30 April 2011

How Stupid Are Spammers?

Evidently, pretty stupid. Here's a recent example of the type of spam "comments" I receive on an ongoing basis:

Thanks to say for posting this blog. We have to get new collection of news from your end. All the best for you best support. Keep updataing [sic] your blog. This is really nice job… 

Suggestion to spammers to blogs based in the United States: Learn the English language.

29 April 2011

How Do We Trust Public Schools To Teach History?

I noted in a post a couple of weeks ago that I was refocusing my blog. That refocus was already underway when I made the announcement. As I've pointed out numerous times, by reading my header you will find I'm very open about what this blog is about and my perspective: history, culture, and faith; with a special focus on Virginia where my ancestors have been for nine generations. Where I delve into politics henceforth (with a minor infraction here and there), it will be germane with these topics. Education is certainly part of the topic of history. But it is also part of our culture and, increasingly, politics. Sometimes these things overlap. That's just the world in which we live. I just wanted to clarify that I'm not changing my focus, but this video contains information that is most assuredly relevant to the topic of history, since that is where many children ostensibly learn about our Nation's history. But I want to ask readers a question as it relates specifically to the study of American history and, even more specifically, to the study of the War Between the States. Given the "anecdotal evidence" in this video, how does one put any confidence in public schools to teach the subject of American history and the WBTS with any objectivity? I realize not every classroom is like the ones presented in this video, but I believe the number is growing, given our political climate and academia in general. Let's just see how many  objective critics, concerned educators, and history bloggers who are worried about "distorting" history and politicizing education we truly have.

If you intend to respond to this post with "kill the messenger" ad hominem attacks against Glenn Beck, don't waste your time. I agree that Beck tends to go off the deep end now and then, but you can respond to the information and accusations specifically discussed in the video or your comment will be rejected.

28 April 2011

Metal Detecting Post #33 - Diggin' Dabney Part 3

During my most recent trip to "Stony Point", the home built by Robert Lewis Dabney (Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff and Chaplain), I again recovered some interesting relics. (See previous posts here and here.) Nothing of great value, but of great interest - to me anyway. The group pictures show all the interesting finds. Part of an arrowhead, the other part of a brass burner to an oil lamp from a previous find (Patent date 1863), a 19th century brass buckle, and a calf weaner. The calf weaner with a patent date of August 18, 1910 stamped on it, was made by a company that is still in business selling these items, though with a more modern design. The name of the company is quite, uh, clever: "KANT SUK." [Please, save the jokes for a different blog. ;o) ] The curved part with the knobs on the ends are inserted into the calf's nostrils and the lower part is hinged; allowing it to swing down in front of the calf's mouth so it "can't suck." My piece is rusted to the point that the hinge is no longer free to swing down.

The last item pictured is an ax head I showed before. But since that post, I did some research using Eric Sloane's Museum of Early American Tools and it looks like it could be pre-Revolutionary, based on one of his sketches. I've contacted the Museum of Frontier Culture to see if they might be able to assist me in dating the piece. Hopefully, I'll get a response soon.  Of all these pieces, the only ones that could have been there during Dabney's time would be the buckle and the ax head. Of course, the arrowhead would have been there long before Dabney ever set foot on the property. You can click on the images to enlarge for a better look.

Broken arrowhead, calf weaner, oil lamp burner, brass buckle
Dug calf weaner ~ "Kant Suk"
Kant Suk calf weaner ~ non-dug
Ax Head ~ Pre-Revolutionary?
Local artist and historian, Joe Nutt writes the following about Stony Point:

". . . Dabney designed the home and with his own hands quarried the stone, with some help from church members and neighbors, and *paid a stonemason "about 50 cents per perch for laying the stone." In August, 1851, Dabney wrote, "I will try what architectural science can do to combine taste and beauty with economy. My house must be something very small and very plain; but there is no reason in the eye of skill, why it may not be pretty. . . The grey-stone cottage I thought a gem. Had I lived there (longer), it would have been a beautiful place." 

It is a beautiful place and I hope to return there a few more times to see what other secrets lay just under foot. I'll post more pics of any interesting finds and some of the landscape later. Saturday, I hope to do some relic hunting near what once served as a winter camp for Confederate soldiers.

*Dabney was also a skilled stonemason, having learned the trade on his family's mill farm in Louisa County, Virginia. Other sources indicate Dabney did much of the stone work at Stony Point himself.

An Ally For The Enemies Of American Exceptionalism

Superman. I suppose "truth, justice, and the American way" is just for those bitter-clinger types.

27 April 2011

Metal Detecting Post #32 - Bullets From DIV XVII

I wanted to conclude my series of photos of my finds taken at my recent Diggin' In Virginia XVII adventure in Culpeper, Virginia. I'll be putting up a video at some point. Lots going on to post about but a recent bout with a stomach virus has kept me away from my projects.

A rare Confederate 54 caliber CS Merrill

Another Confederate bullet ~ a 56 caliber Ringtail Sharps

44 caliber Richmond Labs Colt revolver bullet
Best guess ~ a fired 36 caliber CSA revolver bullet
A 64 caliber musket ball ~ a bit rare
A 59 caliber musket ball with mold seams

A 45 caliber musket ball
Lunch under a beautiful Virginia sky on the final day

25 April 2011

Is This An Appropriate Way To Honor A Veteran?

My Ancestor's
Final Resting Place
I've posted before about the ongoing battle over Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond. (See here and here) Oakwood has more (17,000) combat-related Confederate graves than any cemetery in the United States. But the current  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs administration doesn't want to honor these veterans with any proper V.A. issued headstones. I think they're playing politics. What an absolute disgrace.

As Lee Hart of the SCV noted in a recent Richmond Times piece about the ongoing battle:

"This is total, total discrimination," said F. Lee Hart III of Suffolk, chairman of the SCV Oakwood Restoration Committee. "I don't think they want to see an Arlington of Richmond, with all of the positive media and tourism that this cemetery will draw, this being the largest combat casualty Confederate cemetery."

Virginia Senator James Webb to the rescue. As the Richmond Times Dispatch piece notes, James Webb recently reminded the V.A. that "Confederate and Union soldiers have the same legal status."

Steve Muro, acting undersecretary for (V.A.) memorial affairs, said that "the existing markers are appropriate." Really Mr. Muro? A stone with no name, no birth date, no death date, no unit noted and which is shared with two other men is "appropriate" in marking the burial place of a deceased soldier who died as a result of combat? I find that statement to be either a.) extremely insensitive, b.) a display of gross ignorance, c.) and most likely, a political calculation. This man, whose salary I help to pay, should be made to apologize or fired. Here's some of what I wrote a couple of years ago about my great-great grandfather who happens to be buried at Oakwood:

Oakwood Cemetery ~ 1865
Number 91 on a weathered, lonely, blank headstone; a shared grave with two other men. Not much of a tribute for someone who was a POW and died for his country. For 140 years my family knew nothing of what happened to my great-great grandfather, John Meredith Crutchfield. We did know that Grandpa Crutchfield left the family farm, walked to Gauley Bridge, Virginia (West VA today) and enlisted with the 60th Virginia Infantry, Company F at the beginning of the war. He owned no slaves. He simply wanted to defend his home. He was wounded at the Battle of Piedmont in the Shenandoah Valley (just a few minutes from my home here in Augusta County), taken prisoner by the Federals and transported to the infamous POW Camp Morton in Indiana where prisoners received cruel treatment at the hands of Union soldiers.

Transferred to Chimborazo Hospital in March of 1865 in a prisoner exchange, my grandfather died there on March 28. There, the story ended – or so the family thought. John Crutchfield’s widow died years later not knowing what had become of him. Had he deserted? Had he run off with another woman? Had he been killed in battle? No one knew until the 1950’s when my great aunt discovered the information about the Battle of Piedmont and Chimborazo. But the family still did not know what became of his body. Where was he buried or was he buried? Then I wrote this piece for the Washington Times’ Civil War column detailing some of my grandfather’s story. (This story refers to a "James" Crutchfield. That was my mistake, John is the correct name. John had a son named James that was born in 1861.) The story was read by a gentleman in Richmond; a fellow Sons of Confederate Veterans member. This man was working on the restoration of Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond. This cemetery, where many Confederate veterans are buried, had fallen into shameful neglect in recent years. I was contacted by this gentleman and he told me that he knew for a fact that John Meredith Crutchfield was buried at Oakwood – family mystery solved! The photograph of Oakwood shown here was taken in April of 1865, just after my grandfather would have been buried. Almost exactly 140 years after the fact, John Meredith Crutchfield’s family now knows where his grave is. Grandpa Crutchfield has never before had someone from his family visit his grave, weep over his death, honor his sacrifice, or place flowers upon his final resting place. That is about to change. I love history. And I love the God of history who providentially shows us what we need to know to honor our fathers.

Senator Webb is to be commended for his efforts to intervene. May the God of History bless his efforts. If you agree that these men deserve better, I urge you to contact the V.A., Senator Webb's office, or your own Congressmen and Senators. You may read the complete RTD piece here.

22 April 2011

Old Times There Are Forgotten

Here's an interesting bit of news about how the North is not commemorating the Sesquicentennial - at least no where to the degree it's being done in the South. I've discussed this lack of memory and uniqueness (as contrasted with the South) before (see here and here). Now comes this acknowledgment how the two regions are still very different, despite many academics' heroic effort and struggle to both proclaim they're not different, while they work tirelessly to make sure they're not:

In North, Civil War sites, events long 'forgotten'

As the nation marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, states in the old South — the side that lost — are hosting elaborate re-enactments, intricate memorials, even formal galas highlighting the war's persistent legacy in the region. But for many states in the North — the side that won — only scant, smaller events are planned in an area of the nation that helped sparked the conflict but now, historians say, struggles to acknowledge it. 

I also pointed out in one of my posts (linked above) about the disparity in the Veterans' organizations membership numbers, something this news piece also points out:

Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group open to male descendants of veterans who served in the Confederate armed forces, boast 30,000 members across the Old South. The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War has 6,000 members.

This piece, along with what is obvious to most open-minded individuals, simply confirms that the two regions are still vastly different in how they remember and what they remember in regards to American history. You can read the complete article here. It's quite interesting.

Post coming this weekend: The Focal Point Of All Human History (along with proof)

Jine The Cavalry

Muster Day

21 April 2011

Civil War Domain Names For Sale

Are you a current or soon to be Civil War blogger? Looking for a domain name related to Virginia where most of the WBTS battles took place? How about one of these? Any reasonable offer will be considered.


Recommended Founders Blog

I would encourage my readers to visit What Would The Founders Think?

As the hosts so wisely point out . . . 

We humbly submit that the founders possessed far greater integrity, far greater intellect, and understood the world more than anybody we can think of in politics today.  They had phenomenal foresight in constructing a system which has stood the test of time.  Its ideas are, if possible, more relevant today than when they were first penned.

20 April 2011

Eugene Genoves On Objectivity

"Those who pretend to write an objective, value-free history charge those who frankly espouse a worldview with having blind prejudice and contempt for evidence, but the charge itself betrays prejudice and contempt. Until recently, we primarily had to contend with the illusion that a historian could proceed without a worldview and attendant political bias and somehow arrive at an objectivity that one might have thought only God capable of." ~ Eugene D. Gevonese in The Southern Front - History and Politics in the Cultural War

Sounds remarkably like what I've been saying in recent comments and debate.

19 April 2011

Gelding Our Heroes & Distorting Our History

"We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful." ~ C.S. Lewis (The Abolition of Man)

Michael Aubrecht's increasingly partisan criticism directed at conservatives and a traditionalist view of history has become quite perplexing to me. While I have been working on a response to Michael's criticism of the Tea Party's alleged "distortion of history", he recently put up a post featuring this slanderous depiction of several Founding Fathers. I'm not sure what the purpose of this image is supposed to represent. I'd like to give Michael the benefit of the doubt and assume he was being absurd for the sake of it, but the comments which accompany the image make that benefit of the doubt a hard pill to swallow:

"Ever since 'Blog, or Die.' debuted back in 2009, I have become increasingly critical when analyzing the lives of our forefathers. As a result, my blog has become more popular and respected at a professional level. This has led to bigger gigs and better books."

I find that comment a bit troubling. Is that what it takes to "become more popular" and "respected at a professional level" - becoming a critic of our forefathers? I can't see how posting these images accompanied by the silly accusations could possibly be considered "professional." The image is something I'd expect to see in a comic book version of Howard Zinn's A People's History Of The United States. If promoting that version of history is the price of popularity and "respect", I think I'll pass.

There is so much wrong with Michael's post on so many levels, I don't quite know where to start. So, let's just start with the image. Allow me to address each "allegation."

  1. Washington - Drug Dealer: Yes, George Washington grew marijuana on his farm. He also made entries in his journal about the plant's potential medicinal value and promoted it's growth. However, anyone remotely familiar with the history of hemp knows that during Washington's day, marijuana was grown mainly for its industrial value as hemp as well as for its value in stabilizing the soil. It was not until many years later that marijuana became popular (and illegal) as a recreational drug. Suggesting that Washington was a "drug dealer" because he grew marijuana on his 18th century farm is utterly ridiculous.
  2. John Adams - Incest: Yes, John Adams married his cousin - as did Johan Sebastian Bach, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Rudy Giuliani, FDR, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.G. Wells, to name just a few. As a matter of fact, I married my cousin. I've told that story before. My wife and I share the same great-great grandfather and we were not aware of this fact until after we were married. I am quite amused by the fact. But incest? Please. Marrying cousins was actually quite common in colonial and antebellum America. It is still legal to do so in many states, including Virginia. Suggesting Adams committed incest  by marrying his cousins is, again, utterly ridiculous.
  3. Andrew Jackson - Murderer: At least we're getting a bit closer to the facts but, this too is quite a stretch. First of all, dueling was an acceptable social practice in Jackson's day and many a dispute was settled on the "field of honor." Jackson did defy dueling etiquette and took a second shot at one of his opponents, Charles Dickinson. The shot did in fact kill him. However, Jackson was never charged with murder and, even if he had been, would have likely been acquitted.
  4. Thomas Jefferson - Slave Relations: There is, at least on this charge, some evidence that Jefferson may have fathered children with Sally Hemmings. Most historians are familiar with the story and it would not be all that surprsing, were it true. This was not an uncommon thing in slaveholding societies. However, there is still considerable disagreement and controversey surrounding the allegation. Even the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (Monticello) acknowledges that nothing regarding these allegations has been proven: "Although the relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemings has been for many years, and will surely continue to be, a subject of intense interest to historians and the public, the evidence is not definitive, and the complete story may never be known. The Foundation encourages its visitors and patrons, based on what evidence does exist, to make up their own minds as to the true nature of the relationship." (Emphasis mine.) Making the allegation as fact is irresponsible.

So, 3 out of 4 of these silly depictions are out and out false. The remaining one is a matter of disagreement. 3 out of 4 of these depictions represent some of the worst and outrageious examples of presentism that I've ever seen.

If you'll read the balance of Michael's post, he appears to be overly concerned that students of history too often idolize those they study, i.e. "hero worship." Certainly that can be true. But Michael seems to be unaware that there are ditches on both sides of the road. Some of his recent comments further suggest that he believes the concept of heroes is immature and unworthy of anyone serious about history. I find that quite troubling, yet reflective of much of what we see in the way many moderns approach the study of history - humanistic and man-centered; even self-centered. Many who would reject a more traditional approach to historiography also see modern man as "master of his own destiny" and totally self-sufficient and amoral - not needing heroes, moral teachers, and examples of courage, self-denial, and patriotism - examples which we are blessed with an abundance of in American history. I don't think that Michael really embraces much of this mindset. Rather, I believe he has unwittingly fallen into this beguiling trap as he has "become increasingly critical when analyzing the lives of our forefathers."

Though not trained as a historian (not that this is necessary to write about history), I know Michael to be sincere and serious about the craft. He's done some good work. I've even helped him in small ways where I could. But somehow, he seems to have been convinced that he must, in the words of C.S. Lewis, castrate--figuratively speaking of course--the Founding Fathers and other American heroes in order to "un-hero" them and remove them from their pedestal, as well as to prove himself a serious historian.

Moreover, Michael assumes because one focuses on the positive and heroic aspects of American history, one must necessarily ignore the negative aspects or even forget that these heroes had human faults. The two aspects are not mutually exclusive. But that's not really the issue. The trend of denigrating American heroes and American exceptionalism is considered quite chic and "sophisticated" by many in academia and on the professional left. As I've noted before this mindset is, in most cases, much more about the writer or historian doing the "critical analysis" than it is about the subject of the analysis. It ostensibly elevates the historian "above it all" and puts him on a "higher plane" than those who write "celebratory history." Again, man-centered and humanistic to the core. Much of the "more recent scholarship" which embraces this faddish trend is, quite simply, ego driven. As historian Will Durant wrote: "To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves." That quote reminds me of something I once heard Bud Robertson say about Robert E. Lee: "Robert E. Lee never existed [in the minds of some] because we don't have a Robert E. Lee today." 

And therein lies much of the problem. A narcissistic, egotistical society and culture obsessed with immediate gratification and one that has rejected its founding principles finds it impossible to believe that a Lee or a Washington, with their towering characters and principled examples of self-denial and patriotism, could have ever existed. The typical modern, full of self and educated (he thinks) to the point of a smug, arrogant cockiness, simply cannot conceive of the selfless, heroic acts of which we read in the lives of these men, as well as so many others which have contributed to America's exceptionalism. The example of some of these heroic figures in American history necessarily causes some self-doubt among moderns regarding their own self-awarded superiority. Can't have that. Unable to measure up, it becomes easier for the modern to tear down

Much of this tearing down is also rooted in a distaste for America's history, for a whole variety of reasons, including much of academia's leftist political agenda. Andrew McCarthy made note of this some time ago at National Review's website:

What most frustrates Americans is that we are a happy, optimistic, can-do people ceaselessly harangued by media solons, delusional academics, post-sovereign Eurocrats, and the Democrats who love them. While we free and feed the world, they can’t tell us enough that we’re racist, imperialist, torturing louts. We know it’s a libel, an endless stream of slander. But we also know it’s an absurd libel. We’re tired of hearing it, but taking it too seriously would give it power it doesn’t deserve. (Emphasis mine.)

McCarthy expresses the anger that many Americans feel about this whole issue, including me. It is one of my pet peeves and a frequent topic of posts here. I am passionate about challenging these notions which is why I'll write long posts on the subject like this one. But all is not bleak. I recently had the pleasure of reading a piece by Gregory D. Foster, who is a professor at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, not all academic historians have rejected American exceptionalism and the worthy and legitimate concept of American heroes. Professor Foster's piece--very eloquently--addresses the current fad of "hero-bashing" and the preference for pop-culture idols and celebrities over traditional heroes. He has given me permission to include his article in this post. Here are a few choice excerpts:

Thomas Carlyle, the 19th-century Scottish historian, said: "Society is founded on hero worship." Historically, that may once have been true. It may even be true of other societies today. It certainly isn't true of America. We are a society of celebrity worshipers, voyeurs of the rich and famous. We are infatuated by celebrities. We idolize them. We grovel in their presence. We try to look and be like them. We mistake them for heroes. To most of us, who you are and know is much more important than what you do or stand for.

Celebrities, though, are qualitatively quite different than heroes, markedly inferior to them in fact. The celebrity is nothing but a person of celebrity, well known for his well-knownness (as historian Daniel Boorstin put it), famous for being famous. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, and Walter Cronkite are celebrities. Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds, and Tiger Woods are celebrities. So too Bill Gates, Ted Turner, and Donald Trump, Bob Dole and Jesse Jackson, even John McCain and Colin Powell. 
Heroes, in contrast, are transcendent, mythic, seemingly superhuman figures who combine greatness with goodness. They may have charisma, presence, and "gravitas"; they must demonstrate courage, vision, and character--selfless character. Heroes have stature, if not size. Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel come quickly to mind. Non-heroes and anti-heroes lack stature, even if possessed of size. Bill Clinton, the quintessential postmodern anti-hero of our day, who demeaned and diminished most of what he touched, comes even more quickly to mind. 

Professor Foster concludes his piece with this admonition:

Why do we need heroes today more than ever? First, because we are all followers at heart. We praise and preach leadership, but we practice followership. Consciously or not, we constantly seek someone beyond ourselves to tell us when and how high to jump. Better that we relinquish ourselves to someone worthy of adulation and veneration than to the many charlatans and demagogues who prey on us.
Second, we are adrift, wandering aimlessly in a post-Cold War intellectual and spiritual desert, unable to remember who we are or whither we should be tending. There must be someone of supernal dignity and virtue who can lead us out of our anomie and ennui.
Third, we are cynical, disillusioned, drained of the respect that would justify placing unconditional trust in public figures who presume to claim our allegiance. So, we turn to athletes and entertainers for escape.
Finally, despite our self-deluding sense of superiority as a country--you know, world's only superpower and all that we are less than we could be as individuals and as a people. Ultimately that's what heroes do for us: They make us mere mortals want to be better. As Emerson observed: "Great men exist that there may be greater men."
Would that we could find among us someone who is up to this great task. There's an empty pedestal waiting to be mounted. (You can read the complete article here.)

I think its important to further point out that many pop culture icons have very public moral failings, or flaunt a very amoral persona. Perhaps that is the reason that many prefer to idolize these figures. Down hill is much easier than up hill. Sadly, it seems it is easier--even preferable--for our culture to identify with a Paris Hilton than to identify with a George Washington.

Source of image:  PunditKitchen Warning: this site has some rather salty language and images.

Somethin' I Saw Today - Post #3

Actually, I saw it last month in Charleston, South Carolina - one of my favorite Southern towns.

Yet More On The Politicization Of Academia . . .

And the inferiority of the product they are producing:

It should be noted that academia's emphasis on politics and ideology rather than actually educating, is producing fruit. Unfortunately, its rotten. John Tammey made these recent observations in Forbes:

That knowledge gained in college on its very best day has little to no relationship with the work individuals around the world perform once graduated has not deterred a mad political rush to make a college education as universal as healthcare. Though politicians, educators and their media enablers would have us believe that the act of earning a college diploma makes short people tall, turns bad writers into Somerset Maugham, and the mathematically challenged into highly-paid engineers, reality is happily intruding . . . As Geeta Anand reported in the Wall Street Journal, though call-center company 24/7 Customer Pvt. Ltd is eagerly searching for “recruits who can answer questions by phone and e-mail”, it’s found that “so few of the high school and college graduates who come through the door can communicate effectively in English, and so many lack a grasp of educational basics such as reading comprehension, that the company can hire just three out of every 100 applicants.” This is our future.

Read the rest here.

Post on distorting history and heroes coming later today.

17 April 2011

Recognizing Heroes & "Such Men"

This is a "pre-post" to my upcoming post on distorting history in an unheroic age. While this blog is, generally, more about the WBTS, the principle of honoring heroes, advocated quite tastefully in the video shown below, is timeless and one which I've blogged about quite frequently. This post serves as a good method for softening up readers for my next post. The video was sent to me by reader and relic hunting partner, Doug Hill. Here are his thoughts on the film clip:

   Perhaps you have to read the book (Bury Us Upside Down, the story of the "Misty" pilots- Fast FACs over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the classified project Commando Sabre) to appreciate the sight of Bud Day, one of  America's most highly decorated service members, climbing back into an F-100 Super Sabre and taking flight; I dunno. That book, incidentally, is one of the most moving I've ever read. Johnny Mathis' "Misty" was Bud Day's favorite song, thus Misty became the radio call sign for the pilots under his command. Bud hung out with John McCain in a cell in Hanoi, suffering with serious injuries from a bad ejection from Misty 1.

   Anyway, I really enjoy seeing these aging heroes receiving recognition, and feel overwhelmingly indebted to such men.

The Collings Foundation's F-100F Super Sabre from INVERSION on Vimeo. (If the video skips, try turning the HD off.)

16 April 2011

More On The Politicization Of Academia

Thanks to one of my readers for alerting me to a piece by the Claremont Institute on academia's decidedly liberal bent. What amazes me about this "not so new" news, is how many academic and professional historians have come to this blog claiming no such bias exists and criticizing me for pointing out something that is, at best, "anecdotal evidence." As I say quite often, that pile of anecdotal evidence is looking more and more like an elephant hiding under a rug. Even if they don't like to admit this bias, you would think they'd at least not make public denials - aren't they worried about their own credibility?

In his convocation address at the start of this school year, Barry Mills, the president of Bowdoin College, raised an important concern facing all elite liberal arts colleges, though he spoke specifically of his own school. A number of parents, he said, are unwilling to send their children to Bowdoin or to its sister schools because they are perceived to be too liberal, too out of touch with mainstream America. To his credit, Mr. Mills acknowledged this concern as legitimate. Bowdoin, he said, would benefit from a greater "diversity of views," though, as he candidly admitted, he was at a loss as to how to make it happen.

Read the complete piece here.

Shenandoah Valley Native Gregg Clemmer Defends

. . . the Boys in Gray with an editorial in yesterday's Baltimore Sun advocating for uniformed Confederate reenactors to participate in a parade. So who's being divisive? Here are a few excerpts:

"We rarely hear of the Army's 29th Division, the aptly named Blue and Gray Division whose members came from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia — and in particular, the 116th Regiment of that Division who in World War II went ashore in the first wave at Omaha Beach on D-Day, suffering frightful losses (Company A was decimated, with 96 percent casualties). Yet it is the 116th that heralds directly from another command — a Confederate command, Thomas Jonathan Jackson's legendary Stonewall Brigade."

And . . . 

"It is not too late to invite the Boys in Gray to join the Boys in Blue for the Grand Procession up Pratt Street on Saturday. Make your own bit of history, Baltimore. Show the world in this moving, poignant example that America is indeed one, commemorating our tragic past but at the same time demonstrating that despite our differences and diversities, we have indeed 'bound up the nation's wounds.'"

Read the complete piece here.

Historian Gregg Clemmer lives in North Potomac and is the author of two works on the civil war, "Valor in Gray: The Recipients of the Confederate Medal of Honor" and "Old Alleghany: The Life and Wars of General Ed Johnson."

15 April 2011

The Truth About The Politicization Of Academia

A recent WAPO(!) article by Naomi Schaefer Riley has confirmed what most in America already knew (though a number of history bloggers are in denial):

"It is becoming harder and harder to find professors devoted to teaching traditional academic subjects for their own sake, to undergraduates who lack the basics in the humanities and the social and natural sciences. The academy has not become politicized because of a few radical professors. Rather, entire departments and university administrations see the goal of higher education as political." (Emphasis mine.)

And . . .

"Since the late 19th century, American university faculty members have been considered (in accordance with the German model) society’s experts . . ." (Yeah, that's the problem - Good Lord, don't results mean anything? The "experts" have left a train wreck trail of dismal failures.)

And . . . 

"The classroom became politics by other means." (No kidding.)

All this, and more, are reasons to discard any notion that academic historians are objective when it comes to their perspectives and analysis of the WBTS or any other aspect of American history. Yes, some are, though I would argue everyone has a non-objective perspective with which they approach history. Bottom line: one should not accept premises, nor give someone the benefit of the doubt, simply because someone has an advanced degree and/or teaches at the college level. As a matter of fact, this could be all the more reason to be skeptical.

George Orwell On The Cult Of Youth (& Hatred For Tradition)

"By 1918 everyone under forty was in a bad temper with his elders, and the mood of anti-militarism which followed naturally upon the fighting was extended into a general revolt against orthodoxy and authority. At that time there was, among the young, a curious cult of hatred of ‘old men’. The dominance of ‘old men’ was held to be responsible for every evil known to humanity . . ." ~ George Orwell (As quoted in Honor - A History by James Bowman.)

*Coming up this weekend, a post on heroes and the distortion of history: "Distorting History In An Unheroic World"

14 April 2011

Metal Detecting Post #31 - More DIV Pics

Brass bridle/saddle rosette (front)
Brass bridle/saddle rosette (back)
Brass sword guard parts, including branch
Brass sword guard parts, including branch

Me, along with my partner, Doug Hill, at the end of the
three day hunt on private property surrounding
Brandy Station - Culpeper, Virginia.
Farm in the background.

13 April 2011

Have We Reconciled?

This is a perplexing question, as it relates to the WBTS. In some ways, yes. In others, no. I, like many of you, recently (and for the 3rd or 4th time), watched Ken Burns' PBS documentary, The Civil War. Even though I have several criticisms of the Burns' film, I still find it a fascinating piece of work and very educational. I've always thoroughly enjoyed watching the film, despite its shortcomings. One of the more moving parts of this film comes near the end, as shown below. Pay close attention at about 30 seconds in and listen as historian David McCullough narrates the moving "reenactment" of Pickett's charge at the 50th anniversary reunion at Gettysburg. I believe one can detect the emotion in McCullough's voice as it sounds like he almost chokes up in recounting the emotional event. I don't think he's acting. I don't mind admitting that I too was moved with emotion in hearing McCullough recount the story.

As two readers recently commented on their ancestors' presence at the charge, and their desire to honor their bravery, I thought it would be appropriate to post this clip of the Burns film. The reaction of the Union soldiers, seeing those men come across that open field, is quite moving and is a vivid reminder and confirmation that the often maligned "reconciliation perspective" of the WBTS is real and historically accurate. I thought it would also be appropriate in framing the question I raise in the title of this post.

Also note in the film clip, the 1938 news piece on the 75th reunion at Gettysburg. At about 5:50 into the film, the words, "the wounds have healed" appear in a paragraph on the screen. But have they? The regions are still divided politically - and over similar issues. As Professor David Blight has noted:

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? (Emphasis mine)

Many Southerners still feel (rightfully so) that their heritage and ancestry is fair game for insulting, defaming, poking fun at, and unfairly criticizing for a situation that both North and South had a hand in creating. The battle and debate continues (on blogs, forums, and in print) over perspectives and causes. Certain bloggers love to poke fun at what they refer to as "Moonlight & Magnolias" (how clever) art by such renowned and respected artists as Mort Kunstler. Those types of posts typically go like this: Post an image of a piece of art that portrays the "M&M" perspective, then sit back and watch readers post juvenile comments poking fun at not only the artist, but those who buy such pieces. (And, by the way, those who are major funders of Civil War publications). A few days later, up comes a post about how "divisive" the Confederate heritage crowd is. Uh-huh.

Academics (and others) further accuse the Confederate heritage folks of dividing and pitting certain views against others all the while claiming their own "neutrality" and then at the same time declaring "victory" in the narrative war. How does one claim "victory" while at the same time denying there's any real divide and claiming "neutrality?" Am I missing something?

So I ask, have we reconciled? And can we even have the discussion without providing evidence that we haven't?

12 April 2011

Metal Detecting Post #30 - Diggin' Dabney Part 2

Stony Point - Home of Robert Lewis Dabney
Circa 1900

This is a follow up to something I posted the other day about relic hunting at the home of Robert Lewis Dabney which he built here in Augusta County while serving as Pastor of Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church. In addition to the period flat button I found, I also dug an old iron ax or hammer head of some type, along with part of an oil lamp burner (see below). If anyone recognizes this iron piece, I'd appreciate some input. It could be some type of blacksmithing tool. The oil lamp piece has a patent date stamped on the face of the small wheel piece which one uses to turn the wick up and down. The date reads: "Jul. 21 . 63 Dec. 10 . 67" So it post dates the time Dabney lived here in 1853, though it is period. I had also forgotten that Dabney dubbed his 120 farmstead "Stony Point." He did so for good reason. There is a large layer of limestone just under the surface of much of the acreage. Dabney quarried the stone for the house on premises. I'll be showing that, along with some other interesting video once I finish producing it. Another note of interest. Dabney moved from this home when he accepted a teaching position at Union Theological Seminary in 1853, but he continued to own it. In 1861 he sold the property for $4000 and lent the sum to the Confederacy, for which he was never repaid. Dabney never expressed any regrets.

12 April 1861 - It Begins

"FORT SUMTER, S.C., April 12, 1861, 3:20 A.M. - SIR: By authority of Brigadier-General Beauregard, commanding the Provisional Forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time. We have the honor to be very respectfully, Your obedient servants, JAMES CHESNUT JR., Aide-de-camp. STEPHEN D. LEE, Captain C. S. Army, Aide-de-camp."