Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Gettysburg Art for sale. Framing extra.

Now I own a few ACW prints myslef but this particular piece would quickly become the pride of my collection. The The News Observer has an article on a piece of Civil War Art looking for a good home. After careful consideration I determined that I did not have enough wall space, so someone one else will have to take it home. It should be interesting to see where this going to end up. Any bidders out there?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Preservationists are concerned Morris Island will be turned into a resort.

Article today on The State.com about a developer who wants to buy and build on Morris Island. In my opinion something about building on Morris Island, SC seems wrong on two accounts. 1) The Civil War History, especially the symbolic significance of the 54th Massachusetts and their charge against Battery Wagner. 2) Is why do we continual allow building on exposed coastline. Morris Island is gradually being returned to the ocean and what is buildable land today could be underwater during the next large storm. Haven’t we learned anything from the hurricanes of the past year?

Chamberlain's "History"

Kevin Levin’s Civil War Memory has a book review he did on The Grand Old Man of Maine: Selected Letters of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 1865-1914. Edited by Jeremiah E. Goulka. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004, 335 Pgs. $39.93 cloth.).

Having grown up in Maine I am quite familiar with Chamberlain’s story. Regardless of what one may think about the elevation of Chamberlain as the "Hero of Gettysburg" and the cult like status of him propagated through movies like Gettysburg, tee shirts and beer, he was at least in my opinon remarkable man. However this does not mean that I accept everything that has been credited towards him and that has served to elevate him as Maine’s premier Civil War hero. Clearly Chamberlain like many Civil War veterans had his faults.

Chamberlain wrote in 1896 “there is a tendency now-a-days to make “history” subserve other purpose than legitamate ones." (pg155). Close scrutiny of the historical record points out that many times Chamberlian’s own version of history was created to serve the purpose of expanding his reputation. Chamberlain’s tendency to embellish his record and accomplishments did not always sit well with his former comrades. The friendship between Major Ellis Spear of the 20th Maine and Chamberlain eventually soured over how the story of Chamberlain’s war record was portrayed and Chamberlain’s role in expanding it.

In the With a Flash of His Sword, The Writings of Major Holman S. Melcher, 20th Maine, Edited by William B Styple. (Kearny, NJ: Belle Grove Publishing, 1994, 335 pgs, $33.00 cloth.)the appendix includes a letter from Spear to Oliver W. Norton written in 1916. Commenting on Chamberlain’s Passing of the Armies, Spear wrote that Chamberlain’s account was a “tissue of lies” and that his “literary ability was of high order, and he always had a gracious manner, but was absolutely unable to tell the truth and was of inordinate vanity.” (With a Flash…Pg 298).

Chamberlain died in 1914 so Spear did not have to worry about ridiculing his former friend, but to air his thoughts like this speaks volumes of how some of the imperfections of Chamberlian’s nature and his desire to put the best positive light on his experience touched a nerve with his former brother in arms.

As Goulka writes in his introduction, Chamberlain was raised and educated in the notions of Victorian manhood. Elements such as honor and courage were traits that Chamberlain endeavored to exhibit publicly throughout out his life. His tireless work in developing and expanding the record of his Civil War service is clear evidence of this. Chamberlain is not the only former solider who did this but given his recent rise in status over the past thirty years he does attract a higher level of scrutiny from historians. To me Chamberlain was continually challenged internally trying to find higher meaning within his war experience and to recapture the excitmentemnt and spark that the war brought to his life. The only major difference between Chamberlain and the thousands of other Civil War veterans who did the same was the public and active nature by which he did it. I think critically evaluating Chamberlain and his history serves the purpose of examining how the traumatic period of the Civil War continued to shape the psyche of the individuals who lived through it and as a result the collective psyche of this nation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Civil War History on the iPOD

In addition to ACW history I love music. U2, the Saw Doctors, the Pogues and John Mellencamp are my favorites. Four years ago I picked up one of the first iPODs for Windows. I have to say it changed the way I listen to music. You may ask what does this have to do with my CW Blog. Well not long my my company begin pushing the capabilities of podcasts and how through the use of MP3 players like the iPOD people could find and listen the vast amounts of information on thousand of different subjects almost anywhere at anytime. Well because I had an iPOD I started to listen to some business related podcasts but this got boring real fast.

Before I gave up on podcasts however I wanted to see what else was out there. Much to my pleasant surprise while doing a search on Civil War related podcasts I came across Civil War Talk Radio. Hosted by Gerald Prokopowicz, a professor of History from East Carolina University, this podcast features weekly interviews with Civil War authors, historians and others. Some of the recent shows have included Richard Miller and Gary Gallagher. Through the magic of iTunes my iPOD gets updated with a new show every week. In addition to the current shows that are available as a podcast there is full archive of past interviews on a number of ACW related topics that you can listen to. Quickly moving up on my most listened to playlist on my iPOD is Civil War Talk Radio.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Vicksburg and Civil War Memory

I was just surfing the web this morning and came across a new book Vicksburg's Long Shadow: The Civil War Legacy Of Race And Remembrance by Christopher Waldrep. I went to Amazon and found it. There were no customer reviews but it looked interesting. If the abstract is any indication this book should contribute to the debate raging between the National Park Service and heritage groups over the portrayal of slavery in helping understand the Civil War within a broader historical context. I found the following quote thought provoking and valid, “In the Civil War we seek angelic qualities in our killers. In 1861 both north and south sent bigots and racists off to war under patriotic sentiment, men just as prejudiced as the societies they represented.” I have always been attracted to ACW books that deal with how the soldiers and society worked to remember the Civil War so this should be an interesting read.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rosters in Regimental Histories

On Eric Whittenburg’s blog Rantings of a Civil War Historian today he talked about the tough decision he had regarding including roster in his upcoming regimental history on the 6th PA Calvary. While deciding not to publish a roster as part of the book he has decided to make a roster available on line. This post motivated me to look at my copy of the original regimental history of the First Maine Heavy Artillery, by Horace Shaw and Charles House. This account was written in 1903 and while I think the narrative is a little weak given what this regiment went through, the roster information is what makes this regimental history one of the best. Not only is there is a listing of members of the regiment by company with description on when they mustered, from where, age, promotions, transfers and whether they were wounded, killed, taken prisoner or died of disease. In addition to the regimental listing by company there are two additional sections 1) on death by disease or accident organized by company and 2) a listing of battle casualties by engagement broken out by company. If you a lucky enough to find an original regimental history of the First Maine Heavy Artillery buy it if not Clarence Woodcock has produced an electronic reproduction of the original regimental history which can be ordered at http://www.cwpublishing.com/1meha_more.html.

When I buy new regimental histories today in addition to looking at the bibliography and notes I do look over the roster. While lack of roster won't keep me from buying I am more apt to buy if there is one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

First Maine Forward

The history of the Maine First Heavy Artillery has always fascinated me. Having grown up in Maine and having developed an early interest in the Civil War I heard and read about the 20th Maine at Gettysburg but some thing always bugged me that true experience of Maine’s involvement in the Civil War went much deeper. I don’t actually recall when I first came across a reference to the First Maine Heavy Artillery. It may have been their flag that used to be displayed at the State Capital Building in Augusta. The orignal flags are being preserved by the Maine State Museum.

Whatever it was the story of this regiment has fascinated me. I wanted to be able to understand how this regiment came earn the distinction of suffering having suffered the greatest number of battle casualties of any regiment during the Civil War. The short story is that this 900+ members of this regiment charged the Confederate line outside Petersburg, VA on June 18, 1864 and in as little 10 minutes 630 of these men were either killed or wounded. In my quest to learn more I went out and bought a copy of the original regimental history published by Horace Shaw and Charles House in 1903. While an invaluable research tool for it’s well detailed unit roster the narrative history is some what lacking as it provides no critical analysis of how the regiment came to earn their bloody history.

So with my thirst unquenched I determined to research the history of the regiment. It is a journey I am still on and still enjoy. Over the years I have amassed hundreds of pages of articles, reminisces, letters, diaries, photos and references to the First Maine Heavy Artillery. Along the way I have met some people with similar interest in the history of this regiment. Many thanks go to Clarence Woodcock (a descendant of solider from the First Maine) who has produced and manages a web site dedicated to memory of the First Maine Heavy Artillery. Another person who I came in contact with on this journey was Mike McCardell. I will share more on Mike in a later post but those who had the privilege to know him and call him a friend know how much he is missed.

I am at a point now that I think I can begin to pull my research together try to tell the story of the First Maine Heavy. My challenge is getting the words to flow. I am hoping that bogging will help me keep the creative juices flowing. While I have a my master’s thesis as a starting point I still have to go through the process of expanding the scope and trying to tell the complete story as well as better analyzing how the experience of the First Maine impacted the men of this regiment. My goal is to write a book that does the history of the First Maine Heavy Artillery proud with lots of notes, a complete bibliography and lots of maps and illustrations.

Civil War as Popular History

Kevin Levin in a recent post to his blog (http://www.civilwarmemory.blogspot.com/) has stated that he is bothered to a degree by people who get their kicks out of some aspect of the Civil War. He goes onto say that there is a lack of seriousness in a lot of popular elements of the Civil War as it is portrayed today and that people fail to grasp the tragedy and horror of the American Civil War. I have to say I agree with him from an academic point of view. The reality of war is not filled with glory. The young men (and some women) who went to war in 1861 may have been filled with some misconceptions of pursuing a grand and glorious adventure but by the end of their first battle these soldiers came to realize the reality and horror of war. What has always fascinated me is how the soldiers who survived stayed with their and went into battle again over the next 3 to 4 years.

Today most of the Civil War images we see today on coffee cups, posters and bumper stickers and in films like Gettysburg and God and Generals are never going to capture the darkness that fell over this country during the Civil War. I suppose that is okay if the perspective is that these modern day images are meant for large scale consumption and not the serious student. My hope is that through all this mass market appeal some youngster will be inspired to learn more and uncover a truer history of the Civil War. There is precedent for this as more then one Civil War Historian has cited reading the The Golden Book of the Civil War and looking at the maps as being the start of a quest to learn more. Hopefully through the efforts of good teachers like Kevin (mine was Norman Foster, Mexico High School) this inspiration will be nurtured and allowed to grow.

Let's Get Started

I've been inspired by a lot of the other ACW related Blogs I have looked at to jump in and give it a try.

A little about me. I am not a professional historian, but I am an avid ACW reader and inspiring writer with a BA and Master's in History. I did a few book reviews for Civil War Regiments and I did have an article published in Maine History on Eugene Sanger, the chief Medical Officer at Elmira.

My interests in the ACW is varied but I hold a real deep interest in the First Maine Heavy Artillery. Hence the title of my blog. I also enjoy other elements of the State of Maine's role in the war.

Why do a blog. Well history is a hobby for me and right now I haven't found a way to have it pay the bills. As a result I am member of Corporate America, but I figured the longer I stayed away from formulating my thoughts, and expressing my interpretations around the ACW I think I would loose something.

You may ask what business does a member of Corporate America have doing Blog on the ACW? It is valid question. My answer to that is while I appreciate my current job and the opportunities it has given me it is only represents part of who I am. I figure the opportunities that blogging gives me to express the other parts of myself and purse other interests is something that should not be passed up. Besides how can I tell my son to go after his dreams if I don't do the same.

More to come but I have to get back to work.
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