Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year, Auld & New Acquaintances

At the Entering of the New Year 
           (OLD STYLE)

Our songs went up and out the chimney,
And roused the home-gone husbandmen;
Our allemands, our heys, poussettings,
Our hands-across and back again,
Sent rhythmic throbbings through the casements
         On to the white highway,
Where nighted farers paused and muttered,
         "Keep it up well, do they!"

The contrabasso's measured booming
Sped at each bar to the parish bounds,
To shepherds at their midnight lambings,
To stealthy poachers on their rounds;
And everybody caught full duly
         The notes of our delight,
As Time unrobed the Youth of Promise
         Hailed by our sanguine sight.

           (NEW STYLE)

We stand in the dusk of a pine-tree limb,
As if to give ear to the muffled peal,
Brought or withheld at the breeze's whim;
But our truest heed is to words that steal
From the mantled ghost that looms in the gray,
And seems, so far as our sense can see,
To feature bereaved Humanity,
As it sighs to the imminent year its say:-

"O stay without, O stay without,
Calm comely Youth, untasked, untired;
Though stars irradiate thee about
Thy entrance here is undesired.
Open the gate not, mystic one;
         Must we avow what we would close confine?
         With thee, good friend, we would have 
            converse none,
Albeit the fault may not be thine."

December 31. During the War.

Sunday, December 30, 2012 & Saving Lincoln

Good friends of this blog & fans enough of our Colonel to include him in their movie, Saving Lincoln, the Litvaks have begun a campaign on to fund the premier & distribution of the movie itself. I will try to add the link to this worthy endeavor here, but if that doesn't work, please just google up Saving Lincoln and look for the address.

I really can't say enough good things about this effort. These folks seem super nice, and have written many times to me concerning Ellsworth and Ward Hill Lamon. They have always been positive and supportive, and have supported as well.

The way kickstarter works is amazing, and completely safe. It is funded via, and your contribution won't even be used unless the entire goal is met. It simply could not be safer to donate in this manner, and the minimum donation is just about $5. You get cool stuff when you donate, up to and including the premier of the movie & the after party, for a serious amount of bucks.

I don't have that sort of money, but I did donate enough to get a copy of the Lamon book on Lincoln. I have a copy, but the printing is terrible, and it is unreadable for most of the volume. I hope this one is better.

Another extremely cool thing is that long-ago friend Dave Alvin (the musician) is doing a part of the music. Dave (who prolly doesn't even remember me) and I used to go to Cal State Long Beach, and we both took writing classes from the immortal Gerald Locklin. Dave was a wonderful man then, and apparently still is.

So--please pledge money. Every bit helps, and it has to be done quickly, as the drive ends January 28. Watch the short video about the amazing way in which the film was made, & keep your fingers crossed.

This is a win-win deal--REMEMBER ELLSWORTH!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's Beginning To Smell A Lot Like Christmas!

I live in a house with a cellar. Guess what is living in my cellar? Yep! Skunks!

We caught one--Mr. Stinky--before Christmas, but his mom (I think . . .) is still there. I mean I know she is there, I just am not sure of the inter-skunk relationship.

So, last night was pretty bad. The skunk won't go into the trap, no matter what bait we use. I guess it is just a matter of waiting . . .

In the time-honored tradition of naming all animals and people with whom I come in contact, I have christened this one Osama bin Stinky, as it is difficult to capture, and very odoriferous.

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the Civil War. Nothing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

First Fallen: the Life and Times of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth: . . . and to all, a good night!

First Fallen: the Life and Times of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth: . . . and to all, a good night!: Longfellow with his wife, Frances "Fanny" Elizabeth Appleton with Charles and Ernest, ca. 1849. (Photo from the National Park Service, L...

. . . and to all, a good night!

Longfellow with his wife, Frances "Fanny" Elizabeth Appleton with Charles and Ernest, ca. 1849. (Photo from the National Park Service, Longfellow National Historic Site)
The Christmas song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was arranged and set to music by John Baptiste Calkin, but it was based on a poem that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote on Christmas Day 1863. Calkin removed the two stanzas relating to the war, thus gutting the meaning in order to add to an already over-filled canon of treacly Christmas tunes.
The war of course had by that time turned out much more brutally than any of the New England abolitionists had imagined. Even after the Union was required to resort to arms, the objectives were only slowly realized. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, but it did not cover the 800,000 slaves outside the rebelling states. And every military victory cost so much blood, yet didn’t seem to bring an end closer. By the end of 1863, despite the victories of Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July, the war was proceeding with grim and determined ferociousness. By winter the Union optimism of summer had turned into discontent.
Longfellow, though he condemned slavery, was never the fire-breathing abolitionist that most New England intellectuals were. But his close friend, Senator Charles Sumner, certainly was. He not only harshly condemned the slave measures pursued by the Southern Democrats and the violence that slavery supporters incited, he delivered scathing descriptions of pro-slavery politicians, including fellow Senators. In his famous “Crime against Kansas” speech in May 1956, Sumner described Senator Andrew Butler as the Don Quixote of the slavocracy and Senator Stephen Douglas his Sancho Panza. He also pointed out Butler’s physical deformity and claimed Douglas had a mistress–”the harlot Slavery.” On reading the speech, Longfellow wrote his friend: “At last the spirit of the North is aroused.” Southern chivalry was also roused. Two days after the speech, Butler’s cousin, Preston Brooks, a congressman from South Carolina, approached Sumner who was writing at his desk in the nearly empty Senate chamber and clubbed him repeatedly with his cane. Sumner nearly died. The incident sealed the Northern view of Southern Democrats as irrational thugs who would stop at nothing to spread slavery.
Years before, in 1842, Longfellow had published for Sumner a very thin book of abolitionist poems, Poems on Slavery (Cambridge: John Owen: 1842). It contained only eight poems, all very mild by Sumner’s standards. In fact, Longfellow himself said that the poems were “so mild that even a slaveholder might read them without losing his appetite for breakfast.” Nevertheless, activist Elihu Burritt proposed to print selections from the volume and distribute them in tracts in hundreds of thousands of copies. He wrote: “When the millions of our American bondsmen are brought out of their Egyptian prison-house by a mighty hand & outstretched Arm, they shall sing your ‘Slaves Dream’ ‘The Witnesses’ & ‘Quadroon Girl’ by the other shore of their Red Sea of captivity.” (November 6, 1843; quoted in Merle E. Curti, “Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Elihu Burritt,”7 American Literature 315, at 318-19 (November 1935).) As a result of this book, Longfellow was asked to take a more active role in the anti-slavery movement, but he declined. Privately, however, Longfellow used funds from royalties of his popular poems to buy freedom for slaves.
Longfellow would closely follow the politics of the impending dissolution carefully over the years from Sumner’s caning. He in fact wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride,” a clarion call for the Union which had just elected Lincoln, in time for Christmas 1860 (and published in The Atlantic Monthly). There would be a new Revolution, wrote Longfellow.
Fanny Appleton. "My morning and my evening star of love!" Longfellow wooed her for 7 years. The fire that took her is said to have started when she was melting wax to seal envelopes containing her childrens' hair. Longfellow couldn't save her though he tried. (from Wikipedia)
But the war did not quickly solve the moral crisis. Rather, it brought long anguish to the country and deep personal grief to Longfellow. In April shortly after the bombardment of Fort Sumner, Virginia voted to join the rest of the seceding states, striking a deep blow at the prospect of a quick resolution of the treason. In May Britain ominously declared its neutrality. But for Longfellow the greatest tragedy of all took place in July when his wife Fanny died in an accident that caught her clothes on fire. Longfellow tried to put the fire out, but she had severe burns all over her body. She lived through the night, and died the next day. Longfellow had been burned trying to smother the flames, so was unable to attend the funeral. He tried to drown his grief laudanum upon which he became so dependent that he feared he would be committed to an asylum.
And even that was not the end of his sorrows. In 1863 his son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, ran off to join the Union Army. “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer,” he wrote his father. “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.” He apparently was not accepted into the infantry, owing to an accident years before when he shot off his thumb. So he applied to Captain W.H. McCartney, commander of Battery A of the 1st Massachusetts Artillery and asked to enlist. Captain McCartney, a friend of the family, wrote Longfellow, who gave permission even though he was greatly concerned. Longfellow tried to obtain preferment for his son by approaches to Sumner and others, but in the end, it was unnecessary;  Charles had been appointed lieutenant on his own merits.
Lt. Charles Appleton Longfellow
Lt. Longfellow’s first brush with combat came on the outskirts of the Battle of Chancellorsville, that great debacle which nearly crushed the vastly overwhelming Army of the Potomac. In early June Charles contracted typhoid fever and malaria and was invalided home to recover. He could not rejoin his unit until August 15, 1863, and thus missed Gettysburg. In September at Culpepper he witnessed an artillery round take off the legs of a man standing next to him. On November 27, he himself was severely wounded. In the Mine Run Campaign, while in a skirmish during the battle of New Hope Church, Virginia, he was shot in the left shoulder. The bullet traveled across his back, and exited under his right shoulder. He was carried by ambulance to the Rapidan River. On December 1, 1863, Longfellow learned of the catastrophe and immediately took his other son Ernest to Washington to recover Charles. They brought him home, reaching Cambridge on December 8. The wound proved too severe to allow Lt. Longfellow to return to his unit, and he was discharged on February 15, 1864.
And so Christmas 1863 was a time of great national and personal sorrow for Longfellow. But that morning he heard the church bells which would give him the hope that justice in the end would prevail.
Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Blessed Be

To all who have wondered where I may have been, or what may have happened, the news is terribly boring, I'm afraid. 

I just got very busy--I took two classes at APU for my Masters (big mistake!), got a new assignment at work, in a grade level I have not taught before, and I have a mom that is pretty ill and a house to run--and that's it!

Ok--I have a gentleman caller, and I play World of Warcraft. There's that!

But that's it, really. The book went out last summer for readings, and got pretty good reviews. The only problem I am having is with two spots, and they are the kinds of problem that is good to have: I have done much more research on the 1860 Republican Convention, and Ellsworth was a bigger part of that than formerly realized, and Ellsworth's bill to the Illinois State Legislature is looking to be more important than I had formerly realized. 

So, some rewrites are in order.

In addition, I have done quite a bit for, and have some things to do for them "on the stove" even now. They are wonderful people, and deserve my best!

All that being said, I have also been thinking about revamping First Fallen--perhaps including some information about my trials getting my advanced degree, and some of the things that go into becoming a historian, most of which I was unaware!

So--Merry Christmas to All, and I will be here much more regularly. Tomorrow will be a reprint from ECW, but a worthwhile one.

All my love,
Meg & History Cat

Monday, October 1, 2012

When This Cruel Class Is Over

In case anyone was wondering where I am or what has happened, it is just work and school. I thought I could take two classes for my Masters. 

I was SO wrong!

Anyway, they will both end on October 29, and I will return to these pages at that time, full time! I promise!

The Masters is very demanding, not to mention having a demanding full-time job teaching 7th grade pre-Algebra, maintaining a household and owning the house into which it fits, and all the other things that come along in life.

Don't let anyone tell you getting a degree on-line is easy. it is certainly not! Nevertheless, I am loving it.

So, I ask for your good wishes as the end of these two classes comes 'round the corner. Papers to write, books to read, grades to fret about!

I have found a bunch of new & exciting things about Elmer Ellsworth, too. Enough for a whole new chapter on the Republican National Convention in Chicago, 1860.

See you soon!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Republican National Convention!

My life got incredibly complicated, so just bear with me and all will be back to normal when my 2 classes end in early October. I will NEVER take two classes again!

I will be starting a short-in-word-length but regular series of of posts for about the Election of 1860. I may try to write as if I were there . . . or not.

Anyway, with politics upon us beginning late this week, look for more posts.

I promise.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Red Velvet Cake! OMG!

Red Velvet Cake--what a scam! Nope--it wasn't invented at the Waldorf-Astoria. In fact, it is a Southern concoction.

It dates back to at least 1873. In Southern cookbooks of that time, the term velvet was used to describe a cake with a fine, even texture or "crumb." There were Chocolate Velvet cakes, Silver Velvet, etc.

Then came the Great Depression, and an entrepreneur named John A. Adams. His family had owned a food coloring and flavor extracts business since 1888, but was hit hard by the economy. Mr. Adams set up displays throughout the South and Midwest in grocery stores. Under a banner featuring the reddest of Red Velvet cakes, the offer of a free recipe for Red Velvet cake was given away free with every purchase.

The recipe included Adams Best Vanilla, Adams Butter Flavor and TWO bottles of Adams Red Color.  It became a sensation!

Which is why I laugh at the very idea of a Red Velvet Cake as a delicacy. Whether it is vanilla, or has a touch of chocolate in its flavor, basically the cake is a butter cake with a huge addition of red petrochemical dye.

My, my!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Books! Books! More Books!

I am surrounded by books. I read constantly, and sometimes I read really hard stuff--not funny, or interesting, or even informative, sometimes.  Just difficult.

I have spent the last week powering through a week-long math workshop, then coming home and reading. No Olympics, just books.

Three Days At Gettysburg, Sun Tzu at Gettysburg, Jersey Cavaliers: A History of the First New Jersey Volunteer Cavalry 1861-1865, Gettysburg's Forgotten Cavalry Actions, The Battle for Brinkerhoff's Ridge and East Cavalry Field, "Come On You Wolverines!": Custer At Gettysburg, The Cavalry Battle That Saved the Union: Custer vs. Stuart at Gettysburg---

. . . and those are just the ones right in front of me.

I don't even like Custer very much.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Red Velvet Cake Exposed!

There has been a lot of hoopla over Red Velvet Cakes in the last couple of years. They always make me laugh!

When my mom taught me to bake, we discussed Red Velvet Cakes, and Devil's Food. 

The term "velvet" comes from the texture of the cake itself, and is just what one gets when one uses a cake mix. The grain is even and the cake hold together well. This used to be difficult to achieve when making cakes from scratch, but with a mix, it is a given.

I will explain Devil's Food Cake first, and tomorrow, Red Velvet Cake. Spoiler Alert!! This has nothing to do with the Civil War. It is from the Great Depression and earlier. I think it ironic that, just as we have entered another Great Depression, we have resurrected Red Velvet Cake. 

Basically, both require a whole bottle of red food coloring. When you make a chocolate cake from a mix, pour the bottle of food coloring into the measured amount of liquid used for the recipe. The result will be a very red-tinted chocolate cake--hence DEVIL'S Food.  The icing is any chocolate icing with red food coloring added. 

Yep--our traditional American foods usually require the addition of a significant amount of petro-chemicals.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

. . . and tonight's Top Ten!

Boy, am I in hot water now!

I thought it was a good idea to do a series of book reviews of MY Top 10 Civil war books for You know, just to share with others & talk about how to build a pretty good little home reference/inspiration library.

So, I wrote up my intro, being sure to be gracious and underscoring that the forthcoming selections would be mine only. I invited comment & criticism even!!

Well, let us just say Fort Sumter has received incoming fire.

I wrote that my first would be Bruce Catton's series that ends with A Stillness At Appomattox, and that is all I have said, but I have already had folks tell me that I had picked an impossible job to do, etc.

(BTW, a faithful reader of First Fallen has made positive comments! Just sayin')

After a summer of war theory, I think I at least know the theory behind defense.
We shall see.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Johnnie, We Hardly Knew Ye

 I spend my days and nights surrounded by dead men.

Many of them weren't exactly men when they died, but were men in the way they chose to live their lives.

As a teacher, I come in contact with many students. Most are just faces in a moving stream of humanity, but once in a while one stands out.

My heart is broken--for his family, and for the loss to the rest of the world. Every death is difficult, but the death of a young person--unbearable. The same can be said for all my other dead men. We are poorer each time we lose one.

When a child in particular stands out like a beacon, the loss is doubly hard. Our country is poorer after every war, after each death. 

Johnnie Marfia, we hardly knew ye.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I Feel Sorta Like McClellan--

History Cat here--Catmom is the WORST!! Nothing but excuses--& she has a ton of them--

  • HARPing the house
  • 2 classes in her Master's class (who are Jomini & Clausewitz, fgs?)
  • maintenance on the property
  • finishing the book by adding new research concerning the Republican Convention of 1860 and Colonel Ellsworth (who should have had a cat!!)
  • writing and researching for that "other" blog,
  • paying attention to her gentleman caller (grrrrr)
  • leveling her Horde Hunter in WoW (as if!)
  • Oh! School's starting in a week!!

See what I mean? It goes on and on--well, I am taking things into my capable paws from now on. I shall pester & bug her until she gets herself together. I gave her July, but now it's August--ALL FOR THE UNION!

Three cheers and a tiger, which is sort of like a cat, but bigger.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summertime, & the livin' is easy . . . even if blogging is NOT!

The image to the left is what I face daily, more or less, during the California summer. 

I live in Heaven.

Within a few hours driving is desert, or mountains, or snow, or forest, or city--

Vineyards abound, as do farms with fresh fruit & veggies. The fog comes in from the ocean in the mornings and evenings, soft and gray, like poems.

It is like being suspended in time & space, until school begins again. For these reasons, this blog has been sketchy this summer.

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. 

More Chardonnay?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Better late than never--I hope!

Yesterday my long-awaited post/interview of Harry Katz went up on

His book is just wonderful, and worth every penny, so go buy it. We talk a lot about bias in my Master's classes, and it is books like this one that help me form my opinion: bias is great!

No, I don't believe that publishing books denying the Holocaust is fine, but I do think that passion for a topic, often misinterpreted as bias, is just fine.

Were it not for the passion/bias of Mr. Katz, and his belief that people need to see these images and learn about the men who created them, we would all be far poorer in our knowledge.

A historian has to believe in what she does, and she needs to work very hard to make people care about the things she loves. This is NOT the same as plainly twisting information to make a point, or trumpeting as facts information that is contradictory. This is bias, and poor history as well.

But this book?  Oh no! This is a labor of love and respect--we should ALL be biased in favor of those two qualities, no matter the topic.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

OK--He's hot--sorry!

After yesterday, I wasn't sure if my blog would survive. I had no idea there were so many Custer fans out there, and several came out with fangs bared.

So, I went back to the archives & found a picture of the man showing him to be a very attractive fellow.

One question: the "cleft" in his chin.

It is asymmetrical, and I checked a boatload of images. This says--to me!--that it is not a cleft, but a deep scar.

Now with things in an uproar worldwide, I know this isn't exactly pressing, but . . .

any thoughts?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hey Mr. Custer

I never thought this would happen. I am NOT a Custer fan. I don't even think he is attractive, which is my final deciding point for all historical figures.

To prove my point, the scrawny guy to the right is Custer at West Point. One can't help but be phallically interested by the teeny gun he is holding . . . just sayin'.

Anyway, seems Custer might have been the lynchpin at Gettysburg. The only way the Pickett/Pettigrew charge makes sense is if Lee had figured he'd hit the Union from the rear at the same time.

Apparently young, flamboyant, obnoxious Custer foiled Lee's plan.

I am ordering books and reading papers about all this as we speak.

I'd love a day with Colonel Ellsworth and no interruptions.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sunsets and Battlefields

The sun is setting here in Hollister as I am writing this post. This suggested to me to look for some sunset images of the Civil War, and I found several.

This is one of my Gettysburg battlefield pictures. The picture was taken at sunset on Little Round Top. The "person" in the foreground is actually the statue of Major General Gouvernor K. Warren, the "saviour of Gettysburg". It was Warren who realized that Little Round Top had been left undefended by the Union army. He sent orders for nearby troops to occupy the hill, which they did less than half an hour before the Confederate attack.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some Day My Prince Will Come . . .

To the right is Sun-Tzu's philosophical partner in warcraft, Niccolo Machiavelli.

Next week we move on to Jomini & Clausewtiz. 

As you can see in Nico's mind, there is a fax & a lion. A Prince should be as cunning as a fox, but as brave as a lion when necessary.

There are times when I wonder why I need to know all this. Then I think of Generals Grant and Lee, and I know.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Sun-Tze & the Art of War

Meet Sun Tzu--my new best friend. Well, he & Machiavelli. 

I am enjoying this summer's classes, but GEEZ! Now when I play World of Warcraft, I am looking at things strategically. 

What is the terrain like? How strong is my enemy? Is my stun shot working? Should I have gotten a bigger crossbow?

Do these boots make me look fat?

I have decided I am waaaaay more the fox than the lion--a Machiavellian idea. But poor Colonel Ellsworth fairs poorly when looked at through the lenses of these two military philosophers.

Ah well, Ellsworth was just 24, and not used to delegating.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Civil War Sketch Book Interview

The gentleman to the right is Mr. Harry Katz. He has written several great pictorial books, two of which I own--Baseball Americana & Civil War Sketch Book.

He was a curator for the Library of Congress for years, and has done some two dozen exhibits for them. 

He is a very nice man. Plus he likes baseball & the Civil War.

The Sketch Book is features in the May, 2012 National Geographic, so go read about it. Please.

Then remember all the work done here and at on the Special Artists who drew the sketches from which Frank Leslie's and Harper's created their illustrations.  

Embedded journalists are common now, but not then--it was a dangerous and exciting job--groundbreaking, in fact.

Reread the posts in ECW, and First Fallen, of course, and get ready to read my interview with Mr. Katz as soon as it comes up.

I'll let you know.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th, so I thought I'd look at something superstitious. The above picture is the marker at Gettysburg for Patrick O'Rorke, who was not so lucky in July of 1963.

However, there is a superstition that, if you rub O'Rorke's nose, you will be lucky. This has resulted in giving the former Civil War colonel' marker a very shiny nose!

In researching this tidbit, I found many people who have personal Gettysburg superstitions. Seems each time they visit the battlefield, they must touch one marker or another, or else they will be unlucky until they return to rectify their mistake.

Here is a great quote from General Grant concerning superstitions:

Everyone has his superstitions. One of mine has always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, never to turn back or to stop until the thing intended was accomplished.

Seems he lived by his words, at least at Petersburg.

Good luck, everyone!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Which is Your Favorite Abe Lincoln?

I was reading reviews of AL;Vampire Hunter yesterday, when I found this.


Anyone have any more they'd care to share?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I Thought the Civil War Was Our National Pastime!

The results of my work on 1860s baseball can be seen TODAY--All-Star Game day--at

As usual, Kris and Chris have done me well and made my post look great. I happen to be proud of it, and would appreciate your opinions as well.

What usually happens, however, is that I work very hard on something, write it up, edit it, then make sure the writing is elegant and easy to read--and no one says anything. The ones I send in (both here and there) that I know still have a wart or two, or are a scosh shaky somewhere--those get the big numbers.

I try.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Period Base Ball at Fort Tejon

In researching my blog for the All Star game for, which should be up tomorrow--I finally found a photo of some of the guys playing ball at Fort Tejon. 

I am thinking it was in the '80s (1980s) that the civilians were looking around for something to do on Saturday afternoons. We had many spectators who showed up looking for battles on the wrong day, and we felt they should get something for their efforts.

The Ohio Village Muffins had just been in maybe the Smithsonian Magazine, and the playing of Vintage Base Ball was relatively new. We set up some bleachers with boards and barrels, printed up a little pamphlet for the cranks who would be watching our games, and had peanuts-in-the-shell in cones made from repros of Harper's Weekly.

It was great fun. My favorite memory was when some striker hit the ball to the outfield, and then-Corporal Bill Agnew doffed his kepi and caught the ball in his hat.

Check out today for an addition (Thomas Nast) to my series on Civil War Artists, and tomorrow for my piece on Base Ball and the Civil War.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Home Run Quickstep

One of the tunes on my current favorite CD of Brass Band music is called the "Home Run Quickstep."

I found it difficult to understand, frankly. There is a bell that rings at odd times during the song. The bell is sort of like one of those that works like a buzzer. I am not explaining this very well. Sorry.

Anyway, during my investigations into Civil War Base Ball I found out that an Ace (a run) was announced to the audience by the ringing of a bell! 

So, the whole point of the piece of music is the bell--exactly the point I was not understanding. 

Pretty cool. The piece is on an album of great tunes called Hurrah For the Union! by the Federal City Brass Band. I bought it when I was in Alexandria, but it is available at this link:

Buy it. 

Elmer would have wanted you to.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Taking Me Out To the Ball game--Part 2

The gentleman to the left is Abner Doubleday, alleged Father of American Baseball. Or was he?

Although Doubleday's fame ought to be based on his performances at Fort Sumter and Gettysburg, he is best remembered as the alleged "inventor" of baseball in Elihu Phinney's cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York, 1839.

How did this come about? The Mills Commission was appointed in 1905 to determine the origin of baseball. Its final report, on December 30, 1907 stated:

 . . . the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. . . . in the years to come, in the view of the hundreds of thousands of people who are devoted to baseball, and the millions who will be, Abner Doubleday's fame will rest evenly, if not quite as much, upon the fact that he was its inventor . . . as his brilliant and distinguished career as an officer in the Federal Army.

hmmm . . .

Friday, July 6, 2012

Taking Me Out To the Ball Game--Part 1

To the right is a baseball card from the 1860s. Or maybe just a picture.

With the All-Star Game coming soon, I thought that a look at baseball would not be amiss. After all, one of my favorite Ellsworthian images is the one of which John Hay wrote: Ellsworth was playing ball with them as we approached, looking fine and blouzy in his red shirt.

If you have not seen the Conan O'Brian posts on 1864 baseball, look them up. I will try to get one embedded here, altho I had little luck today.

I am putting together a longer post for on baseball & the Civil War, but you readers get to see the goodies first.

Ah! Summer! and all for the Union!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pickett's Charge

For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two oclock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is sitll time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago….
— William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Getting ready for the 4th--

I am learning how to insert things from YouTube here. My first effort was Irish, and this is my second. I will try tomorrow with more brass bands, because Lord knows we need 'em!

Monday, July 2, 2012

emerging civil war--read it!

My fireworks blog for is up today, and it looks excellent! Please try to take the time to read it. 

Everyone's stats are bad this summer (especially mine!) so don't forget to check in on your favorite blogs. Everyone gets busy in the summer months, including writers and bloggers, but we are still here!

I will even get to the kind comments folks have made, soon--I promise!

All for the Union!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

. . . and the flag is up!

The first chore of the month is done--the flag is up!

It wasn't quite Iwo Jima, but it took a bit of teamwork. It looks wonderful, btw.

Later today I will offer some sources for brass band recordings. What is the 4th without a band? There are several wonderful Civil War re-enactment bands, and if I can figure out how to do it, I will try a music download.

What do you do for the 4th?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Long May She Wave!

It is Saturday, the weekend before the 4th of July. My goal this weekend is very simple--other than watching the Saturday Night NASCAR race. I intend to get a flag displayed on my house.

This may involve ladders and electric tools, but I am pretty confident--

I loaned all the bunting to the Democrats, and don't remember if they returned it, but this July 4th there will be a flag flown at my house, for certain.

All for the Union!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Union Mandarin Orange Cake!

Sorry this is late today--I spent the better part of the day looking for Orange Curd--oh well. I got Lemon--we shall see . . .

The cake I remember is so much like the one from yesterday, but different in a few ways as well. 

First, it is a layer cake. I used to do some pastry work for a caterer, so here is the scoop on pan sizes: an 8" circular pan will give you a thicker layer than a 9" pan. This will result in a higher cake, or--if you are a very fancy baker--an 8" layer will slice into 2 parts much more easily, and will be best for a 4-layer cake.

Second: there is coconut involved. 

The recipe for the cake is as follows: 
1 package orange cake mix
1 11 ounce can of undrained mandarin oranges
1/2 C. salad oil
4 eggs
1 T orange extract

Beat ingredients on medium speed for 4 minutes. Pour into 2 parchment-lined 8" round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness--the toothpick should come put of the cake cleanly. Cake layers should cool before being iced.

Icing--yes, folks--I use canned icing. Any type of cream cheese frosting will do, however--I just like the easy of prepared icing.

The recipe for the icing is as follows:
2 cans cream cheese frosting--fluffy, if possible
1 can mandarin oranges--buy expensive, name brand ones for this part--drain them well, patting them with paper towels if necessary.
large flaked or shaved coconut--usually in the organic foods area
1 T orange extract

Separate the mandarin slices into 2 batches--put the most perfect slices aside, as these will top the cake.
Beat the remaining batch of mandarin slices into one of the cans of frosting, add the orange extract. This is your filling.

Put down the bottom layer. Use half the filling on it, then put the top layer on. At this point ice the sides of the cake with the cream cheese icing. On the edges of the top layer, create a ridge of regular icing, then sparingly ice the middle of the cake. On top of the thin layer of regular cream cheese icing, put the rest of the filling inside the ridge of icing. Immediately put the coconut on the regular icing--sides and just around the top. Then use the last half of the mandarin segments to create a design in the center of the cake.

DISCLAIMER!!! These are NOT Civil War recipes! . . . yeah, someone asked. Go figure.