Library Additions July 2017 (2)

I recently received a complimentary review copy of the self-published memoir Hilltop Doc: A Marine Corpsman Fighting Through the Mud and Blood of the Korean War written by Leonard Adreon.

As a Marine corpsman, Leonard Adreon saw some of the worst of the Korean War’s carnage and the best of its humanity. His gripping description brings to life the war between the Chinese army and the U.S. Marines as they battled to take the high ground. You will feel the anguish, the frustration and the terror endured by Marines on the hillsides of Korea, and how U.S. troops fought with valor and esprit de corps under adverse conditions and against massive Chinese forces. As a corpsman, Adreon tells the story from the unique perspective of a young man from St. Louis, with no medical background, thrown into the role of saving lives amid the war’s violence. He leavens the grim, emotional, and sometimes ironic battlefield scenes with his background story – of how his own mistakes and the military’s bumbling landed him at Korea’s 38th Parallel.

Learn more by visiting Mr. Adreon’s website by clicking HERE.

With my current writing being about Korean War vets this one will no doubt rise to near the top of my to be read pile considering the early reviews have been positive.

Library Additions–July 2017 (1)

Hurley, Richard. California and the Civil War (Civil War Series). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2017. 176 pages, index, annotated bibliography, end notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9781625858245, $21.99.

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for sending along a complimentary review copy. From their website:

In the long and bitter prelude to war, southern transplants dominated California government, keeping the state aligned with Dixie. However, a murderous duel in 1859 killed “Free Soil” U.S. Senator David C. Broderick, and public opinion began to change. As war broke out back east, a golden-tongued preacher named Reverend Thomas Starr King crisscrossed the state endeavoring to save the Golden State for the Union. Seventeen thousand California volunteers thwarted secessionist schemes and waged brutal campaigns against native tribesmen resisting white encroachment as far away as Idaho and New Mexico. And a determined battalion of California cavalry journeyed to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to battle John Singleton Mosby, the South’s deadliest partisan ranger. Author Richard Hurley delves into homefront activities during the nation’s bloodiest war and chronicles the adventures of the brave men who fought far from home.

Library Additions–June 2017 (1)

Dekle, George R. Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. 231 pages, index, bibliography, end notes, b/w photos. ISBN 978089335978, $34.50.

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a complimentary review copy. From their website:

According to conventional wisdom, Abraham Lincoln spent most of his law career collecting debt and representing railroads, and this focus made him inept at defending clients in homicide cases. In this unprecedented study of Lincoln’s criminal cases, George Dekle disproves these popular notions, showing that Lincoln was first and foremost a trial lawyer. Through careful examination of Lincoln’s homicide cases and evaluation of his legal skills, Dekle demonstrates that criminal law was an important part of Lincoln’s practice, and that he was quite capable of defending people accused of murder, trying approximately one such case per year.

Dekle begins by presenting the viewpoints of not only those who see Lincoln as a perfect lawyer whose only flaw was his inability to represent the wrong side of a case but also those who believe Lincoln was a less-than-honest legal hack. The author invites readers to compare these wildly different stereotypes with the flesh-and-blood Lincoln revealed in each case described in the book, including an axe murder suit in which Lincoln assisted the prosecution, a poisoning case he refused to prosecute for $200 but defended for $75, and a case he won by proving that a supposed murder victim was actually still alive.

For each case Dekle covers, he first tells the stories of the feuds, arguments, and insults that led to murder and other criminal activity, giving a gripping view of the seamy side of life in nineteenth-century Illinois. Then he traces the course of the pretrial litigation, describes the trials and the various tactics employed in the prosecution and defense, and critiques the performance of both Lincoln and his adversaries.

Dekle concludes that Lincoln was a competent, diligent criminal trial lawyer who knew the law, could argue it effectively to both judge and jury, and would use all lawful means to defend clients whether he believed them to be innocent or guilty. His trial record shows Lincoln to have been a formidable defense lawyer who won many seemingly hopeless cases through his skill as a courtroom tactician, cross-examiner, and orator. Criminal defendants who could retain Lincoln as a defense attorney were well represented, and criminal defense attorneys who sought him as co-counsel were well served. Providing insight into both Lincoln’s legal career and the culture in which he practiced law, Prairie Defender resolves a major misconception concerning one of our most important historical figures.

Blue & Gray Magazine to Cease Publication

Today marks a sad day as the excellent Civil War magazine Blue & Gray announced they will cease publication. You may read their post outlining the reasons by clicking here. It’s nothing you wouldn’t expect.

Please remember we have to support the independent publishers that remain, whether it be books or magazines, or they too may go the way of North & South several years ago and now Blue & Gray. Remember we almost lost Civil War News recently as well.

Book Review–Hidden History of Civil War Savannah

Jordan, Michael L. Hidden History of Civil War Savannah (Civil War Series). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2017. 159 pages, index, selected bibliography, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9781626196438, $21.99.

Attracting nearly 14 million visitors a year who make an economic impact of over 2.5 BILLION dollars, Savannah is a tourist mecca whether it be for partying such as St. Patrick’s Day, the food and drink selections, or for business. There is no doubt many of these visitors will be taken by the beauty and the history this city has to offer. Of those interested in history a high percentage will certainly be interested in the Civil War if for no reason other than the  famous words sent by William T. Sherman to President Lincoln; “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.” A book such as this will be a good introduction to the city for those interested in the “late unpleasantness” or maybe a souvenir for the armchair historian.

Nine different aspects of Civil War history in Savannah are covered in the book. The first chapter jumps right into the fray by discussing Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens “Corner-stone Speech” from March 21, 1861, given in Savannah. It was in this speech that Stephens uttered the words; “…that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery–subordination to the superior race–is his natural and normal condition.” Those looking for the cause of the war should probably look no further.

Further chapters cover the story of local hero Francis Bartow and his untimely death during the Battle of First Bull Run. An interesting story here concerns the placing of what might be called the first battlefield monument in his honor, though it was later destroyed by relic hunters and Union soldiers.  Future Army of Northern Virginia leader Robert E. Lee made stopped in the city before the war and then returned after the war in the spring of 1870. The story of the ill-fated ironclad CSS Atlanta is told here for those with an interest in naval concerns. The hard to maneuver, deep drafted ship never did put up a good fight as its multiple design flaws led to it running aground during its first battle.

As the war continued the number of prisoners of war increased and as the war came further south, in March 1864 Savannah became home to more than 600 Union officers who had been captured and imprisoned. Before being transferred to Charleston these men remarked on the decent food provided, the shade of the live oak trees, and humane treatment by guards. In October more than 7,000 prisoners being evacuated from Andersonville called Savannah home for a very short time. Despite conditions being better than they were accustomed to, more than 100 of the ill prisoners died while in the city.

The final chapters tell the story of the Confederate Army escape from the city in anticipation of the arrival of Sherman and his men. A seemingly out-of-order chapter on the Savannah fire of January 1865 that while not set by Union troops occurred while they inhabited the city tells an interesting story considering the legends of Sherman burning his way through the state. The story of the citizens of Savannah wanting to rejoin the Union, particularly once the city was occupied by Union forces is given a chapter. The book closes with the mandatory chapter on Confederate memory in the city. Efforts by the local Ladies Memorial Association and their contribution to the Laurel Grove North (read that as white) cemetery are covered well. The history, and controversy, over the large Confederate monument in Forsyth park is well told.

Overall I found this to be a good introduction to the city and it’s part in the war. This is certainly not a full in-depth treatment and much more could be said. For most however this is a book that will fill their needs. It covers some basics, includes plenty of notes for those wanting to find further sources, and is easy to read.

For those wondering, this is not a tour guide. If that is what you are looking for you should also consider picking up a copy of Civil War Walking Tour of Savannah. This book contains two walking and two driving tours that will lead you to many well-known, and some lesser known locations. These two books, taken as a pair, will be more than enough for the majority of visitors.

LSU Press Fall 2017 Catalog Available

LSU Press has their fall 2017 catalog available online. Click here and take your pick of catalogs to download. There are some great titles coming out soon. Examples include:

On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee, June 4-15, 1864 the final work by the masterful Gordon Rhea in his Overland Campaign series. A must have for those interested in the war in the east.

Also for those interested in the Army of Northern Virginia, don’t miss Hood’s Texas Brigade: The Soldiers and Families of the Confederacy’s Most Celebrated Unit (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) by Susannah Ural.

The highly respected Earl Hess returns with Civil War Logistics: A Study of Military Transportation Logistical superiority helped the North win the war according to Hess. Read the book and see if you agree.

There are several other Civil War titles. There are also local history titles, cookbooks, fiction, poetry, and more. Well worth taking a few minutes to review.

Press Release: Baylor University Digitizes the Guthrie Civil War Letters Collection

Love and War: Digitized Letters Preserve the Tale of a Texas Girl, Her Confederate Sweetheart and their Secret Engagement

‘This is the raw stuff of history,’ curator says of writings in The Texas Collection at Baylor University

WACO, Texas (Feb. 10, 2017) — Feb. 14 was coming up quickly, and the two young lovers’ emotions were heating up the hundreds of miles between them.

The 16-year-old girl wrote to her adored fiancé that “my heart is ever with you, my prayers daily offered up for you.”

The young Confederate soldier rhapsodized about his “darling angel” and his desire to “plant a lover’s kiss on thy ruby lips and with words of burning love rekindle the fire of devotion . . . ”

They were secretly engaged, and they sent their love, not with a tap of a finger on a cellphone, but by pressing quill pen to paper in letters that today — more than 150 years after the Civil War that kept them apart — are creased, torn and  rusty in places.

They wrote at least 32 letters to one another between 1861 and 1864, often waiting a month or two to receive them because of slow and unreliable wartime mail. While some bear February 1863 dates, not one mentions Valentine’s Day — unusual compared with modern times, says Eric Ames, digital collections curator for Baylor University Libraries.

Feb. 14 as a romantic holiday was still relatively new in the United States. Or “it may just be that then, it wasn’t a matter of, ‘This is a special day to tell you how much I love you,’” Ames said. “If you were thinking, ‘I could die any day,’ then you took any day, every chance you got, to say, ‘I love you.’”

Ames scanned, transcribed and uploaded the letters of Virginia Eliza “Jennie” Adkins — the daughter of a Marshall, Texas, judge — and Maj. John Nathan Coleman, commissary officer of the Third Texas Cavalry, which saw action at such key battles as the one at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Atlanta campaign. The digitized letters are housed in The Texas Collection at Baylor.

(Read this story on our website at Civil War letters.)

While Coleman was responsible for procurement of food and other supplies, he saw “a fair amount of combat,” Ames said. But he spared his wife-to-be the violent details — “TMI,” by today’s social media standards — in his letters.

“Even in the darkest days of our confederacy I tried to cheer you up,” he wrote.

Just as social media today carries the risk of misinterpretation, so did the couple’s written correspondence. As they waited for the next letter, both had ample time to read between the lines for implications, both good and bad.

Coleman, who was 26 when the war began, was “a pretty typical jealous boyfriend” — troubled to learn about the concerts and balls that Adkins occasionally attended with some officers stationed in Marshall, Ames said.

Adkins assured him, “You cannot conceive how much you are loved, and how often you are thought of.”

Sometimes the soldier’s life was monotonous, sometimes filled with dread and sorrow — and nearly always uncomfortable, despite the socks and comforter that Adkins sent him.

“I . . . can sleep in a mud hole as comfortable as a feather bed,” he wrote. Occasionally, there was respite — such as meeting kind people in Tennessee and enjoying maple syrup and molasses there.

“It is a new thing to us to see the trees dripping” sap, Coleman wrote.

On a somber note, Adkins wrote that one Christmas, while attending parties, “I often thought I could hear you calling me by my name . . . I left one night from a party before I had been there an hour. All at once a feeling came over me I could not account for . . . Don’t think I was the least superstitious, but after referring to your letters, I find that about that time you were in a battle . . . ”

As the war continued, paper became scarce and expensive. At times, the youthful pair’s intense back-and-forthing was “a little schizophrenic, and he (Coleman) gets melodramatic as he realizes there is no way the South will win,” Ames said. “He just wants to get back.”

Sometimes, a jest was mistaken for a jab, and apologies ensued. And then there is the puzzle of Coleman’s hair.

“My health is better than in two years . . . even my baldness is passing away and a beautiful black hair is once more covering my head,” Coleman wrote. “My whiskers have also returned much blacker and have grown four inches long.”

Responded Adkins: “I am very happy to know you are enjoying good health, and that your hair is growing out thick and black. After all I will not have a gray baldheaded husband. But I don’t like very long whiskers.”

Ames said the discussion “struck me as joking. But that’s always the challenge with these kinds of letters. They never had any reason to think anyone else would ever read these letters.”

How did the two meet? What sparked the flame? And most of all, why did they keep their engagement secret?

Some letters imply that Adkins’ father would have disapproved, perhaps questioning Coleman’s social standing or financial status. But “that’s just a guess,” Ames said.

Coleman, a merchant who owned a business before the war, had “a spotless military record” by war’s end, Ames said.

“There’s more to this story,” he said. “There are some letters we know are missing that were mentioned in others.

“I wish we had a little more to fill the gaps. But the letters do paint a pretty clear story of how they felt about each other and the deprivations of war. This is the raw stuff of history.”

Ames’ research revealed that Coleman survived — as did the couple’s love. They were married in August 1865, when Coleman returned to Marshall after receiving a parole from the Union Army, and they had six children. Coleman lost both legs in an industrial accident, and, in 1880, died at age 45. His wife never remarried, receiving a Confederate widower’s pension from the state of Texas for the final 18 years of her life. She died in 1932 at age 87.

*The letters were loaned to Baylor by the late Dr. Douglas Guthrie, a Mexia podiatrist and Civil War buff. He learned from a patient — Jennie Adkins’ great-granddaughter — that she and some relatives had dozens of letters written by a Confederate officer and his fiancée, and she offered to give her share to him. Guthrie attended a lecture by John Wilson, director of The Texas Collection, and after speaking with Wilson, agreed to loan the letters to Baylor. The digitized letters are in an online database in The Texas Collection in Carroll Library, 1429 S. Fifth St. on the Waco campus and may be viewed by appointment by calling (254) 710-1268.

 

Press Release: Navy Releases New Research into Civil War Sub Hunley

I am a bit late on this but I felt it important enough to post. Be sure to check the one link in order to download a FREE copy of the report. It is also available in print and a link for that is included as well.
Navy Releases New Research into Civil War Sub Hunley
From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
WASHINGTON – Just ahead of the 153rd anniversary of the loss of civil war submarine H.L. Hunley, the Naval History and Heritage Command Underwater Archaeology Branch released online an archaeological report on the recovery of the boat Feb. 15.

H. L. Hunley Recovery Operations, A Collaborative Project of: Naval History and Heritage Command, South Carolina Hunley Commission and Friends of the Hunley, by Robert S. Neyland, Ph.D., principal investigator and Heather Brown (2016 ISBN: 9780945274902) is a comprehensive report that covers the recovery of Hunley, from the planning stages through execution.

The report also provides detailed descriptions of objects excavated from the seabed and provides in-depth analysis of the submersible’s hull condition at the time of recovery.  Further reports documenting the excavation of the interior, including crew remains, personal effects and hull components will be forthcoming.
The book can be downloaded for free from NHHC’s website here: https://www.history.navy.mil/research/underwater-archaeology/sites-and-projects/ship-wrecksites/hl-hunley/recovery-report.html . If you prefer a print copy you may order one by clicking here .
Additionally, NHHC released a web-article detailing the collaborative efforts of archaeologists at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center at Clemson University; ship engineers at Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division; underwater explosive specialists at Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head EOD Technology Division; and a research team from the Marine Structures Design Laboratory at the University of Michigan. Using advanced digital modeling and simulation techniques, the team studied the effects of the explosion on Hunley and its crews, and the hull’s seagoing characteristics, to help understand the mystery of what caused Hunley to sink immediately after it carried out an attack on USS Housatonic off Charleston harbor on Feb. 17, 1864.
Find out more from the article, available on the NHHC website here:
On Feb. 17, 1864, after months of practice runs and weather delays, the Confederate submarine Hunley, under cover of darkness, silently approached USS Housatonic, a 16-gun, 1,240-ton sloop-of-war, on blockade duty four miles off the entrance to Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Carrying a torpedo packed with explosive black powder bolted to a 16-foot spar, Hunley rammed Housatonic below the water line, detonating the torpedo, tearing a hole in the Union ship’s hull and sending her to the bottom along with five of her crew. Hunley was not seen again for more than a century.
The wreck of the boat was discovered 131 years later by a team of scientists sponsored by best-selling author Clive Cussler, after a 14-year search. Research on the site continued until the summer of 2000 when a large team of professionals from the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, the National Park Service, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology excavated the site, measuring and documenting the hull prior to preparing it for removal. Once the on-site investigation was complete, customized slings were slipped underneath the sub one by one and attached to a truss designed by Oceaneering, International, Inc. The truss was then hoisted from the murky waters by crane from the jack-up barge Karlissa-B. On August 8 at 8:37 a.m., the sub broke the surface for the first time in more than 136 years.  Hunley was installed at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, now part of the Clemson University Restoration Institute, in a specially designed tank of fresh water. Conservation efforts continue today, with support from Clemson University and the Friends of the Hunley.
NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
To learn more about the Confederate submersible H. L. Hunley, visit the NHHC website here:
For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit http://www.history.navy.mil

Book Review–Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg

Cover--Pickett's Charge
Cover–Pickett’s Charge

Hessler, James, Wayne Motts, and Steven Stanley. Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History. El Dorado Hills, CA, Savas Beatie. 2015.

Details: 310 pages, index, bibliography, end notes, color and b/w photos, maps. ISBN 9781611212006, $37.95.

A reader may ask themselves several questions before making a decision to purchase yet another book on Gettysburg in general and another book on Pickett’s Charge specifically. Heck, there are several excellent Day 3 books available including books such as Pickett’s Charge–The Last Attack at Gettysburg (Civil War America)by Earl Hess, Gettysburg, Day Three by Jeffry Wert, and others. Once you take a look at this beauty you won’t be asking yourself any questions. All you will say is Ted Savas has done it again. You will have to have purchase it.

Part travel guide and part history this is a book that despite its heft can be used to tour the battlefield The book has the field is divided into four tours for ease of use. Tours include Confederate Battle Line, Pettigrew-Trimble Charge, Pickett’s Charge, and Union Battle Line. Tour stops include full GPS coordinates making it easy to pick and choose should a reader wish to only visit certain locations. Driving directions from stop to stop are included as well. Also included in the book is a full order of battle. The research is thorough, the bibliography is massive and there are nearly twenty pages of end notes. While the end notes take a bit of getting used to due to the numerous, yet informative, sidebars they are complete and a must review for those looking for further information. The book is full of maps and photos, both historic and modern.

Authors Hessler and Motts are both Licensed Battlefield Guides, a group who prides itself on strenuous standards and accurate story telling. The maps are beautifully crafted by cartographer Steven Stanley, who is known for his excellent work for the Civil War Trust.

This is a book that is highly recommended for any level of student of the battle of Gettysburg. The text is accessible and easy to read. The photos and maps are beautiful to look at. The book itself is sturdy and built to withstand use on the field or look great on a bookshelf. Don’t miss this title. It should be in every Civil War library.

Book Review–Lincoln in Indiana

Dirck, Brian R. Lincoln in Indiana. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. 132 pages, notes, bibliography, index, b/w photos. ISBN 9780809335657, $24.95.

The newest title in the Concise Lincoln Library series is Lincoln in Indiana written by Anderson University history professor Brian R. Dirck. Dr. Dirck has written several other books on Lincoln and received the Barondess Award from the Civil War Roundtable of New York for his book Lincoln the Lawyer. Here in a few short pages, Dirck confirms his spot as a strong Lincoln scholar.

Slim in pages this book packs a pop when it comes to the understudied period of 1816-1830 when Lincoln was molded by his years in Indiana. As Dr. Dirck points out there is little material to work with on these years. Lincoln himself left a sparse 800 written words about this time. For other sources questions have to be asked. Are these memories correct, what biases and agendas might the person have had, and finally does martyrdom play a role in the views people put forth.

It is in the seeming wilds of Indiana that the anti-slavery Thomas Lincoln took his family in order to escape the peculiar institution, which he felt he could not compete against. Free whites could not compete with farmers who owned African slaves. It was here that Lincoln learned about hard physical labor; grubbing and   log-rolling were not what the young Lincoln ultimately wanted out of life however. He also learned of loss with the death of his mother, Nancy, due to milk sickness.

While Thomas did not fail as a farmer it can not be said that he was successful either. The farm teetered and Thomas used his marginal skills as a carpenter to bring in extra for the family.

As young Abraham grew up the bonds between father and son grew strained despite a good relationship with his stepmother Sarah. Thomas needed the young, strong Abraham to help provide labor. While education was important it was not a priority for the elder Lincoln. Abraham had an overriding interest in accomplishing more than his father. His lack of a formal education haunted Abraham in many ways as an adult.

By 1829 Abraham wanted out of Indiana. He was  tired of his labors supporting his father. Intellectually he was moving on as well. He became interested in politics and was often found at the local courthouse when court was in session. Despite his yearnings Abraham followed his family to Illinois where Thomas failed miserably. Within a year Thomas has returned in Indiana.

By this time Abraham was gone. The gulf between father and son had developed such that the younger Lincoln did not visit his dying father nor did he attend Thomas’s funeral in 1851.

Dr. Dirck has written a book that is easily readable and digestible. The length of books in this series make it easy to consume them in a couple of brief sittings. The research looks to be of high quality and the notes and bibliography are extensive for those looking to follow-up on source material.

Highly recommended for not just an introductory level work but even for those with a deeper knowledge of Lincoln. This developmental period in Lincoln’s life is important and this volume helps explain why.