I received the following challenge:
List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t over think it. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just books that have impacted you in some way.
So, here goes, in no particular order:
1. The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. This was the one that started it all for me. Bruce Catton’s wonderful prose and THE coolest maps ever made.
2. William Manchester’s marvelous The Arms of Krupp, 1587-1968. My master’s thesis was a direct result of having read this book.
3. Carlo D’Este, Patton: A Genius for War. Simply put, THE finest military biography that I have ever read.
4. Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command. An epic study that not only taught me a lot about the Confederate side of the Civil War, it also introduced me to the Lost Cause.
5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Yep, I’m a nerd. This proves it.
6. Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge too Far. This epic study of the wretched, miserable failure that was Operation Market Garden is one of the finest campaign studies ever written.
7. Alan T. Nolan, Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History. This groundbreaking book directly led to the publication of one of my books.
8. Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels. Full of factual errors but one of the finest pieces of historical fiction ever written, this book was the introduction to the Civil War for many a person.
9. John Hennessy, Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. This is THE best Civil War campaign study I have ever read, and I aspire to doing as well some day.
10. Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. Moses was the most powerful man in New York, but his ego and downfall brought about the bankruptcy of New York in the 1970’s. This epic biography taught me the art of biography.
There are, of course, many, many other worthy candidates for inclusion on such a list–in fact, limiting the list to ten entries really unreasonably limits things. But these are the ten that come to mind without overthinking it, and I think that this list is a worthy one.
Feel free to leave your own lists here in the comments. It should make for some interesting discussion.Scridb filter
I have long been an enthusiastic supporter of the gang at Emerging Civil War. Chris Mackowski and Kris White founded Emerging Civil War to create a place for the next generation of Civil War historians to try out their voices. And they have formed a very talented team that includes Chris Kolakowski (whom I’ve known for about 10 years now), Dan Davis, Phil Greenwalt, Rob Orrison, Meg Thompson, and others. As I travel around the country, I see far, far more gray hair in the groups that attend the events where I speak and too few young people. Consequently, I constantly worry about the future of Civil War scholarship.
I’m pleased to tell you that after attending an event put on by ECW this weekend, I am far more comfortable with the future of the study of the Civil War. If this is what the next generation has to offer, then we’re in very good hands.
For one thing, there’s the Emerging Civil War Series of books. These are meant to be gateway books into specific topics, filled with lots of photos, maps and battlefield tours. They are intended to provide introductions to different battles that will lead others to study those battles in a far more in-depth fashion. This series is the brainchild of Chris Mackowski and Kris White, and it’s quite good indeed. Our mutual publisher, Savas-Beatie, publishes these books.
This weekend was ECW’s first annual Civil War Symposium. The event was held at the absolutely gorgeous Stevenson Ridge inn (the house where we stayed is the image at the beginning of this blog post), which happens to be owned by Chris Mackowski’s in-laws, and which is located on a portion of the Spotsylvania battlefield. Friday night featured a very interesting panel discussion, and Saturday included a full slate of speakers. ECW gave me the honor of being the keynote speaker at the event, which was on the war in 1864. Four of the talks (including mine) were filmed by C-SPAN and will be broadcast at a later date (I will let you know when I know the date). All of the talks were excellent and it was an honor to be included. Today was a full day battlefield tour. Attendees could choose between an in-depth tour of Spotsylvania, or an overview tour of both the Wilderness and Spotsylvania.
I want to focus on one speaker in particular. Lee White, who is a ranger at Chickamauga, was supposed to speak on the Atlanta Campaign, but a family issue prevented him from attending. A young man named Ryan Quint, who is still an undergraduate college student at Mary Washington University, filled in, and did so quite ably indeed. He gave a terrific talk. If this 20-year-old college student represents the caliber of talent in the next generation of Civil War historians, then our avocation is in very good hands indeed.
It was a real pleasure getting to spend time with the likes of old friend Dave Powell, Chris Kolakowski, Chris Mackowski, Kris White, Dan Davis, Phil Greenwalt, Michael Hardy, John Michael Priest, and lots of familiar faces among the attendees. Thanks to the ECW crew for an outstanding event.
I can’t say enough good things about what this group of historians is doing. The second annual symposium will be on turning points in the Civil War and will be held at Stevenson Ridge next July 30. Next year’s battlefield tour will be of Chancellorsville, one of my very favorite battlefields. Do yourselves a favor and plan on attending. You won’t be disappointed. I will be there.Scridb filter
Thank you to everyone who donated to make this long-awaited day possible.
From today’s Fredericksburg Freelance-Star:
Brandy Station battle site is being restored
BY CLINT SCHEMMER / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
History lovers, rejoice.
On Saturday, the Civil War Trust began restoring the most important scene of America’s largest cavalry battle, Fleetwood Hill near the village of Brandy Station in Culpeper County.
Spotsylvania County contractor J.K Wolfrey is removing a garage and brick ranch house—one of two modern dwellings—on the 56-acre property, said Jim Campi, director of policy and communications for the national nonprofit trust.
The strategic crest is where Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart made his headquarters before mounted Union troopers’ surprise attack on June 9, 1863. Charges and countercharges swept across Fleetwood Hill all that day as fighting swirled around the rail depot’s crossroads.
The battle is nationally important for opening Robert E. Lee’s Gettysburg campaign, and proving that the Union cavalry had become a fair match for Stuart’s renowned men.
“We are pleased that work has begun to restore Fleetwood Hill to its wartime appearance,” Campi said in an interview Saturday afternoon. “Our goal is to have a ribbon cutting to open interpretive trails next spring.”
Culpeper businessman Tony Troilo sold the land—centerpiece of the expansive Brandy Station battlefield—to the trust a year ago this month, and lived there until earlier this summer.
The trust will take down the tract’s modern structures: a large house atop the hill, a smaller ranch house, a detached garage, two in-ground pools and a pool house. Where possible, it worked closely with Troilo and others to re-use parts of the buildings, Campi said. For instance, a metal barn was removed for use by the local 4–H club.
Wolfrey will backfill the basements and pools and grade their sites to confirm with topography and, aided by old photos, match the hilltop’s historic contours.
The contractor, who has worked on trust sites on the Cedar Mountain, Wilderness and Petersburg battlefields, will remove most of the houses’ asphalt and concrete driveways. Ornamental landscaping will also go, though some trees will stay.
The trust will keep a paved area for visitor parking, and won’t touch a historic well.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which holds a conservation easement on the property, approved the trust’s demolition plan.
The wartime landscape restoration is among the trust’s most ambitious 0f such projects, Campi said.
The site will be closed to the public during the demolition, which could take up to three months, depending on weather and other factors.
This spring, favorable conditions allowed a contractor to finish similar work at a postwar farmstead on the Fredericksburg area’s Slaughter Pen Farm battlefield well ahead of schedule.
Once the Fleetwood Hill project is finished, the trust will announce its plans for public access to the nationally significant historic site, Campi said.
It has begun developing a multi-stop interpretive walking trail to augment the trust’s educational spots elsewhere on the battlefield.
Longer term, more trees will be planted on Fleetwood so the crest better how it looked during the Civil War.
Other parts of the property will be farmed under a five-year agricultural lease.
In late 2012, the Civil War Trust announced it had a chance to buy the site. It succeeded last August after a $3.6 million fundraising campaign that drew private gifts and matching grants from the federal Civil War Land Acquisition Grant Program, administered by the American Battlefield Protection Program, and Virginia’s Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. Its partners included the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, and the Brandy Station Foundation.
Beyond the purchase price, major donors gave money to help restore the hilltop’s wartime landscape.
ON THE NET:
Clint Schemmer: 540/374-5424
It won’t be long now until the view from Fleetwood Hill is unfettered once more.Scridb filter
My world, and welcome to it.
The stuff that people feel that they have to share with us at book signings is pretty astounding.
Please don’t mistake my sarcasm for a lack of gratitude. I really appreciate it that folks feel like they can approach me and for the most part, I enjoy the interactions. Every now and again, someone will bring something to my attention that is of great interest to me, and I completely lose myself in the conversation. As just one example, at one of my first speaking engagements after my book Glory Enough for All: The Battle of Trevilian Station and Sheridan’s Second Raid was published, a fellow approached me and handed me a copy of a letter by his ancestor who had served in the 9th New York Cavalry and who had written a really terrific account of the battle that came to me about 6 months too late to do me any good. I’ve also had very interesting conversations with descendants of people who fought in the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Every once in a while, someone will tell me about an idea they have that’s great, or they share something really useful or unique with me. I live for those moments. I will always help folks with worthwhile projects.
And I’ve done this sort of thing myself. My book Little Phil: A Reassessment of the Civil War Generalship of Philip H. Sheridan is the direct result of a pretty remarkable dinnertime conversation that I had with the late Prof. Joe Harsh at a Civil War conference at Kent State University many years ago. I bent Joe’s ear for the entire dinner, and he graciously played along. But by the time that meal was over, the outline of the book was right there in my brain, waiting to be put down on paper. So, I really do get it.
And then, there are the ones that just prattle on and on and on about things that are of no interest to me, who are too oblivious to sense that they’re preventing me from talking to others or signing the books of others, and who won’t just shut up and go away. You try really hard not to be rude to them, but sometimes, you just have no choice. I’ve seen authors just get up and walk away out of exasperation. I haven’t done that, but I surely have tuned folks out completely from time to time.
In the end, I am no longer in charge of acquisitions for a niche publisher. I’m an author. Just because I’ve had stuff published doesn’t mean that I have the magic beans to get your lame idea published.
Perhaps some of my fellow authors will be willing to share some of their stories here. I hope you will!Scridb filter
Capt. William W. Blackford was J.E.B. Stuart’s able engineering officer in the spring and summer of 1863. He was 31 and one of several brothers serving in the Confederate service. Blackford had a bird’s eye view of much of the day’s action, and he wrote this interesting poem about the June 9, 1863.
In case you were wondering why we fought so hard to save Fleetwood Hill, this poem ought to answer those questions.
Twice a thousand men in blue
And twice a thousand gray
Are pricking fast the space between
And ne’er a finer sight was seen
And ne’er a bolder band I ween
Then rode in that array
Around the good old Mansion house
In flowery paths they meet
And bloody brushed the roses bloom
Neath foaming charger’s feet.
Terrific was the shock, the shiver
The lines of battle rocked
Worse to horse and hand to hand
Swaying back and forth they stand
In deadly conflict locked.
Tarnished is the sabre’s gleam
By many a bloody stroke
And dimly fades the fray from view
In dust and cannon smoke.
Steeds with empty saddles strain
Around the field in fright
Pause and snort toss back their mane
And with look bewildered neigh again
For comrades left in the fight.
O’er their battery sweep the waves
Of hottest action and
Triumphant now we wrest the prize
The proudest in a soldier’s eyes
Of captured cannon won
Beaten backward, stubborn still
Back from bloody Fleetwood Hill
Oft sound their bugles in retreat
For counter charges fierce to meet
Defiant still the bugles blew
With lines unbroken they withdrew.
First, please allow me to apologize for the absence. I had my portion of the Second Battle of Winchester book to write, and then I needed a break. I’m back in the saddle again, and I have some very funny stuff for you today.
What is thought of it–The Forrest-Kilpatrick Affair–Interesting and Spicy Correspondence.
The following correspondence explains itself. In consideration of the modesty of some parties, we give only initials:
New York, November 10
General J__n M. C___e:
Forrest says that I am “a liar, poltroon, and scoundrel.” What do you think about it?
Chicago, November 14
Sir–yours received. I think so too.
J__n M. C___e, Maj. Gen.
New York, November 7
Gen. W. T. S_____n:
Forrest has published me as “a liar, poltroon, and scoundrel.” What ought I to do about it?
Very truly yours,
Cheyenne, November 16
I think you ought to call out Forrest for having lied about you–that is, for having told only half the truth.
W. T. S______n, Lieut. Gen.
New York, November 8
Gen. U. S. G____t:
Forrest, of Memphis, has published a card in which he says I am “a liar, poltroon and scoundrel.” What do you think should be done with an unhung rebel who thus vilifies a loyal soldier?
I am, my dear General, your most obedient servant,
Washington, November 10
I don’t know. Let us have peace. I have no policy on such matters. Have just had a present of a splendid bull slut.
U. S. G___t, General
New York, November 19
Gen. B. F. B____r:
My dear sir:
Forrest, the infamous butcher of Fort Pillow, has published me as “a liar, poltroon and scoundrel.” What ought to be done?
Massachusetts, November 13
Dear sir–I think he ought to be impeached. If you cannot impeach his veracity, borrow his spoons and don’t return them.
B. F. B_____r
There are several more letters in our possession upon this subject. They are mostly to the point.
This is some truly funny stuff. This article clearly was written with tongue firmly in cheek and has some real fun at Judson Kilpatrick’s expense. The “letters” from Sherman, Grant, and Butler are especially funny. The bit about borrowing the spoons nearly caused me to do a spit-take. And I wholeheartedly agree with the “letter” by John M. Corse that indicates that he agreed with Forrest’s assessment of Kilpatrick.
I was asked how many Civil War battlefields and sites I have visited. It took a lot of thought to answer that question, but here goes, in no particular order:
Westminster, MD (Corbit’s Charge)
Carlisle (I went to college there–that made it easy)
First Brandy Station (August 20, 1862)
Second Brandy Station (June 9, 1863)
Third Brandy Station (August 1, 1863)
Fourth Brandy Station (October 11, 1863)
Culpeper (September 13, 1863)
First Rappahannock Station
Second Rappahannock Station
Orange Court House (August 7, 1862)
First Bull Run
Second Bull Run
Second Ride Around McClellan
Beaver Dam Creek
Spotsylvania Court House
Samaria (St. Mary’s) Church
Staunton River Bridge
First Reams Station
Second Reams Station
White Oak Road
Dinwiddie Court House
Appomattox Court House
White Sulphur Springs
Battle of Atlanta
Other Civil War Sites:
Fort Holmes (Bald Head Island, NC)
Fort Johnston (Southport, NC)
Fort Caswell (Oak Island, NC)
Fort Zachary Taylor (Key West, FL)
Fort Defiance (Clarksville, TN)
Miscellaneous Mosby sites throughout Virginia
Camp Chase (here in Columbus, OH, where I live)
Fort De Russy (Washington, DC)
Fort Couch (Camp Hill, PA)
Camp Curtin (Harrisburg, PA)
Fort Negley (Nashville, TN)
Fort Smith (Oklahoma)
Exchange Hotel (Gordonsville, VA)
Fort Drum (Los Angeles, CA)
The Presidio (San Francisco, CA)
White House of the Confederacy
Tredegar Iron Works
I’m sure there’s more. Those are the ones that come to mind.
What battlefields have you visited?
EDIT, AUGUST 24, 2014:
This past week, I added the surviving portions of Fort Henry and Spring Hill, TN to my list. Scratch off another two….Scridb filter
I wish that I could say that this exceptionally disturbing article surprises me, but sadly, it does not. Republican members of the Tennessee legislature have decided that it’s their duty to politicize the teaching of history to school children. Specifically, they’re attempting to indoctrinate school children by dictating how history is to be spun.
From the January, 22, 2014 edition of the The Tennessean newspaper:
History bill would emphasize interpretations favored by conservatives
Written by Chas. Sisk
State lawmakers are weighing a bill that would mandate how Tennessee students are taught U.S. history, with an emphasis on interpretations favored by conservatives.
House Bill 1129 would require school districts to adopt curriculums that stress the “positive difference” the United States has made in the world and “the political and cultural elements that distinguished America.” The measure also deletes a current guideline that encourages teaching about diversity and contributions from minorities in history classes.
The state Department of Education opposes the measure, saying curriculum decisions should be left to the State Board of Education and local school boards.
Backers of the legislation, a version of which has passed the Senate, say it remains a work in progress. But its main sponsor in the House, state Rep. Timothy Hill, conceded Wednesday that the measure is meant to leave students with certain beliefs, such as the view that the wording of the U.S. Constitution leaves no room for interpretation.
That legal theory, known as strict constitutionalism, generally has been used by conservatives to argue their side on a number of issues, including abortion, government regulation and gun rights.
The bill was filed last February, months before the current fights over textbooks and education standards erupted. It had moved through the legislature largely unnoticed until this week, quietly passing the Senate unanimously just seven days ago.
But it has been embraced by some lawmakers who have voiced concerns about bias in Tennessee textbooks. State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, backs the measure, which he said is similar to a bill he had planned to file himself.
Supporters say the bill ensures that Tennessee students learn about the country’s origins. The bill spells out that students would be taught about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as well as the nation’s achievements in a variety of fields and the “political and cultural” characteristics that contributed to its greatness.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking in terms of we live in the greatest state in the greatest nation,” said Hill, R-Blountville.
But Remziya Suleyman, director of policy for the American Center for Outreach, a group that advocates on behalf of Muslims in Tennessee, said the bill might encourage districts to adopt history books that downplay or distort information about recent immigrants and religious minorities.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville, said the bill seems to discourage discussion of the contributions of African-Americans, particularly those who were slaves.
“This part of our history I don’t think needs to be glossed over,” Love said.
Love and other lawmakers have asked Hill to agree to amend the measure before it moves further through the legislature. Both sides expect those changes to be worked out over the next few weeks.
Reach Chas Sisk at 615-259-8283 or on Twitter @chassisk.
Here is some of the pertinent language of this horrific piece of legislation:
Students shall be informed of the nature of America which makes it an exception differentiated by its behavior, influence and contributions from the other nations of the world.
The Constitution is the “rule book” for how the federal government works. No action is permitted unless permission for it can be found in the Constitution.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, with the Bill of Rights … still apply in exactly the words they originally contained in simple English.
All school district boards shall document and report to the commissioner their compliance with the content of courses as described.
Education should not be about political spin. It should be about teaching children to think on their own and to draw their own conclusions. This sort of indoctrination is extremely disturbing, and I sincerely hope that this doesn’t become the hot potato issue that evolution has become in Texas.Scridb filter
George Gordon Meade was not known for being a warm or fuzzy sort of fellow. Known for his volcanic temper, the men of the Army of the Potomac called him “the goggle-eyed old snapping turtle,” referring to Meade’s need to wear eyeglasses. His aide, Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman, dubbed him “the Great Peppery” for his saucy language. Consequently, Meade hasn’t gotten much love.
Until now, that is.
Thanks to Todd Berkoff from bringing this to my attention. In 1890, Meade was featured on the $1,000.00 bill. Known as the “grand watermelon note” due to the size of the zeroes on the back of the bill, only one of these notes survives. That note went up for auction on January 10, and sold for $3.29 million. It had been estimated to go for $2 million. The last time it was sold, in 1970, it sold for a mere $11,000.
Finally, some real love for the Goggle-Eyed Old Snapping Turtle, who deserves it.Scridb filter
Just a quick note to wish all of you a joyous Christmas. Susan joins me in wishing all of you the happiest of days with your friends and families today. Hopefully, none of you found any lumps of coal in your stockings this morning, and hopefully none of you received a visit from Krampus.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy days to visit this blog. I appreciate all of you.Scridb filter