As many of you are now learning John Latschar resigned as superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park. You can read the story here. What follows is my first video blog in which I offer some final thoughts about yesterday’s post. It is meant to clarify some of my remarks, specifically in response to Eric Wittenberg’s initial comment. Things did get a bit heated yesterday and I want to extend an apology to Eric for my choice of words in response to his comment. I hope the video helps to explain the emotion behind my response. Eric and I may not agree on much of anything, but the one thing we do agree on is that, if it comes to it, our Phillies are going to kick the crap out of Brooks Simpson’s Yankees.
The good people at National Geographic asked me to take a look at their new book, Atlas of the Civil War: A Comprehensive Guide to the Tactics and Terrain of Battle, which I was happy to do. As a kid I could spend hours studying military maps and imagining the ebb and flow of battle or fanciful what-if scenarios. Today there are scores of Civil War atlases available and just about all of them blend into one another with the same photographs along with the standard campaign and battle breakdown. The narratives tend to move along the surface and rarely tread new interpretive ground. It’s pretty much a dead end. The atlas includes computer generated maps along with a nice collection of historic maps from the Official Rebellion and even a number of hand drawn maps by Robert Fox Sneden and assorted birds-eye views. Locations on maps are numbered and referenced in the text which makes it easy to locate places for their significance. This is indeed a very nice collection of maps and will make for an ideal gift for someone who is being introduced to the Civil War for the first time. However, in many ways this particular atlas fits the standard mold. There are no surprises here. This is not an atlas that attempts to use maps to show something new about the war. [click to continue…]
Gary W. Gallagher, the John L. Nau Professor in History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia, gave this year’s Remembering Robert E. Lee lecture on Oct. 12, 2009, in Lee Chapel. The title of the talk is “Robert E. Lee Confronts Defeat: Duty in the Wake of Appomattox.”
According to Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “John Latschar’s contributions to historic preservation cannot be overstated… His work has preserved and rehabilitated Gettysburg’s sacred ground and transformed the experience of visiting the battlefield for millions of annual visitors.” As far as I am concerned no one has worked harder to preserve the Gettysburg battlefield than John Latschar. One need only look at the new view sheds and tour the state-of-the-art visitors center, which includes one of the most sophisticated and entertaining Civil War exhibits in the country to appreciate his achievements.
The news concerning Latschar’s inappropriate use of government computers will no doubt distract from his accomplishments and give fuel to his detractors. I am not a federal employee so I can’t comment on how they’ve chosen to handle this particular violation. Can someone tell me what counts as a “sexually explicit” photograph for the federal government? Does it include a Sports Illustrated swim suit issue? I do agree that Latschar should be focusing on other issues during his working hours, but I honestly could care less what he looks at. This little piece of supposedly salacious news tells me next to nothing about Latschar’s character.