I’m sorry about the lack of posts this week. I have been concentrating on my talk for the New York History conference in Cooperstown later this spring. Next week at my college I’ll be giving something of a preliminary talk during our annual faculty research program. It is an opportunity to run through some ideas before I give the “real” talk come June. I will be talking about Theodore Roosevelt Sr., William E. Dodge Jr. and what they did for the Union war effort. The basics are pretty much in place but I have more to do before it is there. I am fascinated by New York’s role in the war, and how that role played out in the ensuing decades as well. It is something I think we don’t fully understand.
Today I was actually holed up with a minor ailment, fighting off a cold and minor fever. On the Hayfoot’s instructions I have been drinking warm milk spiked with turmeric. It is a great elixir for staving off illness and infection. I have taken the opportunity to get a quarter of the way through David Eisenhower’s Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969. I read memoirs with the caveat that they are–by definition–self-serving but I must say Ike’s grandson does an excellent job of recounting the president’s time after he left the Oval Office. David is a very learned and thoughtful individual who knows his history.
I have been t the Eisenhower Farm several times over the years, but the book fills in significant gaps in my knowledge. In the Eisenhower house one sees a fair amount of Civil War memorabilia, and obviously his ties to Gettysburg go back to his years as a West Point cadet, but I had never quite put two and two together that his retirement in January 1961 coincided with the Centennial. I cannot help but wonder what he thought, if anything, about the way it all unraveled. He did create the Centennial Commission in 1957 after all. The book goes well with Evan Thomas’s Ike’s Bluff, which I finished a few weeks back.
Since 2008 and my first trip to Gettysburg I have been focusing so intently on the Civil War. It has been good because I feel I know much more than I did even just half a decade ago. Still, I feel I’ve lost some edge and my well-roundedness. It is important to focus on other areas to achieve greater wisdom. I am trying to do that this spring.
Going Home is actually the second memoir I have read in the past few days. Last week I downloaded Cynthia Helms’s An Intriguing Life to my Kindle from the library. Ms. Helms was married to CIA director Richard Helms and has certainly led a, well, intriguing life. Born in England in 1923 she served in the WRENS during the war before moving to America and raising a family. In her memoir she recounts transporting Queen Elizabeth ( i.e. later the Queen Mum) in her craft out to a waiting ship for a royal inspection. She also mentions seeing the Supreme Allied Commander, one Dwight Eisenhower, in the lead-up to the D-Day invasion. She was in her late teens and early twenties, understand. Now 90, Ms. Helms lives still lives in Washington and is still going strong; she seems to have known everyone who lived and served in the capitol going back decades. It is a witty and chatty look at the nation’s recent history as s told by someone who saw it. I feel I know Washington a little better than I did before. The best thing you can say about a book is that it brings you to a different level when you are done with it.