Friday, February 23, 2007

"Make me a map of the Valley" (as a pdf I can view on my iPhone)

In the comments section of one of the other Civil War blogsI've forgotten how to find my way back to itDrew Wagenhoffer posted a note expressing his curiosity about what software people use for maps (or something to that effect). Maps and map-making are subjects dear to my heart, and I have wanted to make a blog entry on the subject.

I have loved looking at maps for as long as I can rememberancient maps of the known world, modern roadmaps, library floorplans, even those colorful fold-outs that show all the parts of an amusement park. New advances in digital technology, like Google Earth, excite me to no end. I don't know how people get by without at least one globe in the house, and a few maps on the wall. In the kitchen, we keep the nearly 5-1/2 ft. tall Raven map of California, which I enjoy scrutinizing over a bowl of Cheerios. If I ever find myself in a contest to name as many valleys of California as possible in 60 seconds, I'm ready.

And really, what's more fun than settling down with one of those giant National Geographic atlases, discovering mountain ranges and rivers you've never heard of? Doesn't matter how old you are, there's always one more corner of the world with geography so strange and unfamiliar, it's as if you're seeing it for the first time. And maybe you are. Spend a few minutes studying the southern coastline of Chile sometime. How old were you before you noticed Novaya Zemlya on a map, separating the Barents Sea from the Kara? Cold Warriors may know of the nuclear detonations there.

But I digress. When Ted Savasanother map aficionadoand I commenced publishing Civil War Regiments, we were determined to support the articles with plenty of maps. It drove us nuts that long, complicated military narratives lacked maps altogether, or else had maps so useless, you wonder why the publisher bothered. Desktop publishing was pretty much in its infancy when we started out, and yet the transformation in publishing (digital straight-to-plate, electronic transmissions of pages) was well underway. With a handful of friends and family, we did it allacquisitions, editing, design, typesetting, marketing, order fulfillment. It was only natural that we create the maps as well.

Farming out the cartography was not affordable, or reliable. Besides, it was the funnest part of the job. By the time we drafted the maps, we were thoroughly immersed in the article and its sources, and well positioned to tailor specific scenes to augment the narrative. Drafting the maps was the dessertthe reward for weeks of tedious copyediting, proofing, layout. Saved for last, it was very satisfying way to put an issue to bed.

We would start with blank screens, and start building something over untold hours and days. We showed each other drafts along the way, made suggestions, tweaked and tweaked, and sometimes tossed it out and started over. From the start, Ted and I had a multi-platform officehe on his tragically soul-less Windows machine, using Corel Draw (I think, initially), and me on my trusty Mac, using Adobe Illustrator. Over time, we developed distinct styles, and while the maps in an overall issue might look stylistically inconsistent to someone flipping through, they remained consistent within the articles themselves (Ted handled all CSA articles, and I did the USA ones).

As we became more proficient with the software, we got a little fancy at timesas cocky cartographers are wont to do. But in time, we settled into styles that emphasized clarity and readability over bells and whistles (most maps one saw in Civil War books then were useful and perfectly serviceable drawings by people like Blake Magner, George Schoch; later, some other, talented electronic map makers, like Mark A. Moore, arrived on the scene). Ted and I each devised our own way to depict elevations, woods, artillery, and so on. I favor using varying levels of gray scale to set off elevations, for example.

Many times, we worked from an author's hand-drawn map or crude photocopies, but usually we created something from scratch, referring to the O.R. Atlas for landmarks, and scale, and drawing on the text, and our own reading to get the action right. Often, the author's research meant depicting troop locations, and troop movements in a way that was at odds with published maps of the same battlemaking our maps among the first to show it in what we became persuaded was the correct alignment. It was a blast trying to corroborate this information, comparing after-action reports, working up the map scale, discovering what was possible, and what could not have been.

My own favorites from the CWR days involved the Vicksburg issue, with Sherman's assault on the Stockade Redan, and the attack on the Railroad Redoubt, when the 22nd Iowa punctured the line.

It's an amazing experience to draw a map of a place, spending hours reading about the particulars, the descriptions of it by men who were there, studying modern photographs, until you can see it in your mind's eye as if it were the topography of your own backyard, though you've never visited the actual site. Then, on your first visit to the place, how odd it is to feel a wave of recognition. Deja vu all over again, as the great Yogi Berra said.

Also fascinating is the challenge of finding ways to depict lots of actionsometimes multiple daysin a small amount of space. Or, choosing a moment in time to capture the heart of a complex action in a two dimensional drawing. This latter problem led me to habitually add little narrative passages to the map itself, or to use insets to zoom in on something (see Cold Harbor to Petersburg map below). In the map at top, I was tasked with depicting four major battles around Atlanta in a single map that was alloted one-half of a page. It's busy, but somehow it works (Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference).

Both Ted and I went on to do maps for books in addition to the quarterlysometimes "freelance"a thankless job (sometimes literally a thankless jobI was recruited by one author to do some maps for his Civil War installment in the University Press of Kansas' Modern War Studies series, about 9 years ago. I spent whole weekends on three difficult maps, got them to the publisher on deadline, and never heard from the up-and-coming professor againnot even in response to my email informing him that they were delivered. Eventually the book came out. No mention of maps in the acknowledgments, no credit lines on the maps themselves. No simple "thank you" by email. I had offered to do them for freefor exposure in the university press worldso wasn't looking for payment. Just courtesy. I had to write to the publisher to get a copy of the book. This kind of thing is exceptional, but as you can see, little rudenesses like that are not easily forgotten).

The highlights of my own map making days have to be the 27 or so maps I did for a theme issue of the old Civil War magazine, all depicting action from Fortress Monroe to Richmond in McClellan's 1862 Peninsula Campaign. More recently, I did all 30 or so maps for The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference, each of which was reviewed by Richard Sommers and Ed Bearss. It's astonishing what little details and subtle errors those two men marked on the draftsthings like moving one division behind another, redirecting a creek bed, relocating a critical road intersection, etc.

Maps can be notoriously problematic in the manufacturing stages, and a lot of trial and error goes into ensuring that different levels of gray are distinguishable (rather than all black, or all washed out), that thin lines are not too thin for the press, and so on. But it's a lot easier now that you can lock in a perfect pdf that will allow for those kinds of variances in the printing plant.

Here's a few more: click on the image to see it enlarged.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Lincoln and Halleck are traitors and caterpillars..."

Major Henry Abbott, 20th Massachusetts

Caterpillars? All the talk of Harvard recentlyand quite a few bloggers were speaking of it, including Kevin, and Dimitri, and Eric
specifically, the hiring of a Civil War scholar as president, not to mention the first woman to hold that position, got me thinking about the 20th Massachusetts Infantry, sometimes called the "Harvard Regiment," due to the preponderance of Harvard-connected officers in that unit.

Indeed, their blue uniforms were well complemented by their blue blood. Harvard graduate Richard Miller penned a regimental history, Harvard's Civil War, published by the University Press of New England in 2005. UPNE's description of the regiment drops some big names: "Its officers were drawn from elite circles of New England politics, literature, and commerce. This was the regiment of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.; of his cousins, William Lowell Putnam and James Jackson Lowell, both nephews of James Russell Lowell; of Paul Joseph Revere and his brother Edward H. R. Revere, both grandsons of Paul Revere; and of Sumner Paine, great-grandson of Declaration of Independence signer Robert Treat Paine."

I haven't read Miller's book, but the subject interests me. A more familiar (to me), and widely-read volume with Harvard/ 20th Mass connections is Fallen Leaves, The Civil War Letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott, still in print in paperback from Kent State.

[A side note: when I was a Stanford University Press, Helen Trimpi, who I think had both Harvard and Stanford connections, and a steadfast member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table, submitted an in-process manuscript that was a sort of biographical register of Confederate officers with Harvard tiesI hope she's able to get that information out in some published fashion]

One might naturally imagine that a group of aristocratic officers from Boston, ground zero for the abolitionist movement, would be firmly in the anti-slavery camp. Not so. My associations with the 20th Massachusetts track back to the early days of Civil War Regiments journal. In the first issue of our 3rd year, we published a well-researched, well-written article on the 20th Massachusetts, by Anthony J. Milano. Mr. Milano, however, called the unit by its other moniker: "The Copperhead Regiment" (the letters I excerpt below all come from Milano's excellent article in Vol. 3, No. 1 of CWR, and are mainly from the Holmes Manuscript Collection at the Harvard Law School Library, and the Abbott Letter Manuscript Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard).

They were not "copperheads" in the Vallandigham sensethey were not traitors to the Unionbut they were decidedly opposed to a war to end slavery. Indeed, as early as 1861, an anonymous member of the regiment wrote to state's stridently abolitionist governor, John Andrew, to complain that "with but two or three exceptions those of our officers boast of their pro-slavery opinions and purposes. . ." In short, they were pro-Union, anti-abolitionist, McClellan Democrats.

Oliver Wendell Holmes was a Union man, but had no faith in the Union's ability to subdue the South. In a letter to his sister, in November of 1862, he wrote:

I've pretty much made up my mind that the South have achieved their independence & I am almost ready to hope spring will see an endI prefer intervention to save our credit but believe me, we never shall lick 'emThe Army is tired with its hard, & its terrible experience & still more with its mismanagement & I think before long the majority will say that we are vainly working to effect what never happensthe subjugation (for that is it) of a great civilized nation. We shan't do itat least the Army can't. . .

Apparently his father thought such talk sounded like his heart wasn't with the Union, and a month later, Holmes wrote to his father to make the distinction clear: "I never I believe have shown, as you seem to hint, any wavering in my belief in the right of our causeit is my disbelief in our success by arms in wh. I differ from you. . .and I believe I represent the conviction of the Army."

Needless to say, the "copperheads" of the 20th Massachusetts were none too pleased with Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The prolific letter writer, Major Henry Abbott, wrote to his aunt soon after: ". . .The president's proclamation is of course received with universal disgust, particularly the part which enjoins the officers to see that it is carried out. You may be sure that we shan't look to anything of the king, having decidedly too much reverence for the Constitution. . ."

After the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, Abbott could not contain his anger that "the miserable Dutchmen, broke & ran all of them at the first shot, as I always reasoned they would," and he railed against "Hooker," and his higher-ups. In a letter to his mother, he wrote, "I should think the whole nation would cry out for McClellan. Lincoln & Halleck are traitors and caterpillars. . . . It certainly seems as if it were impossible for abolitionists to stop lying & doing all they can to injure this army."

Later, at Gettysburg, the 20th Massachusetts was nearly decimated, losing 8 officers and 101 enlisted men killed or wounded out of the 240 men who entered the fray. Among the dead were Colonel Revere, Lt. Sumner Paine, and Lt. Henry Ropes, each a part of the Copperhead clique of Crimson aristocrats. Holmes had been wounded earlier, at Fredericksburg, and his father, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., gave a speech at Boston on the day after the Gettysburg fighting ended, calling on all citizens of the U.S. to get behind President Lincoln, and to reject calls for a negotiated peace.

Major Abbott, on August 7th, 1863, wrote to his mother to say Holmes senior was "a miserable little manikin, dried up morally and physically, & there is certainly nothing more aggravating than to have a little fool make orations & talk about traitors & the man who quarrels with the pilot when the ship is in danger. . ."

But Gettysburg pretty much marked the end of the "Copperhead Regiment" designation. For the balance of the war, all the way to Appomattox, that distinguishing characteristic among its officers was lost. Say what you will about about those pro-slavery, Harvard Copperheads -- they did their duty, as volunteers, amidst all the grumbling. One of the last of them, the angry young Major Henry Abbott, was killed in the Wilderness in May of 1864.

One can only imagine the vitriol that would have issued from his pen had he lived long enough to see Lincoln summarily defeat McClellanwith overwhelming support from the army rank and filethe following November.

Some 20th Massachusetts links:
[image at top: John Harvard Statue, Harvard College]

Manly Men in the Service of the Lord

"The Civil War is our only 'felt' history," wrote Robert Penn Warren, and one can certainly feel that in the element of religious fervor that attends our inherited and adopted interpretations of that cataclysmic era. Though no one today was alive in the 1860s, many there are who have a deep, emotional investment in how the story is told (or remembered, as Kevin at Civil War Memory might say).
Certainly Abraham Lincoln has attained saintly status in the literature, but the Southern Cause, in particular, has become synonymous with righteous struggle. There is something fundamentally strange about the way Confederate icons have all but replaced the apostles in the stained glass of southern history. They were the knights of the Confederate round table (minus Lancelot's adulterous betrayal, of course), and the reasons they fought can never be sullied by incidental, political distractions like free soil versus slave soil. The godliness of men like Lee, and Jackson, is cartoonishly caricatured in films like "Gods and Generals," and in the essays of earnest children (see the With Lee in Virginia paragraph of this one, quoted below). But this business about "biblical manhood" puts a new twist on things (see the 2003 winner of biblical manhood essay contest here). The subject of the essay is a Civil War figure, and I'll give you one hint: it wasn't Benjamin Butler.
I don't have the energy or inclination to speak at length about this phenomenon, but I did need an excuse to use Church Sign Generator.

Another book with powerful lessons of providence is With Lee in Virginia. Set in the South during the War Between the States, it explores causes of the war, happenings during it, and lasting effects of it; in it, Henty shows the divine providence which was continually overarching and undergirding the efforts of His people. G.A. Henty sought to remind readers of the religious causes and ramifications of the war. He told how the great leaders of the Confederacy were godly men fighting for godly principles in areas as broad as Christian culture and as specific as decentralized government. He also told how the Reformed faith was what motivated countless men and boys to rise up to defend the South. Most importantly, he showed the grace and mercy of God in the course of the war. The Reverend J.L. Underwood, who also wrote about the war, said in reference to the purpose of the Confederates: “there is a thing better than peace: liberty.” This idea is a recurring theme throughout With Lee in Virginia. Henty explores how God strengthened them to fight what they called the Second War of Independence in a Christian manner and for Christian principles. He gave them resolve to continue in their cause; He gave them strength to act in accordance with their faith throughout the war. Though we still mourn the loss of so many godly men, and though we see that many of the principles for which they fought vanished from society as they died, we can thank God fervently for His providence in preserving their honor and strengthening their faith in the following generations.

Is it just me, or is there something deeply bizarre about groups like "The Vision Forum" assigning Victorian adventure novels (such as G. A. Henty's With Lee in Virginia) to give children today a notion of devout manliness in the antebellum South?

With all due respect to our young essayist and Henty aficionado, and not having read the book, I'm going to take reviewer
Catherine Hood's word for it (from the first critique of With Lee at Amazon): "This book was not exciting, nor is it realistic of antebellum life in Virginia. From the title, you would think that the book would be about the War Between the States and about Robert E. Lee. It is neither. It is what an Englishman thinks it might have been like to be in the South before the war begins, but he doesn't know. The research, if there was any research, was not done well. . . . it is a very tedious, boring, and painful book to read."

That said, after a Google search, I did find a copy of the book online here. I haven't had a chance to go through much of it, but will give an overview in a subsequent post. Our hero, Vincent Wingfield, is an Englishman in Virginia. A slaveowner himself, and sympathetic to the South, he's not above pummeling a plantation owner for whipping a slave:

"You are a coward and a blackguard, Andrew Jackson!"
Vincent exclaimed, white with anger. "You are a disgrace to Virginia, you ruffian!"

Without a word the young planter, mad with rage at this interference, rushed at Vincent; but the latter had learned the use of his fists at his English school, and riding exercises had strengthened his muscles, and as his opponent rushed at him, he met him with a blow from the shoulder which sent him staggering back with the blood streaming from his lips. He again rushed forward, and heavy blows were exchanged; then they closed and grappled. For a minute they swayed to and from but although much taller, the young planter was no stronger than Vincent, and at last they came to the ground with a crash, Vincent uppermost, Jackson's head as he fell coming with such force against a low stump that he lay insensible.

Those riding exercises and schoolyard fisticuffs really paid off.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Civil War Historian Boots Boring Economist From Ivory Tower

Harvard set to name first female president.
Noted historian, a Radcliffe dean, will succeed Summers
Valerie Strauss, Susan Kinzie, Washington Post Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Harvard University is about to name its first female president since its founding in 1636, tapping a Civil War historian to succeed Lawrence Summers, whose tenure was marked by controversial remarks about women and clashes with faculty members.

Drew Gilpin Faust, 59, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a leading historian on the American South, will be formally appointed president as early as this weekend, according to a source.
With Faust's selection, half of the eight Ivy League schools will be run by women: Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Brown University."

[from Washington Post, via San Francisco Chronicle]

Thursday, February 08, 2007

More Lies Across America, Civil War category

About one year ago, I posted some comments on James W. Loewen's sequel to Lies My Teacher Told Me (see that post here).

I've got Appomattox on my mind a lot lately, as I finalize plans for a visit there in six weeks. This tripfor the 11th Civil War Forum reunionwill be my first visit to the scene of Lee's surrender. Loewen has an entry on Appomattox, the opening paragraph of which reads:

At Appomattox cemetery, where the Civil War for the Army of Northern Virginia ended, the United Daughters of the Confederacy put up a marker with the words, "Here on Sunday, April 9, 1865 after four years of heroic struggle in defense of principles believed fundamental to the existence of our government Lee surrendered 9,000 men, the remnant of an army still unconquered in spirit, to 118,000 men under Grant." The marker gets the date right, and the Confederacy did put up "four years of heroic struggle." Otherwise, like most markers and monuments put up by the Daughters, it cannot be relied on for accuracy.

The title of that particular chapter is "Getting Even the Numbers Wrong," but if you've read other Civil War-related entries in Loewen's books, you can guess his immediate complaint here. It is about the "principles believed fundamental to the existence of our government." I'll pass on that CSA skewering for now, but highlight something that rings silly to anyone with more than passing familiarity with events following Lee's abandonment of his Petersburg and Richmond lines, and his westward retreat.

The opposed by overwhelming numbers argument as a rationalization for Lee's defeat has a basis
in fact, but is in full bloom, and exaggerated, with the Daughter's marker. Lee's army had become dramatically reduced by this time, but something like three times the 9,000 marker figure received paroles. And while Grant did have an army of nearly 120,000 investing Petersburg, and Richmond, only about half that number were in the vicinity of Appomattox in the lead up to the surrender. Lee was outnumbered, to be sure, but not by 13-1.

COMING SOON, Patrick Schroeder, NPS historian at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, author of a book on the cemetery there, and on myths related to the surrender, weighs in on some of the issues I've raised here.