December, 2006

17 Dec 2006, by

Another New Blog

My friend Mark Peters, a certified public accountant who lives on the west coast of England, has long been a member of the CWDG and who is serving as a moderator for my new Revolutionary War forum boards, is someone whose knowledge I respect a great deal. Mark regularly comments here.

A couple of months ago, Mark decided to dip his toe into the blogging waters. His original concept was for a lighthearted blog focused on wistful stuff. While his blog always made for pleasant reading, it’s not been up to the standards I expect of him. Without any prompting from me, Mark has decided to change the focus of his blog and is now discussing British history, which is a topic that has long interested me. Consequently, I have now added a link to it in my list of blogs I like, and I commend it to you.

Welcome aboard, Mark.

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Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve been focusing my pleasure reading (what little of it there is, that is) on the colonial period and on the Revolutionary War. Having grown up in the shadow of Independence Hall, and as a political science major, I find the events leading to the founding of this Republic of ours to be irresistable. As a lawyer, the debate over the best constitutional form of government for this country intrigues me. Consequently, I made a conscious decision to learn more about the details of these events.

For months now, I’ve been working my way through Ron Chernow’s monumental and magnificent 700 page biography of Alexander Hamilton. It’s a very well written and readable book; it’s entirely my fault that it’s taken me months to get through it. I’ve one chapter to go and then it’s finally finished.

I had a basic knowledge of Hamilton’s life and some idea of his contributions to the country, largely as a result of the combination of a major in political science and my law school studies, where The Federalist Papers are required reading. However, I had no idea just how important this man really was to the development of this country.

Although his birth in the British Virgin Islands excluded him from running for president, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who played a more important role in the early days of this republic than Hamilton. It’s pretty clear that Hamilton was the first among equals in George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolution and also during Washington’s presidency. Hamilton wrote most of Washington’s speeches.

More importantly, it was Hamilton’s brilliance and incredible foresight that led to the formation of the government we have today. As the author of most of The Federalist Papers, Hamilton laid out the roadmap for our form of government. His writings also weighed heavily in the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention, and his vision for a strong central government ultimately won out. Had the Jeffersonian view prevailed, this country never could have achieved greatness. Indeed, it likely would have split into two and probably never would have grown.

The other area where Hamilton showed incredible vision was in foreseeing the modern American market economy and in putting into place the infrastructure necessary to implement it. Hamilton foresaw the stock markets and the money markets that drive the great engine of American economics.

Most interestingly, Hamilton plainly saw that the issue of slavery would have to be settled by arms or else it would tear the Union asunder. He made this prediction about 1800, long before sectional tensions really flared. I found that remarkable.

Hamilton was not without faults. He was petty and could never let anything go. He had a tendency to say too much and to be indiscreet, and his refusal to back down ultimately cost him his life. His inability to get along with people like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe ultimately cost him his political career. His view of government and Jefferson’s view of government were so diametrically opposed that it was impossible for them to get along, and they became bitter, if not mortal, enemies. Their conflict was as fundamental as the conflict over whose view of government’s role would ultimately prevail, and the proof is in the pudding: Hamilton’s vision of government remains the standard to this day.

At the same time, he was a man of immense–almost inconceivable–restless intellect with a true gift for words. In a day when everything had to be written by hand, I challenge anyone to find someone more intensely prolific than was Hamilton.

After reading this book, I come to the conclusion that, among the great men that founded this country, three stand head and shoulders above the rest: Hamilton, Jefferson, and Washington. Washington was first among his countrymen for the role he played, but it’s clear that the driving intellects that led to the creation of this republican form of government were Jefferson and Hamilton. That Hamilton’s views ultimately prevailed only further demonstrate what a visionary and what a brilliant–albeit ultimately flawed–and unique individual he was.

We are fortunate to have had him, even if he did die far too young at the hand of the scoundrel, Aaron Burr.

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As critical as I have been of Google’s scheme to disregard the copyright rights of authors, I have a very difficult time finding any fault at all with this extremely useful web site. The link is to Microsoft’s Books Live site. Bear in mind that the depth of how much I despise Microsoft–also known as the Evil Empire–and that saying anything at nice about Microsoft is extremely difficult indeed for me. Hat tip to Teej Smith and J. D. Petruzzi for bringing this site to my attention.

However, the Evil Empire’s Books Live project has digitized thousands of PUBLIC DOMAIN works in order to make them available to the consuming public. These works are no longer eligible for copyright protection, so there are no royalties and may be used by anyone for any reason. I did a search for Ulric Dahlgren earlier this evening, and found a number of really useful items there that I had either never heard of, or had overlooked in the course of doing my research. The site is free, and it’s free to use the materials found there.

The only down side is that the images are digital scans, so you can’t do a copy/paste. You either have to print out the pages you want, or you have to sit and transcribe them. However, that’s a small price to pay for the benefits received. As hard as it is for me to endorse anything even remotely related to Microsoft, this site gets an enthusiastic two thumbs up from me.

Penn State University has another very useful project. It’s been digitizing Civil War newspapers from a number of large and small towns around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The site can be found here. There are a number of good newspaper sources there, such as the Philadelphia Post and the Chambersburg Repository. There are also articles from a newspaper I had never before heard of, but which may well have my favorite newspaper name of all time, the Wellsboro Agitator.

These two digital history projects are enormously useful, and I commend them to you.

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14 Dec 2006, by


After two VERY long (seemingly endless, in fact) days, I now have completed 25.5 hours of continuing legal education, meaning that, not only have I met the requirement of 24 hours every two years, I get to carry 1.5 hours forward toward the 2008 reporting period.

Every reporting period, we’re required to waste half an hour of our lives on substance abuse and how to recognize impaired lawyers. If you’ve heard this worthless, waste of time program once, you’ve heard it as many times as you ever need to hear it. There is absolutely no reason why this has to be repeated every other year. I’ve now heard it 9 times during the course of my career and it’s just as awful today as it was the first time. That’s half an hour of my life just wasted every two years that I can never get back, and it pisses me off every time that I think about it.

Having already fulfilled my substance abuse obligation for this reporting period, I decided that I could not even conceive of forcing myself to suffer through that last half hour today and left, or I would have 2.0 hours to carry forward and not just 1.5. That’s a trade-off I was definitely willing to make.

I wish I could find words to describe the overwhelming sense of relief I’m feeling, but they fail me at the moment.

Whew! will have to do for now.

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13 Dec 2006, by

At Last!

In 1994, I decided to gather material on the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, also known as Rush’s Lancers. I wasn’t sure that I was going to do a regimental history, but I was intrigued by this regiment, which was armed with a strange and cumbersome weapon. As I started learning more about the unit, I realized that it really deserved a modern regimental history. The original regimental history, based on the war-time diary of the regimental chaplain, was published in 1868. I decided to gather material and see if I could come up with enough to write a regimental history about a year later.

I spent more than twelve years researching and writing about this regiment. Along the way, one volume of soldier letters was published, and I have identified a second set that I expect will be published by the University of Tennessee Press as part of its Voices of the Civil War Series.

About 1998, I learned that Ed Longacre was also planning to do a history of the Lancers, and that he had signed a contract with the now-defunct Combined Books to publish the book. I knew that there would not be sufficient demand to warrant two different histories of the same regiment, so I contacted Ed. He agreed to make it a collaboration, and so did the publisher. I was to do the first half–up to and including the Battle of Brandy Station–and Ed was going to do the rest. I got busy writing and got my half done in about a year. I then sat and waited and waited and waited.

About two years later, Ed informed me that he wasn’t going to be able to participate. So, I took the project on myself. In the meantime, Combined had been sold to Da Capo, and I had no interest in having my book published by them. The last thing I wanted was for my book to be remaindered 90 days after being published, so I arranged to terminate the contract, paid back the paltry $250 advance, and was free.

I then had to write the second half of the book, which proved much harder than I ever imagined. To my great surprise, there was much more and much better primary source material available for the first half of the war than the second. It was much more difficult piecing the second half of the story together than was the first part. I finally found an appropriate publisher, Westholme Publishing of suburban Philadelphia. Bruce Franklin, the publisher, does high-quality scholarly books, and he’s also demonstrated a gift for getting attention for his books from major media outlets, so it was perfect. I signed a contract early this year.

One of my conditions was that Bruce use all of the nearly 90 illustrations that I had accumulated, as well as my maps, and he agreed. If you count the maps as illustrations, the book has about 110 illustrations.

Then, as I thought I had wrapped the thing up, I found another set of letters at the University of Pennsylvania. Bruce was kind enough to push back my delivery date for the manuscript to permit me to incorporate them, and I did. Then, after I had turned it in to Bruce to begin the production process, a second set–this time, in private hands and none of them ever before published–surfaced. They were far too good not to include, so we had another delay while I hurried to incorporate the good stuff. All of this meant that the book, which was supposed to be published in October, was pushed back.

If I might be so bold as to toot my own horn for just a moment, I’m proud to announce that, at long last, more than twelve years after beginning the project, my new regimental history of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Rush’s Lancers: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War, has been published and is now available for purchase.

This is my thirteenth book. I probably have more of an emotional attachment to this one than any other, as I have so much of myself invested in it. I’m thrilled to finally see this in print. I can only hope that I have done the boys justice.

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Like most states, Ohio has continuing education requirements as a condition of maintaining one’s license to practice law. We are required to complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years. The first half of the alphabet reports in odd-numbered years, and the second half of the alphabet reports in even-numbered years. As a “W”, this is my year to report. I have to satisfy the obligation by December 31. For the most part, we get to pick our own programs. The only absolute requirement is 1 hour of legal ethics, 1 hour of professionalism, and a completely and totally wasted half hour of how to recognize substance abusers every two years. Beyond that, we are free to select what we attend.

Like most people, I’m a terrible procrastinator. Every minute spent in CLE is a minute of unproductive time. I’m busy enough that it’s typically hard to work these programs into my schedule. There’s also the fact that most of these programs–not all, but most–are about as interesting as watching paint dry. Occasionally, you find an interesting one, but most are sheer misery. The vast majority of them end up being a serious waste of time. It is, therefore, no mystery why I tend to procrastinate in spite of my avowed intention to get it over with earlier each biennium.

In October, I realized that I had completed exactly 2.75 hours of my requirement, and that I had another 21.25 hours to complete by December 31. I’ve chipped away at it some–as I write this, I have 11.75 hours completed. That means that I have another 12.25 hours to go before the bi-annual misery is over.

I found a program that will provide me with 14.25 credit hours over two days (we’re allowed to carry forward as many as 12 credits, so the extra two hours will carry forward toward my 2008 requirement). Those two days are tomorrow and Thursday. It’s 9-5 each day. The topic is “Solo and Small Law Office Technology”. Normally, that would be reasonably interesting, as I’m something of a propeller head. It includes such scintillating topics as “the paperless office” and how to make maximum use of your scanner.

However, the consulting firm that puts the thing on is the very same consulting firm that my partners hired to do the technology when they established the law firm in May of this year. That means that I’m already using much of what they will be preaching over the course of the next two days. It means that I’m headed to the world of mind-numbing boredom for the next two days. The big challenge, I fear, will be staying awake.

I will have my laptop with me, and the Ohio State Bar Association has wireless. At least I can check e-mail and stay in touch with my world, and I might also find a way to get a little bit of work finished during the particularly dull moments. However, I can think of hundreds–no, thousands–of other things I’d rather do, or places I’d rather be.

The only consolation is that once I finish up on Thursday afternoon, I will have fully satisfied my bi-annual obligation. Wish me luck, folks. It’s going to be miserable.

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10 Dec 2006, by

Dahlgren Status

J. D. Petruzzi has been working his way through the draft of the Dahlgren manuscript for me. I got another three chapters from him the other day, which means that he’s gotten through 9 of the 13 chapters for me. Scott Patchan’s also returning the favor (I read and edited his Shenandoah Valley in 1864 manuscript for him earlier this year) by reading it for me. When they’re done, it will then go out to four folks to read and review: Horace Mewborn, Bob O’Neill, Ken Noe, and Ethan Rafuse. Teej Smith, who read the very rough first drafts of each chapter as they were completed, also wants to take another run at it now that it’s been polished a bit. When I get their feedback, it’s done.

My problem is that I keep finding new tidbits of coming up with new little twists that need to be included, or which change my thoughts. Here are a couple of random examples of what I mean here:

1. The most recent issue of Blue & Gray includes a letter from the magnificent collection of historian Wiley Sword. This letter, written by Judson Kilpatrick in the fall of 1862, seeks the intervention of President Lincoln to get him released from Washington, D. C.’s notorious Old Capitol Prison, where Kil was being held on unspecified charges. Lincoln intervened and arranged for Kilpatrick to be released. That letter raised the possibility that perhaps Kilpatrick was thereafter beholden to Lincoln, and that perhaps the payback for this intervention was the mission to kidnap and assassinate Jefferson Davis and his cabinet in the winter of 1864. That was a real eye-opener for me, so I added an entire paragraph to the conclusion chapter to address this possibility. Fascinating stuff.

2. Just for fun, the other day, while watching over Susan’s recuperation, I did a Google search on Ulric Dahlgren and found something I had missed, which was a discussion of Dahlgren’s woundng at Hagerstown on July 6, 1863. It raised the possibility of identifying the individual who fired the shot that ultimately cost Dahlgren his leg. However, the source could not be corroborated, and I added discussion in an endnote to that effect.

The upshot of all of this is that even though the book is done in the main, the process of tweaking and fine-tuning continues unabated until we reach the point when it is literally too late–too far into the publication process–to make any further changes. The research process also continues until the moment when it is literally too late, and even then, it sometimes doesn’t stop. It just reaches a point where it’s too late for me to use what I find. That doesn’t mean, though, that my search for material ever ends.

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8 Dec 2006, by

John Lennon

As the month of December 1980 began, John Lennon was riding a wave. His comeback album, Double Fantasy, was the number one selling album in the world, and it had two songs that went to number one on the singles charts. He was enjoying not only a resurgence, but his best record sales as a solo artist and since the break-up of the Beatles. He was happily married to Yoko Ono, and they had a five-year-old son named Sean.

On the evening of December 8, 1980, a demented young man named Mark David Chapman, who wanted to be famous, waited outside The Dakota, the famed Manhattan apartment building where the Lennons lived. John and Yoko had spent the evening at a recording studio, and when their limo dropped them off, Chapman called out, “Mr. Lennon!” When Lennon responded, Chapman pumped five bullets into Lennon, who died a few minutes later of his wounds. It was 11:50 P.M.

I attended a concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Spectrum in Philadelphia that night. Bruce’s fifth album, The River, had been released that fall, and “Hungry Heart” was somewhere near the top of the charts. I was a 19-year-old sophomore in college. My friends and I drove about 3 hours to the Spectrum from Carlisle, and we saw a killer show. The Boss played for about 4 1/2 hours that night. The concert let out at about the time that Chapman fired the fatal rounds.

Nobody told Bruce Springsteen that John Lennon had been shot, so nothing was said during the show. We were completely ignorant of events when we left the arena to head for the cars.

When we got to the car, all of the Philly radio stations were playing nothing but Beatles and John Lennon songs, and we could not, for the life of us, understand why. Finally, there was a break in the music, and we heard the terrible news. Obviously, that’s a night that is forever burned into my memory, both for the incredible show we saw, and then for the horrific events that we learned of after the end of the show.

John Lennon did not deserve to die. With him died a little piece of my childhood and many of the dreams of a generation.

Rest in peace, John. You’re still missed. It’s hard to believe that 26 years have passed since that night.


Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

—John Lennon

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7 Dec 2006, by

The Wanderer

About a month ago, Erik Calonius contacted me to see whether I’d be interested in getting a review copy of his new book, The Wanderer: The Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy That Set Its Sails. I hadn’t heard of either Mr. Calonius or his book, so I looked it up on Amazon. After doing so, I said sure, I’d love to have a look at it.

Let me begin by saying that this is not a book that I would normally have any interest in reading. As a general rule, the topic of slavery is of almost no interest to me, and I tend to avoid the subject due to lack of interest. However, this particular book sounded like it might be interesting, so I decided to read it. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I’ve been engaging in an e-mail dialogue with Mr. Calonius after receiving the book, and have enjoyed my interaction with him.

Erik Calonius is a career journalist who has had some plum assignments in his journalistic career. The Wanderer is his first book, and he should be very proud of it. The topic got his interest on a visit to Jekyll Island, outside Savannah, Georgia, when he saw an exhibit to the Wanderer. Intrigued, he started looking into it, and decided to tackle a modern telling of the story.

The slave trade was made illegal in the United States in 1820. However, some of the Southern firebrands who were pushing for secession also strongly favored reinstating the slave trade. Charles Lamar, a relative of L.Q.C. Lamar and of the second president of the Texas Republic, led the conspiracy. Lamar and his co-conspirators purchased the Wanderer, a magnificent yacht, and took her to Africa to bring back a load of slaves in 1858. His crew managed to evade the British and American naval vessels patrolling the coast of Africa and safely made it back to the United States.

Even though their purpose was a very poorly kept secret, Lamar and his co-conspirators managed to evade justice through a combination of corruption and bullying. They made witnesses disappear, tampered with evidence, and made it impossible for the government to convict them of piracy (the crime of importing slaves was designated an act of piracy, and carried the death penalty). In three separate trials in 1859, Lamar and his co-conspirators were all acquitted and escaped justice, in spite of the best efforts of the Buchanan administration to convict and execute them.

There was poetic justice: Lamar was killed in action during the Civil War, and the Wanderer, which was seized and sold by the government, ended up in Union service during the war.

The book is well-researched and very well-written, which I would expect of a senior journalist of Mr. Calonius’ credentials. He has brought a topic which would normally not interest me to life with an engaging writing style that almost reads like a novel. The book does have one of my pet peeves: instead of providing specific end note references, they’re lumped together at the end by page, which drives me crazy. If one were interested in further research, or reading the primary sources for oneself, this style of footnoting makes it virtually impossible to do so. I absolutely despise that footnoting style. I suspect that was the publisher’s call–and not Mr. Calonius’–so I can’t necessarily fault him for it.

What I liked best about this book was how it so accurately and amply used the microcosm of this single incident to demonstrate how the agenda of the fire eaters directly caused the Civil War, and how they paid the ultimate price for their calumny. It also demonstrates how the inertia and passivity of the Buchanan administration allowed events to come to a crisis situation. The inactivity of the administration permitted a few fire breathers to flaunt the law for their own purposes, and their actions in doing so directly triggered the Civil War. Ironically, the prosecution of Lamar and his co-conspirators was left in the hands of Buchanan’s attorney general, Thomas Howell Cobb of Georgia, who later became a Confederate general.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and can highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the causes of the Civil War.

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Well, the knee is blown no more. Susan had her reconstructive knee surgery today.

The doctor fully expected to have to remove the hardware from her first ACL reconstruction on that knee in 1989. Having to do so would be more work and would have caused more pain. Fortunately, he didn’t have to remove either of the old screws from her knee and was able to work around them. The transplant was completed successfully, and he repaired the damage to her meniscus. Everything was done arthroscopically and she is already able to put weight on the leg if she’s in her immobilizer.

Everything went fine. She’s upstairs asleep in percocet land at the moment, and will hoppefully be on the road to recovery tomorrow.

Rehab–the really sucky part–will begin in about two weeks.

For everyone who has asked or sent their best wishes, we really appreciate it.

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