Monday, July 30, 2007

North versus South

I went to the ballgame on Friday the 13th. The Dodgers were in town to, unfortunately, sweep the Giants again (the woman in this photo was sitting a couple rows ahead of me). The Giants-Dodgers games are among the few all season where, without fail, fights break out in the stands. I’m always impressed by the courage, or poor judgement, of certain Dodgers fans who wear their full regalia in the Giants ballpark, then stand up and taunt the crowd. It invites a lot of abuse, and the police presence at L. A. games is much higher in order to respond to the inevitable fisticuffs. But it's better now than it used to be.

There’s a North/South tension in California that dates, to some degree, back to the Civil War or earlier (even if Southern Californians are unaware of it). San Francisco’s Union Square, reportedly the scene of pro-Union speeches, took its name during that period, but there were no such squares way down in the City of Angels. Edwin Vose Sumner, sent west to relieve Albert Sydney Johnston, was on the job following the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and he knew where to find the trouble-makers. Forget the Indians – all of a sudden there were other hostiles to worry about! To wit:


Lieut.-Col. E.D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Army:

SIR: I have the honor to report that I have found it necessary to withdraw the troops from Fort Mojave and place them at Los Angeles. There is more danger of disaffection at this place than any other in the State. There are a number of influential men there who are decided Secessionists, and if we should have any difficulty it will commence there. Fort Mojave is represented as an entirely useless post. There are no hostile Indians near it, and there is no traveling whatever on the road it is intended to protect.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, U.S. Army, Commanding.

Sumner, who would receive wounds in the Seven Days Campaign, and at Antietam, and die of a heart attack at about the half-way point of the war, never gets credit for saving Los Angeles for the Union, though it's possible that eventually he will be blamed for it. . . For more on California and the lead-up to the war, head on over to Drew Wagenhoffer's excellent blog, Civil War Books & Authors, where the latest entry -- I just noticed -- is a very useful review of The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War, by Leonard L. Richards. Drew writes that, "Although clearly futile, effort was also made by pro-Southern politicians (with the support of influential Mexican landowners in Southern California) to divide the state in half." I've seen this book around, and am definitely going to pick up a copy.

Stay tuned: in the coming days, more on my recent sojourn in Arkansas, where you can buy accessories like these for your car.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Location momentarily disclosed, and closed to the public

Emerging from an undisclosed location, last month Vice President Cheney descended upon the battlefield at Kennesaw Mountain. American taxpayers all pitched in to transport the vice president to a gathering of descendants of the 21st Ohio Infantry and people pretending to be members of that historic regiment. No word yet on how many taxpayers' visits were precluded, or cut short, when the National Battlefield Park was rendered off limits to John Q. Public while Mr. Cheney and grown men dressed up like Union soldiers mingled in the park's main building.

The vice president's ancestor, Captain Samuel Fletcher Cheney of the storied 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, participated in W. T. Sherman's tragically ill-considered efforts to dislodge the Army of Tennessee from positions astride the mountain [stories here, and here]. Presumably, Captain Cheney did not have "other priorities" when his country called (assuming he wasn't conscripted). It's safe to say, given the beating Sherman received at Kennesaw on June 27, 1864, none among the Federal rank and file considered the years-long insurgency to be in its last throes quite yet.

Photo: "They Who Fought Here":
Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park Visitor Center

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

All Roads Lead To Fifty-Six

I'm on the road for a few more days, deep in the tick-infested woods of North-Central Arkansas, not far from where J. O. Shelby spent the bitter winter of 1862-1863. Look for a full report report from the Trans-Mississippi upon our return. Two things I learned on this Independence Day: 1) Blanchard Springs and associated Caverns were named for a Civil War Veteran of Shiloh, Stones River, and Chickamauga (more on that next week); and 2) the Battle Flag is 100 times more visible today then it was the last time I visited Arkansas, ten years ago.