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Military History Carnival – May 2010

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Welcome to the May 2010 edition of the Military History Carnival featuring some of the best recent military history from around the web. This is the first time that Wig-Wags has hosted and it’s been a pleasure to do. I’ve picked up some great information and hope you will as well.

Today’s edition covers a broad range of topics including: camouflaged RAF biplanes (brink of WWII), the state of strategy,  examination of the war college model, the role of the Navy in the recapture of Attu (Aleutian Islands) in 1943 (WWII), the Battle of Waxhaws (American Revolution), the Chicamauga Campaign (American Civil War), The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 (American Civil War), the digitization of Grant’s Papers (American Civil War),  the engagement at Wilson’s Wharf at Fort Pocahontas (American Civil War), vexillology and the “real Confederate flag” (American Civil War), the lure of the Civil War, and horse-on-horse impact of cavalry charges.

furys 1939

Military History – Air Power

Site: Airminded
Post: Aeroretronautics
Author: Brett Holman
Date: 22 MAY 2010
Highlights: Brett provides a fascinating post about a photograph taken in 1939 showing Hawker Fury RAF biplanes (43 Squadron) and faux anachronisms.

Military History – Naval

Site: Naval History Blog
Post: May 30, 1943 Attu Recaptured
Author: HistoryGuy
Date: 30 MAY 2010
Highlights: Excerpts from the narrative of the campaign preserved by the crew of the Zeilin describing the hardships endured during the amphibious operations required to land American troops on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

American Revolution

Site: Kennedy’s Military History Blog
Post: American Revolution: Battle of Waxhaws
Author: Kennedy Hickman
Date: 29 MAY 2010
Highlights: Good summary of the battle along with the role played by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton.

American Civil War

Site: Bull Runnings
Post: “The” Confederate Flag
Author: Harry Smeltzer / Tom Clemens
Date: 13 MAY 2010
Highlights: Tom Clemens provides a history of the Confederate Flag. Learn why the “wind” played such an important role in the development of several versions of the flag of the Confederate government and the difference between those flags and the Confederate “military” flag. New word for me… Vexillology, the scholarly study of flags. Speaking of which, Tom has started a new blog highlighting his recently published book. See next site for details.

Site: ELEKTRATIG.
Post: Chicamauga, Stereos and Boris Godunov
Author: ELEKTRATIG
Date: 30 MAY 2010
Highlights: Reflections on Steven E. Woodworth’s (ed.)  The Chickamauga Campaign.

Site: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862
Post: Book Released
Author: Tom Clemens
Date: 13 MAY 2010
Highlights: Tom announces availability of his new book, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Volume 1: South Mountain. Clemens has edited the writing of Ezra A. Carman. This from his site:

“One of the campaign’s par­tic­i­pants was Ezra A. Car­man, the colonel of the 13th New Jer­sey Infantry. After the hor­rific fight­ing of Sep­tem­ber 17, 1862, he recorded in his diary that he was prepar­ing “a good map of the Anti­etam bat­tle and a full account of the action.” The project became the most sig­nif­i­cant work of his life.”

Site: Battlefield Wandering
Post: Grant’s Papers
Author: Nick Kurtz
Date: 20 MAY 2010
Highlights: Nick reports that the Papers of Ulysses S. Grant are now online courtesy of Mississippi State University. They can be viewed here.  Nick demonstrates why having this important resource available to researchers is immediately beneficial. All 31 volumes of Ulysses S. Grant’s collected papers were digitized. Beware the digital library site has been offline for the past several days or is experiencing so much traffic that it appears so.

Site: The American Legion’s Burn Pit
Post: Battle of New Market: “Died on the Field of Honor, Sir”
Author: Siggurdsson
Date: 14 MAY 2010
Highlights:

  • Participation of the Corps of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) of Lexington, Virginia including a listing of cadets killed in action during the battle
  • Background of the battle
  • Quick bios of the “Antagonists,” commanders on both sides
  • Orders of Battle

Site: The Edge of the American West
Post: When and (to an extent) why did the parties switch places?
Author: Eric
Date:20 May 2010
Highlights:

  • Reviews the opposing political views of the Republican and Democratic parties that contributed to the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1860
  • Particular focus on Republican support of the expansion of federal powers and the passing of the law set known as “the Second American System” which kicked in federal funding for expansion projects including the transcontinental railroad and homesteading west.

Site: of Battlefields and Bibliophiles
Post: Making the Civil War Strange Again
Author: David Woodbury
Date:12 MAY 2010
Highlights: David muses on the fact that even those of us obsessed with the American Civil War will always be drawn to the discovery of something new.

“Some passing thought, or dawning realization, or new-found perspective gives you pause and fills you with awe, causing you to fleetingly grasp—in a moment of clarity—that it’s not just a familiar narrative to dissect and critique or challenge or substantiate, but something that actually happened, a strange and amazing story about who we are and where we came from.”

Site: The Sable Arm
Post: Fort Pocahontas
Author: Jimmy Price
Date: 17 MAY 2010
Highlights: Discussion of the re-enactment of the engagement at Wilson’s Wharf at Fort Pocahontas in Charles City County.

Military History – Cavalry

Site: Investigations of a Dog
Post: The Crash of Horseflesh
Author:Gavin Robinson
Date:10 MAY 2010
Highlights: Gavin provides rather gruesome evidence of the effects of horse-on-horse impact like the kind that would have occurred in cavalry charges.

Military Strategy

Site: Blog Them Out of the Stone Age
Post: Mark Grimsley on Senior Service College Reform
Author: Mark Grimsley
Date: 28 MAY 2010
Highlights:

  • Professor Grimsley provides a response to the question “Is the senior Service College Approach in Need of Radical Reform in Order to Serve Effectively in the Post-9/11 Environment?” as a part of the workshop on teaching strategy in a professional military education environment conducted at the U.S. Army War College on April 9. His comments are made richer by his personal observations of serving as visiting professor at the U.S. Army War College. Both You Tube video and text versions are provided.

Site: Kings of War
Post: The State of Strategy
Author: Thomas Rid
Date: 23 MAY 2010
Highlights:

  • Rid tees up this question…”Who produced the greatest strategist of all time, dead and alive? America or Europe?
  • Conclusions:
    • America is surprisingly thin in strategic heavyweights whereas  Europe has done quite well.
    • There is a “dearth of strategic writing in recent years.” Mere description of events in historic or journalistic terms doesn’t count nor does number crunching.
  • The 105 comments the post generated are worth a read.

Featured Military History Museums

Just for fun, I’ve listed several Military History Museum sites you may not have been aware of.
Kodiak Alaska Military History: The official web site of the Kodiak Military History Museum. The focus is on World War II.

Class Starting on Monday – Civil War Strategy and Tactics

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Jomini

After a delay of several weeks due to work obligations (reorganization), I’m starting up on Monday the course CIvil War Strategy and Tactics with great enthusiasm. Having seen the syllabus, I know that we begin with a discussion/debate of Jomini’s (pictured right) influence on the strategies employed by both sides during the Civil War. We read, (or in my case read again, as  this was assigned in the course Great Military Philosophers), John Shy’s masterful essay on Jomini that appears in Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Do a search on my blog on the word Jomini (or click here as I’ve done it for you) and you may be as amazed as I was on the number of posts I’ve made about him.

makers

See previous posts about the class below outlining the texts we’ll be using.

Next Course: Civil War Strategy and Tactics

New Class Starts with Jomini

Next Term’s Books are In! Mostly…

Acquisition: An Army At Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942 – 1943 Plus…

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Just a note that I’ve picked up a copy of An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson. This book, the first in his Liberation Trilogy, won the Pulitzer Prize. I was quite impressed by Mr. Atkinson’s book, Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War, which I reviewed here.

anarmyatdawn

Paperback: 768 pages
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Revised edition (May 15, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805087249
ISBN-13: 978-0805087246

I also purchased the second book in the trilogy, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, which many reviewers have indicated surpasses the first.

the-day-of-battle

Paperback: 848 pages
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080508861X
ISBN-13: 978-0805088618

Even better, I’ve discovered that most of Mr. Atkinson’s books are available in audio format free from my local public library and so they will be on my MP3. Sweet!

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Next Class: Antebellum America: Prelude to Civil War

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After a short break, I’ll be diving into my next class which starts November 3rd. As is my custom, I’ve added this to “The Courses” page.

“Antebellum America: Prelude to Civil War” (starts November 3rd)

This course is an analysis of the conditions existing in the United States in the first half of the 19th century. The course focuses on the political, cultural/social, economic, security, leadership, and other issues that played roles in starting and shaping the Civil War. We will analyze the issues in the context of war and peace to determine whether or not such conflicts as civil wars can be avoided prior to their inception.

Required Texts:

TBD once the syllabus is available. For now, the list is as follows which is very light in comparison with my last class:

Half Slave and Half Free : The Roots of Civil War by Bruce Levine

Publisher: Hill and Wang

Road to Disunion : Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854, Volume 1 by William W. Freehling

Since I read 14 books in Studies in U.S. Military History (a challenge but I loved IT!), this may be a light reading term.
Because William Freehling’s book, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, received such high acclaim, I’ve purchased it as well.
Finally, it would not surprise me at all if Daniel Walker Howe’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, What Hath God Wrought, was added to the reading list as well.
All of these texts can be found on the “Antebellum America” shelf of my virtual library here.

The Philippine War, 1899-1902

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Brian McAllister Linn. The Philippine War, 1899-1902. Reprint. University Press of Kansas, 2000.

Brian Linn recounts the military operations that took place between the opening months of 1899 and July 1902 in what some of his reviewers have labeled as the “definite study” of the Philippine War. Ultimately, his goal is to set the record straight on the myths surrounding the conflict and recount its history as the complex and challenging event it was. Written from the American perspective, he concludes that the war was nothing less than the most successful counterinsurgency campaign in U.S. history.

He sets out to write a narrative history of the conflict but admits to encountering challenges because the war varied so greatly in the different locations in which it took place. The geographical expanse of the Philippines thus becomes a part of the story of the war itself. These challenges lead Linn to organize the book around two broad themes. The first section describes conventional military operations on the island of Luzon that took place in 1899. The second focuses on operations in other parts of the archipelago which can be categorized as guerrilla warfare and pacification activities.

While the book’s focus is on United States military activities, Linn provides excellent historical background on the Philippine leadership cadre as well. He makes specific mention of the need for a study that more comprehensively represents the Filipino perspective of the conflict. Linn is blatantly honest about the strengths and the foibles of both the United States military and the Philippine Army of Liberation. He captures the intra-service rivalries and associated squabbles and maneuvering for notice and promotion among officers on both sides. He also describes the performance of America’s volunteer citizen-soldiers, who distinguished themselves by behaving with aggressiveness, courage, and élan, and yet were at times difficult to restrain.

Linn captures well instances of the fog of war and its impact on both sides. He provides a fascinating description of the recruitment, training, transport, and sustaining of volunteer American troops engaged in the conflict. His review of the Battle of Manila reveals superior preparation and discipline among American troops and yet the recklessness of officers who ordered repeated frontal attacks over open ground against armed fortifications. He notes that most of these attacks were successful due primarily to insurgents shooting high. Linn points out that this gave the Filipinos the impression of American invincibility, increasing the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that at times caused native soldiers to flee.

Emilio Aguinaldo

Linn arrives at several important conclusions. First he refutes the clichés so often attributed to the Philippine War. He posits that while the U.S. military was victorious, this occurred as a result of the ineptitude of the independence movement and its “titular leader,” Aguinaldo, as opposed to the prowess of the Americans. Some guerrilla leaders showed brilliance at the small unit level but there was never a successful prolonged defense of any area or recovery of any areas once lost. Rebels also failed to effectively win the broad support of the populace. American forces struggled with a number of problems including maintenance of forces levels, diseases, and logistics.

Americans did have clear advantages in weaponry and this added to their effectiveness. The Krag rifle, armed gunboats, and field artillery were all contributory to American success. The U.S Navy was also a key contributor to the win providing not only transport of men and matériels but also blockade functions and support for amphibious operations. Linn also points to the role of civic action or social reform as a crucial component of the American victory.

Because of the unique nature of this conflict, and its counter insurgency flavor, Linn suggests that it has much to offer readers of both civilian and military cadres. I agree. The book’s notes section is impressive as is the bibliography. The book has received the following honors: Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, Air Force Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, Winner of the Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award, Selection of the History Book Club.

At the time of the book’s publication, Brian Linn was professor of history at Texas A & M University, a post he has held since 1998. He received a B.A. with High Honors from the University of Hawaii, and M.A. and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. He has also taught history at Old Dominion University and the University of Nebraska as a visiting professor. He is widely published and the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships.

Overall, Linn’s work is an important contribution to U.S. military scholarship.

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New Addition – Sweetsmoke by David Fuller

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I received a review copy of David Fuller’s Sweetsmoke today from the good folks at Hyperion and very much look forward to reading it and passing along my impressions. Mr. Fuller is a screenwriter by profession. He has an interesting lineage of combatants in the American Civil War, which you can read more about on his website here.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN-10: 1401323316
ISBN-13: 978-140132331

Sweetsmoke

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A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783

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Charles Royster. A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783. Reprint. University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

In his award winning, sweeping work on the American Revolution, Charles Royster sets out to prove his thesis that “there was an American character prevalent during the War for Independence and that we can profitably analyze it.” His focus is on the emotions, attitudes, and conduct of Americans in wartime but he also set out to prove that Americans exemplified collectively the disposition of revolutionaries. This notion of national character is an important one because it suggests an emergence of a sense of nationhood among the inhabitants of America’s colonies. Royster acknowledges that not all Americans were anti-British but he does conclude that the majority of Americans during the War for Independence were loyal to the revolution’s cause. These arguments are foundational to his discussion of the Continental Army. Royster deals with the rather broad topics of the ideals of revolutionary citizenship, society, and state by limiting his scope to the standards “that Americans defined for themselves in creating, recruiting, and fighting in an army” and it is this focus that makes the book more relevant to the military historian. He finds evidence of a disparity between society’s ideals and its actual conduct, the latter being “always flawed.” To find reasons for the disparity he touches, admitted lightly, on other areas such as religion, government, and commerce, drawing a connection between these and the way in which Americans related to the army.

Royster describes his book as analytical rather than narrative history. This distinction drives the book’s chronological format which supports his position that the study of revolutionary attitudes and the changes that took place over time are best observed “in the order that Americans experienced them.” Royster begins with an examination of the high ideals that Americans caught up in the revolutionary mindset placed upon themselves and others, ideals of virtue and valor. This foundation then allows him to explore the “tension” created when Americans failed to live up to those ideals and how they dealt with the disparity between desired standards and reality. Thus Royster begins with the years prior to the war’s start, describes the “rage militaire” of 1775, and then proceeds through the early war years in a series of chapters with religious titles and analogous themes: 1776: The Army of Israel, Jericho, and The Promised Land. The second half of the book focuses on Valley Forge, Treason, Division, and finally Legacy. It is in this final chapter that Royster brings together his analysis of the whole of the American experience at war.

This work is intended for students of early American history and particularly those who want to better understand the American Revolution. It should also find interest among military historians because of its focus on the experience of soldiers in the American Army of Independence as well as the institutional history of America’s armed forces. Royster’s forays into the realms of sociology, psychology, political, and civic history, should allow the book to find even broader readership. The work’s extensive notes section is worth mention. There is also an essay in the appendix that challenges some other authors who draw conclusions too quickly from statistics about American soldiers who fought in the Revolution, many of whom were both young and poor. The book is particularly noteworthy for its use of readily available primary sources but fresh approach to the information contained therein. His presentation is entirely satisfying albeit occasionally repetitive. One of the clear strengths of the book is its introduction to the reader of a broad number of characters of the period often through their own narrative or those of others around them.

Charles Royster brings impressive credentials to his work which is a shortened version of his doctoral dissertation. He received all of his degrees from the University of California, Berkeley including an A.B. (1966), M.A. (1967), and Ph.D. (1977). At the time of the book’s publication, Dr. Royster was assistant professor of history at the University of Texas. He is now professor of history at the Louisiana State University. Royster has amassed an impressive list of publications several of which received academically recognized awards. His work Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans won the Bancroft Prize, The Lincoln Prize, and the Charles S. Sydnor Award in Southern History. A Revolutionary People at War was recognized with the 1981 Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians, the 1979 John D. Rockefeller III Award, the 1981 National Historical Society Book Prize, the 1980 Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award from the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York, and the 1980 Silver Medal, Nonfiction from the Commonwealth Club of California.

Overall, Royster provides an excellent addition to scholarship of early America.

Manet and the American Civil War – 5: The Sea Battle Between The Kearsarge and the Alabama

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Continuing my series on “Manet and the American Civil War,” (see posts 1 here, 2 here, 3 here, and 4 here. In posts 3 and 4, I introduced the captains and vessels of one of the most famous naval engagements of the American Civil War, the sea battle between the C.S.S. Alabama and the U.S.S. Kearsarge. And now to the battle…

Juliet Wilson-Bareau with David C. Degener, in their fascinating book Manet and the American Civil War, do an excellent job of sifting through sources for a non-partisan view of the events of Sunday, June 19, 1864, a view without the “spin” of media. [2]

"The Fight Between the Alabama and the Kearsarge" [NH59354]
The Fight Between the Alabama and the Kearsarge. Contemporary line engraving, depicting an early stage in the battle. Alabama is on the right, with Kearsarge in the left distance. Courtesy of F.S. Hicks. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

The C.S.S. Alabama anchored in the Cherbourg roads, “a huge sheet of calm water sheltered from Channel currents by a breakwater,” on June 11, 1864. It had stopped to disembark 40 captives taken during raids on U.S. merchant ships and to refuel. Captain Semmes asked permission of “Vice Admiral Adolphe-Augustin Dupouy, head of the naval district headquartered in Cherbourg,” to have the Alabama undergo repairs in the naval doc. [3] The offer was denied and the request withdrawn. Semmes was now well aware that Captain Winslow and his U.S.S. Kearsarge had come after the Confederate raider and was hovering offshore in wait. While the French attempted diplomatic maneuvers, Captain Semmes informed Samuel Barron, “his senior officer in Paris,” that he intended to fight Winslow. [4]

“On the morning of Sunday, June 19, Alabama left the Cherbourg roads followed by the French navy flagship, Couronne, and accompanied by a steam yacht flying the Union Jack and a British yach club flag. Alabama fired the first shot. Having elected to fight starboard to starboard, Alabama and Kearsarge then steamed in interlocking circles five to seven times as the current pushed them west. Alabama sank, and Kearsarge returned to anchor on the land side of Cherbourg’s breakwater.” [5]

This from George Terry Sinclair, a native of Virginia sent to Europe in 1862 to buy ships for the Confederate Navy, in a letter to his immediate superior, Samuel Barron.

“After some exchanges at long range, they passed each other, using their starboard batteries. They then passed & repassed, always using the same battery (which Semmes had told me was his intention) after passing the seventh eighth time, I observed Semmes make sail forward, and stand in, and I thought I saw smoke issuing from the ship.” [6]

He was told by another observer that “Alabama ‘went down with her colors flying…the Flag… was the last thing to disappear.’ Sinclair’s own view of the climactic moment had been obscured by a house.” [7]
 

Charles Longueville. Combat naval (L’Alabama coulant sous le feu de Kearsage [sic]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the next post, Edouard Manet’s painting, The Battle of the “Kearsarge” and the “Alabama,” 1864.

—-
[1] Juliet Wilson-Bareau with David C. Degener, Manet and the American Civil War, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 31.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., 28-29.
[4] Ibid., 31.
[5] Ibid., 28, 31.
[6] Ibid., 31-32.
[7] Ibid., 32.

Scientific Optimism: Jomini and the U.S. Army

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Jomini

Those of you who follow my postings know that I’ve ruminated a bit on Jomini (pictured above). You can find the complete list of related posts here. For those who find discussion of Jomini and Clausewitz interesting, I wanted to pass along a link to an excellent essay by Major Gregory Ebner titled “Scientific Optimism: Jomini and the U.S. Army” available here. Ebner, in an essay that appears as a featured article in The U.S. Army Professional Writing Collection, makes a case for how the U. S. Army presents itself as a Clausewitzian organization at upper levels but is “firmly rooted in the ideals of Antoine-Henry Jomini” at the tactical and operational levels. He posits that focus on “good staff work and the military decision-making process (MDMP)” reflects a reliance on military science and method over the application of genius as espoused by Clausewitz. He further suggests that the Principles of War developed by the U.S. Amy was an encoding of Jomini in the form of doctrine. This essay is instructive to the study of military philosophers and military thought on several fronts. First, for the military philosophy student, it reinforces the theories of both Clausewitz and Jomini and would therefore make an excellent reading assignment after studying the primary works of both theorists. Second, it provides insight into the extent to which the largest army in present day has adopted and incorporated the ideas of both men at the doctrinal and operational levels.

For more information:

MDMP – Military Decision Making Process
Access “The Clausewitz Homepage” here.

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May Civil War and Military History Book Acquisitions – II

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Continuing with my May book acquisitions which illustrate, as said by Civil War Interactive’s comments on my blog this week, why bank robbery may be needed to support my book-buying habits…

How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War
  • ISBN-10: 0061129801
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Collins; Reprint edition (January 22, 2008)   
  • This looks like a great read. Author Tom Wheeler, an accomplished man by any measure, has a terrific website here with more about his book and research. This has moved to the top of my list of reading for between terms.

    The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 (Civil War America)
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (April 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807829315
  •  

    Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign (Civil War America)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (September 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807831549
  • I have DISCOVERED Dr. Hess and the growing list of terrific titles he has published on the Civil War. No doubt his other books will show up in my library before long. Dr. Hess, who has impressive academic credentials, has a website here. His book, Pickett’s Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

    Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New edition (February 28, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521599415
  • I’ve been intending to pick this up. Authored by military history professor and fellow blogger Mark Grimsley, it too is at the top of my reading list. Dr. Grimsley’s OSU webpage is here. His blog is here.

    Confederate Strategy Reconsidered (American Crisis Series)
    Retreat to Victory?: Confederate Strategy Reconsidered (American Crisis Series)
    By Robert G. Tanner
  • Paperback: 162 pages
  • Publisher: SR Books (January 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 084202882X
  • My post, “Fabian Strategy and the American Civil War” here, lead me to this book. One of my readers recommended it and suggests that it proves that the Confederacy could not have used the Fabian strategy effectively. I’m looking forward to this one.

    The European Inheritance
  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; New Ed edition
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700603794
  • Jav Luvaas is another prolific writer of military history and my collection of his books is growing. I first discovered his work while taking the course, Great Military Philosopers (see “The Courses” page here for details. I picked up his titles: Napoleon on the Art of War and Frederick the Great on the Art of War.

    I’ll be adding these authors to my “The Historians” page shortly.

    American Historian: George Bancroft

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    I’m back from Christmas break and trying to recuperate from a few too many cinnamon rolls. Reading assignments and preparation of a research proposal due Sunday are top of mind.

    The class is Historiography so the research isn’t to be about the development and proof of a thesis. It’s more about research into the history of how history was written.

    George Bancroft in Old AgeFor my research paper, I plan to explore the influence of historian George Bancroft (right) on Antebellum, Civil War, and Postbellum American history. I may need to shave this down a bit depending on how much material I find.

    Bancroft was one of the best known American historians of the 19thcentury. While Harvard educated (he entered at 13 and graduated at 17!), he is considered a “literary historian,” who wrote in a style popular with A History of the United States Bancroftthe public. His primary work was the multi-volume History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent, which he began writing in 1830. [Picture left of remaining vHe published the first three volumes over that decade. The final set would be ten volumes. A first revision was completed and published as six volumes in 1876 as part of the national centennial.

    Perhaps less known is that Bancroft, while Secretary of the Navy, created the Naval Academy. He was also chosen by Congress to eulogize Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times reprinted that Eulogy on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the event in 1915. It, along with drawings of the event, can be seen in their entirety here.

    I have located the index to his papers housed on microfiche at Cornell University and two biographies which leverage that material. The first, a two volume set 1971 reprint of M.A. DeWolfe Howe’s 1908 work The Life and Letters of George Bancroft I was able to find on the Amazon Marketplace in almost pristine shape. The second, George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel, was written by Russel B. Nye and published in 1945. It’s on order. There are other large collections of Bancroft materials in holdings by the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. I’m beginning in earnest a search for articles that deal with his contributions to American history as well.

    As a follow-up at some later point, I think it would be very interesting to contrast the style and impact Bancroft Portraitof George Bancroft with Charles and Mary Beard. As a historian friend of mine said, “you’d be hard pressed to find two more different expositors on the American experience than Bancroft and Beard. Bancroft was an unabashed patriot and advocate of democracy, to a degree that would be considered embarrassing in most academic settings today. Still, he was indeed the most articulate and widely-read of our early historians, and his writings both reflected and helped to create the sense of American exceptionalism that has prevailed for most of our history as a nation.”

    You might recall that Charles and Mary Beard were the first to suggest that the Civil War was the second American revolution as was mentioned in my previous post here.

    The exceptional oil on canvas portrait above of Bancroft in later life was painted by Gustav Richter, a German painter (1823 – 1884). It is a part of the Harvard University Portrait Collection and is on display at Memorial Hall.

    More as I get into my research.

    Photo credits:
    Photo of George Bancroft in middle age taken by Mathew Brady, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
    Photo of painting above: The President and Fellows of Harvard College.

     

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    New Class Started Today – Historiography

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    The next term started today! The class is “Historiography.” I’ve been looking forward to this class in that it steps back anmodern-historiography.jpgd takes a look at the study of historical thought itself. I also consider it important for the development of solid historical research skills. From the course description, “it concentrates on how history has been interpreted, rather the facts of history themselves. The course contemplates the fundamental questions about the nature of history and investigates the relationships between theory and evidence in historical writing.”

    The assignments will actually offer opportunity for some focus on the Civil War but I’m very interested in the more general topic.historiography.jpg

    I posted the reading list on “the courses” page in case you are interested including the web-based readings. Primary texts include the following:

    Bentley, Michael. Modern Historiography: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 1999. 

    Breisach, Ernst. Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, 2nd Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago PreThe Houses of Historyss, 1994.

    Green, Anna, and Kathleen Troup, eds. The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-Century History and Theory. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

    Marius, Richard. A Short Guide to Writing about History. NY: Longmans, 1999Short Guide

    Turabian, Kate L. Manual for Writers of Term Papers, 6th Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. 

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