Monday, November 29, 2010

Office Hours at Ye Rustic Inn November 29th, 2010

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

So - who wouldn't want to sit down with their history teacher over beers and burgers and talk some Civil War?

SO come on down to Ye Rustic Inn - if you live in LA...maybe we can arrange a guest spot - if not, the beers will have to be virtual.

Either way - just send a question here - or you can Facebook me or send me a tweet. I'll answer you on Youtube!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

A few words regarding Civil War memory

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well - we are nearing the Civil War sesquicentennial. Damn straight. 150 years since the good people of South Carolina fired on Ft. Sumter and kicked off four years of fun for all.

This landmark anniversary has got people thinking. People like my Twitter friend (@cjceglio) want to know about the national memory of the war. What has been emphasized; what has been suppressed?

It just so happens that
Civil War memory (in my humble opinion) is in a state of flux at the moment.

For the longest time, historians have stressed the "forgetfulness" of the national citizenry when it came to the war. The spirit of national reconciliation, scholars such as David Blight argue, paired reconciliationists with white supremacists and they wrote the memory of the war on southern terms. Meaning - the issues of slavery and emancipation were essentially written out of the war's memory. Suppressed as it were. Instead, so the story goes, parties from both sides remembered the war as reconciled Americans. they emphasized the shared memories of valor, devotion, heroism, and a mutual defense of cause - all worthy virtues.

The problem is - the veterans of the war didn't see things quite this way. Recent scholarship on this subject (my own included) accents the contentious memories of the war. So long as the participants of the war lived, issues such as slavery , state rights, treason, and tyranny remained in the fore.

And the veterans' legacies lived on. It seems that Americans have been fighting a war with words ever since. Oh sure, there has been some suppression of the more bitter memories here and there. But overall - northerners and southerners have been at each other for the last 150 years over what exactly the war was about. The issues remain just as salient today as they did in 1861.

Except one. It seems that treason has slipped below the surface. With all the talk (important talk, mind you) about slavery, we have sort of collectively misplaced the notion that millions of southerners supported treason against the United States government. Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and anyone else who donned the Confederate gray committed the highest crime conceivable against their nation. You can say all you want about state rights, southern honor, blah blah blah. That doesn't negate the fact that white southerners turned against their legally elected government. Hmmmmmm. I wonder how that would fly today. Just sayin'.....

But those are my two cents. Lots of you out there will probably disagree with me (some of you might want to punch me in the face). So be it - I have spent most of my adult life trying to figure this out....I let the evidence speak for itself.

Now if you want more I suggest a number of things. To begin, there is a FIRST RATE blog that deals with this topic in an unparalleled fashion. Historian and High School history teacher Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory is well worth reading and sharing with your friends.

Also, you will want to check out David Blight's book, Race and Reunion - this is probably the most important book that I argue against. A fine work to be sure but not quite right.

The counter argument is just getting going. Stay tuned for my book on Civil War veterans and commemoration, Across the Bloody Chasm: Reconciliation on the Wake of Civil War. For a preview check out my article of Union vets and emancipation. Also, historian Joan Waugh has written an excellent book on U.S. Grant and Civil War memory - and that's just for starters. The topic of memory is alive and well...thankfully.

If you want to bust my chops on this, go ahead....I am ready. Send me a Tweet or Facebook me anytime :)


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Holidays from Cosmic America!!

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, today is Thanksgiving so I guess that means the holiday season has officially kicked off. I know this because I drove by a Best Buy this afternoon and people were already lined up for Black Friday super shopping. Sheesh.

But hey - whatever floats you boat!!

So I want everyone to have a wonderful holiday this year - even that guy on Youtube who keeps calling me a Yankee traitor. (I'm not joking, you know).

Peace be with you all my friends. To you and yours...HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!


What if What if What if (the Stonewall Jackson post)

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!! I hope this post finds you well - happy, healthy and of course - thankful for all you have in this world.

Now as you all know, I get questions daily via Facebook, Youtube, and especially Twitter. This one comes up frequently enough to merit an entire post. And guess what - I am as thrilled as hell about it because it gives me a chance to pitch in on counterfactual history.

So here you go - I am sure you have heard it too: "What if Stonewall Jackson had lived to fight at Gettysburg?"

Oh boy. Well, I guess I should start with just a little background. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was known to Lee and all across the Confederacy as a fighter. He was ballsy, tough, and quite often outmaneuvered and out fought his better supplied and manned opponents. 2nd Manassas? Kicked ass. The Valley campaign of 1862? Kicked ass. Fredericksburg? Kicked ass. Chancellorsville? Kicked ass. See what I mean...except there was one little problem.

After Stonewall's 2nd corps, ANV effectively routed the Union 11th corps at Chancellorsville, some dumb asses from North Carolina accidentally shot him and he subsequently died a few days later. Bummer for the Rebs. They lost one of their best guys.

So good ole Robert E. Lee decided to reorganize the 2nd corps in to two new corps, the 2nd - under the command of Richard S. Ewell and the 3rd - under the command of A. P. Hill.

Fast forward to July 1, 1863. Elements of Ewell's 2nd corps beat the shit out of the Union 1st and 11th corps at Gettysburg - pushing them through the town and up the heights (Cemetery Hill) just south of town. Lee's orders to Ewell: Take the heights if practicable.

Well, apparently Ewell didn't think it was practicable because he did not take the heights (or even attempt to) and the Union wound up holding the high ground - a fact that would prove very advantageous for the Union later on.

Many armchair generals across the land have since insisted that if Stonewall had been in command on that day - those heights would have been taken - thus insuring Confederate victory at Gettysburg and quite possibly the war itself. Poor old Richard S. Ewell. That is one hell of a historical burden to have hanging over you.

But here's the thing (counterfactual rant begins now). We have NO WAY of knowing what would have happened. NO WAY. PERIOD. Jackson could have done a number of things, maybe he would have taken the hill. Could he have held it? Who knows? Hell - maybe he would have been killed, or had dysentery, or fallen off his horse, or anything at all. The point here is that counterfactual history gets us absolutely nowhere. There were an infinite number of possibilities that day with the people who actually fought in the battle. One of them happened. Let's focus on that and give the "what ifs" a break.

Now there are a few historians around (Mark Grimsley and others) who have postulated some sort of counterfactual "theory" that they suggest will actually shed light on what could have really happened given another set of circumstances.

Nonsense. Attaching a bunch of academic claptrap to the musings and suppositions of what boils down to fantasy has even less utility than the simple "what if" questions over beer, peanuts, and Youtube.

At any rate - if you want to talk about Gettysburg, I am all yours. But let's stick to what actually happened - not what could have.

Peace (and don't eat too much turkey - save room for the pie)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Six out of seven ain't too shabby!

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Thanks to Statcounter I am pleased to report that Cosmic America now has readers on six out of the seven continents. How about that!!! Worldwide readership.

The thing is - I feel that Antarctica is kinda missing out. So I am calling on you my Antarctic friends!! Aren't you interested in the American Civil War?? I promise - it is really REALLY fascinating. I think if you give it a chance, you will be as captivated as I am.

So come on - don't get left behind. Check it out.


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Civil War Letters of Henry A. Allen

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Interested in the letters of Confederate prisoners of war? So am I. It turns out...these guys have a lot to say. And now I am going to make this particular collection - housed at the special collections library at the University of Virginia, available to the world!

Which means, you won't have to travel all the way to Virginia to see it! But here's the catch - I am going to post one every day until they are all posted. You'll just have to keep checking.

For starters, Henry A. Allen was in the construction business in Portsmouth, Virginia. He joined and was soon promoted to Captain of the 9th Virginia Regiment. On July 3rd, 1863, the 9th was part of the Pickett-Pettigrew assault on Cemetery Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg. There, Allen was captured - to sit out the rest of the war in Union prisons. He later joined the Confederate Veterans' organization called the Immortal 600 (more on these guys the letters first)

Just click HERE and have at 'em.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Office Hours at Ye Rustic Inn!

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Thanks to Rachel from Missouri and Anthony from Virginia for this week's questions. I love nothing more than to talk about Civil War history over beers and burgers. My Twitter crew have been sending in a ton of questions (they are really staking up) so stay tuned. So long as Ye Rustic keeps the beer flowing and the jukebox on I'll be there to pitch in my two cents.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cosmic America's Civil War: The Battle of Shiloh

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I know you will enjoy Shiloh episode and I KNOW you will enjoy these free maps. Just click HERE. It's always nice to have a little visual.

The show tonight was as lively as usual - click HERE to check it out. And remember..if you think I am full of it, just leave a comment. I love to argue.

Guess what - the questions have been flying in. Be sure to tune in to my Youtube channel and check out "Office Hours" for the responses. Send me a question here or on twitter or wherever and I'll be sure to give you a shout out!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Civil War Soldiers: What They Fought For

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Another great show is in the books! Tonight on Cosmic America's Civil War I took a break from the chronological narrative and talked about regular soldiers. Why they enlisted and why they fought.

Yep - you'll get it all on the show. Adventure, community, group cohesion, and yes - that's right - ideology. I don't care what you say, Civil War soldiers were ideologically motivated.

So check out the recorded version by clicking HERE.

Now that you have a taste I am sure you will want to read the books I talked about so here are some convenient links (aren't I nice). Just click the titles.

Bell I. Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb
Bell I. Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank
James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades

Enjoy and happy reading


Monday, November 15, 2010

Much Ado About Revisionist History

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

As you must surely know by now (as I mention this often), I spend a lot of time scouring the Internet for people discussing the Civil War. Youtube and Twitter are of course my favorite virtual forums - they never disappoint.

I have noticed something that, as a historian, I find really really really interesting. The word "revision" seems to carry a negative connotation. And individuals all over the place hold the so-called practitioners of "revisionist history" with the greatest contempt.

Now this comes from both ends of the political spectrum. Those who finger point and accuse don't necessarily fall into any easily defined category.

But the way I understand things, people who are screaming about revisionism are kinda missing the point. The words "revision" and "revisionist" have simply been reduced to a code for information that disgruntled would-be historians disagree with. (Bitter??? Table for one).

Here's the deal my angry f-bomb dropping friends. Revision is what historians do (and lots of others, too). If we didn't revise, there would be one book on the Civil War. We would all read it, and that would be it.

Oh sure - historians can write with a bias, and what they write can certainly be a reflection of the times in which they live. But is this by definition a bad thing or something that we simply must come to terms with and be aware of? What we learn about history and historians can tell us a lot about ourselves as interpreters of the past. If you really want to impress your friends at parties - get in to historiography. Now that's some revision we can talk about. Are there noticeable differences in books written before and after the Vietnam era (to use one sorta obvious example)? You betcha.

But all of that aside, I believe that revision is the essential ingredient to reconstructing the past. New evidence always surfaces somewhere, differing analysis produces thoughtful conversations, new insights lead us to reconsider something we may have thought we knew...but didn't.

In other words - you can get all bent out of shape if someone challenges your precious beliefs. But instead of dismissing that person as a "revisionist" in derogatory fashion, why not just have a look at what they are saying, weigh the arguments in terms of credibility, see if their evidence holds water. Do you really want to learn anything - or do you just want to hold fast to what could very well be long outdated?

I am open to fire away.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winfield Scott, the Anaconda Plan, and the Fall of New Orleans

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, after a string of reshedulings and technical difficulties, Cosmic America's Civil War finally made it on the air - two days late!

It was a good episode too, so if you haven't watched it yet - check it out by clicking HERE.

I'll give you a little on Winfield "Old Fuss and Feathers" Scott (I love Civil War era nicknames), his foresight about the potential course of the war, his subsequent Anaconda Plan - and the plan in action....the fall of New Orleans in April 1862.

It's important to note, friends, that while 1862 is considered by many to be the year of Confederate ascendancy, they were sucking pretty hard in the western theater. All the good stuff was happening in the east. This fact really lends itself to the idea that the eastern theater was the principle theater of the war.

Now I know that some of you will argue with me on this. But remember, I read history forward. People during the war looked east a lot more than they looked west.

Still, the fall of New Orleans was a hard blow for the rebs. It was the biggest city in the South with more than 100,000 citizens and it was a key harbor at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Tune in to the show and find out all about it.


PS - for a great book on Winfield Scott's career check out Allan Peskin, Winfield Scott and Profession of Arms

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cosmic America - Office Hours!

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, the very first Office Hours session is in the books. I hope you enjoy. It is kind of dark at Ye Rustic Inn - but hey, want do you want for free, anyway?

This was a lot of fun - as you can see there are some real characters at my favorite Hollywood area bar. OMG - who gets cut off at a bar at 12:30 in the afternoon? Sheesh! Stay tuned - who knows what might happen


Monday, November 8, 2010

Port Royal - A Rehearsal for Reconstruction

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Last night, Live and Unfiltered featured the Port Royal Experiment - what some scholars have called a "rehearsal for Reconstruction." And what a rehearsal it was! To check out last night's episode, click HERE.

I think wartime Reconstruction is often glossed over in Civil War classes (as is the big event during 1865-1877) but that's just me. Fans of my show will be happy to know that I plan on covering Reconstruction thoroughly. Why?? Becuase it's important dammit!

And if you don't believe me - just check any newspaper from the period. Reconstruction was on people's minds.

Now...since you have watched the Port Royal episode (or are about to), those of you paying attention probably noticed that I mentioned a couple of books. Read them - you'll be better off for it.

Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment by Willie Lee Rose

Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made by Eugene D. Genovese


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Civil War Live and Unfiltered: Ball's Bluff and the Trent Affair

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

For all of you watching my streaming Civil War course, Live and Unfiltered, you will want to download this map for Tuesday's (November 4, 2010) episode: Ball's Bluff and (time permitting) The Trent Affair.

Fun shall be had by all - just click HERE and the map is all yours!

And be sure to tune in every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday evening at 8PST by clicking HERE.


Memories of Murder at Fort Pillow

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well as you know, I speak all the time about Civil War memory - particularly the stuff that caused problems later in the 19th century - like issues concerning race. I don't give a damn what scholars think, but northerners remembered the cause of freedom and the sacrifices that black Union soldiers made to contribute to emancipation.

Take this Kurz and Allison print from 1892. It shows the murder of surrendering black soldiers by Confederate forces under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest. That's right, At Ft. Pillow on April 12, 1864, African American soldiers were massacred - shown no quarter. Northerners, black and white, condemned Forrest and his officers and men for these actions - a condemnation that continues today.

So you think white northerners whitewashed Civil War memory - guess again.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ye Rustic Inn - Cosmic America Annex - Yes or No??

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I am thinking of making Ye Rustic Inn in Los Feliz, California my new office at least once a week. For those of you wondering, Los Feliz is adjacent to Hollywood - and a pretty cool place to hang out.

Anyway, I thought I could get some writing done here and possibly some video blogs wheels are always turning you know. I might even broadcast the answers to all the questions you Cosmic Americans keep asking...over beers. Teaching history might never be the same!

But I am leaving it to you - let me know...Ye Rustic Inn?? yes or no???


Special Halloween episode - The Union is Dissolved! (just in case you missed it)

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Thanks to all who watch Sunday's episode of The Civil War: Live and Unfiltered! It was a fun way to start the Halloween festivities. Check it out if you missed it - and be sure to watch from the get about a minute of music before the horror begins :)

This week's schedule is in the books, so be sure to tune in tonight, Thursday, and Sunday at 8PM PST by clicking HERE.

Tonight the shooting finally starts - we will discuss the First Battle of Bull Run (or...for the rebs in the crowd, First Manassas).

See you then-

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reconciliation at Grant's Tomb

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Wrap your head around this - Ulysses S. Grant shaking hands with that rebel Robert E. Lee enshrined forever at his own tomb!!

And why not? The whole point of the war was to bring the country back together - why not show a little spirit of reconciliation? After all, Grant's campaign slogan (or rather, the Republican Party's slogan) for the election of 1868 was "Let Us Have Peace." So there you have it...peace.

But remember, Union veterans had a very clear vision of what peace and reconciliation would look like. Don't forget that. When Americans would learn the history of their greatest conflict, former Union soldiers were determined that they would learn what the war had been about. The Confederacy had fought to destroy the nation and perpetuate the institution of slavery. Period.

Sure, they would say, let us have peace...let us promote reconciliation. But don't forget what happened. Even Grant himself wrote in his memoirs: "I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse."

(Let Us Have) Peace,