Monday, November 22, 2010

Catching Up

I'm back now. It took me awhile to figure out what happened with my blogger account. All I could do was sign into comment moderation, not actually moderate comments, just see what was being left. There was no method to leave a note here that I would return, that blogger was preventing me from getting full access. Plus I was pretty busy with other things so it was easy to ignore the errors I received from blogger. But whatever was wrong is fixed now and I can return to blogging 2-3 times a week.

Since we last connected my eldest son has become a Tiger Cub scout and I have joined him as one of the assistant den leaders. I was part of scouts way back when and am glad that my son is in and, more importantly, is enjoying it. I look forward to summer camping trips and teaching a dozen boys life lessons through scouting.

We're also looking for a new house, something with a fourth bedroom as we are seriously contemplating having a third child. But first our house has to sell, so if you're looking for a three bedroom, three bath house in Littleton Colorado let me know.

I also completed and sent to the publisher a manuscript I'm proud of that has the possibility of being part of a larger series. Wish I could share more details on the project but one of my writer/historian friends has passed onto me a reluctance to share information broadly until things are much more concrete. So going forward with the belief that there will be a series here I have started researching the book that would follow. I once again feel optimistic about a book project after my previous foray was quashed by a short sighted man. Its good to have that optimism back and hopefully its not misplaced.

The flow of review books from Civil War News has trickled down, guess there is not as much Western Theater stuff coming out as there was earlier in the year. So during the past month I've picked up Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series which follows Richard Sharpe's career in the British army during the Napoleonic years. Its very enjoyable but I'm not going to become a Napoleonic wars buff.

There were so few Western Theater books that the other day the book review editor at Civil War News sent me an Eastern Theater regimental history. I'm actually struggling with writing that review right now. There are a few things about the book that bother me, and not in a West vs East sense, but in a why is this regiment important sense. Plus there was not a single map at all. But it was a good book, very detailed and ultimately I did enjoy it.

But internally I am grappling with a philosophical question of the point to regimental histories. Should it be that going forward they should only exist for regiments that did something extraordinary or whose service was unique? Or that fill a gap in the historiography? For example the new book on the Louisiana Brigade in the Army of Tennessee fills a gap in that there is not many other Western Theater brigade histories published. Their service was not super unique, obviously every unit was unique aspects to their service but this brigade did not see service too different than other units. By the way its a tremendous book that I have reviewed in brief previously and my full review (that is similar to the review that appeared in Civil War News) will appear on here this week.

I also reviewed a book on the 1st Nebraska, a soldier's diary to be specific. Their service was unique in that they served in Arkansas-Missouri but not with the army that fought at Pea Ridge. They didn't achieve much, very limited combat, as I remember the soldier first fired his musket nearly 2 years into his service. He then was transferred to St Louis as a provost guard and remarked on the ship building being done. A fascinating book that looked at an aspect of the war usually forgotten, both the guard duty aspect and the small expeditions he was part of in Arkansas and Missouri.

The book I got the other day is for the 4th Michigan, a regiment that seemed to miss the bulk of the combat nearly every time. They were either left behind as a guard or served on a part of the battlefield that saw little action. They got into serious combat four times, and lost three colonels in those fights, which is remarkable. It is a good book, and the only drawback is the lack of maps. I will rate it favorably although I will make it clear that the lack of maps hurts, especially when locations are described with much detail. But I can't see the road on the map then enough a tremendous amount of detail does little to show me where they were. I need a map. Anyway despite my favorable feelings for the book I'm struck that by and large the regiment did not do something too unique or special. They suffered at Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, Gettysburg and the Wilderness. At other battles they saw limited action, suffering casualties one would equate with a skirmish even if it was a large battle. But at other times they were left well to the rear. At both Bull Runs they were left behind as a guard. At Antietam they stayed on the wrong side of the river. At Chancellorsville they were the far Union left. None of these were their fault but they certainly did not see as many fights as other regiments. So is the goal of regimental histories to eventually fill in all the gaps so that every unit in every major army has a regimental history? And in this endeavour the Eastern Theater is well ahead and widens its gap every year.

The symposium went very well once again. My involvement was very small after helping get the panel selected. I thought everyone did a great job getting it done. We've already got our panel for next year and I'll make a formal announcement about that soon as well, would do it right now but it should have its own posting and not be reduced to the end of this post.


Chris Evans said...

Interesting about that you have started reading the Sharpe series. I have read a few books in it but my interest in the Napoleonic period stretches back to a wonderful exhibit that was in Memphis in 1993 that had all kinds of Napoleon artifacts (his carriage, his throne, paintings etc.)

I just get into all kinds of military history with my favorite time periods being the American Civil War, Napoleonic, American Revolution and WWII. Reading about other wars has helped me understand the American Civil War even better.


Anonymous said...


As a guy who studies Zouave Regiments, this unit baffles me. I have seen pictures of 4th Michigan soldiers in a Fez-like cover. But a website calls their headgear "Canadian hats."

As you know, the 4th's Colonel, Harrison Jeffords, was mortally wounded in Gettysburg's Wheat Field. He was bayoneted while attempting to save the Colors. Great story!

Welcome back!

Mike Peters