Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Further Thoughts on the Wilderness Lawsuit

Like both sides during the Civil War, the historical preservationists are in for the long haul in this case. They brought their suit in the Orange County Circuit Court. As a lawyer practicing in the local courthouses in New York City, I can tell you that these places are often mills of political patronage. The judges are often political hacks in black robes.

I would not expect too much justice in that courthouse. I'm sure that some Orange County politician will place a phone call to the judge assigned and try to influence the outcome. The county will try to paint the case as a matter of outsiders intruding on internal affairs. The only justice the historical preservationists will get is in the appellate court.

Like the fighting in the Civil War, be ready for a long, hard slog.
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Rose Greenhow

Today in 1864, Rose Greenhow, perhaps the most famous of Confederate spies drowned in the Atlantic Ocean today. On a mission from Europe, her ship, the runner Condor ran aground while being pursued by a US warship. She took a small boat and that too capsized. Weighed down by a bag of gold tied around her neck that she smuggled from Europe, this pre-war grande dame of Washington society drowned.

Using her medley of connections in pre-war Washington, she obtained secret information about the movement of General McDowell's army and passed it on to Southern authorities, making it possible for the Confederacy to win the first battle of Bull Run.

There are two good introductory books that tell the story of Rose Greenhow's adventures. They are Alan Axelrod's The War Between the Spies and Harnett Kane's Spies for the Blue and Gray. I read the first book as part of my research for my second novel and I am currently reading the second book for my research for the third novel. Though not definitive, they give you a basic outline of Greenhow's espionage activities during the war.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Think of Them

Henry Livermore Abbott joined the 20th Massachussetts Regiment right out of Harvard. He formed part of the group of officers that commanded the "Harvard" Regiment. Abbott fought in most of the major battles in the Virginia theater: Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and finally, the Wilderness. He was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness while taking temporary command of his regiment. Henry Abbott was twenty-two years-old.

I mention it because today was a small run-off election here in New York. We have over eight million people in New York City. It is estimated that only three hundred thousand people will come and out and vote.

When the voting days come each year, I think of the men like Henry Abbott. These men volunteered to sacrifice years and then their lives for our country. We have a country because of them. If I get annoyed that I have to go out and vote, I remember him and the others. I also recall the men and women serving right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are giving so much. Surely, we can give so little.

My friends, the Civil War should not only be an enjoyment, but a reminder and an inspiration. I do not want to let down our men, alive or dead.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Civil War Joke-Free Whiskey

A continually drunk Civil War soldier told the comrades in his platoon that he would renounce drinking. His fellow soldiers tested his resolve by teasing him and plying him with whiskey. Each night, he fell off the wagon. He would wake up in the morning in repentance and preaching about the evils of drinking. Each day, the result was the same.

Finally, one of his fellow soldiers asked him why he didn't just stop drinking and end the preaching.

He replied,"What and give up all that free whiskey?"
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Walmart Lawsuit: Potential Victory

The current lawsuit brought against Orange County might lay the seeds for ultimate victory in protecting the Wilderness battle site from Wal Mart.

As a lawyer, I can tell you that this suit might drag for a year or two. With the discovery or document exchange between both sides, the case could last for a while. Once discovery is complete, either or both sides will file motions for summary judgment to try and get the case dismissed. One side will dislike that outcome and appeal. Once the motions are resolved, both sides will face the inevitable trial. This could go on forever.

This lawsuit is the ultimate delaying tactic. However, in war, antagonists often take steps to buy time. By the time this case gets resolved, there could be a settlement or Wal Mart could throw up its hands and give up on the store or accept the proposed alternative site.

This is a good move by the historic preservationists. The ball is now in the County and Wal Mart's court.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Davis-Mending Fences

Today in 1864, Jefferson Davis had to play the role of peacemaker. After suffering a string of defeats at the hands of General Sherman, General John Hood blamed his failures on his underlings. He reserved most of his ire for General William Hardee. Tensions grew in his army to such a boiling point that Davis felt the need to visit the Army of Tennessee's camp to smooth out the tensions.

This behavior was not confined to the Confederates. After his failure at Second Bull Run, John Pope had his subordinate general Fitz Hugh Porter arrested and courtmartialed. Human nature knows no nationality or accent.

That is why Robert E. Lee's behavior after Gettysburg was so remarkable. After the failure of Picketts Charge, he blamed himself saying,"It is all my fault." He refused to seek scapegoats and offered his resignation to Jefferson Davis. For all of you who have spent any time in the workforce, you know that acceptance of responsibility is a rare quality.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Civil War Joke-A New Method for Expressing Disrespect

A soldier in the Civil War invented a new way for showing his lack of respect for an officer with a wax mustache.

He told his officer,"Take those mice out of your mouth. I can see their tails."
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Civil War Joke-Cowardice

The Confederate soldiers had a novel term for cowardice. When one of their comrades exhibited signs of it, they said,"He has a case of Yankee chills."
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fort Monroe-The Future

Historical preservationists like the CWPT should consider another option concerning Fort Monroe. Perhaps they should try buying the land.

It has worked at other sites. The CWPT just announced the purchase of land on the Third Winchester battle site. It bought the land for historical sites in Tennessee. It should consider such a plan for Fort Monroe.

Such an idea should be drawn up and put into action within the next year. It should be placed before the Hampton City Council before the Army leaves in 2011. Before commercial and real estate interests overrun all else, like at the Wilderness Wal Mart.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Fort Monroe-The Next Historic Preservation Battle

In September 2011, the United States Army will leave Fort Monroe in Virginia and control of the site will revert to the state. The battle for preservation will then ensue.

Fort Monroe played a strategic role during the Civil War. Though located in Virginia, it remained an important Union base. From the fort, Union forces launched their campaign to take parts of the Carolina coasts. The Army of the James formed at the fort. Benjamin Butler made his decision not to return escaped slaves back to Confederate custody at the fort. Jefferson Davis spent his two years of imprisonment there after the war. The place has clear historical value.

However, as we've learned from the loss at the Wilderness, historical heritage may not be able to compete with shopping and development. It is very important for historical preservationists to launch a public relations campaign to win over the local people. The ultimate decision will rest with the Hampton City Council. These politicians will not turn over the site for commercial use if the voters do not want it. Our task must be to prevail with the local people. All else will follow.
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Civil War Joke-Courage Inhibitors

Civil War soldiers faced many obstacles to their continued good health. Here is what they had to say about cannonballs.

A whistling cannonball can dampen a soldier's courage.
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Friday, September 18, 2009

The Pleasures of Civil War Letters

This post was inspired by an article in Blog Divided about a set of letters written by the men in a Wisconsin regiment.

Letters by soldiers and their wives are a great source of enjoyment and entertainment. I realized this when I went to Richmond to research my second novel in 2005. I visited the archives of the Beth Ahavah synagogue. The archivists allowed me to read the letters between a Jewish Confederate soldier and his wife. The soldier told his wife that he could not get leave. Noting the presence of men visiting from the army in her neighborhood, she replied, "Maybe you're not that smart." I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.

So Civil War letters are not only sources of history but of spousal jousting and entertainment as well.
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fremont and the Union

John Fremont, the Pathfinder, did his part today in 1864 to save the Union. I suppose I could talk about Antietam but it's hard to say anything original about that battle. Perhaps I'll make an attempt next year.

Fremont withdrew his candidacy for the Presidency. Though he hated Lincoln for removing him from his military command, he opted out of the race because of his cited fear that a victory for McClellan would mean the division of the country or the reestablishment of the Union with slavery. If he had run, the Republican vote would have been split and McClellan might have won, with catastrophic effects for the country. I'm sure Fremont must have been pressured behind the scenes to take this step. After all, we are discussing politics here. However, Fremont put his ego aside and did what was best for America.

That is a lesson for our politicians today. You look at our political class's self-serving behavior prior to this economic crisis and see how little they care about us. They should take a glance at today's Civil War history and learn something.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Civil War Joke-Private Pyle Thinks....

Today's joke provides the enlisted men's unvarnished opinion of their officers.

Soldiers in the Civil War armies gave a unique name to their officers' shoulder bars. Pumpkin rinds.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Habeas Suspendus

Today in 1863, President Lincoln suspended the habeas corpus on the grounds that the country faced a military rebellion. He authorized military commanders to arrest suspicious individuals at their discretion. That was a sad day. A time-honored tradition necessary to the protection of the citizen was temporarily set aside.

Though it was a necessity, the Civil War teaches us that it should only be a temporary act in times of national emergency. The suspension of habeas corpus should not be a permanent state of affairs.

Though this verges into the present, I don't think we should have preventative detention like in Britain or Israel. Though the government can hold a suspect for 72 hours without charges, it must present its evidence to a court after three days. I also think that a suspect should go through the criminal courts if he or she is a citizen or a green card holder. They have rights and those should be honored. We are going to be fighting the terrorists for a very long time and the government should be required to do its legal homework. You have to remember that a government often serves itself. It is also rather inept at times.

Obviously, this is a very controversial topic. I'd like to hear other people's views on the topic.

You see how the past can lead you to the present.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Shore Leave or Not to Shore Leave?

For a famous character in Shakespeare, the question was "To be or not to be." For the crew of the USS Rattler, the question was more prosaic.

For reasons that went unrecorded, a group of twenty sailors from the ship went on leave in Rodney, Mississippi. Unlike most servicemen on leave, the group headed for the local church. As they sat in services, a Confederate cavalry patrol entered the church and captured them all.

The Civil War has much to teach us. This day in 1863 was no exception. Today's lesson is never to go on shore leave in enemy territory.
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Civil War Joke-A Young Man's Courage

This one must have been invented by a veteran commenting on his green comrades-in-arms.

A young soldier does not see danger until it is time for him to die.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Civil War Joke-Rules of Engagement

The soldiers on both sides of our Civil War observed a key rule of engagement: No shooting at a soldier in the midst of relieving himself.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dangerous Speech

On this day in 1863, freedom of the press took a major drubbing in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Confederate troops, irate over pro-Union editorials in the Raleigh Standard, went to the offices of the paper and ransacked them. Only the personal intervention of Governor Vance prevented the torching of the building.

On the same day, another crowd in Raleigh, angry over the strident yet pro-secessionist editorials of the Raleigh Journal, attacked the offices of that paper. The governor again had to employ his peacemaking services and the crowd left.

As 21st-century people, we should applaud the fact that no opinion was left out and that all were included. The people and soldiers in Raleigh embraced diversity in destruction.

In our time, critics of the current and previous Administrations have been left unmolested even though we have been and are at war in two countries. We have progressed as a democracy.
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Thank You All

This morning, Civil War Et. Al. reached 11,895 hits. Thank you all for taking the time to visit. I will continue to provide good content that will illuminate the great story of our nation's Civil War.
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Civil War Joke-Drugs

Civil War soldiers were among the original skeptics about drugs and their effectiveness. This joke reflects that skepticism.

Drugs can make you the person you want be, but no drug can make you the person you used to be.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Confederacy-A Lesson to Us

On this date in 1861, Jefferson Davis confessed to General Joseph Johnston the true weakness of the Confederacy at that time.

After several lines giving moral support to his commander, Davis told Johnston, "Had I the requisite arms, the argument would soon be changed."

Despite this confessed lack of strength, the Confederacy survived for over another three and a half years. The South's endurance in the face of Union superiority is a testament to doing more with less. It seems that the only true resources that the Confederates had were the courage of their men and the skill of their generals. Their survival was a triumph of the moral over the material.

This is a lesson to us in these difficult times. With determination, much can be done even in situations where there is a dearth of resources.
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Civil War Deterrence

On this day in 1863, our ambassador to Britain, Charles Francis Adams, threatened the British Empire with war.

By that time, British shipyards had nearly completed three ironclad ships ordered by Confederate agents.

Facing this potential change in the Civil War's naval balance of power, Adams issued his warning. It was probably not a credible threat. Embroiled by our own civil war, we were probably not in a position to inflict much harm on the British. There is no evidence that the English were in any way intimidated.

However, the British foreign minister, Lord Russell, assured Adams that the ships had already been impounded three days before.

I have always felt that history provides lessons for the present and even the future.

Secretary of State William Seawrd had delivered threats of war to the British prior to Adams' warning. This blackmail, however baseless, showed the leaders in London that there would be trouble with the U.S. if it helped the Confederacy.

This belligerent diplomacy, coupled with President Lincoln's political skill (the Emancipation Proclamation) prevented the British from providing any kind of diplomatic or material aid to the South throughout the war.

This episode teaches us that the ideology of peace will not produce peace, or national security for that matter. Only the politically astute application of diplomacy, backed by a willingness to use force, can create a more peaceful world. We now call it deterrence.

What is your view?
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Friday, September 4, 2009

Civil War Joke#3-Euphemism

Civil War soldiers had a useful name for a coffin. They called it a wooden overcoat.
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beat the Recession: Audition at Gettysburg

For actors, the National Park Service has found a way to fight the recession.

It is auditioning next Tuesday for a 15-minute film about the merits of historical preservation. The segment will be called "Big Deal at Gettysburg: The Value of Historical Places." The story will concern a hard-charging businesswoman who must decide to develop historical land or leave it to posterity. The Park Service estimates that the film will eventually be seen by 10 million schoolchildren.

If only the Orange County Board of Supervisors had such ethics in the Wilderness.

But I digress. This film might have a good influence on schoolchildren. Hell, the drug education videos scared me away from doing drugs. Children who see this video may grow into adults who value history.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

State of Jones Controversy

I think the bad reviews are not going to stop The State of Jones from becoming a bestseller.

People are not going to care about the scholarly deficiencies in the book. They will get absorbed by the interesting story. Like the novel A Million Little Pieces, readers will enjoy the "truthiness" of it. Hollywood will pick it up and make a movie and that will drive sales even more. Above all, history is a good story. In addition to its supreme importance, that is the reason we all became interested in the Civil War.

The story behind State of Jones, though inaccurate, will sweep all before it.
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