January, 2013

The Friends of the Bentonville Battlefield are putting on what promises to be an excellent seminar on September 14-15, 2013. The focus of the program is the Civil War in North Carolina in 1865, and it promises to be a first-rate offering. Saturday’s program will be in Smithfield, and then there will be a battlefield tour led by Mark Bradley and Ed Bearss on Sunday. I’m honored to be on the program with the finest scholars of the 1865 Carolinas Campaign working today.

Here’s the program for Saturday:

Bentonville Battlefield’s NC 1865 Civil War Symposium Agenda
Saturday : September 14, 2013
8:00 am to 8:45 am Welcome and Refreshments. Paul A. Johnston Auditorium at Johnston Community College.
8:45 am to 9:45 am Robert M. “Bert” Dunkerly. The Confederate surrender in North Carolina.
10:00 am to 11:00 am Colonel (Ret.) Wade Sokolosky. The Battles of Wyse Fork and Averasboro
11:15 am to 12:15 pm Dr. Chris E. Fonvielle. The Wilmington Campaign.
12:15 pm to 1:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm to 2:00 pm Eric Wittenberg. Cavalry during the Carolinas Campaign.
2:15 pm to 3:15 pm Dr. Mark L. Bradley. The Battle of Bentonville.
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm Keynote speaker: Edwin C. “Ed” Bearss.

The program benefits the Bentonville battlefield, and will be a terrific event. See you there!

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Protecting the Flanks CatalogThe new edition of Protecting the Flank is at the printer! That means that in about a month, we will have books.

I’m really excited about the new edition. The original edition was always one of my favorites, but it was a bit muddled in places, and the spacing of the book always bugged me. Further, new material surfaced after it was published in 2002.

And then we have a cretin who posted a negative review of the first edition of the book because the first edition failed to address Carhart’s festering pile of turds. Given that the book was published two years before Carhart’s, that would have been a really neat trick to have addressed a theory that had not yet been articulated, but this moron, not to be deterred, nevertheless found fault with my book even though he had never read it. Nifty, eh?

Well, the good news is that the new edition not only deals with the festering pile of turds, it blows his nonsensical theory right out of the water. The new edition includes a lengthy discussion of it, as well as a second new appendix that answers the question of which Confederate battery fired the four shots that were fired at the outset of the battle. There is an additional map. There are a number of new illustrations, and there is a fair amount of new material in the book, including new primary source material that nobody else has ever used in an account of the fighting on East Cavalry Field.

For those interested in purchasing a signed copy, please contact me, and we will get it done.

And thank you to all for your patience while this new edition made its way through the labyrinthine publishing process.

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bob-kirby-and-craig-bashein_420A couple of years ago, a prominent lawyer from Cleveland named Craig Bashein hired me to lead a personal tour for him and a friend, mostly of sites associated with the retreat from Gettysburg and the Wagon Train of Wounded. We had two very good days together, and I got to know Craig a little bit as a result. During our time together, Craig told me a little bit about the incredible collection of Civil War artifacts that he had accumulated over the years. From what he was telling me, it sounded like he had accumulated quite an impressive stash of artifacts.

Today, it was announced that Craig has donated some of that very impressive collection of artifacts to the museum at the Gettysburg National Military Park. From today’s edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Gettysburg gets gift of rare documents
January 27, 2013 12:07 am

By Tom Barnes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In late June 1863, Confederate Gen. Jubal Early didn’t just ride into Gettysburg to be part of a famous battle. His initial goal in coming north into Pennsylvania was to get local towns to provide food, boots, bullets and other supplies for his war-weary troops.

So the subordinate of Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote to the Gettysburg leaders, “making demands of the town prior to the battle,” say Gettysburg National Military Park officials.

That “demand letter,” which is of immense interest to historians and Civil War buffs, will be on display later this year at the National Military Park, along with dozens of other rare historical documents and records being donated by Craig Bashein, a lawyer and Civil War artifact collector from Cleveland.

He praised the National Park Service for doing “a tremendous job of safeguarding and preserving many of our nation’s most treasured artifacts surrounding the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg.” He said the dozens of drawings and documents he is donating will let people further study and appreciate this important event in our history.

He also called on other collectors to donate their historic and treasured pieces from the Civil War to the national park’s museum.

A few of Mr. Bashein’s donations — some personal possessions of Union Gen. Alexander S. Webb, who took part in repulsing Pickett’s Charge — will be displayed in an exhibit called “Treasures of the Civil War,” which will open June 16. Dozens of displays and re-enactments are set for late June and early July at the military park, to mark the 150th anniversary of the famous Gettysburg battle, fought July 1-3, 1863.

But most of the hundreds of items from Mr. Bashein will have to be slowly studied by military park historians and won’t become available to researchers or the public until sometime later this year, say park service officials.

The Bashein wartime notes, artifacts, records and 64 unpublished sketchbooks “will offer enormous new opportunities to examine the Battle of Gettysburg and other Civil War battles that occurred from 1862 to 1865,” the park service said in a statement.

Many of the materials were created by Emmor Bradley Cope, an engineer for the Union’s Army of the Potomac, as a way “to understand the topography, obstacles and the nature of the towns and countryside where these battles were occurring.” Many of the maps were made by Cope while riding the battlefields on horseback and were ordered by Gen. George Meade, the commanding Union general during the battle.

“Since Gettysburg’s museum exhibits cover all the years of the Civil War,” from 1861-65, the artifacts from Mr. Bashein “will be invaluable in helping us tell the full story of the war, as well as providing unpublished resource materials that will benefit all those who study Gettysburg and the Civil War,” said Bob Kirby, superintendent of the military park.

Many of the personal items are from Webb, who was given the Medal of Honor for gallantry for his actions when Confederate Gen. George Pickett unsuccessfully led his troops against Union forces on July 3, the final day of the battle.

The Webb items include his pistol, a soldier’s hat, field binoculars and a medal from Gen. Meade for meritorious service.

Other donated items, which will go on display later this year, include:

• A map of the Gettysburg battlefield, done by Capt. J.D. Briscoe, an aide to Union Gen. David Birney. It has hand-drawn notes of where troops were positioned. The map was used by Birney during testimony about the battle to a Congressional committee in the spring of 1864.

“This map is believed to be one of the first battlefield maps of Gettysburg ever prepared,” the park service said in a statement.

• The archives of David Kendlehart, a Gettysburg burgess, made during the battle, which include the “demand letter” from Early.

• Leather gloves worn by Philip Sheridan, a Union cavalry general.

• An engraved silver pocket watch given to Union Gen. Henry Halleck by his staff officers.

Tom Barnes:
First Published January 27, 2013 12:00 am

That’s GNMP Superintendent Bob Kirby on the left in the photograph, and Craig on the right. The 64 sketchbooks mentioned in the article are on the table in front of Messrs. Kirby and Bashein.

Kudos to Craig for ensuring that his incredible collection is not only preserved, but that it will also be made available to the public (and especially those items that will be made available to researchers). Well done, sir!

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YSfpPic>You Stink! Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players is a Homerun!

Written By Michael Aubrecht and Eric Wittenberg. Published by Kent State University Press (Black Squirrel Books)

2012-2013 Amazon Best-Seller: Listed in Top 100 ‘Baseball’ and Top 10 ‘Baseball Statistics’ categories. Now available in both Paperback Edition and improved Kindle Edition

There are countless volumes celebrating the best teams in professional baseball. Unfortunately, winning represents only one side of the game. For every champion’s record-setting season, there has been an equally memorable story of defeat. These teams and their shameful contributions to America’s national pastime have been a neglected topic in the annals of baseball history. Until now. You Stink! includes franchise origins, detailed stats, player profiles, photos, and more, as well as a collection of long-format essays in a “Hall of Shame” that recognizes some of the worst moments ever witnessed on a ball field.

For more information, visit the You Stink! Blog or You Stink! Facebook page.

Authors are now booking signings and speaking engagements for 2013. Please contact me via this blog if you are interested.

Here’s what some readers have said about You Stink!

“For baseball fans who love to devour any words about the game, ‘You Stink!’ is like a disease — you know the ‘achievements’ are awful, but you keep coming back for more.” – Bob D’Angelo, The Sports Bookie, Tampa Bay Online

“It’s a funny book, but with serious overtones. Whether you’re a baseball fan, or don’t know anything about baseball, this is a great book.” – Greg Rasheed, KGNU Radio, Denver, CO

“Wittenberg and Aubrecht humorously profile, in total, 15 terrible baseball teams of truly historic proportions…Nifty black-and-white photos and pages of stats will lighten the perspective of Cleveland sports fans. (Grade: A-)” – William Kist, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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11 Jan 2013, by


Time for a good rant. I haven’t had one in a long while.

I was recently asked to write a review of this book for the next issue of Civil War Times magazine. I have lots of serious problems with this book–the author did virtually no research before writing it, and it is also horribly deficient in maps–but it also features my pet peeve about books.

When a new Civil War book is published, the first thing that I do is to look at the bibliography, as doing so tells me what sources were consulted by the author in writing the work. More importantly, a review of the bibliography shows me how deeply the author has delved into the primary sources, and in particular, into manuscript sources. If a review of the bibliography does not demonstrate a deep job of researching the primary sources by the author, I will not purchase the book, on the theory that it adds nothing. I simply cannot take a book that does include a bibliography seriously.

My pet peeve is when there is no bibliography at all. The book I just reviewed has no bibliography, and Carhart’s festering pile of turds does not have one either. The failure to include a bibliography permits a lazy, or worse, intellectually dishonest (see Carhart), author to hide his or her lack of research. The failure to include a bibliography permits the author to avoid being held accountable for his or her poor work and lack of substantive research. In the case of Carhart’s book, the failure to include a bibliography permits Carhart to hide the fact that he simply manufactured “facts” when there were none in the historical record to support his preposterous theory. With respect to the book that I just reviewed, the lack of a bibliography hides the incredibly shallow scope of the author’s research. The endnotes indicate that he used primarily secondary sources, a few commonly available published primary sources, and a handful of materials readily available on the World Wide Web. There is not a single reference to the Official Records, there is not a single reference to any manuscript sources not available on line, there is not a single reference to newspaper materials, and there are no references to any primary source research of any significance. That bibliography would, undoubtedly, have been embarrassingly short, which is probably the reason why it was not included.

I view the failure to include a bibliography in a book to be at best lazy and at worst the perpetration of intellectual fraud. And I categorically refuse to buy any book that does not include one because I don’t believe that any such book has anything whatsoever to add to the body of knowledge. If I buy the book, that sends a message that it’s okay to publish such works, and I never, ever want to do anything that could even remotely be construed as promoting the publication of such works.

Personally, I WANT the reader to see how much work went into researching and writing one of my books. I WANT the reader to see just how much effort goes into one of these projects before I ever set pen to paper. I am proud of it. Evidently, these other authors are not, which I cannot begin to comprehend.

I had included some discussion of this issue in my review, but there was not sufficient room for all of it, and most of my ranting about the lack of a bibliography had to be edited out. Instead, I figured I would share that rant with you here.

What do all of you think about books that lack bibliographies? Please share your thoughts with me here.

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10 Jan 2013, by

Good riddance!

cyclorama-building-fall-2010Here’s some more good news on the “goodbye to ugly buildings on historical ground” front….

The National Park Service is finally able to tear down the hideous Cyclorama building at Gettysburg, which was constructed in a place that never should have been chosen for it, the site of Ziegler’s Grove, in the Pickett’s Charge portion of the battlefield. The family of the architect of the hideous thing protested and dragged the National Park Service through years of needless litigation while the building continued to deteriorate. It’s finally time to be done with it.

From WITF today:

National Park Service to demolish Gettysburg Cyclorama building
Written by Craig Layne, Morning Edition Host/Reporter | Jan 10, 2013 12:21 PM

(Gettysburg) — The National Park Service has chosen to demolish an architecturally significant building on the Gettysburg battlefield.

The Cyclorama building was designed by famed architect Richard Neutra and once housed a 360-degree painting of Pickett’s Charge.

The structure, which closed in 2005, has been the center of a struggle between the park service and modern architecture experts for more than a dozen years.

In an August interview with witf, NPS spokeswoman Katie Lawhon says tearing down the building would allow the agency to restore Cemetery Ridge to the way it would have looked during the three-day Civil War clash in July 1863.

“There were actually some monuments associated with soldiers from the Union Army that had to be moved when they built the building,” Lawhon says. “So, the first thing we would do is put the monuments back where the veterans had originally placed them.”

The park service reviewed the environmental impact of destroying the building before making its decision.

The agency says demolition could begin later this winter.

The Cyclorama painting is now on display at the Gettysburg National Military Park’s visitors’ center.

The National Park Service provided this background information on the building:

Gettysburg National Military Park – Cyclorama Building Background

In 1999, the National Park Service (NPS) approved a General Management Plan for Gettysburg National Military Park (NMP) that addressed demolition of the Cyclorama building as part of a long-term plan to rehabilitate the North Cemetery Ridge to its historic 1863 battle and 1864-1938 commemorative-era appearance.

The 1962 Cyclorama building, designed by noted architect Richard Neutra, was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The adverse effect of demolishing the building was addressed in a 1999 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the NPS, the State Historic Preservation Officer and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. All mitigation in the MOA has been completed.

In 2006, the NPS was sued by the Recent Past Preservation Network and two individuals challenging the government’s compliance with both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in making the decision to demolish the Cyclorama building. The U.S. District Court found that the NPS had complied with NHPA but not NEPA and directed the NPS to undertake a “site-specific environmental analysis on the demolition of the Cyclorama Center” and to consider “non-demolition alternatives” to its demolition before “any implementing action is taken on the Center.”

Accordingly, the NPS initiated an environmental assessment (EA).

The Environmental Assessment planning process – The park prepared the EA with assistance from the regional office and with input from the Northeast Regional Solicitor’s Office and the WASO Environmental Quality Division. The EA evaluated three alternatives: the NPS preferred alternative to demolish the building; another action alternative to allow a third-party to relocate the building outside park boundaries; and the no action alternative to mothball the building in place.

The EA was released for a 30-day public review and comment period that ended on September 21, 2012. Over 1,600 pieces of correspondence were received on the EA. The majority of commenters supported demolition of the building in order to rehabilitate the battle and commemorative landscapes. All substantive comments have been addressed in consultation with the regional office and the Northeast Regional Solicitor’s Office.

No changes to the NPS preferred alternative were warranted as a result of public comment.

Next Steps – Gettysburg Foundation has funds for the demolition of the building and for most of the rehabilitation of Ziegler’s Grove. The first steps in the project will be several weeks of asbestos remediation.

Once the building is demolished, the battle and commemorative-era landscapes will be rehabilitated according to the treatment recommendations contained in the 2004 cultural landscape report (CLR) for the North Cemetery Ridge area which include returning monuments to their historic locations, rebuilding commemorative pedestrian pathways and rebuilding historic fences.

Good riddance.

Next up, the horrendous McMansion on Fleetwood Hill……

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At the request of the Civil War Trust, I’ve written an article on the fighting for Fleetwood Hill that occurred on June 9, 1863. That article was posted today, and can be found here. I appreciate all of your help and support for our efforts to preserve THE most fought-over piece of ground on the North American continent.

You can donate here.

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