Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Civil War in Illinois by Tom Emery

The Civil War in Illinois by Tom Emery is a collection of newspaper columns that the author wrote from 2011 to 2014.  The seventy-one articles are about 650 words each and were written for a general audience. The stories are brief (about two printed pages), which makes the book good bedtime or doctor's office reading. However, this brevity and target reader may leave the more knowledgeable Civil War reader wanting more detail. Fortunately, Emery has included notes for his articles that will guide the reader wanting more.

The following selections were those that I found most interesting:

  • 9th Illinois Suffered Most Losses - The regiment suffered 366 casualties out of 578 at Fort Donelson and Shiloh.
  •  The Drummer Boy of Shiloh - Fact and fiction concerning John Clem.
  • Nine Generals from Galena - Galena produced the second greatest number of generals from Illinois including Ely Samuel Parker, a Native American.
  • "Uncle Dick" Oglesby - Nice summary of highlights General Oglesby
  • Emancipation Reaction - The Emancipation Proclamation gets mixed reactions from Illinois soldiers.
  • McClernand and Controversy - McClernand thought a great deal of himself and he let everyone know about his achievements.
  • John M. Palmer - A political general who performed admirably on the battlefield and had no use for the "West Point clique."
  • The Eccentric Turchin - Overview of career of Russian born general.
  • The Charleston Riot - Armed conflict between pro-war Republicans and anti-war Democrats in Charleston, Illinois. 
  • Illinois P.O.W. Camps - Summaries of conditions at four major camps in Illinois
  • "Ransom Blazes!" - Highlights of military career of Norwich officer, Thomas Ransom.  
Tom Emery is a freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville, IL. He has created twenty-four book and booklet titles and is a frequent contributor to multiple newspapers.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Teacher of Civil War Generals - Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant

It has been five years since I started my efforts to write a biography of Major General Charles Ferguson Smith. Today I am pleased to announce that Teacher of Civil War Generals  is available from McFarland & Company. I want to thank McFarland for turning my dreams into reality. Their commitment has allowed historians to learn more about Smith and provide them with material that may assist in their research and writing. I believe that Smith displayed the best parts of being a soldier and this biography will illustrate his commitment to discipline, loyalty, commitment, and honor.

From the training field at West Point to the entrenchments at Fort Donelson, Charles Ferguson Smith was the soldier's soldier. During his nearly forty-two year career, General Smith was a teacher, mentor, and role model for many young officers who became prominent Civil War generals. He was respected and admired by his former students and future officers including Grant, Halleck, Longstreet, and Sherman. This long overdue reveals a man who was a faithful officer, an excellent disciplinarian, an able commander, and a modest gentleman.

Smith served at the US Military Academy from 1829 to 1842 as Instructor of Tactics, Adjutant to the Superintendent, and Commandant of Cadets. However, he was more than a instructor training cadets in the art of war. He set an example to junior officers in the Mexican War leading his light battalion to victories and earning three field promotions. Smith served with Albert Johnston and other future Confederate officers in the Mormon War. He mentored Grant while serving under him in the Civil War. Smith rose to the rank of major general while refusing to solicit political favors and court journalists. He "turned the tide" at Fort Donelson which led to Grant's rise to fame.

In April 1885, Fanny Oliver, who was trying to gather information for a biography of her father to be written by General William F. Smith, received a letter from his friend, Henry Robert Crosby. Crosby shared his memories of Smith, suggested others Mrs. Oliver might contact, and left her with the following advice:
And now please let me say one word in this respect. Do not let it be done in a hurry. There is a good deal of ground to cover. Florida and Mexican War, service at the Military Academy and different posts in the West, special duty in the Utah Expedition as well as the Civil War. This information will take some time to collect.
I hope that I have been true to both Mrs. Oliver's intent and Mr. Crosby's advice.

For more information on Teacher of Civil War Generals, please consult my author site.

Please see McFarland & Company or Amazon to order the book.

Allen with copies of photograph and painting
of Major General Charles F. Smith

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Simply the Right Time

One hundred and fifty years after South Carolina led the nation into disunity and war, it takes a stand to remove a symbol of the national tragedy.  South Carolina's Governor Nikki Haley is calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol.  "One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come," Haley said, adding the flag "causes pain for so many." The measure to consider removing the flag passed by a wide margin.

The flag, which is seen by many white Southerners as a way to honor their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, has been perverted by hate groups.  These groups have made the flag a symbol of racial and religious bigotry.  They turned the flag into a banner for the lynchings and perversions of the Jim Crow South.

The time is right for the new South to remove the flag from public buildings and place it in historical museums. The murders in Charleston have tied the flag to hate, lawlessness, and crime. It is, as we have pointed out several times, an insult to all minorities.  I doubt that the great Confederate generals would find any honor in the way that the flag has become misused today.

We applaud Walmart's decision to remove all merchandise bearing the Confederate flag from its stores, saying such items had "improperly" found their way onto shelves. Other retailers including Sears/Kmart, eBay, Amazon, Etsy and Google Shopping have ended their sale of merchandise with Confederate logos.

Mitt Romney said "It's a symbol of racial hatred  - remove it now to honor Charleston's victims." Other politicians should issue similar statements in support or opposition of displaying the flag in public venues. There is no place for "wiggle room" statements in this debate.

Rush Limbaugh entered the fray when he told his listeners that the effort to rid of the flag is aimed at "destroying the South as a political force," and he predicted: "The next flag that will come under assault, and it will not be long, is the American flag."  Wow! Clearly Mr. Limbaugh was not very good at completing the follow the numbered dots puzzles. How does removing the flag of rebellious southerners who wanted to destroy the Union lead to "assaults" on the the flag of the United States?  How does removing the flag which is objectionable to many, perhaps most southerners impact the political power of the south?  It seems to me that actions would tend to build a stronger more cohesive south.

Still, as we have written before, the issue is a state decision.  The federal government is not going to come sweeping down and order the removal the flag.  The question for state legislators is whether they want to offend part of their residents and align with those who use the flag as the banner for hate and racism.  South Carolina legislators who were first to secede are now first to remove the flag.

Friday, June 19, 2015

2015 Juneteenth Celebrated with Joy, Sorrow, and Courage

One hundred and fifty years ago today, General  Gordon Granger arrived in Texas with the news that the war was over and slavery was abolished.

Ashton Villa, Galveston
(Author's photograph)
On June 18, 1865, Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. On June 19, standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of "General Order No. 3", announcing the total emancipation of slaves:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Juneteeth has become
an international celebration
 (Author's photograph)
This event has resulted in the worldwide celebration of Juneteeth.

In 1979 Juneteenth became a state holiday thanks to the efforts of State Representative Albert (Al) Edwards of Houston.  By 2008, nearly half of US states observed the holiday as a ceremonial observance. As of May 2014, when the Maryland legislature approved official recognition of the holiday, 43 of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday, a day of observance. States that do not yet recognize it are Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

In 1996 the first legislation to recognize "Juneteenth Independence Day" was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.J. Res. 195, sponsored by Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). In 1997 Congress recognized the day through Senate Joint Resolution 11 and House Joint Resolution 56. In 2013 the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 175, acknowledging Lula Briggs Galloway (late president of the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage) who "successfully worked to bring national recognition to Juneteenth Independence Day", and the continued leadership of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.

Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church
(Author's photograph)

Today's celebration is muted in the aftermath of the murder at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This vicious act by a deranged gunman illustrates the impact of hate on the community, city, state, country, and world. The church has a long history and has survived many man-made and natural threats and we know that it will not let this terrible act silence its voice.   Hate is a flaw in our nature that refuses to be conquered by knowledge and compassion. Yet we strive to eradicate this cancer in our DNA.  Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims of this atrocity. Yet, "deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome some day."