31 July 2011

More To Stonewall Jackson Than First Manassas

"Historians and history buffs alike have long struggled with the ambivalence of a man of Jackson’s moral fiber, who came from a slave holding family, owned slaves himself, and yet broke the prevailing laws of Virginia to conduct a weekly Colored Sabbath School, where slaves were taught to read and write while bringing them to a personal knowledge of the Christ."

So said the Washington Times here recently.

(The image is one of lifelong Lexington resident Jefferson Shields, who claimed to be one of Jackson's Sunday school students. The photograph was taken in front of the old Lexington Presbyterian Church Sunday School room before it was torn down in 1906 and is from my private collection. Shields was also a slave and served as a cook in Company H of the 27th Virginia Infantry.) 

28 July 2011

27 July 2011

150th Of The Unites States Christian Commission

"As a full-time missionary and veteran Civil War re-enactor, Chaplain Alan Farley has made it his life’s work to pay tribute to the Christian chaplains and laypeople that supported soldiers during the Civil War."

More here.

25 July 2011

Should We Trust Academic Historians?

"Beware committees, conferences and leagues of intellectuals. Distrust public statements from their serried ranks. Discount their verdicts on political leaders and important events." ~ Historian Paul Johnson (Intellectuals, page 342) 

Over the next few weeks I intend to upload a series of posts about academic and professional historians and why I do not believe their analysis/perspective should be given any more credence than anyone else writing or commenting on history and history related subjects. I reject the premise that someone with an advanced degree in history should be presumed to be any better at researching or analyzing historical facts. To put it simply - knowledge does not equate wisdom; especially in today's politically correct environment. Results and experience mean much more to me than "book learning", though study and knowledge are certainly very important.

I've often taken heat on this blog from professional historians for ostensibly promoting history which is skewed by my political views. That's a fair criticism - to a point. As I often point out, I do not hide my political views nor pretend that I approach the study of history void of a particular worldview or perspective. Read my header. 

But that criticism is only fair to a point. Many of the same academic historians and critics, who have been critical of me over this issue, will then hold up as examples of "objective", "scholarly", and "sophisticated" analysis, historians who also approach the study of history with a particular worldview - just one that is different than mine. I really don't have a problem with that. Everyone does it and no one's work or analysis is void of certain settled views - despite loud protests declaring the opposite.

I had intended on writing one very long post about this issue, using an "essay" that appeared on History News Network in April of 2008. The essay served as a public endorsement of Barack Obama's campaign for President. The essay was endorsed by a number of notable academic historians. I've actually worked on that post, saving it over and over again, since 2009. But it recently became obvious to me that the post was going to be much too long and, due to the nature of blogging, I came to the conclusion that it would be better if I served the post up in smaller helpings and then write a longer conclusion to wrap it all up. 

I will use the essay as a reference base to point out inconsistencies and illustrate why I do not trust an academic historian simply because he/she has an advanced degree. While some might give someone like that the benefit of the doubt when it comes to analysis, I actually take a contrarian position. I will usually assume an academic historian is carrying a lot of politically correct, leftist baggage and that I will likely need to sift through and weed out lots of nonsense and leftist ideology.

What makes the essay I'm using all the more interesting from my perspective is that there are quite a few popular Civil War historians who lent their names to the political endorsement which was posted at HNN. I would have to believe that at least a few of all the historians who signed on to this essay would like to rewind and be given the opportunity to rethink their position. I think you'll see why.

But to be clear, the things I'll be pointing out about this whole subject are not exclusive to just these "Historians For Obama." They just happen to provide a convenient example for reference. As I've noted here on a number of occasions, there are plenty of other studies and examples one could cite regarding the political slant of academic historians. Moreover, a number of other Civil War and history bloggers and professional historians also made public endorsements of Barack Obama - and then went on to criticize folks like me for being unable to accurately analyze historical facts due to my political views. One well known CW blogger publicly endorsed President Obama, while another spoke of his personal involvement in support of John Edwards' campaign. But I don't recall any criticism of this - at least not to the extent I've experienced here.

And now, for the first, short installment:

The HNN essay referred to above included the following "analysis":

"Due to the arrogant, inept foreign policy of the current [Bush] administration, more people abroad mistrust and fear the United States than at any time since the height of the Vietnam War." 

And . . . 

"We endorse Barack Obama for president because we think he is the candidate best able to address and start to solve these profound problems. As historians . . ."

And . . .

"As president, Barack Obama would only begin the process of healing what ails our society and ensuring that the U.S. plays a beneficial role in the world." 

But, here's the reality in July of 2011:

"President Obama has failed to live up to the expectations he created in the Arab world, according to a new poll released by Zogby International and the Arab American Institute Foundation. The poll also noted that most Arab countries view the U.S. less favorably today than they did during the last year of the Bush administration." (Source.)

And . . .

"Add Latin America to the list of regions upset with President Obama's lack of follow-through on campaign and White House promises."(Source.)

These are just two examples. There are others one could cite.

Conclusion: The professional historians got it wrong. And, it is my opinion that, the reason they got it wrong is because they allowed their politics to color their analysis - which is what I'm often accused of. Funny, I've never seen my critics take these folks to task.
Hmmmm . . .

Moreover, what is most important to realize is that anyone with just a fundamental understanding of Obama's (and the left's) view of foreign relations and America's history, should have seen that Obama would ultimately fail in what many would characterize as utopian and unrealistic goals.

Question - if the politics and worldview of these academics, bloggers, and professional historians caused them to err in this analysis - which involved very recent history - does the possibility exist their worldview and politics would cause them to err in other areas of historical analysis regarding much earlier history? In other words, if these academics can't get recent history (much of which they've lived through and experienced first hand) right, should they be given the benefit of the doubt on history much further removed from their own lifetimes? The answer is, of course, quite obvious; at least to me.

Next installment coming soon.

21 July 2011

Now We Know Why Leftists Hate The American Flag

I recently uploaded a couple of posts about how some academics view Independence Day. Now comes this.

Just a glimpse at the American flag can sway voters, even Democrats, toward more Republican voting behavior, attitudes and beliefs, a new two-year study says.

This is just getting too easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel: Anti-American exceptionalism sentiments popular among "professional" historians, "Social Justice" being taught in public schools, folks suggesting the Founders were Progressives and Socialists - it all makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

More here.

20 July 2011

Made In The South Awards

"Some of the greatest products in the world are made in the South, and the goal of the Garden & Gun Made in the South Awards is to bring more of these products to light. We envision this contest as a celebration of fine craftsmanship, artisanal foods, and the best of Southern style."

19 July 2011

What Does All This Mean For Writers?

As a published author, I've been following the demise of publishing (printed) opportunities with interest for several years now. But I don't care much for e-books. Perhaps its generational, but reading for long periods of time from a lighted screen just does not appeal to me. I prefer light descending from above and lighting the page, rather than ascending from behind the page and straining my eyes. I also prefer to hold books in my hand. I like to adorn the shelves of my office and home with books. Books have been very good friends of mine since I was a child. I shall not abandon them in their struggle to remain relevant.

But, I've experienced the impact of the internet age first hand. I was once a regular contributor to the Washington Times' weekly Civil War column. While it only paid me $125 per submission, it was a good outlet for my history passions and interests and the occasional checks provided some nice pocket money. But when the WT drastically downsized and laid off the column's editor, my relationship and submissions ended. The same story could be repeated with a couple of other publications for which I've written. Now comes this about Border's Books:

The chain's demise could speed the decline in sales of hardcover and paperback books as consumers increasingly turn to downloading electronic books or having physical books mailed to their doorsteps. "When you lose literally miles of bookshelves, it's going to have an impact," said David Young, chief executive of Lagardère SCA's Hachette Book Group, which Borders owed $36.9 million at the time of its bankruptcy filing. "I hope other retailers will now step up and make offers for what they consider to be the prime sites," Mr. Young said. "It's a tragedy Borders didn't make it through." The loss of Borders may also make it more difficult for new writers to be discovered. [More here.]
In so many ways, the internet is the Gutenberg Press of the 21st century. Knowledge that was once limited to the ruling class and elites of society is now available to anyone with an Iphone and an internet connection. As Wikipedia correctly points out about Gutenberg's impact . . .

The relatively unrestricted circulation of information and (revolutionary) ideas transcended borders, captured the masses in the Reformation and threatened the power of political and religious authorities; the sharp increase in literacy broke the monopoly of the literate elite on education and learning and bolstered the emerging middle class. Across Europe, the increasing cultural self-awareness of its peoples led to the rise of proto-nationalism
I believe that there are very few in society who have totally realized the societal and cultural impact of the internet revolution regarding the dissemination of knowledge and information. As I've noted here before, the "monopoly of the ruling elite", aka, much of academia and the ruling class, is showing signs of feeling the same way their soul mates felt at the dawn of the Reformation - threatened.  

And yet, while I trumpet and champion the explosion of opportunities regarding the internet, blogging, and E-books; I admit being somewhat haunted by a whimsical yearning for the "old days" when print publishing was King. While I do not necessarily agree with the comment from the Borders column about new writers (it actually could be the opposite), one must admit that E-books, blogging, etc. have exponentially "democratized" writing and publishing and this has created an almost infinite amount of noise a writer must break through in order to get noticed - even good writers have this to contend with. But the market rules. And that's the way it should be.

18 July 2011

Metal Detecting Post #40 - WBTS Artifact Appraisals

Are you, like me, somewhat of a collector of Civil War artifacts? Whether its books or buttons, I love finding and collecting WBTS related items. If you have similar interests, I would recommend readers do what I do every Monday evening at 9 PM EST - tune in to the internet based Relic Roundup "radio" show here. Always interesting and entertaining, the show allows listeners to call in with questions and comments. Also, a chat room operates on the blog at the same time and questions and comments can also be submitted there.

This week's guest will be fellow metal detectorist, and expert Civil War appraiser, Mr. Rafael Eledge . . .

Rafael Eledge is one of the country's most active and knowledgeable experts of Civil War and 19th-century militaria. Mr. Eledge's career began at the ripe age of 11, when he received his first metal detector and began searching around his home state of Tennessee for Civil War artifacts. He continued to gain knowledge and expertise as he attended trade shows, buying and selling pieces to support himself through college . . . He is highly regarded by his peers for his knowledge of artifacts of the American Civil War.

Mr. Eledge is perhaps best known as the expert Civil War appraiser on PBS' Antiques Roadshow. As a matter of fact, tonight's episode will feature a rare WBTS sword. Besides his work with AR, Eledge also owns Shiloh Relics. Tonight's AR program will air at 8 PM EST, one hour prior to the Relic Roundup program, giving me a full WBTS artifact "fix."

BTW, I actually had a dream last night that I had gained permission to metal detect the grounds of Virginia Military Institute! Yes, that would definitely be a dream come true. But . . . ain't gonna happen. :o(

15 July 2011

Somethin' I Saw Today - Post #6

Fresh, cool-running springs dot the landscape all through Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Many of these are well-known, others are not. Throughout history, these springs have greeted many a dry and thirsty traveler along the byways and back roads of Old Virginia. Farmers, Civil War and Revolutionary soldiers, Indians, hitchhikers - all have benefited from these  refreshing watering holes. I came across this one in a very rural part of the Valley on Route 252 on the Augusta/Rockbridge County line. I've passed it many, many times before and often stop, as I did today, for a drink. The water was crystal clear and ice cold. The spring is, in my mind, quite beautiful and peaceful. (Click on images to enlarge.)

14 July 2011

"Public" University Politically Persecutes Student

". . . after learning that their professors were accused of encouraging criminal behavior and recruiting for the Communist Party during class, the first concern of Provost Glen Cope *(UMSL) and Vice Provost Mary Lou Hines Fritts *(UMKC) was to find who leaked the tapes and to punish them." (Emphasis mine.)

And . . .

"The University officials did their damnedest to contrive a way to punish me, all the while bending over backwards to protect their faculty members. They did not determine that I violated a policy, and then subsequently decide that I should be punished. Rather, they first decided that I needed to be punished, and then floundered back and forth trying to invent a reason. On the basis of my political affiliations alone, they clearly had convicted me before I even set had a chance to offer a defense. I showed up to UMSL’s 'investigation' with an attorney. They decided at that point they did not want to talk to me anymore, and all conduct investigations were dropped. As soon as they discovered they couldn’t bully a powerless student, their bravado vanished."

"Their bravado vanished." Yes, typical conduct of cowards.

This young man's experience is extremely disturbing. Particularly so when we know tax dollars support this unprofessional, thuggish conduct. Unbelievable.
More here.

*University of Missouri system - a "public" center for (re?) education.

Congratulations To Sculptor Gary Casteel!

**Update: Here come the hyper-critical naysayers. So predictable.

Friend and fellow SCV member, Gary Casteel, recently shared some exciting news with me and I thought I'd pass it along to my readers:

For Immediate Release:
July 12, 2011
Contact:  G. Paul Nardo (804) 698-1619
Susan Clarke Schaar (804) 698-7400

Civil War Commemorative Sculpture Installed in Virginia’s Historic State Capitol

– “Brothers” created and executed by Nationally Recognized Sculpture Gary Casteel –
– Moving Bronze Sculpture on Loan to Capitol by Anonymous Private Collector –

RICHMOND, VA – Coinciding with many special events surrounding the commemoration of the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of Virginia's participation in the American Civil War, a powerful and poignant Civil War Commemorative bronze sculpture was painstakingly installed yesterday in Virginia’s historic State Capitol.  “Brothers,” a life-size sculpture privately commissioned by an anonymous private collector in Fredericksburg and executed in 2010 by nationally recognized sculptor, Gary Casteel is now on public display in the Capitol’s new Visitor extension. 

    The “Brothers” memorial, a two-figure, life-size setting in bronze, is reminiscent of the harsh realities of the American Civil War.  The figures, brother against brother, represent the real possibility of familial recognition by opposing soldiers, one Union, one Confederate, but brothers nonetheless, after the horrific battle that engulfed the countryside near Fredericksburg.

    “The very moving statue is meant to mean different things to different people,” said the anonymous collector. “For me, it is a simple and profound tribute to the common, everyday person who answered the call, left home and family and took part in an epic struggle, as warriors have done throughout the ages.  The image displays fatigue and grief, but also hope and solace that it is over and that a future lies ahead of hope and promise for a unified country bound together in liberty and individual dreams that is America today.”

    Casteel, a West Virginia native, with strong Virginia ties, currently resides in Cashtown, Pennsylvania, near the Gettysburg Military Park, where his equestrian statue of General James Longstreet, which thrust him into the demanding light of success, is installed.  Mr. Casteel's love of history and art are reflected in each individual work, which is certainly the case with the “Brothers” sculpture.  Casteel’s work has become highly regarded and requested by a wide variety of institutions, including the United States National Park Service, state and local governments, corporations and private enterprises.  Other Virginia collections containing Casteel’s work include the Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park, Virginia Military Institute, Museum of the Confederacy and Pamplin Park.

    For more information about the design and execution of the sculpture, Gary Casteel may be contacted directly by phone at (717) 334-0050 or via e-mail at garycasteel@comcast.net.

13 July 2011

Phonies & Hypocrites

Those who spend any time reading Civil War and history blogs are often subjected to hand-wringing by "educators" and academics over certain groups (usually Confederate/Southern heritage) who ostensibly are perverting the minds of young people by politicizing history. I also recently commented on a Harvard study that suggested 4th of July celebrations were little more than indoctrination events which turn children into Republicans. (See here and here.) Both of these examples are most often private affairs with voluntary participation. 

But I find it quite telling that none of these same professional educators/critics seem to be worried over what's going on with PUBLIC tax dollars and COMPULSORY education. There's good reason. They're phonies and hypocrites. The real politicization of history and education, as well as taking advantage of young people and a captive audience, is taking place in "public" education. Watch the video below.

As a sidebar, a number of these same critics and "experts" have poo-pooed the idea of Marxist "social justice" principles being taught and promoted in public schools. This article shows, again, that these experts are either liars or ignorant. My anecdotal evidence storage bin is now officially full.

The Blood Of History

Fellow Civil War Chaplains Museum board member, Rusty Hicks, shared this with me this morning and I wanted to pass it along to my readers.

Sir Walter Scott On A Sense Of Place

"Breathe there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself has said, 
This is my own, my native land!"
~ Sir Walter Scott

11 July 2011

Can You Define American Exceptionalism?

"American Exceptionalism is not a fad or merely a concept relegated to the dictionary. It is a remedy for a culture seeming to have lost its esteem, pride, dignity, self respect and is in the deep throws of an identity crisis on the world stage.  If we do not define ourselves, the world will do it for us and I don’t think the definition will be one that we would agree with. Let’s look to define what it is and actually try to live up to what we see America to be. American Exceptionalism is not just a concept . . . it’s a way of life." ~ Benjamin Smith

Read more about this here. What about it? What's your definition of AE?

08 July 2011

Somethin' I Saw Today - Post #5

Actually, saw it Wednesday. Went fishin' on the Maury River with my youngest son's family. Red-eye and perch galore! Plus a few smallmouth. Other photo is the ruins of part of the old James River & Kanawha Canal along the Maury. Lovin' summer.

07 July 2011

Recommended Site

Jim Cornelius, who is the editor of Nugget News in Sisters, Oregon and a reader of this blog, recently let me know that he has started a new blog titled Frontier Partisan. Here's a teaser:

From the plains of Texas to the vast veldt of southern Africa, from the Canadian prairie to the Caucasus Mountains to the wild Sonoran desert, savage wars raged. Greed and duplicity, cruelty and barbarism held sway on all sides, but so did genuine nobility and heroism as clashes among mere handfuls of men decided the fates of empires.

Jim suggested it might be of interest to readers here. I would agree and suggest readers take a look.

05 July 2011

Academics & Independence Day - Part II

Last week, I posted about a recent Harvard study which claims that most 4th of July celebrations are "politically biased" events which serve to "socialize children into Republicans." Yes, this is how the elites in academia view your flag waving 4th of July celebrations. I suppose its just a matter of time before they recommend warning labels on apple pie.

Now comes another blog post at BigGovernment.com which echoes what I postulated in my post:

The general tone of the 40-page paper is that understanding the puffery and “public rituals” associated with Independence Day in America is best left to the professional social scientists who truly know such things. For example, just in case their readers might be unaware, the co-authors helpfully remind them that the academic literature defines the Fourth of July as a “day that provides a context for the celebration of an American civic religion organized around flags, parades, and the Constitution.” What a strange tribe of constitutionally-minded, Republican-leaning celebrants!

Besides offering up tendentious conclusions, an overall confusion of causation and correlation, and a strange reliance upon parade-day precipitation as an important factor in their study, the co-authors miss what much of academia today misunderstands about American patriotism. Less than preference of one political party over another, or a penchant for political pomp and circumstance, American patriotism is about the love of a country whose achievement is, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Liberty to all.”

Besides the obvious agenda in  "studies" like this, what truly amazes me is academics making the ridiculous assumption that they themselves believe their cloak of "scholarship" actually hides their agenda when they put out these silly studies. Of course, this agenda hiding is obvious to most and also extends into many other areas - Civil War studies for example. As Eugene Genovese so aptly put it:

. . . American history has largely become a plaything for canting ideologues . . . Our times call for a correct ideological line, which at its increasingly popular extreme regards the Old South as a rehearsal for Nazi Germany and calls for eradication of all traces of the conservative voices that have loomed so large in Southern history.
It is quite easy to connect the dots. The attitude is systemic. Case in point: let us not forget Professor David Blight's Freudian slip last year when writing about Virginia Governor McDonnell's Confederate History Month proclamation. Blight lamented:

Why doesn't the Confederacy just fade away? Is it because we are irresistibly fascinated by catastrophic loss? Or is it something else? Is it because the Confederacy is to this day the greatest conservative resistance to federal authority in American history?
As Genovese points out, the "canting ideologues" of historical interpretation today are really more about using their "analysis" to eradicate conservative voices. (Same issue with the ongoing criticism leveled at the Tea Party.) Just as the Harvard study wrings its hands over 4th of July celebrations ostensibly promoting conservative Republican values in children, others in academia would have conservative resistance, and its Southern voices to, "just fade away."

03 July 2011

God & Country - Happy Independence Day

A great clip from one of my all time favorite movies. Love it. Classic. Quintessentially American. Celebrating American Exceptionalism. How history inspires. I own Sergeant York on DVD. I think I'll watch this with some of my family tonight after church.

02 July 2011

Front Porch Pickin' #16 - Let Us Cross Over The River

From our Front Porch Pickin' series, OVB strives to bring you the very best in in Southern Appalachian bluegrass, gospel, folk, country, and old-time mountain music. Get your culture here.

What Is It About Southerners?

Always wanting to secede? Now, California wants to secede - from itself.

Is the state of California about to go “South”?

01 July 2011

What Some In Academia Think Of Independence Day

As we are deluged daily with left-wing propaganda from much of academia's ostensibly objective wizards of smart, it has become abundantly clear what these "apolitical" bunch of hacks are really all about. Despite their crowing about the right's politicization of history, it is actually they who are really guilty of an agenda driven interpretation of our nation's history. But they do it under the ruse that they are "objective." Fortunately, their arrogance so blinds them that they don't realize that most folks see right through the ruse. As one of academia's iconic institutions, Harvard has now come out with a "report" that states, in part:

"Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation's political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party."
For the sake of argument, let's accept their premise. Could this be so because the Republican Party is not quite as full of anti-American Exceptionalism sentiments as is the kooky, socialist extremists in the Democrat Party? Ya think? Wow, it takes a bunch of Harvard educated academics to make this rather obvious observation. Thanks geniuses. We'd have never figured that one out without you. So, this is what some in academia have been reduced to - denigrating Fourth of July celebrations? How pathetic.

And this gem from the report:

"Fourth of July celebrations in Republican dominated counties may thus be more politically biased events that socialize children into Republicans."
Aaawwww, the control-freak socialists are worried that their social justice agenda in the schools will be hindered by parents. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Republicans, in general, tend to be more conservative and resistant to the left's desire for a command and control society. That's the real concern here. These 4th of July celebrations are messing up their utopia. Can't have that. Isn't it interesting that these same "guardians of the truth" seem to be more concerned with what parents do voluntarily with their own children on their own time than they are with what's going on in government schools with tax-payer money and compulsory attendance? This is how many of the elitists in academia look at the rest of us and our traditions - something to be examined "objectively" under a microscope and then, through their elitist worldview, frowned upon as if there is something dark and nefarious going on - in a July 4th celebration! Good Lord.

So, students, here's your assignment for the long weekend: take your son, daughter, grandchild, granddaughter, niece, or nephew to a Fourth of July celebration. In so doing, take great comfort in knowing that you are instilling pride in them for America's founding and, at the same time, annoying an elitist, control-freak, anti-American Exceptionalism academic. What better way to celebrate Independence Day? Read more here: Harvard: July 4th Parades Are Right-Wing.