The 14,000 members of this Association, however, know that revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship.

History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past.

Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time.

There is no single, eternal, and immutable “truth” about past events and their meaning.

The unending quest of historians for understanding the past—that is, “revisionism"—is what makes history vital and meaningful. Without revisionism, we might be stuck with the images of Reconstruction after the American Civil War that were conveyed by D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation and Claude Bowers’s The Tragic Era. Were the Gilded Age entrepreneurs "Captains of Industry” or “Robber Barons”?

Without revisionist historians who have done research in new sources and asked new and nuanced questions, we would remain mired in one or another of these stereotypes.

© 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)

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.

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

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

Welcome to Better Know a Guest, your weekly guide to the wonderful and diverse array of personalities appearing on ‘The Colbert Report’ and ‘The Daily Show’ each week.

Hello, Colbert News Hub!  I don’t know about you, but I badly need my Late Night fix this week.  We’ve got loads of depressing news to deal with – panic over Ebola, ISIS torturing and killing hostages, creepy and confusing news…

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Why the Civil War Still Matters, 150 Years Later

Why the Civil War Still Matters, 150 Years Later

The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
James M. McPherson

Americans have written more than 70,000 books about the Civil War—1 for every 19 hours since Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. We are awed by its sheer magnitude, staggered by its appalling human cost, and inspired by its looming heroes. According to James McPherson, a leading Civil War authority and…

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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!

In the episode of warehouse 13 where Pete was basically never born no one could work out why Pete never being born affected Claudia hacking into the warehouse. I have worked out why and it’s rather simple, McPherson gave Claudia advice on how to by pass the warehouse firewall, if he never told her she would never have discovered how to do it therefore not allowing her to hack into the warehouse.


Fights in legislatures are just about the funniest thing. A forgotten classic from the antebellum period:

On one occasion during an all-night session Republican Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania walked over to the Democratic side to confer with a few northern Democrats. Lawrence Keitt of South Carolina shouted at him: “Go back to your side of the House, you Black Republican puppy!’ Replying with a sneering remark about slave drivers, Grow grappled with Keitt and knocked him down. Congressmen from both sides rushed into the melee. “There were some fifty middle-aged and elderly gentlemen pitching into each other like so many Tipperary savages …  most of them incapable from want of wind and muscle from doing each other any serious harm.”

James McPherson. Battle Cry of Freedom

Free Society! we sicken at the name. What is it but a conglomeration of greasy mechanics, filthy operatives, small-fisted farmers, and moon-struck theorists?

From the Muscogee (Georgia) Herald, 1856. Quoted in Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson.

LOL antebellum Southerners were so (undeservingly) catty. And what kind of insult is “small-fisted” anyway?

Josh Homme talks new Queens of the Stone Age music, Them Crooked Vultures

Josh Homme talks new Queens of the Stone Age music, Them Crooked Vultures

When Queens of the Stone Age broke their six year silence last year with the excellent …Like Clockwork, nobody was expecting a follow up any time soon. While that might not be happening right away, in an interview with Craveonline, not only did singer/guitarist Josh Homme name-check Vader, but he also admitted that there are already some new ideas on the horizon:

I’ve been writing a lot on the…

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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
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.

Origins of the word “shoddy”

To fill contracts for the thousands of uniforms, textile manufacturers compressed the fibers of recycled woolen goods into a material called “shoddy.” This noun soon became an adjective to describe uniforms that ripped after a few weeks of wear, shoes that fell apart, blankets that disintegrated, and poor workmanship in general on items necessary to equip an army of half a million men and to create its support serves within a few short months.

Battle Cry of Freedom