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Oh, man . . .

Yesterday I learned that one of the cadets I taught the History of the Military Art to when I was on the faculty at West Point is now a major and been assigned to one of the staff groups I teach here at Fort Leavenworth.

My immediate response was:

1. Poor guy. (At USMA, at least, he only had to put up with me for a semester. Here he is stuck with me the entire academic year.)

2. How and when the heck did I get old enough for this to happen?

SMH Fellowship Opportunity

Nominations Sought for the Mark Grimsley SMH Fellowship in Social Media

The SMH Facebook and Twitter Management Team seeks a doctoral student in military history to fill its fifth vacancy. This newly created position comes with a title – “the Mark Grimsley SMH Fellowship in Social Media.” It is named in honor of Dr. Mark Grimsley, an associate professor in the Department of History at the Ohio State University. Besides being a widely published and highly honored scholar, Grimsley has been a leading pioneer in social media and academic blogging. In addition to a title, the Grimsley Fellowship comes with a stipend of $2,000 per year. The Grimsley Fellow will assume primary responsibility for maintaining the SMH presence on Twitter. At the very least, that will involve posting abridged versions of notices that appear on our Facebook Group, Facebook Page, and the SMH web site.

Any student of military history currently enrolled in a doctoral program is eligible for this fellowship. Please submit your application electronically to SMH Vice President Gregory J. W. Urwin at

Applications should consist of a cover letter with a statement of 500 to 750 words describing how social media can benefit the SMH, the applicant’s c.v., and written confirmation from the applicant’s adviser that he or she is a student in good standing in an accredited program.

The deadline for applications is September 15, 2012. The winner will be chosen by the SMH Social Media Committee in consultation with the SMH Facebook and Twitter Management Team.

More news from the Trans-Mississippi

From today’s Kansas City Star:

3-day Kansas event to honor black Civil War soldiers

A group that publicizes Kansas history is planning a three-day celebration in Topeka next month to mark the 150th anniversary of the formation of the first unit of black soldiers to go into battle during the Civil War.

The Kansas Fever Committee plans to have events starting August 3. The site will be Cushinberry Park, near the national historic site dedicated to the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board decision in 1954 declaring segregated schools unconstitutional.

The celebration will honor the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers, which formed in 1862 and went into its first battle in Missouri in October 1862.

The full story is here.

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:

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.

Today we celebrate

. . . the 150th anniversary of the day the guy on the left side of the picture probably should have ducked.

From Johnston, Narrative of Military Operations, pp. 138-40.

About seven o’clock I received a slight wound in the right shoulder from a musket-shot, and, a few moments after, was unhorsed by a heavy fragment of shell which struck my breast. Those around had me borne from the field in an ambulance; not, however, before the President, who was with General Lee, not far in the rear, had heard of the accident and visited me, manifesting great concern, as he continued to do until I was out of danger. The firing ceased, terminated by darkness only, before I had been carried a mile from the field. As next in rank, Major-General G.W. Smith succeeded in command of the army. . . . About noon General Lee was assigned to the command of the Army of Northern Virginia, by the President.

Here’s Johnston’s monument at Bentonville, which I believe captures the moment in the battle when he was getting ready to rock some Skynyrd.

(Hat tip to Charles Bowery.)

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.

Get Thee to the George Tyler Moore Center Seminar!

The folks at Shepherd University’s incomparable George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War have finished putting together the program for their annual seminar. It will run 28 June–1 July 2012, and be based out of Petersburg, Virginia. The theme is “McClellan’s War: The Peninsula Campaign of 1862.”

As always, the highlight of the program is the tours the GTM Center puts together. This year A. Wilson Greene, Executive Director of Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier will be leading a half-day tour that will cover the campaign on the Peninsula prior to the Seven Days, followed by an all-day tour of the Richmond Battlefields of 1862, including Beaver Dam Creek and Malvern Hill, photos of which appear below. If you have an interest in the Civil War and have yet to have the great pleasure of walking a battlefield with Will, here is your chance!

The tours are complemented by a full schedule of lectures, with the scholar-in-residence this year being . . . yours truly! In addition to helping keep Will on the straight and narrow in regards to the virtues of George B. McClellan, I will also be giving a lecture on “Little Mac’s Grand Campaign: The Struggle on the Peninsula and Its Enduring Significance.” Mark Snell, who in addition to being the director of the GTM Center is also the author of an outstanding biography of William B. Franklin, will then complement my presentation on the broader contexts that shaped and were shaped by the campaign by providing an overview of its course and conduct. Following us on the stage will be Susannah J. Ural of the University of Southern Mississippi. If you are an enthusiast of the Texas Brigade, this is one lecture you are not going to want to miss, as it will draw on the extensive research that has gone into her forthcoming Hood’s Texans: A History of the Texas Brigade and Southern Society in the American Civil War to offer fresh information and insights on that unit’s history. Then (as if this were not enough) Joseph Stahl, a former member of the staff at the Institute for Defense Analyses, will also be offering what is sure to be a fascinating examination of the progress of the Peninsula Campaign through the ID discs that were recovered from various camps and battle sites.

Mark and his staff have been doing this seminar for several years and have refined their skills as hosts and logisticians to a fine point. More information on the GTM Center and the seminar are available here.

The [A] Review is In!

Civil War Historian Kicks Off Pentagon Speaker Series
By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2012 – Lessons of U.S. Civil War history were brought to life in the Pentagon yesterday during the first of a series of historical presentations to be delivered to interested audiences in the U.S. military’s headquarters.

Ethan Rafuse, professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College on Fort Leavenworth, Kan., delivered a lecture in the Pentagon auditorium in which he focused on the first months of the Civil War. Rafuse is a recognized expert on the Civil War who has authored several books on various aspects of the conflict. The lecture was open to anyone in the Pentagon who wished to attend, and it was webcast live on the Pentagon Channel.

During his talk, Rafuse explored the ideas that drove strategy and tactics on both sides of the war. He showed how the war was part of a larger “sectional conflict,” and he explained that it was interpreted by leaders on both sides as a “people’s contest.” He also discussed the “tripolarity of the struggle,” in which he showed how combatants and supporters on both sides strove to sway unaligned populace to their cause.

The rest of the story can be found here.

Congrats, Dr. Poland!

My path as a student of the sectional conflict began in the summer of 1987, when I took Dr. Charles Poland’s class on the Civil War and Reconstruction at Northern Virginia Community College. Thus, it was with great delight that I received this absolutely fantastic news recently:

Charles Poland Receives Outstanding Faculty Award
Longtime history professor at Northern Virginia Community College

Dr. Charles Poland of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) has received the 2012 Outstanding Faculty Award, administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and sponsored by Dominion.

Poland is one of 12 faculty members from Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities who received the award, the highest honor bestowed upon faculty in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The award recognizes excellence in teaching, research, knowledge integration, and public service.

“On behalf of the NOVA community, we would like to express our congratulations to Dr. Poland for being selected as a recipient of this prestigious award,” said NOVA President Robert G. Templin Jr. “Dr. Poland has touched the lives of thousands of students since he began at the College in 1967. Students have embraced and praised his hands-on approach in directly engaging history and its artifacts. This is evidenced by the mobile Civil War museum now installed at NOVA that includes hundreds of historical documents and objects.”

Poland teaches courses in U.S. and local history, Western civilization, and the Civil War at NOVA’s Annandale Campus. His teaching career spans more than five decades. Since 1977, he has conducted celebrated field-trip courses to major and minor battlefields of the Civil War. He has traveled more than 120,000 miles to battlefields from Alexandria to the Ohio River and from Gettysburg to Appomattox, giving hundreds of lectures to students varying in age from teenagers to senior citizens.

More information on the award and Dr. Poland’s accomplishments as a teacher and scholar, his most recent work being The Glories of War: Small Battles and Early Heroes of 1861, can be found here.

[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).

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.

Another March Madness

I leave tomorrow for a conference at Duke University entitled “Another March Madness:  The American Civil War at 150.”  The complete program is here.  Speakers include

Margaret Humphreys, Josiah Charles Trent Professor in the History of Medicine and Professor of Medicine, Duke University, Department of History
Wayne Lee, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina
Mark Grimsley, Associate Professor of History, Ohio State Department of History
Joseph T. Glatthaar, Stephenson Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Laura Edwards, Professor Department of History, Duke University
Susanna Michele Lee, Assistant Professor of History, North Carolina State University
Shauna Devine, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Duke University

The event is free and open to the public.

What’s particularly going to be fun is that tomorrow evening I’ll be holding court with a number of Wayne Lee’s students.  At a local bar.  Only two days before Saint Patrick’s Day (which hopefully will be off to an early start).

“I Can Do it All”

On Thursday, 8 December 2011, I will be in Littleton, Colorado, speaking to the Rocky Mountain Civil War Round Table on “McClellan as General-in-Chief.”

This Thursday, of course, will be the 150th plus one month anniversary of the day in 1861 when then thirty-four year old Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan (his 185th birthday is this Saturday!) ascended to the post of Commanding General of the United States Army upon the retirement of Bvt. Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott.

From U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (70 vols. in 128 parts; Washington, 1880-1901), ser. 3, vol. 1: 613-14:

Washington, November 1, 1861.

In accordance with General Orders, Numbers 94, from the War Department, I hereby assume command of the Armies of the United States. In the midst of the difficulties which encompass and divide the nation, hesitation and self-distrust may well accompany the assumption of so vast a responsibility; but confiding as I do in the loyalty, discipline, and courage of our troops, and believing as I do that Providence will favor ours as the just cause, I cannot doubt that success will crown our efforts and sacrifices.

The Army will unite with me in the feeling of regret that the weight of many years and the effect of increasing infirmities, contracted and intensified in his country’s service, should just now remove from our head the great soldier of our nation–the hero who in his youth raised high the reputation of his country on the fields of Canada, which he hallowed with his blood; who in more mature years proved to the world that American skill and valor could repeat if not eclipse the exploits of Cortez in the land of the Montezumas; whose whole life has been devoted to the service of his country; whose whole efforts have been directed to uphold our honor at the smallest sacrifice of life-a warrior who scorned the selfish glories of the battle-field when his great qualities as a statesman could be employed more profitably for his country; a citizen who in his declining years has given to the world the most shining instance of loyalty, in disregarding all ties of birth and clinging still to the cause of truth and honor. Such has been the career, such the character, of Winfield Scott, whom it has long been the delight of the nation to honor both as a man and a soldier. While we regret his loss, there is one thing we cannot regret-the bright example he has left for our emulation.

Let us all hope and pray that his declining years may be passed in peace and happiness, and that they may be cheered by the success of the country and the cause he has fought for and loved so well. Beyond all that, let us do nothing that can cause him to blush for us; let no defeat of the Army he has so long commanded embitter his last years, but let our victories illuminate the close of a life so grand.

Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.

From John Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary (3 vols.; Washington, 1908), vol. 1: 50-51:

…. The night of the 1st November we went over to McC[lellan]’s. The General was there and read us his General Order in regard to S[cott]’s resignation and his own assumption of command. The President thanked him for it and said it greatly relieved him. He added:—”I should be perfectly satisfied if I thought that this vast increase of responsibility would not embarrass you.” “It is a great relief, Sir! I feel as if several tons were taken from my shoulders, today. I am now in contact with you and the Secretary. I am not embarrassed by intervention.” “Well,” says the President, “draw on me for all the sense I have, and all the information. In addition to your present command, the supreme command of the army will entail a vast labor upon you.” “I can do it all,” McC[lellan] said quietly.

McClellan was the fourth man and first graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to hold the post of Commanding General. His predecessors in the office, which was created in 1821, were Jacob Brown, Alexander Macomb, and Scott. McClellan was by a considerable margin the youngest man ever to hold the office, which was eliminated in the General Staff Act of 1903. (The second youngest was Grant, who was about 42 when he became general-in-chief in 1864.)

Information on the Rocky Mountain Civil War Round Table, including logistics for next week’s meeting, can be found at this site.