October, 2006

18 Oct 2006, by

Sarah’s Back

Sarah of Not in Memoriam but in Defense is back after a lengthy absence. I have, therefore, added her link back in, as I promised to do. I apparently had something to do with it. Responding to my post where I indicated that I was deleting the link to her blog due to no posts in ten weeks, Sarah wrote, “The shame I felt after reading this blog entry was partially a motivating factor. So, thanks!” Given her interesting insights, I’m glad to hear that I had something to do with bringing her blog back on line.

She’s got an interesting post on Birth of a Nation. Check it out.

And welcome back, Sarah.

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17 Oct 2006, by

Lancers History

Today, I received the page galleys for my regimental history of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, also known as Rush’s Lancers.

I first started gathering material on this regiment twelve years ago, and it took me that long to research and write this new regimental history. My issues with finishing this project are well-documented on this blog, and I need not repeat them again. Suffice it to say that I reached a point where I was starting to think that this project would NEVER be finished.

Fortunately, it is. I signed off on the page galleys tonight, and the book looks really good. With the index, it will have approximately 320 pages, about 20 maps, about 70 illustrations, and relies on about a dozen sets of letters/diaries/memoirs of troopers, as well as numerous newspapers. I’m proud of it–I think it’s some of my very best work. Bruce Franklin of Westholme Publishing, my publisher, has done a great job, both with producing a quality, handsome book, and also with creating some buzz for it in the Philadelphia area.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Brian Pohanka for the completion of this project. Brian was the first one to encourage me to undertake the project, and his wise counsel was invaluable to me. Thanks, Brian. I think you’d be proud.

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While in Gettysburg this weekend, I picked up Joseph W. McKinney’s new book on the Battle of Brandy Station, Brandy Station, Virginia, June 9, 1863: The Largest Cavalry Battle of the Civil War. As a cavalry guy, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing this book in the hope that it would fill a huge gap in the literature. I wish I could say that I came away from reading this book believing that that huge gap has been filled. Sadly, it has not. Nevertheless, I thought I would review it here.

The Battle of Brandy Station was the opening engagement of the Gettysburg Campaign. Fought June 9, 1863 on the fields and hills of Culpeper County, Virginia, Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle of the American Civil War. It offers a great deal of interest to any student of the Civil War, ranging from tactical lessons to great human interest stories.

Until recently, it has been badly overlooked by historians. Recent efforts have tried to remedy that situation. Historically, the only really work available on Brandy Station was Fairfax Downey’s 1959 book Clash of Cavalry: The Battle of Brandy Station. This superficial and poorly researched book was all there was until 2002, when Richard E. Crouch published his Brandy Station: A Battle Like None Other. Crouch’s book is awful–poorly researched and poorly written. There was, therefore, a huge and gaping hole in the body of Civil War literature regarding this important battle. In October 2006, McKinney’s book was published by McFarland Publishing of Jefferson, North Carolina.

McKinney is a former military officer who lives in the vicinity of the battlefield, which has given him numerous opportunities to visit the ground. To his credit, he has done so at length and clearly has a solid understanding of the terrain. Numerous photographs of pertinent locations taken by him are peppered throughout the book. Likewise, much of his analysis is solid and well grounded. His military background serves him well there.

The rest of the book leaves a great deal to be desired. McKinney depends heavily upon the passive voice–too much so–meaning that the book is very difficult to read. Instead of an engaging and enjoyable narrative, his book is difficult to read and ponderous. It really could have used the services of a good editor. Likewise, the narrative jumps around out of chronological order. Instead, he focuses on covering different aspects of the battle out of sequence, leaving an unfamiliar reader confused about the sequence of events.

The scope of the research also leaves a good bit to be desired. With over 21,000 men involved, there is a wealth of primary source research available. McKinney has covered only a portion of those sources. Notably missing, as one example, is the primary source account of Ulric Dahlgren, one of Joseph Hooker’s staff officers, who played an important role in an early phase of the battle. Dahlgren left an excellent and readily available account, but McKinney plain missed it. It’s one of many notable examples. As another example, I was unable to find a single citation to a critical primary source, The National Tribune, a veteran’s newspaper filled with decades of personal recollections by veterans who fought the Civil War. No modern battle or campaign study can be considered complete without referring to the veritable treasure trove found in the Tribune. In a recent newspaper interview, he indicated that he spent five years researching and writing this book; by contrast, Clark B. “Bud” Hall, the offiical historian of the Brandy Station Foundation, has nearly two decades into researching and writing on this battle. Perhaps McKinney should have invested more time into being more thorough in his research.

The maps are virtually worthless. They contain almost no detail and virtually no terrain features. It is, for instance, impossible to see the many hills and dales that dot the battlefield at Brandy Station, as only Fleetwood Hill and Yew Ridge are depicted. None of the other terrain features are depicted in any fashion. For a large and fluid battle such as Brandy Station, good, detailed maps filled with depictions of terrain features are absolutely essential.

Finally, the price of the book is simply outrageous. At $55 for a book that does not even have a dust jacket, it’s extremely difficult to justify the price for this book.

While this book is a significant improvement over the works of Downey and Crouch, it still leaves a great deal to be desired. The door remains wide open for the definitive work on this seminal battle. One can only hope that Bud Hall will soon finish his decades-long project and finally publish that definitive work.

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Here’s another in my periodic posts on forgotten cavalrymen.

I’ve long admired Col. William H. Boyd. As a company commander in the 1st New York (Lincoln) Cavalry, Boyd harassed and generally impeded the Confederate advance through Pennsylvania. His service, brilliant as it was, is too often overlooked, and has long been forgotten.

Here’s the entry from Samuel P. Bates’ Martial Deeds of Pennsylvania on Boyd:

WILLIAM HENRY BOYD was born on the 14th of July, 1825, at Quebec, Canada. His father was a soldier in the British army. At the breaking out of the war he was in the Directory publishing business in Philadelphia. He recruited a company of cavalry for Schurz’s National brigade, which became a part of the First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry, and which he led on the Peninsula as escort to General Franklin. After the Maryland campaign this regiment was left with Milroy at Winchester, and fought the advance of Lee in his march towards Gettysburg. Boyd was detached to save the wagon train and brought it safely to Harrisburg, after which he operated in the Cumberland Valley both during the advance and retreat of the enemy from Pennsylvania, rendering important service. He was shortly after commissioned Colonel of the Twenty-first cavalry, which in the Wilderness campaign he led as infantry, and at Cold Harbor was severely wounded, the ball piercing his neck and lodging in one of the vertebrae, where it remained for five months and was only extracted after three unsuccessful attempts. In 1868 he was an agent of the Treasury Department.

Locating information on Boyd is difficult; his service and pension files are a jumbled mess, confused with the files of his son (William H. Boyd, Jr.), commingled together. I haven’t been able to find much more on him other than that information available in the OR and in various newspaper accounts. One of these days, I hope to be able to put together at least an article on Boyd’s role in the Gettysburg Campaign that will give him the credit he deserves.

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We’re back from Gettysburg. The weekend was totally packed, and I’m pretty exhausted.

I saw something yesterday that absolutely blew me away. At the same time, knowing him, it didn’t come as any huge surprise. We had a bit of free time (not much), and I wanted to see the tree cutting in the Slaughter Pen area with my own eyes, so we did a quick drive through there (more on that in a moment). On our way to meet the gang for the next tour, I had to drive through the Stony Hill area of the Wheatfield fight, and there, leading a busload of tourists, was Ed Bearss, a week to the day after he lost his beloved wife Margie. On one hand, it was kind of amazing to see that he was back in the saddle again so soon after Margie’s death, but on another hand, it came as no surprise at all. Ed’s not the sort to back out of an obligation, and it probably gives him solace to be off doing what he loves. It was great to see him. I wish I’d been able to talk to him, but I was in a hurry, and talking to him would have required me to interrupt his tour, which I wasn’t about to do.

The tree cutting is really remarkable. The whole area around the Slyder farm has been cleared out, all the way to the site of the Timbers farm. I’d only ever seen the Timbers farm site once before, with a guide, and it was a terribly tangled, brambly mess buried in deep woods. It would have been extremely difficult to find without a guide, and I doubt I ever could have found it again on my own. However, it’s now out in the open. We covered the entire advance of the 1st Texas from its starting point to Devil’s Den. The vast majority of it would have been through thick woods until recently. It’s now all out in the open, and you can see terrain features that you would not otherwise have ever been able to see. I came away with a new respect for the ordeal faced by those Texans that day–they marched nearly 2 miles under fire and then had to fight their way up a steep ridge in beastly heat and humidity.

The National Park Service has also re-planted many of the historic orchards that are long gone. So, even though non-historic trees are being removed, historic stands of trees are being re-planted, which is great.

At the same time, though, the Service’s budget keeps getting cut and cut and cut, so there’s no money for routine maintenance. The Triangular Field, which has been been mowed a couple of times per year historically, was not mowed at all this year. Why? No money. The result is that there are several cedar trees growing in the field that are already several feet high, and if that area doesn’t get some attention soon, it will be lost to the trees again.

I also saw two monuments that I never knew existed. One is on the Chambersburg Pike, west of Wisler’s Ridge (and the first shot marker), which commemorates the attempted stand by the rookies of the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Volunteer Infantry against Jubal Early’s veterans on June 26, 1863. I’d driven by it dozens of times, but never noticed it before. The other is the regimental monument to the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry. It’s an interesting monument for a couple of reasons: the 21st Pennsylvania did not muster in until August, AFTER the battle. However, Co. B of this regiment consisted of Adams County men formed in a militia cavalry company commanded by Capt. Robert Bell (called, not surprisingly, Bell’s Cavalry), and one of Bell’s men, George Sandoe, was the first Union soldier killed on the battlefield at Gettysburg when he was shot by a member of Lige White’s cavalry on June 26. I think it’s the only regimental monument there to a regiment that did not exist at the time of the battle, and I found that quite interesting indeed.

The upshot of it is that I’m beat tonight, and have a lot packed into four days this week before we go to North Carolina for a wedding next weekend.

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12 Oct 2006, by

Outta Here!

A couple of times per year, I just have to go to Gettysburg.  I’m drawn by the place, and I have to go there to re-charge my batteries.  I’ve only been there once this year, in June, and I’ve been hearing the call.

I’m outta here in about 90 minutes for a weekend in Gettysburg.  Should be two-and-a-half days of good battlefield stomping.  Even though it will be chilly, the worst day of battlefield stomping is still better than that best day of work.  🙂

See y’all on Sunday night.

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Several months ago, thanks to Joe Bilby, the authority on all things New Jersey Civil War, I learned that Ulric Dahlgren’s colonel’s dress uniform was in the collection of the Historical Society of Princeton.

Ulric’s oldest brother was named Charles Bunker Dahlgren. Charlie Dahlgren named his first son Ulric in honor of his slain brother. The second Ulric Dahlgren, born six years after his namesake was killed in action, became one of the world’s most famous scientists. He was a world-renowned biologist and zoologist, and was an award-winning and long-tenured professor at Princeton University. Somewhere along the line, Charlie Dahlgren came into possession of his brother’s last dress uniform. That uniform ended up in a trunk in the attic of the second Ulric Dahlgren’s son, and a purchaser of the house eventually discovered it. It was then donated to the Historical Society of Princeton.

The Society recently kicked off an exhibit on New Jersey in the Civil war, and for the first time ever, the uniform is on exhibit. This photo was forwarded to me by the Historical Society so I can include it in the book. There’s also a CDV of Dahlgren wearing this uniform posted here. The CDV was taken in Philadelphia in November 1863, shortly before Ulric went to visit his father in Charleston, SC for the next couple of months.

I find a couple of things remarkable about it.

Dahlgren stood over 6 feet tall, but I doubt that that uniform jacket is bigger than a size 40 or so. Now, I’m not a slender fellow, but I was once. When I was 18, I was 6’3″ and weighed about 170 pounds. Even then, I wore a size 44 suit coat. Although Dahlgren was tall and very athletic, he obviously never filled out.

The other striking thing about it is the condition. The thing is in absolutely immaculate condition. It obviously was not worn often by Dahlgren before his fatal mission. It also was obviously well cared for by its subsequent stewards.

It will make a great addition to the book.

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9 Oct 2006, by

Margie Bearss

I’m sad to report that, after 48 years of marriage, Margie Bearss, the wife of Ed Bearss and distinguished Civil War historian in her own right, passed away on October 7 after a very lengthy illness.

I did a program with Ed at the end of July, and I asked him then how Margie was doing. He told me then that he had nearly lost her a week or so earlier, so I figured it was just a matter of time. I’m sad to report that Margie finally lost her battle.

Condolences to Ed and his family.

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I’ve not been shy about stating my opinions about copyright protection issues, generally in the context of Google’s scheme to engage in copyright infringement on an unprecedented scale.

Many of you are familiar with the site YouTube, where people can post videos on the Internet and where they can be downloaded for free. YouTube is coming under increasing scrutiny due to copyright infringement concerns. While the networks haven’t gone after it yet, that day will come, probably much sooner than later. Here’s an article that appeared on CNet earlier this week:

Another Internet research firm has predicted doom for YouTube’s business model.

Copyright issues that have plagued video-sharing site YouTube since its official launch almost a year ago will mean that “YouTube will get sued. And it will lose,” wrote Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, analysts for Forrester Research, on a blog posted last week.

Lawsuits will trigger a chain reaction, according to the analysts, in which YouTube will be forced to remove all copyrighted material–and that means excising most of the professionally made content. What’s left will leave YouTube with videos that are “a lot less interesting,” said the Forrester analysts.

YouTube representatives did not respond to an interview request.

The Forrester opinion comes three months after research firm IDC came to a similar conclusion and less than a week after HDNet founder Mark Cuban told a group of advertisers that “only a moron would buy YouTube.” Both Forrester and IDC research companies argue that YouTube will face the same battle fought and lost by file-sharing site Napster.

In a now-famous court case, Napster argued unsuccessfully that it wasn’t responsible for people misusing its file-sharing system to steal music.

YouTube says much the same thing. Most of the material on YouTube is homemade, meaning that the video’s creator is the same person who posts it to the site. However, some YouTube fans violate copyright law by sharing video of copyright material from movies, music videos and TV shows.

YouTube executives immediately pull down any clip once a copyright violation is brought to their attention. The company, which sees more than 16 million visitors per month, is also creating technology that will help identify and block pirated material.

San Mateo, Calif.-based YouTube has proven that it’s not at odds with some of the most influential entertainment companies by cutting marketing and advertising deals with the likes of Warner Music and NBC.

But that won’t be enough, said Forrester.

“You may tell me that companies like Warner Music are happy to work with YouTube, just as Bertelsmann was willing to work with Napster,” the analysts wrote. “But for every company that wants to do a Warner-type deal, there will be others like Universal that won’t stand for it.

“It only takes one unhappy media company–Disney, Sony, CBS or News Corp. for example–to force the company’s hand. And the cases on this point, from Napster to Grokster at the Supreme Court, are clear.”

Here’s a link to the Grokster decision, handed down earlier this year by the United States Supreme Court. In Grokster, the Court addressed a challenge to the system of downloadable file-sharing of copyrighted music and film files on a peer-to-peer network. These ubiquitous networks have led to a proliferation of copyright infringement by permitting the distribution of copyrighted material for free. In short, the complaint against Grokster and its kind is that the copyrighted material is distributed for free, with no compensation to either the artist of the record company.

The U. S. Supreme Court found that “the unlawful objective is unmistakable,” and held that “one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties. We are, of course, mindful of the need to keep from trenching on regular commerce or discouraging the development of technologies with lawful and unlawful potential. Accordingly, just as Sony did not find intentional inducement despite the knowledge of the VCR manufacturer that its device could be used to infringe, 464 U.S. at 439, n. 19, mere knowledge of infringing potential or of actual infringing uses would not be enough here to subject a distributor to liability. Nor would ordinary acts incident to product distribution, such as offering customers technical support or product updates, support liability in themselves. The inducement rule, instead, premises liability on purposeful, culpable expression and conduct, and thus does nothing to compromise legitimate commerce or discourage innovation having a lawful promise.”

There’s not much doubt in my mind that the same thing will hapen to YouTube if and when there is a challenge. And that day will come, probably much sooner than later.

My point in raising all of this is that as someone who is intensely worried about protection of my intellectual property rights, I’m glad to see that the tide seems to be shifting a bit in favor of the owners of intellectual property. I will be waiting to see what the outcome of the Google litigation is, but I am very hopeful that Google will lose and the intellectual property rights of authors and artists will be further protected, even in this digital age.

Not surprisingly, by the way, Google is apparently trying to acquire YouTube.

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The ONLY thing sweeter than beating the Dullass Cowboys is beating the Dullass Cowboys AND completely shutting down big-mouth Terrell Owens and driving him to intense frustration, so much so that he was screaming at people on the sidelines.

The Eagles are 4-1 and in undisputed possession of first place in the NFC East. Life is good.

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