Strange Blighted Land

Gregory Coco, author of A Strange and Blighted Land, speaks on this C-Span archive video about the aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg. The book is not an easy read – it’s along the lines of Mary Roach’s Stiff – deeply disturbing if you’re a sensitive person, but fascinating if you’re at all intrigued by the biology and physiology of death.

Source: Strange Blighted Land Gettysburg Aftermath Battle | Video | C-SPAN.org

Fredericksburg Memories

It’s the anniversary of Fredericksburg, that horrific and senseless battle in which Burnside sacrificed 10% of his army for nothing. I’ve read a little about the battle, but with the exception of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s recollections in the Ken Burns series, had never read a firsthand account of the fighting. Here’s one from a member of the Irish Brigade, who bore the brunt of the assault.

The Confederates were dug in on a ridge west of the city. They were behind a stone wall and sheltered by a sunken road from Union fire. They had weeks to fortify it and held it with tens of thousands of troops. While the Irish Brigade waited in the city to be called to battle, Private McCarter watched a Union division under General French move against the wall and come back “beaten crushed, demoralized.”  When some of McCarter’s comrades asked a lieutenant of the Irish Brigade what was happening on the battlefield he replied: “Well boys, French is licked to beat hell… We are soon to go over the same ground and try the same job that he failed to accomplish.”

Source: Fredericksburg Was The Worst Day In The Young Life of Private William McCarter Of The Irish Brigade – Long Island Wins

Petersburg Battlefield Grows

More good news! I had to check that I hadn’t already posted this, but we’re getting a year’s worth of preservation in one week! Petersburg battlefield’s protected territory is expanding significantly. Here’s hoping I get to visit the newly massive-r park in 2017!

No property immediately will be added to the park, but the provision will authorize the National Park Service to incorporate battlefield land—up to 7,238 acres—that is now unprotected outside the park boundary. Over time, such additions could make Petersburg one of the largest historical parks in the nation.

Already, the national battlefield commemorates 18 separate battlegrounds figuring in the longest blockade in U.S. military history. Petersburg’s seesawing, hard-fought actions comprise one of the Civil War’s most complex struggles.

Source: Congress OKs bigger Petersburg National Battlefield, on track to be America’s largest Civil War park – Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia News

Marszalek in NYC

Are any of my readers from the Big Apple? If so, I wish to live vicariously through you this week, when John Marszalek is visiting and presenting at two separate events. Marszalek is the author of the wonderful Sherman biography, as well as books on Halleck, Grant and Lincoln. I’ve heard him speak at iTunes U symposia, and he is both knowledgeable and very entertaining. Worth the effort to get tickets!

A nationally recognized Mississippi State historian joins two other prominent colleagues next week as featured speakers for the New York Historical Society.

Source: Marszalek to share Civil War research with New York audiences | Mississippi State University

Highest Regimental Casualties

My mind went to wandering today, wondering which regiment suffered the most during the war. This website handily presented a list of the top 15. Looking at #2, that kerfuffle over artwork in Minnesota takes on a sad new relevance.

Regiment Battle Casualties Percent
1.) 1st Texas, CSA Antietam 226 82.3%
2.) 1st Minnesota, US Gettysburg 262 82%
3.) 21st Georgia, CSA Manassas 242 76%
4.) 141st Pennsylvania, US Gettysburg 198 75.7%
5.) 101st New York, US Manassas 168 73.8%
6.) 6th Mississippi, CSA Shiloh 425 70.5%
7.) 25th Massachusetts, US Cold Harbor 310 70%
8.) 26th North Carolina, CSA Gettysburg 588 69.8%
9.) 36th Wisconsin, US Bethesda Church 240 69%
10.) 20th Massachusetts, US Fredericksburg 238 68.4%

Source: The Top 15 Regiments’ Highest Percentage Casualties Single Battle. | American Civil War Forums

Issuu – The Civil War Monitor

Well, well, what have we here? I have stumbled upon a very generous online magazine experience! Back issues of the Civil War Monitor are available for free via the online reader. Great resource for anyone to get some reading in!

Experience millions of the world’s best magazines and catalogs, all for free, in issuu’s beautifully crafted app.

Source: The Civil War Monitor – issuu

Sherman’s Voice

I noticed a little something that now has me obsessed. A passing mention in the New York Times from 1888 that mentions a party at which William Tecumseh Sherman related some of his war memories to Thomas Edison, specifically, into Edison’s recording gramophone. No mention anywhere on the web of this recording being recovered or available, though. Historians and antiquarians of the world, please keep an eye (or ear) out for an actual recording of Sherman’s voice! (Until it’s found, he’ll still sound like Arthur Miller in my head.)

There were strange sounds and sights in the unique headquarters of the Electric Club, in East Twenty-second-street, last night. Thomas A. Edison was there with a dozen of his perfected phonographs, and the compact little machines entertained a distinguished company of invited guests with oratorical eloquence and harmonious music. Gen. W. T. Sherman related war reminiscences, which were faithfully recorded and reproduced…

Source: Remembering the Phonograph

James Thurber’s What If History

Algonquin Round Table wit James Thurber wrote this silly little reimagining of Appomattox: If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox.

I wasn’t won over at first but it nails the landing!

“The generals of the Confederacy will be here any minute now,” said the Corporal. “You really ought to be up, sir.” Grant stretched his arms above his head and yawned. “All right, all right,” he said. He rose to a sitting position and stared about the room. “This place looks awful,” he growled. “You must have had quite a time of it last night, sir,” ventured Shultz. “Yeh,” said General Grant, looking around for his clothes. “I was wrassling some general. Some general with a beard.”

Tony Kushner and Sarah Vowell

Kudos to Andrea Simakis for providing this very extensive recounting of a recent talk by two unusual Lincoln biographers: The Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner, and the hipster historian Sarah Vowell, author of the hilarious and weird, Assassination Vacation. I’m hoping to find some video from this event, but if that fails at least I have this wonderful little anecdote in which to revel:

“Listen,” Goodwin told a still-wobbling Kushner. “When I started ‘Team of Rivals’ 10 years ago, I felt the same way you’re feeling now – I had no idea if I could pull this off, and it seemed impossible to contribute anything new about Lincoln.”

And, she added, to try to understand Lincoln “seemed hubristic.”

“But I can promise you one thing,” he remembers her saying. “Whether you succeed or if you fail, you will never regret the time you spend in his company.”

Source: Playwright Tony Kushner, public radio’s Sarah Vowell to talk Abraham Lincoln at CWRU (photos) | cleveland.com

Fake news almost destroyed Abraham Lincoln

From the “What goes around, comes around” files, this reminder that the morass of fake news in which we currently swim is not a new phenomenon.

Abraham Lincoln was more than just a foe of slavery. He was also a mixed-race eugenicist, believing that the intermarriage of blacks and whites would yield an American super-race.

Or at least, that’s what newspapers in 1864 would have had you believe. The charge isn’t true. But this miscegenation hoax still “damn near sank Lincoln that year,” says Heather Cox Richardson, history professor at Boston College.

Source: Fake news almost destroyed Abraham Lincoln — Quartz