Academic Stick in the Mud

Glenn W. Lafantasie is a historian at Western Kentucky University… who made a name for himself in Civil War circles with the respectable study Twilight at Little Roundtop.    Professor Lafantasie now feels qualified to instruct all Americans in how to honor the  sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  From his lofty perch in academia, the good Professor cannot not bring himself to understand the historical value of living historians (reenactors is the term he prefers.)  On the pages of the snooty Salon magazine   reenactors are called “foolish” and openly mocked with half-truths and innuendo.  The Professor speaks out of both sides of his mouth in his misguided critique, on one hand he chastises reenactors and their inability to accurately portray combat and for being, “overweight baby boomers who are trying, despite their huge girths and hardened arteries, to portray fit, young soldiers”; yet he warns readers that no one except experts (like him) can accurately convey the harrowing experience of Civil War combat.  What interpretive standard is being used here, Professor?

Living historians from Sykes’ regulars

Civil War reenactors are knowledgeable and devoted… hobbyists who volunteer their time to educate the public about the lives of Civil War soldiers.  They are not over-grown children playing soldier, nor are they right-wing extremists out to rekindle lost secessionist fires.  Professor Lafantasie obviously has failed to apply his impeccable research skills to this article.  There is no proof that one reenactor (or living historian) was consulted for the piece.  It is difficult to see how the article could be useful to anyone outside the most secluded academic circles.  Large crowds attend reenactments of all sizes (no, Professor, not all events involve “pretend battles.”)  Rather than talking to spectators, the Professor belittles them as well.  Academics wonder why the public is losing what little faith it had in them; it is clear that intellectuals like Professor Lafantasie have no faith in the American people (even those who bought his book.)  There are historians who disagree with you, Professor.  It speaks volumes that this rambling line of tripe appeared in a petty partisan rag like Salon. 


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Americans to Americans

Robert E. Lee chose General John B. Gordon… to officially surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to the Union on April 12, 1865.  Gordon was an amateur soldier who proved to be the consummate warrior.  Through the course of the conflict Gordon was badly wounded seven times, with five minnie balls hitting him at the battle of Antietam in 1862.  Lee often praised Gordon’s actions in battle,  “characterized by splendid audacity.”

True citizen soldier

US Grant selected General Joshua L. Chamberlain… to accept the Confederate surrender.  Chamberlain was a college professor (of rhetoric) who enlisted in the 20th Maine Vols. He served with distinction from Fredericksburg to Petersburg, winning the Medal of Honor for his defense of Little Round Top during the Gettysburg campaign.  Chamberlain was wounded six times (nearly dying at Petersburg in 1864)  and cited for bravery four times during his service.

Soul of a Lion

As Gordon led the Confederate army past… the Army of the Potomac, Chamberlain ordered the men to “Carry Arms”, the snap of the leather and metal signaled a marching salute.  Gordon, surprised by the gesture, ordered the Confederates to respond.   Chamberlain described Gordon’s performance, “At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword point to his toe in salutation.”    Gordon truly understood the significance of the gesture, “Chamberlain called his men into line and as the Confederate soldiers marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes—a token of respect from Americans to Americans.”

Americans to Americans

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Waiting for You

US Grant was not his name…but since his enrollment at West Point he had lived with it.  The Civil War brought him a nickname, Unconditional Surrender.  His victories at Forts Henry and Donelson had cemented his reputation for no-nonsense.  The best man at his wedding, Simon Bolivar Buckner, asked for terms when surrendering Fort Donelson-  Grant’s response, “No terms other than unconditional surrender.”  The name stuck, along with the dour disposition.

First Lt. General since Washington

Robert E. Lee could not bear the thought…of surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia.  The desperate situation of April, 1865 made the note he received from Grant on April 7 more difficult, “GENERAL: The result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood, by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the C. S. Army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.”  Lee’s response was simple, what terms did Grant propose?  History showed  the possibility of terms was all but impossible, but the absurdity of war takes history in strange directions.

Most accurate depiction of the meeting

Grant and Lee talked as if they were old friends… in Wilmer McLean’s parlor.  Lee had to bring Grant’s attention to the matter at hand.  Grant offered generous terms by military standards of the day.  He also agreed to feed Lee’s starving men.  Lee saw this gesture’s magnitude, “it will do much toward reconciling our country.”   As Lee rode away, Union troops broke into cheers… Grant ordered them silenced,  “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.” 

Like dying a thousand deaths

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Death, and Pocket Change

Some perspective on tax day….

  • At the original tax rates established in 1913 after ratification of the 16th amendment, only 1% of the population paid federal income tax
  • Single filers paid taxes on every dollar after $17,000 and married couples after $20,000 -   Adjusted to today’s dollars, that is $374, 440 for individuals and $440,400 for couples
  • The top marginal rate in 1913 was 7% and applied to incomes over $500,000 – adjusted to today’s dollars that would be $11.1 million 
  • Top to bottom ratio in 1913 was 7:1  or 7%- 1%
  • In 1980, the top to bottom ratio was 70%-11%   (roughly the same disparity) 
  • Currently, top to bottom is 35%- 10%
  • Under the current brackets, individuals are only exempted $9,350 and couples $18,700 – - adjusted percentages from 1913 would be $66,100 for singles and $88,100 for couples

    I want you…with less exempt income

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Intermission Stories (10)

Originally posted on pacificparatrooper:

Lt. Gerry Meynell, 3RCR

Lt. Gerry Meynell, 3RCR

Lt. Gerry Meynell

The Battle of Hill 187; 3RCR, Korea

On 2 May 1953 at 2220 hours, on a dark, moonless night, a 16 man Canadian fighting patrol faced an ambush position.  The men were from Able Company, 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment.  The patrol was in “No Man’s Land” on the floor of the Sami-ch’on River Valley.  They had left Hill 187 to face Hill 166 and the Chinese bastion.  This patrol was commanded by Lt. Gerry Meynell and each man from the onset could sense that they had become the prey rather than the hunter.

Canadian MLR

Canadian MLR

Maynell ordered his men to shift positions and take cover behind a bank of a rice paddy.  Over the radio, he called for illumination and a flare from a 60mm mortar of Charlie Company lit the sky to reveal 60 Chinese soldiers.  The RCR oped…

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Weekly History News Roundup

Was Jesus really married?… scientist determine gospel of his wife not a forgery


101 year old message in bottle deliveredgranddaughter receives message found on the Baltic


LBJ conference provides new perspectivesthree former Presidents attend the opening ceremonies


Jim DeMint should visit this blog more often… Senator makes some curious remarks about history


PBS to air documentary on western theater of Civil War… Elizabeth McGovern narrates 5 part series filmed at National Battlefields

Nothing like the Johnson treatment

Nothing like the Johnson treatment

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Beyond Marble Faces…The Founders in Historical Perspective

It’s open season on our Founders… writers today attack them more vigorously than ever before.  21st century sensibilities substitute for constructive analysis of these men in their time.  The judgements are harsh because of  perceived failures in our history.  Racism, sexism, and elitism exist because our Founders were all of the above.

Do you really know us?

Do you really know us?

We are so far removed from our Founders… that we cannot see them for the men they were.  We blame our imperfections on them and disregard their efforts in the formation of our republic.  They have been relegated to lifeless marble and ridiculous caricatures. Sadly, the Founders were much more than that- their essence, utterly eludes today’s ambitious biographers.  Public virtue and social character mattered…


James Madison Preparatory School presents the annual History Dinner-  Thursday, April 10, 2014.  6pm JMPS auditorium




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