Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This just in (from Civil War Preservation Trust)


In an unexpected development on the day that a trial was scheduled to begin in the case, Walmart announced that it has abandoned plans to pursue a special use permit previously awarded to the retail giant for construction of a supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield. 
“We are pleased with Walmart’s decision to abandon plans to build a supercenter on the Wilderness battlefield,” remarked James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust.  “We have long believed that Walmart would ultimately recognize that it is in the best interests of all concerned to move their intended store away from the battlefield.  We applaud Walmart officials for putting the interests of historic preservation first.  Sam Walton would be proud of this decision.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tarnished Reputations

Five years ago, I posted a blog entry entitled “Eagles, Scalpels, Reputations – all tarnished,” as a clever way to discuss three of Dr. Thomas Lowry’s books, The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell, Tarnished Eagles, and Tarnished Scalpels. These three and other titles are the product of his prodigious research into Civil War-era courts martial records at the National Archives.

Today, Dr. Lowry stands accused of altering a historic document in order to be the one to make a prominent discovery, about which he wrote and gave talks for ten years. 
UPDATE: Since originally reporting this strange story, it has been the subject of much commentary in the blogosphere -- nowhere more than at Brooks Simpson's blog -- and Lowry himself has created a blog in which he denied the allegations and vigorously defended himself.  This Civil War Times article explains that Lowry passed a polygraph test. He has also submitted a sample for handwriting analysis. It appears this strange story may not be as cut-and-dried as it first appeared.
After reading the 1863 court-martial report of Pvt. Patrick Murphy of California, who had been characterized as “idiotic and insane,” Lincoln pardoned him and released him from the military. The otherwise-obscure pardon became part of a National Archives exhibit in 1998, leading Dr. Lowry to conclude in his book: “Fame comes to men in many strange ways.”

Dr. Lowry with my newborn son Atticus, Presidio National
Cemetery, San Francisco, circa 1994.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Oldest living African-American dies at 113

Mississippi Winn
. . .Winn was one of two known people left in the United States whose parents both were almost certainly born into slavery because documents show they were born before the end of the Civil War, though her great-niece Mary C. Hollins says Winn never acknowledged that.

"I don't know much about that," Hollins recalled Winn saying when asked about her parents' early years.

[from the Associated Press]

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Ben McCulloch

Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch,
McCulloch's Division, Army of the West

This song by Steve Earle is my favorite Civil War-themed tune, of which he's written a few. I love that he takes the perspective of a southern soldier in the Trans-Mississippi, not really knowing what he's gotten himself into. And I like the references to Wilson's Creek and the Boston Mountains, a part of the country for which I have a great fondness, and a battlefieldPea Ridge in particularthat is among my favorites to visit. I also appreciate that Earle chooses not to glorify the war in some cliched manner, or to present a sentimental ditty about the rightness of one side's cause.

As long as the link works, you can hear the original Steve Earle version here. Otherwise, you may need to listen to one of many covers on YouTube. Better yet, you can buy it on iTunes for a buck.

We signed up in San Antone my brother Paul and me
To fight with Ben McCulloch and the Texas infantry
Well the poster said we'd get a uniform and seven bucks a week
The best rations in the army and a rifle we could keep
When I first laid eyes on the general I knew he was a fightin' man
He was every inch a soldier every word was his command
Well his eyes were cold as the lead and steel forged into tools of war
He took the lives of many and the souls of many more

Well they marched us to Missouri and we hardly stopped for rest
Then he made this speech and said we're comin' to the test
Well we've got to take Saint Louie boys before the yankees do
If we control the Mississippi then the Federals are through

Well they told us that our enemy would all be dressed in blue
They forgot about the winter's cold and the cursed fever too
My brother died at Wilson's creek and Lord I seen him fall
We fell back to the Boston Mountains in the North of Arkansas

Goddamn you Ben McCulloch
I hate you more than any other man alive
And when you die you'll be a foot soldier just like me
In the devil's infantry

And on the way to Fayetteville we cursed McCulloch`s name
And mourned the dead that we'd left behind and we was carrying the lame
I killed a boy the other night who'd never even shaved
I don't even know what I'm fightin' for I ain't never owned a slave

So I snuck out of camp and then I heard the news next night
The Yankees won the battle and McCulloch lost his life

Steve Earle

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The United States Constitution: Read it and Weep

The problem with the Tea Party's new Constitution fetish is that it's hopelessly selective. As Robert Parry notes, the folks who will be reading the Constitution aloud this week can't read the parts permitting slavery or prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment using only their inside voices, while shouting their support for the 10th Amendment. They don't get to support Madison and renounce Jefferson, then claim to be restoring the vision of "the Framers." Either the Founders got it right the first time they calibrated the balance of power between the federal government and the states, or they got it so wrong that we need to pass a "Repeal Amendment" to fix it. And unless Tea Party Republicans are willing to stand proud and announce that they adore and revere the whole Constitution as written, except for the First, 14, 16th, and 17th amendments, which totally blow, they should admit right now that they are in the same conundrum as everyone else: This document no more commands the specific policies they espouse than it commands the specific policies their opponents support.
From "Read it and Weep, How the Tea Party's fetish for the Constitution as written may get it into trouble,"by Dahlia Lithwick. Slate. January 4, 2011. Read the entire essay here.