November, 2006

Susan was supposed to have her ACL reconstruction surgery today. If all had gone according to plan, I would be reporting on the surgery right now.

Unfortunately, the surgery got bumped for a week. Our orthopedist was on call this past weekend, and had a very difficult weekend. He had something like 17 serious fractures to deal with, a number of which required nearly immediate surgery in order to allow the patients to begin the healing process. Consequently, all of his non-essential surgeries for today–including Susan–had to be postponed.

Needless to say, this was NOT happy news. We both wanted to get it over with, so that Susan could be on the road back to having a normal and healthy knee. Sadly, we now have another week of the immobilizer, the crutches, a weak, wobbly knee, and general unhappiness.

Stay tuned. Sadly, there’s another chapter to this saga. ūüôĀ

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Ephrata, Pennsylvania lawyer Larry B. Maier wrote Gateway to Gettysburg: The Second Battle of Winchester, published by Burd Street Press in 2002.

Burd Street is an imprint of White Mane Publishing. For those unfamiliar with White Mane, it’s far from my favorite publisher. For every good book they publish, there are ten really awful ones that had no business being published in the first place. This company is known for using crappy materials (thin, poor quality paper), indifferent production values, and no editing. My biggest complaint about it is that they do nothing to ensure that there is no plagiarism or copyright infringement. I am aware of at least two instances where authors who are friends of mine had their maps stolen and reprinted in White Mane books without their permission and without being paid royalties for the use of the maps. If that’s not bad enough, the management at White Mane takes the position that, by the time that someone finds out about the infringement and does something about it, they don’t care–they will already have made their money from the book. I sent a letter to the publisher on behalf of one of those authors complaining about the theft of my client’s maps, and didn’t even get the courtesy of a response. To me, that sort of attitude–a complete lack of business ethics and a total disregard for the law–speaks volumes for why this company has such an atrocious reputation. I’ve often said–and meant it–that if faced with the choice of never publishing another word again or having White Mane publish one of my books, I would choose never publishing another word again. I’ve heard rumors that White Mane is swirling around the drain, and I can only hope it’s true.

So, we begin with the proposition that Mr. Maier’s book has two strikes against it right out of the box. That’s a shame, but it is what it is.

Prior to the publication of this book, there was one other monograph dedicated to the Second Battle of Winchester. Charles Grunder and Prof. Brandon Beck published a short book on the battle as part of the H. E. Howard Virginia Battles and Leaders Series. Their book is decent, but it lacks depth. With only 85 pages of text, it simply cannot go into a great deal of detail. The best thing about their book is the walking/driving tour at the end of it.

The book itself is disappointing. While the coverage of the battle is reasonably thorough, the scope and depth of the research is disappointing. A review of the footnotes indicates that many of them cite to secondary sources, which indicates that Maier did not do the sort of research that he could have done in order to cover the topic completely. Many of those footnotes cite to the book by Grunder and Beck mentioned above, and not to the primary sources. Conversely, on the flip side, there are footnotes and not endnotes, something that I much prefer.

It also spends too much time discussing Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy. While Milroy is the central player in the drama, the book does not get to the topic of the Second Battle of Winchester for about 100 pages. Given that it’s a 330 page book, it means that about 1/3 of the book is devoted to stuff that doesn’t go to the heart of the subject. I actually blew off much of that stuff.

There are plenty of maps and illustrations, much to the author’s credit. He draws some solid conclusions, but the book fails to give the depth that serious historians crave. In short, this book left me wanting more, and also left me wondering how good it might have been if a real publisher with a competent editorial staff had brought it out, and not the incompetents at White Mane.

As stated in a previous post, the Second Battle of Winchester still has not had a definitive treatment, and continues to cry out for one.

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Susan and I are particularly fond of Asian food. We have a favorite Chinese restaurant that we frequent. The couple who own the restaurant are from Taiwan, and they’re very nice folks. Tonight, after spending seven hours in the car, we decided to go there for dinner.

The owner’s daughter waited on us. She was born here in the United States, but she’s a very quiet, studious sort of girl. She just finished her first quarter of college. While we were ordering dinner, her mother, who also works at the restaurant hurried over to the table and informed us that she had told her daughter that I was an expert on the Battle of Gettysburg. I said that I knew a little bit about it.

It turns out that the daughter, who’s probably still 18 years old, recently went on a camping trip to Gettysburg, and she toured the battlefield for the first time. She indicated that she really loved it, that she found it fascinating, and, when I pressed her, she told me that Devil’s Den was her favorite part of the battlefield. Specifically, she said, “Devil’s Den is just awesome.”

Needless to say, I was astounded by this. This young woman of Taiwanese descent–she’s first generation American–and who’s a studious sort who is considering being a chemistry major, is into Gettysburg! We ended up having a chat about the battle and what was so fascinating about it.

Our NHL team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, just hired a new head coach, Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock–a Canadian–has won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars, and was brought in to bring some discipline and to teach the many very young players on the Blue Jackets how to be successful NHL players. His hiring has met with nearly universal approval among the loyal but greatly unhappy fans of this team.

It turns out that Hitchcock is a Civil War buff. He has a long-standing and well-documented interest in the Late Unpleasantness. That is, of course, appropriate for a team named to honor Ohio’s contributions to the Civil War, and whose logo features a Civil War-style kepi. As a season ticket holder from the beginning of the franchise, this pleases me a great deal.

I never cease to be amazed at how pervasive the interest in the Civil War is, and am likewise amazed at the unlikely places where I find that interest. I can only hope it keeps up.

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25 Nov 2006, by

We’re Back

After a Thanksgiving trip to visit my parents in Reading, PA, Susan and I returned home this afternoon. We were supposed to be gone until tomorrow, but decided that a day to relax prior to her surgery was important, so we left a day early.

I hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving Day and that all overdosed on tryptophan.

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Just a quick post to wish one and all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

And be careful not to overdose on tryptophan….√ā¬† :-)√ā¬†


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20 Nov 2006, by

The Blonde Bond

Susan and I went to see the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale, on Saturday night. I wondered what this movie would be like for months before it was released.

I liked Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of Bond. Honestly, it’s a role he was born to play. Brosnan was plagued with a couple of really bad scripts and a couple of completely unbelievable story lines. His last Bond film, Die Another Day, was beyond atrocious, although it wasn’t Brosnan’s fault that it was so bad. The script was absolutely ridiculous, the story line was completely unbelievable, and Halle Berry was so awful in it that it was hard to believe that this same woman won an Oscar. I genuinely feared that the Bond series had reached its end, and that this horrendous movie was the reason.

The initial buzz was that Clive Owen, whose work I really like, would be the next Bond, and I really thought he’d make a great 007. However, that didn’t happen, and the search for a new Bond dragged on for several more years. Finally, the producers announced that they had cast Daniel Craig as Bond. Craig, who has proven himself to be a gifted actor in other films such as Munich, has blonde hair and blue eyes, and looks nothing at all like George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, or Brosnan, all of whom have very dark hair. As a result, there was a firestorm of controversy, with lots of web sites protesting the choice of Craig.

Casino Royale was Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, and it relates the story of how James Bond became a 00 agent, and how he evolved into the suave and debonaire secret agent portrayed in so many movies. It’s been filmed twice before, once in an hour-long version in 1954, and the awful 1967 farce with David Niven playing a retirement-age Bond with Woody Allen and Peter Sellers.

This telling of the story begins with Bond’s promotion to 00 status. M, played by the wonderful Dame Judi Dench, the head of MI-6, describes him as a blunt instrument, a stark contrast to the Connery version. There are no whiz-bang gadgets and no absurd special effects. The only gadgets are things we normal folks carry–cell phones and laptop computers. My only complaint is that the movie, at about 2:40 is too long.

Having said that, Craig was tremendous. His portrayal of Bond is probably the closest to the way that Fleming wrote the character of any yet attempted. He gave a nuanced but powerful performance, and he pulls off some very realistic fight scenes with aplomb. In short, I think that all of the criticism and fears that Craig would not make a good Bond was unfair and not well-considered. This guy, at age 38, could continue to play Bond for years to come. And I hope he will.

Bond is back. With a vengeance.

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Here’s another installment in my periodic series of profiles of forgotten cavalrymen. I discovered Oliver Blachly Knowles during the course of my research and work on William H. Boyd and his company of Philadelphians who served in the First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry.

Much of the information contained in this profile comes from old friend Blake A. Magner’s excellent little research reference, At Peace with Honor: The Civil War Burials of Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Knowles was born in Philadelphia on January 3, 1842, the son of a prominent merchant named Levi Knowles and Elizabeth Adeline Croskey. He attended local public schools and two years of high school before joining his father’s business. The young man loved horses, and was known as an excellent horseman. He was tall–six foot, two inches and well-proportioned–and was fair complected.

With the coming of war in 1861, nineteen-year-old Knowles enlisted in Capt. William H. Boyd’s Co. C of the First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry. He became Boyd’s orderly, and quickly developed a reputation for his dedication to duty and willingness to obey orders.

The Lincoln Cavalry saw action for the first time at Pohick Church near Alexandria, Virginia. During a sharp skirmish, Knowles demonstrated leadership, good judgment, and courage in helping to lead a detachment of Philadelphia horse soldiers to safety after they were nearly cut off. Knowles received a promotion to corporal for his gallantry in September 1861. However, Boyd had to force the young man to accept the promotion.

In January 1862, he was promoted again, this time to orderly sergeant, and as a result of excellent service during the Peninsula Campaign, he received a commission as second lieutenant at the conclusion of McClellan’s campaign. “He was never sick, always ready for duty, and seemed to regard the most fatiguing service or hazardous undertaking as pastime,” recorded Capt. James H. Stevenson of the Lincoln Cavalry in one of the two published histories of the regiment.

The Lincoln Cavalry participated in the Antietam Campaign, and then was assigned to serve in the Shenandoah Valley as part of the command of Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy (Milroy received a promotion to major general in March 1863). The Lincoln Cavalry spent most of the spring of 1863 chasing the guerrillas of John Singleton Mosby. Knowles was commissioned first lieutenant in April 1863 and then took a furlough. He rejoined the regiment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania while the Gettysburg Campaign was already underway, Milroy’s cavalry having escaped from Winchester before it fell to the Confederates on June 13, 1863. Knowles helped Boyd dog the advance of the Confederates, and performed excellent service during the Gettysburg Campaign.

In August 1863, when the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry mustered in with Boyd as its colonel, Knowles became one of the newly-formed regiment’s three majors. The 21st Pennsylvania was dismounted and served as infantry during the latter portion of the 1864 Overland Campaign, and when Boyd was badly wounded during the Battle of Cold Harbor, Knowles took command of the regiment, which participated in the siege of Petersburg. In October 1864, with the 21st Pennsylvania now mounted and acting as cavalry again, Knowles was promoted to colonel at the age of 22, and his unit was attached to the cavalry forces still serving the Army of the Potomac at Petersburg.

The 21st Pennsylvania participated in the various actions in and around Petersburg at the end of March and beginning of April 1865, and in the Appomattox Campaign. In June 1865, Knowles received a brevet to brigadier general of volunteers to date from March 1, 1865, for meritorious service in the war.

The twenty-three-year-old war hero mustered out of the volunteer service on July 4, 1865, and returned home to Philadelphia. He ended up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he participated in the grain trade, and sought (and obtained) a commission as a major in one of the Regular Army’s new cavalry regiments; ironically, the commission arrived the day after he died. However, on December 5, 1866, Knowles was stricken by cholera and died five hours later. He was only 24. His young life, so full of promise, ended much too soon. One can only speculate just how many great things he might have accomplished had he lived to old age.

His remains were taken home to Philadelphia, and like so many other brave young men, he was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, overlooking the waters of the Schuylkill River. His gravestone reads:

He was:
Gentle, yet Courageous,
Firm, but Magnanimous,
Beloved by all.

“The conduct of Colonel Knowles throughout his entire military career, from that of a private carrying the carbine to his last charge when the foremost of all the Confederate leaders had been compelled to surrender, was most devoted and heroic, winning the respect and affection of those beneath him, and the confidence and admiration of his superiors. His unaffected simplicity of manner, genial bearing, and never-failing wit won for him troops of friends wherever he moved,” recorded the eminent Pennsylvania historian, Samuel P. Bates. “As a token of their esteem, he was presented by his companions in arms with a horse, sword and equipments. He was warmly commended by Generals Sickel, Gregg, and Sheridan, and it was at the suggestion of the two latter that shortly after the surrender he was commissioned a Brigadier-General, as a special recognition of his merit in the final campaign.”

Here’s to Bvt. Brig. Gen. Oliver Blachly Knowles, who rose from private to colonel during the course of the war, and who was brevetted to brigadier general of volunteers at the tender age of 23.

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I live in Columbus, Ohio.  I am, however, a native Pennsylvanian. I grew up rooting for Penn State.  I genuinely could not care less about Ohio State and its football program.

However, here in Columbus, if one does not bow and scrape at the temple of Woody Hayes, one is looked at suspiciously.¬† I’m absolutely convinced that OSU football is some strange, bizarre, and fatal disease for which there is no cure.¬† It causes otherwise normal, rational people to turn into drooling, wild-eyed, raving lunatics.¬† It really is unbelievable.

There’s actually some bozo in this town who makes a living doing a Woody Hayes impression.¬† Never mind that Woody’s been dead for something like 25 years, and never mind that he disgraced himself at the¬†end of his career.¬† This guy gets on the radio every week and makes personal appearances, and just jibbers on and on, sounding like a brain damaged moron, and people actually PAY him for this….I just don’t get it.¬†

Tomorrow is the OSU vs. Michigan game. ¬†Even under¬†the worst of circumstances, it’s an obsession and the focus of¬†an entire city’s existence for a week or so every year.¬† This year, however, with both teams undefeated and ranked one and two, you can only imagine what it’s like.¬† One of the local anchors put it quite well indeed last Sunday morning when she said (while wearing scarlet and gray), “If you are the sort¬†of person who gets sick of¬†Ohio State football, you’re in the wrong place this week.”¬†

It’s been the lead story on the local news every broadcast for a week.¬† It’s been on the front page of the local rag every day this week.¬† Enough, already!!!!¬† Everywhere you go, people greet each other by saying things like “Go Bucks!” or “OH”, to which the appropriate response is “IO”.¬† It’s kind of like some secret¬†fraternity handshake thing, except it’s not a secret.¬† And when you genuinely couldn’t give a damn, like me, people look at you¬†funny.¬†Our office manager is decked out in OSU regalia today.¬† I’m not.¬† I’m sure it’s going to engender some strange looks today to see¬†someone NOT wearing scarlet and gray, but I don’t care.¬† I don’t own a single OSU item, and I intend to keep it that way.

The clincher happened this morning.¬† The morning radio show that I have listened to for years was having some Bacchanalian OSU fest, and when I got in the car, I was greeted by nothing but screams “OH”¬†by the DJ’s and “IO” by the drunken crowd. ¬†I finally couldn’t take it anymore and changed the station to Bob and Tom so I just wouldn’t have to listen to it anymore…¬†

All I can say is that I can’t stand it anymore…..this damned game can’t be over soon enough….

And God forbid that they lose….

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It’s been a while since we last checked on the results of the unscientific poll on favorite Civil War battlefields on the CWDG web site. Tonight, with 132 votes registered to date, here are the current results:

Antietam 15.91% (21)
Chancellorsville 2.27% (3)
Chickamauga 6.82% (9)
Fredericksburg 3.03% (4)
Gettysburg 46.97% (62)
Petersburg 0.76% (1)
Richmond 0.00% (0)
Shiloh 6.82% (9)
Vicksburg 3.79% (5)
Other–tell us what! 13.64% (18)

Total Votes: 132

Not surprisingly, Gettysburg continues to hold an enormous lead. No news there. I was one of the three votes for Chancellorsville. I wonder who the other two were….

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Fellow blogger Kevin Levin has a lengthy post on his blog today that spells out, in great detail, the plagiarism scandal that has hit the realm of Civil War academia. Prof. R. Fred Ruhlman, who teaches Civil War history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, apparently plagiarized most of his new book on Capt. Henry Wirz and the Andersonville prison camp from the work of Prof. William Marvel.

From the excerpts posted on Kevin’s blog, it’s quite obvious that Ruhlman simply re-packaged Marvel’s work and published it under his own name. In short, it is plagiarism of the worst variety.

As Peter Carmichael points out in a comment to Kevin’s post, the process of peer review employed by university presses usually catches this sort of thing, but this one got through. Ruhlman is, of course, responsible for his own actions, but the fact that this book got through the vetting process at the University of Tennessee Press, which is a very well-respected university press, doesn’t speak well for the Press.

At the same time, I am willing to defer to Pete Carmichael on this one. Pete is the series editor for a series being published by the UT Press, and he’s quite knowledgeable about how things are done there, what the objective is for certain books, and the steps it takes to ensure that work is original and not plagiarized.

I can only hope that Ruhlman is fired immediately, and that his work is repudiated by all as a consequence of his flagrant plagiarism. I also hope that the UT Press gets over its black eye, but that it tightens things up a bit to ensure that this sort of flagrant rip-off doesn’t happen again.

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