Florida Lecture Series at Florida Southern College

Florida Southern College has posted their 2018-2019 Florida Lecture Series schedule and it looks like some good speakers are lined up. Lectures start at 7pm and will be at different locations on campus. Click the link at the bottom of this post for more information and specific campus locations.

Speakers and topics include:

September 13
Gilbert King (Pulitzer Prize-winning Author)
“Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found”

October 25
Leslie Kemp Poole (Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Rollins College)
“Saving Florida: Women’s Fight for the Environment in the Twentieth Century”

November 29
Anne Rosen and Claudia Slate (Writers)
“Reflections from a Civil Rights Journalist: St. Augustine and Beyond”

JANUARY 10, 2019
Tracy Jean Revels (Professor of History, Wofford College)
“Florida’s Civil War: A Family Story”

February 7, 2019
David Head (Author and Lecturer, University of Central Florida)
“Privateers of the Americas”

March 21, 2019
John Capouya (Professor of Journalism, University of Tampa)
“Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to K.C. and the Sunshine Band”

For more information visit the Center for Florida History website.

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Pressure: A World War II Play

PressureDuring our recent vacation we had the privilege to see the play Pressure performed at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. Written by, and starring, David Haig, Pressure tells the story of Scottish meteorologist James Stagg and his role in convincing Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower to postpone the D-Day invasion due to deteriorating weather conditions.

The storyline focuses on the 72 hours preceding the anticipated launch of Allied forcesHaig and Cairns Pressure in their effort to push back German troops and ultimately regain control of France and the continent. American meteorologist Colonel Irving P. Krick, portrayed by Phillip Cairns, however has the ear of Eisenhower, portrayed by Malcolm Sinclair, and Stagg must overcome the influential and charismatic American. If Stagg is correct thousands of lives, and perhaps the entire mission, is saved. If he is wrong the Germans might get wind of the invasion, send reinforcements, and be in a position to defend the coast.

It is hard to imagine that anybody attending the performance doesn’t know Eisenhower’s decision. He ultimately sides with Stagg, who is proven correct as the weather turned dramatically for the worse. D-Day was pushed back to June 6 with the Allies ultimately being successful in penetrating the coast of France which helped lead to the final victory over Nazi Germany.

While Stagg comes off as gruff and difficult, his more delicate side is shown in a sub-plot revolving around his wife’s pregnancy. An earlier birth was difficult and Stagg has received word she is showing the same signs this time. What started out as a rocky relationship with Kay Summersby, portrayed by Laura Rogers, who is Eisenhower’s chauffer, turns to friendship and respect with Summersby providing support for the overburdened Stagg.

Sinclair and Rogers PressurePlaywright Haig also hints at the often discussed relationship between Eisenhower and Summersby. Whether there was ultimately a physical relationship will never be decided. There is not an agreement from those who knew both as to what their relationship was.

I found the storyline interesting and well done. The performers did a great job. The setting is an intimate one. The theatre itself was nice and it did not seem like there was a bad seat in the house. We were towards the rear of the theatre but had no vision or sound problems. Ticket prices for our seats were more than reasonable at only $15.

While a play about 1944 weather probably isn’t one that would immediately attract the interest of most people, I would say don’t miss this one.

All photos are from the play and are not my own.

Press Release: Forgotten Soldiers of World War I

ATGLEN, PA – Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. would like to introduce Forgotten Soldiers of World War I: America’s Immigrant Doughboys  by Alexander F. Barnes & Peter L. Belmonte.

“A really well researched book. This book tells about the nationalities of the soldiers who were in the American Army in the First World War. It tells us where they were from, where they fought and what happened to them. This is a fascinating read about bravery and men who sacrificed so much to fight for a country they wanted to belong to. This is a fascinating and insightful read” – NetGalley reviewer.
This book covers the entire spectrum of military service during World War I. It gives examples, including many photographs, from almost every ethnic and national group in the United States during this time. Including draft registration, induction and training, stateside service, overseas service, combat, return home, and discharge, learn the history of America’s foreign-born soldiers during World War I and how they adapted to military service to become part of the successful American Expeditionary Forces.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexander F. Barnes served in the Marine Corps and Army National Guard, retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer. He retired as a Department of the Army Civilian in 2015 and is currently the Virginia National Guard Command Historian. He holds a master’s degree in anthropology and has authored: In a Strange Land; The American Occupation of Germany 1918-1923 (2010), Let’s Go! The History of the 29th Division 1917-2001 (2014), To Hell with the Kaiser, America prepares for War (2015), and Desert Uniforms, Patches, and Insignia of the US Armed Forces (Schiffer Publishing 2016).Peter L. Belmonte is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and freelance historian. A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, he holds a master’s degree in history from California State University, Stanislaus. He has published articles, book chapters, reviews, and papers about immigration and military history and has been a college adjunct instructor of history. Pete has written two books: Italian Americans in World War II (2001) and Days of Perfect Hell: The U.S. 26th Infantry Regiment in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, October-November, 1918 (Schiffer Publishing, 2015)

Library Additions–August 2018 (1)

Thank you to my friends at Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a copy of Sixteenth President-in-Waiting: Abraham Lincoln and the Springfield Dispatches of Henry Villard, 1860–1861 edited/written by the very knowledgeable Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame.

From the publisher website:

Between Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860 and his departure for Washington three months later, journalist Henry Villard sent scores of dispatches from Springfield, Illinois, to various newspapers describing the president-elect’s doings, quoting or paraphrasing his statements, chronicling events in the Illinois capital, and analyzing the city’s mood. With Sixteenth President-in-Waiting Michael Burlingame has collected all of these dispatches in one insightful and informative volume.

Best known as a successful nineteenth-century railroad promoter and financier, German-born Henry Villard (1835–1900) was also among the most conscientious and able journalists of the 1860s. The dispatches gathered in this volume constitute the most intensive journalistic coverage that Lincoln ever received, for Villard filed stories from the Illinois capital almost daily to the New York Herald, slightly less often to the Cincinnati Commercial, and occasionally to the San Francisco Bulletin.

Lincoln welcomed Villard and encouraged him to ask questions, as he was the only full-time correspondent for out-of-town papers. He spoke with inside sources, such as Lincoln’s private secretaries John G. Nicolay and John Hay, devoted friends like Jesse K. Dubois and Stephen T. Logan, political leaders like Governor Richard Yates, and journalists like William M. Springer and Robert R. Hitt.

Villard boasted that he did Lincoln a service by scaring off would-be office seekers who, fearing to see their names published in newspapers, gave up plans to visit the Illinois capital to badger the president-elect. Villard may have done an even greater service by publicizing Lincoln’s views on the secession crisis.

His little-known coverage of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Senate race, translated from the German for the first time, is included as an appendix. At the time Villard was an ardent Douglas supporter, and his reports criticized Lincoln.

Not only informative but also highly readable, Villard’s vivid descriptions of Lincoln’s appearance, daily routine, and visitors, combined with fresh information about Springfielders, state political leaders, and the capital, constitute an invaluable resource.

Hardcover. ISBN 9780809336432, $45.50. 407 pages, index, notes.

Library Additions July 2018 (2)

Thank you to my friends at Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a copy of The Decision Was Always My Own: Ulysses S. Grant and the Vicksburg Campaign (World of Ulysses S. Grant) written by the prolific Timothy B. Smith. Smith has written heavily on the western theater of the war and may be best known for his work on Shiloh.

From the publisher website:

The Vicksburg Campaign, argues Timothy B. Smith, is the showcase of Ulysses S. Grant’s military genius. From October 1862 to July 1863, for nearly nine months, Grant tried repeatedly to capture the Confederate river city. He maneuvered and adapted numerous times, reacting to events and enemy movements with great skill and finesse as the lengthy campaign played out on a huge chessboard, dwarfing operations in the east. Grant’s final, daring move allowed him to land an army in Mississippi and fight his way to the gates of Vicksburg. He captured the Confederate garrison and city on July 4, 1863, opening the Mississippi River for the Union.

Showing how and why Grant became such a successful general, Smith presents a fast-paced reexamination of the commander and the campaign. His fresh analysis of Grant’s decision-making process during the Vicksburg maneuvers, battles, and siege details the course of campaigning on military, political, administrative, and personal levels. The narrative is organized around Grant’s eight key decisions: to begin operations against Vicksburg, to place himself in personal charge of the campaign, to begin active operations around the city, to sweep toward Vicksburg from the south, to march east of Vicksburg and cut the railroad before attacking, to assault Vicksburg twice in an attempt to end the campaign quickly, to lay siege after the assaults had failed, and to parole the surrendered Confederate garrison rather than send the Southern soldiers to prison camps.

The successful military campaign also required Grant to master political efforts, including handling Lincoln’s impatience and dealing with the troublesome political general John A. McClernand. Further, he had to juggle administrative work with military decision making. Grant was more than a military genius, however; he was also a husband and a father, and Smith shows how Grant’s family was a part of everything he did.

Grant’s nontraditional choices went against the accepted theories of war, supply, and operations as well as against the chief thinkers of the day, such as Henry Halleck, Grant’s superior. Yet Grant pulled off the victory in compelling fashion. In the first in-depth examination in decades, Smith shows how Grant’s decisions created and won the Civil War’s most brilliant, complex, decisive, and lengthy campaign.

Hardcover, ISBN 9780809336661, $34.50. 249 pages, index, notes, bibliographic essay, 7 maps, b/w photos.

New Suspect in D.B. Cooper Case

One of the things in life that interests me but I don’t know enough about is the D.B. Cooper hijacking case.

DB CooperOn November 24, 1971 a gentleman now commonly known as D.B. Cooper hijacked a Northwest Orient Airlines flight in route from Portland to Seattle. Briefly and without going into detail, Cooper passed a note to a flight attendant stating that he had a bomb and then laid out his demands: $200,000 in cash, four parachutes, and a fuel truck to refuel the plane after landing.

With demands met and the plane refueled, the Boeing 727 took flight with five on board including Cooper. Cooper outlined his flight plan with a planned refueling stop in Reno, NV. At approximately 8pm Cooper activated the rear airstairs causing a noticeable change in cabin air pressure. The flight landed in Reno at approximately 10:15p but Cooper was no longer on board. The investigation determined Cooper left the plane at approximately 8:13p. Cooper and the ransom money had vanished.

In February 1980 almost $6,000 of the ransom money was found along the Columbia River, downstream from Vancouver, WA.

In July 2016 the FBI officially suspended the active investigation.

Author Carl Laurin has recently published a book titled D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, a Spy, My Best Friend” (published by Principia Media ) outlining why he believes Walter Reca is the infamous Cooper. Reca joins a long list of potential Coopers most of whom have been quickly dismissed by the FBI or they have not commented.

A recent press conference regarding the Reca theory was recently posted to YouTube and you can see it here.

Visit the FBI page on Cooper here.

Visit the National Archives page on Cooper here.

Library Additions July 2018 (1)

Thank you to my friends at Southern Illinois University Press for sending a copy of Where Valor Proudly Sleeps: A History of Fredericksburg National Cemetery, 1866–1933 (Engaging the Civil War) written by Donald C. Pfanz. This title continues the Engaging the Civil War series.

Many books discuss in great detail what happened during Civil War battles. This is one of the few that investigate what happened to the remains of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Where Valor Proudly Sleeps explores a battle’s immediate and long-term aftermath by focusing on Fredericksburg National Cemetery, one of the largest cemeteries created by the U.S. government after the Civil War. Pfanz shows how legislation created the National Cemetery System and describes how the Burial Corps identified, collected, and interred soldier remains as well as how veterans, their wives, and their children also came to rest in national cemeteries. By sharing the stories of the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, its workers, and those buried there, Pfanz explains how the cemetery evolved into its current form, a place of beauty and reflection.

Donald C. Pfanz has written five books, including Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier’s Life (Civil War America) and War So Terrible: A Popular History of the Battle of Fredericksburg. In his thirty-two-year career with the National Park Service, he worked at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, Petersburg National Battlefield Park, and Fort Sumter National Monument.

ISBN 9780809336456, $26.50, 272 pages, 48 illustrations

Civil War Book Review Has New Website URL

I am a bit late on posting this but better late than never I suppose. I received this press release and wanted to pass it along.

The Civil War Book Review, a quarterly journal published by the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections Division, has released its Spring 2018 issue.

I’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room: the CWBR’s website has changed! Along with the new design, the CWBR has a new URL: https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cwbr/. Using CWBR.com, however, should still redirect you to the new website. Read more about these changes in my editorial.

Now let’s take a peek at some of this issue’s great content.

Frank Williams’ reviews Lincoln’s Sense of Humor by Richard Carwardine. Williams finds Carwardine’s book a worthwhile venture for its succinct explanations of how humor helped Lincoln survive the rough-and-tumble world of antebellum politics and navigate the presidency.

For this issue’s author interview, I spoke with Brook Thomas about his new book The Literature of Reconstruction: Not in Plain Black and White.   In the interview, Dr. Thomas not only shared his thoughts about the period’s major novels, but he also explained why the era’s fictional works are essential for understanding the era’s political and legal debates.

In Civil War Obscura, our new column about classic books, Meg Groeling takes a close look at Mary Chestnut’s diaries. Groeling not only revisits Chestnut’s significance as an eye-witness, but also provides a short history about the book’s life after its original 1905 publication.

Special Collections librarian Hans Rasmussen discusses the fortifications of Civil War Washington, D.C. in this issue’s Civil War Treasures column. Be sure to view the detailed sketches Hans included by downloading the images from the supplemental materials link beside the article’s abstract.

Some of our reviews include Gaines Foster’s look at Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy and Mark Cheathem’s appraisal of The Lost Founding Father  by William J. Cooper. 

As always I want to thank the CWBR’s contributors for their hard work, and our readers for their patience and attention.

Editorial Staff
Civil War Book Review
108A Hill Memorial Library
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cwbr/

El Real Retiro: One of Florida’s Finest Homes

Published 90 years ago today in the New Smyrna Daily News.

El Real Retiro One of Florida’s Finest Homes
New Smyrna Daily News June 8, 1928

New Smyrna El Retiro03.jpgOn the shores of the Indian River at New Smyrna, nestling in a beautiful palm grove with numerous varieties of other beautiful trees and shrubs, will be found one of the most picturesque homes in Florida, in fact one of Florida’s show places.

The house of Spanish architecture, was recently built by Robert Handley, who lavished great wealth as well as though in the construction and furnishing of this unique home, all of which is quite in keeping with its beautiful natural surroundings.

The house, which is over 200 feet in length, is constructed of heavy timber with stucco finish and an imported Spanish tile roof which lends immensely to the artistic beauty of the whole.

The interior of the rooms on the south section are tinted stucco finish all having hardwood floors, while those in the north wing are finished with pecky cypress having beamed ceilings and brick floors.

The music room is 60 feet long and 26 feet wide and is furnished with costly antiques and oriental rugs.

In our sauntering through the house we might possibly start in the bedrooms which are all spacious and beautifully furnished. Each room has a connecting bath. The windows are all casement type and each room looks out either over the beautiful front lawn with snatched glimpses of the river beyond, or on the picturesque patio which we will enter later.

The reception and writing rooms were illustrated and described in Vogue Magazine recently as follows: “The writing room in the new home of Robert Handley, Esq., brings exotic flavor of far off lands and untraveled seas with its pecky cypress walls painted lime green, rubbed with lemon yellow and decorated with lime green designs. The pilasters are all white rubbed with faint touches of yellow, blue, and green. The pottery and the Kashmir embroidered felt rugs repeat the color notes.

“The Arabian Nights, with all their glory, contained no more shimmering sight than a passage way of silver. The artist has prepared one room in Chinese silver and painted an intricate design of flowers and foliage, and the color scheme ranges from white through a full scale of green with touches of flame and pink. The floor is in moss green and the woodwork in green-black.”

We descend from the silver room down a slightly winding stone staircase of four steps, into the spacious dining room which is finished in gray stone and is on a level with the patio adjoining. The exquisite antique furniture of this room came from Spain, Italy, and England, some of it being centuries old.

There are two other similar winding staircases leading into this beautiful room, one from the patio itself at the south end of the room and the other from the butler’s service room at the west side, the stairs from the silver room being at the east side.

The paintings on the walls of the library by Robert Locher were illustrated and described in the 1925 issue of the House and Garden Magazine as follows:

“The library shown on these pages with its decorative painted wall and interesting woodwork, is in the home of Robert Handley, Esq., at New Smyrna, Florida. The panoramic design shows important incidents in the history of this section of Florida. One scene is the passing of the first southbound steamer. The contrast to the picturesque sailing ships above (illustrated) a present day ocean liner and a scene of a modern Florida beach. Florida in the 16th century, the time of the landing of Ponce de Leon furnished the inspiration for the designs around the fireplace.

The most decorative of the shipping episodes is the landing of Ponce de Leon. The figures, tropical foliage, and Spanish galleon are in various colors against a brilliant blue background. The view of the library (illustrated) shows the effective beamed ceilings. This and the trim are of cypress colored by a thin wash of blue-green.”

The entire house is abundantly supplied with costly and exquisite tapestries, oriental rugs, antiques, and vases brought from Europe and the Orient. The servants’ quarters and garage are built on the same Spanish type north of the house. The Faulkner Street side of the property has a nine foot stucco wall extending 344 feet across the length of the property. The front of the house faces the Indian River.

The front veranda, in accordance with the Spanish architecture, is roofless, the music room previously described, opening on to it with three sliding French doors. The north and south wings adjoin this piazza, the latter also, opening on to it with a French door.

The trees, oleanders, palms, bamboos, and other beautiful products of Florida, make a bower of beauty of the front yard with the glimpses of the serene old Indian River to be seen through their branches, and at night the stars twinkling overhead making a veritable dreamland of the entire place.

One of the most attractive points of interest is the beautiful patio about 60 feet square and surrounded by a ten foot stucco wall which adjoins the house. The shrubbery, statuary, and tiled walks under the canopy of spreading branches of the majestic oaks and palms with their hanging moss, make one feel that he is in Paradise, especially on a moonlight night.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Dick Bristley and daughter Genevieve, en route to Palm Beach last January, stopping here to pay a few days visit with friends. So impressed were they with New Smyrna and the climate that they decided to remain the balance of the winder. A few weeks later Mr. Bristley called to see the Handley home of which he had heard so much. As a result negotiations followed and the ownership and title in the Handley estate and its furnishings were transferred to Mr. Bristley.

Many improvements have been made since the new owners have taken possession, and it is their intention to make this their permanent winter home.

Mr. Bristley is a retired official of the Royal Baking Power Company of New York. The significance thereof was the dedication of this home March 15th, at their housewarming as “El Real Retiro” which is Spanish for “The Royal Retreat.”

Library Additions–June 2018 (1)

Thank you to my friends at Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a copy of their new release Lincoln and the Abolitionists (Concise Lincoln Library) written by Stanley Harrold.  I am a big fan of the Concise Lincoln Library . This wonderful series allows readers to learn more about Lincoln based upon their subject interest. The books are very reasonably priced as well; usually $25 or less for a hardcover.

From the publisher website:

Abraham Lincoln has often been called the “Great Emancipator.” But he was not among those Americans who, decades before the Civil War, favored immediate emancipation of all slaves inside the United States. Those who did were the abolitionists—the men and women who sought freedom and equal rights for all African Americans. Stanley Harrold traces how, despite Lincoln’s political distance from abolitionists, they influenced his evolving political orientation before and during the Civil War.

While explaining how the abolitionist movement evolved, Harrold also clarifies Lincoln’s connections with and his separation from this often fiery group. For most of his life Lincoln regarded abolitionists as dangerous fanatics. Like many northerners during his time, Lincoln sought compromise with the white South regarding slavery, opposed abolitionist radicalism, and doubted that free black people could have a positive role in America. Yet, during the 1840s and 1850s, conservative northern Democrats as well as slaveholders branded Lincoln an abolitionist because of his sympathy toward black people and opposition to the expansion of slavery.

Lincoln’s election to the presidency and the onslaught of the Civil War led to a transformation of his relationship with abolitionists. Lincoln’s original priority as president had been to preserve the Union, not to destroy slavery. Nevertheless many factors—including contacts with abolitionists—led Lincoln to favor ending slavery. After Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and raised black troops, many, though not all, abolitionists came to view him more favorably.

Providing insight into the stressful, evolving relationship between Lincoln and the abolitionists, and also into the complexities of northern politics, society, and culture during the Civil War era, this concise volume illuminates a central concern in Lincoln’s life and presidency.