The Hayfoot and I just got back a few minutes ago from seeing Spielberg’s Lincoln, followed by a quick bite in Greenwich Village. It is too late in the day for a more thoughtful response, which I will post in due time. The show answer is that you must see it. I am sitting here in the dark checking my email before bed when, lo and behold, I find this little tidbit in my inbox. Modern day threats of secession are nothing new; we saw them during and after the presidential elections of 2004 and 2008 for one thing. What is new, as far as I can tell, is that the Texas secession petition passed today requires a presidential response because it reached the required 25,000 signatures. Have I said it has been a long day?
I have noted before the irony of finding our past when building our future. Here in New York one often sees well-preserved advertisements on the sides of buildings for products and services that no longer exist. For Sam’s Snake Oil Cream dial Pennsylvania-72000. Often this happens because an adjacent building, that protected the signage, has been torn down leaving the ad exposed for all to see. Yesterday’s New York Times has the story of the archeological race to gather remnants of the December 1862 Battle of Frederiscksburg while the tractors and backhoes are working away at the same time.
Today is Veterans Day. A few months back I posted the piece below about a potential WW1 memorial on the National Mall. I will still believe it when I see it, but various powers that be are still trying to make it a reality. This weekend William N. Brown, president of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia, wrote this piece in the Washington Post offering some possibilities. If nothing else, it gives me a chance to mention the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia. Whatever happens on the Mall, I hope he remember the Great War in a meaningful way.
Happy Veterans Day.
In the area where my brother lives in France Great War monuments are as ubiquitous as Civil War monuments are here in the United States. Every town square has its bronze doughboy representing the young men from that locale who mort pour la France. World War One monuments are less common here in America but one does see them on a fairly regular basis. We have been spending so much time on the Civil War sesquicentennial that the upcoming 100th anniversary of the First World War has been pushed to the back burner. Ready or not it is coming in just two short years. It will be an opportunity to challenge many of the assumptions we have about that conflict, just as the CW 150th has done for the War of the Rebellion. If you ever have a chance I strongly recommend a visit to the National World War One Museum in Kansas City; if you really have a chance take in the Historial de La Grande Guerre in Perrone. Both will change your perspective of this pivotal event in 20th century history.
I don’t know if the National Mall needs another monument but earlier this week Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) proposed the construction of a national World War One memorial to be built in Constitution Gardens near the Reflecting Pool. The proposal has a long road before reaching fruition because of a 2003 law prohibiting new construction on the Mall. Any exemption would mean setting a precedent. Washington already has a WW1 memorial, located in Pershing Park, but it is a local memorial dedicated to the soldiers from the District who fought in the conflict. It will be interesting to see if this proposal goes anywhere. Monuments take time, sometimes decades, to go from drawing board to ribbon cutting. I doubt this would take that long if it indeed comes to pass. 2014 is probably too soon. Perhaps five years, in time for the 100th anniversary of American involvement in April 2017, is more realistic. It will be interesting to see if this goes anywhere.
(image/Thomas R Machnitzki)
Here is a reminder that our national parks are not amusement parks here merely for our edification:
Springfield Man Admits Removing Remains Of Confederate
Soldier From Wilson’s Creek Battlefield
Must Pay Restitution, Perform Community Service
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Springfield, Mo., man has admitted to removing human remains from the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.
Coy Matthew Hamilton, 31, of Springfield, must pay $5,351 in restitution to the National Park Service and perform 60 hours of community service as conditions of avoiding federal prosecution.
“It’s a serious offense to disturb an archeological site and to remove remains or artifacts,” Ketchmark said. “We hope this incident will serve to educate the public about the laws that protect our priceless archaeological resources.”
Here is the full press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Eleanor Roosevelt died fifty years ago today. Among other achievements in her long and productive life she served at First Lady longer than any person in American history. Each of the last two years the Hayfoot and I have taken the train north of the city to Hyde Park. We skipped this year because the Park Service is undertaking major renovations and we thought we would wait until next summer. Next summer if it’s not too hot we may hike some of the grounds. What struck me about Eleanor after visiting Val-Kill was how modern she was, and I mean that in every way. Grover Cleveland was in the White House when she was born; when the Great War started she was nearing her thirtieth birthday. After the White House years she l still lived another seventeen years, writing, speaking, traveling the world, and always aware of events. The output of books, letters, and newspaper columns is inconceivable. I would write more but I don’t have to, this excerpt from an upcoming dual biography puts things into perspective.
I did not learn until yesterday that Richard Current died on October 26. He reached the century mark, passing on three weeks to the day after his 100th birthday, but a person’s death is always surprising. Current was part of the intellectual tradition just prior to and after the Second World War that debunked many of the myths we believe about Abraham Lincoln. At the same time he admired the 16th president a great deal. Anyone who takes on the bloviating Gore Vidal (for his terrible historical novel Lincoln) deserves a gold star. Lincoln’s Loyalists is one of the more important monographs in my understanding of the war; I had always known there were Southern dissenters against secession, but I did not know the scope and extent until reading his book. I see my copy on the shelf in front of me right now.
Not only did LL change how I think about the war, but how I spoke about it as well. Before reading Current I might have said “The South” did this or “The North” did that. “The South,” however, did not secede or fight the Civil War any more than “The North” fought to preserve it. Today when writing or discussing the war I speak of “The Confederacy,” or “the Union Army,” or “Southern Unionists,” etc. etc. It’s not a pedantic observation. Words matter. Subtlety and complexity are important if we are to understand truly. This is just one of the lessons reading Richard Current gave me.
Hey everybody, it is Sunday morning. The Hayfoot left for work awhile ago. I’m sitting here having my Sunday coffee. Things are returning to a semblance of normalcy here in Gotham. We went to the Barnes Foundation yesterday with our friend Charles. I’m still trying to process the new versus the old Barnes. More in a later post. Actually we had quite the adventure yesterday. We left Brooklyn at 6:15, got on the subway to the transfer point to catch the shuttle bus into Manhattan; at this time there was no subway service across the river because the tubes had been flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Either due to poor planning or manpower exhaustion there were not enough buses and personnel when we arrived at the shuttle still before 7:00 am. Buses were coming one by one to take thousands of commuter into the city. This was in contrast to Thursday and Friday when there was a significant police and transportation presence during the commute. My impression is that they were not expecting that many people so early in the morning. I give the city the benefit of the doubt; they have been overworked this past week. Still, the pushing shoving easily could have escalated into something worse. That it was a chilly November morning was fortunate; had it been a steamy day in the dog days of August we might might well have had a tragedy on our hands as tempers rose with the heat.
Once on the bus we were texting Charles our progress. We had to catch the Boltbus near NY Penn Station at 8:15 to get to Philadelphia. Once there, things were anticlimactic. The bus ride was uneventful. The one thing worth noting were the LONG gas lines we saw at the rest stops in New Jersey. I’m not sure everyone thought they’d be smart by going to the turnpike gas stations to fill up; if that was their plan, it didn’t work. It is always fun leaving the city for a day trip, especially after the events of the previous week. I have mixed feelings, to say the least, about the relocation of the Barnes from Merion to Philadelphia, but the artwork itself is something to behold. Again, more on this after I’ve had some time to think it through.
Counting our blessings.
(image courtesy of Small Bones via Wikimedia Commons)
I am still waiting to hear about Hurricane Sandy’s effects on Governors Island. There hasn’t been much news, though from what I understand the island took on a considerable amount of water. One of the piers also seems to have been destroyed. When things settle down I intend to email some of the ranger staff to find out what I can. Ellis Island got hit pretty hard but there seems to have been no structural damage or harm to the museum. The immigration building is so strong it’s hard to imagine anything happening to it. The Statue of Liberty did get hit hard and, what’s worse, the hurricane came just a week after the reopening after extensive renovations. It’s still too early to tell. Castle Clinton in lower Manhattan took on considerable water.
When I do my tour at Governors Island I always take visitors to the spot just behind Castle Williams where one can see most of the harbor forts. From that spot one sees how each fort is part of a larger puzzle. It was our good friend Sami who talked me into transferring from Ellis to Governors Island last year. The logic was that it would allow me to concentrate on the Civil War Era, which for me spans the lifetime of the generation that fought the war. What is so fascinating about the harbor is that so many people who fought in the war spent at least some time there. Katie Lawhon of Gettysburg National Military Park had a similar experience when she was detailed to help get ready for the reopening of Statue of Liberty National Monument and got a taste of that history. Here’s hoping Lady Liberty opens soon.