Friday, June 24, 2016

"This research presents a crucial corrective to the Lost Cause version of history"

With Free State of Jones, Hollywood’s Civil War
Comes Closer to History’s

Pop Culture May Finally Be Ready to Surrender the Myth of a Noble,
Confederate Lost Cause . . .
by Victoria Bynum, June, 23, 2016

The events in Jones County demonstrate a larger truth of dissent and violence that erupted throughout the South during the Civil War. This research presents a crucial corrective to the Lost Cause version of history that afflicts us still—not simply in movies and novels, but also in the classroom, where even my college students have frequently assured me that “Granny said our slaves were treated just like family in the old days,” or on internet message boards and chat rooms, where self-proclaimed authorities insist the Civil War was never really about slavery. 
Scholars like myself have long struggled against this version of Civil War history. It was created only around the turn of the 20th century, when a few influential Northern and Southern historians strove to heal the war-damaged United States by creating a more conciliatory vision of the Civil War and Reconstruction. 
Denouncing the war as a needless slaughter brought on by politicians, historians such as William Archibald Dunning and his followers portrayed the Reconstruction that followed as a tragic era of “Negro rule,” carpetbagger corruption, and scalawag treason. The Dunning School soft-peddled slavery’s role as the major cause of war. The myth of a Civil War fought over “states’ rights” hardened into orthodoxy, providing a “noble cause” for white Southerners seeking to sanctify the sacrifices and deaths of their ancestors.
read the full article here 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Steve Adelson on the Battle of the Little Bighorn

As we approach the 140 anniversary, let's review. Park Ranger Steve Adelson gave a spirited talk on the Visitor Center back patio in August of 2014, captured for posterity by C-SPAN. 

I like this talk a lot. Condensing such a big story into such a small talk—all of the background information, the biographies, the infinitely complicated context—for a diverse crowd of mostly first-time visitors, is an art form. Some do it better than others. Steve Adelson does it very well, I think. 

[My only (nitpicking) gripe about the presentation has to do with the video editing. There is no known photograph of Crazy Horse, but this film seems to suggest that's what you're looking at on a couple of occasions.]

Friday, June 10, 2016

"The Bombing of Fort Point (Battle of San Francisco)"

 "The Bombing of Fort Point (Battle of San Francisco)"  Oil on Canvas, 43" x 54", 1996 

In Smog and Thunder: The Great War of the Californias
    Sandow Birk

A series of artworks depicting an imaginary war between San Francisco and Los Angeles, incorporating more than 120 artworks, including paintings, drawings, prints, faux war posters, maps, diagrams, models, and video documentary. 
The project was exhibited at the Laguna Art Museum in Southern California in 2000, and at the Sonoma Art Museum in Northern California in 2001. 
A 45 min. documentary film about the war, inspired by Ken Burns' PBS series "The Civil War", was completed in 2001 and is now available. It was directed by Sean Meredith and made in collaboration with Paul Zaloom. View other images in the series here

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Dr. John H. Eicher, 1921–2016

"The world has lost a great and a good man with the passing on Tuesday, June 7, of Dr. John H. Eicher, organic chemist, Manhattan Project scientist, mineralogist, historian, philosopher of science, and promoter of sharing the joy of knowledge with his fellow human beings."
Read more about Dr. Eicher in this Astronomy magazine tribute

John Eicher made lasting contributions in many areas of study. He and his son David collaborated on several Civil War book projects, including the magisterial reference work, Civil War High Commands (Stanford University Press, 2002).

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Matthew McConaughey on "Free State of Jones"

Congratulations to Victoria Bynum on the forthcoming release of a major movie based on her book, "The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War." It promises to be a great film about an amazing, deeply American story. Official trailer.
I was promoting the story of the Free State of Jones (glorified book review) way back when Matthew McConaughey was still fighting dragons ( Reign of Fire, 2002).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pontoon bridge across the Potomac at Berlin.

Alexander Gardner, November 1862, Berlin, Maryland

Art Institute of Chicago
New York Public Library

The "Weehawken" sinking, Dec. 6th, 1863

From Sketches for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
New York Public Library

THE MONITOR DISASTER; Particulars of the Sinking of the Weehawken
Correspondence of the Boston Traveler.
Published: December 14, 1863

For some time past nothing of interest has occurred at this point. We have had a few days of cold and nights of freezing weather. Yesterday, however, there occurred to the fleet the worst disaster of the siege. The famous iron-clad Weehawken, so gallantly fought by Capt. JOHN ROGERS, and recently by Commander CALHOUN, has sunk off Morris Island.

On Saturday, the 5th inst., we had a calm Summer's day. About midnight the breeze sprung up from the northeast, and blew a gale. The vessels that rode at their anchors so quietly on Saturday now plunged fearfully. The Ironsides lay about two miles from Sumter, the Montauk was on picket, the Nahant was to the northeast about two hundred yards, and the Weehawken to the southwest about a hundred yards. Commander CALHOUN had been sent home, unfit for duty, a short time previously. Commander DUNCAN, of the Paul Jones, took charge of the Weehawken on Saturday, the 5th inst.

During the forenoon of Sunday, Commander DUNCAN visited the flagship, and while there the Weehawken shipped a heavy sea, which entered the forward hatch and filled the anchor-room. This anchor-room is a water-tight compartment with a valve under the cabin door to let aft the water to the pumps, but at this time it must have been out of order, as the water could not get aft. The cabin door was closed, yet the bars that were to hold it in its place, (so as to keep the water in the anchor-room,) could not be found. The officers and men, inured to dangers of this kind, seemed to care but little for what was going on.

They went below and quietly partook of their dinner, but soon after they were astonished at the rapidity with which the water was gaining upon them. The executive officer commenced to pay out chain, but the hawse-pipe was soon under water and a six-inch stream came pouring in. The paying out of the chain did not relieve the ill-fated vessel. JOHN ROGERS was not there. Presently the cry "She sinks!" resounded through the vessel, and signals of distress were made to the flagship; boats were lowered from all vessels knowing the signals, but before they could reach her she sunk how first in five fathoms water, carrying with her twenty-six men and four engineers, including men in irons and men sick; also men at work in the engine-room—supposed the whole watch on duty at the time.

It is presumed that when the water reached the forward part of the boilers it made steam so suddenly as to suffocate all hands in the engine-room, as not one who was there escaped. The yeoman was picked up, but died soon afterward. Much credit is due Capts. AMMEN and BRADFORD of the navy for their great exertions made to save the perishing sailors. A charge of want of proper care would seem to rest upon the officers of the Weehawken. Some, however. have advanced the idea that the forward overhang of the lost vessel has broken off, but Mr. HUGHES, Inspector of Iron-clads, thinks that cannot be the case.

If the Weehawken is ever raised, it will then be known where the blame, if any, rests. The Weehawken had but recently returned from Port Royal, and had an unusual quantity of shot and shell on board, which probably settled her too far in the water. It is calculated that when these vessels are under water but fifteen inches, that two hundred tons would sink them bodily, consequently a much less weight would carry them down bow first.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Major General John A. "Black Jack" Logan, from the Library of Congress.

Civil War Trust's biography of John Logan is here

(1) Monument of Gen. John A. Logan, Chicago, Ill. (on horseback, with group of people, mostly seated on lawn, in foreground), c1900; (2) Logan, wartime portrait; (3) Washington, District of Columbia. The Grand Review of the Army. Gen. John A. Logan's 15th Army Corps passing on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Treasury, May 1865, Mathew Brady.