Month:

November, 2012

For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, this Saturday, December 1, 2012, Michael Aubrecht and I will be signing copies of our book, You Stink! Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players at the Heinz History Center’s annual book fair for books related to topics pertinent to Pittsburgh, Books in the ‘Burgh. We will be signing there from 10:00-3:00. Please come by and say hello if you can!

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It never ceases to surprise me how many stones remain unturned with respect to the Civil War. There is still plenty of untapped primary source material out there.

I’m working on the role played by Ohio troops in the 1862 Maryland Campaign, so I availed myself of the collections at the Ohio Historical Society today. In the course of doing so, I found something really remarkable in one of the boxes that I reviewed. There’s a collection of materials pertaining to the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry of the 12th and 20th Corps, and found a complete unpublished manuscript of a regimental history of the 66th Ohio by a fellow named Eugene Powell. There are 11 complete chapters that cover nearly the entire career of the 66th Ohio. I ordered a copy of the Antietam chapter today for my project.

Here is the description of this manuscript from the finding aid for the regiment:

The Powell manuscript consists of eleven chapters describing the actions of the 66th O.V.I. in various battles. The chapters were numbered during processing and are arranged in their apparent order. It is uncertain if the entire manuscript is included in this collection. Chapters 1-3 are entitled Preparing for the Conflict, Campaign in Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley, respectively. Chapters 4-6 are labeled New Market, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria [Port Republic]; Pope’s Campaign, August 1862; and Antietam and McClellan’s Campaign in Maryland. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 are entitled Burnsides and Hooker, Dumfries and Chancellorsville; Gettysburg; and Campaign on the Rappahannock, New York City, and Governor’s Island, respectively. Chapters 10 and 11 are called Campaign in Tennessee and On to Atlanta!

The only thing missing is a description of the 66th Ohio’s role in Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign of 1865 and a description of its participation in the grand review of Sherman’s army that took place in May 1865, and the disbanding of the regiment at the end of the war; a subsequent author could easily fill that gap. Given that there is no contemporary published regimental history of the 66th Ohio save concise ones in compilations such as Whitelaw Reid’s Ohio in the War (although there is a recent one by a modern historian), the publication of this manuscript would be a welcome addition to the existing body of knowledge about the 66th Ohio.

I also reviewed the John T. Booth Papers today. Booth was a member of the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and he was bound and determined to document the service of his unit. He kept an incredibly detailed diary, and also engaged in extensive correspondence after the war regarding the history and service of the 36th Ohio. The 36th is another unit with no published regimental history, and there is plenty of fodder here for one to cobble one together, should one be so inclined.

As another example, I have long known of the existence of the Thomas Church Haskell Smith Papers at the Ohio Historical Society. Smith was one of John Pope’s staff officers, and spent much of his post-war life gathering material to write a book defending Pope’s conduct of the Battle of Second Bull Run, and, in particular, Pope’s bringing court-martial charges against Maj. Gen. Fitz-John Porter. The collection contains Smith’s correspondence with participants in the battle, which is invaluable, but it also contains Smith’s unpublished manuscript, which is complete. I’ve reviewed the collection, including parts of the manuscript, and its publication would be a substantial addition to the body of knowledge regarding the Second Bull Run Campaign, even if it does attempt to defend the indefensible.

My point in all of this is that these are only three of the many collections at the Ohio Historical Society. How many more of these treasures are there out there in other historical societies that are waiting for someone to come along and utilize them? These are important sources, and it’s a shame that they continue to languish underutilized by modern historians. If someone is looking for a good project, I commend them to you. The regimental history of the 66th Ohio and the T.C.H. Smith manuscript would both be excellent projects for a Ph.D. dissertation or other similar ambitious undertaking.

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Thank you to reader Jeff Anderson, of Rockton, Illinois, for bringing this good news to my attention.

Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth, who only got to wear his general’s star for five days before the ego of Judson Kilpatrick sent Farnsworth to his death needlessly at Gettysburg, was taken to his home town of Rockton for burial. Apparently, the large monument over his grave has fallen into some degree of disrepair over the years, but I’m pleased to report that that is no longer the case. From Tuesday’s edition of the Rockford Register Star newspaper:

Rockton cemetery project brings Civil War history into the light
By Greg Stanley
RRSTAR.COM
Posted Nov 20, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

ROCKTON — Rockton Township officials have refurbished a little local history in Year 3 of a cemetery restoration project.

The township has set aside $10,000 each year to restore and clean headstones in the oldest part of the cemetery, which dates to the 1800s.

“We’re trying to do more Civil War markers this time around,” cemetery sexton Jerri Noller says.
The most prominent headstone restored this year belongs to Elon J. Farnsworth, a brigadier general for the Union who became something of a celebrity in his death.

Farnsworth was a rising star when he was made general at 25 years old (along with a 24-year-old George Armstrong Custer) on June 29, 1863 — two days before the battle of Gettysburg. He was killed four days later, on the final day of the battle, in what many historians have described as a reckless blunder of the vain and philandering Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick ordered Farnsworth to lead a doomed charge against a Confederate stronghold of little strategic importance to the battle, according to historian Edwin B. Coddington’s well-regarded 1968 tome, “The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command.”

“Although Farnsworth protested it was suicide, Kilpatrick insisted that he should charge with half his brigade,” Coddington writes. Farnsworth “put on a brilliant display of courage and horsemanship, but the attack ended in a fiasco.”

It became known as “Farnsworth’s Charge” and led to 101 casualties, according to one historian’s report for the National Park Service.

Farnsworth was born and raised in Michigan, but his body was brought back to Rockton Township to be buried next to his mother and father.

Greg Stanley: 815-987-1369; gstanley@rrstar.com; @greggstanley

On this Thanksgiving Day, I find it difficult to say how gratified I am to hear that this largely forgotten hero of the Battle of Gettysburg is being remembered by his home town. So far as I can tell, in all my years of researching the Civil War, I have never been able to identify another general officer who was killed in action while leading an attack BEHIND enemy lines, as Farnsworth was. His valor was wasted by the ambitions of Judson Kilpatrick, but that valor is nevertheless still worthy of commemoration, and I tip my cap to the township for being willing to spend the money to see that his grave is not forgotten.

And on this Thanksgiving Day, I wish each and every one of you a joyous day with family and friends. Enjoy your day, the good food, and the comradeship, but at the same time, let’s not lose sight of the purpose of the day: be thankful for the blessings that you have. And I am thankful for all of you.

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Apparently, Georges Santayana was correct when he wrote “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Thousands of whiny morons, unhappy that more than 50% of Americans voted to re-elect Barack Obama as president, are now filing secession petitions. Like a bunch of whiny children who didn’t get their way, these imbeciles are now threatening to take their toys and go home. WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

From today’s edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Disgruntled voters petition White House for their states to secede from the Union
Edward Colimore, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 6:16 AM

The petitions on the White House website won’t be granted. They’re the aftereffects of a heated presidential election season, folks simply blowing off steam, historians and scholars say.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans unhappy with the result of last week’s voting have signed petitions on behalf of at least 35 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

What do they want?

For the Obama administration to “peacefully grant” the states permission to “withdraw from the United States of America” and create new governments.

Secession.

“We did fight a Civil War over this issue,” said Perry Dane, a professor at the Rutgers School of Law in Camden who clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court. “The White House will respond and will say as considerately as it can that secession is off the table.

“You win some, you lose some,” he said.

The petitions, located on the White House’s “We the People” website (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov), are “very likely an expression of alienation and frustration,” said Randall Miller, a professor of history at St. Joseph’s University. “People question the legitimacy of the election and it’s their way of saying, ‘I’m taking myself out of this.’ ”

By late Tuesday, a total of more than 13,000 people had signed two petitions seeking nation status for Pennsylvania, where Obama defeated Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by a 52-47 percentage ratio. For the more Democratic-leaning New Jersey, nearly 11,000 had signed a similar petition. At least 5,400 others had signed one for Delaware, where Obama also was the victor. The number of signatures had doubled, even tripled, since the beginning of the week.

Texas and Louisiana – where Romney won – had about 82,000 and 30,000 signatures, respectively. Petitions that attract 25,000 signatures in 30 days will receive a “response” from the White House, the website says.

On the flip side, there are petitions on the White House site that call for the Obama administration to deport or exile everyone who has signed a secession petition.

One asks the administration to permit the left-leaning city of Austin to secede from Texas but remain part of the United States.

“The Internet allows you to find like-minded people. And in this faceless anonymity, you can egg each other on,” said Andrew Shankman, an associate professor of history at Rutgers-Camden. “It doesn’t take much to sign a petition.”

The secession petitions are “not a serious political proposal,” he said. “This is the last expression of rage because [the petitioners] didn’t get what they wanted on Election Day. They’re sounding off.”

The “We the People” website allows citizens to create and sign petitions. They provide first names but not the last, just initials.

Many – like one created by Karen G. of Hazleton, Pa., and another by Joe. R. of Sewell – quote from the Declaration of Independence: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands . . . ”

Others, such as a petition seeking Oregon’s secession, take another tack: “The people of Oregon would like the chance to vote on leaving the Union immediately. The Federal Government has imposed policies on Oregon that are not in Oregon’s best interests, and we as citizens would respectively [sic] and peaceably separate ourselves from a tyrannical Government. . . . ”

The White House lacks constitutional authority to let states secede, but that hasn’t stopped disgruntled voters.

The issue of secession was not confined to the Civil War. New Jersey grappled with it about 40 years ago, when the southern part of the state attempted to split from the north.

“There was a big movement, with petitions drawn,” said Paul Schopp, a historian who lives in Riverton. “The south was upset that most of the tax dollars were going to the north.”

The postelection petitions are “an effort by average citizens to exercise their constitutional rights,” he said. “It’s a peaceful form of redress.”

Other countries have faced similar issues. A referendum will be held in 2014 to determine whether the people of Scotland wish to withdraw from the United Kingdom, Dane said. Quebec has occasionally sought to secede from Canada and the country’s Supreme Court has said that’s not out of the question.

In Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who often has expressed frustration with the federal government, did not endorse the secession petitions and has said he did not want the Lone Star State to break away.

“The Civil War showed once and for all and forever that secession is illegal,” said Andy Waskie, a Temple University professor, historian, and author. “The combat, effusion of blood, and sacrifice ended that question.”

Citizens “have to seek other means of redressing their grievances,” he said. “The Union is permanent.”

Obviously, these self-centered whiners have lost sight of the fact that the last time someone tried to secede, 600,000 Americans died. These whiners don’t like President Obama or his policies, so they want to secede. They’re just not willing to accept the idea that a majority of U.S. citizens voted for the man and that their guy lost. WAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

This issue was resolved in Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869), wherein the United States Supreme Court determined that there is no right of secession and that the Union is forever. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, writing for the Court, observed:

The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to ‘be perpetual.’ And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained ‘to form a more perfect Union.’ It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not.

He continued:

When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.

Chase continued:

Considered therefore as transactions under the Constitution, the ordinance of secession, adopted by the convention and ratified by a majority of the citizens of Texas, and all the acts of her legislature intended to give effect to that ordinance, were absolutely null. They were utterly without operation in law. The obligations of the State, as a member of the Union, and of every citizen of the State, as a citizen of the United States, remained perfect and unimpaired. It certainly follows that the State did not cease to be a State, nor her citizens to be citizens of the Union. If this were otherwise, the State must have become foreign, and her citizens foreigners. The war must have ceased to be a war for the suppression of rebellion, and must have become a war for conquest and subjugation.

Resolving the issue once and for all, the Supreme Court held:

It is not necessary to attempt any exact definitions within which the acts of such a State government must be treated as valid or invalid. It may be said, perhaps with sufficient accuracy, that acts necessary to peace and good order among citizens, such for example, as acts sanctioning and protecting marriage and the domestic relations, governing the course of descents, regulating the conveyance and transfer of property, real and personal, and providing remedies for injuries to person and estate, and other similar acts, which would be valid if emanating from a lawful government must be regarded in general as valid when proceeding from an actual, though unlawful, government, and that acts in furtherance or support of rebellion against the United States, or intended to defeat the just rights of citizens, and other acts of like nature, must, in general, be regarded as invalid and void.

And that, as they say, is that. There is no right of secession. These whiners need to just suck it up and move on. The country survived George W. Bush’s eight years. It will also survive Barack Obama’s. Get over it. Shut up and quit whining.

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7 Nov 2012, by

A journey ends

Many of you have been on this journey with me since its beginning in 2005. I have often said how important this blog is to me and how much I cherish my interactions with you here. I try to keep things on-topic most of the time, but those of you have been with me for a long time know that writing—and this blog—are often my personal therapy. In the end, I am a writer. It’s what I am, and it’s who I am. Often, my writing feels like it’s the one and only thing that is completely my own. That means that sometimes I deviate from that which is on topic for this blog because I have the need to talk about what’s going on in my life. I apologize for that, but it really does help me, and I appreciate your perpetual patience with that.

Earlier this year, I did just that, discussing the ordeal that Susan and I faced with the ultimate decline of my parents’ health. That was, without doubt, the most stressful and most horrendous time of my life. As an only child, I was backed into a corner and forced to make the sorts of decisions that nobody ever wants to make, especially where one’s parents are involved. Although it was deeply personal, all of you did so much to help to ease the blow and to help me feel a little bit better about the awfulness of it all. And for that, I am and will be eternally grateful.

Part of that terrible journey has now reached its inevitable end, and I am writing this just to try to comprehend it and to try to process the unthinkable. As is my wont, I will share it with you, my extended family.

On Sunday, I flew out to Los Angeles to try a case. It’s been a while since I’ve done so, and I faced a real challenge. I am the sixth lawyer on this case, and the first three screwed it up royally, perhaps even irretrievably. I am left to try to fix the mess, even though it may be too screwed up to fix. I spent the day yesterday preparing a witness for his testimony and defending a last minute deposition of a critical witness. I did some legal research for a pretrial motion that I intended to make, watched the Eagles lose on Monday night football, and then I turned out the light and tried to get some rest before what promised to be a long and tiring day (trial work is exhausting—you have to pay very close attention to every single word being said, and being “on” for hours at a time is very mentally tiring).

When I go to California and it’s usually only for a few days, and I do my level best to keep myself on east coast time, as it makes the jet lag on the return trip a lot easier to take. That meant that I woke up at 4:30 this morning with a real sense of unease, that something was wrong. Realizing that while my body’s internal clock was telling me that it was my normal time to wake up, I rolled back over and slept for another hour. I got up at 5:30, went through my normal morning routine, and put on my navy blue suit. I had just finished tying my tie when my cell phone rang. Knowing it was 6:00 in the morning in L.A., I knew it had to be someone back east calling. I picked up the phone, saw the number of the nursing station at the nursing home where my parents now live, and gulped, knowing that this was not going to be good news.

The nurse—a kind soul—told me that my father had vomited during the night, and that when they tried to rouse him this morning, he was completely non-responsive. She indicated that the staff physician wanted to have him transported to the hospital to determine what was wrong, which I authorized. I explained my circumstances, and asked her to deal with Susan, as I figured I would not be able to take a call in court. I then proceeded to finish my trial preparation and make the long trek into downtown L.A. for the court appearance. My co-counsel and I got there with an hour to spare, so we went to the courthouse cafeteria for something to drink and so I could put some cases he had printed out for me into my trial notebook.

I had no sooner finished doing that when the phone rang. This time it was Susan, calling to tell me that my father had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage, that there was nothing that could be done, and that he would not survive 24 more hours. Stunned, I asked her to set the wheels in motion to handle funeral arrangements, etc., that I would have to rely upon her since I was tied up and unavailable. My wife is a rock. She is probably the strongest person I know, and she is at her very best in a crisis. With that, and to my eternal gratitude, she took charge.

Now numb and desperately trying to process what I had just heard, I told my co-counsel that if there was any way that I could get there to say goodbye, I wanted to do so. He understood—Jim is a kind and very decent man for whom I have nothing but the utmost admiration and fondness—so we went and sought out opposing counsel. She nodded understanding, but would not agree to a continuance—something for which I can never forgive her—and said she would leave it to the court. Fortunately, the judge showed some compassion and granted my request for a continuance for one week.

I then fielded the call nobody should ever have to take. It was the doctor from the ER at the hospital, telling me that there was nothing that could be done, and did I want any heroic measures taken. I said no, make him comfortable, give him some dignity, and just let him slip away. And with that, it was done. I stood on the street in Los Angeles across from the courthouse, weeping. Poor Jim—he didn’t know what to say or do, so he just stood there, with his hand on my shoulder, not saying a word. It was what I needed at that moment—just a decent, compassionate human being letting me know that I wasn’t alone, and for that I will always be grateful.

I went back to the hotel, quickly changed into more comfortable clothing, stuffed my other belongings into my carry-on, and called my very few relatives to tell them the bad news. And then it was time to commence a race that I cannot win: the race with the grim reaper.

Jim drove me to LAX, and $700 later, I am writing this on a plane to Philadelphia. Susan is driving there, and will pick me up at the airport. There is no Internet access on this flight, and I have no way of knowing whether I will get there in time to say goodbye to him. I just won’t know until I land.

As we flew east, I got to witness one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. As I watched it, all I could think was that God had given me a gift: a final beautiful sunset for my dad. Perhaps it was his spirit leaving—I just don’t know. As I sat there with tears running down my face, I was immensely grateful for this fleeting gift of nature’s beauty.

I don’t know precisely what awaits me when I land in Philadelphia, but it’s only a question of when and not if. I will have to tell my mother that her husband of 54+ years is gone. I will then have to explain to her why the medical providers do not think that she is capable of attending his funeral, prospects that chill me to the very fiber of my being. And now, at the age of 51, I face life without my dad. I knew that this day would come sooner than later; when I saw him for his birthday in August I had a very strong feeling that it would be his last. I have viewed the last five+ years since his first stroke as borrowed time, and I am grateful for every minute of that borrowed time. And now that borrowed time has run out, as it inevitably must for each and every one of us.

My dad was my first and best friend. Some of my earliest, happiest memories are of watching ball games with him, and he was always my favorite golfing buddy. I will miss his easy, mischievous grin and his big, outgoing salesman’s personality that I could never match. I will miss his ability to find fun in almost any situation. I will miss him terribly for the rest of my days, and I can only hope that he is proud of the man that I have grown into.

UPDATE: I am now on the ground in Philadelphia, awaiting Susan’s arrival. There was an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that held her up. My father is still alive. I have a hunch that he’s waiting for me to get there, which I desperately want to do.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: He’s gone. I did not get there in time. Joseph Wittenberg, August 10, 1920-November 7, 2012. I will miss him for the rest of my days.

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