Update to Texas Confederate license plate controversy

Thanks to some of my intrepid readers, who followed up on this story and commented to my earlier post on the controversial proposed SCV license plate in the Lone Star State. Initial stories on the situation indicated opposition to the plate by prominent Democratic politicians in the state, which led me to believe that there might be more to this than moral opposition to the Confederate flag and Confederacy.

However, I learned from one commenter (hat tip to David Woodbury, blogger at of Battlefields and Bibliophiles) that Gov. Rick Perry expressed opposition to the plate as well. This definitely changed the situation for the future of the proposal, as he holds great sway in the state and on the commission that determined its fate, which contained several Perry appointees. This held true, as the commission rejected the plate proposal, choosing instead to honor the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, which is certainly an institution and group of soldiers worth honoring with a license plate. However, this issue is likely not dead, as SCV will likely sue to have the plates issued. The group has successfully litigated in other southern states before on the plate issue.

My thoughts on this would be for the commission to communicate to the SCV the option for a Civil War license plate that is neutral, commemorating appropriately the 150th anniversary of the war with the silhouette of a soldier and the wording of the anniversary and the war. It would allow citizens to take their own meaning from the plate and the proceeds could be directed to preservation of Civil War related items and land, which would hopefully satisfy the SCV.

Interesting history blog find

Kudos to Civil War Navy for reporting this new, to me anyway, blog, Historian on the Warpath, dealing with military history written by Scott Manning, an undergraduate at American Military University. I do like the theme he is using. So, go and check it out, as I have added it to my blogroll under other history blogs.

An interesting blog from Longwood University

With all the buzz over the 150th anniversary of the war, Longwood University has entered the Civil War blogosphere with their blog That a Nation Might Live. From what I have seen, they are off to a good start with some great posts. Two professors at Longwood, Dr. Charles Ross and Dr. David Coles write the blog, so check it out. Also, thanks to them for posting this site to their blogroll.

Where this blog is linked

Adding to the helpful post that the folks at WordPress created to let me share with you all how this blog did this last year, I decided to check out how folks are getting to this site and I am a bit humbled. The Civil War Preservation Trust lists this site as one of their featured blogs, describing it as “a must read for those interested in the subject.” Thank you CWPT, as you placed me with some good company, including Eric Wittenberg, Kevin Levin, and the gang at Civil Warriors. In addition, The Washington Post links this site under their blog A House Divided, which covers the 150th anniversary of the war. Written by Linda Wheeler among others, who lists this site as one of her favorites, this group blog covers a variety of subjects so far.

Overall, while I am linked at some great places and other blogs, I was quite surprised to delve deeper into the referrals of this site. I look forward to continuing the work in 2011, and hope that I will perhaps make enough of an impression on Eric Wittenberg that he will add me to his blogroll (hint). Thanks again everyone for making 2010 a great year for the blog.

Considering the top Civil War books written

Hats off to fellow scholar and blogger Bill Caraher for letting me know about this article from Salon.com. By the way, if you are even remotely interested in the ancient world and/or archaeology, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.

The Salon article deals with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and encourages buffs of the conflict to read a book a month for the next year and offers a list of the top 12 books on the war. I found the selections rather telling, as many were works of popular history. However, three stood out as strong works that have great influence on the historiography of the war. Among them are David Blight’s Race and Reunion, Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering, and James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, all are hard-hitting monographs. The interesting observation, which Bill posed to me in a question, was that Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox landed at number one on the list. Some may wonder, why Catton?

I believe that this is an interesting placement, and am surprised that Shelby Foote did not make the list. Catton produced some great works on the war and are deserving of high placement on must read lists. He wrote around the time of the centennial of the war and still resonates within the literature. While I generally agree with the list, I am left wondering how professional historians would alter this list. So, I leave fellow scholars with a challenge that I will also dwell upon and post. What twelve books should folks interested in the war read each month over the next year?

I hope you have all had a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season and I wish you all a Happy New Year. Until next time, keep researching and writing.

A new blog and new journal for 2011

As I mentioned in my last post, Brooks Simpson, has chosen to leave the group at Civil Warriors to pursue personal and professional projects. He has started his own blog up, called Crossroads, which is linked in the sidebar as well. I look forward to seeing what he produces in the coming months. His posting on the Dakota uprising that occurred in 1862-3, is particularly interesting to me given that I live in North Dakota and am within a couple of hours drive of sites associated with that conflict.

In addition to this new blog, a new journal will make its début in March. The University of North Carolina Press will publish The Journal of the Civil War Era, which will become the flagship journal of the Society of Civil War Historians. I look forward to seeing what this journal offers in terms of new directions on the war and the overall period surrounding it. I urge anyone with an interest in the conflict to consider subscribing to the journal and joining the Society.

All in all, 2011 will be a great year for Civil War studies, as we begin in earnest the 150th anniversary of secession, which will ignite some feelings, the anniversary of the Confederacy’s creation, Lincoln’s first inauguration, Bull Run, Wilson’s Creek, etc. I hope to attend a couple major reenacting events in Missouri this coming year, but we’ll see. I have a couple of items to finish this semester before I head to Illinois for Christmas, but I will attempt to remember to post later this month on South Carolina’s secession. Until next time, keep researching and studying.

Some thoughts on ending a blog

Don’t worry folks, I am not closing this site down, and I do want to apologize for the lack of content and posting these last few weeks. Needless to say, this semester has been busier than I imagined, which has left me less time than in the past to post. However, with the sesquicentennial of the war underway (Lincoln’s inauguration on November 6), I believe the posts will pick up.

I will say that teaching has been quite interesting and a learning experience for me. We are just getting to Reconstruction and I have to say that covering the Civil War was my favorite part, as while we had to gloss over it for time, I was able to, I hope, come alive for my students.

I want to take a few moments to consider other bloggers’ decisions to shift focus or close down their blogs (possibly). Bill Caraher, a professor in my department, maintains a blog dealing with archaeology in the Mediterranean world, which focuses around his work in Cyprus. Recently, he posted that he was considering shutting down his blog and posed the interesting question of how long a blog can go before it serves its purpose. Needless to say, this raised a couple of questions for me and the blogs I run. However, I feel obliged to you all, the faithful readers, to keep this site going.

Another blogger, well-known Civil War scholar Brooks Simpson is leaving the friendly confines of Civil Warriors to focus on other projects, including a blog of his own down the road. While I understand his motivations, I will say that I will miss reading his insights there, but know that the rest of the team will continue to produce quality postings.

With that said, I want to let you all know that I am not planning to shutter this site anytime soon, but am giving some thought to starting a new project, which I will keep you appraised of. I hope to start posting more often when home for Christmas, as I have some reading to catch up on.

On using social media

Over at Civil War Memory, Kevin Levin, posted on his use of social media and how it helps him as a teacher and historian. The examples he noted are some of what I have done to increase the audience of this blog as well. In addition, I see blogging and the use of social media as a way for us to stay relevant in a climate where history is losing much of its value and distinctiveness to other disciplines that hold more lucrative salary potential, or to increasing trends towards inter-disciplinary type programs on college campuses. Using social media allows us to share our passion with those we may not otherwise interact with, either because of distance, or environment. One of our professors at UND, Bill Caraher, is the master of the social media and new technologies, as he regularly writes about it on his blog. While I am still not quite up on regularly tweeting or Facebooking, I am trying to interact with such new technologies, as they are the future and historians must embrace them to stay relevant to younger people.

Shelby Foote’s wit and commentary

Thanks to Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory for finding this unique video featuring various segments from the late Shelby Foote, featured in Ken Burns’ The Civil War. Having watched the series a couple of times and planning to use it in my own classes in the future, I enjoy the unique presentation by Foote, including his deep, calming voice. Enjoy.

The scholarship of secession

Thanks to Civil Warriors for providing the link to a article in the recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. This article was quite good and raised a few interesting thoughts for me about the state of scholarship on the South and Civil War, as well as that of the larger academy. While no one, except those on the fringes of society, will argue that American race-based slavery was not an immoral stain on our nation, the larger scholarship on the South and the Civil War as well seems unwilling or afraid to tackle the uncomfortable areas within Southern culture and history, areas where the South has some positive attributes. Mr. Livingston’s exploration into the subject of secession and Southern history is quite fascinating, as while I am a Northern man, and would have stood tall for the Union, this entrance into the historiographical discourse is great. The more voices added, the richer the chorus. History is no different.

What this article does reveal is a troubling indictment of the current state of academe in America. While Livingston and other scholars involved with his Abbeville Institute are undoubtedly good people, they are venturing into a territory where cries of racist and neo-Confederate are leveled, simply for choosing to explore an area of history that is seemingly unpopular in most circles. While secession is, in my opinion, not a legitimate response, in the case of the South, I do feel that we must study it in order to have a better understanding of the tumultuous time in our nation before the war and during its early stage. I posted a couple comments on the post at Civil Warriors and the responses were polite, but still somewhat dismissive of what this group of scholars is trying to accomplish. My question is why? Are historians afraid that if any positive attributes regarding Southern history and culture surface that Americans will suddenly ignore slavery and the negatives? I believe that most people are smarter than that.

The article acknowledged that scholars involved with the society sought to explore what they (the Abbeville scholars) viewed as the “positive aspects of Southern history and culture.” The scholars did not deny, according to the piece, the bigotry and racism of the South, but seemed to be arguing for letting historians more well-versed in such subjects tackle them.

The negative reaction from some in the academy to this angle of research causes me to think about the rise of New History fifty years ago. It seems that reaction from historians at that time to new interpretations was one of fear and anger, but New History, despite some politicized attributes that even I have issues with, has made wonderful contributions to our understanding of the past. It seems that, if given the chance, the Abbeville Institute can do the same, provided there is guidance and a keen awarness on the part of Abbeville scholars of Southern historiography, so that they can intelligently refute challenges that will come their way.

Overall, my attitude is one of embrace with caution. Let these scholars have their chance to be heard, but be aware of those who would use such areas of study for more malicious purposes. Studying secession as a political response, as well as trying to understand the positive values that did shape Southern culture, while maintaining the understanding of the immorality and evil of the institution that the South defended, will improve Southern history, as it will foster robust dialogue and questions, which can open new avenues to approaching the history and culture of the antebellum South. I stress caution, however, so that the rules of scholarship are enforced, and that those in charge of Abbeville distance themselves from those invovled with Southern heritage-based groups and neo-Confederate groups, thus avoiding tarnishining their reputation early. The academy should welcome the Abbeville Institute and its scholars to the table and work to create intersections between differing areas of research, as I feel both sides in this debate can learn from each other.

Help the History News Network

You probably see my linked logo for the History News Network in the sidebar, and I hope you check them out as they are a great site. Well, now they need your help to raise $10,000 in 24 days to cover costs. If you are able and want to help, please visit here to donate. Let’s let Editor Rick Shenkman know that Civil War History supports him.

A great weekend for hockey

I know, you are all thinking, what does this have to do with the Civil War? Well, some of the gang over at Civil Warriors are into ice hockey and I can’t let them be the only ones talking a bit of hockey. Plus, I can’t resist a friendly jibe at Dr. Mark Grimsley, who teaches at Ohio State University (though he is currently a visiting professor at the Army War College), as that was one of the teams visiting scenic Grand Forks this weekend.

This weekend was the tenth annual Subway Holiday Classic, which brings teams that UND would normally not play to Grand Forks for a fun weekend of hockey over Thanksgiving break. Last year, we hosted Cornell for one of the games. This year, the weekend featured three of the top ten college hockey teams, as the Bemidji State University Beavers (#6), Miami University of Ohio RedHawks (#1), Ohio State University Buckeyes (yes, OSU actually has ice hockey), and the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux (#4) all played.

Bemidji opened the weekend on Friday by defeating Miami in a good game that was a rematch of last season’s semi-final match (Frozen Four), where Miami beat Bemidji 4-1. This time, the tables were turned, as Bemidji defeated Miami 3-2. Later that day, the Sioux played the Buckeyes, which was a fun game, as I was sitting right behind the boards by the penalty box for OSU, which was a bit interesting with some of the crowd who were around me. We defeated the Buckeyes (sorry Mark) 4-1 in an awesome game. On Saturday, Bemidji lost a tough game to OSU in overtime 2-1 and we had to settle with a tie in a very exciting game against Miami 5-5. While not related to the Civil War, some of the rivalries in college and pro hockey can get pretty intense, with brother against brother and parents against kids in friendly disagreements over teams. Needless to say, the weekend was good and the rankings should change soon. To the hockey fans at Civil Warriors, we should talk hockey sometime.

Cross-posted to Doctoral Bliss

Vote for TOCWOC as Best History/Historical Fiction Blog for BBAW

Alas, we did not make the shortlist for this category for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, but I want to encourage all readers who like this site to vote for our friends over at TOCWOC-A Civil War Blog for Best History/Historical Fiction Blog for BBAW 2009. Brett and his crew, which occassionally includes me, but very rarely, do a great job with the site. They discuss a myriad of topics, including gaming, as well as reviewing numerous books. So, show your support for a fellow CW blogger and vote for TOCWOC.

Free Access to Lincoln Biography

First, thanks to Brett at TOCWOC and the gang over at Civil Warriors for sharing this news.

Knox College is making an unedited PDF version of Michael Burlingame’s 2008 two-volume biography Abraham Lincoln: A Life, which was published by John Hopkins University Press. Here are the details from their website:

Abraham Lincoln: A Life
by Michael Burlingame – Unedited Manuscript by Chapters

Michael Burlingame’s long-awaited Abraham Lincoln: A Life, published in 2008 by the Johns Hopkins University Press in two large volumes and nearly 2,000 pages, is believed by many Lincoln scholars to be the most exhaustively researched and fully documented biography of Abraham Lincoln ever written.

The work as originally submitted was even more extensive, but largely because of space limitations, it was considered necessary to condense both the narrative and the accompanying documentation. By agreement with the author and the publisher, and in the interest of giving scholars and other students of Lincoln access to references and sources not appearing in the published version, the Lincoln Studies Center is privileged to present on this site the author’s original unedited manuscript. This manuscript is accessible by individual chapters, which are displayed in searchable, read-only PDF format.

The user is advised that the work presented here is copyrighted, that Johns Hopkins University Press reserves all rights, and that this material may not be reproduced without permission.

The two-volume set may be ordered at a 25% discount (promo code GZA) direct from the publisher.

Only the unedited manuscripts for the chapters in Volume One are available at present. Those for Volume Two are in preparation and will be available soon.

I hope you will all check this out. I know I will.

Click here to view Vol. 1.

Lincoln bicentennial sale at Indiana University Press

Thanks to Rene at Wig-wags for pointing out this sale by Indiana University Press. Until Feb. 28, the IUP is offering its Civil War and Lincoln titles at up to 75% off the regular price. In addition, the Press offers free shipping on orders over $25 for this sale. I ordered four books and hope many of you will take advantage of this sale.

Lincoln Bicentennial Sale