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