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Stonewall and Me

For those who have 55 minutes and 22 seconds to kill, here is my lecture last June at the Kansas City Public Library on Thomas J. Jackson.


Great trip to Washington . . . The State!

Few things cooler in this world than being, like Hooker’s men at Chattanooga, above the clouds, watching the sunset to the west. Check out this view looking west from near the top of the Skyline Chair at Stevens Pass Ski Area shortly after a cloud descended on the lower 900 or so vertical feet of the mountain but left the top 300 or so feet crystal clear in a way that my camera does not do justice to.  

BTW, Stevens Pass is not, as some people believe, named for first Washington territorial governor and Civil War general Isaac Ingalls Stevens, but John F. Stevens, a late nineteenth/early twentieth-century railroad engineer, who also served awhile as chief engineer on the Panama Canal. Here is a view of the pass, where US 2 passes through the mountains, from the Seventh Heaven lift at Stevens Pass Ski Area:

I also had a great time with the good folks who belong to the Puget Sound Civil War Round Table–with a caveat, which I will address in a future post.

My Cannon Pose

Since every Civil War historian apparently has to have one, here is mine, taken at Fort Ward in Alexandria, Virginia.

Don’t think I pull off the deeply-contemplative-as-I-look-off-into-the-distance stare that others seem to prefer. In any case, I far prefer these images.


It was with great delight that I opened a letter from the University of Missouri Press (publisher of the fine–ahem–work of scholarship on the right) notifying me that it will remain in operation.

From the 29 August Kansas City Star:

University of Missouri Press will remain open

The University of Missouri will take over responsibility for an academic press, printing books and digital publications, administrators said Tuesday.

The announcement comes after recent controversy about the future of the University of Missouri Press. University officials said control of the press will be shifted from the four-campus university system to the Columbia campus.

The press will remain at its location in Columbia.

Full story is here.

According to another report (available here) the press is looking for manuscripts to replace those that went elsewhere when it appeared the press was going to close. Looks like a great opportunity to do some shopping–for both authors and readers of Civil War history!

Get Thee to Carlisle, PA! (a.k.a. yet more unbelievably shameless self-promotion)

If you find yourself in the scenic Cumberland Valley on 18 July–or are looking for an excuse to find yourself there:

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.

Going to Kansas City

If you are in the next few months, here are some things to do:


All programs begin at 6:30 p.m.
Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
Kansas City, Missouri
RSVP: 816.701.3407

Presented by Dr. Ethan S. Rafuse
Thursday, June 7, 2012

A West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson left his job as an educator to serve the Confederacy and became one of its most successful military leaders. Jackson’s performances as a commander at places such as Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Harpers Ferry were critical to the ability of Confederate arms to achieve victories during the first two years of the Civil War.

Featuring a roundtable of historians
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 17, 1862, is the bloodiest day in American military history. Hoping to break the will of the Federals, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee pushed north of the Potomac River. But the Union Army under George B. McClellan fought Lee to a draw, resulting in a “victory” that led to President Abraham Lincoln’s issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Presented by Dr. Terry Beckenbaugh
Thursday, November 8, 2012

The American Civil War was the product of the failure of the nation’s political leadership to resolve fundabmental debates between the North and South over the nature of the American republic and the meaning of constitutional liberty. As the conflict wore on, it became clear that divisions existed not only between the North and South, but also within each section. This presentation looks at the leaders of both North and South, the issues and ideologies that drove debate, and the effect politics had on the course and conduct of the war.

And coming up in 2013:

The Challenges of Command and Generalship: Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Battle of Vicksburg

African American Troops in the Civil War

Quantrill, Lawrence, and the Guerilla War in the West

Gettysburg and the Meaning of the War

For more information:, 816.701.3407

Three years ago, the library sponsored a roundtable on Gettysburg, which can be viewed here.

2012 Mid-America Conference on History

Call for Papers

The Thirty-Fourth Annual Mid-America Conference on History will be held September 20-22, 2012 in Springfield, Missouri. Paper and session proposals on all fields and phases of history, including overview sessions and graduate student papers, will be considered. Proposals should include a paragraph about the content of each paper. The deadline for proposals is May 15, 2012. Contact: Worth Robert Miller, Department of History, Missouri State University, Springfield, MO 65897 or For more information visit the History Department website.

In 1977, the department of history at Missouri State University established the Mid-America Conference on History. Professor James N. Giglio was its originator and its first coordinator. The intent of the conference was to accommodate historians who could not afford the expense of national meetings while providing opportunities for social interaction rarely found at national meetings.

Features of the conference

From the beginning, the Mid-America Conference has drawn attention nationally even though the bulk of the attendees are from the Midwest. The conference has drawn historians in all stages of their careers. Doctoral students, university faculty, and independent scholars have all shared their scholarship with colleagues from other institutions and the public at the conference. Indeed, many close friendships have been made at the Mid-America, which has contributed to the large number of returnees.

The Mid-America Conference is also one of the few regional conferences accepting papers and sessions in all areas. Recent conferences, for example, have included presentations on topics as diverse as the justification of polygamy in Anabaptist Munster, the industrial espionage activities of the Pinkerton Detective Agency in the early 20th century, and a panel on academic publishing designed to help graduate students and junior faculty refine their papers into publishable manuscripts.

Over the years, some of the nation’s leading historians have been featured at the Mid-America Conference on History, including Stephen Ambrose, John Blassingame, James MacGregor Burns, Eugene Genovese, Susan Hartmann, William Leuchtenburg, James McPherson, and Ann Firor Scott.

Sponsoring universities

The first institution to join Missouri State University in hosting the Mid-America Conference on History was the University of Kansas in 1980. Soon afterward, Oklahoma State University and the University of Arkansas also joined the consortium. The University of Memphis, University of Arkansas-Little Rock, and Washburn University/Kansas State Historical Society/Kansas Wesleyian University have also hosted the conference. Today, Missouri State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Arkansas, and University of Oklahoma are permanent hosts, and the conference rotates between these institutions annually.

[Even More] Absolutely, Unforgivably Shameless Self-Promotion

Here is something to do if you happen to find yourself in the world’s largest office building next week.

Here is a description of the talk and the series of which it is a part:

Dr. Ethan Rafuse, a widely published author on the Civil War, will give the inaugural presentation of the DoD Historical Speaker Series at 1130 on 11 April in the Pentagon Auditorium. His talk will assess the opening months of the conflict President Lincoln called “A People’s Contest.” The ongoing program is planned and coordinated by the historical offices of OSD, the Joint Staff, and the four military services. A primary theme will be the commemoration of our nation’s past conflicts, to include the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 (1812–1815), the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (1861–1865), the 100th anniversary of World War I (1914–1918), and the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War (1956–1975).

Hemp!! (Bales, Battle of . . . a.k.a. The Siege of Lexington)

If you are in the Kansas City area tomorrow night and have an interest in the September 1861 Battle of Lexington, check this out:

The National Archives at Kansas City will host Dr. Ethan Rafuse on Tuesday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m. for a lecture titled “Missouri at War: The Battle of Lexington.” A 6:00 p.m. reception will precede the event. Attendees are encouraged to view the Divided Loyalties exhibition prior to the lecture.

The Battle of Lexington in September 1861 marked the high tide of Confederate operations in the state that year. After winning a resounding victory at Wilson’s Creek, Sterling Price led his Missouri State Guard north in an effort to redeem the “Little Dixie” region from Union control. At Lexington, in what became known as the “Battle of the Hemp Bales,” Price’s forces won a rousing victory over a Union force of 3,500 men.

Not only was Lexington the greatest Union defeat of the war in Missouri, it also was one in a series of events that would dash the high hopes Northerners had of Major General John C. Fremont when he assumed command in Missouri. With his record of accomplishment as an officer in the antebellum army, stature as the first Republican presidential candidate, and strong personal connection to the Benton family, the widely celebrated “Pathfinder” had initially seemed to be the right man to lead the North to victory in the state. But within two months after the defeat at Lexington, Fremont’s tenure in command in Missouri would come to an ignominious end. This talk will discuss the fight at Lexington and Fremont’s tenure in command, as well as its larger significance for the war in Missouri.

These events are free, open to the public, and take place at the Kansas City branch of the National Archives and Records Administration, located at 400 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO 64108.

This program is part of a lecture series NARA-Kansas City put together that includes three members of the faculty at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. It is designed to support and help promote their current exhibit: Divided Loyalties: Civil War Documents from the Missouri State Archives. A partial description:

Divided Loyalties examines the upheaval and uncertainty that characterized Missouri during the Civil War era. As Missourians divided their loyalties between the Union and the Confederacy, many found themselves facing dire consequences for their decisions. This exhibit focuses on the social conflict that permeated the state for the two decades that followed the Kansas border wars of the mid-1850s. Going beyond the stories of battle and military strategy, original documents demonstrate how even those Missourians who did not serve in the military could be subjected to suspicion, discrimination, and violence.

A full description of the exhibit, which runs through April, can be found here.

I figure emphasizing the hemp angle might help us attract an audience that skews a bit younger demographically than is usually the case.

2012 Society for Military History Program and Awards

The program for the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History, which is being held on 9-13 May 2012, in Arlington, VA, (Crystal City, to be exact) and sponsored by the Army Historical Foundation, has recently been posted. As always, there will be a number of sessions and papers that address topics of interest to students of American Civil War military history. Moreover, there will once again be a pretty decent contingent of Civil War historians in attendance, including Mark, Brian Holden Reid, Susannah Ural, and Carol Reardon. I will be presenting a paper in a session on “Union Generalship and the Politics of War: Three Case Studies” (the other participants are Brooks Simpson, Christopher Stowe, Terry Beckenbaugh, and George Rable).

Unlike the past five years, though, I will not be participating in activities associated with service on the SMH Awards Committee, as I my term of service ended last year. This year, for the Distinguished Book Awards, the committee selected:

John Sloan Brown, Kevlar Legions: The Transformation of the U.S. Army, 1989-2005 (U.S. Army Center of Military History, 2011).

Mark Peattie, Edward Drea and Hans van de Ven, editors, The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 (Stanford University Press, 2011).

Biography/Memoir: Mungo Melvin, Manstein: Hitler’s Greatest General (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2011).

Reference: Steven E. Clay, ed. U.S. Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 (4 vols.) (Combat Studies Institute Press, 2010, 2011).

Ronald H. Spector of George Washington University is this year’s recipient of The Samuel Eliot Morison Prize, which recognizes not any one specific achievement, but a body of contributions in the field of military history, extending over time and reflecting a spectrum of scholarly activity contributing significantly to the field.

Brian M. Linn of Texas A&M University will receive the Edwin H. Simmons Award (formerly the Victor Gondos Award), which recognizes long, distinguished or particularly outstanding service to the SMH.

Further information about the SMH program and logistics for the meeting can be found here.

Call for Papers – Missouri Valley History Conference

The 55th Annual Missouri Valley History Conference will be held March 1-3, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Society for Military History sponsors a full slate of sessions at the MVHC and also will again be sponsoring a “huddle” for Society for Military History participants. Individual proposals and session proposals are welcome. For individuals, send a one page proposal and short c.v. (only c.v. if volunteering to chair/comment). For sessions, send one-page session proposal, one-page proposal for each paper, and short c.v.’s for all participants.

The Society for Military History and the First Division Museum Cantigny sponsors the Kevin J. Carroll award for the best graduate student paper in Military History. This prize is valued at $400 dollars. Please include e-mail address. Deadline for proposals is October 21, 2011. Send proposals, c.v.’s and inquiries for contest rules to: Connie K. Harris, PO Box 121, Grasston, MN 55030 or send by e-mail to In addition, the Society for Military History and the First Division Museum Cantigny sponsors a paper prize for the Best Undergraduate Student paper in any area of History which is valued at $200. For information on this prize please send inquiries to Jeanne Reames, Department of History, University of Nebraska at Omaha, 6001 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE 68182-0213 or

Springfield Symposium

Photos from the 7 May Springfield Civil War Symposium described in Mark’s post below.

The Clark County Heritage Center, site of the symposium.

Springfield Grimsley
Mark speaking on the election of 1860.

The symposium speakers (l to r): Mark Grimsley, Ethan Rafuse, Fergus Bordewich, and Nicole Etcheson.

Society for Military History Program and Awards

SMH-LogoThe program for the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History, which is being held on 9-12 June 2011 in Lisle, IL, and sponsored by the Cantigny First Division Foundation, has recently been posted. There will be a number of sessions and papers that address topics of interest to students of American Civil War military history. Moreover, there will once again be a pretty decent contingent of Civil War historians in attendance, including Mark, Brian Holden Reid, Susannah Ural, Greg Urwin, George Rable, and Jeff Prushankin. I will be presenting a paper in a session on “Teaching the Military Revolution: A Roundtable Discussion” and participating in activities associated with chairing the SMH Awards Committee.

Gerhard Weinberg is this year’s recipient of The Samuel Eliot Morison Prize, which recognizes not any one specific achievement, but a body of contributions in the field of military history, extending over time and reflecting a spectrum of scholarly activity contributing significantly to the field.

Joseph Fitzharris will receive the Edwin H. Simmons Award (formerly the Victor Gondos Award), which recognizes long, distinguished or particularly outstanding service to the SMH.
Wilson Thirty Years
For the SMH Distinguished Book Awards, which are given to outstanding works in the following categories, U.S., non-U.S., biography/memoir, and reference, the committee (Robert Citino, Peter Kindsvatter, Adrian Lewis, George Satterfield, and myself) selected:

Chad L. Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era (University of North Carolina Press)
Peter H. Wilson, The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy (Harvard University Press)
John MacFarlane, Triquet’s Cross: A Study of Military Heroism (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
Clifford J. Rogers, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. (Oxford University Press)

The SMH Moncado Awards for outstanding articles in The Journal of Military History go to:

Yuval Noah Harari, “Armchairs, Coffee, and Authority: Eye-witnesses and Flesh-witnesses Speak about War”
Marc Milner, “Stopping the Panzers: Reassessing the Role of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in Normandy, 7-10 June 1944”
Greg Kennedy, “Anglo-American Strategic Relations and Intelligence Assessments of Japanese Air Power 1934-1941”
John T. Kuehn, “The U.S. Navy General Board and Naval Arms Limitation: 1922-1937”

Further information about the SMH program and logistics for the meeting can be found here.

At the Blogging Crossroads

A few days ago, Brooks Simpson posted a meditation on blogging on his new blog, Crossroads (very much worth following, by the way).  In it, he confessed that last year blogging “had lost some of its initial attraction.  Aside from reacting to certain events, I was not sure whether blogging had any other concrete purpose for me.”  With Crossroads he seems to have recovered it, but the question of “to blog or not to blog” has confronted many of us at one time or another.

Indeed, according to this New York Times article, a growing number have concluded not to blog.  Instead, there’s been a virtual stampede from blogs to other social media:

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

I myself began maintaining a blog seven years ago.  The maiden effort — and still the one to which I devote the most time — has gone by various names but eventually became Blog Them Out of the Stone Age. For me it served two major purposes.

First, it became a way to explore my views about academic military history at a time when I had become frustrated with the field and was thinking of moving away from it altogether.  Several colleagues at Ohio State, having noticed this frustration, had encouraged me to re-cast myself as a nineteenth century Americanist.  For a while the idea was a tempting.  Blogging gave me a way to work through this issue.  It played a major role in convincing me that, intellectually, my core interest was military history, not Civil War history, although most of publications and reputation centered on the Civil War.

Second, and even more importantly, blogging became a way to push through a protracted and really quite frightening period during which my writing productivity plunged.  Like Joe Hooker, I just lost confidence in Mark Grimsley.  Consequently I found it deeply ironic when colleagues, sympathetically or scornfully, voiced the opinion that blogging was a distraction from my real work.  Because in fact it was the only thing that kept me writing at all.  What few publications I managed to produce often originated as blog posts.

Both purposes no longer exist.  I not only have long since recovered my commitment to military history, I have grown increasingly impressed by the rapid intellectual expansion of academic military history, which for a time seemed dominated by people who had circled the wagons around “the new military history” — which at age forty or thereabouts was no longer new at all.  And somewhere along the way — I think during my two years as an Army War College visiting professor — I recovered much of my confidence.  It’s a process that remains underway, but the trajectory is in the right direction.

Blogging, then, is no longer the lifeline it used to be.  And I too have found that another purpose blogging once served — a way to connect with others — is much more readily facilitated by Facebook.  (I’ve experimented with Twitter but so far haven’t found it a medium that appeals to me.)

You can certainly see this in my dearth of posts — quite noticeable on BTOOTSA but screamingly obvious on Civil Warriors and Facing the Demon (my blog about managing bipolar disorder, though with FD another reason predominates).

And yet I hate the idea of abandoning the blog.  Not just this one.  Any of them. I’ve always had a policy never to feel obligated to blog, and although the current hiatus has been longer than most, it still doesn’t feel qualitatively different from previous ones.  This post, and a resumption of regular posts on BTOOTSA, testify to that.  I still have a sense that the practice remains meaningful to me.  It’s just that the nature of that meaning has yet to fully reveal itself.