Library Additions–February 2017 (1)

Dirck, Brian R. Lincoln in Indiana. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. Index, notes, bibliography, b/w photos. 132 pages, 92 pages text. ISBN 9780809335657, $24.95.

Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky in 1809, moved with his parents, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, and his older sister, Sarah, to the Pigeon Creek area of southern Indiana in 1816. There Lincoln spent more than a quarter of his life. It was in Indiana that he developed a complicated and often troubled relationship with his father, exhibited his now-famous penchant for self-education, and formed a restless ambition to rise above his origins. Although some questions about these years are unanswerable due to a scarcity of reliable sources, Brian R. Dirck’s fascinating account of Lincoln’s boyhood sets what is known about the relationships, values, and environment that fundamentally shaped Lincoln’s character within the context of frontier and farm life in early nineteenth-century midwestern America.

Lincoln in Indiana tells the story of Lincoln’s life in Indiana, from his family’s arrival to their departure. Dirck explains the Lincoln family’s ancestry and how they and their relatives came to settle near Pigeon Creek. He shows how frontier families like the Lincolns created complex farms out of wooded areas, fashioned rough livelihoods, and developed tight-knit communities in the unforgiving Indiana wilderness. With evocative prose, he describes the youthful Lincoln’s relationship with members of his immediate and extended family. Dirck illuminates Thomas Lincoln by setting him into his era, revealing the concept of frontier manhood, and showing the increasingly strained relationship between father and son. He illustrates how pioneer women faced difficulties as he explores Nancy Lincoln’s work and her death from milk sickness; how Lincoln’s stepmother, Sarah Bush, fit into the family; and how Lincoln’s sister died in childbirth. Dirck examines Abraham’s education and reading habits, showing how a farming community could see him as lazy for preferring book learning over farmwork. While explaining how he was both similar to and different from his peers, Dirck includes stories of Lincoln’s occasional rash behavior toward those who offended him. As Lincoln grew up, his ambitions led him away from the family farm, and Dirck tells how Lincoln chafed at his father’s restrictions, why the Lincolns decided to leave Indiana in 1830, and how Lincoln eventually broke away from his family.

In a triumph of research, Dirck cuts through the myths about Lincoln’s early life, and along the way he explores the social, cultural, and economic issues of early nineteenth-century Indiana. The result is a realistic portrait of the youthful Lincoln set against the backdrop of American frontier culture.

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

Book Review–18 and Life on Skid Row

Bach, Sebastian. 18 and Life on Skid Row. New York: Dey Street Books. 2016. 431 pages, color and b/w photos. ISBN 9780062265395, $27.99.

While a new generation of fans may know Sebastian Bach from his Broadway roles in Jekyll and Hyde and Rocky Horror Picture Show or perhaps his work as Gil on Gilmore Girls, Sebastian Bach owes his fame to his time as front man for the band Skid Row.

In his new memoir 18 and Life on Skid Row Bach details his life from his early days, where he was influenced by his parents divorce to his hard rocking (and heavily drug and alcohol filled) days with Skid Row to his solo career to his reluctance to appear on Broadway, to the tragedy of losing his home to Hurricane Sandy.

Several themes popped out to me in reading this tale of life in the fast lane. First is that of excess. If Bach is to be believed it is amazing that he and his friends are still alive. The level of drug and alcohol abuse is a sad testament to the lifestyle of fame they were leading. Was there nobody who could rein them in? This is a story that has been told over and over; naïve young musicians who find fame, and they believe, fortune that they feel will be flowing forever. As with the majority of young musicians that pipeline of record label advances dries up and for Skid Row it slammed them hard when after a successful tour they ended up in the hole and owing the label money. Of course if you believe record labels are honest I have plenty of oceanfront property to sell you at bargain prices.

A second theme is that of loss, disappointment, and abandonment. Bach has suffered greatly in his life there is no doubt. The divorce of his parents was a terrible blow as was the death of his influential father at a young age from cancer. On multiple occasions Bach speaks of his hero worship for other musicians and yet at several times he was let down by these men despite Bach already having achieved a level of fame. Bach specifically calls out some of them including Ace Frehley of Kiss and his former band mates from Skid Row. Don’t mess with a musician and his song writing royalties. While Bach has certainly persevered and has had success post Skid Row, his firing from the band in December 1996 and ultimately being dropped by both his management and record label left a large gap in his life. For somebody who had spent their entire life wanting to rock the change in music fashion was a hard pill to swallow (OK, that’s a bad pun when you consider all the drug use recounted in the book).

Despite these triumphs and setbacks it appears that Bach is happy with his life. He says he is happily married to his second wife. He has kids with his first wife that he loves. He has a successful career as a musician, actor, and now author. And while there is no real mention of being clean and sober (thank God, I didn’t want to read a book about 12 step programs and the like) we can hope that the days of partying excess are behind him. Life really is much better sober.

If you grew up in the generation of bands such as Skid Row, Poison, Motley Crue at their best, Cinderella, and other hair metal bands (a term Bach despises by the way)  pick this one up. You will actually get to read about somebody with good things to say about Axl Rose!

 

Book Review–Civil War Graves of Northern Virginia

Mills, Charles A. Civil War Graves of Northern Virginia (Images of America). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing.  2017. 128 pages, ISBN 9781467124225, $21.99.

The grounds of Virginia practically ran red with the blood of the Civil War. With bloody battles such as The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Manassas I and II, Chancellorsville, and dozens more, thousands of men lost their lives in the Old Dominion. Even more were injured, many to a level they never returned to a normal life.

In his introduction author Charles A. Mills estimates there are more than 1,000 cemeteries in northern Virginia. Using this as a baseline it is easy to see that a book of only 128 pages can only scratch the surface.  Once mammoth cemeteries such as Arlington National Cemetery are taken into account that lessens even further the inclusion of smaller and lesser known cemeteries.

Mills relies on two sources for images in the book; his own images and those from the Library of Congress collection. Unfortunately this leads to some images being relatively already well known and then the problem with inconsistent quality of author taken photos. An example is shown on page 70; two images of stones from Falls Church both of which could have been taken at a different time of day and had better results. Library of Congress images often contain standard photos of generals and other war era scenes.

I also noted a few issues throughout the text that could have been remedied. On page 18 Mills uses the number 600,000 in regards to Civil War combatant and non-combatant deaths. Recent scholarship has placed that number to be around 750,000, a number that has been gaining much more acceptance. On page 111 a photo of Abner Doubleday recounts the story of his being the inventor of baseball. A short line then attempts to throw doubt on that story; “an honor that some contest.” A review of one of the leading baseball statistical websites disproves the baseball story and it would have been better left out.

These qualms aside I did enjoy this book and made fast work of it. There are some fascinating stories included and while there were more non-cemetery photos than I would have preferred in many instances it was important to the story to show background history. I particularly enjoyed seeing church cemeteries such as Pohick Church, the parish church of George Washington. Anybody with an interest in cemeteries can not help but be moved by Arlington National Cemetery and Mills does a fine job representing both historical and modern images of perhaps the greatest cemetery in the United States.

For those with an interest in cemeteries this is a book that should be added to your collection. If you are interested in Civil War memory this is one you might consider thumbing through though it will probably not end up on your bookshelf. For the average Civil War enthusiast this is a book well worth including in your library despite the reservations mentioned above. The photos are well worth the overall minor quibbles I had regarding text.

Thanks to Arcadia Publishing for providing a complimentary review copy.

Library Additions–December 2016 (1)

Cover-John McDonald and the Whiskey Ring
Cover-John McDonald and the Whiskey Ring

Thank you to the good people at Farleigh Dickinson University Press and Rowman & Littlefield for providing a complimentary copy of John McDonald and the Whiskey Ring: From Thug to Grant’s Inner Circlewritten by Edward S. Cooper.

Cooper is the author of The Brave Men of Company A: The Forty-First Ohio Volunteer Infantry (2015) and Louis Trezevant Wigfall: The Disintegration of the Union and Collapse of the Confederacy (2012).

The most flamboyant, consistently dishonest racketeer was Supervisor of Internal Revenue John McDonald, whose organization defrauded the federal government of millions of dollars. When President Grant was asked why he appointed McDonald supervisor of internal revenue he responded, “I was aware that he was not an educated man, but he was a man that had seen a great deal of the world and of people, and I would not call him ignorant exactly, he was illiterate.” McDonald organized and ran the Whiskey Ring but he always credited Grant with the initiation of the Ring declaring that the president “actually stood god-father at its christening.” The demise of the Ring rivals anything that the real or fictional Elliot Ness and his “Untouchables” ever accomplished during the prohibition era in America.

Details: 195 pages including index, bibliography, and notes. ISBN 9781683930129. $75.

Volusia County Historic Preservation Board

I am proud to announce that I have been appointed to the Volusia County Historic Preservation Board.  I consider this appointment to be quite an honor and I look forward to working with fine group who are already on the Board.

The Historic Preservation Board (HPB) is appointed by the Volusia County Council to issue certificates of designation for eligible historic resources (structures, archaeological sites, and historic districts) and certificates of appropriateness for demolition, alteration, relocation and new construction.

The HPB advises the County Council on all matters related to historic preservation policy, including use, management and maintenance of county-owned historic resources.

Library Additions–November 2016 (1)

Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s
Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s

Thank you to the good folks at LSU Press for sending a review copy of Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s written by Stanley Nelson.

After midnight on December 10, 1964, in Ferriday, Louisiana, African American Frank Morris awoke to the sound of breaking glass. Outside his home and shoe shop, standing behind the shattered window, Klansmen tossed a lit match inside the store, now doused in gasoline, and instantly set the building ablaze. A shotgun pointed to Morris’s head blocked his escape from the flames. Four days later Morris died, though he managed in his last hours to describe his attackers to the FBI. Frank Morris’s death was one of several Klan murders that terrorized residents of northeast Louisiana and Mississippi, as the perpetrators continued to elude prosecution during this brutal era in American history.

In Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s, Pulitzer Prize finalist and journalist Stanley Nelson details his investigation—alongside renewed FBI attention—into these cold cases, as he uncovers the names of the Klan’s key members as well as systemized corruption and coordinated deception by those charged with protecting all citizens.

Devils Walking recounts the little-known facts and haunting stories that came to light from Nelson’s hundreds of interviews with both witnesses and suspects. His research points to the development of a particularly virulent local faction of the Klan who used terror and violence to stop integration and end the advancement of civil rights. Secretly led by the savage and cunning factory worker Red Glover, these Klansmen—a handpicked group that included local police officers and sheriff’s deputies—discarded Klan robes for civilian clothes and formed the underground Silver Dollar Group, carrying a silver dollar as a sign of unity. Their eight known victims, mostly African American men, ranged in age from nineteen to sixty-seven and included one Klansman seeking redemption for his past actions.

Following the 2007 FBI reopening of unsolved civil rights–era cases, Nelson’s articles in the Concordia Sentinel prompted the first grand jury hearing for these crimes. By unmasking those responsible for these atrocities and giving a voice to the victims’ families, Devils Walking demonstrates the importance of confronting and addressing the traumatic legacy of racism.

Journal of Southern History–Volume LXXXII Number 4

Todays mail included the November 2016 Journal of Southern History published by the Southern Historical Association.

Articles include:

The Lizardi Brothers: A Mexican Family Business and the Expansion of New Orleans, 1825-1846 written by Linda Salvucci and Richard Salvucci.

The Old South Confronts the Dilemma of David Livingston written by Daniel Kilbride.

Conservatives in the Everglades: Sun Belt Environmentalism and the Creation of Everglades National Park written by Chris Wilhelm.

Green Civic Republicanism and Environmental Action Against Surface Mining in Lincoln County, West Virginia, 1974-1990 written by Jinny A. Turman.

Book Reviews (77 reviews)

Book Notes

Historical News and Notices

Florida Historical Quarterly–Volume 95 Number 1

The new issue of the Florida Historical Quarterly has arrived. Learn about subscribing here.

Contents include:

To Conquer the Coast: Pensacola, the Gulf of Mexico and the Construction of American Imperialism, 1820-1848 written by Maria Angela Diaz.

Losing Lincoln: Black Educators, Historical Memory, and the Desegregation of Lincoln High School in Gainesville, Florida written by Kathryn Palmer.

The Gulf Coast Fish Cheer: Radicalism and the Underground Press in Pensacola, Florida, 1970-1971 written by Christopher Satterwhite.

Book Reviews (ten titles are reviewed)

End Notes

Library Additions–October 2016 (1)

Women in Civil War Texas
Women in Civil War Texas

Thank you to the University of North Texas Press for sending a complimentary review copy of Women in Civil War Texas: Diversity and Dissidence in the Trans-Mississippi edited by Deborah M. Liles and Angela Boswell.

Women in Civil War Texas is the first book dedicated to the unique experiences of Texas women during this time. It connects Texas women’s lives to southern women’s history and shares the diversity of experiences of women in Texas during the Civil War.

Contributors explore Texas women and their vocal support for secession, coping with their husbands’ wartime absences, the importance of letter-writing, and how pro-Union sentiment caused serious difficulties for women. They also analyze the effects of ethnicity, focusing on African American, German, and Tejana women’s experiences. Finally, two essays examine the problem of refugee women in east Texas and the dangers facing western frontier women.

 

Book Review–Central Florida’s World War II Veterans

Central Florida's World War II Veterans cover
Central Florida’s World War II Veterans cover

Grenier, Bob. Central Florida’s World War II Veterans (Images of America). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2016. 128 pages, b/w photos. ISBN 9781467116794, $21.99.

The Greatest Generation is silently, yet rapidly, passing on to their reward. When you stop to think that the end of World War II was more than 70 years ago you can easily fathom that it will not be long until the last veterans from the war pass.

Author Bob Grenier, who wears many hats including historian, museum curator, Walt Disney World employee, politician, historical activist, and more, has written what I find to be a very fitting tribute to the common soldier. This is not a book glamorizing the Generals or the Colonels, or even the Lieutenants. This is not a book glamorizing war nor condemning the enemy. Instead, it is a book that reminds us the soldiers who went to serve in far away lands they might not have been able to find on a map were real people. They were fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, or boyfriends. In some cases, they were daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, or girl friends who served in organizations like WAVES, or as nurses, or were part of the Red Cross. Not all of the men in the book survived. Some, like Medal of Honor recipient Robert McTureous, paid the ultimate price.

The book is broken down geographically into eight chapters with a concluding chapter titled Florida’s Gallant Sons and Daughters. The chapters feature soldiers who lived in or moved to an area and markers or memorials to the War. Each chapter is loaded with photos; some contemporary, some from the war, some personal such as wedding photos, and some are memorials and remembrances. All tell a story though and through the limited text allowed for each image Grenier helps evoke feeling of the image whether it be happy, sad, uncertain, confident, or scared.

This book reminds us how precious life is and that our time is fleeting. A generation called the greatest is rapidly leaving us. It will be left for us, the living, to remember them. With this slim volume Bob Grenier has provided us a way to remember the men and women who helped stop Axis forces and allow the American way of life to continue. One can not finish this volume and not be moved. Highly recommended.

**For full disclosure: Mr. Grenier has spoken at the museum where I work and I would consider him to be a friend. I did however purchase my copy of his book and he has in no way asked for me to write a review. The review is based upon my own reading and viewing of the book.