I missed blogging last Friday. I had a couple of things in mind that I could post, but I wasn’t really feeling it, so I didn’t. Not really feeling it today, either. This is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but I’m working. The forecast last night called for snow starting in the early morning, perhaps as early at 5 a.m. I decided if it was snowing when I got up, I’d take the day off. I was up around 5:15 a.m., and looked outside. No snow. Went back to bed, and woke up a minute before the alarm was to go off at 6:00. Looked outside. No snow. So I stayed up and went about getting ready for work.
6:26 a.m. rolled around; I had everything ready to go to work. Opened the garage door. No snow. So I got in the car and drove to work, stopping for gasoline along the way. Got to work around 7:00 a.m. Still no snow. disappointed in the no-show snow showers, I quit looking out my window. Until around 10:00 a.m., that is, when I looked out and saw it was snowing, just starting to stick to the ground.
Around 10:15 I stepped outside the building, just to be in the snow for a while. As always, I found it refreshing. At noon, if it’s still snowing, I’ll go out for a little longer, just to feel the snow hitting my face, and dreaming about being a kid again.
I’m not sure what to do about the blog. When I began this many years ago, on the Blogger site, the prevailing wisdom was that a writer should have a blog. Now, I’m hearing new prevailing wisdom, that the Age of the Blogs has passed, and maybe a writer doesn’t need one after all. I’ll be thinking about this, and deciding what to do.
Meanwhile, enjoy your holiday, those of you who get one. Enjoy your snow day, those of you who like snow. Possibly I’ll see you on my next regular blogging day, Friday.
While I had much family here for Christmas (some still here, till tomorrow), I didn’t worry about keeping to my blog schedule. So here I am, writing this post on New Year’s Eve, my birthday, for posting tomorrow. I think what I’ll do is just paste in our Christmas letter, perhaps adding a few comments at the end.
Greetings family and friends!
This branch of the Todd family has fallen into routine. Not a rut, for that has a negative connotation. Routine, on the other hand, can be good. It helps you to be efficient in your activities, and to effectively complete all tasks you need to complete. Yes, routine is good.
Our routine was broken a few times this year, three of them being extra significant. In June we drove, in caravan with our daughter Sara and her family, to the quadrennial General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene in Indianapolis. Richard was a delegate to one of the pre-assembly conventions. We went along to help out with the four kids, and, of course, to see old friends. Last time we attended general assembly was in 1980 when it was in Kansas City. The trip was good, without unsafe incidents of car trouble. It was indeed a good time. We saw those old friends, worshipped a great God with thousands of others, and were renewed and refreshed. Our accommodation was an older home rented by the week. We had a yard and parks nearby, so the kids had room to run.
Then, on the way home, we spent a week in Branson, at a townhouse that is part of our timeshare company. We saw plenty of sights there. Branson has so much to do, for all ages. When someone wasn’t up to something, we just stayed at the townhouse. Miniature golf, Silver Dollar City, and a whole lot more filled our five days there. While we were gone for the almost two weeks, Lynda’s brother was here from Santa Fe to be with their mom. So we got to see him.
Another unexpected “event” came from Dave’s genealogy research. For years he has been trying to find out more information about his (supposed) maternal grandfather. Having only a name and a few anecdotal statements by his grandmother, he hit dead ends. Until DNA relatives showed up in 23andMe, and he was able to make connections. It turned out his grandfather had two other families, and he is now in touch with most of his previously-unknown first cousins from those families. Getting to know all these people, through Facebook so far, has been a delight.
And Dave had another “event” that broke up the routine. He’s been Corporate Trainer for CEI for eleven years now, and figured he’d stay that until his retirement at the end of next year. But, in early November his boss asked him to take on management of projects that have moved into the problem stage after construction. It started with three projects, is now up to four, and more are in sight. This has taken him back to his project management days. It has certainly been a change, as his hours have increased as he deals with the problems, leaving him almost no time for training. He thinks this new normal will take him right up to retirement.
Lynda has had some physical challenges this year. She’s had severe aches and pains show up in her legs, that caused her doctor to put her on a new medication. It turned out that med has some bad side-effects, however. She weaned herself off that med before things got bad. Now she’s wondering if other meds she takes have caused other problems, such as morning listlessness and what she calls “brain fog”. She does a lot of studying of health issues, and is hoping to gradually get off some meds and see if that helps. Meanwhile, she continues with stock trading, with Dave’s help from time-to-time. It looks like the year will turn out profitable.
We made several trips to Oklahoma City for grandchildren’s birthdays. They are growing up fast. The three older ones are in school, and little Elijah gets into everything when his sibs aren’t around. They teach him well. All three seem to like school, and to do well at it. Richard continues to split his time between pastoring the church and managing the R.O.C. ministry.
Charles is now working two jobs. He continues as a dean for the College at the University of Chicago. He is also a dorm parent for an off-campus dorm. In both of these he stays busy. He will surely advance through university administration. The dorm thing is temporary. He plans on doing that for a year or two, then seeing where life and career takes him. Because his dorm job required him to be there over Thanksgiving, our family gathering is a Christmas this year.
Esther, now 92, continues as always, a little slower, a little farther removed from the world around her, but still kicking. She hasn’t had any new health problems develop this year. The biggest thing was the death of her sister, Faye, in July. We made the trip back to Meade for the funeral. So Esther, the oldest of four sisters, is the last still alive.
We close this letter with a wish for the best for each of you. May God bless your lives, filling you with good things, and may they spill out with compassion for others.
Dave, Lynda, and Esther
Emmanuel has come. We had a good Christmas with much family here, and contacting many more by phone. Yesterday I spent a quiet birthday with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law, as Lynda is in Oklahoma City for babysitting. For the moment, all is well. 2017 was a challenge in many ways. May 2018 be better.
It’s been a while since I wrote anything new on my works-in-progress, or even about what new things have come to mind. I guess it was less than a month ago that I laid out my 4th quarter writing plans. Nothing has changed in these plans—officially, that is. I published When Death Changes Lifeas an e-book, and am about a week away from having it published as a print book. So that’s good. I haven’t yet resumed work on Adam Of Jerusalem or The Gutter Chronicles: Volume 2. However, Sunday afternoon I actually wrote a little on AoJ. And today I looked at prior edits to TGC with an idea of typing them later. So both works are simmering, and may boil soon.
But, I find my gray cells consumed—my creative gray cells, that is—by two other things. Some things I’ve been discussing with my grandchildren, especially my oldest one, have gelled into what could become a book, or more likely two small books. For now I’m titling this Nine Life Freedoms Gained and Lost. For some time now I’ve noticed how my grandchildren have developed, and how freedoms have come to them. The first freedom is learning how to walk, which is a freedom of mobility. How much more territory can a toddler claim than a crawling infant?
The second freedom is when you are potty trained, and free from diapers. This is a freedom of control over bodily functions. It gives you great freedom of movement; you aren’t tied to a toilet any more, or, worse, covered in a diaper. It signals physical growth.
I started thinking of these somewhat over a year ago, maybe even two years ago, as I watched my grandchildren develop. Since they live four hours from me, and I see them five or six times a year, I see their development in spurts, not continuously. I’ve noticed these freedoms they develop into. I’ve thought about the additional freedoms they will someday have. I’ve expanded this into a total of nine. This was all sort of organic, I guess you would say. I was mainly trying to understand the growing up and maturing process, not thinking about writing a book.
I’ve also noticed over the same time period how these freedoms are lost to people as they age. The ability to walk is lost in whole or in part as your legs grow weaker with age. Incontinence is the manifestation of loss of the freedom of control of body functions. The other freedoms, gained during childhood, youth, and early adulthood, are slowly lost with age. Perhaps not all of them, and perhaps some not at all, but all can be lost. It is when one of these freedoms is lost that the person requires a caregiver. The caregiver has to help the person who has lost one of more of these freedoms.
This has been rattling around in my head, consuming so much of my creative gray cells that I’ve had little energy left for actual writing. That it could possibly become a book became evident to me in the last month. But would it be a book for parents, for caregivers, or for both? The latter didn’t seem like a good idea, and the first one seems to be too crowded a field. That meant it would be a book for caregivers. Today in church it hit me that perhaps I have two books here: Nine Life Freedoms Gained, which would be for parents; and Nine Life Freedoms Lost, which would be for caregivers. They wouldn’t be large books. I’m somewhat leery of starting them. For now they are nagging ideas. At some point I’ll put a little more on paper. Perhaps that will free up my mind for other things.
Speaking of other things, a new book idea came to me a week or two ago. Yes, yet another book idea. This one came to me as a title. I was studying in Romans for teaching Life Group when this idea came. I was thinking of Paul’s impact on the early church, and how the story and teachings of Jesus were disseminated. The title came to me: And So It Begins: The First _____ Years of Christianity. It would be non-fiction, but would draw from what I have written or plan to write in my church history novel series.
This book, if I ever write it, is further down the road than is the freedoms books. It will be after AoJ and one more book to be sandwiched between Doctor Luke’s Assistant and Preserve The Revelation. I’ve already written some ideas for the contents. Once I get them put in a notebook, and hence retrievable in the future, their activity within my mind will soon die, and I can concentrate on current work.
Today’s blog post is an interview of author Paul Lawrence. I don’t remember exactly where I met Paul on-line. Probably at a blog for writers that we both read and post at from time to time. I checked out him and his writing. Time for you all to know about it.
DAT: Your website bio indicates you were a computer security analyst, and that you wrote articles in your professional field. How does someone make the jump from writing computer articles to writing creatively?
PL: For many years, I dreamt of writing fiction. In fact, my wife bought a wood name plaque with Paul Lawrence (my pen name) on it about fifteen years ago for my birthday. She said, “Maybe this will motivate you.” But I stayed so busy with my work and keeping up with the changes in my chosen field, that there was little time even for reading outside my profession. I was asked to write an article for Securityfocus.com, because another writer had declined to at the last minute. Once I had written the first one, they kept asking me to write more. That helped me believe in myself as a writer.
When I retired, I decided it was time to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a novelist. But the two fields are so dissimilar that it’s quite a leap. In nonfiction, you write about facts but try to do it in an entertaining way. With fiction, you have to stir the readers’ emotions and make them feel like they are living the experience.
The first thing I started writing was a crime story with a Christian detective. The first fifteen pages were what is known as “telling”. I was writing the story as if it was nonfiction, describing the detective and his accomplishments without any emotion or action. (I may go back to that one day, but it will be dramatically different than the way I started it.)
DAT: Your book is titled “Prayers Were No Help”. It’s a provocative title. Tell us something about it. And how did you come to write it?
PL: It’s a story about a guy who is flying high, enjoying life and success, and thinks the good times will never end. Then his wife is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and his world comes crashing down. Like many others in similar circumstances, he sinks into depression and begins drinking heavily.
Realizing that he has to either end it all or find a way out of the darkness surrounding him, he travels to his family’s lake cabin to be alone with his thoughts and the bottle. But he meets a mysterious man named Toby, who’s persistence and patience lead to his healing and a positive outlook on life from a God-centered perspective.
One day, he decides to return to the lake and thank Toby and finds out Toby was not who he thought he was at all.
I was inspired to write the story, because I have been touched by cancer personally. I lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer, and five years ago my wife was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Then, while she was waiting for her surgery date, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Both of us believed she would beat cancer, and she has. She has been cancer-free for five years now. The experience, dealing with the doctors and learning about the treatment modalities, informed my writing.
The title was suggested by my editor. I had tried similar ones but liked her suggestion so much I decided to use it. I think it speaks to the questions we all have when we think our prayers aren’t being answered and we don’t understand why. I love the Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayers, by the way.
DAT: Why did you decide to self-publish this?
PL: Since I’m new to the business, I began by doing a lot of research. I knew it wasn’t easy to publish using the traditional route, but I tried. I was told that no one reads Christian fiction and no one wants to publish novellas. (My book is only 23,000 words, less than half the length of some novels and less than a quarter the size of many sci-fi novels.) I knew the story was complete. Adding more to it would have made it worse. So, eventually I decided to self-publish. Even if only one person reads it, it is my prayer that that one person will be inspired.
What’s next for you? I assume you’re working on a second book, if not even more than that.
Actually, I have three in the pipeline. The first, which is nearing completion, is a story about a young man from Iowa who volunteers to go to Vietnam, to carry on the family tradition. His experience there, and upon returning, shapes his life and causes him to endure a great deal of emotional upheaval. In the end, God’s love will save him and heal his heart. The title is Some Wounds Never Heal.
The second and third are in the germ stage; a story about a woman who is abused by her husband and how she finds the strength to believe in herself and God to escape from that prison, and a story about a girl who is kidnapped by a serial killer and a female FBI profiler who desperately wants to catch him before he kills again. The two together will solve the case and bring closure to many grieving families.
As I mentioned in a couple of prior posts, I recently finished a book about General Robert E. Lee’s Gettysburg campaign. In that book, Last Chance For Victory, the authors speak much about the second day of the battle. The first day was also covered extensively, though the third somewhat less than the first two. On the first day, the Confederate army and the Union army met almost accidentally at Gettysburg. A major clash wasn’t expected quite that soon by Lee. So the ebb and flow of the battle had to do with standing orders for both sides, and with soldiery and generalship, and less to do with strategy.
But, on the second day, it was all about strategy and tactics. So say Bowden and Ward, the authors of LCFV. Lee spent much of the night of July 1-2 working on his strategy, even before he knew for sure what the Federal positions were and which of his own forces would be available for battle. He consulted with his corps commanders: Longstreet, Hill, and Ewell. They had ideas of what to do, especially Longstreet. Lee considered that, then set a plan for a frontal attack from the west against Cemetery Ridge, held by the Union. A “demonstration” in force by Ewell’s corps from the north was also part of it, which Lee meant to develop into a full attack, depending on how the Union reacted. These plans took most of the morning to prepare, and were to launch in the early afternoon.
But, when Lee and others made a final check of the front. It was discovered that General Sickles, a corps commander for the Union, had moved his corps down Cemetery Ridge into a forward position along the Emmitsburg Road, over a mile closer to the Confederates. And, his new line had a “kink” in it; it wasn’t a nice straight line as armies are used to forming. It also left the Union susceptible to flanking movements, either around Sickles to the south or between Sickles and the next corps, commanded by General Hancock.
Bowden and Ward say this was a stupid move on Sickles’ part. This is echoed in other accounts that I’ve read, limited as they are. Sickles was too exposed, his new line too hard to defend. Yes, it was a stupid. The results of the battle “prove” this true. Sickles’ corps was decimated by Lee’s attack. They fell back—the ones that weren’t killed, injured or captured. That stupid Sickles cost the Union a functioning corps.
Except, because of Sickles’ move, Lee changed his battle plan. Instead of a full, frontal attack simultaneously by two corps, he went with an en echelon attack, that is, an attack that progressed from one end of the line to the other, not simultaneously, but sequentially, division by division or brigade by brigade. This took an hour or so to put together and issue new orders. Thus, the Confederate attack didn’t kick off until about 4:00 in the afternoon. It went well, but fell apart as dark was approaching, giving Lee no time to take corrective action.
So Sickles’ move cost the South about an hour of battle daylight. Lee famously said that they needed another half hour to make the attack successful. Why didn’t he have the time he needed? Because of Sickles’ move. So, even though his corps took heavy, heavy casualties, wasn’t his move what saved the day for the Union?
Bowden and Ward didn’t discuss the time factor, the time Sickles’ took away from Lee by changing his position. Yes, his casualties were heavy, but it seems to me it was the key move by either army in the whole sequence of the three-day battle. While Lee was adjusting his strategy and orders, the Federal army was able to bring up more troops that were arriving, and make other adjustments. Also, troops badly beaten the previous day had an extra hour to get their act together. Many were still not battle-worthy, but with an extra hour of rest, and time for their officers to rally them, they had to be in better shape at 4:00 p.m. than they would have been at 2:00 p.m., when the battle might have kicked off according to Lee’s original plan.
So, was Sickles’ move folly, or genius? Everything I’ve read says it was folly. Is their no one among the battle’s historians who see this as a good move—a costly move, but a good one in that it bought time, time that the Union desperately needed. Who am I to question military historians, a novice such as I am?
I have much more reading to do on this to know for sure. And, I don’t know that that time will ever present itself for me to be able to do this. I hope, some year, I’ll get to read more on it, and maybe write something from more knowledge.
For research purposes, I picked up a used copy of Last Chance For Victory. The subtitle is Robert E. Lee and the Gettysburg Campaign. The authors are Scott Bowden and Bill Ward. Bowden has written many books on military issues, especially the Napoleonic wars. I didn’t check into Ward’s credentials.
I began reading this sometime in 2014, when I began writing my book Documenting America: Civil War Edition. As I said in a prior post, I knew I would be including a chapter on Gettysburg, so I thought this would be good research for me. The paperback copy I read is 529 pages long, not including one tabular appendix, but including the many, many pages of end notes for each chapter. I read the first five chapters (221 pages) back then, then put it aside when I put my book aside. But, this April, I went back to work on my book, so went back to reading LCFV, in early May. I think I remembered the gist of what I’d read three years ago.
This is a very good book. Bowden and Ward make a good case that Lee handled himself very well in the Gettysburg campaign, from recognizing the strategic need for it, to planning it, to executing it. Yes, the Confederacy lost this battle, but not because of Lee, they say. In their last chapter, they list 17 causes for the Confederate loss. A couple of them were things that the Union did, or their generals did. Except for that, the authors missed no opportunity to show their disdain of the Northern soldier and his generals. Concerning Lee, they listed only two faults:
failure to keep a large enough headquarters staff to do all that a commanding general needed done; and
failure to take tactical control on the third day of the battle, when it was obvious that two of his three corps commanders (and, they actually make a case for all three) failed to execute Lee’s orders, either to the level of incompetence or insubordination. Even the oft-praised General Longstreet came in for harsh criticism for his performance on the third day of the battle.
Everything else, Lee did flawlessly. That cavalry general Jeb Stuart misread Lee’s orders and went gallivanting in Pennsylvania, far enough from where Lee concentrated his army to be absent the first two days and ineffective the third day was Stuart’s fault, not Lee’s. They go into great lengths on this. Their arguments are fairly convincing. It appears Stuart didn’t follow orders, though I can see some ambiguity in the orders. That Ewell’s corps didn’t take Culp Hill on the first day was Ewell’s fault for over-emphasizing the words “if practicable” in the order. On this, I think Bowden and Ward have good grounds for criticism of General Ewell. Many military victories (so I’ve read) have happened when a field commander took the initiative and fought for and took the hill, then held it until reinforcements arrived.
But, they don’t find fault with Lee for failing to come to the front lines on the second day, when the en echelon attack was in progress, and kick his corps commanders in their sorry rear ends and get their divisions and brigades into the action as they’d been ordered to do. Instead, Lee stayed in his headquarters, watching or receiving reports on the action. If he had just taken one of General Hill’s divisions and shoved them to the front, the entire battle would have been different. Maybe.
I have a couple of criticisms of the book. The main one is that the authors fixate on a point and beat it to death. The en echelon attack is the main one, along with the failures of Ewell, Hill, Stuart, and to a lesser extent Longstreet. These were covered in the chapter of that part of the battle, then mentioned in the next chapter, the next chapter, and left beaten to death in the summary. They could have done with much less of this, either covering other things, or making the book shorter. I also found a few more typos than I would have liked. One map for the action on July 1 was labeled as for July 2. But, overall, I would say the typos didn’t bother me.
The comments on Amazon indicate this book is controversial, in that it gives too much credit to Lee, overlooks some of his shortcomings, and fails to say that the Union army and generals had something to do with the Confederacy losing. Since this is my first book to read on Gettysburg, I really can’t say much to that. For sure it is highly favorable to Lee. Whether he deserved those laurels for this battle, someone else will have to determine.
I bought this book for a whopping $0.50, probably at a thrift store. I don’t know that I’ll ever read it again. If I read more on Gettysburg it will be other books. But, for now, I’ll keep it as a reference book. I might have to refer to it again.
Tuesday evening I went back to editing on my book Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I finished the first round of edits about ten days ago, and decided to let it sit awhile, to give me a fresh perspective. That time passed, and so I decided it was time to edit. I have the book out with a beta reader, who I told not to hurry on it, as I wouldn’t be publishing it till sometime in July.
As I looked at the book, I decided to take a slightly different approach to this round of edits. Each chapter is organized like this. It’s built around an historical document from the Civil War era. I write a lead-in paragraph, briefly setting the scene. The original document comes next, usually heavily edited down to a reasonable amount to read. After the document comes two pieces of my writing, which together are usually shorter than the document excerpt. In the first bit, I do a little explaining of the document or of the issues it is involved with. In the second bit I try to tie the document to an issue we are facing today. My purpose for that is to show that things may not have changed as much as we think they have.
During my first round of edits, I realized that the early chapters, which were written in 2014, and the later chapters, written in 2017, had significant differences between them. The 2014 chapters make reference to world events that were hot topics then, but which, to some extent, have faded from the front pages. The 2017 chapters make appropriate references to current world events.
But, does this not show a weakness in the book? If I refer to events that don’t seem as important now as they seemed in 2014, maybe they really aren’t worth mentioning at all. I need to think about this.
So, to bet back to my editing approach. I decided in this round of edits I would just read the words I wrote, not the documents I edited. That way I get through them a whole lot faster. In three days I read and edited my words in 17 chapters. Only 12 to go, so I should finish those by Sunday.
I’m hoping that reading these parts close together, and quickly, will give me greater insight into what changes I should make, if any. It may be that I’ll leave it about as is, and add some explanation in the Introduction about the times of writing.
Either way, I’ll finish it by Sunday, then do another read-through of the excerpted documents, and see if there’s anything else I can cut for readability while not destroying the integrity of what the document says.
Not ten seconds before I pulled up my administration page here, I finished the first round of edits on my latest book, Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I’ve spoken about it before on this blog. I can’t remember how much I’ve spoken about the specifics.
In 2011 I published Documenting America: Lessons From the United States’ Historical Documents. Then in 2012 I added a homeschool version of it. In that book I took documents from a variety of eras in
US history, excerpted them, commented on their historical significance, then tied them to an issue in our country at that time. My goal was to get people interested in reading original source documents, rather than just trust history books to give an accurate historical picture.
As I wrote that, I realized I could do that with a whole series of books. I had the whole of a four hundred year span to choose from for the next book. I decided to go with the Civil War. The format will be the same: choose a document; excerpt it; give historical context; tie it to a current issue. I found the writing more difficult, as writing about several military battles made differentiating those battles difficult. But I was able to persist, and completed the book about three weeks ago, having started it in 2014 but then laid it aside. This first round of edits left me pleased with it. At the risk of breaking my arm patting myself on the back, I think it does a good job of bringing historical documents to life. And, I think my historical context and issues comments are fine. I’ll do another round of edits, of course, but perhaps only one more. My guess is I’ll be publishing this in July.
Now, I’m going to paste in the Table Of Contents, so you can see what exactly is in the book.
1. A Merciless and Fearful Retribution: The firing on Fort Sumter, in the Charleston Mercury, April 13, 1861
2. I Appeal to All Loyal Citizens: Executive orders and Proclamations issued by President Lincoln from April 15 to April 27, 1861
3. The Lamentable and Fundamental Error: Jefferson Davis address to the C.S.A. Congress, April 29, 1861
4. Interests of Transcendent Magnitude: Jefferson Davis address to the C.S.A. Congress, April 29, 1861
5. Exhaustion of All Peaceful Measures: Abraham Lincoln address to the USA Congress, July 4, 1861
6. Ballots the Rightful Successors to Bullets: Abraham Lincoln address to the USA Congress, July 4, 1861
7. Shattered and Panic-Stricken: The Battle of Bull Run, in the New York World, July 21, 1861
8. The Wondrous Chain of Providence: Southern Presbyterian Church minutes, late 1861
9. His Virtues and His Merits: J.S. Rock Speech before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Jan 23, 1862
10. Not Hastily, But Deliberately: Abraham Lincoln on Compensated Emancipation, March 6, 1862
11. Show Yourselves Worthy: Various Orders and Reports about the Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862
12. Be It Enacted: The Homestead Act, May 20, 1862
13. Disappointed and Deeply Pained: Horace Greely, editorial in the New York Times, against the conduct of the war, Aug 19, 1862
14. Worthy of a Better Cause: Report on the Peninsula Campaign, Stonewall Jackson, Aug 25-27, 1862
15. Such a Gigantic Scale: Wartime Finances in the North, October 1862
16. Sore Tongued and Fatigued: Various correspondence and reports, Sep 7-Nov 5, 1862
17. What Defeats Our Best Plans?: General Sherman on the press and wartime security, Feb 18, 1863
18. Instruments of Despotism: Vallandigham’s address at Cooper Union, Mar 7, 1863
19. The Peril of his Government: Lincoln re: habeas corpus, June 12, 1863
20. Merited a Better Fortune: General John H. Forney, Siege of Vicksburg Battle Report, July 10, 1863
21. On That Blood-Soaked Field: General George Pickett, letter to his wife, July 6, 1863; General Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg Battle Report, July 31, 1863
22. Repugnant To My Feelings: Louis Agassiz, letter on the fate of the freed Negro, August 9, 1863
23. When The War Trumpet Sounded: James Gooding, letter to Lincoln on equal pay for Black soldiers, Oct 12, 1863
24. Steps to a Great Consummation: Abraham Lincoln address to Congress on reconstruction, Dec 8, 1863
25. Unwise, Impolitic, Unconstitutional: A.H. Stephens on Habeas Corpus in the Confederacy, March 16, 1864
26. A Windrow of Dead Men: On the Wilderness campaign, May 1864
27. A Full Load of Responsibility: Sherman’s March to the Sea, November 1864
28. Unsurpassed Courage & Fortitude: Horace Porter’s account on Appomattox, Apr 1865; General Robert E. Lee’s final order to his troops, Apr 10, 1865
29. This Cup of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln’s Last Public Address, Apr 11, 1865
The book I’m currently writing, Documenting America: Civil War Edition, is currently sitting on a chair in our kitchen, waiting for me to get back to it. I finished it about ten days ago, and I’m letting it sit a while, giving me space and perspective, before I start the editing process. I anticipate the editing will take two or three weeks. Then publishing tasks can begin.
Meanwhile, the Civil War is back in the news. Several Civil War monuments are being removed in the City of New Orleans. These are monuments to Confederate leaders, such as Robert E. Lee, Confederate General. This follows several other places where similar monuments have been removed.
I have mixed feelings about this. Since the reason the states that formed the CSA withdrew (i.e. seceded) from the USA was because they wanted to preserve slavery, those monuments are in essence to those who wanted to preserve slavery. Those descended from slaves naturally are appalled that, in the 21st Century, we are still honoring those who enslaved their ancestors. Those who weren’t descended from slaves, but who align with those who brought pressure for abolition, are also appalled. I think I understand their concerns.
On the other hand, some say those monuments don’t mean the same today as they did when they were first erected. Now, they are simply recognition of those who loved their country, even if their views of what that country did were misguided. They say: Would you also removed monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both slave owners from the south? They have a good point. Washington and Jefferson didn’t take part in rebellion. Oh, wait, they did: rebellion against England. But, that was a good rebellion, working for a government that would protect the natural rights of man, a.k.a. God-given rights. So that’s different.
I have a different view of it. Those monuments have become history books in their own right. By destroying the monuments, we are destroying history books, and trying to expunge history. Is this a good thing?
At one time I thought, “History is history. It is what it is: just a bunch of facts, and dates, and actions by people that happened, and are passed down to those who didn’t experience them.” Then I started writing about history. And I read much by others, both history books and how-to-write-history books. And I learned that how a historical event is treated in a book depends on how the writer does his research and puts the book together. Facts are facts, but you can ignore some and over emphasize others. You can twist some into your opinion mold and make them say something different than what another writer will say about the same fact.
So history isn’t really history. All history is interpretation of what happened in the past. Sometimes it comes with an agenda. Sometimes it comes with a preconceived notion that the historian has been able to make sure you see in the work, causing you to think “Oh, sure, it’s obvious that’s how it was.” However, if you read a book by Historian A instead of Historian B, you would get a completely different picture. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish history was history. But, alas, it’s not.
Back to the Confederate monuments. They represent a dark time in our history, a time when a few white people thought they had the right to enslave a bunch of black people, and to go fetch more black people through an illegal trade. The monuments were meant to honor that dark time. Now we know better. Why not use that to our advantage, keep the distasteful monuments, and use them for a different purpose?
Imagine this, with the monuments still standing. You’re in New Orleans, with your young children or grandchildren. You come across the monument of Robert E. Lee. Your child asks, “Who’s that man up on that horse?” What a great teaching moment that is. “He’s a man who thought it was okay to enslave people simply because they were of a different race. He might have been a good man at heart, but his actions were to perpetuate a way of life that had one race the masters and one race the slaves. This monument was once put up to honor him, but now we know it’s here to help us to never forget just how evil that practice was.”
Now THAT would be a great moment. That would be a great monument. Turn its purpose on its head and make it mean the exact opposite of what it was intended for 140 years ago, or whenever it was erected. How much better that would be than removing it.
The old cliché goes, those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it. Well, those who expunge history won’t learn from it. As a result, we may not learn the evils of slavery as we should. Slavery won’t return, I don’t think, but what other evil practice may happen as a result of us not having that history before us, right in our face, forcing us to confront that dark past?