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This is the archive for April 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Seminar's Saturday morning session continues as Scott Hartwig, a Supervisory Park Ranger at Gettysburg, follows William Hewitt and steps up to present to his audience “The Gettysburg Campaign and Battle – An Eclectic Review.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Co-sponsored by the Gettysburg National Military Park and The Gettysburg Foundation, this bi-annual seminar, which this year focused on “Gettysburg: The Aftermath and The End of the Campaign,” has to be one of the best kept secrets going. I found out about the seminar by word- of-mouth only three weeks before the event and was fortunate to get in, because enrollment was limited to 250 participnts. I’m labeling the seminar a well kept secret, because in February I had put together a long list of conferences and seminars scheduled for around the country during the year and will give you a guess as to one didn’t that appear on that list.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 9th to 11th was what could be labeled a combination weekend at Gettysburg. Friday the 9th was, in part, spent cleaning up around the 18th's monument on Sickles Ave, while the better part of the next two days were taken up by attending the recently completed Gettysburg Seminar sponsored by the National Park Service at the Gettysburg Hotel. There will be more reported on the bi-annual seminar during the week, but first there's something I want to share, something that's seemingly out of this world.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This is a genealogical truth: most branches of a family tree wither and die out after four generations. Charles Lachman's chronicle of Abraham Lincoln's family, "The Last Lincolns: The Rise and Fall of a Great American Family" certainly bears this out.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It is our 1000th post and I thought I would celebrate with our first attempt at spreading the Civil War Gospel, an article (blogs were not around then) on an old Geocities site. It was when I first started researching the unit and was experiencing massive failure in doing so. Writing helped make it a tad better.

Hope you enjoy.

Tom Vs The World

Part One: The Civil War Experience

I have come to a conclusion, my luck sucks. At first, that sounds pretty awful, imagine living your life with nothing but bad luck. Yes, you are doomed to nothing ever going right but once you start thinking about it, you get used to the idea. Maybe I should clarify my "bad luck" a little bit. I have a great family, a decent job (hope my boss is not reading this, but boss if you are, IT'S A GREAT JOB!!!!!!) and living a good life. But to quote my best friend "I can't win!"

I came to the this grand deduction while searching through my family roots. Now when people get started looking up their family history, they are usually told about "the black sheep" syndrome. That's where your image of the perfect family is shattered when you discover a long lost great-great- great uncle Ebenezer who was so strange that he read a passage in the Bible and decided it meant that he should forsake the use of fire and form a nudist colony in a desolate region of Siberia, or the triple murderer cousin Joe Bob, who killed three people in Texas because they wouldn't taste his scorpion casserole. You never know what you are going to come up with, and that's a chance you take. So far I have not been able to find any black sheep, heck I can barely find anything. And that's how this whole bad luck syndrome started.

I was lucky enough to have a great-aunt give me a family genealogy going back 13 generations. After reading it I got intrigued with my ancestors. "Who were these people? What did they do? Why did they do it?" were questions that I found myself asking. I thought it would be neat to add some life to the tree by finding more information out about all these people.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Every now and then, I am surprised at how far we as a country have come. While searching for that elusive Confederate relative, I found that I have a relative that is a veteran of The Spanish-American War. So I started following up leads on him and found something called “The Georgia Society of New York”.

I couldn’t find much on it, besides news articles in the New York Times and the Evening Independent. Most of the article were about events that the Society was holding but one, in the Evening Independent had the following:

New York, March 28 – Members of the Georgia Society of New York will give an entertainment this evening at the Plaza for the benefit of the philanthropic fund of the society. Impersonations of Southern darkies and mammies will be followed by a playlet and a reception and dance.

I have to admit, I am quite happy on how much we as a society have come over the past 100 years – and that we don’t have to worry about reading anything as offensive as this in today’s papers.

Friday, April 16, 2010

This past Wednesday my father called me up and asked if I had some information on a certain side of our family that I normally don’t concentrate on. While I moved over a year ago, most of my genealogical stuff is still packed away – and I lost a hard drive that had 5 years of work on it – so I asked that he give me through the weekend and let me see what I might be able to find.

Thanks to the “Wayback machine”, a wonderful tool that has archived webpage in how they used to look – I was able to find my old genealogical site but it only showed one family member – and none of her relatives.

After some extensive digging, I was able to reconstruct the family and found a lot of information I didn’t have. It’s one of those days that researchers dream of – you just can’t stop finding stuff and you are overwhelmed with information.

Now, there was always a rumor that I had Confederate blood but I have never been able to confirm it. While looking, I found out that my Great-Great Grandfather’s brother was Lt Governor of Alabama in the early 1900’s and on the Alabama state website, there is a biography that states his father (my Great-Great-Great Grandfather – ZT Gray) was a soldier for Georgia. I dug pretty deep and couldn’t find the connection to the 2nd Georgia that it claims. The fact that it is not mentioned in ZT’s obituary makes me wonder if it is true but for now, there is a chance that yes, I have some Confederate blood in me. Even so, don’t expect to see any changes in my ProUnion stance.

As a matter of fact, the other day it was announced that the Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum would not accept a monument to 150th anniversary to Succession. The sad thing on this was that the vote was incredibly close, a tie of 3-3.

Almost immediately after, the Mayor of North Charleston suggested that the monument be placed in the North Charleston Riverfront Park until the CSS Hunley Museum was finished, at which time it would be moved there. Surprisingly, at least to the mayor, there was a public outcry to this notion.

In a Post and Courier article about it,

One outraged resident was Michelle Hilton, who said the idea of celebrating secession is an affront to the blacks who make up nearly 49 percent of the city's population.

"It reminds me that we were shackled once," said Hilton, who added she could not understand why such a public venue would even be considered.

"That's a place where we want to feel comfortable with our families," she said. "I can't say I feel comfortable taking my family there knowing there is a monument reminding everyone that, as a race, they tried to keep us down."

While it was interesting to see the reaction within the article, the comments were quite juicy too. As usual, The Lost Cause showed its ugly head almost immediately, trying to put down anyone who would claim it was slavery that caused the war and asking everyone to please stop bringing up slavery, it’s over. While this was followed by the sensible folks reminding everyone of Jim Crow laws, one thing that came out was a beautiful comment that pulled up and put it so well I thought for sure it would bring the whole thing to a closure

I see that we have some eager historians here who are into primary sources. Allow me to recommend a document called the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. You can find it at along with similar documents from Georgia and Mississippi.

Since I am most familiar with the SC document, I will give you a summary.

The document has a brief preamble and a conclusion. Aside from those, there are 25 paragraphs.

The first 13 support the idea that states have the right to secede if they feel mistreated.

The next 12 paragraphs describe in detail what has made SC feel mistreated. All 12 describe threats to slavery and encroachments upon the rights of slaveholders...helping slaves escape, refusing to return runaway slaves, and the election of a President who will limit slavery's expansion, limiting the capacity of slave states to protect the practice in Congress.

The word "TARIFF" does not appear ANYWHERE in the document. You will hear it much more frequently from the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

This document was approved by the 170 brave souls under consideration for a place of honor in community.

To say that these men were not rallying in support of slavery is absurd.

To deny that the Confederacy was formed to defend slavery is to put oneself in the company of Holocaust deniers.

Sadly, I was wrong and people continued to fight that it wasn’t so. One of the strongest proponents replied

This is a monument to the Confederacy, not a monument to slavery

Too bad he doesn’t get that the Confederacy equals slavery and there is nothing that anyone can say to change it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I just finished Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and would have to say that it was worth the $12 I paid for it at Sam’s Club.


If you are looking for a fast, somewhat interesting take on President Lincoln, this could be your book. My main issue with it was that it seemed to drag at times as it explained what was going on, using diary entries, intermixed with the narration of the author.

Also while the author gave a plausible explanation of how and why, he spent so much time in the beginning of the story, I felt let down at the limited amount of time spent in the Civil War. That being said, Grahame-Smith opens the door to obvious sequels with a twist or two at the end. The twist and outcome I disagree with, based on what the author spent so much effort on earlier in the book – but it was interesting no less.

On the plus side, take out the Vampire part and you have a decent enough look at the President and his life. It even has the rocker that Donald mentions in yesterday’s post.

Keeping the Vampire part in, it gives a good story of Vampires in America – much better than the Twilight garbage that is out there.

All in all, buy it and enjoy it as the work of fiction it is. Let’s just hope people don’t pull a DaVinci Code on it and start believing that this truly happened.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, check it out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Locked into a forty to fifty hour per week grind of a job that you absolutely hate? Then Gloria Swift will make you hate that job even more. As Curator of the Ford's Theater Museum she's doing something she absolutely loves, i.e. seeing and touching history every single work day and still getting goose bumps in the process. She's so passionate about her work, in fact, that her husband has been urging her to write an article titled "Dead Men I Have Loved."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A former seminary student whose passion turned from religion to looking fashionably good in the saddle while riding hard and fast as a courier for the Confederacy, John Harrison Surratt was the only member of the conspiracy to kidnap/assassinate Abraham Lincoln who was tried before a civil court and the only one to escape punishment. Had he been caught in the dragnet that swept up members of Booth's team in April 1865 Surratt would have undoubtedly swung from the gallows next to his mother Mary. Former Navy pilot and now full time author Andrew C.A. Jampoler traces Surratt's flight to avoid prosecution, his capture in, of all places, Alexandria, Egypt, and a quirk in the law that ultimately set him free. After hearing the full story no one should wonder as to why Surratt's post-assassination saga helped fuel allegations of the Catholic Church's complicity in Lincoln's murder.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Being Easter Sunday, this excerpt from a letter written by Benjamin F. De Costa, an Episcopalian Priest who served as Chaplain of the 18th Massachusetts from January 1862 to July 1862, is being offered for perusal. There’s an irony to De Costa’s judgments of and biases against Catholicism as he converted to that faith very late in life, disillusioned by the Episcopal Church he served for close to forty years. The 18th Massachusetts Infantry, as part of the Army of Potomac, was then encamped near Yorktown, Virginia.


Camp Winfield Scott, Yorktown, Virginia