31 March 2017

Should College Students Sue Their Professors Over Disagreements?

In the vast majority of cases when there are disagreements, of course not. However . . . 
Marshall Polston, the Christian conservative student who was suspended from Rollins College after challenging his Muslim professor’s attacks on Christianity, has been reinstated. After a weeklong [sic] battle against “unfounded allegations” that Polston was threatening his professor Areej Zufari, Polston’s lawyer said the college should investigate wherever Zufari should remain at the school at all, given her “malicious assassination” of his character.
The professor might want to seek legal advice:
The student is weighing legal options against his professor. “You know, Ronald Reagan had a saying,” Polston said. “‘If you can’t make em see the light, make em feel the heat,’ and I think we need to make this teacher feel the heat.”
Maybe Rollins should require their professor to wear body cams/mics?

More here.

28 March 2017

Abe Lincoln's New Hat

I note that I didn't see this mentioned on any of the academic Civil War blogs. Oh wait, I know why. This wasn't Ben Carson's tweet. Silly me.

Of course, Ms. Clinton insists that her tweet was just sarcasm. Sure it was.

More here.

27 March 2017

Yes, Fake News is a Problem

But not in the way many "history" blogs portray it.

26 March 2017

Relic Hunting Post #148: Cattaraugus 225Q WWII Quartermaster Knife

And I didn't even need a metal detector for this amazing find! A while back, I bought a 1966 Ford F100 pick-up and am currently in the midst of an off-frame restoration for that old classic. When I picked it up, I asked the previous owner if he wanted anything still in the cab of the truck, i.e., some jumper cables, an old socket set, etc. He said, "No, you are welcome to anything I left in it." When I got it home, I found what appeared to be just an old rusted hunting knife under the seat. I almost threw it away, but decided to toss it up on my workbench so I could use it for a digging tool or something. I picked it up for the first time since then yesterday and began using a wire brush to clean it up. It was then I noticed the maker's mark: "Cattaraugus 225Q."

The Cattaraugus 225Q was a *general issue utility knife used by the U.S army during WWII. It is often referred to as the "Quartermaster knife." It has a 6" blade and is a full 3/16" thick. The handle is made of stacked leather rings. It sports a steel butt cap that's almost a full 1/2" thick. Besides a fighting weapon, the knife was often used to pry open crates, as well as a makeshift hammer. It has that quality "heft" feel to it. I got all the rust off, put a quick edge on it, cleaned and put a conditioner on the leather and oiled the steel. It is one tough tool and I'm so pleased to have been able to save this piece of American military history.

Leather handle before conditioning.
Leather handle after conditioning.
Butt cap

*I originally indicated this knife was issued to U.S. Military Special Forces units. That is incorrect.

23 March 2017

Interviewing A Legend

I had a most enjoyable and interesting experience visiting and interviewing Robert "Bob" Driver about his latest book recently. Bob is a retired Lt. Colonel (USMC) and was, for more than 30 years, President of one of the most active Civil War Roundtables in the United States: The Rockbridge (County) Civil War Roundtable. I've spoken for the group in Lexington a number of times myself. Bob is somewhat of a legend around Lexington and Rockbridge County and is, perhaps, the most knowledgeable about the area's WBTS history. 

I had the privilege of visiting Bob in his Brownsburg, Virginia home (circa 1795) and discussing, in addition to his book, other points of interest regarding local history. I'll post the interview and book review here once complete.

On a related note, I snapped this photo as I headed back home on one of the scenic Shenandoah Valley back roads.

21 March 2017

Battle of Waynesboro Bayonet Preservation Efforts

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone at the Waynesboro [VA] Heritage Foundation Museum and informed that they had recently received some donated items related to the Battle of Waynesboro. Two of those items were bayonets that had been dug by a relic hunter a number of years ago. The person contacting me thought I'd like to see them before they were put up and "stored." Of course, I stopped by to take a look. The two bayonets had not been preserved and were deteriorating badly due to oxidation/rust. As I serve on the WHF's board, I offered to do what I could to preserve what was left of the bayonets. I've finished the first bayonet. All the rust has been removed and the piece preserved and sealed to prevent further deterioration. Here are some before (first 3 photos) and after (last 3) photos.

20 March 2017

New to My Nightstand

As I recently learned that the movie, The Lost City of Z, is being released in theaters this coming Friday, I decided to purchase the book upon which the movie is based. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon is, without question, one of those, "I have to at least finish this chapter before stopping" kinda book. Once started, I truly did not want to put it down. The book combines a number of things that fascinate me: Victorian England, history, exploration, mystery, archeology, adventure and treasure. Think of this story as a real life Indiana Jones tale. The story centers around the efforts of British explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett to locate a mysterious lost city in the Amazon jungle.

He was the last of the great Victorian explorers who ventured into uncharted realms with little more than a machete, a compass, and an almost divine sense of purpose.
 I'm loving the book and, based on early reviews, I'm sure I'll love the film as well.

18 March 2017

Tredegar Iron Works Turns 180

Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, VA - Circa 1865, Library of Congress
While recently researching and writing an article for one of the relic hunting/metal detecting magazines, I realized that 2017 marks the 180th anniversary of the opening of Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia. In the course of this research, I *visited Mount Torry Furnace which lies in the George Washington National Forest, about seven miles from my home in the western foothills of the Blue Ridge.

Mount Torry Sign, near Sherando, Virginia
Maryland and my native state of Virginia were the first two colonies to export iron to England. By 1619, Jamestown settlers had established a small furnace about 50 miles north of Jamestown near Falling Creek. As early settlers moved west across the Blue Ridge Mountains, furnaces were built throughout many areas of Virginia where deposits of iron ore were discovered; especially in the Shenandoah Valley where I live. Mount Torry was one of these early furnaces. As a teenager, I climbed all over and explored that structure many times. Built in 1804, the furnace was utilized by the Confederacy during the War Between the States to produce pig iron for Tredegar. Tredegar produced everything from artillery and munitions, to the iron plating for the ironclad warship, the CSS Virginia. Union soldiers burned Mount Torry in 1864. Rebuilt after the Civil War, it finally ceased operations in 1892 but remains today as a silent reminder of the importance of iron in the development and history of our nation. Mount Torry Furnace has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.

Mount Torry Furnace Ruins
This piece of pig iron was recovered from the Maury River near Lexington, Virginia and given to me by a friend. Pig iron was loaded on barges from furnaces upstream from Lexington, then floated down the Maury (North) River to the James and Tredegar. Oftentimes, these barges sank or part of their cargo would fall off into the river.

*Just to be perfectly clear, relic hunting or removal of any artifacts from Federal property is illegal. My visit to Mount Torry was for research purposes only.

17 March 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Below is a fitting thought for the day taken from an essay I wrote about the Stonewall Brigade for Virginia Tech's Center for Civil War Studies:
The various companies within the brigade were as diverse in personality and temperament as were the individual men that formed them. Since many of these men hailed from the Shenandoah Valley, a large number of them were of Scots-Irish and Irish ancestry. Evidence of this consistent pedigree was apparent in the “Emerald Guards,” Company E, Thirty-Third Virginia. Every man in this unit was Irish and worked and lived as common laborers in the New Market area. Many of these men signed an “X” on muster documents, lending evidence to the fact that they were largely illiterate and unable to even sign their own name. Jackson considered the company the “problem child” of the Stonewall Brigade due to its partiality for “liquor and brawling.” One historian aptly described their irreligious proclivities: “. . . the Sons of Erin did not mesh easily with their conservative neighbors, most of whom were of German and Scotch-Irish descent. The Celts' predilection for hard liquor and their affinity for world-class brawling at the least provocation engendered a definite air of notoriety.” Many in Company E undoubtedly joined in the South’s struggle for the pure joy they would receive from fighting.

Another company within the brigade enjoyed a more pious reputation and would be considered among those “conservative neighbors” with whom the Sons of Erin did not easily mesh. Company I, Fourth Virginia, the “Liberty Hall Volunteers” was comprised primarily of students from Washington College in Lexington. All the officers, as well as more than half the privates, were professing Christians, and one-fourth were candidates for the ministry. Upon their flag was emblazoned the Latin phrase “Pro Aris et Focis” - the English translation being simply “For Altar and Home.” The company was organized and commanded by James J. White, professor of Greek at Washington College and son of Stonewall Jackson's pastor, the Reverend William S. White.

You can read the rest here.

16 March 2017

More Historical Hypocrisy

Y'all remember all the Fake News charges against the Tea Party over supposed threats and violence by Tea Party supporters and members? Sure you do. The "history" blogs pretty much marched in groupthink lockstep in their regular denunciations and charges of bigotry, racism, Nazism, blah, blah, blah. Supposedly, the Tea Party uprising was motivated by hatred for President Obama. The media dutifully fanned the flames often referring to the Tea Party as "neo-Confederates." Gee, I wonder where they got that term from?

Of course, since then, we've learned that when it comes to those types of charges regarding politically motivated groups, the real violence emanates from the left, not the right. Even the news website, The Hill, has pointed out the double standard in a rather scathing op-ed piece this morning. Here's a few excerpts:
Turn on TV or browse your newsfeeds on social media, and you will be bombarded with polemics about the sky falling and credible threats of violence against conservative figures. . . . And yet, when it comes to this constant flow of threats, there seems to be little outrage from the nation’s leading journalists and pundits. . . . Social media shines almost every day with a new dimwitted threat against Trump and his presidency. “Comedienne” Sarah Silverman called for a military coup. Madonna told protesters she “thought” about blowing up the White House. Violence seems to break out every time a conservative comes to speak at a college campus. Rosie O’Donnell talks about “stopping” Trump on Twitter.
And NO OUTRAGE from the historians moral reformers who were frequent pom-pom girls for Obama. 
Every time a threatening, disrespectful, or unflattering comment was made about the former president, a national shaming storm sprung up. A staffer for an obscure congressman was forced to resign after stating that Obama’s daughters don’t show enough "class." Ex-congressman Joe Walsh was slammed in nearly every major outlet after he tweeted, “This is now war. Watch out Obama,” after five cops were fatally shot in Dallas. Even Tea Partiers were regularly called neo-Confederates
This is just further evidence that the leftists in the media and the leftists in the history blogosphere and on college campuses today are simply two sides of the same coin; which is why their influence continues to erode with each passing day.

15 March 2017

13 March 2017

Thought For the Day

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are. – H.L. Mencken
I often wonder how Mencken the anti-populist would view the conservative/populist/Tea Party/Trump movement today. Of course, spreading discontent can affect change so a non-romantic can end up accomplishing the desires of the romantic.

11 March 2017

On My Nightstand

I was contacted by Bob Driver a few weeks ago and asked if I'd review his latest book. Bob is a retired Lt. Colonel (USMC) and was, for more than 30 years, President of one of the most active Civil War Roundtables in the United States: The Rockbridge (County) Civil War Roundtable. I've spoken for the group in Lexington a number of times myself. Of course, I agreed to review the book. I'll be interviewing Bob as part of the review this coming Friday, Lord willin'. Stay tuned.

This resource has been on my wish list for quite some time. As I continue to relic hunt and find and restore a lot of iron artifacts, this encyclopedic book will be a great resource for identifying more of the odder pieces in my growing collection.

This is the book credited with having the most impact on Steve Bannon's political views. Bannon is, of course, President Trump's senior advisor. I'm finding the book quite fascinating. Wikipedia notes that the author, Christopher Lasch, was "an American historian, moralist, and social critic who was a history professor at the University of Rochester."
I'll have more to say about the book soon.

09 March 2017

Rescuing the Lost Hinterland - Rise of the Forgotten Man

Against all odds . . .

To the *losers of globalization, the half-employed, and the hopelessly deplorable and irredeemable, lectures from the Republican establishment about reductions in capital-gain taxes, more free-trade agreements, and de facto amnesties, were never going to win the Electoral College the way that Trump did when he used the plural personal pronoun (“We love our miners, farmers, vets”) and promised to jawbone industries to help rust-belt workers. The final irony? The supposedly narcissistic and self-absorbed Trump ran a campaign that addressed in undeniably sincere fashion the dilemmas of a lost hinterland. And he did so after supposedly more moral Republicans had all but written off the rubes as either politically irrelevant or beyond the hope of salvation in a globalized world. How a brutal Manhattan developer, who thrived on self-centered controversy and even scandal, proved singularly empathetic to millions of the forgotten is apparently still not fully understood. ~ Victor Davis Hanson
*Just to add my thoughts; I would define the "losers" (generally) as Hollywood leftists, government bureaucrats, establishment Republicans, government-loving Fake News journalists and most in academia. How utterly delightful. Poetic justice is a beautiful thing to behold.

08 March 2017

Dr. Ben Carson, Barack Obama & Historical Forgetfulness


End of update.

Ben Carson created a feeding frenzy with a recent statement suggesting slaves brought to America were "immigrants." Here's what HUD Secretary Carson said:
That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.
The statement is clumsy at best, but it seemed to me that the criticism was a bit over the top and motivated by something other than any interest in historical accuracy. Soon after Dr. Carson made the statement, the echo chamber of Hollywood airheads and leftist fake-news talking heads pounced with righteous indignation and mockery. Some history bloggers and historians immediately took their cue and dutifully followed suit. 

But then came the news that former President Obama had made a very similar statement in 2015:
Certainly, it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves. There was discrimination and hardship and poverty. But, like you, they no doubt found inspiration in all those who had come before them. And they were able to muster faith that, here in America, they might build a better life and give their children something more.
The funny thing is, I don't recall the same incredulous reaction, outrage, horror, snickering and mocking when Obama made that statement. Gee, I wonder why? Certainly it has absolutely nothing to with politics, does it? No, of course not.

(But it's actually worse. Obama compared slaves to immigrants a total of 11 times; at least that's the number discovered so far.)

Ben Carson:  "There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less."

Reaction from the echo chamber: OUTRAGE!

Barack Obama:  "Certainly, it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves."

Reaction from the echo chamber: Silence.

Is this yet one more example of Fake Outrage, Fake News and Fake History?
Just asking.

07 March 2017

PC History & Book Sales

Another Civil War blogger recently lamented the absence of history books published by academic presses in a bookstore. 

You've got to be kidding me. Unlike faculty lounges, bookstores must operate in the real world of profit and loss, cause and effect, etc. These establishments don't choose the titles they sell based on what academic historians think is "acceptable" (Politically Correct) for consumption by the American public. They choose their titles based on what the American public is buying and wants to read. 

This is not to say there aren't excellent books published by academic presses. My favorite most recent read is David Johnson's excellent biography of John Randolph of Roanoke published by Louisiana State University Press.

So, why doesn't the American public choose more academic press titles to read more often? There are reasons you know. There is a cause and effect involved.  I'll let others answer the question.
"The problem with academic historians is they are not reaching a wide popular audience," Shoaf said. He said there is a need for factual, well-researched historical articles that are moderately priced and appeal to the masses. Shoaf said that in his business, people often are reluctant to read social history because they think it is boring. They want articles about battles, but Shoaf said they like social history if they aren’t aware that’s what they are reading." ~ Dana Shoaf, editor of Civil War Times and consulting editor of America’s Civil War magazines.
Reason #1: They think it is boring.

And . . .
. . . they're so badly written. They're boring! Historians are never required to write for people other than historians." ~ David McCullough (McCullough is referring here specifically to textbooks, but the same is often true for the dry, boring tomes written by academic historians and published by academic presses.)
Reason #2: They're poorly written. They are boring. They target the wrong audience (if they want to sell books).

And . . .
What most frustrates Americans is that we are a happy, optimistic, can-do people ceaselessly harangued by media solons, delusional academics, post-sovereign Eurocrats, and the Democrats who love them. While we free and feed the world, they can’t tell us enough that we’re racist, imperialist, torturing louts. We know it’s a libel, an endless stream of slander. But we also know it’s an absurd libel. We’re tired of hearing it, but taking it too seriously would give it power it doesn’t deserve. ~ Andrew McCarthy (Emphasis mine.)
Reason #3: Many Americans are tired of the condescending, self-hatred of our history being shoved down their throats.

And . . .
There was a time, not long ago, when students were required to study the great events, magnanimous statesmen, brave warriors, brilliant inventors and ingenious industrialists of American history. There was a time when American students knew in intimate detail the heroic story of the American Revolution and the tragedy of the Civil War.
American children once learned about honesty from George Washington, justice from Thomas Jefferson, integrity from John Adams, independence from Daniel Boone, oratory from Daniel Webster, ingenuity from Thomas Edison, perseverance from the Wright Brothers and courage from Sergeant York. They learned and memorized the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address. American history was taught as a grand story of epic scale and heroic accomplishment. America's history was the history of freedom.

Today, our children are being taught to be ashamed of America. By denigrating the principles and great deeds of America's past and dethroning its heroes, today's college professors are destroying in our youths the proper reverence for the ideals for which this nation stands. And a nation that hates itself cannot last.  ~ Professor C. Bradley Thompson
Reason #4: Americans don't want their children being taught to be ashamed of America, America's founding and their ancestors.

And, as always . . .
The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars. . . . Since these historians are not really interested in the origins of the nation, they have difficulty writing any coherent national narrative at all, one that would account for how the United States as a whole came into being. ~ Professor Gordon S. Wood
Reason #5: Americans want coherency in reading about American history; not preachy, holier-than-thou, politically correct, moral reformer gobbledygook written to impress other left-leaning historians. 

Note these are not my words--though I do agree with the overall conclusions. These are the observations and opinions of respected historians and writers. Disagree if you like, but don't attempt the shallow, ad hominem attacks. 

So, what's the take-away here? Well to put it rather bluntly, the American public seems to believe--broadly speaking--that academic written and published history books suck. And it's hard to sell books that suck. This is the fundamental reason why many bookstores don't carry history books published by academic presses.

A number of academic related history bloggers will no doubt continue in their denial (or ignorance); but the marketplace (the American public) has judged their product and found it wanting. That's the reality. Deal with it.

03 March 2017

Academic Historians Are Out of Touch - Again

If you would like an example of the disconnect between academic historians and the American public, check this out.

Regarding the negative opinion of President Trumps speech before Congress on Tuesday night, that's pretty much 100% negative, isn't it? Compare that to the fact that an overwhelming majority (over 75%) of Americans approved of President Trump's speech this past Tuesday night. Given the fact that poll was  conducted by CBS (Fake News), the rate is probably much higher.

01 March 2017

Politics, History & Blogging

This is the view looking toward my home, from about 2 miles north of where I live.
While other history related blogs like to pretend to be "objective" and apolitical, I make no such pretense here. I never have. I actually WANT readers to know my worldview and the prism through which I view events and history. I want to be transparent. I'm not a historian. I'm a writer who writes about history. Yes, I believe there is a distinction. 

Yet some of my critics like to suggest that I'm hypocritical because I criticize other history related blogs who show their biases and push an agenda. But there is a big difference between someone like me who openly and unabashedly reveals his worldview, and those who claim to be "objective" and apolitical, yet at the same time use their blogs and writing to do the same thing I often do here; but from a much different perspective. In doing so, they are attempting to put their political agenda and biases above any criticism. They are hiding behind their faux objectivity. I find that not only dishonest, but cowardly as well.

My header notes that I'm a "Southern" writer. I write from a Southerner's perspective. It's not the "only" Southern perspective, but it is a valid one based on my sense of place, my experiences growing up, my reading and study and the culture that has nurtured me for all of my 59 years. In the footer of my blog I quote Alphonse Vinh to give further insight into my perspectives and worldview:
From Virginia sprung the Southern Mind, a mind which favoured the local community, Burkean conservatism, the folkways of ancestors, an unwavering orthodox Christian faith. ~ Alphonse Vinh
I've read thousands of pages of history, biography and political philosophy focusing on the American South yet I've never come across a statement that better encapsulates my worldview than Mr. Vinh's. His statement reveals, very succinctly, my "biases" and the experiences and perspective from which I think and write. I make no apologies. In fact, I consider myself blessed to have lived these experiences.