Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Miscellany (and yes, I'm still here)

Wow. Over a month without a post. I do apologize for that and, honestly, I'm still not sure how it happened. October was a very busy month for me, but not to find time for even one post over the past 4 or 5 weeks is inexcusable, but I am still here and am starting to post again.

I have started some cemetery research again. Whether I post my findings here or I re-activate my headstones blog remains uncertain, but yesterday was a nice reminder of how enjoyable it can be to get out and do some field research, though the difficulty in reading some stones can be quite frustrating too. I do not have a lot of Civil War battlefields or similar grounds that I can walk so easily, but there are still quite a few Civil War veterans buried in the area and hopefully I can start uncovering (no pun intended) some of their stories again. 

I did finish two fine books in the past few weeks, but really did not take enough notes to fully review them, though I will add a few words here.

The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln's Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Sould of America by Roy Morris is basically a biography of the the rivalry between these two political giants from the 1830s through Lincoln's triumph in the 1860 Presidential election. It does discuss some of the aspects of their earlier lives, but focuses on their pursuits of public offices and influence. It did not seem to cover anything really new, but does a fine job comparing and contrasting these two men, their successes and failures and their ways of politicking during the early and mid-1800s. It is a fine book to have and read and reminds us that 1860 was merely the culmination of their long rivalry, not just a race in which they happened to be the candidates.

Gettysburg's Forgotten Cavalry Actions: Farnworth's Charge, South Cavlary Field and the Battle of Fairfield, July 3, 1863 by Eric Wittenberg, a revised and expanded sesquicentennial edition, won the Bachelder -Coddington Literary Award in its first edition. It brings to light some serious fighting on the last day of the famed Battle of Gettysburg, action that has been lost in all the attention paid to Pickett's Charge (or Pickett-Pettigrew Charge if you prefer) and the controversy over General Meade's supposed lack of aggressiveness in the pursuit of Lee's army after the battle. It is a very enjoyable book, with many details about the fighting, what happened, where it happened and why it mattered. The battle descriptions are fine, but the strength of the book, in my opinion, is when Wittenberge analyzes the actions and reports of the fighting and offers his view of what happened. Perhaps that is due to his training as a lawyer, but his discussion of whether or not Elmer Farnsworth committed suicide and his conclusion about "Lost Opportunities" form the strength of this book. That is not to say the discussion of these fights is poorly done - to the contrary, the whole book is very well-written and enjoyable, and it does cover new material that is not often discussed. That is quite an accomplishment for a Civil War book these days. This is an important book and I gladly recommend it to any readers looking for something new or who just like cavalry and/or discussion of Gettysburg.

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