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Farewell to Civil Warriors

On September 28, 2006, I did my initial post here on Civil Warriors. I expressed then a great sense of honor and appreciation at having been invited by Mark to participate and still feel that today. I have, however, come to the conclusion that the time has arrived to end my participation on Civil Warriors. In light of the decline in the quantity of my postings here, I can’t imagine this will come as much of a surprise to anyone who has been following the blog recently.

This has not been an easy decision and it is one I have wrestled with, and signaled my interest in making to folks from whom I have sought advice on professional matters for a while now. A number of factors have stayed my hand, though. One is that I hate the thought of quitting anything. Another is the fact that the nearly seven years since I joined Civil Warriors have been very good ones for me professionally and the blog undoubtedly played a role in that. Consequently, there is some anxiety that Civil Warriors could, going forward, be the nail that for want of my kingdom could be in serious trouble. Another factor has been the difficulty of figuring out how to go out on the right note. I did not want to just stop blogging and leave it others to figure out that I had. I also wanted to make a clear break from blogging, both for myself and the audience (though mainly on behalf of the former), and it has taken a while to find the time to put together a farewell post that does that properly and provides something close to what I consider an adequate explanation for my decision.

One of the factors in my leaving is a sense that over the past few years, the medium of blogging has been in decline. I know that my interest in it certainly has. Five years ago, I followed, along with this blog, Eric Wittenberg’s, Kevin Levin’s and two or three others pretty much daily. Now, if I look at another blog besides Brooks’s more than once a month it feels like a lot. The decline in interest in blogging is, at least for me, also a consequence of the emergence of Facebook. I know joining Facebook in late 2009 removed one of the motives I cited for joining Civil Warriors; namely, to facilitate the efforts of those who wish to contact me. I will also say that my decline in interest in blogging preceded Gary Gallagher’s much-discussed critique of blogging a year or so ago, though I have to say it reinforced it, for there was much in it that I agreed with.

It has been suggested by some with whom I have discussed this move that I could recharge my interest in blogging by breaking away from Civil Warriors and starting my own blog, one more personalized that might engage with folks on matters of interest to me other than the Civil War. I considered it, but in the end, have simply decided I just do not want the obligation of blogging anymore. (I do hope Mark would be open to my returning if I should wish to do so at some point; indeed, I shall be very surprised if I don’t.) Mark stated in a post a while back that he never wanted to feel obligated to blog for the sake of blogging, but my experience is that feeling is unavoidable as long as the blog is there and you are affiliated with it.

The ramifications of the ongoing budget problems my employer is experiencing also unavoidably figured into my decision. In the past year or so, my department has lost seven of the forty-three members of the faculty and staff, with no prospect of replacement. (Perhaps most regrettable, as anyone who works in the military or academic setting—or a place that combines the bureaucratic processes of both like this one does—will appreciate, is that our department secretary was one of those who departed.) Consequently, the workload of just about everyone in my department has increased significantly in the past year. For me personally, the last academic year saw a 25% increase in my teaching load during the core course and a doubling of the number of elective courses I taught. The increase in my workload was partly offset by the staff ride program for the other campuses of the Command and General Staff School falling victim to the budget axe earlier this year. That of course was hardly a positive thing from my perspective, as I believe strongly in the importance of the properly directed study of historic battlefields in officer education. (It also provided some good material for posts.) But this was a development that was far beyond my power to prevent.

Above all, though, I just want to spend my time in other ways than blogging. I have a number of projects that I am currently trying to bring to completion and personal interests that I would like to spend more time on. Moreover, my daughter’s turning ten recently has impressed on me that her childhood is running short (and teen years are approaching too fast for comfort). While I can’t say I think this is the case at this point, I don’t want to look back and lament I missed something because I was worrying about a blog. I know that the period a year or so ago when there were technical glitches here were a great relief to me, for during that time the obligation to blog was lifted and I could do other things without feeling guilty that I was neglecting the blog. After the glitches were resolved, obviously, I resumed posting. But I do not think it is hard to see a decline in both the quality and quantity of the posts I have been producing since then to a level where I am justified in being skeptical as to what value my continuing here has anyway.

I would like to express my appreciation to Mark for extending the invitation to me back in 2006 to participate in Civil Warriors, and to the other folks who participated in the blog during my time with it. I also thank the friends and colleagues who participated with me in this blog, especially those who served as sources of material, commentators on posts, or guest bloggers.

Thanks as well to those of you who have followed this blog over the past seven years. If I don’t see you in Gettysburg next week, I do hope our paths will cross somewhere else up the road.



Gettysburg in Kansas, 20 June

Dole Institute to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary

Gettysburg Dole

LAWRENCE — July will mark 150 years since the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas will honor the event with a full day of programming on Thursday, June 20.

The afternoon will be a conference-style event in which military historians and Civil War experts will focus on the three individual days of battle:

Day 1, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
Day 2, 2:45 p.m.-4:15 p.m.
Day 3, 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m.

The evening program at 7:30 p.m. will focus on the seven critical decisions made during the battle. Each afternoon session and the evening program can be enjoyed as a whole or individually. All programs are free and open to the public.

“This epic battle was a crucial moment in the Civil War that really set our nation on course for today. In order to create interaction and get a real dialogue going among our experts, we’ll be utilizing the same discussion format as our Post-Election Conference,” said Dole Institute Director Bill Lacy. “The quality of the conversation will be excellent.”

The expert panelists include: Steve Lauer, professor at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies; Ethan Rafuse, professor of history at the Command and General Staff College; Terry Beckenbaugh, professor of history at the Command and General Staff College; Jennifer Weber, associate professor of history at KU; Debra Sheffer, associate professor of history at Park University; and Kevin Benson, professor at U.S. Army University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies.

Gettysburg remains the most significant battle fought on American soil. More men fought and died during the Battle of Gettysburg than in any other battle before or since 1863. Today Gettysburg sees more than 1 million visitors each year, and efforts are still being made by the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation to preserve the monuments, memorials and grounds of this historic site.

For more information on the Gettysburg event and other summer programming, please visit the Dole Institute website.

Professional Military Education–A Perspective

higbeeLast night C-Span broadcast a program in which Joan Johnson-Freese of the Naval War College discussed her book Educating America’s Military. I don’t agree with everything Johnson-Freese says, but there are a lot of important issues in professional military education (PME) that she touches on that merit serious discussion. A few years ago, a fellow by the name of Daniel J. Hughes–who is perhaps best known for compiling a volume of writings by Helmuth von Moltke (the elder)–raised many more in a highly provocative and controversial essay, entitled “Professors in the Colonels’ World”, that appeared in a book entitled Military Culture and Education. (My CGSC colleague Bradley J. Carter is also a contributor to this book.)

The relationship of those of us who work in PME with the rest of the academic history profession, and how we are perceived by it are, of course, matters about which I have expressed concern recently, though these are not matters that Johnson-Freese addresses. Still, she is someone who has raised a lot of compelling questions (both in her book and here) about the state of PME. Thus, this program well rewards watching even for–indeed, especially for–those who are not in PME and might be interested in the issues it faces.

Johnson Freese

The program can be found here.

Gettysburg, 30 June 2013

Sacred Trust Talks and Book Signings: 150 Years of History

Gettysburg Foundation

The Gettysburg Foundation and Gettysburg National Military Park present 1-hour talks by Civil War literary giants followed by question and answer sessions and book signings. All lectures are free and take place outside under the Museum and Visitor Center tent; book signings follow inside the Visitor Center lobby.

George Gordon Meade and the Gettysburg Campaign
Kent Masterson Brown
Time: 9:30 a.m.

Deju vu All Over Again: Memory, Experience and Generalship at Gettysburg
Brooks Simpson
Time: 10:30 a.m.

Fighting Joe and the Snapping Turtle: Commanding the Army of the Potomac in 1863
Ethan Rafuse
Time: 11:30 a.m.

Lincoln and Freedom in Film and Fact: A Look at History and the Movies, Spielberg and the Civil War
Harold Holzer
Time: 12:30 p.m.

Gettysburg’s Missing Battle: The Case of the Missing Civilians
Margaret Creighton
Time: 1:30 p.m.

We Had Only to Close our Fingers: George Meade at Williamsport, July 14, 1863
Allen Guelzo
Time: 2:30 p.m.

General Lee’s Army and the Declining Margin for Error
Joseph Glatthaar
Time: 3:30 p.m.

The Joshua Chamberlin You Didn’t Know
Tom Desjardin
Time: 4:30 p.m.

“Civil War literary giants”? Wow! (And, of course, everyone knows that you always put your best hitter third in the line-up; ahem, right before lunch.)

In light of George G. Meade’s evidently burgeoning popularity, the focus of my talk is actually going to be on Hooker, with “the Snapping Turtle” figuring marginally.

The entire The Gettysburg 150th Anniversary Commemorative Events Guide can be found here.

The Flying Dutchman

Last month, my former comrade in CGSC staff riding, Christian B. Keller, gave a presentation to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on “Flying Dutchmen and Drunken Irishmen: The Myths and Realities of Ethnic Civil War Soldiers”. He is the author of Chancellorsville and the Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007). The photo below is of Chris, on the right, with another member of the CGSC faculty in March 2010 at a point of some significance in the Chancellorsville Campaign and to enthusiasts of ethnic units in the Union army–though not to the Germans who who have been the focus of Chris’s work.


The presentation (and others) can be found by clicking here:

The Future of Civil War History–Some Questions

On 14-15 March, I will be in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, participating in a three-day conference on “The Future of Civil War History: Looking Beyond the 150th”. (The program can be found here.) My former comrade in Chancellorsville staff riding Christian Keller and I will be leading a few dozen participants around the Gettysburg Battlefield for about two-and-a-half hours in what is billed as “Rethinking the Staff Ride Model” before I high-tail it down to DC to catch a flight to New Orleans so I can participate in the Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History.

A look through the program for the Gettysburg conference, though, has raised a couple of questions in my mind. The session of the program on the evening of 14 March is billed as “Popular Misconceptions about Civil War Military History”. Other sessions are dedicated to such questions/issues as How Can Civil War Sites Offer a Usable Past during a Time of War? Strategies in Educational Programming, Exploring Violence in the Classroom and in a Museum Setting, and Building a Dialogue among Museum Professionals, Academics, and Civil War Re-enactors. These matters and others addressed at the conference are naturally of interest to those of us who work in the professional military education system, teaching today’s makers of military history–who also happen to be perhaps the Civil War’s most committed audiences of scholars and students. Thus, one would think that our perspectives would as a matter of course be considered of value and interest to anyone else wrestling with these issues.

And yet, of all the participants in the program, only Chris (who teaches at the Army War College in Carlisle) and myself, are members of the professional military education system, which invariably raises the following questions:

1. What place do those of us who work in professional military education, our perspectives, and our real and potential contributions as educators and scholars have in the “future of Civil War history”?

2. Why, if this program is any indication of where the thinking of those who presume to be determining the “future of Civil War history” rests, does the answer to the first question appear to be “rather marginal”?

The floor is open. If you do not have answers to these questions now, perhaps someone at the opening session on Thursday afternoon (which I expect to attend) will.

Answering the question . . . or not

If the reviews here are any indication, my talk to the Puget Sound Civil War Round Table a few weeks ago seems to have gone over well with the audience.  (I certainly had a good time with its members.)  Evidently, though, my unwillingness to play the game of ranking the Army of Northeastern Virginia–Army of the Potomac-Army of Virginia commanders did not go gone over well with one member.

I, of course, understand this.  Both because I want to make my audience happy by answering their questions and because such exercises can be a lot of fun. Still, this is the sort of question that I am reticent to answer due to a reluctance to engage in exercises that can lead (especially given the time constraints one faces during the Q & A session that follows a lecture) to oversimplified analysis when the true reason we should study history is to understand historic actors and appreciate the complexity of events. Indeed, if there is one thing I have strove to push back against in my scholarship and teaching it is against oversimplified judgments about individuals and events–in other words, what Mark has labeled the “what fools they were” school of military history.  (And, yes, I am aware of the irony of this coming from a guy who recently published an article on “Civil War Generals We Love to Hate”.  I have pointed out that the purpose of my piece was to explain why the particular generals in question are hated, not say it was justified, though I can see how I might not have been as clear on that as I could and should have been.)

To illustrate the complexity of “grading” generals, take for instance what appears on the surface to be a simple question:  Was Grant a better general than McClellan?  The first response, naturally, is to say . . . absolutely!   Look who Lee surrendered to!   But, of course, there is the immensely inconvenient fact that, to get to the same place McClellan had in 1862, east of Richmond on the James River, fighting an Army of Northern Virginia that did not have James Longstreet or JEB Stuart for most of the campaign (and no Stonewall Jackson at all), which was symptomatic of the fact that two years of hard fighting had significantly dulled the strength and vigor of Lee’s army by May 1864, Grant pretty much wrecked the Army of the Potomac.   And, of course, one searches in vain for a Cold Harbor or Crater on McClellan’s military resume.

So move Grant down in the rankings and McClellan up, right?   Well . . .  wait a minute, there are certainly extenuating circumstances in Grant’s case (which Grant fanboys, of course, label “excuses” when presented on behalf of anyone else)–not the least being that one can easily imagine ways that having Longstreet, Stuart, and/or Jackson on hand in 1864 might have actually worked to Grant’s benefit!  After all, anyone familiar with Longstreet’s performance at Seven Pines and Jackson’s conduct during the Seven Days Battles, can certainly make a case that their presence was to McClellan’s benefit in those instances.   They certainly did not prevent Lee from getting his army blasted to pieces at Malvern Hill.

Then, there is the question of how much weight should be given to the degree to which a general contributed to the cancerous command climate in the Eastern armies (caveating, of course, that the real villains in the story resided in Washington).  How much does malignant conduct in this regard, in the case of Hooker, balance against the very real ability he demonstrated as an operational commander?   And what makes for a good tactical commander in the Civil War besides the good fortune to fight on the defensive? (Of course, good fortune being something any successful general has–not exactly something that goes down well in a society that possesses an active management guru industry. Indeed, Napoleon is supposed to have asked only one thing of a general–that he be lucky.)  Should we view Pope as a victim of the Eastern command climate, or a villain in the story of its poisoning?   Burnside, of course, very clearly was a victim of the poisonous command climate.  In this light, and given the extremely problematic operational problem he faced in December 1862, can we really consider his time in command a fair test of his–or anybody’s–ability?   And was Fredericksburg really a defeat for the Union?  By what measure?  If a Union defeat, why did Lee declare himself “depressed” afterward?

In the end, though, I am willing to play the game on one point.  There really is no question who the best commander of the Union armies in the East, and indeed the entire Civil War, was (although a continuous stream of books and his fans insist on insisting there is) . . . Grant.  (What, you thought I was going to say Ben Butler?)   Lee was a great commander, but what sets Grant apart is the fact that he demonstrated the ability to successfully negotiate the Washington game and conduct joint operations–two things Lee never had to do.

Society for Military History Annual Meeting

The program for the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History, which is being held on 14-16 March 2013, in New Orleans, LA, and sponsored by the Center for the Study of War and Society at The University of Southern Mississippi, with the National World War II Museum and Southeastern Louisiana University, has recently been posted.

Not much this year, unfortunately, to interest the Civil War enthusiast. I saw only one session dedicated to the subject, which is definitely odd considering this is the 150th anniversary of not a few events of note in the military history of the Civil War. No doubt this is in large part due to a program on the 150th at Gettysburg College that is running the same weekend. Still, there will once again be a decent contingent of Civil War historians in attendance, including George Rable, Susannah Ural, and Carol Reardon. As for me, I will be chairing a panel on “Alcohol and Drugs in Three Wars: The Great War, Korea , and Vietnam”.

Further information about the meeting, including the program and logistics, can be found here.

Get thee to the Kansas City Public Library–again (and again and again)!

This event is co-sponsored by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Foundation. The other talks in the Kansas City Public Library’s Sesquicentennial Series this year will be:

Presented by Dr. Gregory Hospodor
Thursday, April 18

Presented by Dr. Terry L. Beckenbaugh
Thursday, July 18

Presented by Dr. Randy Mullis
Wednesday, August 21

Featuring a roundtable of historians
Tuesday, November 19

And, hey, if you live on the West Coast and just can’t make it to Kansas City next week, I will be in Seattle next month speaking to the Puget Sound Civil War Round Table.

Gettysburg Semester

Recently received the message below from Dr. Jason M. Frawley, who did his Ph.D. at Texas Christian under Civil Warrriors alumnus Steven Woodworth. Dr. Frawley is currently serving as the Thomas W. Smith Post-Doctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

One of my responsibilities is helping the program’s director, Dr. Allen C. Guelzo, recruit undergraduate students for The Gettysburg Semester.

Each fall semester, the Civil War Era Studies program brings a group of undergraduate students to Gettysburg College, where they are immersed in the study of the American Civil War. From living in a 19th-century mansion to treading the battlefields where America’s fate was decided, The Gettysburg Semester students enjoy a unique experience.

As part of the program, they generally take four courses: Interpretation of the Civil War, Field Experience in Civil War Era Studies, and two courses of their choosing. Many students elect to forgo a fourth course and substitute it with a public history internship. In the past, we have had students intern at Gettysburg National Military Park, Antietam National Battlefield, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the Adams County Historical Society, and the Shriver House Museum. Such hands-on internships and interdisciplinary study help to reveal a multifaceted history and shed light on the men and women who lived it.

More inforation is available by The Gettysburg Semester website.

If you are, or know of any possibly interested undergraduate students, please bring this to their attention. Application information is located on the website above.

If you should have any questions or concerns, you can contact me at the addresses and phone numbers below my signature. Thank you.

Jason M. Frawley, Ph.D.
Thomas W. Smith Post Doctoral Fellow & Visiting Assistant Professor
Gettysburg College, Civil War Era Studies
Weidensall Hall 403
300 North Washington Street
Gettysburg, PA 17325-1400

Get Thee to the Kansas City Public Library!

The Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862 is the bloodiest day in American military history. Now, exactly 150 years later, a panel of historians discusses the events of that day.

Leading his Confederate troops into Maryland for their first fight on Union soil, Robert E. Lee was met at Antietam Creek by George McClellan’s federals. The battle claimed 23,000 casualties and resulted in a standoff. But after that the Union believed it could win, giving President Abraham Lincoln the confidence to issue his Emancipation Proclamation.

Antietam Lecture Series

If you did not get enough Antietam at Ted Alexander’s Antietam-fest last month at Chambersburg, or were unfortunate not to be able to attend, here is another opportunity to learn about the great campaign whose 150th anniversary will be celebrated next month.

Save Historic Antietam Foundation Inc. is pleased to announce a special lecture series in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the battle of Antietam. The lectures will take place in the Mumma Farm barn at Antietam National Battlefield on Saturday September 8, starting at 9:00.

This event will also feature presentations from the recipients of two special scholarships funded by SHAF. Daniel Vermilya has received the first Joseph L. Harsh Scholar Award and will share his research on the Union Army at Antietam. Susan Rosenwald was awarded the special Sesquicentennial Award and she will share her research about the role and actions of Clara Barton at Sharpsburg.

Other speakers will include Dennis Frye, Chief Historian of Harpers Ferry National Park, Dr. Mark Snell, director of the George Tyler Moore Center for Study of the Civil War, and local columnist and writer Tim Rowland. The event is free and open to the public. No reservations will be required.

Donations to SHAF will be accepted and there will be book signing by the authors and other items for sale.

9:00-9:30 – Coffee and Danish
9:30-9:45 – Opening Remarks, Tom Clemens, President, SHAF
9:45-10:30 – Session I, Dr. Mark Snell, “Causes of the Civil War”
10:30-10:45 – Break
10:45-11:30 – Session II, Dan Vermilya, Harsh Scholar recipient, “Perceptions, Not Realities: The Strength, Experience, and Condition of the Army of the Potomac at Antietam”
11:30-12:00 – Awards
12:00-1:00 – Lunch, Box Lunch available, by pre-order only $10.00 each*
1:00-1:45 – Session III, Susan Rosenwald, Sesquicentennial Award recipient, “Clara Barton at Antietam”
1:45-2:00 – Break
2:00-2:45 – Session IV, Dennis Frye, “September Suspense: Lincoln’s Union in Peril”
2:45-3:00 – Break “Behind the Battles: Strange and Obscure Stories of the Civil War
3:00-3:45 – Session V, Tim Rowland, “Odd Incidents of Maryland Campaign”
3:45 – Closing Remarks
* Preorder on-line at, choices will be available on the website.

For more information call Tom Clemens 301-331-3877 or visit SHAF’s website.

University of Missouri Press

I think I may be among the last to learn of this, but if not, readers of this blog will no doubt be saddened to learn that it was recently announced that the University of Missouri Press will be phased out of existence beginning next month.

University of Missouri Press is closing
By Janese Silvey

Columbia Daily Tribune
Published May 24, 2012

University of Missouri Press is closing after more than five decades of operation, UM System President Tim Wolfe announced this morning.

The press, which publishes about 30 books a year, will begin to be phased out in July, although a more specific timeline has not been determined.

Ten employees will be affected. Clair Willcox, editor in chief, declined to comment but did note that neither he nor any of the staff knew about the change before a midmorning meeting.

In a statement, Wolfe said even though the state kept funding to the university flat this year, administrators “take seriously our role to be good stewards of public funds, to use those funds to achieve our strategic priorities and re-evaluate those activities that are not central to our core mission.”

The rest of the story can be found here.

To anyone with an interest in Civil War history, this is very sad news. The list of distinguished works in the field published by Missouri–primarily from the Shades of Blue and Gray series my doctoral advisor Herman Hattaway has co-edited for the past decade–as well as in Truman, Missouri, and sports history, is too long to be recounted here, but here are some representative titles of interest to readers of this blog:

There is an effort underway to save the press, but it does not look it is making too much impression on the powers that be.

I find it rather odd that Truman State University can maintain a press but the state’s flagship institution cannot; why not consolidate them into a University Press of Missouri the way it is done in Kansas? I would not disagree with the notion that in these times a consolidation of the university press industry might be in order, but it is anything but a badge of honor to be a resident of the only state (that I know of; someone correct me if I am wrong on this?) that lacks a major university press.

I am by no means blind to the forces at work in the publishing world that contributed to this development, but it seems rather clear that if the state of Missouri can find the money to underwrite football teams at a half dozen public universities, that it could save the university press at its flagship campus. But I guess those are the priorities in higher education these days. Not shocking, but sad.

Gallman, Simpson, and Levin

Here is something for those interested in what is going on here and here.

Of course, the fact that I am aware of what is going on is a pretty sad commentary on me.

Mayfield Fort

A few weeks ago, presidential historian Brooks Simpson and I were in the DC area attending the Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History. On the first day of the conference, we entertained and enlightened (Brooks as chair; myself as one of the presenters) a packed house of our fellow historians in a session on “Union Generalship and the Politics of War: Three Case Studies”. The next day, we field checked sections of my forthcoming Manassas guide in the University of Nebraska Press’s This Hallowed Ground series. We started at Cedar Mountain, the first stop on the section of the guide devoted to the Second Manassas Campaign, and worked our way back to Manassas.

Among the places we stopped was Mayfield Fort in Manassas, which is where the guide discusses the rout of George W. Taylor’s command on the morning of 27 August 1862, and its effect on the campaign.

It is a site well worth visiting, not least for the interesting artillery display there.

Anyone can look distinguished on their book jacket picture standing next to a smoothbore Napoleon or Parrott Rifle; only a real scholar can pull it off with a Quaker gun.