Thursday, April 30, 2009

2nd Texas Infantry @ Corinth

I have been reading about the battle of Corinth this week in an attempt to get a better understand of the engagement where HCR received his “wound” and highest honors.
Well, it seems a unit near and dear to my heart led the Rebel attack, the 2nd Texas Infantry. The text below is from The Handbook of Texas Online, one of my favorite sources on Texas history:

“SECOND TEXAS INFANTRY. The Second Texas Infantry, a Confederate regiment, was organized in Galveston in September 1861 by its first commander, Col. John Creed Moore. The regiment organized to protect the coast of Texas from northern invasion and was initially billeted at cotton warehouses in Galveston. It was moved to Camp Bee in Houston by December 1861 to complete training. The unit was composed of ten companies of volunteer militia, and the staff officers were Maj. Hall G. Runnels and Lt. Col. William P. Rogers. By March 1862 the regiment had been moved from Houston to Corinth, Mississippi, to become a part of the Army of the Mississippi, being organized by Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston. While in Mississippi, the Second Texas fought in a number of engagements and skirmishes, including the battle at Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, for which the unit was cited for bravery by generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Dabney Maury. The Second Texas Infantry participated on the right wing of Confederate attackers in the capture of the headquarters of three brigades and the encirclement of Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss's division in the Hornet's Nest and penetrated to within a short distance of the steamboat landing by darkness on April 6. For gallantry on this day, Moore was promoted to brigadier general, and Rogers was promoted to the rank of colonel and placed in command of the regiment. Rogers led the Second Texas in a daring attack on Fort Robinett, Corinth, Mississippi, on October 4, 1862. After two unsuccessful assaults on the fort, Rogers, parading the regimental colors from horseback, led a successful attack. However, the fort was held for only a short while before it was recaptured in a counterattack during which Rogers was killed.”

Rogers was afforded a honor almost unheard of at the time. Rosecrans, the Union commander, ordered him buried with full military honors.

Downtown Corinth & Rogers Monument

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Captain Leslie Smith

Wrote a letter to HCR’s father on May 9, 1868

"….The Major (HCR) was one of my most intimate acquaintances from the time I first met him in November of 1863 in fact I preferred his society to that of any other of my fellow officers on account of his good moral qualities such as very few young men of his age and standing in the service possess. It is therefore with painfull(sic) feelings of sorrow that I inform you that I deeply sympathize with you for the loss of a good kind and affectionate son and with his brother officers for the loss of an honest ----- courteous and gallant gentleman and officer.”

“I assume you have heard all about his sad sad end long before this. I deem it but justice to his momory to inform you that there is no doubt about his not being responsible for what he done at the time. I had noticed him for some time previous as being very much changed at times would act very singular indeed and seemed to be indifferent to what was transpiring around him."

"It should be some consolation to you in your great bereavement to know that everything was done that you could have desired and the ladies of this post tired vied with each other in decorating his remains to such an extent that his coffin was litterally(sic) covered with white roses. Poor fellow, when I took my last look at him as his remains were about being carried off he looked as if he was asleep, with a sweet smile playing over his features. I hope his soul is now where we all hope to go in a short time and where trouble and sorrow are not known."

"Believe me my dear sir when I again inform you that we all deeply sympathize with his family in their great affliction."

And I remain,
Yours Truly,
Leslie Smith
Capt 1st Infantry

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Mystery Deepens

I cannot say enough about Vonnie and Horse Soldiers Research. She was able to unearth a Pension request from HCR’s father. He claimed that Harry was his sole source of income as he was an invalid and over 70 years old. In the pension request are letters from the doctors that treated Harry before his suicide and even an officer that was his good friend who describes a conversation the night before and the events of the morning of his suicide.

I have also determined that HCR was stationed at Jackson Barracks NOT at Fort Jackson.

According to Global Security:

“Down river from the French Quarter, Jackson Barracks houses the Louisiana National Guard Headquarters. This series of fine brick buildings with white columns were built in 1834-35 for troops who were stationed at the river forts. Reportedly Andrew Jackson planned the barracks to be as secure against attack from the city as from outside forces.
Maps prepared in the mid-1800s show that the area's first development began in the 1820s. The Ursuline Nuns developed an 80-acre parcel for their convent in 1826. Sugar was a dominant crop, and the Louisiana Sugar Refinery, dated 1831, is shown along with several plantations.

The complex known as Jackson Barracks is one of the earliest and most noteworthy institutions in the area. The U.S. government began assembling land in 1833 to provide a central garrison, medical and supply point for troops sent to several coastal forts built after the War of 1812. Although only one block wide at the river, the Barracks stretch 25 blocks lakeward, with only three streets crossing the complex-Dauphine, St. Claude and N. Claiborne.

Jackson Barracks Military Museum is in the old powder magazine and in a new annex. It holds artifacts dating back to the War of 1812, and it includes items from as recently as the Gulf War. The 2000 NRA Shooting Sports Camp and Coaches School was held at Jackson Barracks June 28 – July 2, 2000”

Katrina did significant damage to the Barracks and some buildings had to be razed. I will be contacting them tomorrow to see if I can gain admittance. I wonder what buildings are left from the 1860s?

June 2007 from

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Shook Over Hell

A new book arrived today!

Shook Over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War by Eric T. Dean Jr.

James M. McPherson wrote a wonderful review of this book and that led me to purchase it. Below is a portion of of his review in the Atlantic Online, March 1998 :

EVEN though Dean discusses the possibility that PTSD is "a grab-bag of symptoms" rather than "a distinct psychiatric disorder," the core of this book is an application of the PTSD concept to Civil War soldiers. Part of the myth of the scorned and troubled Vietnam veteran is the implied contrast between his postwar treatment by a hostile or indifferent society and the hero's welcome given veterans of other wars. Although many studies of Civil War soldiers have appeared in recent years, they have focused mainly on the wartime experiences of these men; their postwar history has been relatively neglected. Union veterans returned home as victors, celebrated by parades and official receptions. Confederate veterans did not have this solace, but the romanticization of their heroic courage and pure devotion to a sanctified though doomed Lost Cause fulfilled the same cathartic function. Dean writes, "A re-examination of the Civil War veteran through the lens of the Vietnam experience promises new perspectives and challenges, regarding ... the assumption that Civil War veterans readjusted well after their war."

The combat experience of Civil War soldiers was more intensive and prolonged than that of American soldiers in Vietnam. The actual number of American soldiers was the same in both wars: three million. This represented nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population in 1861, as against 1.5 percent of the population in 1970. The number of American dead in the Civil War was 620,000; in Vietnam it was 58,000. In proportion to the population, the death rate was sixty-nine times as great in the Civil War as it was in Vietnam. The ratio of combat to support troops in Vietnam was one to seven; it was almost the reverse in the Civil War. Some 35 percent of Civil War soldiers were killed or wounded, as compared with 5.5 percent of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. There was no helicopter evacuation of the wounded and no antibiotics or antiseptic medicines in the Civil War. The physical hardships endured by Civil War soldiers would have been almost inconceivable to an American in Vietnam.

In view of these facts, Dean is quite right to hypothesize a high incidence of psychiatric casualties during the Civil War and of what we now call PTSD afterward. The problem in identifying these phenomena is that Civil War medicine had no term or concept to describe them. But observations by surgeons, officers, and soldiers themselves make clear the frequency of psychiatric casualties, which were all too often officially regarded as cowardice or malingering. Nevertheless, diagnoses of "insanity," "homesickness," "melancholy," "acute mania," "dementia," "nostalgia," "irritable heart," and even "sunstroke" offer hints of an effort to identify and understand these casualties.
Dean also presents evidence of a higher post-Civil War crime rate among veterans than among non-veterans, of nightmares and flashback recollections, of disorderly behavior, and of suicide (though data to compare veteran and non-veteran suicide rates do not exist).

Dean's research in Civil War letters and memoirs, postwar newspapers, and pension files was thorough and exhaustive. It has yielded more information about the mental health of Union veterans than historians had previously realized was available. (Comparable sources for Confederate veterans are much thinner or nonexistent.) The most original and important feature of this book is Dean's analysis of 291 case studies of Civil War veterans committed to the Indiana Hospital for the Insane. Most of them exhibited symptoms that would today be diagnosed as PTSD. The inquest record for one such inmate, Jason Roberts, supplied the title for this book:

Says he has been shook over hell.... Sometimes he is raving and excited, at others melancholy ... Very peculiar and eccentric, flying from one Subject to another, and talking incoherently on all Subjects, ... The subject of religion and his experiences in the army being paramount in his mind ... [he] thinks all his enemies should be in hell.

The amount of effort and patience required to match these asylum inmates with their combat experiences is awe-inspiring. Yet a caveat is in order. Does Dean ask the right questions about this sample?

Is the Indiana Sample of 291 men representative of Civil War veterans in Indiana or elsewhere? Can the problems of the men in this sample be generalized to a significant proportion of the approximately 180,000 [actually 135,000] Indiana veterans or the 1.9 million Union veterans?
The answers would seem to be obvious: men committed to a hospital for the insane are by definition not representative, and their problems cannot be generalized.

Having put so many hundreds of hours of research into this sample, however, Dean wants it to bear more weight than it possibly can. He acknowledges that the regiments to which these 291 men belonged had higher than average casualties from both disease and combat, but "the most salient point about the Indiana Sample is how close to average it seems in so many other respects." He continues, "One is tempted therefore to think that the problems of the Indiana Sample could not have been atypical." This is sloppy thinking. The question is not whether these men and the units to which they belonged were representative in a variety of objective criteria -- age, occupation, ethnicity, length and theater of service, number of battles, and so forth -- but whether their psychiatric problems were typical or representative of the personalities of the more than 99 percent of Civil War veterans who were never committed to an asylum. To suggest otherwise exposes Dean to the same charge of inflating the psychiatric casualties and PTSD of Civil War veterans that he has so effectively proved against superficial students of Vietnam veterans.

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis Professor of American History at Princeton University. He won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in history for Battle Cry of Freedom. McPherson's most recent book is For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War(1997).

What are you all about Harry?

It seems Robinett’s father applied for a pension because his suicide was believed to have been caused by his temporary insanity, a result of a head wound he suffered during the war. I have found no evidence of a wound, none! Officer affidavits reference his head wound and how much he changed as a result, being insane at times! Some send heartfelt letters to his father; one even gives the exact details of his suicide and of the events the night before he shot himself.

The odd thing is in the two boxes of Carded Medical Files there was not a single card on him in either box; there should have been a record of his treatment. And in one of the pension file affidavits they report that an autopsy didn't reveal any evidence of a head wound. So it must have been very slight if any existed at all. They speculate in just one affidavit that it's even possible he was becoming senile and assumed it was the result of a wound.

I have a lot more to read on this man. The court martial records clearly indicate a disturbed man with erratic behavior. Even his handwriting changes markedly in the documents. Time to turn look some at PTSD during the war.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lots of Work This Week

Well, I am not sure how much research I can get done this week. I have AMU research papers to grade and then Final Exams. In addition, Saturday I will be in Macon, GA judging the state National History day competition.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Here we go Again

Tonight I am reading the transcript of CAPT [Brevet Major thanks to Senator Hall] Robinett’s THIRD court martial [I don’t have the transcript of the first one yet]. This time he is accused of being intoxicated (again) in a theatre in New Orleans. He is found guilty and, once again, dismissed from the service.
Major General Philip A. Sheridan, then in command of the Gulf District, refuses to overturn the court’s decision based upon his previous court martial.

Sheridan forwards the transcript to the Secretary of War who passed it on to President Andrew Johnson.

Guess how this one turns out? I am beginning to believe that Harry might have what we today call PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or he simply has a REAL alcohol problem.

Keep History Alive

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More on the court martial

It seems the sequence I wrote last night was a bit off. I have found some letters from some interesting people asking the Judge Advocate General to consider Robinett’s distinguished service in the war. One was no less than Grant himself; others from his commanding officer at the 1st U.S. Infantry in New Orleans and from his division commander at Vicksburg.
So, how does it look tonight? Like HCR was NOT actually dismissed from service that the letters from Grant and others caused the guilty verdict to be commuted.

How does Senator Hall fit in? It now looks like he was campaigning to have Harry promoted from 1st Lieutenant to Major just weeks after his sentence was commuted.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

US Senator William Hall

Well it looks now like Senator Hall, the Congressional delegation from Delaware, and some "prominent citizens" prevailed upon Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to commission HCR as a Major in the Regular Army. Stanton instead commissioned him as a Captain and sent him back to his old unit, the 1st U.S. Infantry. Why would he send him back to where he had so much obvious trouble?

So his first suspension and subsequent dismissal were basically overruled by HCR's allies and Stanton.

On to his third court martial.

Keep History Alive

Monday, April 13, 2009

WOW, I uncovered some new information on Harry Robinette tonight.

In the spring of 1865 he was released from Lt General Grant’s staff where he was an Assistant Aide de Camp. Evidently there was no room for another captain in the 1st U.S. Infantry. No sources docs for this part, strictly speculation, it looks like he was reduced from his brevet Captaincy to 1st Lieutenant of Volunteers and sent to his unit (1st U.S. Infantry) in New Orleans. This is a regular Army unit so I am not sure why it said volunteer.

On 16 DEC ‘65 he suspended from service for one month for actions on 6 NOV: “Conduct prejudicial to good order & military discipline and using contemptuous and disrespectful language to his superior officer.” This involved Major M. Maloney who ordered him not to put his baggage on a particular wagon, which he did anyway.

On 29 DEC 65 he was dismissed from service for actions on 25 NOV “conduct unbecoming and officer and a gentleman, conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.” This involved a saloon in New Orleans which he entered with two enlisted men who were refused service by the bartender. Harry jumped the bar and confronted the bartender and who then called the Officer of the Day a Captain J.D. DeRussy who he refused to obey and encouraged the enlisted to also refuse to obey.

Then what do I find but a letter date April 66 from US Senator William Hall, the District Judge of Delaware along with “many other prominent citizens of Delaware” asking Secretary of War Henry Stanton to promote Harry to Major from “his now current rank” of Lieutenant. He mentions a "severe wound" from the war, first documentation of it that I have found.

Something is funny here and doesn’t make sense. Harry gets in trouble in early November 65, gets in more trouble at the end of November. Two courts martial are held, the first suspends, the second dismisses effective at the end of December 65. How does he get back into the army as Lieutenant and why does the entire (well all three) Congressional delegation from Delaware want him reinstated?
As a final note, recall that in February of 1868 he will commit suicide at Ft. Jackson near New Orleans while still on active duty. This is a troubled man

Students note: historical research constantly leads to more questions. It is like a never ending detective story.

Keep History Alive


The Goal for the rest of April

For the rest of this month I am going to concentrate on Robinett[e]. I have sufficient information to work with and more on the way. Why do I keep bracketing the [e]? Because HE spells it both ways in his letters. I wonder how the rest of his family spelled their name?

Keep History Alive

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Great News!

Robinette's courts martial and service record arrived along with what there is of Lincoln's service record. Lots to read!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Keith Bright

Today I enlisted the research services of a senior History major at Widener. He will be researching DMA, Robinett, and Lincoln in Wilmington for me. I’ll let him speak for himself:

“I always enjoy speaking with PMC alumni when they visit Widener University. I have met many PMC graduates through either our Veteran’s Day ceremonies, our Vietnam moving wall ceremony that occurred two years ago, or while working in the PMC museum on select Saturday mornings. As a senior history major and Army ROTC cadet, I have a vested interest in your topic. I have done work in the past concerning the history of the PMC and my cadets still carry on our Battery Robinett tradition at the home football games….

I am currently serving as the Freedom Battalion BN CDR and am set to branch infantry as an active duty 2nd LT on 14 May. I am also finishing up my senior seminar paper under Dr. Norton [Widener History Dept. Head] and have many other classes to work on. As you expected, I am busy as the academic year is coming to a close. Throughout the month of May, however, I will not have any work to do and can commit the necessary time to this project. I will ensure that it gets done prior to the end of May.

I would like to thank you for this opportunity and I look forward to helping you conduct this research.”

Thanks for your help Keith and your future service to our country.

Keep History Alive


Well, I am back and settled into work and my research with a few minutes to reflect on the conference. I would highly recommend to everyone that you join associations related to your professions. They are a wonderful chance to connect, reconnect, and network within your field.

Some more thoughts on SMH

Reflection has its Cost

It is commander’s negligence if they do not insure that the history of their units is maintained. Without that history soldiers may have serious issues after their time in the service; medical history is one area that comes to mind.

I love one comment I heard, “It is heritage not hate.” You may have heard it as well. It seems in our politically correct world it is wrong to look back and try to preserve our history in difficult times. Please are renamed, areas destroyed, and memories altered in a sad and sick attempt to re-write history. Well, you simply cannot do that. What happened, happened. I had two occasions, for example, to speak to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Many of you will immediately react to that with “redneck”, “Klan”, or some other derogatory term. That is not the case in the least. The folks I have met are simply interested in preserving the memory of their ancestors and who does not wish to do that? My father was born in Ireland. Does that mean I should hate the English for the actions of the Duke of Orange for his actions in Ireland over 300 hundred year ago? That makes no sense to me. It seems to me that many people would like to hold people accountable for that actions of people long since dead. That is ludicrous!

I am always in a constant search for the precise, perfect title for my publications. I may have found one at SMH: "My Friend, The Enemy"; or "The Enemy is My Friend." Both fit these tow men very well. I have always envisioned “Broomsticks to Battlefields” to be a possible title for a broader study to follow. We will see. As a rule of thumb, students take note, I finalize my title after I have completed the final draft of my work. I always have two parts. An attention getting title with a subtitle firmly rooted in the topic. For example: “This Fierce Light of Battle: John bell Hood and his Wild Texans”.

Another thought from the conference. Do soldiers in the field shape policy from the field? I can think of examples from every war where this was the case. Can you?

Have you ever thought about the concept of death? I would suggest reading “Republic of Suffering” by Drew Gilpin Faust, current president of Harvard and an historian! It is a very interesting read. The Civil War death rate was six times that of World War II, when adjusted against the size of the American population, Faust points out. From the Preface: “Mortality defines the human condition. "We all have our dead—we all have our Graves," a Confederate Episcopal bishop observed in an 1862 sermon. Every era, he explained, must confront "like miseries"; every age must search for "like consolation." The way a people deals with death says a lot about them and their culture. Think of the current controversy over showing the return of our fallen soldiers to Dover, DE. It is well worth the read. During the 19th century people wanted a “good death”; I will leave you to discover what that meant. Today some scholars term 20th century death concepts death as wild. HCR committed suicide, not a “good” death. I must determine how his family and friend reacted to this.

On Civil War letters. We have really only ONE side of the story. We mostly have letters from the soldiers. The letters sent to them were mostly destroyed by the rigors of the field.

One final note I took. I simply must train myself to better remember names and dates. The recall of some of the folks I met is amazing. My former partner at JANUS, Jim Timmerman, has a phenomenal ability to remember names; far better than I can ever hope to be.

Keep History Alive

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day 3 @ SMH

Are you familiar with the Staff Ride concept. If not, look here: The author Dr. William Glenn Robertson was with us today as well as his Combat Studies Institute staff ( ). I have been on other staff rides with Glenn and in this setting they are a mix of staff ride and tour. I have also been on numerous other staff rides with Steve Rauch the Signal Center Command Historian. In my mind, middle/high school teachers could get so much more from their field trips if they followed the model. (If you happen to be a teacher let me know and I will assist you in designing and setting it up)

I am not going to go into the details of the ride other than to say it was about the Tullahoma Campaign of 1863, after Stones River (1862-3) and before Chickamauga (1863).

The question that comes to mind for historians and the general public I suspect (those that are interested) is, must one walk the field to really understand the battle/campaign? That has been debated by historians for a good while. There has been much criticism of those that do not walk the field yet still publish about the engagement(s).

Where do I fall out on this? I think it depends a good bit on the person. It involves, to me, right brain/left brain dominance, visual/tactical/passive learning, and the like. Me? I like to walk the field AFTER I have read/studied the engagement. I want to see the subtly of the terrain, the undulations in a field that might change line of sight and fire. I like to stand where the combatants stood and look as they did. I like to try and understand their decisions based upon what I see, just like they would have.

By the way, the Army has developed virtual staff rides for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let’s see, what else did I pick up today?

Two very interesting papers in the same panel, both relating to my project.

The first concerned Western Virginia and the conflicts among its citizens. Robinett was born in Ohio County in what is now West Virginia. His family moved to Delaware while he was a child. Ohio County is in that little sliver sandwiched between Ohio and Pennsylvania. What would drive his family to move BACK east while most movement was west? The new B&O Railroad made it possible and indeed easy. But why did they did make the move? I need to find out.

There is much more to write and I will do so this evening.

Keep History Alive

Friday, April 3, 2009

Day Two @ SMH

Today the State Department announced a new name for the American Civil War. From now on it is to be referred to as the Domestic Interdiction Operation Between the States.

Okay, that is a not true but I am sure you have all heard that the Obama Administration no longer uses the term Global War on Terror. Well, sorry President Obama, you cannot take the name away. Historians around the world have adopted the term GWOT and not even the president of the US can make that change. Rumsfeld tried the “Long War” some adopted it but we are stuck with GWOT now matter what the demonstration says.

This was all part of a discussion I had today with a few other historians.

Today was an interesting day.

Let’s talk Texas in the Domestic Interdiction…err Civil War. No narrative here just points to consider:
Texas produced more cavalry than any state.
Many Texans fought for Texas more than they fought for the Confederacy. Remember they were an independent nation before entering the Union. Texans were, and still are deeply, emotional and loyal when it comes to their (dare I say my?) state.

The Mexican border and the Indians were as big an issue to Texas as anything else.
Texans wanted to defend Texas outside of its borders: Arkansas and Louisiana.
Most Texans were not interested in a pardon after the war, they just went home. Most never applied for one.

There has been very little study of the end of wars. How they end, how things change after the war. Why do some end “cleanly” while others have extended unanticipated consequences?

The story of Robinett and Lincoln reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost:
The Road Not Taken (1915)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Some more questions and observations for my project:

What is the character of Wilmington, Delaware before the war?
Life at DMA. What kind of atmosphere was there at Delaware Military Academy? What was the environment like?
At the end of the war did Lincoln apply for a pardon? Was he granted amnesty?

Staff ride tomorrow and then two more sessions and the banquet. More tomorrow evening.

Keep History Alive

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Does Anyone Care? Should Anyone Care?

I am going to diverge from my writing about my project to share some thoughts with from the Society for Military History Conference. I hope each evening here at the conference here in Murfreesboro to share some enduring thoughts and questions.

Is anyone aware or does anyone care that we are rapidly approaching the sesquicentennial of the Civil War?

Should we even celebrate the sesquicentennial?

Is the Civil War no longer relevant to the 21st Century?

Does today’s younger generation even remotely care? After all they were born AFTER Vietnam. In fact, to most that war is ancient history.

The U.S. Congress has twice allowed bills to establish a sesquicentennial commission similar to the centennial commission to die. The National Park Service has little, if any, funding for such a commemoration (Can we even call it a celebration?) SOME states have formed commissions others have not even mentioned it.

What role does the popular media have in promoting the commemoration?

If we should proceeded whom should the celebration be for?

Does anyone in the general public care if there is a celebration?

I celebrating/commemorating the Civil War inherently racist? Divisive? Discriminatory?

I remember the centennial celebration. I was 11 when it began. I had my Civil War toy soldiers, wargames, and books that I played with them for hour upon hour. I read, a played. I played, I read.

Here is a bigger question:

Is History important in a democratic society?

The article below was written in 2007 and I as I see it not much has changed
Where is the U.S. Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission? By Len Riedel June 2007
Last week I read an article where a customer was denied a chance to purchase a cake decorated with a Confederate battle flag because the bakery thought it had racist connotations. Recently Museum of the Confederacy consultants noted that the name inflamed passions; indeed one suitor for the available museum noted the name should be changed.
Finally, one of the nation's finest Civil War museums in New Orleans is suffering from the neglect of a city that will not promote it despite being next to its famous World War II (another racially segregated war) museum. There a "name change" has not released it from its Politically Correct Purgatory.
The Civil War is on the retreat when it should be reasserting its place in America's story. In May the Queen of England visited Jamestown and commented on the huge social changes in America between 1957 and today.
This has important ramifications for the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration because much of the anger that is blocking meaningful national planning is tied to minorities who believed the Centennial was a pep rally for Southerners in our segregated society.
Planning appears to be lacking today because politicians don't think this is important enough to shake the hornet's nest.
Today the challenge is to engage in a passionate dialogue about the appropriate place of the era in history. Job 1 is the passage of legislation and the appropriation of funding for a real U.S. Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission that sponsors and promotes activities appropriate for the period.
We are losing valuable time. Indeed a historically accurate period should be 2004-2026. It should have started with Bleeding Kansas and run until the election of Rutherford B. Hayes.
We must find the right balance to commemorate Americans of the period. We are in the bicentennial of Robert E. Lee's birth. The PC crowd has muted a fair analysis of this giant of the period and his birth is a low-profile event without national recognition.
Conversely, Abraham Lincoln has a full national committee, congressional charter and several years of planned activities. While few would doubt the appropriateness of commemorating Lincoln, there has been a blurring of societal values that makes all things Southern racist and all things Union morally superior. This commemoration must deal with 19th-century American society as it.
We have become a poorly informed and cynical people. Political leadership seems to lack morale courage. In the event that the Congress eventually funds a Sesquicentennial Commemoration it will need to be very careful that the usual suspects don't hijack the funds and leadership of the commission.
The epicenter of Civil War interest now lies outside higher education. What has happened to the U.S. Civil War Center at LSU? Indeed the 2007 American Historical Association conference was mighty thin on presentations or discussions related to either the war or commemorative activities. The two conferences I recently attended were heavy on apologies for slavery without serious discussion of the society that spawned it.
Conversely, the 2006 National Conference of Social Studies had numerous Civil War-themed sessions that used state-of-the-art technology to promote the technique of studying history. They were full.
Unfortunately many states downplay humanities in secondary education and are substituting subjects more in tune with student interests.
This is a bad trend. Our society needs the intellectual energy of future generations that are cognizant of the burdens and traditions of the past.
Over the past 25 years the study and, indeed, the business of the war has taken a life of its own. Preservation, living history, field study and scholarship are the active legacy of the era. These provide opportunities requiring an open mind and innovative thinking.
We appreciate many states' efforts to build Civil War heritage trails. Unfortunately large sums of money are being expended in non-competitive government-to-government grants driven by state tourism offices. It appears this initiative is more about increasing tourism dollars and less about getting the story correct.
That is wrong-headed thinking. In one state there is nearly $600,000 in unexpended money previously allocated for interpretative signs. They don't have a plan and have not asked their state Civil War Commission for one.
This money is only going to be spent properly if local roundtables and friends groups become militant and vigilant.
We must keep an eye on local projects. There are many simultaneous and arguably more important land preservation opportunities and requirements out there that will only be met if you fund them.
Battlefield champions are doing great things out there. Check out the Friends of Raymond (Miss.), which has recently opened a very impressive battlefield park through innovation and much sweat equity. They are proof positive of what a few dollars directly applied to the mission and without middlemen can do.
The real opportunity for living historians is in smaller audience interactions. Mastery of their historical presentation should be the goal of every true reenactor. They CAN inspire future generations of students to study the war.
Field studies/tours are the most promising and challenging tasks of educational programmers. Costs are rising and fewer people are investing in the expense of escorted group tours. Palm computers, GPS and other technological advances will make battlefields more accessible to individual study and understanding.
The challenge to organized tour operators is to offer battles in context. The best way to do that is to break the old molds, get away from the battlefields and find the abandoned sites and historic routes that made the battles' campaigns. With the economic bow wave of retired Baby Boomers coincident to the Sesquicentennial Commemoration there is a lot of potential to reinvigorate the market.
Scholarship will continue to form the backbone of the commemoration. Every day new books are published, although some shouldn't be.
Poor scholarship distorts the value of the information and discourages inquiring minds from going further. On the other hand, so-called "amateur" historians are filling in major gaps that academic historians and professional writers overlooked. It is a wonderful symbiosis.
I'm writing this column to ring a "fire bell in the night." The study of the Civil War is endangered because it is being marginalized nationally and politically.
It is important for you to take an active and sustained interest in its national visibility. This is important to ensure the continued commitment of our elected representatives to the funding of the existing battlefields under government control and to secure funding for the purchase of additional battlefield land.
Given budget realities there is no guarantee the government will not be contracting out the management of battlefield parks in 20 years.
The issue of immediate importance is national leadership to commemorate the Civil War by establishing and funding a Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission that can start work in 2009.
Start by calling your Congressman's and both U.S. senators' offices and asking them if there is legislation with funding pending for the establishment of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
If not, why not? And then ask if they would co-sponsor such an effort. Then call your governor's office and ask if the state has established a Sesquicentennial Commission and who the chairman is.
Without a flurry of informed and concerned calls the politicians will have no impetus to act - time is of the essence. Will you do it to honor those who served? Or is it too much trouble?
Len Riedel is the Executive Director of the Blue and Gray Education Society in Danville, Va. It was founded in 1994 and is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt educational organization. He can be reached at (888) 741-2437 or .

Here is another one from

Civil War Sesquicentennial? Thanks, but I Think I Have to Wash My Hair that Year
The 150-year anniversary of the Civil War is approaching, but there are few signs of excitement in Richmond. Perhaps the city would rather forget it was ever the Capital of the Confederacy.

James A. Bacon
Monday, September 29, 2008

Richmond is loaded with history but never has been able to convert it into much of a tourism industry. This weekend's grand-opening celebration of a $103 million visitor/museum facility in Gettysburg is prompting some Richmonders to think again about the city’s potential to ride the wave of generation to be generated by the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, only three years way.

Gettysburg has a big advantage in being known as the biggest, most pivotal battle of the Civil War, a place that President Abraham Lincoln commemorated as hallowed ground. Richmond has a different place in the national psyche –- the capital of the Confederacy, with all the baggage that entails.

But, as Katherine Calos writes for the Times-Dispatch today, the city does have major assets: an abundance of battlefields within easy driving distance, the Tredegar Iron Works, the Virginia Historical Society and the Museum of the Confederacy. Said Robert C. Wilburn, president of the Gettysburg Foundation: “You have an awful lot to build on."

Bacon’s bottom line: There’s not much in Calos’ story to indicate that anyone in Richmond is acting to mobilize the coming surge in popular interest in the Civil War -- nothing remotely comparable to the excitement over the 400th Jamestown anniversary. It would be logical for the museums and battlefields to coalesce with other interested groups, like the Metropolitan Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau, to market the region.

But so many people are so ambivalent about the Civil War – not just African-Americans but those in the business community who would rather have the nation forget the city's identification with slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow and Massive Resistance – that I wouldn’t be surprised to if Richmonders settle for a very low-key celebration this time around.

The American Civil War is the single most important event in American history. Will the general public even notice its sesquicentennial?

Keep History Alive