Library Additions January 2018 (1)

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a complimentary copy of Turning Points of the American Civil War (Engaging the Civil War).

Engaging the Civil War, a series founded by the editors of the Emerging Civil War blog group, adopts the sensibility and accessibility of public history while adhering to the standards of academic scholarship. To engage readers and bring them to a new understanding of America’s great story, series authors draw on insights they gained while working with the public—walking the ground where history happened at battlefields and historic sites, talking with visitors in museums, and educating students in classrooms.

With fresh perspectives, field-tested ideas, and in-depth research, volumes in the series connect readers with the story of the Civil War in ways that make history meaningful to them while underscoring the continued relevance of the war, its causes, and its effects. All Americans can claim the Civil War as part of their history. This series helps them engage with it.

About the book:

Contributors to this collection, public historians with experience at Civil War battle sites, examine key shifts in the Civil War and the context surrounding them to show that many chains of events caused the course of the war to change: the Federal defeats at First Bull Run and Ball’s Bluff, the wounding of Joseph Johnston at Seven Pines and the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Federal victory at Vicksburg, Grant’s decision to move on to Richmond rather than retreat from the Wilderness, the naming of John B. Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee, and the 1864 presidential election. In their conclusion, the editors suggest that the assassination of Abraham Lincoln might have been the war’s final turning point.

Advertisements

Book Review–Recalling Deeds Immortal: Florida Monuments to the Civil War

Lees, William B. and Frederick P. Gaske. Recalling Deeds Immortal: Florida Monuments to the Civil War. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. 2014. 370 pages, 305 pages text. Index, bibliography, end notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9780813049960, $44.95.

With the recent controversies over monuments and memorials, and not just those with some attachment to the Civil War as a whole or the Confederacy specifically, it can be easy to lose sight where monuments are, who or what the were erected to or for, who erected them, or in some unfortunate cases, what they even looked like. Authors William B. Lees and Frederick P. Gaske have done a fine job in rounding up and researching Civil War monuments located in the Sunshine State.

Lees and Gaske are well qualified to write such a book. Lees serves as Director of Florida Public Archaeology Network at the University of West Florida and Gaske has served as the state of Florida’s Historic Preservation Officer in addition to having coauthored the Florida Civil War Heritage Trail Guide, a free publication produced by the state.

The authors argue that to truly understand these monuments we must place them in the context of the time they were erected. Different monuments mean different things. It is also important that we understand that sacrifice meant different things to Union and Confederate soldiers.

The book is broken down chronologically which while it has its benefits, particularly in backing the author’s argument of understanding monuments and their place in time, also can become difficult for the reader if they are only looking to know about particular monuments. For those readers a straight alphabetical system would be a better choice. Readers searching for information on a favorite monument have to refer to the index to find where to turn.

The book is broken into five chapters: Reconstruction and Beyond, Remembering Confederate Sacrifice and Valor After Reconstruction, Remembering the Union Soldier and Sailor, Remembering Hallowed Ground, and Monuments Erected After the Civil War Centennial. The authors take each monument and work to tell its story through the use of contemporary sources, whether they be newspapers, archives, government records, and more. A look at the notes and bibliography of this book will show the research efforts that were expended.

While the Reconstruction period saw only a small handful of monuments erected, the ending of federal occupation was a boom period for remembering and honoring the dead. With the creation of the Daughters of the Confederacy and their later incarnation as United Daughters of the Confederacy at least 34 monuments were erected in the state. The subject matter and location of monuments varied from outright Lost Cause to monuments such as that in a Deland cemetery which contained a list of Confederate soldiers buried there. While the majority of these monuments are still in place some, such as the Daytona Beach monument, have been damaged or altered, and some, such as Orlando, have been removed since publication of this book.

What is fascinating is the continued creation and placing of memorials and monuments. In the post 1968 period Lees and Gaske account for 33 new monuments with more being erected today. This growth is provided by organizations such as Sons of Confederate Veterans who have this as one of their stated goals. The trend on these new monuments is toward smaller and less elaborate design which is probably due to design trends but more likely cost and budget concerns. While these new monuments are often meant to commemorate hallowed ground or to honor specific soldiers the fact that the Confederate flag has been used by many other groups, often with negative consequences, the claim of “heritage not hate” is a message that is often considered to be false.

This is a valuable book and should be on the shelves of those interested in Civil War history, Florida history, and even Civil Rights history. The story is an important one and one that will not be going away. It is our responsibility to understand those of the past did not live by our standards of today. To argue that the war was not based upon the issue of slavery would fly in the face of the Articles of Secession; to erase reminders of the war will not erase the war and to me is not the correct way to deal with the issue. We should not be standing in judgement of those who came before us for erecting these memorials and monuments, but rather, we should convey that history and work to tell a new full sided and complete story. To those putting up new monuments, you have a responsibility to be honest and not hide what we now understand to be true.

To see other posts dealing with the University Press of Florida click here.

Book Review: Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection

Smithsonian Books. Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection.  Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books. 2013. ISBN 9781588343895, color and b/w photos, index, 368 pages, $40.

If you are searching for an impressive looking and hefty coffee table book that you can leave out for guests to browse and perhaps use as a conversation starter this would be an excellent choice. If you are looking for something with more depth you should look elsewhere.

Published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the war, the book unimaginatively uses 150 objects from the Smithsonian collections to illustrate the Civil War. While it is very nice to see these items, especially for those of us who do not have the ability to easily visit the various Smithsonian museums, it just seems as if this is a large grouping thrown together in order to publish an expensive book. While loosely chronological, the book is not put into real chapters. Rather, each of the 150 objects forms its own short chapter so to speak. Another difficulty of this book for me is trying to figure out which museum holds which object. These individual artifacts are not labeled, instead the reader must turn to the back of the book and by using page numbers, rather than artifact/chapter number, find the listing, then translate that by using the key provided. Be sure to have your magnifying sheet handy, the type is quite small. No bibliography or notes are included so verifying statements and conclusions is difficult.

This brings me to another point this book drives home to me, which is the donating of historical objects. Please, please, please, do yourselves and others a favor and consider your local historical museums. The Smithsonian, and similar institutions, are cram packed with objects that will NEVER see the light of day. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark. These monstrous archives can not be cared for properly and with the exception of genuinely unique items pieces will eventually be accessioned, boxed, and forgotten about or disposed of in some manner. At smaller museums, these pieces will more likely than not be treasured and put on display. People will actually be able to enjoy the artifacts you have donated and isn’t that the purpose. For many small museums donations are their only source of new materials. Their budgets do not allow for purchases so your item could become a show piece.

Back to the book, as mentioned, it is truly a beautiful book. The photography is top-notch and the book is solid. It really is more a coffee table piece rather than anything you will learn from or actually sit down and read cover to cover. The chapters are brief so you can easily pick this up, put it down, and start on it again whenever and not have forgotten anything. Don’t expect to learn much, but rather, just marvel in the images.

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.

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.

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.

 

New Nathan Bedford Forrest Biography

Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest
Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest: Hero or Villain? Defending the Legacy of One of America’s Greatest Generals

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Union General William Tecumseh Sherman cursed him as “That devil Forrest.” Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee said he was the greatest military genius of the war. This giant of a man—six foot two, two hundred and ten pounds—was Nathan Bedford Forrest, a general who killed no less than thirty men in man-to-man combat in the Civil War. There have been other biographies of Forrest, but none like Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest (Regnery History; $29.99; October 3, 2016) by Professor Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr.

Forrest’s legacy is clouded by his role as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK (a group he later helped to disband and disavow); however, there is more than meets the eye behind his controversial past. Bust Hell Wide Open is a comprehensive portrait of Forrest as a man: his achievements, failings, reflections, and regrets.

Mitcham taps all the latest scholarship while approaching Forrest not just as a celebrated general whose campaigns are studied to this day, but as a man in full, a man raised and shaped by the Tennessee frontier, with a conscience sharpened by his devoutly Christian wife.

Gallant, tough, chivalrous, Forrest was the epitome of a Confederate cavalryman, but without the polish and education of a Virginia aristocrat.

Bust Hell Wide Open reveals little-known, fascinating stories about a multi-faceted man, such as:

· When Forrest said he would “bust Hell wide open” rather than surrender to the Federals during the siege of Fort Donelson

· How he hunted down a panther when he was fifteen

· When he fought a gunfight in the Western frontier

· How he grew up in poverty on a ramshackle farm—responsible, as a teenager, for the well-being of his widowed mother and nine siblings

· How he amassed a business fortune, which he spent on his troops

Civil War Times August 2016

Here’s a brief rundown of what is in the August 2016 issue of Civil War Times.

An Uncommon Look at the Common Soldier by Benjamin E. Myers

A Different World: Abe Lincoln’s Hardscrabble Upbringing Taught Him to Value Immigration by Jason H. Silverman

A Vivid Picture: A Pennsylvania Officer was Among the First to Serve in the Union Signal Corps by Susannah J. Ural

Wigwags, Torches and Towers: Tools of the Signal Corps

Tempest at Cool Spring: Union Pursuers Caught up with Jubal Early’s Footsore Washington Raiders Along the Shenandoah River in 1864 by Jonathan A. Noyalas

Also included are regular features that this month cover topics such as Lincoln on Canvas and in Bronze, Confederate POWs in Illinois, Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery, and Gary Gallagher revisits Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The issue wraps up with reviews of the film “The Fiery Trail” from the Civil War Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin and the book A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. I, 1809 – 1849 by Sidney Blumenthal.

Blue & Gray Magazine Volume XXXII #2 2016

B&G Magazine Volume 32 #2
B&G Magazine Volume 32 #2

I picked up the new issue of Blue & Gray Magazine the other day. I’m not sure why I haven’t subscribed yet. It’s really a very good magazine and I always seem to enjoy it.

This issue covers the Battle of Cedar Mountain. There is an article written by Michael E. Block, the Vice President of the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield. As always, the issue is loaded with maps. There are NINE battle maps in addition to several others that are relevant to the article.

Also included is an excellent 11 stop driving tour titled; The Culmination of a Legend Building Spring and A Failing Campaign on the Peninsula authored by Dave Roth with Bike Block. The tour and article are full of historic and modern photos.

Also included is a collection of book reviews.

Well worth looking for or subscribing.