Thursday, December 29, 2011

Civil War Northern Virginia 1861 by William S. Connery

When I began reviewing Civil War books, I realized that I might be faced with giving some of my reads less than a glowing review.  Sadly this is the case with William s. Connery's Civil War in Northern Virginia 1861.

There are several things I liked about the book.  It is obvious that Mr. Connery knows a great deal about the area's involvement in the Civil War.  I found his information on Mount Vernon and the efforts to maintain it fascinating.  I also liked his description of the Battle of Dranesville.  The book has a number of fine photographs that add to the narrative.

I present the following criticisms/suggestions in the hope that the author and publisher might consider a revised second edition.  What I found lacking was a good readable map of Northern Virginia.  The map included is impossible to read.  Yes, I could have opened a Virginia state map, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a self-contained book.  Maps would help me locate the various places described in the book.  A driving tour in an appendix would be a great addition. 

I wish the author had included a time line of events in Northern Virginia during 1861.  This would have provided a reference point for the events and places described. I had trouble finding a unifying format in the book. A county-by-county or a month-by-month framework would have helped immensely.

The most disturbing point of the book was the absence of footnotes.  True there is a bibliography, but the historian/scholar in me wanted to know exactly where these morsels of information came from. For example, I would have liked a reference for the casualty numbers for Ball's Bluff.

It is for the above reasons that we limit our recommendation to the rank of Brigadier General.






Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas in the Civil War

Poem by Confederate soldier William Gordon McCabe describes his thoughts on Christmas Night 1862.

Santa Gives Gifts to Union Troops
T. Nast 1863
The wintry blast goes wailing by,
the snow is falling overhead;
I hear the lonely sentry's tread,
and distant watch-fires light the sky.

Dim forms go flitting through the gloom;
The soldiers cluster round the blaze
To talk of other Christmas days,
And softly speak of home and home.

My saber swinging overhead,
gleams in the watch-fire's fitful glow,
while fiercely drives the blinding snow,
and memory leads me to the dead.

1860 Vintage Christmas Card 
My thoughts go wandering to and fro,
vibrating 'twixt the Now and Then;
I see the low-browed home again,
the old hall wreathed in mistletoe.

And sweetly from the far off years
comes borne the laughter faint and low,
the voices of the Long Ago!
My eyes are wet with tender tears.

I feel again the mother kiss,
I see again the glad surprise
That lighted up the tranquil eyes
And brimmed them o'er with tears of bliss

As, rushing from the old hall-door,
She fondly clasped her wayward boy -
Her face all radiant with they joy
She felt to see him home once more.
Husband and wife separated by war
T. Nast 1862 

My saber swinging on the bough
Gleams in the watch-fire's fitful glow,
while fiercely drives the blinding snow
aslant upon my saddened brow.

Those cherished faces are all gone!
Asleep within the quiet graves
where lies the snow in drifting waves, -
And I am sitting here alone.

Antietam Luminary
There's not a comrade here tonight
but knows that loved ones far away
on bended knees this night will pray:
"God bring our darling from the fight."

But there are none to wish me back,
for me no yearning prayers arise
the lips are mute and closed the eyes -
My home is in the bivouac.

Best wishes for a joyous holiday season with friends and family.

Please pray for our troops defending our ability to enjoy our lives in freedom.

Source: "Christmas Night of '62" Civil War Trust.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dishonorable Discharge Origins

In compiling research for my biography of Major General Charles F. Smith, I came across a journal posting of a January 12, 1844 letter sent to Brigadier General R. Jones, Adjutant General of the US Army, suggesting that the US Army use a discharge similar to that used by the British Army.

"It has often occurred to me that the service would be benefited if a discharge somewhat similar to that granted in the British Army was given in ours. I mean to make it obligatory on the Comp. Commander to state that the man's genl. conduct has been good when such is the case and to cut off the space for character whenever it has been such as ought to prevent a re-enlistment.

"I am inclined to believe that owing to the want of some such evidence of character many worthless men have been re-enlisted who were discharged under the late law for reducing the army. For example: such men as a Capt. of Art. who not re-enlisted would go to the West & get into an Inf. Regt.; & such men as could not get a re-enlistment in the Inf. would come to the Seaboard & join the Art.

"I have 2 or 3 men who came from the Inf., & who I am satisfied would never have been re-enlisted by their former Co. Commander, judging them by their qualifications & conduct since joining my Comp.

"I make a copy of the form of discharge used in the British Service; also a form taken from this & from that now used by us, which I think might be used advantageously in our Service."




"The soldier's character would be inserted only when recommendatory. If the general conduct of the soldier, while in the service, has been such as to give him no claim to having anything said in his favor, the space for character in the above certificate is to be cut off under the black line following the confirmation of the discharge, thereby leaving no opportunity for an addition to be made after the certificate is given to the man.

"When a soldier is discharged on account of disgraceful conduct that will appear in the body of the certificate."

I have not determined whether Smith's suggestion was endorsed by the US Army.  I would appreciate any information that readers might have on this subject.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thanks for Your Interest

Thank you for reading our blog.

Allen shooting rifle
Salient Points has now exceeded 10,000  pageviews.

We have made over 122 posts since beginning in 2008.







Among our most popular posts are:

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Please tell your friends and other students of the Civil War about our blog.

Thanks Again.

Allen Mesch

13th Amendment Restored

A rare copy of the 13th Amendment ending slavery has been restored for display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

The 13th Amendment states:

13th Amendment in
National Archives
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The nearly 147-year-old document showed its age with "its surface creased and buckled, its inscriptions faded and an edge yellowed by old adhesive." Russ Maki, owner a paper conservation company in Chicago, restored the historic document for free.

There are at least 14 duplicate copies of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln. Congress passed it two years after his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and it represented the culmination of his efforts to end slavery. But he apparently stopped signing the duplicates after lawmakers complained he was overstepping his executive powers because constitutional amendments are passed by Congress and ratified by the states.

Please see "Rare copy of 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln restored for viewing at Illinois museum" and Thirteenth Amendment for more information.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Civil War at Perryville by Christopher L. Kolakowski

Braxton Bragg
The Civil War at Perryville – Battling for the Bluegrass State by Christopher Kolakowski describes the Confederate failure to gain control of Kentucky. Mr. Kolakowski has produced a well-researched account of the battle at Perryville, KY. The reader follows the day-long conflict on October 8, 1862 as the Confederate Army of Mississippi led by General Braxton Bragg drives the Union Army of the Ohio commanded by Major General Don Carlos Buell from the field.







Union Defense - Starkweather's Brigade
Kolakowski sets the stage for the engagement as Confederate forces under Bragg and General Kirby Smith conduct the Confederate Heartland Offensive. We follow Confederate forces through the Cumberland Gap and victories at Richmond and Munfordville as they gain control of most of the state. Finally the two armies collide over the farmland near Perryville. There the author describes the troop movements and flow of battle that ends with the climax at Dixville Crossroads. We learn about the Union’s stout defense at Starkweather Hill and the courage of both northern and southern forces to win the fight.

Don Carlos Buell
The author includes a discussion about the Buell Petition including a description of the meeting of officers written by Col. John M. Harlan of the 10th Kentucky Regiment. Harlan’s account indicates that the meeting took place after the Battle of Perryville. The officers present agreed to sign a petition to the President asking for Buell’s removal because the general had “lost the confidence of the Army of the Ohio.” The document was never sent because Harlan learned that Lincoln had removed Buell the day before.

The book contains numerous photographs and maps (see comment below). The narrative is sprinkled with first-hand accounts of the battle. I would definitely recommend reading the account before visiting Perryville.

I found the maps a little hard to read due to the size and orientation of the font. More distinctive coding on the units and movements would have helped considerably. I would have liked to see the unit sizes included with the order of battle information. The casualty figures for each unit would have been a good addition.

We gave this book a rating of two-stars or Major General. 



Christopher L. Kolakowski was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He received his BA in history and mass communications from Emory & Henry College, and his MA in public history from the State University of New York at Albany. Chris has spent his career interpreting and preserving American military history with the National Park Service, New York State government, the Rensselaer County (New York) Historical Society and the Civil War Preservation Trust. From 2005 to 2008, Chris was executive director of the Perryville Enhancement Project. During his tenure he added 152 acres of critical battlefield land and increased Perryville’s national profile. Chris works as a military historian in Atlanta, Georgia. The Civil War at Perryville: Battling for the Bluegrass State is his first book.

A pdf copy of this book was provided by Mr. Kolakowski.

Check out Mr. Kolakowski's interview by Civil War Trust.

Please see Perryville for pictures of the battlefield and other information on the battle. Also check out the Battle of Perryville on Wikipedia.



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Killed, none; wounded, none; fooled, everybody"

A New York Herald reporter issued the above summary shortly after peace was made in the Mormon War.  The "war," known as the Utah War, Mormon War, Utah Expedition, or Mormon Rebellion, lasted from May 1857 to April 1858.  The campaign reestablished Federal control over the Utah Territory and had an impact on the Civil War.

John B. Floyd
There were many causes of the conflict with blame falling equally on the Church of Latter Day Saints theocracy and the incompetence of the Federal government.  An intriguing explanation of the Mormon War  centered upon John B. Floyd and concerned the growing rift between the North and the South.

According to this interpretation, Floyd and his Southern sympathizers in Washington, traitors first and last, saw in an involvement of the United States with the Mormons an opportunity to advance their treasonable purposes. Fearing a Republican victory in the 1860 election, they were determined, it is postulated, to bankrupt the treasury by a costly expedition to Utah. This expenditure would leave the North financially incapable of opposing secession. Other investigators accused Secretary Floyd of scattering the nation's military forces, with the objective of leaving the North powerless to preserve the Union if pro-Union forces gained control of the Government.  A Mormon publication accused Floyd of using the expedition to distract attention from his various nefarious schemes.


Winfield Scott
Instead of disappearing after 1858, the charges of fraud continued to be advanced as the basic cause of the Mormon War.  This belief was advocated by historians of the Latter-day Saints. They were encouraged in this explanation by Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, the commander in chief, who later wrote: "The expedition set on foot by Mr. Secretary Floyd, in 1857, against the Mormons and the Indians about Salt Lake was, beyond a doubt, to give occasion for large contracts and expenditures, that is, to open a wide field for fraud and peculation." Further evidence of the goals of government contractors comes from noting that "army contracts, made during recent Indian difficulties in Florida, were running out and the contractors wanted to switch their profits to Utah."

The reluctance to put down the rebellion with force and the peaceful settlement of the war might have energized the secessionist forces and encouraged them to pursue their initiative.  At the least, the response of the Buchanan Administration to the Mormon Rebellion provided a preview of how the government would respond to the events in 1860 and 1861 including the seizure of Fort Sumter.


In March 1857, Floyd became Secretary of War in the cabinet of President James Buchanan, where his lack of administrative ability was soon apparent, including the poor execution of the Utah Expedition. In December 1860, on ascertaining that Floyd had honored heavy drafts made by government contractors in anticipation of their earnings, the president requested his resignation. Several days later Floyd was indicted for malversation (corruption) in office, although the indictment was overruled in 1861 on technical grounds. There is no proof that he profited by these irregular transactions; in fact, he went out of the office financially embarrassed.


Although he had openly opposed secession before the election of Abraham Lincoln, his conduct after the election, especially after his breach with Buchanan, fell under suspicion, and he was accused in the press of having sent large stores of government arms to Federal arsenals in the South in the anticipation of the Civil War.


After his resignation, a congressional commission in the summer and fall of 1861 investigated Floyd's actions as Secretary of War. All of his records of orders and shipments of arms from 1859 to 1860 were examined. It is recorded that in response to John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry he bolstered the Federal arsenals in some Southern states by over 115,000 muskets and rifles in late 1859. He also ordered heavy ordnance to be shipped to the Federal forts in Galveston Harbor, Texas, and the new fort on Ship Island off the coast of Mississippi.

In the last days of his term, he apparently had an intention to send these heavy guns, but his orders were revoked by the president. During the year 1860, the Southern states actually received less than their full quota of arms and the heavy guns were a normal shipment required to complete the construction of Federal forts.

James Buchanan
His resignation as Secretary of War, on December 29, 1860, was precipitated by the refusal of Buchanan to order Major Robert Anderson to abandon Fort Sumter, which eventually led to the start of the war. On January 27, 1861, he was indicted by the District of Columbia grand jury for conspiracy and fraud. Floyd appeared in criminal court in Washington, D.C., on March 7, 1861, to answer the charges against him. According to Harper's Weekly, the indictments were thrown out.


[Sources: Norman F. Furnis, The Mormon Conflict 1850-1859 and John B. Floyd, Wikipedia]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hearts Touched by Fire edited by Harold Holzer

"We have shared the incommunicable experience of war. We have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top. In our youths, our hearts were touched with fire." --- Oliver Wendell Holmes

A friend alerted me to an estate sale in North Dallas that was offering books on the Civil War.  As I was perusing the assortment of volumes available, my wife brought me a large (2 1/2 inch thick book) entitled Hearts Touched by Fire. The price was right and so I added it to the pile of books that I had selected.   Several days later I had an opportunity to study the book and discovered a wonderful collection of first-hand accounts about the North-South conflict.

Let me give you some examples:
  • P.G.T. Beauregard on “The First Battle of Bull Run”
  • Joe Johnston discusses “Responsibilities of the First Bull Run”
  • “The Capture of Fort Donelson” by Lew Wallace
  • U.S. Grant on” The Battle of Shiloh”
  • “The Building of the Monitor” by John Ericsson
  • “The Vicksburg Campaign” by Grant
  • “Early’s March to Washington in 1864” by Jubal A. Early
  • James Longstreet’s observations on “The Battle of Fredericksburg”  
The book, which was issued as part of the sesquicentennial celebration, contains the best of the articles published in the magazine series “The Battles and Leaders of the Civil War” and later four-volume book edition printed in 1888.

The value of Hearts Touched by Fire is in the recollections and opinions of these Civil War leaders. They are not always correct, but they convey the prevailing attitudes and beliefs of the authors in justifying their actions and those of their superiors. Be sure to read Harold Holzer’s introduction to learn how the series was created.

We applaud the efforts of Holzer and fellow contributors James McPherson, James Robertson, Stephen Sears, Craig Symonds, and Joan Waugh for bringing these stories to a new generation of Civil War enthusiasts.

We give Hearts Touched by Fire four stars and the rank of General.



Please click on the following link to order a copy.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Battle of the Crater by Newt Gingrich and William Fortschen

Sketch of the Explosion
from Union Lines
by Alfred Waud
U. S. Grant called it a "stupendous failure" and blamed it on the "inefficiency on the part of the corps commander and the incompency of the division commander who was sent to lead the assault."

In The Battle of the Crater, the authors, Newt Gingrich, William Fortschen, and Albert Hanser, allow us to relive the events of July 1864 outside of Petersburg, VA. The historical team has created a compelling novel examining the actions of the soldiers and officers involved in this sad chapter of the Civil War.

The story is told through the eyes of James Reilly who is an artist for Harper's Weekly and a friend of President Lincoln. After Reilly's brother is killed at Cold Harbor, the artist travels to Arlington, VA where he helps carry his brother's body to a grave site. There he meets Sergeant Major Garland White of the 28th United States Colored Troops (USCT). He visits with Garland and shows him the sketches from Cold Harbor. As the burial detail hurries to finish their night time task, their commander Colonel Russell announce that they have been assigned to the First Brigade of the Fourth Division of Ninth Division of the Army of the Potomac and are headed to the Union forces at Petersburg. Reilly and Garland begin a bond of friendship that will eventually reunite them at Arlington. 

Reilly meets with Lincoln to brief him on the disaster at Cold Harbor. He is reluctant to continue his services as a White House spy, but Lincoln convinces him that he needs his eyes and ears at the front. Reilly agrees under the condition that he can be imbedded with the 28th USCT. Thus, Reilly finds himself in one of the colossal mistakes of the Civil War, the Battle of the Crater.

At the Union line outside of Petersburg, we meet Colonel Henry Pleasants and his force of former Pennsylvania coal miners. The miners come up with a plan to blow up "Pegram's Battery" or "Elliot's Salient" by tunneling below the Rebel works and planting explosives. Pleasants likes the idea and so does his commander, Ambrose Burnside. The authors present Burnside as an innovative general who is haunted by his failures at Fredericksburg. Burnside see the plan as a means to cut Lee's defenses, march into Petersburg, and end the war. Unfortunately, his proposal is only given lukewarm support by Meade and Grant. When the 28th USCT march into camp, Burnside designates them to lead the attack on the Confederate position.  

Gingrich and Fortschen allow us to follow the training of the 28th, the construction of the tunnel, and the petty fighting between Meade and Burnside. Meade's lack of support peaks when he changes the order of attack and removes the 28th from leading the assault. Burnside's response is a complete collapse in judgment and total failure of leadership. 

We join the units at the front and march with them into battle, sensing the outcome, but hoping that success can be salvaged. The hope of triumph is dashed as Confederate forces rally and slaughter the Union troops trapped in the crater a victim of their own leaders as much as the enemy. 

The novel ends with the whitewash court of inquiry and Lincoln's indifference to its outcome. Burnside and the 28th are sacrificed on the altar of the greater public good.

What makes the story of Garland White especially compelling is that it is based on fact. He enlisted as a private on December 14, 1863 in the 28th USCT and left the service as a Chaplin with the rank of Major. At the time of his enlistment, he was 25 years old 5 feet 6 inches with black hair and eyes. To learn more about Garland White and the 28th USCT, please read the February 1994 issue of The Indiana Historian.  


I rate this novel a Lieutenant General with 3 out 4 stars. However, it should be mandatory reading for all African Americans to better understand the heroics of their ancestors who helped preserve the Union in spite of impediments placed by their own generals. This would be an excellent novel to read during Black History Month.


Readers may want to read William H. Powell's account "The Battle of the Petersburg Crater" and Henry Goddard R. Thomas' recollections of "The Colored Troops at Petersburg" published in Hearts Touched by Fire: The Best of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (Modern Library).

A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher St. Martin's Press.




Friday, November 11, 2011

Rebel Flag Plate Denied

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) rejected for the second time in 2011 a license plate design proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  Governor Perry's opposition to the plate might have swayed the vote from the 4-4 deadlock in April to the 8-0 vote. 

The design was seen as offensive by African American groups and others who said that the flag was a symbol of slavery and racism. Nelson Linder, president of the Austin NAACP told the board that the flag ".. is full of death, destruction, fear and chaos and has no place in any civilized state or nation."  Granvel Block, Texas division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said "The board took the easy way out and collapsed under the pressure of unjustified emotions " that have "nothing to do with our logo." 

As a State agency the DMV certainly should respond to its citizens.  Many of whom voiced their criticism of the proposed license plate.

Fort Pillow Massacre
Civil War historians know that the behavior of Confederate soldiers towards US Colored Troops was not always in keeping with the prevailing standards of war.  Atrocities were committed by Confederate soldiers on numerous battlefields where African American soldiers fought. Fort Pillow and the Battle of the Crater are well-known examples.  So it seems reasonable that African Americans might get a little upset by honoring the battle flag under which some of these crimes were committed.

However, as we celebrate Veterans Day, it is well to remember and honor those who fought to defend and preserve the United States of America.   Today we should honor those who fought to preserve the Union and not those who fought to dismantle it. 

Representative Al Green of Houston led the crowd in the DMV hearing room in the Pledge of Allegiance.   His words following the Pledge ring true.

"This is the flag that bonds us together.  This is the flag that makes America for all Americans." 

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Civil War Class - The Armies Clash - First Bull Run and Wilson's Creek

First Bull Run
On November 10th and 17th, I will be presenting the Civil War class The Armies Clash - First Bull Run and Wilson's Creek. Southern armies under P. G. T. Beauregard defeat Union forces commanded by Irvin McDowell in Manassas, VA on July 21,1861. In the west, Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon is killed at Wilson's Creek, MO on August 10, 1861. The victory by the Southern troops gave the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri.

Wilson's Creek Film
The class will be presented in the SAIL program at Collin College in Plano, TX.  Please see The Armies Clash - First Bull Run and Wilson's Creek for more information. 

The Frogs Who Desired a King

While doing research for my biography of Major General C. F. Smith, I came across a reference to the fable of King Log and King Stork.  Smith refers to this moral tale in regard to his promotion to command the Camp Floyd post in Utah in 1859.

Seeking to understand the reference, I Googled the phrase and came up with the Wikipedia link The Frogs Who Desired a King.  With election day approaching, I found the many interpretations of this fable quite timely.
A tile design by William de Morgan, 1872
The story concerns a group of frogs who called on the great god Zeus to send them a king. He threw down a log, which fell in their pond with a loud splash and terrified them. Eventually one of the frogs peeped above the water and, seeing that it was no longer moving, soon all hopped upon it and made fun of their king. Then the frogs made a second request for a real king and were sent a water snake, later changed to a stork, that started eating them. Once more the frogs appealed to Zeus, but this time he replied that they must face the consequences of their request.

The fable is a political lesson. Initially it was that people feel the need of laws but are impatient of personal restraint. Later the lesson was that the people are uneasy without a ruler, but they are never satisfied with either situation. Another view was expressed by Martin Luther when he alludes to this fable to illustrate how humanity deserves the rulers it gets: "frogs must have their storks."

Do we get the government we desire or the government we deserve or Luther observed is the lack of good rulers a punishment for human wickedness.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hiram's Honor by Max R. Terman

Many of us fantasize about going back in time, Max Terman actually does.  In Hiram's Honor: Reliving Private Terman's Civil War we travel with Private Hiram Terman of the Ohio 82nd Volunteer Infantry back to the American Civil War.  This historical novel allows readers to see the war from the perspective of Union soldier.  Terman has crafted this story of his great uncle from various first-hand accounts.  Unfortunately, Private Terman left no written descriptions in the form of journals or letters to support Dr. Terman’s dialogue.

Therefore, Hiram’s Honor, is a well-crafted, voyage of discovery in which Professor Terman’s invented dialogue makes you believe you are with Hiram and share his experiences.
Terman’s first person narrative takes you the battlefield to “see the elephant” and experience the conflict.  The author's vivid descriptions such as the artillery bombardment at Cross Keys,  the casualties at Chancellorsville, and the walking skeletons at Andersonville bring the reader to scene.  The reader experiences both combat and confinement in all its stark and brutal reality.
As a backdrop we have campfire discussions among Isaiah, Seth, and Hiram.  While the cursing Seth complains about the poor Union leadership, Isaiah turns his heart towards the heavens and prays for God to protect them, and Hiram moderates the disagreements and uses his grandmother's folk medicine to keep the men alive.
Terman’s narrative follows the experiences of 82nd Ohio from camp at Grafton, WV to battles at McDowell, Cross Keys, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  After Hiram and his friends are captured, we join them on the journey south to Belle Island POW Camp in Richmond to Andersonville. 
Dr. Terman has crafted a poignant drama of men enduring the horrors of battle and the nightmares of captivity.  As  I  read the narrative I was drawn into the suffering the men experienced at Andersonville and their desperate efforts to survive with their honor and dignity intact.  Private Hiram succeeded. As we joined Hiram at the Columbus train station, we joined the reunited black family to thank Hiram for his sacrifice and celebrate his return.  So too do we acknowledge Dr. Terman’s skills in creating such a compelling narrative and excellent basis for a sesquicentennial movie.
A couple of additions would help immensely.  A map showing the locations of the places in the novel would be a worthwhile supplement.  I would also include a brief paragraph summarizing the political and military events.  There doesn't seem to be a connection between the Sultana and Hiram's return to Ohio via Annapolis and the B&O railroad.
Dr. MaxTerman is professor emeritus at Tabor College in Kansas.  He is the author of three books and numerous articles.
Dr. Terman supplied a pdf copy of this book for my review.
Using my general officer ranking system, I give the book a rank of Lieutenant General or 3 stars out of 4. 
Ranking System:

   *       1 star -   Brigadier General
   **     2 stars - Major General
   ***   3 stars - Lieutenant General
   **** 4 stars - General

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gov. Perry Opposes Confederate License Plates

Texas Governor Rick Perry told a Florida TV station that he opposes a vanity license plate honoring the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  He said that, "We don't need to be scraping old wounds."  His announcement runs counter to Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson who proposed the plate on behalf of Sons of Confederate Veterans to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

We commented in a recent blog on this issue.

The public outcry over the proposed plate includes a petition of 25,000 signatures and a letter signed by seventeen state lawmakers.

Perry's position is in contrast to his opposition to remove a pair of bronze plates with symbols of the Confederacy that were in the state Supreme Court building.  Perry said, "I believe that Texans should remember the past and learn from it."

It is uncertain whether Governor Perry was influenced by his fight for the Presidency or he feels that the plates are not the same as allowing Confederate plaques, monuments and memorials from public buildings.

As seen in our post on this subject, we regard them as different issues.  It is right for Texas to honor our Civil War dead and remember that sad time in our history.  Associating Texas with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, especially relative to the opposition, is an entirely different situation. Perry decided that it was not appropriate for Texas to link its name with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

We applaud Governor Perry on both positions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bryant Gumbel Insults African Americans

Plantation
First, let me say that I am not a fan of Sportscaster Bryant Gumbel.  As I far as I am concerned, he is a member of the IASWICHSI* Club who blesses us humble beings with his words.  When he sticks to sports, he is merely annoying.  However, his latest comment comparing NBA labor-management conflicts with slavery is way off the mark.

David Stern
He said that David Stern's "efforts were typical of a commissioner, who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer treating NBA men as if they were his boys." Gumbel said, "It’s part of Stern’s M.O. Like his past self-serving edicts on dress code or the questioning of officials, his moves are intended to do little more than show how he’s the one keeping the hired hands in their place." 

NBA Owner Jordan
How can anyone in the world feel sorry for these athletes whose average salary is $4.8 million.  According to Rich Walcoff in the San Francisco Examiner, "in the last quarter of a century while the typical American saw his annual compensation increase about 160 percent, NBA players pay shot up 1,500 percent."

Any comparison with the horrors of slavery is absurd.  Heck comparing the NBA players to any working man or woman is absurd.  Gumbel's remarks are an insult to Black Americans and others who fought long and hard to free themself from slavery and gain their civil rights. 

This is the third time Gumbel has played the race card in sports commentaries.  It is most unfortunate because sports has played such an important role in improving race relations and breaking down racial barriers.  Are we there yet.  Absolutely not. 

In addition, Gumbel's remarks were laced with anti-Semitic undertones.  Attacking Stern and other NBA owners who are Jewish.  This dispute is not a black and white thing or a black and Jew issue.  It's a labor and management conflict. We do have white players in the NBA and some of them actually lead their team to a championship. 

In an ESPN editorial Shaun Powell said that "It always annoyed Stern that the company he controlled, and the men in the owners' club, didn't reflect the same color of the players on the floor. And so not long after he became commissioner, Stern went about fixing the flaw. The NBA offices took on a different complexion, but that was small stuff. Stern wanted black representation at the highest level. He wanted to crash the old-boy network. He wanted to go where no commissioner had gone before (or since). And so Stern sought black ownership, even at the risk of his own reputation."

Gumbel and HBO should apologize for his remarks to both the Jewish and African American community.

* I Am So Wonderful I Can Hardly Stand It

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fort Donelson Celebrates 150th Anniversary


In February and March of 2012, Fort Donelson will present several exciting programs on the historic battle.

Fort Henry
During the weekend of February 4-6th, Park Rangers from Fort Donelson National Battlefield will introduce visitors to the Fort Heiman story and will interpret the Battle of Fort Henry, which happened 150 years ago on February 6th. A unique living history event will commemorate the Confederate evacuation of Fort Henry towards Fort Donelson.

Fort Donelson
The following weekend, a living history encampment will interpret life at Fort Donelson from the Confederate perspective. This event will explore why men chose to join the Confederate States Army, how their lives were changed, and how their decisions affected their families. The encampment, held in much the same weather they experienced 150 years ago, has the potential of exploring the hardships soldiers on both sides faced. On February 11th, Kendall Gott, author of Where the South Lost the War: An Analysis of the Fort Henry-Fort Donelson Campaign, February 1862, will share his unique insights on the battle.

USS Carondelet
On February 13 and 14, 2012, Park Rangers will offer programs at the River Batteries to share the incredible stories of Confederate guns exchanging fire with US Navy ironclad boats. On February 15, 2012, Park Rangers will offer programs to explain the daring Confederate attempt to escape from Fort Donelson towards Nashville, and Ulysses Grant’s eventual retaking of his demolished line. On February 14th, Myron J. Smith, author of a new history of the USS Carondelet, will mark the 150th anniversary of the gunboat battle on the Cumberland.

On February 16, 2012, the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Fort Donelson, a historian portraying Ulysses Grant will be at the Dover Hotel to share his thoughts on this, one of his great personal triumphs. The Civil War Singers will share their talents with us that day, as the community commemorates this important event.

The weekend of February 18 and 19 will witness a Union living history encampment, interpreting Union life inside Fort Donelson and the town of Dover after the Confederate surrender.

On February 25th, noted author and former park historian, Benjamin F. Cooling, will talk about the campaign and the aftermath. On March 24th, legendary historian, Ed Bearss, will walk the grounds with visitors and share his gift for storytelling.

Please contact the park (931-232-5706) or visit their web site for more information.

To learn more about the battle, see the Battle of Fort Donelson and THE Turning Point in the Civil War.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Texas License Plate

(Source The Dallas Morning News, October 14, 2011)
The Sons of Confederate Veterans have asked the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue license plates that contain the group’s logo featuring a Confederate battle flag. As might be expected, there is opposition to proposed vanity plate. More than 22,000 people have signed petitions opposing the Texas license plate. The Dallas Morning News of October 14th has urged DMV board members to vote no. The editorial, DMV Should Wave the Flag, concluded that approval of the Confederate plate would only reinforce the “backward-looking” stereotype of Texas and that would be a “distorted representation of what this state stands for.”

This is more than a freedom of speech issue. No one will dispute an individual’s right to display his beliefs in support of a political, social, recreational, collegiate or environmental cause. Texas has more than 200 specialty license plates with these motives. In addition, cars are adorned with stickers in support of these same causes. License plates with the logo are available Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

So why is this proposal different?

First, the Confederate flag is considered by many black Americans as a symbol of slavery. I have commented on this issue before and it is important to differentiate the use of this flag to honor the service of Southerners who fought for what they believed in. While the war was about slavery, most Confederate soldiers served to defend their homes from “Northern invasion” and the “Yankees” telling them how to run their businesses. Honor the men, but not the slave owner’s cause.

Second, the Sons of the Confederate Veterans may be regarded by some as a closet racist organization. This same attack could be made on any Southern-based Civil War group including Civil War Round Tables and battlefield preservation groups. The majority of members are history buffs, re-enactors, and, most importantly, ancestors of civil war veterans. Like all social, national and religious organizations, these groups have bigoted members. However suspicious outsiders may view these groups, we need to respect their rights to their opinions and the motivations of the majority of their members. According to their web page, the “Sons of Confederate Veterans is preserving the history and legacy of these heroes, so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.”

Third, this group’s proposal is offensive to many people. The twenty-two thousand who signed the petition exceeds the 2,300 members of the group. The wishes of the majority do not override the rights of the minority. Because this license plate represents Texas, the DMV must decide what is in the interest of all Texans.

We cannot and should not do away with the Confederate flag. It is a part of our history and culture. Allowing the license plate should serve not as reminder to where we were as a country but to honor the sacrifices that all Americans made to become the nation we are. Texas has become a unique state --- not southern, not western --- with a blend of cultures --- Hispanic, African American, German, and even Yankee. However, the State of Texas must determine, not if this license plate is an historic tribute, but if it is offensive to the majority of Texans, its fit with Texan culture and values, and if Texas wishes to have its name publicly associated with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Role of Tariffs in the Civil War - Part 4

We conclude our series of posts on The Role of Tariffs in the Civil War by commenting on the current economic situation and the possible role of protective tariffs.

Do we need tariffs today?

My answer is a resounding Yes!

One of the greatest lies perpetrated on the American people is that we are operating on a level playing field as far as international trade.  Our leaders say we are exporting low skilled jobs so we can focus on high skilled positions for Americans.  I guess our public officials assume that we are stupid. 

The American educational system is not preparing our young people to compete for jobs with candidates from other countries.  Students in India, China, Japan and other countries are better equipped.  The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a system of international assessments that measures 15-year-olds' performance in reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy every 3 years. On the 2009 PISA, U.S. 15-year-olds’ average score in reading literacy was 500, which was not measurably different from the OECD average of 493.   In mathematics literacy, U.S. 15-year-olds’ average score of 487 on the 2009 PISA was lower than the OECD average score of 496. The average mathematics literacy score in the United States was lower than the average score in 17 of the 33 other OECD countries.  In science literacy, the average score of 15-year-olds in the United States was not measurably different from the OECD average score. The U.S. average science literacy score was lower than the average score in 12 of the 33 other OECD countries.  The average scores for the US are 500 in reading, 487 in mathematics, and 502 in science.  Japan scores are 520, 546, and 538; Russia 459, 468, and 478; China 556, 600, and 575; and Singapore 526,562, and 541. 

The labor costs are, of course, much lower. The hourly compensation costs in manufacturing in 2009 were $33.53 for the US, $30.36 for Japan, $17.50 for Singapore, 14.20 for the Republic of Korea, and $7.76 for Taiwan. 

Taking these statistics at face value implies that companies can get higher skilled workers for lower pay in countries outside of the US.

If we include in these figures the added costs that US companies incur for government regulation, the level playing field tilts decidedly towards the Chinese and other non-US manufacturers.  We have regulations that protect the health and safety of workers, provide for equal hiring opportunities, guarantee a minimum wage, prohibit child and prison labor, protect the environment, and insure safe products.  Low cost foreign products are not produced under these constraints.  US corporations driven by the holy grail of shareholder value or return to investors, have little choice but to move operations to other countries.  US corporations unlike Chinese are not controlled by the government and are not an instrument of foreign policy.  Additionally, where government and industry are at loggerheads in the US, they work in concert in many parts of the world.  Foreign governments actually try to protect their growing industries much as the US did in the first half of the nineteenth (and perhaps the entire century).

Our politicians want us to wait until our foreign competitors enact legislation that protects workers, consumers, and the environment.  They don't want to upset foreign governments.  Waiting for China to enact legislation to level the playing field, is like waiting for the Dallas Cowboys to win a Supper Bowl.  It might happen, but don't write for game tickets this year.

What is needed is legislation to protect American workers and create a real level playing field.  Without it, our standard of living will continue to drop and the legacy to our children will be poverty.

I wrote to both major political parties today asking for their positions on tariffs.  I'll let you know if I receive an answer.  I did this three years ago on another issue facing the candidates and I'm still waiting for answers.  While waiting for answers, I found these "positions" on  2012 Presidential Candidates.

Romney advocates free trade with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea and sanctions on China for unfair trade practices.  The US should reach out to China and charter a course that is equivalent to a free economy and a free society. This goal should be at par with those of the US.

Perry is a firm believer in the power of the free market, and is convinced that excessive regulatory control stifles the ability of the private sector to grow.

Paul advocates free market but didn't specifically address tariffs and he believes that trade with China should not be tied to human rights. The US should reach out to China and charter a course that is equivalent to a free economy and a free society. This goal should be at par with those of the US.

On his 2009 visit to China Obama looked for concessions on climate, currency, trade and human rights but all he got was a bland statement promising no firm commitments without any mention of Internet censorship or Tibet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Role of Tariffs in the Civil War - Part 3

Why didn't Southern entrepreneurs take advantage of the protectionist tariffs to increase their manufacturing base?

This question may be the most perplexing.  Most historians are familiar with the industrial disparity between the North and South at the beginning of the Civil War.

  • 28% of the 120,000 US manufacturing establishments were in the North
  • 92% of the nation's 1.4 million factory workers were in the North
  • 72% of America's railroads were in the North
  • The value of Southern farm land was $1,871,000,000 in 1860

The Confederacy's industrial workforce was characterized by its wide and extensive use of slaves. In the 1850s, anywhere from 150,000 - 200,000 slaves were used in industrial work.  Nearly 80% of these slaves were owned by industrial owners and, the remaining were rented out by plantation owners. Often, manual labor performed by slaves would be combined with skilled white artisans in order to better compete with northern and foreign industry.


Despite the profitability of slave industry, Southern industry had been under capitalized for years by the time of the outbreak of the war.  Besides a social preference for ownership of real property (slaves and land), agriculture in staple goods (cotton, tobacco, sugar cane) was considered the easiest route to profitability. Therefore agriculture always outbid industry when it came to capital allocation. As early as 1830, Southern industry was a generation behind, and by the Civil War, was vastly inferior to northern and foreign manufacturing. [Source: Robert S. Starobin The Economics of Industrial Slavery in the Old South The Business History Review, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Summer, 1970), pp. 162 as quoted in Economy of the Confederate States of America]


With the Southern economy tied to agriculture and slave labor, it is no wonder that the influential plantation owners refused to end the practice.   Their failure of foresight in funding manufacturing and building a more diversified industry, lead to the Civil War and the loss of the Confederacy in that war.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Role of Tariffs in the Civil War - Part 2

Continuing our discussion of The Role of Tariffs in the Civil War...

Were these tariffs designed to hurt the Southern economy?
While the tariffs were designed to protect American industries, they were not designed to punish the South.  Most industries were in the North due to a good supply of raw materials, plentiful skilled labor, and cheap energy. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, American business and political leaders recognized  that the country would have to have a strong industrial base to compete with the European nations and insure the young country's survival. 
Southern businessmen had limited resources to draw on.  They did not have access to raw materials, energy, or skilled labor.  Moreover, they were tied to flawed agricultural society that was based on slave labor.  Their unwillingness or inability to see the possibilities of a transition to an industrial economy cost the South dearly.  It forced them to defend slavery and, when the war broke out, it left the South without the necessary industry to support the war effort.
Ultimately, the tariffs were beneficial. 
How did the tariffs hurt the Southern economy?
While not designed to hurt the Southern economy, the impact on the South was profound.   The "40 bales theory" tried to quantify the impact of tariffs on the South.  The theory attempted to explained how tariffs on manufactured goods reduced demand for the South’s raw cotton: a 40% tariff on cotton finished goods led to 40% higher consumer prices, which translated to 40% fewer sales, since consumers had less money to spend following the Panic of 1819. And 40% fewer sales meant cotton manufacturers purchased 40% less cotton.
What enraged the South was that the Federal Government was seen as using policy to favor the economic health of one part of the country at the expense of another.  Southern leaders worried that Northern Abolitionists would use the same tactic to end slavery and destroy the heart of the Southern economy.
While tariff funds did not go to Northern industrialists, the northern manufacturers could obtain higher prices by virtue of the higher prices paid for foreign imports. Manufacturers would be allowed to raise prices to the level of foreign imports.  These prices would be passed on to both northern and southern consumers.  Based on the population distribution, northern consumers should have paid more in total than their neighbors in the South.
The South contended that the tariffs would hurt cotton production and exports.  Plantation owners argued that while northern industries increased output and market share, southern plantations would see less demand.
The statistics don't support that conclusion as shown in the following graph using data from the Economic History Association.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Role of Tariffs in the Civil War - Part 1

I received an -mail from Dennis M. saying that  I had understated the impact of "crippling tariffs" on the Southern economy.  Dennis cited the import tariffs from 1789 to 1842 and said that the North paid its  "debts on the back of the South, while crippling the Southern economy and bolstering Northern manufacturing."
I found his comments interesting on many levels and they raised several questions. 
·        Where did the money collected go?  Was it used to pay "Northern debts?"
·        Were these tariffs designed to hurt the Southern economy?
·         While the tariffs hurt the South were they beneficial to the whole nation?
·         Did the tariffs help cause the Civil War?
·        Why didn't Southern businessmen use the tariff protection to industrialize the South? 
Let's start with a review of the tariffs and their role in government finance.   According to US statistical data, tariff income provided a substantial portion of the Federal government's budget. 

Year
Tariff Income,
$ million
Budget %
of Tariff
Average
Tariff, %
1792
4.4
95.0
15.1
1795
5.6
91.6
8.0
1800
9.1
83.7
10.0
1805
12.9
95.4
10.7
1810
8.6
91.5
10.1
1815
7.3
46.4
6.5
1820
15.0
83.9
20.2
1825
20.1
97.9
22.3
1830
21.9
88.2
35.0
1835
19.4
54.1
14.2
1840
12.5
64.2
12.7
1845
27.5
91.9
24.3
1850
39.7
91.0
22.9
1855
53.0
81.2
20.6
1860
53.2
94.9
15.0




2010
25,289
1.2
1.3


Tariffs have played different roles in trade policy and the nation's economic history. Tariffs were the largest source of federal revenue from the 1790s to World War I, when income taxes became the major source of government funding.  From 1789 to 1861, the US Government enacted the following tariffs:
·        1789: Hamilton Tariff - Rates were between 5 and 10%. Alexander Hamilton wanted to establish the tariff as a regular source of government revenue and to encourage the growth of domestic manufacturing to lessen America's dependence on foreign-made products.
·        1790: Tariff of 1790 - Increased average rate from 5% to 7-10% and increased the number of items taxed.
·        1792: Tariff of 1792 - Increased tariff rates.
·        1816: Tariff of 1816 - protective tariff introduced in 1816 and in force between 1816 and 1824.
·        1824: Tariff of 1824 - Designed to protect American industry in the face of cheaper British commodities, especially iron products, wool and cotton textiles, and agricultural goods.
·    1828: Tariff of 1828 - Protect industries in the northern United States which were being driven out of business by low-priced imported goods by putting a tax on them. The South was harmed directly by having to pay higher prices on goods the region did not produce, and indirectly because reducing the exportation of British goods to the US made it difficult for the British to pay for the cotton they imported from the South. The reaction in the South, particularly in South Carolina, would lead to the Nullification Crisis of 1832. The tariff marked the high point of US tariffs.
·        1832: Tariff of 1832 - reduced tariffs to remedy the conflict created by the tariff of 1828, but it was still deemed unsatisfactory by some in the South, especially in South Carolina.

·    1833: Tariff of 1833 - The "Compromise Tariff" of 1833 was proposed as a resolution to the Nullification Crisis. It was adopted to gradually reduce the rates after southerners objected to the protectionism found in the Tariff of 1832 and the 1828 Tariff of Abominations, which had prompted South Carolina to threaten secession from the Union. This Act stipulated that import taxes would gradually be cut over the next decade until, by 1842, they matched the levels set in the Tariff of 1816—an average of 20%.
·       1842: Tariff of 1842 - The "Black Tariff"
·        1846: Walker Tariff - The Walker Tariff was enacted by the Democrats, and made substantial cuts in the high rates of the "Black Tariff" of 1842, enacted by the Whigs. The Walker Tariff reduced rates by 25% to 35%; it coincided with Britain's repeal of the Corn Laws and led to an increase in trade. It was one of the lowest tariffs in American history.
·        1857: Tariff of 1857 - The Tariff of 1857 was a major tax reduction and created a mid-century low point for tariffs. It amended the Walker Tariff of 1846 by lowering rates to around 17% on average.  The bill was offered in response to a federal budget surplus in the mid 1850s.
·        1861: Morrill tariff - The Morrill Tariff of 1861 was an protective tariff adopted on March 2, 1861 during the administration of President James Buchanan.
Where did the money collected go?  Was it used to pay "Northern debts?"
If we examine the above tariffs, it is apparent that they changed from being an instrument to raise Federal revenue to a devise to protect Northern industries.  This was most apparent in legislation from 1824 to 1842.  Tariff levels fluctuated based on the political party in power.  Conflict over tariffs, perhaps even more than the tariffs themselves, contributed to the North-South schism.  
The revenue raised by tariffs was not used by the North to pay its debts.  Tariffs provided the Federal Government with enough money to pay its operating expenses and to redeem at full value U.S. Federal debts and the debts the states had accumulated during the Revolutionary War.  Tariffs helped pay for wars and military actions including the Second Cherokee War (1776-1777), Chickamauga Wars (1776-1794), Northwest Indian War (1785-1795), First Barbary War (1801-1805), War of 1812 (1812-1815), Second Barbary War (1815), the First Seminole War (1816-1818), Florida Wars (1835-1842), the Mexican American War (1846-1848), and Utah War (1857-1858).  The tariff money also helped pay for roads, canals, and railroads and western expansion.  So ALL Americans benefited from the revenue raised.