A Student of History

April 29, 2006

Battle of Camden Preservation

Filed under: Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 2:21 am

 P. Patrick Whit

B. Patrick White’s “Battle of Camden”

I have been involved in a small way with the Battle of Camden preservation project for several years now. Camden, fought on August 16, 1780 in S.C. between the American army under Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates and the British under General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, was a major victory for the Crown forces.  It was one of the major battles in the South, along with Cowpens, Kings Mountain, Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk’s Hill, and Eutaw Springs (and the seige of Ninety Six, if one counts that as a battle.)  Yet for all its importance, it is not a state or national park. (Nor is Eutaw or Hobkirk’s Hill). Many folks have been leading a preservation effort to save the ground, which thankfully is for the most part pristine today and not engulfed with urban or suburban sprawl (as is Guilford Courthouse in a very busy section of Greensboro, NC.) 

The most active leader for saving Camden is George Fields of Palmetto Conservation Trust, which has lots more info about this effort here.  In short “More than $1 million in grants and several hundred thousand in individual and in-kind contributions have been raised for the project. The money will be used to buy 200 acres and restore the battlefield to 1780s conditions by planting longleaf pines and clearing off other types of trees and vegetation. Three walking trails with signage are planned to open this year, and kiosks with information on the battle will be installed,” per an article in The State of April 27, 2006.

Recently, good news came to the preservationists: A $200,000 grant last week from the S.C. Department of Transportation will help preserve the battlefield on Flat Rock Road where the Battle of Camden took place.  Tax-deductible contributions can be mailed to the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, earmarked for the Battle of Camden project, at 1314 Lincoln St., Suite 305, Columbia, SC 29201; or to Historic Camden Revolutionary War Park, 222 Broad St., Camden, SC 29020. Call (803) 771-0870 for more information.

25th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 1:59 am

"The 25th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict will be marked by special commemorative events in June next year, Secretary of State for Defence John Reid announced" recently.  More details are available in Defence News, from which the quote comes.  There will activities in the UK and on the islands too.  The British lost 200 soldiers during the war, the Argentines 655.

Seems to me like it was a lot longer than 25 years ago… 

The Scratch of a Pen

Filed under: New books — John Maass @ 1:49 am

I have been reviewing books for the North Carolina Historical Review for several years now.  These have all been titles on colonial and Revolutionary era subjects.  The most recent one to come my way from the NCHR book review editor Anne Miller is Colin Calloway’s The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America (Oxford U. Press, 2006.) It is 240 pages with some maps and half tones, and is part of the Oxford series called “Pivotal Moments in American History.”  Calloway is Professor of History and Native American Studies at Dartmouth College, and is the author of several books including One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West Before Lewis and Clark (2003), which I find superb.

Anyway, regarding Scratch, here’s part of the description from OUP:

In February 1763, Britain, Spain, and France signed the Treaty of Paris, ending the French and Indian War. In this one document, more American territory changed hands than in any treaty before or since. As the great historian Francis Parkman wrote, “half a continent…changed hands at the scratch of a pen.” As Colin Calloway reveals in this superb history, the Treaty set in motion a cascade of unexpected consequences. Indians and Europeans, settlers and frontiersmen, all struggled to adapt to new boundaries, new alignments, and new relationships. Britain now possessed a vast American empire stretching from Canada to the Florida Keys, yet the crushing costs of maintaining it would push its colonies toward rebellion.

What Would the Founders Do?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 1:03 am

That is the name of a new book by Richard Brookhiser, author of one of my favorite books on George Washington.  Here's part of the sales pitch:

If the Founding Fathers were alive today, what would they do about terrorism? What would they say about public expressions of religion? Would they be for or against gun control? The death penalty? "Gay rights"? Now, in What Would the Founders Do? Our Questions, Their Answers, acclaimed author and National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser examines the founders' own words in their historical context to theorize what they would think of today's most controversial and important issues.

Hmmmmm…..  I am a bit wary to say the least about this kind of exercise.  When I was an undergrad, I recall many of my peers trying to figure out whether Jefferson would have been a Democrat or a Republican (back in the early 1980s.)  I was always amazed at how, if they tried, these guys could cherry-pick bits and pieces of TJ's philosophies, quotes, and writings to bolster their claims.  Is Brookhiser doing that here?  I will have to check it out myself, but I am a bit skeptical.

Maybe the claims are a bit much.  From the NRO sales pitch, RB is able to tell us what the Founders would do (and say) about:

The Death Penalty * "Gay rights" * Gun Control * Censorship * Assisted Suicide * Stem Cell Research * Katrina (and other natural disasters) * Federalism * Judicial Review * "One Nation Under God" * Christianity * Religion in Public Life * Religion in Politics * Luxury Taxes * Family Farms * Outsourcing * Welfare * Oil Drilling in ANWR * Building Infrastructure * The Federal Reserve * Social Security * State-Sponsored Gambling * Terrorism * Rogue States * Weapons of Mass Destruction * Military Conscription (the Draft) * Pre-Emptive Wars * "Special Relationships" with Foreign Countries * Covert Operations * Spreading Democracy * Pacifism * An American "Empire" * Tuition Tax Credits * Private School Vouchers * School Curriculums * Religion in Education * Intelligent Design * Confidential News Sources * Objective Journalism * Female Equality * Women's Rights * Women in the Workforce * Marriage and Motherhood * The Family * Out-of-Wedlock Births * Privacy * Reparations for Slavery * Indian Casinos * Immigration Policy * English as the National Language * Partisanship * The "Politics of Personal Destruction * Campaign Finance Reform * Term Limits * Political "Back Room Deals" * Polls and Polling

5/16/2006: since my original post about the book, I have been advised of a website promoting it, so have a look here

James McPherson and his book sales

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 12:35 am

I do not read many other blogs, as I am writing my dissertation, teaching and reading–to say nothing at all about my home & family responsibilities, The Church, my farm, etc.  However, one of the handful I do check in on from time to time is Civil War Bookshelf, by Dimitri Rotov.  A recent post of his (4/27/2006) is entitled: "Book sales in 2005 – Battle Cry of Freedom," which I found to be most interesting as it does give an interpretation of McPherson's career as well.  Here is a sample:

From a position of publishing success, McPherson was able to review new thinking in Civil War history from the pages of the very best journals and newspapers; he could recommend like-minded reviewers to the lesser organs. He could recommend editors in scholarly publishing houses; he could blurb books meeting his approval; he could help projects with agreeable views; and as he came to head the AHA, he could name and influence prize committees. He had influence; he used it; and he was not open to revision of the work of 1960-1965.

The bulk of the blog entry is not complimentary to JM, which of course makes for some lively reading! 

April 28, 2006

Spicing Up U.S. History

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 3:54 pm

"Bring show-and-tell to the college classroom? Incorporate field trips into the syllabus? The mere mention would give many professors a good chuckle. But Sallie Shanahan, a history major who expects to graduate from the University of Maryland University College next spring, says these methods – tailored to a college audience – would work."

This is the opening of an article entitled "Spicing Up US History" that can be found here, from Inside Higher Ed website. 

This part is interesting particularly:

Thomas Bender, a history professor at New York University, warned that some professors who teach introductory courses try to be too broad in their syllabi and do their students a disservice by rushing through lectures. He is an advocate of one-semester survey courses where research and interpretation are the focus. Bender said universities should assume students are armed with a basic knowledge of history and shouldn’t “chase [them] away with information they already know.”

But do they really know it?????

April 4, 2006

Why the Civil War Still Matters…

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 2:45 pm

That's the title of an interesting HNN piece by Kevin Levin, here.  Levin teaches history at St. Anne's-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Va.  Here is a blurb from the 1st paragraph:

Much has changed within the historical profession and in race relations, but as we approach the Civil War sesquicentennial celebrations beginning in 2011 there is reason to be concerned. While academic and National Park Service historians have worked tirelessly over the past four decades to revise our understanding of the Civil War by emphasizing the importance of slavery, race, and emancipation as central themes of the war, the general public continues to hold onto a sanitized, white-only interpretation. From this perspective little has changed since the turn of the last century when reconciliation elevated Civil War soldiers and the war in general to a status that called for reverence and little critical questioning. Just think how surprised Americans were at the release of the movie Glory in 1989, which starred Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman and recalled the history of the 54th Massachusetts.

Its a counterargument of the McPherson interpretation which has held such sway for years.  For analysis of this, go to The Civil War Bookshelf blog, here, for some well-written comments by Dimitri Rotov.

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