Monday, June 25, 2012

History on the Sly

Look what someone inserted at the Highwater Mark at Gettysburg!  What shall we make of this?  I suspect that a pro-Confederate secretly defiled the Union's most important spot at the battle - the defeat of Pickett's Charge (some call it Longstreet's Assault) on Cemetery Ridge.  For shame.  I suggest that someone put a U.S. flag on a similar rebel spot, like Jefferson Davis' grave - to signify his years of loyal service to the Union before he rebelled.    

Friday, June 22, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Hey again.  I just returned from Martinsburg, W.V., where I saw the new movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  Like any Civil War historian, how films and other media portray the war interests and concerns me. I must confess that I have not read Seth Graham-Smith's mash-up novel...yet.  I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone, but I recommend this movie to all.  It does take enormous liberties with Lincoln's life and career.  Most films do (I'm looking at you, Steven Spielberg).  My colleagues may cringe at them, yet there is much to like in the film.  The action scenes are first-rate, which is no surprise coming from Timur Bekmambetov, the director of Wanted (with Angelina Jolie and The Conspirator's James McAvoy.  The cast is a mixed bag.  Benjamin Walker is a good choice as the young and old Lincoln.  However, the stunning - and tall - Mary Elizabeth Winstead doesn't work as Mary Lincoln.  The same goes for Firefly's Alan Tyduk as Stephen Douglas.  Joshua Speed also appears.  Many scenes are CGI, which may distract from the rest of the film.  Cringe-worthy or not, the film is well-cut, moves along at a rapid pace, and is never dull, and nicely photographed by the always reliable Caleb Deschanel (he lensed one of my favorite movies, The Right Stuff, and the only passable thing in The Patriot.)  Remember that it's based on a novel, as was Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, and other films.  I think that my colleagues will enjoy it in spite of themselves.  Now I eagerly await Spielberg's Lincoln due out this Christmas.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War

Hey all!  I've been neglecting my blog.  My responsibilities to my fellowship at the George Tyler Moore Center occupy me.  Each year the center offers a two-month (June-July) position to a graduate student to work for them and do their own research.  Promising historians will appreciate its location in Shepherdstown,  in Jefferson County in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.  It is literally ten minutes drive - or thirty minutes by bicycle if you prefer - from the Antietam Battlefield across the Potomac in Maryland.  Gettysburg and Manassas are each an hour away by car, with Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and the Wilderness within two hours.  The National Archives in Washington, D.C. are also within easy reach.  Mark Snell runs the center.  He teaches Civil War and military history at Shepherd University, a small state school.  I highly recommend taking a battlefield tour with him.  Last week, we went to Gettysburg.  It was a thrill to watch a master scholar and guide put the battle and the war into many different perspectives.  The other staff here, Denise, Tom and Al, are great too.  We're heading to Petersburg at the end of June.

So far - and I'm only three weeks into the program - I've been able to help them and further my own work.  The Shepherd University Library has a substantial collection of microfilm.  Their own resources of primary materials into West Virginia's Civil War have helped me immensely.  I like to joke that at night (fellows live in their building) they surround me with such a wide range of Civil War books that it's like being a kid in a candy store or a graduate student's worst nightmare!  These sources are necessary.  I must produce and publicly present an original paper as part of the program requirements.  Fortunately this will advance my dissertation research a great deal.

The pictures below are of the center itself on Shepherdstown's main street, and only part of the many books in the center's library.  


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Look where I was on Sunday

On the left is a photo I took with my camera phone and uploaded to Facebook while standing on the Burnside Bridge at Antietam.  Isn't technology grand!

On the right is the Bridge itself, a rather good photo too.