Saying goodbye to 2010

As those of us in the Central Time Zone prepare to say goodbye to 2010, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and remind you of the anniversary of two battles in the Western Theater. 2011 will mark the beginning of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, where historians and the public will reflect on the major battles and other events of the war and their larger significance to our national history. While the 150th is two years away, today, December 31, is the anniversary of two battles in Tennessee:  the Battle of Parker’s Cross Roads and the Battle of Stone’s River (Murfreesboro in the South).

Parker’s Cross Roads was a Confederate victory and fought in the western part of the state. Nathan Bedford Forrest was the Confederate commander at this battle. This battle is significant to me, as one of my ancestors (I am still attempting to trace the relationship) died of wounds on January 1, 1863 suffered in the battle.

In contrast, Stone’s River was a Union victory and the battle lasted until January 2, 1863. It is important because it boosted Union morale after the defeat at Fredericksburg. It also had more casualties than Shiloh and Antietam, as well as has the highest percentage of casualties in terms of strength of opposing forces (roughly one-third). A major national cemetery was established at the battlefield, which I toured as part of the reunion of the First Infantry Division that I attended with my dad a few years back. It was a great time and the park staff put on a wonderful memorial service (part of the Union army consisted of regiments who eventually were incorporated into the Division).

These two battles, while minor in the larger context of the war, are important and that their anniversary coincides with New Year’s Eve is quite interesting, as it makes one think of how the soldiers considered the new year. Further, it forces us to remember that for those in a combat zone, the new year was likely not as happy, and, some never lived to see it. I hope you enjoyed this little posting and wish you all a Happy New Year and thank you for your continued support in 2011.

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.