30 July 2013

Appearance At The Rockbridge Historical Society - And Connecting With A Legend

William G. Bean, Jr. & Yours Truly
(Yes, we forgot to smile.)
Several months ago, I was invited to speak at the monthly meeting of the Rockbridge Historical Society. I did so last night and had a great time discussing my latest book, Lexington Virginia and The Civil War. I was surprised to address a standing room only crowd and it was a very enjoyable evening. Any day in Lexington, Virginia is usually a good one for me. I'm also glad to report that the book is selling well - at least in Lexington. The good folks at Lee Chapel reported sales of the book are quite brisk.

One of the highlights of the evening was the opportunity to meet the son of a Civil War scholar and legend - William G. Bean. Professor Bean taught history at Washington & Lee and, to those of us who are both native to the Shenandoah Valley and students of the WBTS - as well as to CW buffs across the country - Bean is somewhat of a legend. He authored two must read classics: Stonewall's Man: Sandie Pendleton and The Liberty Hall Volunteers: Stonewall's College Boys.

So last night before the RHS meeting, Professor Bean's son, William G. Bean, Jr., came up to me and introduced himself. He was very cordial and interested in my projects. I shook his hand and said it was "an honor to meet the son of the man from whom I stole so much of my work." He got a chuckle out of that. 

Here's just some of what one of Professor Bean's publishers (UNC Press) had to say about him:
William Gleason Bean came to the writing of Sandie Pendleton's biography by way of a geographical emigration from the Deep South to Virginia. Bean was born in Heflin, Alabama, the day after Christmas in 1891 and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama. After teaching in his native state for three years, he went to graduate school at Harvard, which conferred on him both masters and doctoral degrees (with Phi Beta Kappa honors).

. . . The young scholar's stint at Cambridge was interrupted by the Great War, during which he saw something of military affairs at firsthand during three years of service as a lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Force in Europe. In the fall of 1922, as a freshly minted Ph.D., William Bean began teaching history at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He died there more than five decades later, having been all the while on the history faculty, the chairman of the history department (from 1930 to 1962), or professor emeritus of history (upon his retirement in 1963). In 1958, Bean was appointed Douglas Southall Freeman Professor of History. 

. . . generations of students bestowed upon Professor Bean the nickname "Blinky" and became familiar with his figure--medium height, slender build, brown hair--as he strode briskly around the campus. He died in his longtime home, the Shenandoah Valley, on May 24, 1971. 

. . . Bean became deeply absorbed in the history of his adopted state. A colleague who rode with him to a historical convention grumbled upon his return that the trip took more than twice the wonted time because Bean insisted on stopping at every state historical marker and historic site. Not surprisingly, Bean wrote extensively about the history that fascinated him--four significant articles on Virginia themes, and one book in addition to Stonewall's Man. All of the articles appeared in the organ of the Virginia Historical Society, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography: "A House Divided: The Civil War Letters of a Virginia Family" (October 1951), "The Ruffner Pamphlet of 1847: An Antislavery Aspect of Virginia Sectionalism" (July 1953), "The Unusual War Experience of Lieutenant George G. Junkin, C. S. A." (April 1968), and "The Valley Campaign of 1862 as Revealed in Letters of Sandie Pendleton" (July 1970). 

. . . Lexington Confederates who fought under Jackson were the subject of Bean's other book, The Liberty Hall Volunteers: Stonewall's College Boys (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1964). The Lexington lads of that volunteer company became part of the 4th Virginia Infantry of the Stonewall Brigade. They earned considerable fame, but at an immense cost in blood. Collectors in years to come will want to know that the slender (227 pages) book was issued without a dust jacket, although the press supplied a plain and flimsy glassine wrapper that covered the blue cloth meagerly.  
The younger W.G. Bean and I shared some great conversation at the close of the evening as folks filed out. We discussed several topics in regards to Lexington, the WBTS, his father and the centennial; in which his father was an active participant. He described with fondness how his father used to "drag him" to every CW meeting and event in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He also said that "Bud Robertson was just a pup in those days" and that "Bud used to sit at the feet of my father and drink in all he could." It was an evening and conversation I will always treasure.

29 July 2013

My Ancestors: God-Fearing Cotton & Tobacco Farmers

I've blogged about my great-great grandfather before. His son, Robert M. Williams did not attend college yet spoke several languages (including Latin) fluently, served as Mayor of Crewe, Virginia, and was a successful farmer and lumberman. He was also a devout Christian, Sunday school teacher, and wrote poetry. Below are a couple of scanned images of poetry he penned on his letterhead, circa 1924.

The second poem reads:

The Leper knelt low at the feet of the Lord,
And for healing and cleansing contritely implored.

And the Master constrained by his earnest request,
Felt the impulse of pity move strong in His breast.

And Mercy and Love beamed forth from his eye,
As He stopped and gave heed to the Suppliant’s cry.

And He put forth His hand and touched that poor worm,
And the warm glow of health was diffused thro’ his form.

Then straitly He charged that glad mortal released,
“See thou tell it to no man, save the priest.”

But his gratitude swelled like the waves of the sea,
And he blazed the great tidings throughout Galilee.

Oh, the song of the spheres may be muted, I wean,
But not the glad song of a heart newly clean.

And that cadences of Joy, thro’ the long aisles of time,
Still vocally vibrant, wakes echoes sublime!

28 July 2013

Academia Doesn't Like "Rah-Rah American"

This has now entered the realm of the absurd, hasn't it? Another elitist from the halls of academia is uncomfortable with American pride (American Exceptionalism):
This iconic picture of firefighters raising the stars and stripes in the rubble of Ground Zero was nearly excluded from the 9/11 Memorial Museum — because it was “rah-rah” American, a new book says.

Michael Shulan, the museum’s creative director, was among staffers who considered the Tom Franklin photograph too kitschy and “rah-rah America,” according to “Battle for Ground Zero” (St. Martin’s Press) by Elizabeth Greenspan, out next month. “I really believe that the way America will look best, the way we can really do best, is to not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently,” Shulan said.
"not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently"? Huh? I suppose the image is too much "celebratory history." Only someone thoroughly schooled in the anti-American gobbledygook of academia could express such views after the tragedy of 9-11. Astounding.

More here.

27 July 2013

Academics Defend Howard Zinn

There is finally a university president willing to take on liberal academia and provide a balanced education for students, yet these professors want to discredit his good intentions to further their own agendas. It might not occur to these 90 professors, but they are supposed to care about academic freedom as well. Any professor that is disturbed by a university president defending educational standards and academic freedom should think twice about their profession.
More here.

26 July 2013

Why Relics & Family Heirlooms Are Important

This video conveys, in simple yet profound ways, why family heirlooms and relics are so important.

I realize posts have been scarce as hen's teeth lately. My wife had knee replacement surgery two weeks ago and my spare time has been devoted to taking care of her. Thankfully, the surgeon - I warned him - did no damage (other than some inconsequential scarring) to her beautiful set of legs and she's on the mend. Recently promised posts will be coming soon.

16 July 2013

"Kids Are Suffering"

From Breitbart this morning:
If you are student in the Hempstead Public Schools, you may need some help in learning literacy. The Long Island, N.Y. district released a summer reading list that is replete with more than 30 errors. Some of the more egregious mistakes include:
1. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is listed as "The Great Gypsy."
2. Authors Emily Bronte and Charlotte Bronte, who wrote Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre respectively, are listed with the last name Bonte.
3. Animal Farm author George Orwell is named George Ornell.
4. The Chosen author Chaim Potok has the last name Dotok.
5. Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones is listed as "The Lovely Bone." (Fido, where are you?)
6. Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story have their author as listed as Norris Houghton (the publisher).
The experts lead the way.

13 July 2013

Academia's Canting Ideologues Have Come Home To Roost - At Gettysburg

Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory did us a favor by drawing attention to a speech given by Doris Kearns Goodwin at Gettysburg on June 30 for Gettysburg's 150th. Kevin writes:
I watched a good deal of CSPAN’s coverage of the Gettysburg 150th, including Doris Kearns Goodwin’s keynote address earlier this evening. Needless to say, I was very disappointed.
Kevin tweeted the following about Goodwin's Gettysburg speech:
Doris Kearns Goodwin's #Gettysburg150 would be unidentifiable by every soldier who fought on that battlefield. #cw150 So disappointing.
So much for a war to preserve the Union. DKG sees Civil War as little more than precursor of civil rights movement. #Gettysburg150
The #NPS is going to have a very difficult time claiming that it is apolitical after Doris K. Goodwin's #Gettysburg150 speech. #cw150
Kevin and I don't often agree but, on this subject, we do - at least to a point. Kevin and I both agree: Goodwin laid a huge egg. Of course, Kevin wasn't the only one to take notice of Goodwin's politically charged and "inappropriate" speech. Breitbart news had this to say:
On Sunday, a stunned audience sat in silence as Doris Kearns Goodwin turned the keynote address at the opening ceremony for the 150th anniverary of the Battle of Gettysburg into a political lecture focusing on women's and gay rights.

Missing from much of her keynote: Gettysburg.

Self-centered, insular, and oblivious to the occasion, the historian who was infamously caught plagiarizing merely recycled much of what she has said before about herself in previous speeches. And her rambling, self-promoting, and borderline inappropriate lecture touched upon nearly everything except for the heroic sacrifices made on that battlefield.

In so doing, she desecrated the hallowed land on which she spoke, dishonored Gettysburg's honored dead, and disrespected the nearly 8,000 Americans in attendance who did not come to Gettysburg to hear about her life's story and a progressive history lecture.
But this really shouldn't come as a shock, should it? Goodwin's speech represents a certain perspective and agenda which is the ever-present undercurrent prevalent in academia and among many professional historians.

Goodwin did have the guts (along with extremely poor taste) to say at a very public forum what drives a whole lot of historical interpretation in the United States, particularly when it comes to the Civil War. Breitbart's characterization of Goodwin as "self-centered" is also a common characteristic of the modern, i.e.: "They are the ones we've all been waiting for."

But Goodwin's morality play and politicized speech upon the blood-soaked, hallowed ground of Gettysburg is really nothing new. It was just magnified because of the venue. The modern guru of Civil War history and the mentor to many CW historians, including *Kevin Levin, is Civil War historian David Blight. Goodwin and Blight could be viewed as ideological soul-mates when it comes to the interpretation, analysis, and perspective of Civil War history. As I noted in the comments section of Kevin's post, Goodwin's remarks are cut from the same cloth in which Blight weaves his CW "analysis." Take for example a piece he wrote for the Kansas City Star's "commemoration" section of their online paper. Like the Gettysburg event on Sunday, the Star's column is, according to their own description, meant to commemorate - not lecture the audience on progressive politics and turn the WBTS into an opportunity to advance and defend the progressive agenda. This was the Star's description of what Blight should have been doing:
Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War & the Missouri-Kansas border region's unique place in the bloody four-year conflict.
Is that difficult to understand? Commemorate? The Oxford dictionary offers the following definition of "commemorate":
. . . recall and show respect for (someone or something) in a ceremony:a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the war dead, serve as a memorial to:a stone commemorating a boy who died at sea, celebrate (an event, a person, or a situation) by doing or building something:it was a night commemorated in a song
But Blight, like Goodwin, used the platform to lecture the rest of us on a "superior" ideology:
The conservative movement in America, or at least its most radical wing, seems determined to repeal much of the 20th century and even its constitutional and social roots from the transformative 1860s. The Civil War is not only not over, it can still be lost.
That is not commemoration. That is criticism of a political ideology. There is a place for that - but that place is not in a venue meant to commemorate.

The C-Span video link to Goodwin's remarks note that her speech was also to be part of a "commemorative ceremony." And Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Bob Kirby described the intent of the ceremony featuring Goodwin's keynote this way:
This commemorative event is meant to appeal to the widest possible audience in a way that honors what happened here.
Well Mr. Kirby, I believe the consensus is that Ms. Goodwin's speech kinda screwed that up. Y'all might want to review speeches in advance from now on, or perhaps you did? This was an embarrassment for the NPS, yet the silence from the NPS and the Gettysburg Foundation is deafening. Can those attending these types of events in the future expect more of the same? Will equal time be given to conservatives to promote their agenda, as Goodwin did? Hello . . . ??

Of course, there may be some brave academic historian willing to challenge this post. But I doubt it. They used to come here often to do so. That's become much more difficult to do and retain any credibility these days. Even their own studies have revealed what Eugene Gevonese pointed out years ago:
. . . in these dreariest of days in Academia . . . 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 the eradication of all traces of the conservative voices that have loomed so large in southern history . . . [There is a] step-by-step domination of departments of history in our southern as well as northern universities by those who regard what Richard Weaver aptly called the Southern Tradition and all its works as an evil past to be exorcised by all means, fair and foul. ~ Eugene D. Genovese (The Southern Front - History and Politics in the Cultural War, page 25.)
But canting comes at a price. Consider a recent (January 2013) study and report by the National Association of Scholars titled, “Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?” As one writer at Real Clear Politics noted:
. . . as the NAS report documents, history departments promote a drastically incomplete and distorted vision of America by concentrating on the teaching of race, class, and gender at the expense of nearly everything else.
This ideology and perspective is what I believe motivated Goodwin's speech at Gettysburg; as well as Blight's comments in the Kansas City Star. 

The RCP writer further noted:
The NAS report concludes with a list of moderate and common-sensical recommendations designed to depoliticize the study of history.
I've pointed this out before many, many times. And, as previously noted, more than one academic Civil War historian has come to this blog to ostensibly take me to task for suggesting the study of history in many (if not most), colleges and universities is highly politicized (and in one direction) and that the politicization is present in the classroom. Forgive me if I'm wrong but if, as the NAS report suggests, schools need to "depoliticize the study of history", then it stands to reason it is currently politicized, correct?

Specifically, the NAS report makes this observation and recommendation:
The root of the problem is that colleges and universities have drifted from their main mission. They and particular programs within them, increasingly think of themselves as responsible for reforming American society and curing it of prejudice and bigotry. When universities and university programs consider it necessary to atone for, and help erase, oppressions of the past; one way in which they do so is by depicting history as primarily a struggle of the downtrodden against rooted injustice. This pedagogical conception may be well-intended, but it is also a limited and partisan one, and history teaching should not allow itself to become imprisoned within a narrow interpretation. A depoliticized history would provide a comprehensive interpretation of American history that does not shortchange students by denying them exposure to intellectual, political, religious, diplomatic, military, and economic historical themes.
. . . Historians and professors of United States history should return to their primary task: handing down the American story, as a whole, to future generations.
This issue has become such a problem that even popular historian David McCullough has spoken publicly about it. In a 2011 Wall Street Journal interview, McCullough echoes speaks of many of the same issues that the NAS study pointed out:
"History is often taught in categories—women's history, African American history, environmental history—so that many of the students have no sense of chronology. They have no idea what followed what."
What's more, many textbooks have become "so politically correct as to be comic. Very minor characters that are currently fashionable are given considerable space, whereas people of major consequence farther back"—such as, say, Thomas Edison—"are given very little space or none at all."
The bottom line is that we can probably expect more of the type of unfortunate event that was Goodwin's speech at Gettysburg. I emailed NPS park officials on July 2nd about this asking them if there would be any response and if Goodwin's speech was reviewed prior to her giving it. Thus far, no one has responded. Kevin Levin said in one of his tweets that, "The NPS is going to have a very difficult time claiming that it is apolitical after Doris K. Goodwin's Gettysburg150 speech." Indeed. But perhaps they won't don't make that claim.

While Goodwin's speech was certainly over the top, the same underlying progressive agenda-driven analysis is pervasive in modern historiography in America. She was just much more open and bold about it. Everyone seems to be willing to admit this now, except those who are complicit. What we often see is more subdued, but still quite obvious to those of us paying attention. 

But the canting ideologues of academia have come home to roost and I suspect the cocks and hens will continue to crow and cluck. I also suspect the egg laid at Gettysburg won't be the last one.

*Kevin thinks I'm obsessed with Blight. Search "Blight" on my blog and search "Blight" on his and see who's obsessed. And I've been blogging longer than Kevin Levin. 

Note to readers: I'm working on two reviews that I'll post soon. The first will be on Ron Maxwell's latest film, Copperhead, which my wife and I watched on demand last week. Also, Kent Masterson Brown's office contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me to review his latest documentary, The Southern Cross ~ The Story of the Confederacy's First Battle Flag. I've received the DVD, but haven't had a chance to watch it yet. I hope to do so this weekend and write a review within a few days. 

I'll also be posting some comments about Thomas Flemings's latest book, A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War. And, I've got some thoughts and comments about the recent dust up between academics and reenactors. There's some misinformation and silliness being bandied about by both sides of that debate.

10 July 2013

Rural-Urban Divide Creates Secession Sentiments In Colorado - Sound Familiar?

Posts have been lacking lately - sorry. I'm just covered up with other duties, but have some good posts in the hopper, including one about Doris Kearns Goodwin's Gettysburg flame out. But for now . . .

More here.

06 July 2013

Gettysburg Led To A Dominant South

So writes political commentator Jarrett Stepman . . .
Free from the curse of slavery and now fully embracing the free-market capitalism that was frowned upon in the days just before it, the South is now a bastion of freedom and economic growth. The South also preserved traditional American values that were so apparent in their fighting spirit during the war, which is one of many reasons it is so important for Americans to look back and memorialize the valor and sacrifice that took place on the battlefield of Gettysburg 150 years ago. [Doris Kearns Goodwin, call your office.]
Apparently, the high tide has returned. I guess that makes Charlie Daniels a prophet.

03 July 2013

Are These People Students Of Doris Kearns Goodwin?

"OK, Zombie."  - I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
. . . according to a new report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS), “Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?,” our colleges and universities are doing a bad job.
You don't say!
Happy Independence Day.

Don't Read The News

Someone just shared a fascinating article with me about "the news." It's titled, News Is Bad For You and Giving Up Reading It Will Make You Happier, but it's really about information overload and is even more applicable to me as a blogger. Anyone who blogs and/or absorbs lots of information online will relate to this article. It has definitely changed my online reading habits, my news consumption, and my blogging. It's worth your time to read it.

Just for a tease, consider the implications of this excerpt:
Scientists used to think that the dense connections formed among the 100 billion neurons inside our skulls were largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. Today we know that this is not the case. Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. The more news we consume, the more we exercise the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for reading deeply and thinking with profound focus. Most news consumers – even if they used to be avid book readers – have lost the ability to absorb lengthy articles or books. After four, five pages they get tired, their concentration vanishes, they become restless. It's not because they got older or their schedules became more onerous. It's because the physical structure of their brains has changed.
You can read the rest here. But you'll need to excuse me while I begin an effort to fix some old connections and get happy.

I'll be back in a day or two with a post about the Doris Kearns Goodwin debacle at Gettysburg this past Saturday. I think I'll title the post, Academia's Chickens Have Come Home To Roost - At Gettysburg.

02 July 2013

The Dakota Film Project

I recently wrote a post about Father's Day for Buffalo Jackson Trading Company's blog. They're a great company and I suspect we will be hearing more from founder Xan Hood in the months and years to come. I received notice today of a film project being promoted by Buffalo Jackson. Here's the trailer from Kick Starter:

01 July 2013

Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. To Speak In Lexington

James Robertson, distinguished Civil War historian, will
speak in Lexington (Virginia) on Tuesday, July 2 at 3:00 p.m. in the Dunlap Auditorium of the Lexington Presbyterian Church (Randolph Street entrance). The event is free and open to the public, sponsored by the Friends of the Rockbridge Regional Library. Dr. Robertson will speak and do a visual presentation on the subject of his most recent book, The Untold Civil War: Exploring the Human Side of War. It features previously undiscovered documents, newly restored photographs, personal mementos, and other items that give a new dimension to our understanding of the Civil War -- even for those who are steeped in the war's history. The presentation will be followed by a reception and book signing; copies of The Untold Civil War will be available for purchase.