July, 2008

We stopped in the nearby Barnes & Noble superstore today. Susan was looking for some magazines, so I wandered over to the Civil War section. It seems to have stabilized at its measly two shelves. However I didn’t see a copy of One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 on the shelf. Susan checked the computer, and it wasn’t even listed as being available for order through the Barnes & Noble website.

Now, I can kind of understand not having a copy on the shelves. There are, after all, only about 30 titles in stock there, although they do have William Marvel’s new book, Lincoln’s Darkest Year: The War in 1862 on the “New Releases” table. However, I find the fact that it doesn’t even appear in the database as being available for order unfathomable and unforgivable, all at the same time.

Therefore, I made a decision today. While I will go in that store, I will never, ever buy anything there again, even if it means spending more money somewhere else. They won’t give a damn, but it will make me feel better, and it will be my little protest. If any of you wish to join me, then by all means, please do so. And Ted Savas, when you see this, if there is anything you can do to find a way for it to be made available for purchasers, I would really appreciate it.

Barnes & Noble sucks. Bottom line.

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11 Jul 2008, by


It would appear that the threat of a nasty waste incinerator being built just outside the park boundaries at Monocacy–a beautiful, mostly pristine battlefield (with the exception of the Interstate cutting through the middle of it, of course)–is passing:

Monocacy Site Unlikely for Incinerator
By Meg Tully

Frederick News-Post (MD)

“Very unlikely.”

That’s how Frederick County Commissioners President Jan Gardner characterizes the chances that an electricity-producing trash incinerator will be built near the Monocacy National Battlefield.

Gardner wrote that in an e-mail this week to dozens of county residents and officials who have been following the incinerator debate.

Contacted by phone Wednesday, Gardner said the commissioners haven’t officially discussed a location for the plant.

“I think that the majority of the commissioners aren’t going to want to have an impact on the Monocacy battlefield,” she said.

The commissioners have requested construction bids for a waste-to-energy plant on land in the McKinney Industrial Park off Buckeystown Pike, near the battlefield.

But they always planned to consider other sites, and named McKinney because they needed a specific site for bid pricing, Gardner said.

At a public hearing last year, battlefield superintendent Susan Trail said the roughly 150-foot-high incinerator smokestack would be visually intrusive.

The Civil War Preservation Trust named the battlefield one of the most endangered Civil War sites this year because of the incinerator threat.

Known as the “battle that saved Washington,” the one-day conflict at Monocacy delayed Confederate troops as they marched unsuccessfully on the capital in 1864.

The county is looking at other sites, but until they have reached an agreement with a property owner, the commissioners will not discuss those options publicly.

The county already owns the McKinney site.

Several commissioners said they weren’t willing to discount that location because it could add as much as $40 million to the cost to build the plant elsewhere.

If the county builds on the McKinney site, it could use the incinerator to dispose of biowaste, or sludge, from the existing wastewater treatment plant there.

With the incinerator at another site, the county might have to construct another disposal facility at the McKinney site specifically to dispose of the sludge. Such a plant is estimated to cost $40 million.

That would only happen if the county can’t find a way to transport the sludge to another incinerator site.

Commissioner Charles Jenkins said he would consider costs when making a decision, though he will also keep in mind the battlefield concerns.

“I’m not married to one particular site, but I just know if you’re looking at it from the dollar and cents perspective, it doesn’t get much better than (the McKinney site),” Jenkins said.

Commissioner David Gray said the $40 million savings is “no small consideration.”

But he would like to consider other sites, particularly one with enough land to set up a resource recovery park with recycling and composting that would sort out reusable trash before sending the rest to be burned.

“I understand the park’s concern about the viewshed and if there’s a better site, that’s fine with me,” he said.

Land for the plant would be paid for through the same bond the county will use to build it. Compared to the several hundred million dollar construction cost, land acquisition would be a relatively minor expense, Gardner said.

A spokeswoman from the Civil War Preservation Trust said the trust is monitoring the situation and is glad the commissioners are not jumping to a decision.

“That location would have such a visual impact on a huge part of the battlefield,” spokeswoman Mary Koik said of the McKinney site.

The commissioners expect to receive final bids in August. They will then decide whether to proceed with building a waste-to-energy plant.

We had a waste-to-energy plant here in Columbus for the first ten years or so that I lived here. It was known to all as the cash to steam plant or the cash burning power plant, because it was always a major money loser. I can’t imagine one in Frederick doing any better. And damn, what an ugly thing to build.

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10 Jul 2008, by

I Hate Spam

Earlier today, a representative of some photographic studio in New York that I have never heard of previously, looking to hawk their photos of Abraham Lincoln, spammed this blog by leaving a totally unwanted and totally unsolicited spam comment on the last post that had less than nothing to do with the topic. I deleted it immediately and I have permanently blacklisted the IP address. I have likewise deleted the subscription and banned the e-mail address and IP address from subscribing.

HEAR ME LOUD AND CLEAR: Maria Downing and your photographic studio (and anyone else who thinks that this blog exists as your commercial billboard), this blog does NOT exist for you to spam my readers or me. It will not be tolerated, and it will be deleted as soon as I learn of its existence. This is not negotiable, nor is there any right of appeal. If you spam this blog, you’re gone. Permanently. End of story.

I trust that I have made myself abundantly clear.

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Old friend Dave Powell left a comment on last night’s post suggesting that I include the July 13-14, 1864 Battle of Tupelo to bookend/contrast Brice’s Crossroads. Forrest was badly beaten at Tupelo, so it makes a great contrast to Brice’s Crossroads. After talking it over with Greg Biggs, I’ve decided to do just that. So, the project will now include both Brice’s Crossroads and Tupelo. It should be interesting. Thanks for the excellent suggestion, Dave.

According to the National Park Service website, there is a one-acre monument to the battle in Tupelo proper, but it appears that that one acre is about all that’s been formally preserved. Greg doesn’t know the battlefield, so the challenge is now to find someone who does. I dropped Prof. Brian Steel Wills, who wrote an excellent recent biography of Forrest, a note to inquire if he had any suggestions. If any of my readers have any suggestions as to someone who can show us the battlefield, I would be most grateful.

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For years, I’ve argued with people about Nathan Bedford Forrest. I have some extremely strong opinions about where Forrest falls in the pantheon of Civil War cavalrymen. I’ve elaborated on the issue at length here in one of my first posts on this blog. Suffice it to say that, in spite of the abuse heaped on me by the Forrest worshippers, I don’t think much of him as a cavalryman, but I admire his ability commanding mounted infantry. Thus, in my opinion, one cannot even consider Forrest a cavalryman, meaning he does not rank in my world.

In addition, I’ve always been known as an Eastern Theater guy, and I probably always will be, simply because the Eastern Theater is what interests me the most. At the same time, my friend Greg Biggs has been after me for years to do something with Western Theater cavalry, so I’ve decided to meet Greg’s challenge. The Battle of Brice’s Crossroads is generally considered to be Forrest’s greatest victory, and even though the victory at Brice’s Crossroads really had no strategic importance to speak of, it featured one of the few documented instances of a smaller force defeating a larger one by successfully executing a double envelopment. That makes it tactically interesting.

Also, I ordered the last copy of Ed Bearss’ classic Forrest at Brice’s Cross Roads and in north Mississippi in 1864 in inventory with the publisher, Morningside, yesterday. That means that the book is officially and permanently out of print, as Morningside has no intention of reprinting it. There are only three used copies for sale on the Internet, meaning that it’s few and far between. Ed’s book is the only work devoted entirely to the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads published, and it’s now out of print. This means that the battle is ripe for a new tactical treatment, and it should sell well.

So, I’m going to tackle it. Researching and writing about these fights is how I learn, and I’m looking forward to learning about this battle, and to spending time on the battlefield. Perhaps I may even end up changing my opinion of Forrest as a result. I’m intent on keeping my personal biases against Forrest from clouding my analysis of this fight, and I think I can do so. I’m looking to make my first visit to the battlefield in September.

Master cartographer Steve Stanley has agreed to do the maps for the book, which means it will have superb maps. I also intend to include a walking/driving tour with GPS coordinates. I will keep everyone posted as to my progress with this. Two of my projects with J.D. come first: our study of Jubal Early’s raid on Washington in 1864, and completing the first volume of our three-volume study of cavalry operations in the Gettysburg Campaign, so don’t look for this any time soon. I’m only just getting starting researching, and I have a lot to learn about this battle.

I owe a special tip of the hat to fellow blogger Paul Taylor, as his recent visit to Brice’s Crossroads with his son, and his description of it, is what got me interested in pursuing this project. I also owe Paul a special and public thank you for the Brice’s Crossroads and Shiloh pins that he sent along. Thanks, Paul: both for the idea to pursue this Brice’s Crossroads project, and also for the pins, which have found a home on CWPT hat.

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You are never going to become successful on TokTok if you remain a lurker, watching other peoples’ videos, possibly even leaving comments, but never uploading your original material.

You will never be more than an also-ran, however, if you limit yourself to uploading bog-standard lip-synch videos, either. Sure, that’s fine for generally-untalented teenagers, just wanting to be part of the crowd, along with their real-life friends. But it is incredibly limiting to your online social success.

If you have any talent in your niche and even a fraction of confidence, make an effort to produce original videos. TikTpk’s young audience probably don’t require that you have hidden depths of technical expertise, but they do expect you to at least make an effort if they are going to bother to follow you, check this link for more info.

If you look at the list of successful TikTok accounts, you will see that the vast bulk of them made their name by uploading original, exciting videos that appealed to a sizable group of TikTok’s users.

Aamir Kamal claims that it is essential to look attractive in your videos. Now, being “attractive’ Is very much subjective, and you shouldn’t try to be somebody who you aren’t. But you should come across as the best version fo yourself in your videos (unless, perhaps, you make comedy videos and you are the victim of your own jokes).

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4 Jul 2008, by

Filling Up Fast

Chambersburg SeminarsI’ve mentioned previously that I’m one of the tour leaders for Ted Alexander’s Mother of All Gettysburg Seminars, to be held in Chambersburg from July 23-27.

On Thursday, July 24, JD and I are scheduled to lead a day-long tour of some of the sites associated with Jeb Stuart’s ride during the Gettysburg Campaign. Ted called me last night to let me know that about 70 people have registered for the weekend so far and that seats for our tour are filling up fast. It appears that we will be conducting the tour in a 15-passenger van, and about 12 of those seats are already spoken for. Consequently, if you have an interest in going on this tour with us, I recommend that you move quickly while there are still some seats available on the van.

Hurry, and we will see you in Chambersburg.

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3 Jul 2008, by

A Real Honor

The other day, I received a letter that informed me that the Nominating Committee of the newly-formed Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation had chosen me for a three-year term as one of the founding voting trustees of the Foundation. Given that I wasn’t even aware that the Foundation had been formed, it came as quite a wonderful surprise, and I immediately accepted the invitation.

The Foundation is apparently an arm of the Ohio Historical Society, as the letter came in an OHS envelope, and as the Foundation will be maintaining its office at the OHS facility here in Columbus. OHS owns a miserable little four acre parcel of land on the battlefield that features a reproduction of an Indian burial mound, a monument to the battle, and a couple of interpretive markers, and that’s all of the battlefield that’s been preserved. The rest of the battlefield is in private hands, and a big chunk of it is owned (and has been so owned for decades) by a sand and gravel company that has been working on getting the necessary permits to dig up the battlefield for years.

Buffington Island is an interesting fight for a lot of reasons. First, and foremost, it’s Ohio’s only significant Civil War battlefield. For another, two future U.S. Presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley were present at the battle. Also, nearly 5,000 cavalrymen slugged it out here on a large and fluid battlefield that led to the surrender of a significant portion of John Hunt Morgan’s command, including his brother-in-law, Col. Basil W. Duke. Next, there was significant involvement by the U.S. Navy’s Mississippi Squadron in the form of several river gunboats that helped to block the Ohio River fords and make it impossible for Morgan to cross. Finally, more than 100 men were killed in this battle, and approximately 50 Confederate dead remain buried on the battlefield in unmarked graves.

I’ve been involved in the fight to try to preserve this battle for more than a decade, since the sand and gravel company first got serious about getting permits. Here’s a link to a piece on the battle that I wrote years ago (you can get a sense of how old it is by the fact that George Voinovich was still Governor of Ohio and John Glenn was still in the Senate). It’s short and not my best work, but it gives a sense of the battle and preservation fight.

From my perspective, I’m not only honored to have been selected, I’m tickled that some semi-official body associated with the State of Ohio has finally decided to get on board with the idea of preserving this State’s only significant Civil War battlefield. My frustration with the utter lack of any concern about the upcoming sesquicentennial of the Civil War has already been documented here, so I’m hoping that the fact that OHS is involved means that somebody will actually pay attention this time.

I will keep you posted of our progress as the organization begins to coalesce. I’m guessing that our first board meeting will be held in the next sixty days, so I will report back then.

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This was one of the worst days I’ve had in about as long as I can remember. As I sit here, I feel completely violated. My world has been invaded, and I’m not sure that it will ever quite be the same again.

As a sole practitioner, my entire world, everything associated with the operation of my business, is based in the computer that I use at the office. My time and billing software, my accounting software, my case management software, and, of course, my client files, are the lifeblood of how I operate.

My office is at the end of a building in an office condominium complex. The office backs up to a stand of trees that divides the office park from residential properties. It’s an extremely secluded spot, and it has, apparently, been just begging to be taken advantage of by some adventurous miserable prick. And, although I never really considered it until today, the building has no security system. In retrospect, that should have been a big concern for me, but it just never crossed my mind.

When I walked into my office today, the first thing that I noticed was that the torchiere in the corner was on, which it should not have been. I turned it off when I left yesterday. And then I noticed that the window was gone, and that there was a sixty pound rock, and lots of broken glass on the floor next to my desk. Then I looked at my credenza, and came to the horrifying realization that my computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and expensive JBL Creature 2 speakers, as well as all of the associated cables, were all gone. My printer was still there, but it was turned up on end so that the fuckers could pull the printer cable out and take it.

My whole business is gone. And with the crazy schedule that I’ve been keeping, I hadn’t had an opportunity to do a back-up in a couple of months. I lost my entire billing database and have no copies at all of the invoices I sent out yesterday, since I don’t keep hard copies, but rather save them on the computer as a PDF file. I have been having to contact clients to get them to get copies of the invoices that went out yesterday to me so that I can rebuild the database and so I know what their account balances are. I generally know what they are, but I surely don’t know the specific dollar amounts.

So far, I’m out about $200 to buy a keyboard, mouse, printer cable and a low-end set of speakers for my laptop. I still need to acquire a monitor and a new printer, since my present printer does not have a Mac driver and is not compatible with my MacBook. I will have to buy those over the weekend. That doesn’t count what I’m going to have to pay the consultant to come back in and set up my billing and practice management programs for me. It also cost me half a day of productive time today, since I had to come home to have access to a computer, and I can’t get anything done with the dogs constantly bugging me. This fiasco is definitely going to cost me more than the amount of my month’s rent, that’s for sure.

There is only one thing that could have happened that could have been worse, and that’s losing my license. This is as close to the worst case scenario as something could possibly be. And I feel completely violated, like I’ve been raped. At the moment, I’m unsure what I’m going to do, but I can tell you two things: (a) I am NOT paying rent this month, and if the building owner doesn’t like it, I will sue him for the damages resulting from the total lack of any security and (b) I will not stay in the building if a security system is not installed immediately. While I doubt that an alarm going off would have stopped this smash-and-grab, perhaps knowledge that there was a security system in the building might have deterred the motherfuckers.

Fortunately, it appears that they left at least partial fingerprints behind, so I’m hopeful that the police will find them and make an arrest. And if they do, the least I hope for them is that some big guy named Bubba with a scorching case of herpes decides to make him or them his bitch while they’re incarcerated.

UPDATE, JULY 3: This morning, I paid a visit to Office Max and purchased a new monitor and a new printer, as well as a new surge protector, because the bastards even took that.

It turns out that at least one of the morons left a lovely thumbprint on the glass, so my hope is that Columbus’ Finest will shortly be making an arrest and that they might even be able to recover my computer.

As of today, I’m out about $500, which doesn’t even begin to count the cost of the consultant that will have to come in next week. This morning, I told the landlord that unless there’s a functioning security system in this building by the end of next week, I’m moving out, and he informed me that there is a system in place, it’s just not active. Just dandy.

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1 Jul 2008, by

A Generous Gift

My friend Clark B. “Bud” Hall sent this item along today. This is great news, and an extremely generous gift that will prove invaluable to those who study the life and career of George Armstrong Custer:

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) announced today that it has donated a collection of civil war artifacts to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center’s Military History Institute in Carlisle, Penn. The historic collection, which includes more than 200 pieces, belonged to Jacob Lyman Greene, the adjutant general (chief administrative officer) to General George Custer.

“As a Fortune 100 financial services organization, we are committed to giving back to our communities. We are thus very pleased to donate this lasting collection of history to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center’s Military History Institute,” says Trish Robinson, senior vice president, Strategic Communications and Community Responsibility and deputy head of Government Relations, MassMutual. “The opportunity to honor the legacy of Jacob Greene and preserve this
collection for future generations by housing it at the U.S. Army Military History Institute is a great privilege for MassMutual.”

Greene was the fifth president of Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, which became a part of MassMutual in 1996. His collection, valued at more than $800,000, dates back to the early 1860’s during the beginning days of the Civil War. His trunk, which he left behind at Connecticut Mutual, includes a variety of his military papers, letters and commissions as well as court martial documents, for soldiers in his cavalry. In addition, the collection contains Greene’s military commission to captain signed by Abraham Lincoln and a splinter of wood from his bunk at Libby Prison, where he was once a prisoner of war.

“We know these important pieces of history will be in great hands at the institute,” notes Ms. Robinson. “Our hope is that they will shed more light on not only the lives of Jacob Greene and General Custer, but also the lives of the soldiers serving under them.”

Colonel Rob Dalessandro, Director of the Army Heritage and Education Center, echoed Ms. Robinson’s assessment. “The Jacob Greene materials are a significant addition to the Army Heritage
and Education Center’s extensive holdings on the American Civil War,” he said. “We are honored to be the stewards of Captain Greene’s legacy. His story is a fine example of the service America’s soldiers have rendered to the nation.”

MassMutual inherited the collection when Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company became a part of it. Greene’s collection was recently flown to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center endeavors to “Tell the Army’s Story, One Soldier at a Time.” Their collection of personal papers, photographs, manuscripts and other materials is widely
regarded as the finest collection of primary source material on the U.S. Army in the world.

Kudos to MassMutual for doing the unselfish thing and for making this archive of material available to researchers like me. Greene was captured at Trevilian Station, so he’s of great interest to me, and I wish I had had this material available to me when I was researching the story of the Battle of Trevilian Station.

Thanks also to Bud Hall for passing this along.

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