Grant moves South-again

According to CivilWarriors, the U. S. Grant Association and collection has been removed from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) and is now on the campus of Mississippi State University. The new executive director, John Marszalek, who works at MSU has taken over from the late John Simon, former SIUC history professor who passed away in June. This is somewhat sad for me being from Illinois and never having the chance to visit the collection. While I wish the new director the best, I do hope that the Association will find a repository in Illinois for the materials.

On another note, we at Civil War History would like to wish you all a Happy New Year. As we enter another year here at CWH, we would like you to consider joining the fun of Civil War blogging, create a free WordPress account, and join us in writing. Please do not hesitate to use the contact page to let us know of your interest.

A new birth of scholarship

Sorry, I could not resist the play on words. I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday and are enjoying the end of the year. As we approach 2009, I can not help but think about the coming bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. I must say that I am looking forward to seeing what new scholarship and other historical related material will come out in the next year. I have been watching Ken Burns’ The Civil War, which was a long-overdue present to myself and while it is a great production, it is also almost twenty years old. I am looking forward to see if new films on Lincoln and the war will come out during the next year. In addition, I await the new Lincoln monographs that will surely appear in 2009.

It is important to note that the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth also is not far away from the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. That said, the years 2009-2015 will likely represent a new birth of scholarship on the war period. This represents a challenge to scholars, as my adviser mentioned to me that the number of books on the war is equivalent to a book per day every day since the war ended. There are only so many subjects and interpretations and I wonder when we will run out of things to write on. Anyway, it is my hope that new scholars (myself included) will be able to enjoy the renewed interest in the war that will grow in the coming years.

As we enter a new year, let us all resolve to do more research and get out and write on subjects relating to Lincoln and the war and build upon the great scholarly tradition that has come before. This will be an exciting time to be a scholar on Lincoln and the war, and I hope you all get a chance to visit the many sites dedicated to the war and Abe. Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2009.

Presenting my thesis

I have been meaning to do this for a while, but now I can actually post my thesis. I have had it in an electronic form for a while, but was hesitant to put it online out of fear that some unprincipled person would attempt to pass it off as their own. However, I found that one of my former colleagues at UND posted his thesis online, so I decided that if he was brave enough to do so, I would be as well. Therefore, I present to you my thesis, “CIVIL WAR CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION IN ILLINOIS: EXPLORING THE TRANSITION FROM CIVILIAN TO SOLDIER.”

Download “CIVIL WAR CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION IN ILLINOIS: EXPLORING THE TRANSITION FROM CIVILIAN TO SOLDIER”

There is one page missing from the document, which is the approval page. Do not worry the thesis is legitimate and was approved. I had to make hard copies of that page from an original copy provided after I turned the copy into the graduate school and did not insert the page into the electronic file. I hope you enjoy my thesis and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Please help the History News Network

Having served with this organization for a couple of years, I can attest to the value of The History News Network. It provides many interesting articles and news stories on a wide variety of subjects. Now, HNN needs your help, as it is attempting to raise $10,000 to cover expenses. I ask you all, if you are able, to consider supporting HNN by giving a tax-deductable donation, which you can do by going to this link.

Little girl’s Christmas wish granted

While not Civil War related, I saw this the other night on The O’Reilly Factor and had to share it with you. Of all the things little Kensley could have asked Santa for, one of the two things she wanted was her dad. As an Army brat, this video brought a tear to my eye. I am happy that she will be able to spend a few days with her father.

The end of semester is near

Hey everyone, sorry I have not posted for a few days, but I am quite busy finishing up assignments for classes and they take more precedence than posting to the blog. Rest assured, I plan to have something more substantive up next week, if not sooner, but right now, I need to get back to work.

New look for the site

Well, thanks everyone who let me know their thoughts on the appearence of the site. I heeded your input and changed the theme and selected a brighter one that I hope will be easier to read. I want to explain why I change the site’s theme every so often. One, I like to “freshen” things up a bit and a change in look can help. Second, I like to see what new themes WordPress has out and how they might look. Sometimes it is difficult because not every site meets certain specifications that I prefer, which are displaying the post’s author, as this is a group blog, providing ample amounts of widgets so that I can display all the features that I have for the site, and tabbed navigation. The tabbed navigation is the least important to me, as I have chosen themes witout it, but I do prefer it, as it provides a more professional look in my opinion. Thanks again and I hope you like the new theme and new header image.

Help with a decision

I am taking a few minutes while working on assignments for my classes that include three papers to ask you all to help me make a decision regarding this site. I am considering changing the theme again, but want to know what you all think about it, so I ask you to let me know by voting in the polls below. Thanks for your help.

Nominations for the 2008 Cliopatria Awards

I wanted to let you all know that nominations are open for the 2008 Cliopatria Awards, which recognize the best history blogging in several different categories. I nominated this site last year for Best New Blog, but was not selected. Unfortunately, this site is now too old to be in contention for that category, but I would like to ask you all to consider nominating this blog for any of the other categories available that you feel are appropriate. The nominations will close on November 30. I thank you all in advance for your support.

Interview with David H. Jones

After writing my review of Two Brothers, One North, One South, I found that I had some questions about the book that only the author could answer, so I contacted David H. Jones and put forth the following questions, which he was gracious enough to answer. I hope you enjoy and that he answers some of the questions you may have had about his book.

1. How did you choose the topic of your story and why did you choose to write a novel instead of a non-fiction historical work?

A. I found the story of the Prentiss brothers while researching the regiments of my Civil War ancestors. My great great grandfather, James Touchstone, served as an officer in the 6th Maryland Infantry with Clifton Prentiss. I discovered that Clifton had a younger brother who served in the Confederate 1st and 2nd Maryland Battalions and that Walt Whitman had written about William Prentiss in “Memoranda During The War.” After three years of collecting historical data, it was apparent to me that the book could be written as either as a non-fiction or fiction.

In my view, the circumstance of “brother fighting brother” is the quintessential story of the American Civil War and, as such, could achieve greater readership as a novel rather than as a non-fiction. At the same time, I was aware that there is a downside to historical fiction. All too often these novels are full of inaccuracies and the story is one that could have happened at anytime; the author simply drops it into a certain time period and doesn’t care enough to make the details authentic. Thus, many Civil War buffs are prejudiced against any book that is not a non-fiction.

2. Your book is considered historical fiction. Aside from battles and locations, what percentage of the characters are fictional and how much of the story is based around actual events in the life of the real persons? How did you determine how much of your story elements would be fictitious?

A. There are only three fictitious characters in “Two Brothers.” Elijah and Alma Carter are created characters, as is Laura Watson, although there is some evidence of a stepsister in the Prentiss family. Otherwise, the scenes within the book are closely based on actual events in the lives of historical persons. Regarding Elijah, the 7th USCT was an actual regiment that was raised in Baltimore in late 1863 and its exploits were real.

3. I could not help but think about elements of the miniseries North and South as I read this story. What literary works and/or television and films on the war influenced you and shaped the writing of this work?

A. The miniseries “North and South” is fairly true to the period, as are novels by Michael Shaara, Jeff Shaara, Howard Bahr, and others. The work of David McCullough proves that accurate history can be brought-to-life and that inspired me to shape a novel closely based on real people and events; one that would hopefully both entertain and educate.

4. One of my minor criticisms of your book was the heavy focus on William’s service in the war. Could you explain why you did not devote part of the book to presenting Clifton’s service in the Union army?

A. There’s a good reason for this imbalance. The Confederate 1st Maryland Battalion was formed in time to fight at First Manassas (First Bull Run) in July of 1861. Conversely, the 6th Maryland Infantry was not mustered into service until late August of 1862 and saw little field service until June of 1863. Thus, there was more “story material” about William than there was about Clifton. To compensate for this, I swung the focus from the Confederate side to the Union side as the story approached its climax at the Breakthrough Battle at Petersburg on April 2, 1865.  My overall intent was to treat the brothers and their experiences in an even-handed manner.

5. Given that this was a novel, there would be no notes or bibliography, but historians like to know about sources in a work. Could you tell us a bit about some of the sources you researched that contributed to the writing of the book?

A. I did provide a small appendix in “Two Brothers” with quotes from books, memoirs and newspaper accounts of the period to demonstrate to the reader that the story of Prentiss brothers is essentially true. I researched service and pension records, Official Records, the Grayson Eichelberger papers (6th Maryland), the Southern Historical Society Papers, books and articles written by prominent historians, and books written by actual participants and observers. The list of published references is extensive, so I will provide just a sampling to indicate the nature of these sources: The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign-Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion (A. Wilson Greene); I Rode With Stonewall (Henry Kyd Douglas); Maryland’s Blue & Gray (Kevin Conley Ruffner); A Maryland Boy in Lee’s Army (George W. Booth); First and Second Maryland Infantry, CSA (Robert J. Driver, Jr.); A Soldiers Recollections (Randolph McKim); Recollections of a Maryland Confederate Soldier, 1861-1865 (McHenry Howard); The Maryland Line in the Confederate Army (W.W. Goldsborough); Manly Deeds-Womanly Words-History of the 6th regiment of Maryland Infantry (James Fisher); Recollections Grave and Gay (Mrs. Burton Harrison (Constance Cary)); Mary Chesnut’s Civil War (C. Vann Woodward); Belles, Beaux and Brains of the 60’s (T.C. DeLeon); Walt Whitman’s Civil War (Walter Lowenfels); Richmond-The Story of a City (Virginius Dabney); Baltimore During The Civil War (Scott Sumpter Sheads & Daniel Carroll Toomey); A Matter of Allegiances-Maryland from 1850 to 1861 (William J. Evitts); and many, many others.

6. As someone with an inclination towards the Union, I often found myself viewing the Cary sisters and Laura with anger and suspicion. Was it your intent for readers to see these ladies in that light, and did you ever find yourself feeling that way towards them while writing the story?

A. No, that was not my intent and I never felt anger or suspicion toward the Cary girls.  My two Civil War ancestors fought for the Union, but I view the participants of both sides as equally honorable in their devotion to their cause. They were the children and grandchildren of Revolutionary War patriots, but they saw the political, economic, and social issues of the period in a very different light. Within the context of those times, they believed they were doing the right thing. We rightly deplore slavery today as an evil institution, but generally speaking, people in the mid nineteenth were very local in viewpoint and accepted, for a variety of reasons, conditions that we find totally unacceptable today. Many references provide evidence that white women in the South were strong advocates of the Confederacy and the Cary’s were no exception.

7. Walt Whitman feared, according to your book, that the real nature of the war would be lost. With so many books written by historians on the war, do you think he was correct in his fear?

A. While much has been written about all aspects of the war, today’s readers aren’t often presented with stories that focus on the sacrifices and devotion of the common soldier, particularly the ones who were wounded, languished, and died in hospitals. That, to Whitman’s way of thinking, was what should be remembered; I think that he was correct in his fear.

8. What do you hope that readers will come away with from reading your book?

A. The realization that all of the soldiers, both North and South, were American patriots. Our nation is what it is today because the American Civil War was fought and we should celebrate our history by developing a better understanding of those people and times.

9. Do you have any plans to write an academic work on the war, like a history of one of the units in the story?

A. Three journals written by an officer of the 6th Maryland in 1866 have come to light since the publication of “Two Brothers” and contain a wealth of first-hand information and observations about the regiment for the entirety of the war. I am working to get permission to publish the information from these journals and, if achieved, the book will be written as a non-fiction.

10. What advice would you offer to those who would like to write a book like Two Brothers, or any work of history?

A. I would tell them that writing the book is only half the task. Despite whether or not your book is published by a traditional publisher, is self-published, or published by a vanity press, all marketing and promotion is the responsibility of the author. You must promote the book and create “buzz” in the marketplace . . . or it won’t sell. An author must understand that this is a business, and a very competitive one at that.

Review of Two Brothers, One North, One South

two-brothersJones, David H.  Two Brothers, One North, One South.  Encino, CA:  Staghorn Press, 2008.  320pp, ISBN 13:  978-0-9796898-5-7, $24.95.

David H. Jones has provided one of the latest additions to the genre of historical fiction on the Civil War, a genre that includes such works as Killer Angels, Gods and Generals, and the Civil War trilogy written by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen to name a few.  The novel intertwines real individuals, including Walt Whitman, and members of the Prentiss family, into a story that illustrated the brother against brother nature of the war.

The story began at a Union hospital, where Whitman befriends a young Confederate soldier from Maryland, who is dying from wounds suffered at Petersburg.  When the young man, William Prentiss passes, Whitman meets his older brothers, including Clifton, who was also wounded and served in the Union army.  Whitman began to tell the brothers what he learned from his conversations with William, in an attempt to help them learn about their brother and his experience during the war, as they had become estranged due to different opinions on the war.

Together, Whitman and the Prentiss brothers presented a story of the war that is rich and lively.  The reader shifts from Armory Square Hospital in Washington, in 1865, back to pre-war Baltimore and countless other places in the Eastern Theater of the war.  William Prentiss, the youngest son of a staunch Union abolitionist father and educator, owing to strong influence of pro-Southern peers, especially the Cary sisters, decides to join Confederate forces when hostilities commence.  His brother Clifton, who attempted to dissuade William, takes up arms for the Union.  William’s father, John, takes his son’s decision to fight for the Confederacy especially hard, calling William a “damned traitor”.(81)  Throughout the war, the brothers experienced such battles as Bull Run, Gettysburg, and Petersburg.  The chapters weave a wonderful tale that discusses daily life in the army, as well as the involvement of women in the war.

The goal of Jones’ book was to present the war in the manner that Whitman hoped, as he (Whitman) feared that the real war would be lost to succeeding generations.  While this is a noble ideal, given the vast number of books on the war from a non-fiction standpoint, the real nature of the war has not been lost, as Whitman feared.  However, Jones does provide, through his story, a good example of the nature of the war.

While the story was good, there were some problems.  First, the book has an air of Confederate bias.  While the story is attempting to help the brothers understand William’s service in the war, there is too much focus on characters, like the Cary sisters and other Southern sympathizers.  This focus on Southerners, coupled with some dialogue that seems haughty for normal conversation, even for the nineteenth century, could turn off some readers too early. The back story surrounding them added intrigue to the story, but detracted from understanding the experience of the men in battle.  Further, more focus on Clifton’s service in the Federal army would have better illustrated the brother against brother nature of the conflict.  The back and forth shift in time of the story is a good concept, but more detail on the Prentiss family would have helped.  While the immediate pre-war events in Baltimore are discussed and others hinted at, a fuller explanation of how the family, especially with adult children in other locales, reacted to events like John Brown’s raid, the election of Lincoln, and secession would have better explained the split that occurred between the family members.

David Jones crafted a unique piece of Civil War historical fiction.  Intertwining real people and real places with fictional characters provides a great story about the war that, hopefully, will lead readers to explore the vast non-fiction literature on the conflict.  Though there are some issues with the book, readers should delight in Jones masterful storytelling.

Author’s Note: I would like to encourage you all that have read the book to pose questions and comments, as David Jones will be visiting here as part of the TLC Book Tour.

New section of the site

In an effort to enhance the usability of this site, I have created a new section to aid high school students and college students in locating good undergraduate and graduate programs in History. The History Programs page contains links to separate pages for undergraduate and graduate programs in History. I would like to encourage and invited students, faculty, and recruiting staff from all History programs that have a strong Civil War emphasis to contact the site and provide me details about their program, which I will post on the site.

Eventually, I will also post information on how to get into and be successful in undergraduate and graduate programs. I hope that eventually the site will be able to be a good source of information on History education.

Note:  Due to the redesign of the website and that I did not receive much feedback on it, I unpublished the History Programs section of the site for now.

A couple of upcoming events and a milestone

First, I would like to announce that we have finally reached our one hundredth post. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this site and to all you readers out there who continue to support us.

There are a couple of events/items that I wanted to make you aware of that are coming up. First, I will be participating in a virtual book tour with TLC Book Tours, which will be showing David H. Jones’s book Two Brothers: One North, One South. I am scheduled to be a tour stop on Nov. 17. What that means is that I will have a review up by that day and the author will “stop” by here and be available for questions and comments, guest posting, and interviewing. I would like to encourage you all, especially those who have read the book, to stop by and post comments and interact with the author. I will do my best to communicate with the tour company and prepare the site. Now, I will be in and out that day, as I have class in the morning and early afternoon, but will be around. Basically, tell your friends to stop by and meet David H. Jones and learn about his book. If you are interested in following the tour, here is a list of tour stops:

Monday, November 3rd – Strategist’s Personal Library
Wednesday, November 5th – My Adventures in History
Thursday, November 6th – Civil War Literature
Friday, November 7th – Kathleen’s Book Reviews
Monday, November 10th – Bobbi’s Book Nook
Tuesday, November 11th – The Bell Rang
Wednesday, November 12th – Random Wonder
Friday, November 14th – Confessions of a Real Librarian
Monday, November 17th – Civil War History
Monday, November 17th – Military History Blog
Wednesday, November 19th – Bookfoolery and Babble
Friday, November 21st – Literarily
Monday, November 24th – Ready When You Are, C.B.
Tuesday, November 25th – In the Shadow of Mount TBR
Wednesday, November 26th – TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog
Friday, November 28th – A High and Hidden Place
Monday, December 1st – wig-wags

Also, here is some information on the book and the author:

David H. Jones’ website

David’s bio

Excerpt from Two Brothers – One North, One South

Reviews of the book

David’s blog

Two Brothers on Amazon

Two Brothers at Barnes & Noble

David’s email: david@davidhjones.net

The other item is also a bit timely. It is getting to that time of year for graduate school applications to be prepared and submitted, but it is not too late. I would like to invite professors and graduate schools that specialize in American history and the Civil War to get in touch with me, as I will be setting up a Graduate School section for the site, which will provide links and information to prospective students. What that means is that if you are involved with a graduate program in History, I want to help you reach students. So, tell me a bit about your program, including admission requirements, degree requirements, contacts, any fun facts or other interesting information that makes your institution unique. I ask that you use the Contact page on the site to submit this information. In another month or so, I will set up a section for undergraduate programs, so be ready.

I hope you all will enjoy these new features when they appear. On another happy note, I finally received my bound copies of my thesis and they look awesome. It is quite nice to finally have them to hold. I will post my thesis here sometime soon, but need to correct a security issue on the PDF. Have a great week and thank you all again for your support.

Introducing Civil Warring, a new forum

I have set up a new project for this site that I hope you will all join and contribute towards with many posts. Civil Warring is my new forum on the war and will serve as a place to discuss the many aspects of the war. I hope that this can grow into something meaningful that we will all have fun with. So I encourage you to check it out, join up, and start up some topics. Tell your friends who are into the war to check it out as well.