Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bob Dylan Live

Last night I went to see Bob Dylan live in northern Virginia at George
Mason University.  This was my first time seeing Bob live and I was not
disappointed.  He played for 90 minutes straight and his voice actually
got better as the evening progressed.  I can’t say that it was the most
interesting musical performance that I’ve ever seen, but I can say that
I don’t remember ever feeling satisfied simply to be in the same room
with a performer.  You have to somehow remember that Dylan is 65 and for 90 minutes, along with maintaining a strong vocal, he is playing keyboard, harmonica, and conducting his band.  I’ve only been a fan for about 2 years thanks to my friend and colleague John Amos who also went to the show. 

What I admire most about Dylan is that he continues to make quality music.  Nobody really wants to hear groups like the Rolling Stones, Chicago or the Eagles play new music.  What the fans want are the classics.  Dylan played a number of songs from the new CD and the fan reaction was enthusiastic.  I am convinced that he could have played every song from the new CD and that would have been just fine.  The most interesting moment came at the end following the encore.  The lights dimmed and then all you see is white light with Dylan standing in front of his band just staring out at the audience.  It looked like something out of a Western movie.  If you have a chance to see him do so.  You won’t be disappointed.  Here is the set list from last night:

1. Cat’s In The Well
2. Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
3. Rollin’ And Tumblin’
4. Boots Of Spanish Leather
5. Cold Irons Bound
6. When The Deal Goes Down 
7. High Water (For Charley Patton)
8. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)
9. Masters Of War 
10. Spirit On The Water 
11. Tangled Up In Blue
12. Nettie Moore
13. Highway 61 Revisited 
   
  (encore)
14. Love Sick
15. Thunder On The Mountain
16. Like A Rolling Stone
17. All Along The Watchtower
 

What Constitutes A “Gaping Hole” In The Literature?

The other day Eric Wittenberg commented on what he sees as a "gaping hole" in the literature on the Gettysburg Campaign.  The specific hole in question has to do with the amount and quality of the coverage of the Second Battle of Winchester which took place between June 12 -15, 1863.  According to Eric, the two studies currently available to readers differ in overall quality; one of the two is a White Mane book, which is no doubt of little use.  The one book that is given some credit is part of the Battles and Leader series published by Howard Press:

The books in the Battles and Leaders Series are especially hit and miss. Some of
them are quite good. Some are simply atrocious. The book on Second Winchester is
solid, but its battle narrative is only about 85 pages long, meaning that
there’s not a great deal of depth there. 

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know much about this battle beyond what I’ve read in a number of books covering the Gettysburg Campaign.  I’ve always thought that I understood enough to make sense of how the battle fits into the campaign and specifically in connection to the movements of the two armies north towards Pennsylvania.  What I don’t understand is how a more detailed study would constitute the filling of a gaping hole.  What is it about the 85 pages that is insufficient?  Is it simply a matter of knowing much more detail about the movement of soldiers or will it allow us to see something new about the campaign?  I am skeptical.  In other words, why can’t we just say that here is an engagement that can be fleshed out in more detail on the tactical level.  However, we wouldn’t be missing much if no one ever got around to writing it. 

Seems to me that a study which fills a "gaping hole" must help us understand something in a new way.  It’s not that we simply end up knowing more about the subject but that we know it better.  For example, Jennifer Weber’s Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln’s Opponents in the North provides us with the first detailed study of the most conservative wing of the Democratic Party.  It’s important because it reminds us that as Union armies struggled through the summer of 1864 the North continued to struggle with deep political divisions.  Now this book fills a gaping hole.

In the comments section to Eric’s post Art Bergeron suggested that the individual battles that constituted the Petersburg Campaign can be classified as gaping holes.  Now, I actually agree with this assessment.  In agreeing, however, I want to be clear as to why.  As many of you know I’ve been working on a book-length study of the Crater.  The first chapter of the book is an overview of the battle, but it is not a detailed tactical study.  And I should say that there is only one reliable book-length military study which was authored by William Marvel and Michael Cavanaugh back in 1989.  It is part of the Howard Series and is 120 pages in length (minus the tables and references).  I guess there is room for a more detailed study, but it seems to me that this wouldn’t add much to our understanding of the battle.  In my overview I concentrate on how Confederates evaluated the battle and connect their accounts to the broader issues of morale, nationalism, and race. 

My point is that the Petersburg Campaign constitutes a gaping hole because there are important questions that need to be answered beyond the tactical and strategic facts on the ground.  More detailed and proper analysis of the military will help us answer important questions.  Given that our tendency is to see the war in terms of an inevitable Confederate decline following Gettysburg we need to know much more about how soldiers viewed the progress of the war on both sides.  How confident were Union soldiers compared with Confederates as they made the best of life in the trenches?  How poorly off were Confederates in terms of supplies?  What did morale look like and were there continued signs of Confederate nationalism?  And of course we need to know much more about the interconnectedness of the battlefield and the home front and politics.  I’ve read through most of Jason Phillips’s article "The Grape Vine Telegraph: Rumors and Confederate Persistence" which appears in the most recent issue of the Journal of Southern History.  Phillips does an excellent job of analyzing how Confederates perceived the war and how they generated rumors to assuage their concerns about the progress of the war throughout the final year.  Phillips provides a great deal of coverage of the war in Virginia.  We clearly know more about this period from the Confederate perspective, but we still need to look more carefully at the Union war machine in Virginia.  I am thinking of something equivalent to J. Tracy Power’s brilliant study of Lee’s army

I am not trying to nitpick with Eric’s preferred choice of study.  What I am suggesting is that lack of coverage or too few pages does not constitute a sufficient condition for historical study or a gaping hole in the literature.

 

Richmond Daily Dispatch Now Online

The Richmond Daily Dispatch is now accessible on-line.  The work has been overseen by University of Richmond History Professor Robert Kenzer and Librarian James Gwin.  The project was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  Two years ago I took part in a day-long meeting with roughly 50 other historians and teachers to discuss the direction of the project; it is nice to see it come to fruition.  Plans also call for the digitizing of the Richmond census which will make this an even more useful research tool.  From the Richmond-Time Dispatch article:

The Daily Dispatch, one of four predecessors of The Times-Dispatch, was
chosen because its circulation was equal to those of all other Richmond papers
combined, it was independent of any political party and it was able to continue
publishing throughout the war.  It also contained news from the entire East Coast, reprinting articles from
distant newspapers and even the letters of captured Union soldiers.

Plans also include digitizing the Richmond census and linking to other databases that contain relevant material.  I’ve already used this in class and the search engine works well so check it out.   

 

One-Year Blogiversary

One year ago this week (November 8, 2005 to be exact)  I started Civil War Memory with the following post:

Thanks for stopping by. I have been quite impressed with the Civil War
blogs hosted by Dimitri Rotov and Eric Wittenberg. I hope this site
will compliment and/or add to the growing e-dialogue on the Civil War.
While I am not a professional historian (in other words, I do not hold
a Ph.D), I have published Civil War related articles in both academic
and popular publications. I am interested primarily in Civil War memory
or the evolution of our perceptions surrounding fundamental themes of
the war, including slavery and emancipation. Such issues continue to
challenge our assumptions of what the war was about; this can be seen
in the debates over the National Park Service’s decision to revise its
battlefield interpretations and the public display of the Confederate
battle flag.

I am also a high school history teacher who teaches a class on the
Civil War. My site will also be used to raise issues related to the
teaching of the Civil War in the classroom.

Civil War Memory has remained fairly consistent in terms of this initial proposal.  The site now includes 534 posts, 449 comments (since transitioning to Typepad back in April) and somewhere around 37,000 hits.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience in the blogosphere over the past year.  The first post was only a sketch of what I hoped to accomplish; in large part the goal of the site has evolved in unexpected ways since last November.  A number of writing and speaking opportunities have come my way and scores of people are now familiar with my research on memory and the Crater as well as my activities in the classroom.  The most pleasant surprise has been the broad range of people that this site continues to attract.  There seems to be something for the professionally trained historian as well as for the Civil War enthusiast.  It has been a real joy to be able to communicate with some of the most talented Civil War historians currently working in the field.

I still have my concerns.  Sometimes I worry that I post too often and this often leads to entries that are poorly written.  I am reminded of Caleb McDaniel’s site which includes some of the best history blogging out there.  He didn’t post often, but when he did it demanded a critical eye and a good deal of thought.  This is something that I will no doubt continue to struggle with, but I have to admit to enjoying the pace of a regularly updated blog.  I hope to include more guest posts in the coming year.  I’ve thought about inviting a few people to join me here on a regular basis, but I like having control and I don’t want to risk losing the narrow focus of the blog which many readers no doubt value.

In the end, I truly hope that this blog has given you something to think about.  Thanks for stopping by.