Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lucius Fairchild and GAR Patriotic Instruction

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

This morning, one of my youngest readers, Andrew, creator of the blog Civil War Kids, reminded me of the very troubling fact that many grade school children have no grasp of even the most fundamental Civil War history.

As disheartening as this is to me - as I am sure it is to you -  it would have been all the more so to the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic. GAR veterans were resolutely determined to insure that children knew their Civil War history, what had been at stake, what Union soldiers had sacrificed, and what had caused the conflict. Naturally, their history had a decidedly Union bent - children of Confederate veterans were not so keen on Union history...and neither were their parents. But more on that later.

Today we look at Lucius Fairchild. He was quite the accomplished fellow, with an impressive vita. He served as an officer in the storied Iron Brigade, rising to the rank of brigadier general, did a stint as the Secretary of State, President Grant appointed him consul to England, and then France, he was elected governor of Wisconsin and served three consecutive terms, and he was elected Commander-in-Chief of the Department of Wisconsin, GAR. And I thought I was busy.

Fairchild's work with the GAR also included what the organization termed "patriotic instruction." Veterans took an active role in education to make certain that their voices were heard (and remembered). Part of this included a series of essays written about the war by school children. I have included a few snippets from the 1890s that I found particularly illuminating - the collection is housed at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, should you ever care to check it out.

– Frank Toby, age 12, sums up the history of the war in two concise sentences.

“About this time there were negro slaves in the south owned by southern planters. Abraham Lincoln set them free by the War.”

- Charlie Baumel, age 10, had this to share regarding slavery and secession:

“The people in the cotton growing states believed that by this election that the North were going to pass laws to deprive them of their slaves so six of the southern states withdrew from the Union.”

- Esther Komitsch, age 12 wrote this homage to Lincoln and the Union soldiers:

Our flag is red, white, and blue
Abraham Lincoln was brave and true,
He freed the slaves,
To the southern peoples’ amaze,
And was honored by the boys in blue.
The Boys in blue,
Were very brave too,
They fought with all their might,
Some lost their lives,
And some lost their sight
To free the southern slaves.

Through these children's papers, we can see how the Fairchild's efforts to incorporate the slavery issue in to patriotic instruction worked. Years after Fairchild's death, others who had taken up the task of instructing school children would continue to stress the importance of this work. In 1906, instructor Edward Cronon would offer these words to his comrades:

We have saved the Union; those who come after us must be taught to preserve it. this is not mere sentiment; it is a duty which we owe to those who come after us, and who are to take our places as citizens when we are gone. if they are properly instructed, as I am sure they will be, then our mission will have been accomplished.

And in 1915, he would again speak to his instructor brethren and this time color his words with hues of reconciliation, while nevertheless remembering the Union cause:

While I am not in favor of flaunting our victory in the faces of the brave old comrades who felt it their duty to fight on the other side, it is well worth while for us in the jubilee year to recall in a public manner the high courage and patriotic devotion that saved our country from disunion, kept all the stars on our flag and made it in fact as well as in song – the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Promising New Civil War Blog

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

It may seem somewhat premature to favorably review a blog in its earliest incarnations. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the content will be up to Cosmic America standards.

The blog's title, in all its straight-forward simplicity, is Grand Army Blog: The Veteran In A [Digital] Field. It is authored by Yale Ph.D. candidate Brian Matthew Jordan, who recently published Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862.

What I gather from Brian's mission statement and first handful of posts, is an innovative addition to the ever-growing collection of Civil War memory studies. His focus is on Union veterans - but he endeavors to reorient Civil War remembrance along a veteran-civilian axis. This blog promises to be reflections on Brian's research and writing of his study, "When Billy Came Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War."

On veterans, civilians, and Civil War memory, Brian states: The categories fashioned by the historian David Blight to sort competing memories of our fratricidal war – what he called the “emancipationist,” “reconciliationist,” and “white supremacist” visions – were useful in explaining how the national narrative of the Civil War was segregated, but stopped well short of explaining how that same story was, from almost the very beginning, sanitized. The sanitization of the Civil War narrative, much like its segregation, has a troubling history.

While I disagree with Blight's thesis (not Brian's assessment of it), and I find categories of all kinds profoundly problematic, I am nevertheless intrigued by the undertaking of a new categorization of Union veterans. Sanitization of the Civil War narrative would necessarily exclude a number of the maimed veterans who lived to see the end of the war. I am interested to see how he approaches said category - and his veteran-civilian axis.

My questions are numerous - particularity concerning the themes of fluidity/rigidity as veterans once again entered civilian life. Were they indeed cordoned off and kept away from the general public? Those who "shall have borne the battle" as Lincoln said, were certainly discussed at length at monument dedications and other veteran events. Were there intersections in which the maimed and disfigured were accepted in Brian's conception of a sanitized narrative?

I look forward to Brian's work - I am sure I will have plenty to discuss.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pinterest Update and a New Question Box

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

When I am not harassing flaggers or keeping the world up to date on Twitter and Facebook, I am engaged in an experiment in what I am calling aggregate imagery narrative, which is actually just a fancy schmancy way of saying that I am telling a story with a collection of pictures.

My medium for this experiment, as I noted a while back, is Pinterest. So far the site is gaining some traction, generating enthusiasm, and driving traffic to the Cosmic America blog. Success, success, success. The Pinterest experiment is working exactly like I planned - and as an interesting insight, visitors seem most drawn to the pictures that include a relevant quote.

So far, I have included several boards - arranged in chronological order, with a few others arranged thematically (monuments, museums, etc). Within the next couple of months, I should have a comprehensive story assembled. For now, and much to my irritation, Pinterest does not allow one to rearrange pictures within a board - so, for example, pictures on the 1863 board may suffer from a lack of narrative integrity. I am hoping that this will soon be fixed. For now - I'll let people figure things out for themselves. I would like to get more people involved - check my site out and let me know what you think...suggestions are welcome.

One more quick thing - while Office Hours has been on something of a sabbatical, its popularity has yet to subside, and questions continue to find me. To facilitate this process in anticipation of a planned increase in video segments (you can check Youtube for prior episodes) I have created a question form located at the right of this post - under the chat box. So fire at will my friends - with all your Civil War inquiries! I am looking forward to your questions.



PS - speaking of the chat box. Like I always say - consistency is key. I notice that the chat feature lights up an the most unexpected times - and I cannot always answer. In the next few days, I will figure out some regular chat time, post a schedule, and announce it on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My One and Only Flagger Post

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

On March 31, 2012, The Museum of the Confederacy will open the doors at their new site in Appomattox. Let's get right to the point. Neo-Confederate heritage groups have their panties in knot over the museum's decision NOT to fly any Confederate flags. There will be an American flag and flags representing all the states of the former (emphasis...former) Confederacy. But no Stars and battle flags.

My position on flying Confederate flags in public areas and at public buildings is well known. These banners are hardly innocuous symbols of a "cause thought just." Displaying them has a tendency to arouse bitter ire. And rightfully so. They flew at the head of treasonous columns hell bent on destroying the nation...they flew over a government established to preserve slavery. So they belong IN the museum - not flying over it. And that is ALL I will say on the topic.

Why? Because I have found that arguing with neo-Confederates has little to no utility. So I won't waste my time. I do think it is necessary to point out what exactly is going on, though - just to inform my readers (if you don't already know) that there is a pretty upset unreconstructed bunch out there. The flaggers have promised to organize a public campaign to rectify this "insult," which will include a demonstration at the museum's opening on Sunday. In all fairness, I think it appropriate to offer their side of the story. You can find some pretty choice nuggets HERE.

Also, the flaggers have organized a Facebook page rallying the troops to the (long defeated) southern cause. And, an additional note - flaggers will be meeting the day before the museum showdown at the Appomattox Pizza Hut at 5:30. I guess they want to bulk up on some healthy eats to fortify their two days of protest.

For the record - the Museum of the Confederacy is a wonderful organization dedicated to preserving the history of a profound event that nearly tore the nation apart. The museum is not a neo-Confederate organization nor does it implicitly endorse secession or the Confederate States of America. The assumption forwarded by the flaggers that the MOC should honor (and thus endorse) secessionist emblems is ludicrous.

Waite Rawls, the executive director of the museum (the flaggers refer to him as a "Scallawag") had this to say: "Appomattox is a metaphor for the reunification of the country. To put the Confederate flag into that display would be a historical untruth."

I'll close with that - but leave things open for discussion. Full disclosure: flaggers...I am not going to argue with you. Period. If you are determined to fly your flags, do so on your private property, as it is your right to do so. I have said all I care to say on why the public display of Rebel flags is wrong. But if you have something insightful to contribute, be my guest.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Ever-Intrusive [sic]

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

The hour to vent has arrived - yes...I tend to get annoyed from time to time. You know that little Latin adverb that you sometimes find bracketed at the end of quoted sentences or passages? It's there indicating that the quote was transcribed exactly, but that it contained errors in spelling or some other incorrect information.

The use of [sic] drives me nuts. What may be no big deal or even a minor annoyance to you I find to be horribly and inexcusably intrusive. It breaks up the flow of the stands out like an irritating blemish on an otherwise clean disrupts like a cell phone going off at the end of Titanic. I can't stand them - they are entirely redundant as well. If a passage has been set apart with quotation marks, should we not be aware that it is an exact transcription - errors and all?

I have been reading Harold Holzer's book on Lincoln at Cooper Union. This is a book I find thoroughly fascinating and well executed. But those little [sic] notations keep finding their way into the text and spoiling my otherwise enjoyable experience. I believe that an informed public will be more than aware that when a spelling error occurs in a quoted passage it is the original author's, not the esteemed Mr. Holzer's mistake.

Pulitzer Prize winning historian James McPherson explained in a foreword to Cause and Comrades that he would avoid using [sic] and instead make slight corrections to the text - but only when it eased the flow of reading. I don't even think that is a good idea. Let's just leave historical actors' words alone. If you have to explain why you are doing what you are doing in an introductory statement then so be it.

Okay - now that I have gotten that off of my chest and can get through the rest of the day. It's the little things, you know.



Surrender - Finale

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

It did not take long for Grant and Lee to dispense with the proceedings for which they had met. Grant wrote up the terms - Lee reminded him that his officers owned their own horses, Grant made adjustments to the terms to allow the men to retain their mounts, and Lee agreed.

And there it was - the grand Army of Northern Virginia was no more. The two generals exchanged a few words and Lee, with his aide-de-camp, left the building. Below is an eyewitness account of what next transpired:

At a little before 4 o'clock General Lee shook hands with General Grant, bowed to the other officers, and with Colonel Marshall left the room. One after another we followed, and passed out to the porch. Lee signaled to his orderly to bring up his horse, and while the animal was being bridled the general stood on the lowest step and gazed sadly in the direction of the valley beyond where his army lay - now an army of prisoners. He smote his hands together a number of times in an absent sort of way; seemed not to see the group of Union officers in the yard who rose respectfully at his approach, and appeared unconscious of everything about him. All appreciated the sadness that overwhelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of every one who beheld him at this supreme moment of trial. The approach of his horse seemed to recall him from his reverie, and he at once mounted. General Grant now stepped down from the porch, and, moving toward him, saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present; Lee raised his hat respectfully, and rode off to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded.

The following day, Lee issued his Farewell Address to his army:

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 10th April 1865.
After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

His words would inform legions of Lost Cause advocates later in the nineteenth century. Overwhelming numbers and resources soon became the cornerstone of the an argument - persisting until today - suggesting the the Rebels wore themselves out defeating the Yankees.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Surrender - Entr'acte

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

So, what did Lee and Grant talk about before they got down to the business at hand? I must have been uncomfortable, to say the least - maybe the exchange of a few pleasantries? Sort of along the lines of..."So, Lee - long time! How have things been since Mexico? Not so well....I guess. Sorry about the whole independence thing."

Well, it did not go exactly like that, but the two generals did have something of a chat before the official surrender proceeded. Below is an excerpt from Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Memoirs - he provides a wonderfully detailed description of the goings on before the two men sat down and signed the necessary paperwork - complete with a clearly articulated understanding of the Confederate cause.

I had known General Lee in the old army, and had served with him in the Mexican War; but did not suppose, owing to the difference in our age and rank, that he would remember me; while I would more naturally remember him distinctly, because he was the chief of staff of General Scott in the Mexican War.

When I had left camp that morning I had not expected so soon the result that was then taking place, and consequently was in rough garb.  I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on the field, and wore a soldier's blouse for a coat, with the shoulder straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was.  When I went into the house I found General Lee. We greeted each other, and after shaking hands took our seats.  I had my staff with me, a good portion of whom were in the room during the whole of the interview.

What General Lee's feelings were I do not know.  As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassable face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it.  Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter [proposing negotiations], were sad and depressed.  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.  I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.

General Lee was dressed in a full uniform which was entirely new, and was wearing a sword of considerable value, very likely the sword which had been presented by the State of Virginia; at all events, it was an entirely different sword from the one that would ordinarily be worn in the field.  In my rough traveling suit, the uniform of a private with the straps of a lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very strangely with a man so handsomely dressed, six feet high and of faultless form.  But this was not a matter that I thought of until afterwards.

We soon fell into a conversation about old army times.  He remarked that he remembered me very well in the old army; and I told him that as a matter of course I remembered him perfectly, but from the difference in our rank and years (there being about sixteen years' difference in our ages), I had thought it very likely that I had not attracted his attention sufficiently to be remembered by him after such a long interval.  Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting.  After the conversation had run on in this style for some time, General Lee called my attention to the object of our meeting, and said that he had asked for this interview for the purpose of getting from me the terms I proposed to give his army.  I said I meant merely that his army should lay down their arms, not to take them up again during the continuance of the war unless duly and properly exchanged.  He said that he had so understood my letter.

Then we gradually fell off again into conversation about matters foreign to the subject which had brought us together.  This continued for some little time, when General Lee again interrupted the course of the conversation by suggesting that the terms I proposed to give his army ought to be written out.  I called to General [Ely S.] Parker, secretary on my staff, for writing materials, and commenced writing out the terms...

Tomorrow (or maybe later today - I am home ill) we will put an end to the Appomattox story - as told by the participants. So stay tuned.



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Prelude to Surrender

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

The scene - the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 - we know it well. But what exactly did it take for Lee to finally agree to meet Grant and surrender his army...after four years of brutal war and the understanding that his army was clearly defeated? What happened as the clock inexorably wound down on this Rebel army?

The exchange of correspondence between the two generals over the proceeding two days shows the degree of formality undertaken in such a circumstance. For those of you who are unfamiliar with how this procedure takes place, take note - it is remarkable civil. Below is the verbatim correspondence closing one chapter of an epic struggle between nations. Not the end of the war, mind you...there were still Confederate armies in the field after April 9. Still - in terms of symbolic "ends" of things, most folks see this surrender as the Confederate finale.

(Grant to Lee) 5 P.M., April 7th, 1865.
The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

(Lee to Grant) April 7th, 1865.
General: I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.
R.E. Lee, General.

(Grant to Lee) April 8th, 1865.
General R.E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.:
Your note of last evening in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon,--namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

(Lee to Grant) April 8th, 1865.
General: I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but, as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia; but as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A.M. to-morrow on the old state road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies.
R.E. Lee, General.

(Grant to Lee) April 9th, 1865.
General: Your note of yesterday is received. I have not authority to treat on the subject of peace. The meeting proposed for 10 A.M. to-day could lead to no good. I will state, however, that I am equally desirous for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertains the same feeling. The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood. By the South laying down their arms, they would hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives, and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed. Seriously hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, etc.,
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

(Lee to Grant) April 9th, 1865.
General: I received your note of this morning on the picket-line, whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now ask an interview, in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday, for that purpose.
R.E. Lee, General.

(Grant to Lee) April 9th, 1865.
General R. E. Lee Commanding C. S. Army:
Your note of this date is but this moment (11:50 A.M.) received, in consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and Lynchburg road to the Farmville and Lynchburg road. I am at this writing about four miles west of Walker's Church, and will push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice sent to me on this road where you wish the interview to take place will meet me.
U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

The two generals went on to meet at the house of Wilmer McLean. General Lee was the first to arrive. There he waited in the sitting room where he soon met General Grant, who entered the room as his staff politely waited outside for a few moments. Stay tuned - Grant wrote a wonderful description of what followed in his memoirs. But that's for tomorrow.



Sunday, March 18, 2012

At Least I Wasn't Wearing Brogans and a Wool Uniform - an LA Marathon Debriefing

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

For those of you who follow the running posts on Twitter and Facebook and such, I thought you might like to hear a little about this year's LA Marathon. First off, the weather was a hell of a lot better that the torrential downpours that plagued last year's field. Now on the race.

I started off feeling fantastic - clocking 8-minute miles. And I keep it up too, for a while anyway. My knee started messing with me around mile 11-12, but I kept my pace anyway. You know, because I do that sort of thing and I wanted to finish in about 3:30 or so. My plan...I was going to slow a bit at the halfway point and rest for a final push in the last few miles.

Ah...but the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray....

Things began to fall apart by mile 13-14. I experienced some major muscle fatigue and by mile 16 was starting to cramp. By mile 20 I had to give those cramps, which by this time had become increasingly painful, some much-needed attention. So thanks to the Army medic - I didn't get his name - who helped me work out a particularly nasty calf cramp.

The last few miles saw a pretty poor performance, but I finished faster than last year's race - gaining an entire 11.5 minutes. So all in all, I will call it a win. Finish time: 4:17:59.

I'll be running San Francisco in July - and the training....well, let's just say I will not be training harder - just smarter. Some cross training and leg work is definitely in order. So expect a better showing in a few months :)

And congratulations to all the participants of the 2012 LA Marathon. It was a pleasure (well...most of it, anyway) spending my Sunday morning with you all!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Grover Cleveland. Really?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Technology is a wonderful thing. Yes allows me to track pretty much everything. For example - I can see what Cosmic America readers are looking for, what they entered into their Google searches when they found me, how long they were on the site, where they went when they left, etc...

Here's the thing - I love surprises. And was I surprised when I found out that the Grover Cleveland ranks numero uno for Cosmic America keyword searches. The basic Google search breakdown goes something like this (keyword stats do not include clicks from Facebook, Twitter, or anything of the other components of the Cosmic America social media network) Grover Cleveland ranks at the top with 11.5% of the keyword searches who land at Cosmic America. This may not seem like much, but in relative terms it is sort of interesting. A distant second is John Brown at 5.7% followed closely by Robert E. Lee at 5.4% - the rest...and the searches range from "overweight reenactors" to "Les Tuniques Bleues" hover around 1% each or less.

This is likely the result of one of two things. Either there are tons of people out there searching for information on Grover Cleveland, the first post-war Democrat to be elected and the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in office -  or  - I am one of the only people who actually write about him in the blogosphere. My vote is for the latter.

I have written about him twice before - and he has his own little section in my upcoming book on Civil War veterans. Not because he served, he didn't. I wrote about him because Union veterans had a few choice words for some of Cleveland's dubious decisions and policies...particularly his purchase of a substitute during the war and his efforts to return captured Confederate colors.

See if you can guess what Union veterans thought about these types of activities.


PS - I closely examine statistical information - math is certainly not my area of expertise...but for some reason I took to statistics in college. Pouring over such numbers helps me adjust the content on this blog.

Friday, March 16, 2012

William H. Johnson - Citizen

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

And who exactly was William H. Johnson...this "citizen" of whom I speak?

There are no known likenesses of him and little information. We do know that Johnson was a black man born around 1835 in an unknown locale. He was Abraham Lincoln's personal valet and barber, that he worked for Lincoln in Springfield...accompanying him to Washington City in 1861, and that he worked also as a messenger for the Department of the Treasury.

We can learn something of his character from Lincoln's papers. In March 1861, he wrote this personal letter of recommendation: "Whom it may concern. William Johnson, a colored boy, and bearer of this, has been with me about twelve months; and has been, so far, as I believe, honest, faithful, sober, industrious, and handy as a servant. A. LINCOLN." On November 29, 1861, Lincoln wrote Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase: "You remember kindly asking me, some time ago whether I really desired you to find a place for William Johnson, a colored boy who came from Illinois with me. If you can find him the place shall really be obliged. Yours truly A. LINCOLN."

Words of praise from the executive office. A handy recommendation - if you can get it. But what became of Lincoln's honest, faithful, sober, and industrious servant? In November 1863, Johnson accompanied Lincoln to Gettysburg. A smallpox epidemic had been doing its work in Washington, affecting Lincoln's son Tad and apparently Lincoln himself - who began suffering from a mild case as he returned from Gettysburg soon after delivering his now famous address. Johnson attended his employer as a valet might and contracted the disease himself, succumbing soon after - the exact date of Johnson's death is unknown. Did Lincoln unknowingly infect his valet? Perhaps.

The story ends on a bold note. Lincoln paid for Johnson's burial at Arlington Cemetery in January 1864. On his headstone, Lincoln had engraved one word under Johnson's name - CITIZEN. This was indeed a strong statement in Emancipation Proclamation (which noted nothing about citizenship) but long before amendments were added to the Constitution providing for universal citizenship. Was this gesture a reflection of how Lincoln understood  "a new birth of freedom"? So it seems.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Most Peculiar Memorial

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

With all the whoop-dee-do last week about a ridiculous Booth bobblehead incident at the Gettysburg visitor center, I began to think about something that today strikes us as a bit perverse - well, most of us anyway. It seems that not so long ago, there were folks who probably rejoiced over the death of Abraham Lincoln. They may not have trumpeted it throughout the land - that would have been in bad taste. But regarding killing the man who had led the assault against the prospect of an independent Confederacy? I can only imagine that more than a few smiled a little on the inside. They might have even uttered a few quiet words of praise for John Wilkes Booth. Maybe, anyway.

But at least one person wasn't shy about the whole thing. Joseph Pinkney "Pink" Parker was a police officer, teacher, Baptist church member and Confederate veteran who lived in Troy, Alabama and really really hated Abraham Lincoln. He hated him so much, in fact, that each year, on the anniversary of Lincoln's death, he would don his Sunday best and parade about the town celebrating the event. But Parker was not satisfied with simple annual celebrations - in 1908 he personally commissioned a monument honoring John Wilkes Booth and commemorating Lincoln's assassination.

That was a little much for Troy residents, who had quietly put up with Parker's yearly celebrations. His request to install the monument at the town courthouse was flatly denied. So instead - he put it in his front yard, for all to see.

And there it remained until Parker's death in 1921. Over the years, the Booth tribute had made national news, and people from all over country demanded that the monument be destroyed. It still exists, sort of. Parker's son used the stone - with the inscription celebrating Booth removed - as a headstone for his father's grave. It now marks the final resting place of Troy's most notorious Lincoln hater, at Oakwood Cemetery...a former monument to John Wilkes Booth.

Thanks to fellow historian and blogger Scott MacKenzie for alerting me to this one. He comes up with some gems!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wiser Bobbleheads Prevailed

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

As a quick follow-up to Sunday's post, I would like to inform all of my avid readers that yes indeed...the John Wilkes Booth bobblehead has been removed from the Gettysburg Visitor Center gift shop. Now...we can all breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the serious stuff. Unless of course, someone starts selling a Henry Wirz bobblehead at Andersonville. Oh! The horror!

You can get the skinny HERE from the Gettysburg Evening Sun. The paper went so far as to get a quote from prominent Lincoln historian Harold Holzer. I have to agree professor...wiser bobbleheads have, with unquestionable certainty, prevailed. Holzer went on to suggest that the Booth bobblehead is along the lines of an Oswald doll at the Kennedy Center. Maybe so. And for those of you who want to know, I assure you I would never purchase such an object. But...if they ever come out with a set of Guys on the Grassy Knoll bobbleheads for the conspiracy theorist in all of us, I may consider it.

Peace (and back to business),


Sunday, March 11, 2012

The South is Avenged... at least one of the phrases witnesses to the Lincoln assassination heard John Wilkes Booth shout as he jumped to the stage from the presidential box. The other, and of course the most well known phrase that Booth bellowed to the audience at Ford's Theatre: Sic Semper Tyrannis!

Greetings Cosmic Americans! I wonder which of these phrases the Gettysburg Visitor Center employee had in mind when he or she decided to stock their gift shop with a John Wilkes Booth bobblehead? Both Kevin Levin and Brooks Simpson reported on this event - the story hit the Internet yesterday and didn't take long to find its way to the Civil War blogosphere.

I offer only a few words in critique. It entirely trivializes a dreadful chapter in the Civil War epic (as do many of the souvenirs available in Gettysburg gift shops - remember the Kitty Cats?). But worse yet, poor taste aside - the toy is pretty vulgar. For shit's sake - the man murdered the president.

Feel free to chime in.



Saturday, March 10, 2012

John Quincy Marr - A Confederate First

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Months ago, we discussed the death of Elmer Ellsworth, the first officer in the United States Army to fall in combat. The first Confederate to hold such an unfortunate title was a Virginian named John Quincy Marr

From Warrenton, in Fauquier County, Marr graduated from Virginia Military institute in 1846. He originally sought a commission in the United States Army, but eventually returned to Warrenton to the family farm - where he pursued a career in law.

After the Brown raid, he organized a militia unit known as the Warrenton Rifles - what in 1861 became company K of the 17th Virginia Infantry. He had served on the secession commission from Fauquier County, voting against on the April 4 vote but later supporting the April 17 move for secession.

On June 1, 1861, company K was involved in a skirmish with United States cavalry at Fairfax Courthouse. Marr was shot through the heart and killed. The video comes to you courtesy of the Museum of the Confederacy. You can have a look at their other vodcasts by clicking HERE.



NB - while Marr was the first Confederate officer killed in action, Ellsworth still holds the title (if one can call it that) of being the first officer killed in either army. He managed to get shot a week earlier.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Civil War on Pinterest

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Pinterest, for those of you a little late to the game (as I was, until yesterday), is a pinboard photo-sharing social media website. It has been around since 2010 - at first in closed-beta developmental stages and then it picked up steam with the public in August 2011.

The idea is a simple one - as you wander through the seemingly infinite universe of the Internet, you can "pin" images that strike your fancy to your very own virtual pinboard. Others can follow you (and you can follow others) and pin and repin your images. Such images are tracked back to their originating websites.

What a fascinating concept - and possibly an exercise in self indulgence. I mean, why would anybody care what I or anyone else thinks is interesting? But that's just seems people do care. In less than 24 hours since I launched the Cosmic America pinboard - with its paltry number of images -  I have already had several "repins" of some very (in my opinion) evocative Civil War images. I have repinned others' vacation shots of monuments, battlefields, etc.

And thus I consider this an experiment in aggregate imagery narrative. I will keep most of my non-historical interests to myself...or at least on Facebook - and use Pinterest to combine groups of images together thematically...arranged in roughly chronological order. Perhaps, this exercise will enhance my efforts to bridge the gulf between academia and an informed public. Bringing the Civil War world closer together, as it were.

At the very least - within a few weeks, I should have cataloged a healthy dose of Civil War shots - some you may be familiar with, others of the more rare variety. You will no doubt find perusing them useful.



Thursday, March 8, 2012

What Civil War Book Most Influenced You?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I speak often about the many Civil War books that I have found compelling over the years. Of course, there is Bruce Catton's body of work - my introduction to Civil War history, and David Blight's Race and Reunion - the very best book I have ever read that I disagree with. I keep these books on my short list for a variety of reasons.

But if there is one book that most influenced my thinking - at least when it comes to Confederate nationalism, Confederate identity, and how the Confederate States of America finally succumbed to defeat, I would have to give the nod to Gary W. Gallagher's Confederate War.

Before I thoroughly engaged this book, I considered Confederate defeat in terms of internal divisions. Popular national support (or lack thereof - for a multitude of reasons), popular connections to the institution of slavery, and the disconnect between civilian and military leadership all seemed problematic enough to suggest that maybe...just maybe the Rebels did themselves in.

Gallagher's book did not change my mind on the spot - but it got me thinking about the Confederate cause and how the Confederate people persevered for four years despite these things. Further investigation convinced me that the Rebels had internal troubles to spare, but were profoundly committed to independence and a slave-holding republic and were willing to sacrifice nearly everything to get it. You don't need to take my word for it - just read the book...have a look at the evidence in comparison to other works discussing Confederate defeat (Robinson's Bitter Fruits of Bondage would be a good start) and decide for yourself.

And in case you were wondering about my current thoughts on Confederate defeat - I am going to have to go with George Pickett: I am pretty sure the Union army had something to do with it.



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Best Civil War Hike Ever

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

As many of you know, I am an avid runner and hiker. In less than two weeks, I'll be running the LA Marathon for the second time - I expect to destroy last year's time. As far as hiking goes, I never miss a chance to explore as much of a Civil War site as possible on foot. Sometimes this involves some pretty strenuous hiking - and I get to enjoy two of my passions at once. Huzzah!

My favorite Civil War hike? Maryland Heights at Harpers Ferry. It's a little over 5 miles to the top and back and it can get steep in places. There are plenty of interpretive signs along the way leading you through the military history of the area. You can also find traces of fortifications - breastworks and gun emplacements dot the well as ammunition pits and powder magazines, and you will find the remains of a fort at the summit.

But what's more - the views are spectacular. The summit's main attraction is an overlook of Harpers Ferry and the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Well worth the price of admission, so to speak.

So - that's my plug for nature loving Civil War peeps - next time you find yourself driving near Harpers Ferry - do yourself a favor and head up the summit.



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Future of Civil War Era Studies - A Response to Stephen Berry's Top Ten List

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I recently read an intriguing article in the Journal of the Civil War Era by historian Stephen Berry of the University of Georgia. Berry accounts for the quieting of hotly debated big issues that have dominated Civil War studies for the last several decades. Slavery - we can pretty much agree on that. Where the war was won and lost - well, maybe. The modernity of the South - sure. Self-emancipation - of course, so long as you give at least some credit to the Union army. Confederate internal divisions - yes there were some, but again...the Union army, remember? So, with "many of these old debates quiescent," Berry asks, "where does that leave us; where do we go from here?" Berry then proceeds to offer his top ten list of where we are actually going from here. I will not trouble to list them here - you can read them for yourself.

I will, however, offer a few notes of my own. Berry's list strikes me as only an ever-so-slight adjustment to what Civil War historians have been up to for, well, as long as there have been Civil War historians. If Berry is right, then we are not really going anywhere, not breaking new ground, not keeping up with the times. If anything, we would only be adjusting an existing format to conform to current trends in scholarship. Yes, trends like environmental history and transnationalism will certainly begin to dominate Civil War studies programs. The focus away from microhistory to the larger sweep of events will undoubtedly prevail, for the time being anyway.

And such scholarship is well and good - but as projected, these movements in Civil War Studies reflect the tendency of many scholars to encapsulate themselves within the hallowed halls of academia. Berry's concern with how new studies will fit with the existing tenure system, how they will be funded and received by the NEH and other organizations, and whether or not we are killing the war our fathers built suggests that same old system of Civil War Era studies is merely getting a fresh coat of paint.

But with certainty...and in very short order, Civil War Era studies will no longer be defined by the same old system. I would not imply that the discipline is inexorably sinking and that Berry is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. But I would say that there have been profound changes in how we read, research, teach, and absorb - even feel, see, and hear Civil War history. And I would also argue that Civil War Era studies is steadily moving away from the confines of the university and in to the hands of an informed public. Berry touches on this - but only with the delicate touch of someone who does not wish to stir things up too much. After all - tenure is quite possibly at stake.

Case in point: number four on the list, "It Is No Longer 'Cute' To Be A Luddite," accents the development of Digital Humanities 2.0. A move beyond the simple storage of information (the 1.0 version) and the necessity of digital skills and technical savvy. Berry notes that the whole system must either "reboot itself or get the boot." As clever as that statement is, Berry's preoccupation with dissertators' technical skills misses the the crux of how digital humanities is entirely restructuring the discourse between teacher, student, and the public. Single-author monographs will not simply be yielding space to Internet collaborations, they will be engaging them. And Internet collaborators will be (and are quickly becoming) a wide cross section of individuals of all stripes and walks of life - many well versed in Civil War history - points Berry fails to note.

There is little "future" in the forum article – albeit innovative points of focus, Berry's top ten list nevertheless appears to be offering conscious constructions to fit the current mold of academic scholarship. Are Civil War scholars in essence sharpening a pencil we already have - remaining content to speak an esoteric language and move about in areas reserved for the academic elite? Scarcity of access is quickly becoming a thing of the past. And as more and more leave the fold to embrace an informed public, traditional Civil War scholarship (in its current incarnation) and its conventional means of production and highly selective dissemination will be of less utility - and indeed...of less relevance.

The Future of Civil War Era Studies? I offer number eleven for Berry's list - it's going viral.



Monday, March 5, 2012

Should John Brown Have a Monument?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

When John Brown was hanged in December 1859 - church bells across New England tolled for abolition's martyr. During the Civil War, Union soldiers marched off to battle with his name upon their lips. "John Brown's body lies a mouldering in the grave...." But he committed treason - he planned an insurrection intent on the murder of American citizens.

I posed the question on Facebook and Twitter as to whether or not John Brown should have a monument and got a number of thoughtful responses. I should point out, as did fellow Civil War historian and blogger Scott MacKenzie, that there are a number of monuments and markers already out there. Early twentieth century monuments in Osawatomie, Kansas and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia offer limited (although differing) analyses of Brown's role in the coming conflagration. If you are among those who subscribe to the idea that our understanding of the past is really a reflection of the present and a reflection of place, perhaps this makes sense.

How then, would our twenty-first century sensibilities inform a new monument to Brown, if one were so conceived? We (most of us, anyway) think emancipation was a good thing. We also live in a world threatened by terrorism. What then do we say about Brown? And where do we say it? Most who commented on my several posts yesterday agree that a comprehensive memorial denoting the fight to end slavery - including Brown - would be best. Memorializing the man would be tough for some people, while they could still celebrate his sentiments overall. And Harper's Ferry would be the most appropriate spot. We would of course have to  highlight what he thought would become of a nation plagued by the institution - and be crystal clear concerning exactly what he was prepared to do to end it.

Can we do so without judgment? Can we provide the information and let the informed public decide? Controversy would undoubtedly ensue - but when something like this gets people fired up, then it was probably done right. We may all just have to wait and see what happens. As it stands, I know of no plans....

I will ask you this. Would you support a new monument to Brown? If so, what would you want it to look like? What would be involved?



Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chat Me Up!

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Introducing the new Cosmic America chat feature.

So - are you sitting at home pondering modernity in the antebellum South? Trying to figure out why Gene Genovese's latest wasn't quite as Marxist as his old stuff? Considering whether or not the war affected change for northern civilians in any measurable way? Are you studying for comps and trying to sort out memory historiography? Or are you just looking for the best taco stand in Hollywood?

Fortune has smiled on you my friends. Periodically throughout the day, I will set aside some time to go one on one with anybody who wishes to do so - or better yet, I can facilitate a group discussion and we can all get to the bottom of whatever issue comes to mind - or at least give it our best shot. Just enter your comments in the chat box to the right and click "go." Of course I will announce designated chat times on Facebook and Twitter. And hey...if I am not around - why not just talk among yourselves? There is always something to talk about. Here...I will get you started:


And the good questions and comments will go straight to Office Hours!



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Where Do All the Big Guns Come From?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Over the past two weeks, I have been spending a lot of time at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. First, it was to find Gone With the Wind star Hattie McDaniel's grave, then I was there to look up a very prominent Union Civil War veteran, Allen Allensworth. One of the cemetery's dominating features is the big cannon guarding the entrance to the soldiers' plot. Although heavily damaged from years of exposure, neglect, and vandalism, the gun still strikes an imposing posture before the graves of the nation's men at arms.

If you have visited cemeteries with special sections for soldiers, you have certainly seen  a gun or two. If the cemetery is old enough, it will probably be the final resting place for Civil War soldiers - and the gun will more than likely date to the Civil War era. But have you ever wondered how the gun got there? I was especially intrigued by this one. Los Angeles was a long way from the action during the war, but there is a Civil War cannon here nonetheless.

I took a few pictures, noted the various markings, and sent them to fellow Civil War blogger Craig Swain for further information. Craig got back to me in short order with more details than I had expected. This 10-inch Rodman probably served as part of network of seacoast defensive fortifications in the northeast. How can he tell? A postwar rifling insert indicates that the gun was modified from its original casting as a smoothbore - the markings on this insert give precise dates and other details. This one was converted by South Boston Foundry in 1877 (where most of the guns from the northeast wound up) - it was the 36th conversion made in the series. It was inspected by Cullen Bryant and weighed 16090 pounds.

But how did it get to California? In the late 1860s, Irvin McDowell, the Union general who lost at Manassas, was in command of the department of the West. He requested that these guns be shipped to California for use in coastal defenses. This Rodman more than likely made its way west after 1877 - it would not have been cost effective (the Army was tightening its belt in those days after a protracted war) to ship it east for rifling and then ship it west once again.

So my best guess is that this gun has never fired a shot in anger. In 1908, the Stanton Post, GAR procured the gun (somehow...I am going to figure that out next) then dedicated it as a monument to their comrades buried at Rosedale. And now it sits rusting, covered with graffiti and filled with garbage in a seldom-visited cemetery that suffers from neglect. If you're ever in the West Adams neighborhood of Washington and Normandie - stop by for a visit.



Friday, March 2, 2012

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth - a Significant First

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Allen Allensworth was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1842. Like many others, the Civil War brought an opportunity to escape to Union lines. Allensworth took this opportunity and joined with the Union hospital Corps after escaping to an encampment of the 44th Illinois Volunteer Regiment - a unit camped near Louisville. In 1863, he joined the US Navy, where he was soon promoted to Captain's Steward serving on the Gunboat Queen's City.

After the war, he pursued a life of preaching, married, and eventually returned to the Army as the Chaplain of the 24th Infantry Regiment - the Buffalo Soldiers - holding the rank of Captain, he was among the few black officers in the Army. By the time of his retirement in 1906, he had reached the rank of Lt. Colonel - the first black man to do so.

Allensworth is quickly becoming a point of great interest to me. After his retirement, he moved to Los Angeles, California and worked to develop a black community north of Bakersfield. The town of Allensworth, founded in 1908, was meant to be entirely self sufficient - free from racism, and free from the travails of the post Reconstruction South. Sadly, the town failed. The problem - no water. Allensworth returned to Los Angeles where, in 1914,  he was ingloriously killed in a motorcycle accident. He is buried in the GAR plot at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. 

Allensworth is among several men in my current study of Union veterans who moved west after the war. Did Allensworth develop an identity as a westerner? What sort of identities was he dealing with in a post-Union victory United States that helped inform a possible western outlook? Several identity layers may indeed surface - racial, sectional, gender, class. We shall see - I am planning several trips to the archives including a road trip to the remnants of what was once Allensworth, California.

One thing that is great about this project - it turns out that Los Angeles has a much richer Civil War connection than I had previously thought.