Don’s Latest Book Haul

(I originally posted this on The American Catholic and I thought the book mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it enjoyable.)

My wife and I were out and about last Saturday and hit two book stores:  Babbitt’s Books in Normal, a fantastic used book store with thousands of fairly off beat volumes and a black cat as a charming guard cat for the establishment, and the Barnes and Noble in Bloomington.  As faithful readers of this blog know my wife and I are dedicated book packrats.  Here are the books I purchased yesterday:

From Babbitt’s:

1.  Thaddeus Stevens by Ralph Korngold-A 1955 biography of the great abolitionist Congressman from Pennsylvania, who was usually an adversary of Lincoln, sometimes an ally, who reshaped Reconstruction in a punitive direction after Lincoln’s death and came close to unseating his successor.  A great man, but one whose impact on the country ran contrary to the goal he wished to accomplish:  full equality for blacks.  A Greek tragedy of a life in many ways.

2.  The Racial Attitudes of American Presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt by George Sinkler-A 1971 study of how these presidents viewed racial minorities, particularly blacks.  Considering how much is written about race in this country, I believe this is the only book I can recall on this aspect of the topic.  I have begun to read it and it looks fascinating.

3.  A History of Apologetics by Avery Cardinal Dulles-A 1999 reprint of the 1971 book by Dulles.  I have never read anything by the late Cardinal Dulles without coming away dazzled by his intellect, and I doubt that this will be any different.

On to Barnes and Noble: (more…)

Published in: on October 30, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  

October 29, 1863: The Charge of the Mule Brigade

The battle of Wauhatchie featured in a post yesterday which may be read here, is primarily remembered in Civil War lore for a minor incident that occurred during the fight.  The Confederate Hampton Legion, led by General Wade Hampton, of Longstreet’s Corps, apparently was disordered briefly by a stampede of Union mules and that allowed the Union to plug a gap in the battle line.  Union troops waggishly suggested after the fight that the mules be breveted as horses.  Here is the poem by that endlessly prolific author Anonymous: (more…)

Published in: on October 29, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Many Faces of Abe

One of the many things that I find fascinating about Lincoln is how different he looked in most of his photographs.  All but one of the Lincoln photographs were taken during the last eleven years of his life, and they are an interesting study in contrasts.  This is especially intriguing since the subject of a photograph in Lincoln’s day had to sit absolutely still for at least 18 seconds, and I would think this would tend to flatten out any emotions that the subject was feeling at the time which might have altered his features.

I have studied Lincoln now for almost a half century and the complexity of the man is perhaps his most salient feature, and that shines through in his pictures.  A man known for his humble birth, but who hated the life of poverty and drudgery that he worked so hard to escape from.  Famous for reading before the embers of a fire place as a child, he read little as an adult beyond newspapers and a few choice books, but what he read he retained with a bear trap like grasp. A teller of humorous tales who was afflicted with deep melancholia.  No formal education to speak of, but the finest writer of prose ever to sit in the White House.  A deeply logical man who loved Euclid, he could understand the passions, the loves and the hates, that almost destroyed his nation.  A humane man who abhorred bloodshed, he presided over the bloodiest war in our history.  Viewed with suspicion by the abolitionists of his day, it was his fate to destroy slavery that had existed in what would be the United States for a quarter of a millennia.  Turn Lincoln over in your mind and new facets of the man spring up.

Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, captured some of the many Lincolns that appeared in the photographs: (more…)

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Many Faces of Abe  
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Take Me Home


Something for the weekend.  Take Me Home.  Written in 1864 by John Hewitt, who composed some 300 songs, it is a wish by homesick Southern soldiers to go back to their homes.  It is now better known as Sweet Sunny South.  Below is a rendition by Joan Baez: (more…)

Published in: on October 26, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Take Me Home  
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Confederate Medal of Honor

Confederate Medal of Honor

Less well known than the Union Medal of Honor, the Confederacy also had its Medal of Honor, established by the Confederate Congress and embodied in General Orders No. 93 of the Confederate Army.  Unfortunately chronic metal shortages in the Confederacy prevented the actual manufacture of the Medals, but the names of recipients were to be preserved upon rolls of honor, as set forth in General Orders No. 131.

After the War the United Daughters of the Confederacy issued medals, beginning in 1900, known as the Southern Cross of Honor, to those whose names appeared on the rolls of honor and recognized new recipients who had rendered heroic service during the War.  (more…)

Published in: on October 25, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Past, Another Country?

The Past

An interesting point counterpoint between me and co-blogger Elaine at The American Catholic regarding people of the past.  This was in reference to my post regarding the colorization of Civil War photographs:

Elaine:  I don’t believe the past is as much of a “foreign country” as we think. Human nature, after all, doesn’t change much and the people who lived through the Civil War WERE “just like us”. They didn’t have all the whiz-bang technology that we have, of course, and their physical lives were more difficult and precarious than ours; but they had many of the same hopes, fears and desires that we do, and in some ways, were more thoughtful and more knowledgeable than we are.

Don:  In some ways they were like us Elaine and in many other important ways they were not.  They had a deep patriotism that most of our contemporaries do not share.  The same is true in regard to religious faith.  They, and when I say “they” I am referring to a majority of the people who lived through the Civil War, were inured to hardships that many today who are unfamiliar with the period would find difficult to fathom.  They assumed that democratic government could cure most of the world’s ills, an optimism that few of us share today.  Even the most radical of them then would seem quite conservative to most people today.  Death was a common part of their lives in a way that it is not today.  Bodies were laid out in parlors, people would enter into formal mourning for a year, and it was a rare family that did not lose several children, usually quite young, to the Grim Reaper.  They knew who they were and what they stood for, a stability that many of us would envy but few of us have today.  We view their time now through books, a few paintings, and many photographs, rather than the living reality they experienced.  We see them as in a glass, darkly, to crib from Saint Paul, and in many ways we understand them as little as they would understand us, if they could have foreseen us.  History is wonderful, but it can never give us but the shadow of the past. (more…)

Published in: on October 23, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Past, Another Country?  
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Happy Birthday Swabbies!

I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.

Captain John Paul Jones, November 16, 1778

Something for the weekend.  Eternal Father a/k/a The Navy Hymn.  I can think of no better song as I wish a belated Happy Birthday to the United States Navy.

Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.

That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expence, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel.

Resolved, that another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expence.”

Continental Congress, October 13, 1775

Published in: on October 19, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Happy Birthday Swabbies!  
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The Civil War, Now in Color!

Colorized rebs

There is nothing new in adding color to Civil War era photographs.  Even during the War photographs would occasionally have tint supplied.  However, up until now the resulting products did not look like modern color photography.  Until now is the operative phrase:

Jordan J. Lloyd, a colorist for Dynamichrome, a digital image-restoration agency, brings old photos back to life, from grainy, glass-plate originals to high-resolution JPEGs. For the following images, Llyod researched extensively the Civil War era, down to the shoulder marks of commanders. He cleaned up scratches and blemishes and corrected for light exposure to restore the images to their original condition.

Lloyd then applied multiple layers of color to the original, much like highlighting an image with a colored pencil. The more layers piled on, the more realistic the photo becomes, Lloyd says. Extra layers reveal a slight flush in the subjects’ faces, sharpen reflections, and add gleam to metals in the scene. (more…)

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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John Wayne and the Sands of Iwo Jima

The film  Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Styker as initially written in the screen play.  (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

Wayne was convinced to take the role because the film had the enthusiastic backing of the Marine Corps, which viewed it as a fitting tribute to the Marines who fought in the Pacific, and to help combat a move in Congress to abolish the Corps.  Marine Commandant Clifton B. Cates went to see Wayne to request that he take the role and Wayne immediately agreed.  (Thus began a long association of John Wayne with the Marine Corps, including Wayne narrating a tribute to Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.)

Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa.  The Marine Corp hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated.

Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers.  (The three men who raised the flag and subsequently died in the battle were Franklin Sousely, Harlon Block and Michael Strank.)  (First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, who led the flag raising party that raised the first, smaller, flag on Mount Suribachi, and who was awarded a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his heroism on Iwo Jima, also appeared in the film.)  The flag on top of Mount Suribachi could be seen across the island, and was greeted with cheers by the Marines and blaring horns by the ships of the Navy.  A mass was said on Mount Suribachi at the time of the flag raising and I have written about that here. (more…)

Published in: on October 15, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on John Wayne and the Sands of Iwo Jima  
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Columbus and Courage

Something for the weekend.  Conquest of Paradise from the film Conquest of Paradise (1992).  Another Columbus Day is upon us, and another opportunity to reflect upon the Italian master mariner who revealed a New World to the Old.  One of the salient features of the man was courage: (more…)

Published in: on October 12, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Columbus and Courage  
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