Congratulations John Latschar

A belated congratulations to former Gettysburg superintendent, John Latschar, who earlier this month was honored by The National Parks Conservation Association with the Stephen T. Mather Award for his work on park preservation.

The award recognizes National Park Service employees who have demonstrated initiative and resourcefulness in promoting environmental protection and who have taken direct action where others may have hesitated in order to promote the principles and practices of good stewardship of the national parks,” according to the press release.

Latshar has been instrumental in restoring wartime viewsheds, dismantling the ugly observation tower, and helping create what I believe is the most important Civil War exhibit to be found anywhere.  Public historians like Latschar are easily worth their weight in gold.  It is reassuring to know that he will be involved in affairs at Gettysburg for the foreseeable future as the president of the Gettysburg Foundation.

Intense Debate Update

Sorry guys, but once again I’ve had to scrap my plans on using Intense Debate to manage comments. I encountered a number of problems, including a much slower load time – perhaps some of you noticed this. The forum boards are filled with other users who are experiencing similar problems. Perhaps ID will fix these bugs, but for now I am going to play it safe.  A few comments were lost, but I managed to post the rest manually, which is why you will see my gravatar next to the comment.  Everything is back to normal.

A Message From the Commander-in-Chief

1Well, not that commander-in-chief. One of my readers was kind enough to forward an email sent to members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans from their commander-in-chief, Chuck McMichael, who expresses concern over the misuse and abuse of the Confederate flag by its own members. What follows is McMichael’s directive:

I have never been a fan of “novelty or specialty” flags that incorporate the use of our Battle Flag; I would think you all know the ones I refer to. It might be festooned with the likeness of a musical artist, some slogan or an image of popular culture, or any icon not part of the original flags carried by our Confederate forebears. These distasteful designs demean the accuracy and dignity of the flag. Can you think of anything that one could add to a Confederate Battle Flag that improves it? I cannot. Recently, a picture was circulated through email servers of purported SCV members with a flag that features the CBF on one part and the image of the President-elect on the other. The display of any modern politician or other individuals, integrated into the design of the Confederate Battle Flag, regardless of political affiliation, is undeserved and highly inappropriate

Directive from the Commander in Chief:

All Compatriots, Camps and Division should always display Confederate Flags in a respectful manner. Novelty flags that make use of our Battle Flag should have no place at an SCV function of any type. We should not sell these, display them or allowed them to be displayed at any SCV function. This does not include a Camp or Division Flag that incorporates an original CSA design, or reproduction flags that carry battle honours.


I find it interesting that McMichael’s directive only addresses flags, but says nothing about the wide range of products sold, which include the image of the Confederate flag. Perhaps it is worth browsing the SCV’s store once it goes back online. My guess is that there is probably too much money to be made from the sale of such products to warrant such an outcry. The fact that the top dog in the SCV had to scold its own members for improperly displaying the flag in such a blatant manner is quite telling. First, I have to wonder what percentage of SCV members tend to think of the flag primarily as a political symbol rather than as the flag that their forebears carried into battle. From another perspective, the use of the flag in contemporary politics falls easily within the history of the last 60 years. This is a history which saw Confederate flags raised above statehouses in response to the federal government’s support of civil rights in the 1950s and its more general use as a symbol of “Massive Resistance.” Perhaps McMichaels is the one who needs to read his history.

If I knew where he lived I would send along a copy of John Coski’s The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem (Harvard University Press, 2005).

What Do You Get When You Combine a Singer from Michigan, a German Audience, and a Song About Alabama?

[Hat Tip to Charles Lovejoy]

You get a celebration of Southern heritage. I assume most people will watch this video with a sense of pride as the South’s favorite son brings the Confederate flag and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” to stages around the world. What they probably don’t know, however, is that Kid Rock was born in Romeo, Michigan in 1971. Even more interesting is the fact that a native of Michigan is singing a song composed by an Alabama-based band, which was written in response to Canadian, Neil Young, and his song, “Southern Man” – a song critical of race relations in the South.

Since I think Kid Rock pretty much sucks, I thought I might provide a link to the real deal.

Merry Christmas, Mr. President

On this day in 1864 William T. Sherman secured the city of Savannah, Georgia after marching his army 300 miles across the state. Upon arrival he wired the president the following: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 100 and 50 guns and plenty of ammunition, also about 25,000 bales of cotton.” Lincoln responded: “Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift – the capture of Savannah. When you were leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that ‘nothing risked, nothing gained’ I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honour is all yours; for I believe none of us went farther than to acquiesce. And taking the work of Gen. Thomas into the count, as it should be taken, it is indeed a great success. Not only does it afford the obvious and immediate military advantage; but, in showing to the world that your army could be divided, putting the stronger part to an important new service, and yet leaving enough to vanquish the old opposing force of the whole – Hood’s army – it brings those who sat in darkness, to see a great light. But what next? I suppose it will be safer if I leave Gen. Grant and yourself to decide. Please make my grateful acknowledgements to your whole army – officers and men.”

In light of the Christmas season, apparently some of Sherman’s men placed tree-branch antlers on their horses and played Santa for starving families. Why can’t Kunstler and Strain paint that scene? (LOL)

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program:



“The Christmas Carol” and “Christmas Blessing” by John Paul Strain

Best of 2008

republicofsufferingIt’s time for the fourth annual installment of the best in Civil War books and blogs from the past year. This is an opportunity to acknowledge those books that have been both a pleasure to read and which have left me with a great deal to ponder. Once again this list reflects just a fraction of what I’ve read during 2008. Congratulations to the winners.

Best Civil War Blog: Robert Moore’s Cenantua’s Blog. Robert’s site is by far the most intellectually stimulating blog in the Civil War blogosphere. He reminds us that Southern heritage and memory is much bigger and more interesting than the narrow contours of the Lost Cause.

Favorite History Book of 2008: Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracture of America (Scribners).

Best Overall Civil War History: Drew G. Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Knopf).

Best Campaign Study: Stephen V. Ash, Firebrand of Liberty: The Story of Two Black Regiments That Changed the Course of the Civil War (Norton).

Best Biography: Rod Andrew, Jr., Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior to Southern Redeemer (University of North Carolina Press).

Best Confederate Study: Joseph T Glatthaar, General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse (The Free Press).

Best Union Study: Russell McClintock, Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession (University of North Carolina Press).

Best Slavery Study: Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge University Press).

Best Memory Study: Caroline E. Janney, Burying the Dead But Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations & the Lost Cause (University of North Carolina Press).

Best Edited Collection: Anthony J. Stanonis, Dixie Emporium: Tourism, Foodways, and Consumer Culture in the American South (University of Georgia Press).

Best Social History: Michael D. Pierson, Mutiny at Fort Jackson: The Untold Story of the Fall of New Orleans (University of North Carolina Press).

Best Myth Buster: Earl J. Hess, The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth (University of Kansas Press).

Some good things to look forward to in 2009: Richard Slotkin, No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864; Earl J. Hess, In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat; Daniel Sutherland, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerillas in the American Civil War.