and helplessness, I had never beheld. Bowel diseases were very prevalent; throat and lung difficulties met us at every turn, and the incessant coughing made us all nervous.

So now, here’s my latest question, posed on Thursday, November 2, 2006. Where is the 18th Mass.’s Adjutant, Fisher Ames Baker, buried? I was planning a trip to New York City later this month and was all prepared to see his grave at Oakland Cemetery in Yonkers and take a picture of his former home on Broadway in the same city. Baker resided in Yonkers after the war, where he briefly served as an Alderman and earned his keep as a Wall Street attorney. A Dartmouth graduate, the main library at the College is named in his honor, thanks to a very healthy donation from his nephew, whose monies were used to build the library in 1928.

I called Oakland Cemetery, learned they had all gravesites recorded, and then received the disappointing news that neither Fisher nor his wife Catherine were buried there. I’m probably going to delay the trip to the Big Apple for this reason, even though I have enough on my research plate to keep busy for as many days as I choose to spend there. However, I’m confident that someone will read this article and tell someone, who will tell someone, who will tell someone, and so on, and so forth until it finally reaches Fisher that I’m looking for him and he’ll respond with the name of the cemetery.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I’m beginning to believe Libertarians have a lousy sense of or no sense at all when it comes to American history. I was searching the Internet for information on secession as it related to the Civil War and stumbled across two Web sites, both of which advocate secession and breaking the United States into lots of separate little countries. On the surface of things Libertarians believe that you should be able to do what you want to do when you want to, as long as you don’t violate anybody’s rights. I guess that means all Libertarians are members of “Drivers for Drunk Drivers,” until drunk drivers get into an accident and kill people.

There are various schools of Libertaraian thought, ranging from the far right to the far left, but the agenda is pretty much the same, i.e. minimal government, which provides us with adequate protection from domestic or foreign bullies, and someone to keep our roads paved. I’m not even going to provide the Web addresses. If you’re so inclined you can find the sites yourself by typing in the word secession.

Lest you think I’m kidding about people wanting to seceed from the United States, one group is even holding a convention in Burlington, VT in early November. The agenda’s pretty simple, promotion of a political movement to achieve secession from the United States, by peaceful means, of course. Don't cross that threshhold and suggest violence or the F.B.I. will be on you like white on rice, maybe. A map on one Web site featured more than a hundred separate countries within the boundaries of the United States. Are these people stupid? Not really. Lots of them would be labeled intellectuals and I’m sure that many of us would or could agree with some points they would attempt to make. No one would really argue against lowering taxes, but like it or not you need to have taxes to pay for local services such as fire and police departments, hospitals, schools, social services, the arts, recreation facilities, and on and on and on. From where I sit Libertarianism is much like the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest. It’s a philosophy supportive of elitism and divisiveness and does not dare speak of community or inclusiveness.

So what set me off you ask? It’s finding Web sites like those cited above and considering books such as "Lincoln Unmasked" and "The South Was Right," although the latter is not a Libertarian publication. Two years ago the annual ceremony to commemorate the battle of Fredericksburg, which is conducted by the National Park Service, was not held due to the reconstruction of the Sunken Road. A group of Confederate re-enactors and various Confederate descendant organizations decided to hold their own ceremony in the Confederate cemetery in Fredericksburg. Because I had presented a wreath in honor of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry for a number of years I was extended an invitation to participate. I went because I wanted to continue the tradition, but talk about walking into an ambush, or better yet feeling like the Union troops who tried to march up Marye’s Heights.

The main speaker was a gentleman who was Robert E. Lee reincarnate, or so he cast himself as Lee reincarnate. He spoke of the Confederate cause, elevating it to the level of a religious crusade, i.e. Crusaders versus infidels, citing the fact that “every Confederate soldier” could recite the Bible by chapter and verse, forward and backward. And then he went into a very detailed analysis of the Confederate battle flag, stating red was purposely chosen as the primary background color by Confederate leaders because it represented the blood of Christ. I don’t want to misrepresent his words, as I don’t recall them exactly, but the white and blue in the flag also had religious connotations, the blue I believe being the cross on which Christ suffered. What he failed to mention was the flag was not adopted for widespread use until 1863, so I wonder what the Rebel armies thought or believed prior to that time when they followed their flags into battle. It is true that following the defeat at Gettysburg a religious revival swept through Confederate ranks, but that same revival was also embraced by Union troops. I guess the adage about atheists not occupying foxholes is true.

All I remember during this ceremony was a feeling of great discomfort and a desire to walk away. Maybe the members of the 28th Massachusetts re-enactors had already figured out how this ceremony was going to go, because they declined the invitation. Me, I’m sort of a trusting soul. But in the course of that ceremony, as I listened, it hit me that I could find no better way to honor the 18th Massachusetts and their dead at Fredericksburg then to place my wreath, not in defiance, but in respect for their sacrifice, though heathens they may be.

With Donald’s post yesterday on Samuel Jordan, I thought it only fitting to bring up two posts from the past.

In July, the Milford Daily News ran an article about Samuel Jordan and his service to his nation. To say it was a hatchet job with an agenda would be too kind. We reprinted the article at this link and also wrote a letter to the editor that explored Jordan and his true feelings – not the ones that the article’s author came up with.

Sadly, they never printed the letter. Luckily, we still have it. So here they are for you to enjoy.

Click here for the original article.

Click here for the letter to the editor.