28 February 2013

Away On An Adventure

I will be away on an adventure for a few days starting tomorrow and may not have a lot of time to upload posts or respond to comments. I'll return next week and post something about the trip.

27 February 2013

James McPherson Appears With A Secessionist?

This is a follow up to my previous post about Civil War blogger Kevin Levin's overreach regarding Trace Adkins being invited to sing the National Anthem at Gettysburg's 150th. The conversation at Kevin's blog over his post (suggesting that Adkins "flirts with secession") took the predictable digression into comparing Adkins to a Nazi. No one disagreed or challenged such inflammatory comparisons. This is now typical fare on numerous Civil War blogs. Below is a photograph taken at Gettysburg in 2011.

Civil War Trust Chairman Henry Simpson, Country Music Superstar Trace Adkins, Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Bob Kirby, and Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author James McPherson Gettysburg (PA) 2011

Again, what is so remarkable to me is that Adkins views on states' rights automatically earns him the label of a "secessionist" and comparison to a Nazi in the minds of some Civil War historians. We've now entered alternate universe territory. Beam me up Scotty.

24 February 2013

Trace Adkins Supports Gettysburg Commemoration & Gets Unfairly Criticized - Again

By historians who erect a straw man.

Kevin Levin and the boys are all puckered up over Gettysburg National Military Park inviting Trace Adkins to sing the National Anthem at this year's 150th commemoration coming up in July. Apparently, unless you tow the correct political line regarding certain perspectives and interpretations involving the WBTS, you're not welcome at these types of events - at least not on stage. Intentional or not, this is a prime example of political correctness - shut down opposing views by attempting to marginalize their opinions and perspectives.

But Kevin starts his criticism with what I believe is a false premise - that Adkins should be disqualified from appearing because of his "casual flirt with secession." Kevin points to Adkins's remarks in this video as evidence of this flirtation with secession. Listen carefully to what Adkins says:

What's interesting to me is that Adkins seems to actually be taking the exact opposite position for which Kevin and the gang are criticizing him. He explicitly says he agrees that the Civil War resolved the "issues" of slavery and secession. That hardly sounds like a "casual flirt with secession." That is quite a stretch in my opinion. I listened to what Adkins said three times - again. (You can see that I chimed in on a previous and related post at Kevin's blog here.)

What Adkins does correctly point out is that the ongoing interpretation of the 10th amendment, a.k.a. "states' rights" issue has not been resolved. The federal courts quite frequently decide cases surrounding 10th amendment issues and interpretations. For those of us who are familiar with this topic, including very recent history, Adkins could not be more correct. (See here for just one recent example.) Scores more could be listed.

The retort that follows is that states' rights cannot be discussed separately from slavery. That argument is absurd on its face, since the courts continue to decide cases which center around the 10th amendment today - separate from slavery, of  course.

And beyond that, despite what Kevin and those commenting would like everyone to believe, Adkins' position on causation is a mainstream opinion embraced by almost half the country and a substantially higher number than those who believe the WBTS it was all about slavery:

A new poll from the Pew Research Center reports that nearly half of Americans identify states’ rights as the primary cause of the Civil War. This is a remarkable finding, because virtually all American textbooks and prominent historians emphasize slavery, as they have for decades. Even more striking, the poll shows young people put more stock in the states’ rights explanation than older people. The 38 percent of Americans who believe slavery was mainly to blame find themselves losing ground. More here.

While Kevin's point seems to be that Adkins's views are on the fringe and outside of the mainstream, and that the GNMP should distance themselves from him and not give him a "platform", it would appear that it is actually Kevin's position on causation (as well as those commenting) who are the ones in the minority of what most Americans believe about causation and the WBTS. Why do professional and academic historians want to exclude and attempt to marginalize other points of view on perspective and analysis? What do they fear? Perhaps they're motivated by the fact that, not only is their view in the minority, they also "find themselves losing ground."

(Pew Research 2010)

Adkins opines that the issue of states' rights has not been settled because, if it were, "we wouldn't still be arguing about it today." Apparently, David Blight, the guru of many professional historians, has come to a similar conclusion, though from a politically different perspective:

Today, states’ rights claims are advanced by many governors and Republican-majority legislatures in the very language of “secession” and “nullification” made so infamous in antebellum America. . . The Civil War is not only not over, it can still be lost. (Source)

Read more here: http://civilwar150.kansascity.com/articles/civil-war-150-past-present/#storylink=cpy

That sure sounds like Blight doesn't believe this issue is settled either. Logic would then dictate, and consistency demand, that Kevin and his readers would feel the same way about Professor Blight appearing on stage at the same event.

Of course, we know that's not the case. Could that be due to the fact that Blight takes the correct political stance and Adkins doesn't? Just asking. It would appear that some of these folks want to silence Adkins and shut him out from these types of events. 

Maybe what really upsets some professional historians is the fact that, despite decades of efforts to convince the American public that slavery was THE cause of the Civil War, more Americans than not have rejected that view. Seems like Adkins is more successful at communicating historical perspectives than are his critics.

23 February 2013

Recommended For Young Men - An Anecdote For Modernity

I absolutely love this concept and the company that is behind it. More to come on this topic soon.

22 February 2013

Heads Up - America 2.0?

Oh my, there is SO MUCH truth in this simple, yet profound statement from Walter Russell Mead, and a great lesson for historians of all stripes:

Nature — or perhaps Nature’s God — seems to love mocking pundits. Just when the entire punditocracy, it sometimes seemed, had bought into the “American decline” meme, Europe collapsed and huge energy reserves were discovered underneath the United States. The “special providence” that observers have from time to time discerned in America’s progress through history doesn’t seem to be quite finished with us yet.
Wow. Nature's God and I both love mocking pundits. See, I'm in good Company. The secular "experts" who so often leave Nature's God out of the equation invariably make fools of themselves or, rather, God makes fools of them. The Founders knew better. I absolutely love Mead's reference to Nature's God, obviously taking his cue from my fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson. And the "special providence" is a nice touch as well.

Mead also notes the following:
Forget peak oil; forget the Middle East. The energy revolution of the 21st century isn’t about solar energy or wind power and the “scramble for oil” isn’t going to drive global politics. The energy abundance that helped propel the United States to global leadership in the 19th and 2oth centuries is back; if the energy revolution now taking shape lives up to its full potential, we are headed into a new century in which the location of the world’s energy resources and the structure of the world’s energy trade support American affluence at home and power abroad.
How refreshing.

For those who would like some sunshine to mix in with all the current doom and gloom, I'd highly recommend Mead's complete series on this topic.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Happy Birthday General Washington.

21 February 2013

Metal Detecting Post #96 - More Colonial Intrigue In Augusta County, Virginia

The more time I spend metal detecting, the more passionate and intrigued I become about the history that lies just beneath our feet in ground we walk over every day. It's quite breathtaking to consider. As I was born and raised in Waynesoboro, Virginia and surrounding Augusta County, I do most of my exploration and metal detecting right here. Some older, but very detailed post-war maps of Augusta County, have provided some amazing details and information. Augusta County holds more than it's share of history:

Augusta County was created from Orange County in 1738. For seven years, until the population grew large enough, Augusta’s records were kept in Orange. In 1745, Augusta elected a sheriff, a vestry, a county court, a minister, and a clerk of court. A courthouse was built on the same site in Staunton (originally called Beverley’s Mill Place) as the current courthouse. The county’s records have been kept continuously at the courthouse since 1745. In that year, the county included all of present southwestern Virginia, most of present West Virginia and even stretched to the Mississippi River. As people began to settle in those western areas, new counties were cut off from Augusta, beginning in 1769 with Botetourt County, then Rockingham and Rockbridge in 1778.

The Augusta Militia, today the 116th Infantry, was formed in the 1740s and represents one of the oldest and most storied military units in the country. Descendants of the original militia became the famed “Stonewall Brigade” in the Civil War, and during World War Two, this unit hit Omaha Beach on D-Day. (Source Augusta County Historical Society)
While my primary interest has always been (except as a boy) primarily the Civil War era, I'm also  quite interested in the colonial era as well. My interest in this era of our nation's history has been intensified in recent years due to my metal detecting activity. I've recently been exploring a site in a rather remote area of Augusta County. In previous posts, I've noted some of my recoveries: An 1801 Large Cent and counter-stamped token and part of a colonial shoe buckle. I've also found a couple of colonial pewter buttons, spoons, and another shoe buckle.

Below are some of these finds, which I've not posted before:

Above are parts of pewter spoons - circa 1750-1820

Above: Pewter button #1 - circa 1790-1810

Above: Pewter button #2 - circa 1790-1810
Above: Colonial shoe buckle #2 - circa 1790-1810

When Daddy Comes Marching Home

19 February 2013

Yes Virginia, There Is Bias In Academia

Given the recent dust up here on my blog, this video is most certainly providential. I happen to currently be reading Professor George Yancey's Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias In American Higher Education. It is quite interesting, though at times tedious. A future review is on my growing list of planned posts. (Yes, Professor Simpson, I'll eventually get to the other ones as well. Alert your imaginary friends to keep you abreast of new developments.)

The first thing Professor Yancey addresses in his video is the use of "anecdotal evidence" to illustrate and prove leftist academic bias. That's a criticism that's been leveled at me here in the past. While I agree that, fundamentally, anecdotal evidence should always be viewed with a skeptical eye, there does come a point when the anecdotal crosses a threshold and becomes empirical. That threshold may be, to a point, subjective but my view is that that threshold was crossed a very long time ago.

In the video below, Professor Yancey goes into some detail explaining the methodology behind the information he's written in his book, and the conclusion at which he arrived after this systematic, objective study: Academia is biased against conservatives and Christians. Of course, some of us already knew that - Professor Yancey's research just proves what the anecdotal evidence illustrates. But what this study further illustrates is that not only is there bias present in academia, but very possibly, actual discrimination in hiring. And this from those who most often condemn others for that very same thing and from those who are the self-proclaimed guardians of diversity, tolerance, and open-mindedness.

Pay close attention to the chart in the video which appears at about 7:10 and notice the numbers (the higher the number, the more bias against) regarding the discipline of history. Yancey's explanation of the chart and the comparisons is quite interesting, particularly when he contrasts the numbers involving the "hard sciences"; which proves my oft' repeated, "reality always trumps Utopia." In other words, it's more difficult to politicize and skew chemistry than it is history, i.e.: Leftists and right-wingers all agree, water is wet.

I realize the fall back position is, "Well, yes, this is all true, but that doesn't mean it influences what goes on in the classroom." When I've heard or read that, I don't know if that person is really naive enough to think that those who understand this issue believe it or, if they themselves are relying on their own anecdotal evidence and personal experiences.

At some point in the near future, I am going to attempt to go back through some of my old posts and comments and pull statements by various professional historians and academics who stated that the notion that there is an overwhelming leftist bias in academia is largely a myth. A few of my old posts have been deleted, but I think I may still have enough to make it worthwhile. We'll see.

18 February 2013

Just Part Of The Reason I'm A Proud Autodidact

Yeah, I'm all, like, uh . . . so educated. One thing they do seem to have been taught very well: Abraham Lincoln was our best President (other than the lone vote for Ben Franklin - yes, Ben Franklin.)

But I am sssoooo glad that there's not a predominantly leftist bias on college campuses, aren't you? And, as evidenced by this anecdotal video, even if that were true, we can see they're certainly not indoctrinating students. Whew, I'm all, like, uh . . .  sure glad we got that settled. Like, totally.

Metal Detecting Post #95 - Colonial Intrigue

One of the sites I've recently been metal detecting in search of artifacts has turned up some intriguing colonial period items. I've already posted some comments about the 1801 Large Cent I found last year and, just last week, I returned to this site. The area boasts a spring which produces 70 gallons a minute and has a structure built around it that dates to the 18th century. The site is also close to an area that served as a winter Confederate camp, which is what drew me to it in the first place. Since I first came across this site, I've discovered from looking on some 19th century maps that there was once a business located here, as well as at least one home. (I assumed as much about the home, due to the bold spring). It is in a rather remote area of the Shenandoah Valley.

The site is very difficult to metal detect due to the presence of a lot of iron, not to mention an electric cattle fence which disrupts the function of the metal detector. Nonetheless, I continue to recover and preserve a few 18th and 19th century artifacts and, slowly, learn about what occurred and existed at the site over 200 years ago. Below are a couple of images of what I recovered last week - part of a colonial shoe buckle. Initial research indicates it dates to the late 1700's, early 1800's.

17 February 2013

Civil War Chaplains Museum Program

I'm Not Sad, I'm Glad

Glad to tweak certain academics, that is. It's so easy these days.

Professor Brooks Simpson has taken a break from trolling Facebook long enough to write over 1100 words to say, among other things, that he usually ignores me. "as a rule I ignore certain blogs." Yeah, sure you do. We've heard that claim before.

And this from the guy who fancies himself the smartest person in the room. Of course, since  the only other ones in his rooms are often screen shots from Facebook pages, he could be right. 

Simpson also notes, in regards to what I posted, that "he can't be speaking about me", yet then challenges someone to "Please point to any comment in this blog saying . . . " - That's curious. First he says I can't be speaking about him, then assumes a defensive posture as if he's quite sure that I am, and spends much of his essay writing as if I was, in fact, writing about him. Do I sense some paranoia? Is he confused, or does he just like to fantasize about being at the center of the universe? So what's he so puckered about? Not quite sure unless his snipping tool is on the fritz and he can't cut and paste Facebook conversations into posts on his "academic" blog.

Then he writes this misleading statement:

"you can judge for yourself someone who assesses a book he hasn’t even read."

There's just one small problem with that statement. I did not "assess" the book. Please point out where I did. I simply quoted from someone who did read and assess it. Everything that I wrote specifically about the book's "value" was in quotes. Did Simpson's imaginary friends misinform him or is he just highlighting his own personal issues? Of course, we know Simpson has shown us all before that he sometimes struggles with reading comprehension. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and blame his misrepresentation of what I said on that "personal issue", rather than on any intent to mislead. I'm quite sure that he would never do that.

The rest of his red herrings and straw men aren't worth the time and effort it would take to respond. Besides, I'm sure he's got his snipping tool fixed by now has moved on and is, as I type this, on the prowl somewhere on Facebook. Watch for another intellectually stimulating post soon.

Understanding the tweak in my original post does require some basic knowledge of the current state of academia and the fact that American history has become, in the words of Eugene Genovese, "a plaything for canting ideologues." I assume my readers have that knowledge. Perhaps Professor Simpson hopes they don't.

Readers can read the two related posts and decide for themselves. Those informed and familiar with the points and issues about this topic, which I raised in the offending post, will get it. Those who wish to cling to their preferred narratives will not. 

Update: Simpson makes this comment:

"In this case, another blogger highlighted the post in question. I thought it offered a good case study as to why I don’t give him the time of day. After all, I haven’t used his name. [I'm crushed] Having demonstrated why it’s a waste of time to deal with him. . ."  

Notice how he seems to be going out of his way to say he doesn't read my blog. But as I already pointed out, he took the time to type over 1100 words about a post. That's a strange way to ignore something, isn't it? Perhaps he enjoys "wasting his time." He also keeps repeating that the only reason he read the post was because someone "waived the entry" in his face. Me think the lady doth protest too much. 

16 February 2013

Yes, Yankees Were "Far Too Ruthless"

One of the things that was apparent as I researched the book on Lexington, Virginia and the Civil War, was the mistreatment of Lexington's citizens (Union and Confederate) by Union general David Hunter's army. As my memory was refreshed, I also recalled how a number of Civil War bloggers have downplayed this aspect of the war, even questioning the veracity of some of the claims of Southern civilians; while others took a "so what?" attitude and, in some cases, actually became cheerleaders in justifying such treatment for the "slave-holding rebels." They often sound more like advocates of revenge than they do objective historians. 

I recall specifically a number of historians downplaying Sherman's march through Georgia. One in particular labeled the various claims of atrocities as "myth" and "legend." Of course, much of this perspective hails from the same objective bunch that thought George Bush was guilty of war crimes, but applaud the first President in history who simultaneously holds the Nobel Peace Prize and a kill list. But let us not forget, they are really about sociology, not history. No wonder the court historians are fawning over Spielberg's fantasy movie of Lincoln. It all fits so nicely into the "it's really not history, its sociology" box, doesn't it? Just connect the dots. If this ain't Orwell's 1984, I don't know what could be much closer.

This is part of the reason a particular book recently caught my attention, though I've not yet read it. The book has a catchy little title: What the Yankees Did to Us: Sherman's Bombardment and Wrecking of Atlanta

No, it's not written by who those in academia would automatically label a "neo-Confederate."  The book was authored by Stephen Davis:
Stephen Davis of Atlanta earned a PhD in American Studies, an MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a BA from Emory University. His hobby since the fourth grade has been the Civil War, on which he has written more than one hundred articles. For over twenty years, he served as book review editor for Blue & Gray Magazine. His book, Atlanta Will Fall: Sherman, Joe Johnston and the Yankee Heavy Battalions, was published in 2001.

And, no, the book is not published by Pelican Publishing - another favorite target of historiography's gatekeepers. The book is published by Mercer University Press. One recent reviewer writes the following description of this book:
The richly documented tome, published by Mercer University Press, is breathtaking as a scholarly work, so meticulously researched that it can only be objective — which had to require extraordinary effort by Davis, who clearly feels Sherman was far too ruthless. . . Davis writes that Sherman didn’t care whether shells killed or wounded innocent civilians, and they did, including women and children. After Rebel soldiers had been defeated in battle, civilians endured 37 days of relentless shelling, holed up in caves, basements and “bombproofs.” Soon after Sherman’s men marched into the city, he ordered it wrecked and burned.
But what I find rather strange, is that there seems to be a deafening silence on just about all of the Civil War blogs when it comes to this new title. Are they boycotting it? Does it expose them for their own sloppy, biased posts about atrocities perpetrated on many Southerners by the Union Army? One would think that such a "breathtaking" and "scholarly work" would have gotten some mention on the more prominent CW blogs. But no - utter silence - at least from the ones I typically visit. The two exceptions I found was a mention at Civil War Librarian, which was only a cut and paste from the publisher's website and a couple of mentions at Civil War Books and Authors.

But from the same Civil War blogs which I refer to above - nothing. I wonder why. It couldn't be bias, could it? Or maybe, they're simply not interested because the book does nothing to advance their preferred narrative. Perhaps they're uncomfortable with having their assumptions challenged. Regardless, I found similar accounts of Hunter's Lexington raid. One of the chapter titles in my book is "Like So Many Savages - The War Comes to Lexington." The title came from a letter 16 year-old Fannie Wilson wrote her father, describing some of what she had witnessed and heard:

My dear Papa
You are no doubt anxious to hear what has become of us all since the unexpected arrival of the Yankees and how we were treated by them . . . the wretches galloped into the town yelling and whooping like so many savages. We kept the doors locked and the windows closed all the time they were here . . . All the Point property except the miller’s and toll houses was burned. Governor Letcher’s house was burnt with but five minutes’ notice. The Yankees took Mr. Matthew White, Jr. prisoner and he was seen Sunday afternoon marching out of town with a squad of soldiers, who shot him for bush-whacking; all the time deceiving his parents by telling them he was at home. His body was found unburied in the woods near Mrs. Cameron’s house on the evening the Yankees left. [White was shot eight times in the back.]
Of course, there was more. Much more. Hunter’s army even destroyed the presses and type of Staunton’s [VA] pro-Union newspaper, the Staunton Spectator. The paper’s publisher, Richard Mauzy, would later write that Hunter “delighted in destroying the property of southern people.” And Stonewall Jackson's pastor, Rev. W. S. White, later described Hunter as “a man whose notoriety among our people made him terrible to the timid and detestable to all.” White later wrote that he had also suffered personal loss: “They robbed me of my corn and hay worth $500. They cut the curtains from my carriage and carried off a portion of the harness.” A slave belonging to White named John told White, “Master, these yankees are the beat of all the rogues I ever saw, black or white.”

It appeared to some that Hunter, in similar fashion to Sherman, simply derived pleasure from destroying the lives of others - regardless of their loyalties.

It will be interesting to see, since Davis has taken somewhat of a contrarian perspective, how the book is treated by other Civil War historians or, if it's "treated" at all.

(Readers may also be interested in Walter Brian Cisco's War Crimes Against Southern Civilians

15 February 2013

More Of Academia's Objectivity

Some of you long time readers will recall the academics that used to come here to deny that personal politics routinely made it into college classrooms and that many institutions of higher learning have become, in many ways, little indoctrination camps pushing a leftist worldview. I suppose the empirical evidence now available sent them scurrying back to their own blogs. Here's some more "anecdotal" evidence of indoctrination:

Students and parents are questioning a college professor after she reportedly issued a syllabus that filtered student’s research options

The syllabus tells students in a West Liberty University political science course what sources they can and cannot use.

In the syllabus, the professor allegedly says, "The tagline Fox News makes me cringe."

Oh, I bet it does. But I'll also bet MSNBC, CNN, PBS, and NPR sets her heart all a flutter. You see, if you can put blinders on your students, then they'll continue the charade when they become teachers, politicians, community organizers, etc. This will lead us all down the path to Utopia and La-La Land. 

Fortunately, after the indoctrinating professor was exposed, she lifted the restriction. Good. Light is one of the best disinfectants.

Story here.

14 February 2013

The 2nd Amendment - Thank God & George Mason

A few weeks ago, as soon as the gun debate could be tied to America's original sin, you began seeing posts about guns and slavery, with one CW blogger calling for an "honest" debate. Fine. It's really not complicated. 
And . . .

Source. Your turn. 

But more importantly than the cold hard facts and statistics regarding gun ownership vs "control" is the fact that the 2nd amendment to our Constitution simply acknowledges a God-given (inalienable) right that pre-exists human government - the right to self-defense against criminals and tyranny.

As I recently added a digitized draft copy of Virginia's Declaration of Rights (by George Mason), as my background image, let's look at what he penned in that document:

That a well-regulated militia, or composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
 And, in addressing the question of "who is the militia?", Mason wrote:

They consist now of the whole people . . . militia, when properly formed, [as] in fact the people themselves.
Noah Webster made a similar argument (as did others); which is yet more proof that the 2nd amendment has absolutely nothing to do with hunting:

The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. 
Moreover, since all of the Bill of Rights essentially acknowledges and codifies certain rights of "the people", i.e. individuals, it is nonsensical to argue that the framers stuck in one to acknowledge a "right" to a government or standing army. The argument is asburd on its face. 

In 1992, Hallmark released a TV movie which dramatized an event known as The Battle of Athens. An American Story tells the story of a group of WWII Vets in Athens, TN who, exercising their 2nd amendment rights, restored law and order to a town and county run by a corrupt political machine. The whole episode came to a head over election fraud and ended with a gun fight between local citizens and corrupt law enforcement and government officials. The movie embodies one of the best illustrations of what George Mason and the framers had in mind when they wrote the 2nd amendment:

Certainly, times have changed. This is not 1776 nor is it 1946. As a man who counts many retired and active law enforcement officers as his friends, and as a former member of Virginia's judiciary, I find it unconscionable to even imagine anything so dramatic and violent as what is depicted in this film happening where I live. Yet our own government has, in recent months and years, celebrated and encouraged this very same type of activity by the citizens of other countries as they have thrown off the yoke of tyranny by the use of armed force. Perhaps we find the possibility of similar events here so remote and objectionable because we recognize American Exceptionalism as a reality - America is different - we don't do things like that here. (Even those on the left, who scoff at and mock the very notion of AE, will either have to concede that fact or, come up with some other fake explanation to save face - most likely the latter if it comes from the enemies of AE in academia.)

Nonetheless, the 2nd amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, is part of the reason Americans - even to this day - enjoy unprecedented liberty and freedoms. We can thank God and my fellow Virginian, George Mason for that and we should distrust greatly those who would attempt to take away or restrict that inalienable right. Their  motives are highly suspect.


12 February 2013

VMI Cadet "Witness" Button?

Since I've become and avid metal detectorist, and even more fascinated with archaeology than I previously was, I've met some fantastic people. The metal detecting community enjoys, for the most part, a tremendous comradery fueled by the hobby itself, as well as a shared passion for history and preserving relics.

One of the individuals with whom I've become acquainted, and long-distance friends, is Quindy Robertson. Quindy owns a small farm in middle Tennessee and writes for several metal detecting and relic hunting magazines, including North South Civil War Trader. Recently, I offered some advice and assistance on a couple of Quindy's projects and, in return, he very graciously sent me a couple of gifts. Pictured below is one of them. Based on available research, this is a coat button that most likely once belonged to a Virginia Military Institute Cadet, circa 1848-1865. Quindy purchased it from Rafael Eledge, of Antique Roadshow fame. This is what Rafael had to say about the button:
This is an excellent non-excavated coat size button for the Virginia Military Institute Cadet. This is the style with the "D. EVANS” backmark that is in the ribbon. This is the version that is listed as SU408 in Albert’s button book and VAS294c2 in Tice’s book, both of which we sell. For years we have always considered this backmark as a Confederate used button but Tice's book states that their use is "Questionable". I have had several that were dug in campsites but I guess now that doesn’t matter to some folks. I like them either way. The face of the button has excellent detail and lots of the original gold gilt remaining. This is a great looking Civil War era V.M.I. coat button.
Here's a page listing quite a few buttons manufactured by the D. Evans company. 

Quindy also told me that Rafael told him that he, "bought several that all came from a jacket and he bought the buttons from an older lady." And my own research indicates that a number of these buttons have been excavated on numerous CW battlefields, like Cold Harbor, as well as known Confederate camps. I'm convinced it is CW period. So, as Quindy wrote me:
It's entirely possible that whoever wore this coat had Stonewall as his artillery instructor . . .
Now how cool is that!?

My Son The Songwriting Farrier

You've heard of singin' cowboys? How 'bout songwritin' farriers?

11 February 2013

Mystery Contributor To My Latest Book

After my computer crash last year and the subsequent loss of many of the related files and documents, I more or less had to rewrite the book from scratch. (Yes, I know BACKUP.) As I reworked the manuscript, I made several changes and decided I wanted to add another perspective to make the book more complete and less one-sided. Though I make no secret of my admiration of Confederate heroes and my Confederate ancestors, I certainly understand that there were those who fought for the Union who were just as brave and who deserve honor and respect as well. I also realize that the decision facing those in Lexington and Rockbridge County in regards as to whether they would remain faithful to the Union, or whether they would remain faithful to Virginia, was not always an easy one. In the book, I included an essay about Lee's struggle with this decision as representative of what many in Lexington, Virginia, and others throughout the South went through. These folks were patriotic Americans with Divided Loyalties (the name of the chapter which discusses this topic) and were driven by some of the same motivations, though from different perspectives, as those who chose to side with the Union. One's upbringing, family, education, political leanings, and understanding of patriotism all influenced these decisions and the journey it involved in choosing sides. While it was easy for some, it was a struggle for others.

But I did want both perspectives. I wanted readers to understand both sides of these divided loyalties. I immediately thought of Robert Moore who has ancestors who fought on both sides during the WBTS. Robert hosts his own blog and has published 12 books. He is a fellow Virginian and, like me, a native of the Shenandoah Valley. Robert has spent a lot of time studying Southern Unionists. Though we don't always agree, Robert understands and respects the sacrifices of Confederate soldiers and I believed he would be balanced with his approach. I was correct. Robert's essay makes a nice contrast and will allow readers to consider both perspectives.

Another contrast in the book is in regards to African-Americans in Lexington and Rockbridge County and how some made contributions to the Confederate cause, while others sided with and aided the Union. Robert also shared some little-known information about United States Colored Troops from the area which adds another dimension to the book.

So Robert is my "mystery contributor" and, in addition to the essay included in the book, Robert also provided a fair critique of the manuscript. I'm grateful for Robert's contribution. 

The book is due to be released on March 10th. You may pre-order the book from Amazon here. I will also have signed copies available to order here, once the book is released.


10 February 2013

Front Porch Pickin' #31: High Lonesome - The Story Of Bluegrass

As always, get your culture here in OVB's Front Porch Pickin' series. Tonight, along with the music, some history as well.

09 February 2013

New Design & The Evolution Of Old Virginia Blog

After 8 years with basically the same blog design, I've recently been in consultation with a couple of designers to help me "step up" my blog. First of all, regarding the design, I wanted something customized instead of using something that other bloggers use and have access to. In other words, I wanted the design to be unique and professional looking. I believe I've accomplished that with the new design. Secondly, I wanted the design to reflect, symbolically, the principles, ideals, and interests I write about. I believe I've also accomplished that.

I started this blog in May of 2005 with several goals in mind. First, as I was anticipating the release of my 3rd book, I wanted a platform to promote and discuss it. Secondly, I simply wanted to write about things which interest me: Virginia history, Southern culture, faith, family, homeschooling, and politics. Initially, it was not my intent to be nearly as confrontational as my posts sometimes get. But I didn't start the confrontation, others did. I simply began responding. The blog has evolved far beyond what I originally intended - that's ok, just not what I expected. I write what I'm passionate about. Going forward, I'm going to continue to do that, but will attempt to be more "disciplined" about certain topics. We'll see how that goes ;-)

After the book about Stonewall Jackson and his black Sunday school was published, I immediately began work on the Still Standing documentary, which was based on the book. After both of these projects went through the normal marketing cycle and publicity, I became rather burned out as far as taking on new projects. I also began turning down most speaking invitations. (I'm still doing that, though I've recently accepted two.) In regards to writing and research, I concentrated primarily on blogging, artifact recovery, and some family research. Of course, all of that will  continue.

But I've now got some of the old writing "juice" back in me and hope to pump out several books over the next few years, and possibly another documentary or two. I'm now 55 and realize I'm not getting any younger. I want to complete some projects before the Lord calls me home. The Lexington book will be out in March and I've already begun work on the next book (more on that later). I have several others in the "thinking about it" stage as well.

Thus, as I begin this new stage in my life, I thought a new blog design and focus was appropriate. Allow me to explain some of the reasons behind the design and image choices in regards to symbolism.

The name of the blog, as always, reflects the emphasis on Virginia and tradition. I love the land of my birth and the native sod that holds the dust of my ancestors - some reaching back to Jamestown. I despise fads and many aspects of popular culture. I respect many of the old ways of my ancestors and wanted, in a small way, to honor and acknowledge that respect as it relates to history, my heritage, and Southern culture. In the words of Alphonse Vin:

From Virginia sprung the Southern Mind, a mind which favoured the local community, Burkean conservatism, the folkways of ancestors, an unwavering orthodox Christian faith.

Thus, Old Virginia.

The map which serves as the background for the header is from an 1891 map published by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company and is titled "Battlefields of Virginia." According to the map, it is "compiled from official war records and maps." This imagery symbolizes a number of things I write about - Virginia, the Civil War, as well as my interest in archaeology, Civil War artifacts and their recovery and preservation. I've spent many wonderful hours and recovered artifacts from several of the battlefields (on private property) shown on that map.

The image on the left of the header is of a charging Confederate Cavalryman - slashing and charging his way through a battlefield against a numerically superior opponent. In regards to my writing and frequent criticism of certain academic historians and their perspectives, I found it quite an appropriate metaphor. Consider it my Quixotic symbol if you like. ;-) The image was scanned from an old document that belonged to my father.

The image on the right of the header is, of course, taken from an old Virginia flag - one which was actually captured by yankees during the WBTS. It shows Virtus . . .

  . . . the genius of the Commonwealth, dressed as an Amazon, resting on a spear in her right hand . . . her head erect and face upturned; her left foot on the form of Tyranny represented by the prostrate body of a man, with his head to her left, his fallen crown nearby, a broken chain in his left hand, and a scourge in his right. Above the group and within the border conforming therewith, shall be the word "Virginia", and, in the space below, on a curved line, shall be the motto, "Sic Semper Tyrannis." [Thus always to tyrants] Quoted from Wikipedia
This older version is what I consider the "pre-assault" version - the Amazon's breast is not exposed as it is on the flag after the Civil War was over and Virgina lay in ruins. The symbolism as it relates to this blog and America's modern struggles needs no explanation.

Then we have the background image. This was taken from a digitized version of George Mason's first draft of Virginia's Declaration of Rights:

The Declaration of Rights drafted in 1776 by George Mason for the state constitution of Virginia influenced both Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. It clearly states that rights are "the basis and foundation of government." The Virginia Declaration of Rights also influenced the drafting of the Bill of Rights added to the U.S. Constitution as the first ten amendments.

Again, the symbolism as it relates to this blog and my interests needs no explanation.

So, there you have it. Personally, this came together in a way that is as close to perfect as I could have hoped for. The designer is still working on issues with enlarging the font in the posts (I have to do this manually now in each post) and may have to change the template, but the basic design, imagery, and background will remain as you see it now. As time goes on, I may tweak the design here and there somewhat, but the fundamental layout is set for the foreseeable future. As you have probably figured out, I don't like change just for the sake of change.

Thanks to all those who continue to read and comment here, both fans and critics. It's been an interesting journey.

About my designer:

I can't recommend Richard Taggart highly enough. He has been more than patient with my nit-pickiness and quick to make requested changes and adjustments. I am very pleased. His prices are quite reasonable and he knows what he's doing when it comes to web designs. Read more about his experience and services here.