31 January 2015

Dr. Thomas Sowell On The Legacy Of Slavery

"The South long remained a region that blacks fled by the millions — for very good reasons. But, in more recent years, the net migration of blacks has been from the North to the South. No doubt they have good reasons for that as well. But there is no reason to believe that blacks today are unaware of the history of slavery or of the Jim Crow era in the South. Indeed, there are black “leaders” [and academic historians] who seem to talk about nothing else. Yet blacks who are moving back to the South seem more concerned with the present and the future than with the past." ~ Dr. Thomas Sowell

More here.

28 January 2015

I've Been Having Similar Thoughts . . .

. . . I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. ~ Andrew Sullivan
. . . though I'm actually considering starting another blog. I probably won't abandon this one (I need to keep it active if for no other reason to rebut some of the asinine posts coming from other blogs), but will likel only post once a week here, while focusing on the other blog which will also likely be a once a week post - quality over quantify. 

I believe a lot of people are simply overwhelmed by blogs and social media of all types, including those that focus on history, especially the history of the War Between the States. Note the latest obsessed obsession at a few academic blogs about "black Confederates." My Lord, they're worse than the wacky Southern Heritage folks. Give it a rest already. The rest of the world has moved on. You read these blogs and its the same thing over and over: endless mind-numbing debates over the cause of the war, slavery, tariffs, black Confederates, all morphed into politically correct, agenda-driven nonsense, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

This upcoming May, I'll have been blogging here 10 years. I love to write and history and culture is my passion, but I'm being pulled in a slightly different direction. So, I've got a few posts to catch up on here, which I hope to do very soon, and then I'm going to do some of what Andrew Sullivan discusses above - read and write - slowly.

26 January 2015

"American Sniper" Set To Overtake "Saving Private Ryan"

As the #1 war film of all time.
In celebrating Sniper's $200 million milestone, Warners domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman said that Eastwood "created a gripping drama with a rare insight into the toll of war that has resonated with audiences in almost every demographic." [Source.]
Well, not every demographic. The left and wackydemia (is that redundant?) doesn't care for it too much. But who really cares?

25 January 2015

"All Of My Heroes Lost" ~ Sons of Bill

"Growing up, all of my heroes lost,” Wilson said. “That’s who I was taught to respect and honor, the people who lose at the end. From the Scots at Culloden to William Wallace to Robert E. Lee, even Jesus – all your heroes die at the end." ~ Musician James Wilson, Sons of Bill
For those interested, the Sons of Bill are the actual sons of University of Virginia Professor William Wilson, PhD. Dr. Wilson also serves on the board of the Abbeville Institute. He's also Director of Graduate Studies at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. And here's an interesting quote pulled from the same article as the quote above:
They know they’re the sons of a theologian and revered professor at one of the South’s finest intellectual institutions. They get it. Maybe that’s why after spending an hour being pressed on what makes them – or doesn’t make them – a Southern band, they’re apt to send you a snapshot of one of them holding a Stars and Bars license tag in some rural route truck stop.
And some of you think you know the South. Does this mean they're part of the "manure" crowd?

23 January 2015

Misreading Robert E. Lee - A Video Review of Elizabeth Brown Pryor's "Reading the Man"

Dr. Bryon McClanahan reviews *Pryor's work on Lee. He is quite critical and discusses major problems with the book as well as the "trendy" practice by modern historians of "humanizing" (tearing down) American heroes. 

McClanahan also points out many of the general criticisms I've discussed here since 2005 in regards to academic historians as a whole. He echoes historian Robert Krick's characterization of much of modern historiography (especially in regards to Lee and the Confederacy) as "psycho-babble." There's so much I could say here, but I'd just be repeating what I've said so many times and McClanahan says so much better.

His brief discussion of Lee's (and other Confederates) views on the Union prior to the WBTS is quite good. His perspective on the Civil War and American history is quite different from what you'll read on most of the group-think Civil War blogs. The video is worth your time and if you're a student of Lee and the WBTS, you really should take the time to watch and listen.
Brion McClanahan received a B.A. in History from Salisbury University in 1997 and an M.A. in History from the University of South Carolina in 1999. He finished his Ph.D. in History at the University of South Carolina in 2006, and had the privilege of being Clyde Wilson’s last doctoral student.

*I have owned a copy of Pryor's book for some time, but have only skimmed through its pages and not read it entirely. As soon as I realized the author's slant, I lost interest in reading it.

Metal Detecting Post #126 - Buttons & The Burning

I had the privilege of doing some relic hunting, by invitation of the property owner, on a very historic farm property here in the Shenandoah Valley recently. The owner joined us for the quick hunt. 

The farm has been in the same family for 5 generations and dates to the early 1800's. There are old slave quarters present, a beautiful federal style brick home (circa 1830) and Phil Sheridan paid a visit during his "Burning" raid of 1864; taking time to torch the bank barn. There's also an old mill site and raceway on the property and several Confederate soldier diaries make mention of visiting the property during the WBTS and the hospitality of the owners. A number of Indian artifacts have been found at this location over the years as well.

The patriarch of the family served in the Stonewall Brigade and, according to family history, was assigned the duty of purchasing horses for Jeb Stuart's cavalry by Stonewall Jackson himself. This first trip was just a short scouting excursion, but the property shows some promise indicated by the fact I quickly recovered two early 19th century flat buttons near the slave quarters. We plan to return soon.

22 January 2015

Getting Panty Bunched Over Point Of Honor

*Update: Point of Honor goes from being the worst thing since the Bubonic Plague to a rather giddy "buries the Lost Cause for good." Wow, quite a transformation. See what happens when you actually investigate something before condemning it? Quite amazing that a one hour Amazon streaming TV show (that no one watched) can do to the Lost Cause perspective what academic historians have been unable to accomplish for 50 years - bury it. Doesn't say much for academic historians, now does it? Sounds more like wishful thinking to me.

[End of update.]

Oh my, this is so predictable. The folks at Civil War Memory are all aghast over a new WBTS movie plot - again. (See here and here.) Though the movie (actually it's an Amazon drama pilot) hasn't even been released, they're all against it because the story line involves a West Pointer who frees his slaves and then fights for the Confederacy. Can't have that - doesn't fit the template, you know, "it was all about slavery, etc, etc, etc." Of course, they're arguing it's not historically accurate, yet CWM host Kevin Levin admits:

While Levin's honesty is refreshing, I'm curious as to why one would admit such ignorance and then go on to condemn a movie involving the topic one is ignorant about. Civil War Memory is a strange place indeed. 

Like Levin, I'm also not aware of any West Point cadets who renounced slavery and then supported the Confederacy. Although I recall (vaguely) some examples of Southerners freeing and/or denouncing slavery and supporting the Confederacy. There is some evidence that Stonewall Jackson expressed opposition to slavery prior to the war and prior to his enrollment at West Point. Those familiar with James Robertson's biography of Jackson are aware that Robertson believed that Jackson likely opposed slavery, even though he fought for the Confederacy:
Jackson neither apologized for nor spoke in favor of the practice of slavery. He probably opposed the institution. Yet in his mind the Creator had sanctioned slavery, and man had no moral right to challenge its existence.
Historian and fellow blogger Robert Moore has told me that he had a great x 3 grandfather who freed his slaves before the war and yet his son served in the Stonewall Brigade. This son was not a conscript and served as a company commander. Point is, opposing slavery and supporting the Confederacy was not, as many of us are aware, unheard of - something Levin and many of his followers seem to struggle with. There were a number of reasons, besides slavery, that some Southerners took up arms against the Union - having your sons beheaded by Union soldiers, for example. Thus the movie's storyline is not all that unrealistic - even though it may not be specifically historically factual. But let's not forget, it's just a film.

You can watch the trailer below. It looks interesting to me. It may be horrible. It may be so-so. It may be great. But I haven't seen it yet. So I'll withhold judgement until I actually view it - something I'd recommend for others as well. And try to remember, it's just a film.

And while thinking about the reaction to this movie, one should compare it to the reaction to another recent Civil War movie - just for giggles.

And an update: Here's an excerpt from an entertainment website that doesn't like the film either but, ironcially, for a different type of inaccuracy:
Point of Honor clearly wants to commit to the real drama of the American Civil War, but it lacks the budget and the attention to detail necessary. Sure, I’m being a fussy snob in calling out their historically inaccurate musical choice, but they also make the mistake of having two characters blatantly discuss how the Civil War was all about slavery. It wasn’t. It was in part about slavery, but slavery was a moral concern for abolitionists. The American Civil War was about how centralized government should be and it’s a dispute that still rages on Capitol Hill. [Emphasis mine.]
Oh my, I can almost hear the sound of panties bunching already.

21 January 2015

Happy Birthday General Jackson

The Professor from Virginia by Mort Kunstler

20 January 2015

Patrick Henry College Excels Once More

From a recent announcement . . .

Patrick Henry College at Moot Court National Tournament.
PHC's streak of six consecutive moot court national championships was interrupted this weekend when PHC finished second in the nation to a fine team from Moorhouse College. The final ballot was a 1 point differential.

Interestingly, there was at least one homeschool grad on three of the four top teams in the nation--from Howard Payne University and Regent University in addition to PHC. PHC won more total trophies than any other college. PHC had 3 of the top 8 teams in the nation, 5 of the top 16, and 7 of the top 32 teams.

PHC had the number one individual speaker in the nation, and a total of three of the top 10. Two teams of PHC freshmen won first and second in the nation in brief writing for Respondent. In the past 11 years, PHC has finished first eight times, and second two times.

Other colleges in this year's national final included the University of Chicago, Duke, University of Virginia, Holy Cross, Air Force, Baylor, and many others.
Patrick Henry College was incorporated in 1998 by Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association. 

The Rescued Film Project - WWII

An amazing time capsule story . . .

18 January 2015

A Belated Happy Lee-Jackson Day

I would have liked to post something a bit more fitting for the holiday, but a nasty case of the stomach flu intervened. Nonetheless, I thought it fitting on this weekend of celebrating the bravery and sacrifice of two of America's favorite sons and heroes, another tribute was being paid to yet another American hero - Chris Kyle. A timely providence for American Sniper, for sure . . . 
Among three-day bows, it’s the best posted by a January or February release, beating Passion of the Christ‘s (which opened on a Wednesday) FSS of $83.8M.  It’s the largest January weekend ever, beating Avatar‘s $68.5M during its third session (Jan. 1-3, 2010) and it’s looking to be the largest R-rated four-day ever, beating 2011’s The Hangover 2, which made $103.4M. [Source.]
I've not seen the film, but my son did and he said it was one of the best and most inspirational he's ever seen. Here's one trailer:

Kyle has some background he shares with both Generals Lee and Jackson. Born a Southerner (Texas), he was also a practicing Christian serving as both a Sunday school teacher and a deacon in his church.

Yes, despite the left's best efforts, Americans still love a self-sacrificing American hero - particularly of the military variety; which is why many of us will always honor men like Chris Kyle and men like Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. Jackson.

15 January 2015

Maybe West Virginia Made The Right Move In 1861

Well, Virginians now have a former Republican Governor headed to jail and a current Democrat legislator getting re-elected to office from jail.
Former Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in federal prison Tuesday. McDonnell, 60, thanked the court for its mercy and apologized to Virginia. He also insisted again that he broke no law. (Source.)
Then why apologize Mr. McDonnell?
And . . . 
Disgraced Delegate Joe Morrissey won a special election Tuesday to reclaim a seat he relinquished after agreeing to a plea deal concerning his relationship with a 17-year-old minor. His overnight stays in jail didn’t prevent the former Democrat, an outspoken liberal, from defeating both Republican and Democrat opponents. (Source.)
Kinda hard to feel sorry for McDonnell - particularly when I recall his promise to voters "not to raise taxes" if elected. He then signed the largest tax increase in Virginia history. As far as I'm concerned, he deserves jail for that. As for Morrissey, well, his record speaks for itself.

And to top it all off, we replaced McDonnell with Eddie Haskell. I'm beginning to think West Virginia made the right move in 1861.

14 January 2015

The Fight For Religious Liberty In Virginia Continues

Virginia parents are outraged over a new policy that demands homeschooled children justify their religious beliefs to a school board within 30 days of their 14th birthday.
Wow. Sounds rather fascist to me - " justify their religious beliefs" to a government board that is intentionally and expressly secular and non-religious? Definitely a violation of 1st amendment rights. Someone needs a history lesson of the fight for religious liberty in Virginia. I doubt anyone on the school board even has a clue.

any Baptist preachers in colonial Virginia who were unable to "justify their religious beliefs" to the government were subsequently jailed, as noted by this Virginia Historical Highway Marker:

Perhaps this school board, which believes they have the authority to compel a Virginia citizien to "justify their religious beliefs", should also familiarize itself with Virginia's Declaration of Rights which states:

Section 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

Any duty is owed the creator, not to a bunch of ignorant statists on a school board.

13 January 2015

Tolkien feared the corruption of language by governments. He wrote: Languages “are the chief distinguishing marks of peoples. No people in fact comes into being until it speaks a language of its own; let the languages perish and the peoples perish too.” He considered language the most essential aspect of continuity in a people. Governments, however, recognized this fact long before the scholars did. For control and neatness, political rulers demand control over language, thus also controlling the past and the future.
And academia, when it comes to language and controlling the past and future is, as we all know, purely political. From The Imaginative Conservative. 

12 January 2015

Parents Are The Education Experts - Not Teachers

This is why Stanford accepted 27% of homeschool applicants and 5% of traditional applicants. And it’s why Conrad Tao got into Columbia without any AP classes or SAT tutors. He just had his piano and a GED.
More here.

08 January 2015

Eric Sloane's Declaration Of Self-Dependence & American Exceptionalism

Eric Sloane is one of my favorite writers. I think he's one of the most profound, yet most overlooked, thinkers and writers of the 20th century. Written decades ago, I recently stumbled across something he wrote about a dream he had. What he wrote is timeless and the essence of American Exceptionalism and excellence:
One night while reading about the Declaration of Independence, I dozed off wondering what it must have been like to have taken part in its writing. Suddenly I was there. With a quill pen I was writing the great words, " When in the course of human events....". The rest I do not recall, but I remember the title being different-- A DECLARATION OF SELF-DEPENDENCE.
As I think now of my dream, the title made more and more sense. The 1776 proclamation referred so much to the American revolutionists that it lacked the flavor of a personal statement. Now, two centuries later, the population and its government have become so vast and complicated that the voice of the individual is vague, weak and less heard. Perhaps a more pertinent, personal declaration is in order, and herewith I present my declaration for today.

When in the course of human events, the material well-being of a society obscures the spiritual principles upon which that society was founded, it becomes proper to review our heritage and redeclare its reason for being. Only by such recollection can a true renaissance of the original American spirit occur.

My Nation was born with a declaration of independence, but to be free, I must also practice an individual independence.

The statement of 1776 had unique worth because it was the first government manifesto to totally respect the independence of the individual. Different from other national statements of purpose, it was not a declaration of domination but one of liberation.

I hold these truths to be self-evident, that within our democracy the exact principles which rule the conscience and the economy of the individual must also govern the conscience and economy of the government. I hold therefore that government waste in any form is intolerable, because just as no family can for long spend more than it earns, neither can a government do so. As frugality is part of the family economy, so must thrift be important to national revenue. the practice if thrift is insurance against greed, which had no part in the original American philosophy.

I believe that self-dependence produces self-respect. Therefore, helping a man to be self dependent is an admirable pursuit. But helping a man while taking way his initiative and independence is degrading. Permanently doing for a man what he can do for himself is contrary and destructive to the American tradition. I believe in the dignity of labor and the pursuit of excellence. Therefore, I believe that striving for the most pay for the least amount of work is an immoral aim. It is a principle that cannot endure without eventual demoralization of the worker and decay of workmanship.

Just as you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong, I believe that the wage earner cannot profit by destroying the wage payer. Both capital and labor have equal rights in the American system, and the independence of both is equally deserving of recognition. For either to strike against public welfare or violate the innocent is immoral and against American tradition.

I believe that the moral strength of the nation is only as strong as the moral strength of its individuals. I therefore commit myself to the pursuit of labor, respect, independence, thrift, excellence, and peace. I hold that self-dependence of the individual is a reflection of self-dependence of the nation, that the American heritage is not only something bestowed upon the individual but equally what the individual contributes to his country.

I consider "In God We Trust" a profound statement of national commitment. I believe that democracy without commitment to God is a departure from the original American concept.

I believe that all men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, and that the forgoing creed renders not only independence to the nation but self-dependence for each American.

Eric Sloane
Inserted in his book, "Spirits of '76".

Colonial Time Capsule Opened - Amazing

05 January 2015

Christianity & American Exceptionalism

In this year-end holiday season, it is timely to reflect on American exceptionalism. Although this phrase is much abused in partisan polemics, it should not be discarded. The United States does continue to differ from most other developed democratic countries. And the heart of that difference is religion. The durability of American religious belief refutes the once-canonical thesis that modernization and secularization necessarily go hand in hand. . . . If you doubt this, take a look at the survey the Pew Research Center released without much fanfare two weeks ago. Among its principal findings: 73% of U.S. adults believe that Jesus was born to a virgin; 81%, that the baby Jesus was laid in a manger; 75%, that wise men guided by a star brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh; and 74%, that an angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds. Fully 65% of Americans believe all four of these elements of the Christmas story, while only 14% believe none of them. [Emphasis mine.]
Is this the real problem some have with the concept of American Exceptionalism - it's connection to Christianity? Considering the bias against Christianity in academia, and the fact most of AE's antagonism originates there as well, it's a reasonable question. More here at the Wall Street Journal.

Civil War Blogger Reviews The Battle of Waynesboro

Civil War blogger Matthew Bartlett reviews my latest book . . .
The books chapters create a sectionalized work which creates an ease of reading for many.  This work is also supplied by a great amount of pictures which have been submitted by the author from his vast collection.  These images help readers for a greater understanding of the narrative.  By using a chapter each for both the Union and Confederate side of battle, there is an ease of the narrative instead of attempting to place both sides of the conflict into one chapter.  The battle itself is very well written and is well supplemented with official reports, letters and primary sources which show the incredible research which Williams has put into this work.  He also supplements the work with period maps.  The book ends with an aftermath look into the Battle of Waynesboro and the town to this day including the legacy of the battle.
More here

03 January 2015

Education Experts & Their Fruit

Stotsky clarified, “The average reading level for five of the top seven books assigned as summer reading by 341 colleges using Renaissance Learning’s readability formula was rated 7.56.” That means, a large number of college freshman are basically reading on a level of grade 7 at the sixth month mark.
I'd say we have a competence issue. More here. Sadly, it will be hard for colleges and universities to bring these students up to speed when they're so busy with more important issues.

02 January 2015

Wackydemia 2014 Year In Review

Before I get to the review of Kent Masterson Brown's documentary about Daniel Boone, I thought I'd share this year-end review of bizarre, nut-job, politically correct idiocy in Wackydemia from 2014. Remember, these are the same folks telling the rest of us how to interpret and analyze history objectively. Uh-huh.

But remember, it's not about education, it's about indoctrination.

01 January 2015

Battle of Waynesboro Mention At Civil War Books & Authors Blog

Thanks to Civil War book reviewer Andrew Wagenhoffer for making mention of my latest book at his blog, CWBA:
The Battle of Waynesboroby Richard G. Williams, Jr. (The Hist Pr, 2014).

Readers of the richly illustrated local histories from the THP's Civil War Sesquicentennial series will recognize the familiar narrative format (ex. lots of lengthy block quotes) and source depth. Contained in a lengthy central chapter, the popular style battle description involves perspectives from both sides. With a mass of material also devoted to the town and its inhabitants, the study is really a combination battle and community history.
"the study is really a combination battle and community history." That is precisely correct and intentional. I'm glad Andrew pointed this out. Quite frankly, the BoW simply was not enough of a "battle" to provide sufficient material for a complete book which focused solely on the battle. The actual fighting only lasted about 20 minutes and it was a complete rout of Early's tattered, vastly outnumbered, morale-depleted, half-starved army. Perhaps someone trained as a military historian could have squeezed more out of the engagement than I was able to. I consider myself a writer who happens to write about history, not a historian who writes.

Moreover, the fact that Waynesboro is my hometown and I've never lived more than 10 miles from where I was born (providentially on the actual battlefield), the "community history" aspect was a natural for me. I grew up on the battlefield and my family has deep roots in the community. Even so, all of the community history discussed in the book has some connection to the battle and/or the War Between the States, including the time leading up to the battle and its aftermath.

The book has received mixed "reviews", but most of the response from those who either now, or in the past, have called Waynesboro home has been overwhelmingly positive. And that response alone is enough reward for me.

*Next in the line up of posts will be a review of Kent Masterson Brown's most recent project: a documentary about the life of Daniel Boone. I've also got a couple of other posts in the works which were motivated by comments at Civil War Memory in regards to "familial connections" to the American Civil War. We'll slay that silly dragon in short order. Also I've outlined a post in regards to a couple of Civil War bloggers who like to poo-poo the notion of political correctness in the study of American history - another silly position that will be quite easy to sweep aside. Stay tuned.