Pulitzer prize–winning author Annette Gordon Reed leads a discussion of emancipation, Lincoln, and the Civil War on Thursday, January 24, at 7 p.m.

Panelists include James McPherson, Pulitzer prize–winning historian and professor emeritus at Princeton University; Edward Ayers, Civil War historian and president of the University of Richmond; Eric Foner, author and professor of history, Columbia University; and James Oakes, professor of history, City University of New York and author of Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865.

A book signing will follow the program. Presented in partnership with the National Archives Afro-American History Society.

Sacred Land For Sesquicentennial

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the War Between the States, the Civil War Trust (CWT) recently announced that it is launching a national campaign to protect 20,000 acres of battlefields. This grand endeavor is planned to take place over the next five years.

The project was announced at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg by CWT Chairman Henry Simpson. Called the “Campaign 150 Initiative,” other board members present to make the announcement included Gettysburg Military National Park Superintendent Robert Kirby, Pulitzer Prize winning author James McPherson, and new member, country singing star Trace Atkins.

The CWT has protected over 30,000 acres in 20 states. Because this year kicks off the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, the time is rife for the CWT to take advantage of public awareness and support by making a large-scale initiative to preserve battlefield land across the country.

© Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images, Feb. 4, 2011, Anonymous James McPherson

A US Park Police officer uses a limb saw to remove a mask of Guy Fawkes from a statue of James McPherson in McPherson Square in Washington, D.C.

“He cannot be trusted. He should not be in a position of authority. He should stand down. He should not be allowed in politics again and he certainly should not profit from this.” (James McPherson)

Better Know A Guest, October 6 - October 9, 2014

Better Know A Guest, October 6 – October 9, 2014

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I think, when I first wrote this, it was going to be part of something else (C&C, maybe), but it got cut. I just found it floating and cleaned it up a bit. A touch of body horror, and a heavy dose of angst. Y’all like that, right?


            McPherson stank of the chemicals from the bronzer. His touch was familiar and jovial, and there was a roughness at the edges of his voice. The regents had left her in the Bronze Sector with no intention of releasing her, he explained. No one had even known she was there, and it was really still a rotten world.

            And then he had left her behind in a London hotel room, with instructions to bring him the imperceptor vest and return to Warehouse 13. The handle of the duffel bag he gave her, filled with modern clothes he’d selected himself, cut into her fingers. A young girl had been paid handsomely to explain the basics of the bathroom to her without asking questions about why that was necessary. By the time the girl left, Helena was able to turn on a lamp in the bedroom and navigate the bathroom by that light without suffering.

            Her clothes crackled when she peeled them away from her skin. The stitching had sunk into her like teeth, leaving a crosshatch of lines along her arms; the imprint of her corset was bruised. At the small of her back, her stomach, her wrists, the tugging of cloth away from flesh had resulted in a trickle of blood. Her stockings would not come off until she’d soaked them under running water. When she did remove them, a sock of skin came with them, ragged edges curling back around her ankle.

            She turned on the shower, like the girl had shown her, and stepped under the water flow. From her wounds, skin pulled back and tore away. Dead layers bunched like fabric in the wake of her hand down her arm.

            This explained the itching.

            It was like scaling a fish, gentle strokes and careful cleaning to leave nothing behind. The bathtub stopped draining, and the water pooled around her raw ankles and grew cloudy with layers of her.

            This was all there was of 1901, of the years before. This was the end of those parts of her that had touched that world. The new one had not yet felt her presence.

            It would. So little had changed, much as the sounds and smells were new to her. Pain hammered at her rib cage, and the trident tugged at the edges of her mind. Death was waiting, perhaps not much longer now, but what was time to death? She shut the water off and stared a moment at what death had already taken of her: yards of skin thinner than paper, dashed with blood like ink from an ill-behaved pen.

            Living was still a bloody rotten business. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Alan McPherson has passed away at 72. His anthology Elbow Room won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1978. He was one of the first individuals to receive a genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation. He graduated from Harvard Law school, but instead decided to pursue writing and later earned an MFA from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he was a professor emeritus.

The codes of duty and honor were not exclusively masculine. Many young women who watched brothers march away were heard to exclaim, “I wish I were a man!” Some of them acted on this wish. Several hundred women, from Maine to Texas, disguised themselves as men and passed superficial medical examinations to enlist in volunteer regiments. Their motives ranged from patriotism and love of adventure to a desire to stay with husbands or lovers who had joined the army.
Some women soldiers were son discovered and discharged. The usual reason for discovery was hospitalization for illness or wounds, as in the case of an Ohio private, “Charles Freeman,” who was hospitalized for fever, found to be Mary Scaberry, and discharged for “sexual incompatibility.” Six female soldiers were found out when they had babies. As a male soldier in a Massachusetts regiment described one of these cases in a letter home, “There was an orderly in one of our regiments & he & the Corporal always slept together. Well, the other night the Corporal had a baby, for the Cpl. turned out to be a woman! She has been in 3 or 4 fights.”
A few women soldiers served through the war without discovery. The most famous was Albert Cashier of the 95th Illinois, whose name is inscribed on the Illinois monument at Vicksburg along with those of all other soldiers from the state who fought there. Cashier went to bachelor farming after the war, and not until an accident in 1911 required “his” hospitalization was Albert Cashier discovered to be Jennie Hodgers.
—  James M. McPherson and James K. Hogue, Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction
So here's my thing...

H.G. went through all that work to get into the Escher vault to her get ring, locket and compact.

Okay? So what?

Why was it so important to McPherson that she get that stuff? How does any of it, in any way, have anything to do with their master plan?

Or was it supposed to be a whole she refused to help until she got her belongings back type thing?

I have not mentioned it on this blog yet...

…but I am a big Civil War…not buff, I guess. I’m not one of those people who collects memorabilia, or God help me, re-enacts. But still, the Civil War, and the run-up to it is one of my favorite periods in U.S. history.

Possibly it’s because I love to pick fights, or play the spoiler, or both, because what I can only refer to as Civil War Fandom drives me to the brink of my sanity. The overwhelming belief in the “Lost Cause,” Confederate aplolgism, straw-man arguments over “states’ rights,” Shelby Foote, The Killer Angels, and all the related drivel drives me to the brink of my sanity.

So it’s good to read people like Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of the writers dedicated to reminding us that the Civil War was about not only slavery, but white supremacy. Read his latest post, and anything he writes about the Civil War.

Also, Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson, is probably the best book on the subject.

How the Civil War Changed Walt Whitman's Poetry

In the early days of the conflict, Whitman had rather blithely announced that the war could not be conveyed by “dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses.” The clash of a mighty nation was too massive, too epic, too freighted with masculine heroics to be entrusted to just any “pale poetling seated at a desk lisping cadenzas piano.”

I’ve been spending a lot of time dividing my reading between academic essays on the Civil War (our primary reading for January was all by James McPherson) and various articles on many states’ inability to celebrate the sesquicentennial, that I haven’t really had any time to take a step back and look at the War through a more literary lens. Turns out, it was a perfect morning to get stuck on the Metro and have a chance to peruse Humanities magazine and come across this great article!

“I think that love must be the ability to suspend one’s intelligence for the sake of something. At the basis of love therefore must live imagination.” Rest in peace to the the great James Alan McPherson. ✨ He was the first African-American writer to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for his collection Elbow Room. He also was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship, named a MacArthur Fellow, and inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He later spent many years as a professor at the renowned Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. 📚 (at Strand Book Store)

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Hail & Farewell: James Alan McPherson » MobyLives
There’s no way around it: He was squirrely. Hard to read, yet quirky enough to arrest your attention into trying to read him nonetheless. Was he just paralyzingly shy? Tortured by demons? On the spectrum? Or some kind of Einstein…
By Dennis Johnson

Our publisher Dennis Johnson on James Alan McPherson, his teacher. Hail and farewell.