Posted by: ushistoryfiles | May 19, 2014

Book Review – Autumn in Carthage

Autumn-in-Carthage-Cover

Part Sci-Fi, part love story, part historical fiction, part mystery, Autumn in Carthage is simply a good read.  College professor Nathan Price goes searching for his missing friend in the small Wisconsin town of Carthage.  What he finds is a close knit community facing their own troublesome issues.  Price also finds love, struggling to overcome his own demons in the process.

What I liked most about Autumn in Carthage was that Zenos (a pseudonym but more on that later) has created characters that are inherently human.  None of the characters are saintly and all of them struggle with their own human foibles.  But that is what in large part make them likable.  I found myself rooting for Nathan as he searched for his missing friend and pursued the woman who made him whole.  Perhaps I am a sucker for a missing persons story but the that particular hook grabbed me right away.

As I mentioned earlier, the name Christopher Zenos is a pseudonym.  The author is a university professor who struggles with mental illness.  Needless to say the academic world doesn’t look to kindly upon academics writing works of fiction instead of more academic works.  in addition the potential stigma of living/struggling with mental illness is a good reason for the pseudonym.

I gave Autumn in Carthage 4 stars on Goodreads and recommend it without reservation.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | April 2, 2014

Where are your accents?

For some reason I have been asked about colonial accents a bunch lately.  The last couple of times were by fellows with a prominent English accent (yes, think John Cleese – and if you don’t know who John Cleese is shame on you).  Always being on the alert for the opportunity to dispel historical stereotypes and the myth that all English colonists were carbon copy Englishmen who talked alike, I sprang into action.

I start by jokingly asking, “To which accent are you referring?”  Next I quickly (before they can answer my mostly rhetorical question) point out that the colonists who came to what would eventually become the United States were not a homogenous group.  Looking at Great Britain alone you have England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales each with a wide variety of their own way of speaking.  (As an elementary example I mention that the people of London speak differently than the people in Glasgow).  I also mention that it was the Dutch who originally settled the area around today’s New York and the Swedish settlers in the “middle” colonies.  By the time I mention that German colonists started arriving in the mid-1600s the diversity point is well made.

Moving to the colonies, I ask again “which accent” since the people of New York speak differently than the people of Boston or Raleigh.  Needless to say I rather enjoy dispelling the historical myth.

 

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | March 1, 2014

Welcome back stranger

Longtime followers of USHistoryFiles by now have become familiar with my periodic hiatuses (<-look I spelled that correctly!).  The frequency of my blogging often decreases when I am taking a class (which I am currently) but since I have a variety of interests, they can eat into my blogging time as well.  This winter was our second in Williamsburg, and the first with my parents living less than a day’s drive from me.  Since they now live about a half an hour north of me, I got to spend some quality family time with them over the holidays.  January saw snow several times (more than I saw in Chattanooga, less than when I grew up in New Jersey) as well as a new hobby – I am practicing/teaching myself/learning a bit of close up photography.  As always, family, work, and school have their pulls.  But enough of that for now, look what I found in a local thrift store today:photo(1)

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but Chattanooga, TN had the best used bookstore I have ever visited (and since I’ve got about a thousand books, I’ve visited a bunch!).  Moving to Williamsburg, VA, I have not found any used bookstores that match the selection of McKay’s.  McKay’s has three stores, the one mentioned in Chattanooga, one in Nashville, and one in Knoxville.  All three were on my regular visitation list.  You can find their website here.  If you are ever in the neighborhood of one of their stores I highly recommend that you check them out.  But I digress.

Since moving to Williamsburg, I’ve taken to raiding thrift stores for books (BTW, Chattanooga area thrift stores did not have many books – the Williamsburg area ones have more – there I go digressing again).  Needless to say, today’s find was exciting for me.

Anyway, I hope you all are well and I’ll see if I can’t get some more posts up (or at least not wait 3/4 months before posting again <grin>.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | October 21, 2013

The Kennedy Half Century

Kennedy

I am a bit late in posting this announcement, but this online course starts today.  See the announcement below.  And look for an upcoming review of the book by the same name.

Enrollment opens for Professor Sabato’s 
free online course “The Kennedy Half Century”

The four-week, massive open online course (MOOC), “The Kennedy Half Century,” will begin on Oct. 21, with two hours of video instruction each week by Prof. Sabato. The course is available through Coursera, an educational website that partners with some of the world’s top universities, including the University of Virginia, to provide free online courses. Anyone can register for the course at www.coursera.org/course/kennedy.

The MOOC is one of several initiatives the U.Va. Center for Politics is unveiling this fall in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. Prof. Sabato’s latest book, The Kennedy Half Century: The Presidency, Assassination and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, will be released in October as the class begins. Also in October, the Center will premiere a one-hour national PBS documentary on the same subject, which is being produced in partnership with Community Idea Stations. The Center for Politics and Community Idea Stations recently received an Emmy Award for their previous documentary, “Out of Order,” which is about political dysfunction in Washington.

A trailer for the “The Kennedy Half Century” class is available here.

“The University of Virginia Center for Politics has long been committed to providing accessible educational tools about American politics and government. This free online course about how JFK and his legacy have influenced the public, the media, and each of the nine U.S. presidents who followed President Kennedy is one way we can deliver high-quality instruction, at no charge, to a large audience,” Prof. Sabato said.

The course begins with the early legislative career of John F. Kennedy and progresses through the 50 years since Kennedy’s death, focusing on how each president, Lyndon Johnson through Barack Obama, has used JFK to craft their own political image. The class offers more than eight hours of video consisting of 40 lessons averaging 10-20 minutes each in length. Each week, there will be at least two new hours of content, including historical footage from each of the 10 presidential administrations of the last half-century. Prof. Sabato will focus four lessons around Kennedy’s assassination as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of 11/22/63.

New portions of the class will be posted to the Coursera page each week. Students who complete the course do not receive university credit, but they will receive a statement of accomplishment. More information about the course’s specifics, including a syllabus, is available at www.coursera.org/course/kennedy.

Online learning is not new to the U.Va. Center for Politics, which has provided online education tools through its Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) since 1998. YLI conducts regular mock elections for students, as well as an interactive legislative simulation called E-Congress.

“For the last 15 years YLI has developed and distributed free civics education lesson plans using the Internet,” noted Prof. Sabato. “Today YLI reaches more than 50,000 teachers and millions of students throughout the country and around the world.”

 

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | October 16, 2013

Gold Fever on the Discovery Channel

I found this little nugget buried in my spam box on Yahoo (thank you Yahoo SPAM blocker).  It premiered on October 11th but Discovery is running it again on October 18, 2013.

 

Discovery Catches Gold Fever in California Gold Rush Documentary Mini-Series
New York, NY – Discovery is going back in time to follow the story of the California Gold Rush from the very beginning in the four-part documentary miniseries GOLD FEVER premiering Friday October 11th and October 18th at 9 PM ET. See how American was transformed, after the chance discovery of gold, from a fledgling nation into one of enormous wealth and power.
From the executive producer of the Emmy-winning documentary miniseries, The Men Who Built America, GOLD FEVER follows the Boston Company, a real-life group of 40 men who, like tens of thousands of others, made the grueling journey out west with dreams of striking it rich. Viewers will a get a first-hand look through historians, experts, visual effects and dramatic scenes about how the men of the Boston Company pursued their opportunity for a new life while trying to survive from January 1848 to October 1850. After traveling to California, the men soon discovered the gold rush wasn’t exactly was hey expected. Violence, greed and chaos took over as tens of thousands of miners battled each other for the same small fortune of buried treasure. As the men fought and died for gold, they had no idea that the fortune they’d uncover – worth an estimated 25 billion dollars – would transform the country forever, laying the foundation of the American Dream and making possible the creation of an American empire.
Posted by: ushistoryfiles | September 18, 2013

Battle of Chickamauga

Layout 1

My friend has come out with a new book on the Battle of Chickamauga.  I have not read it yet, but having worked alongside Lee for nearly 5 years I can predict an informative and enjoyable read.

In addition, today also marks the beginning of ranger guided tours in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga.  More information can be found here.  If you are in or near the area you might want to check them out.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | September 11, 2013

Book Review – Counting Coup

counting coup

 

This week I have another western to review.  Counting Coup: The Odyssey of Captain Tom Adams by Bob Stockton.  I reviewed Bob’s other book, Fighting Bob, here.

Counting Coup tells the story of recently discharged Union Army officer as he makes his way out west seeking information on his hero Kit Carson.  Along the way he encounters a host of characters, some comical such as Norton I, Emperor of the United States of America and protector of Mexico (based on a real Norton I), and some more dangerous, but most based loosely on actual personalities.  Reminiscent of the early western “dime” novels, Counting Coup is a fast paced, action packed, adventure.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | September 6, 2013

Guest Blogger – Steven W. Kohlhagen

Steven W. Kohlhagen

Steven W. Kohlhagen

Steven W. Kohlhagen has been kind enough to present us with some of the history that inspired his new book Where They Bury You:

On January 3, 1862, General Henry H. Sibley led his Texas Volunteers into the Arizona Territory to attack General Edward R.S. Canby’s Union Army, the Colorado Volunteers, and Colonel Kit Carson’s New Mexico Volunteers. His plans, blessed by President Jefferson Davis, were to take the Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado Territories for the Confederacy, and then to march to California and conquer it as well.

The Civil War had come to the western Territories.

The Apaches and Navajo, previously fighting the Army, now found themselves almost back in time, raiding the Mexicans, the Utes, the New Mexican settlers, and each other now without any  interference from the white soldiers. Cochise’s Chiricahua Apaches, tragically, had been at peace up until the year before. But a newly minted Lieutenant, George Bascom, blundered amateurishly into forcing the Chiricahuas back to war with the whites across the Arizona Territory.

Also at this time a group of con artists, with Canby’s own aide de camp, one Lieutenant Augustyn P. Damours, at its center, was in the process of embezzling tens of millions of today’s dollars from the Army, the Territorial Government, and the Church. Like the Indians, the local outbreak of the Civil War, presented the scam artists with new opportunities.

Sibley’s Rebels won both major battles in the Territories, at Valverde and at Glorieta Pass. But in the process, they left their supply train, stolen from the Yankees at Cubero, essentially unprotected. Major John M. Chivington of the Colorado Volunteers, more known for his infamous massacre of the Cheyenne people at Sand Creek two years later, stumbled onto the vulnerable train. By destroying it, he ended Sibley’s dreams of a Confederate West.

Canby elected to let the Texans retreat back to Texas, starving and harmless and unmolested, and then turned his attention back to the Apaches and the Navajo.

He assigned this task to Carson. Despite Carson’s continued attempts to retire, General James H. Carleton insisted on having him carry out Canby’s orders when Canby was reassigned to Washington, D.C. Carleton decided to have Carson move the Mescalero Apaches and Navajo to eastern New Mexico, to a desolate spot he called Bosque Redondo.

Canby unwittingly took Damours, the thieving aide de camp, with him to Washington. One month after they left Santa Fe, in the midst of Carleton and Carson’s Indian wars, Damours’ massive thefts came to light. In a bizarre twist, Carleton sent Major Joseph Cummings, also the Provost Marshal of Santa Fe, to apprehend Damours in Washington. Cummings was a known womanizer and gambler in the Territory, and, astonishingly, a gambling associate of Damours.

Not surprisingly, Cummings returned from Washington empty handed. Historians completely lost sight of Damours when he went AWOL from Canby’s office in the War Department on November 5, 1862.

Upon his return, Carleton and Carson then entrusted Cummings with part of the Army that was to hunt down and apprehend the 9,000 Navajo. On August 3, 1863 Carson put Cummings in charge of the scorched earth policy to try to bring in the Navajo who the Army was failing to even locate.

On August 18, 1863 Cummings was found dead in an arroyo from a lone bullet wound to his abdomen near Pueblos Colorado (near the site of today’s Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona). He had $5,031.78 in cash and valuables in his saddle bags (between $700,000 and $1,000,000 of today’s dollars). Hampton Sides Blood and Thunder reports this on p. 341, as the “only” casualty of Carson’s Navajo campaign. Certainly an odd choice for the Navajo’s only killed soldier in their roundup.

Where They Bury You ends with that murder. But, of course, the Civil War and the Apache and Navajo Wars continued.

History always does.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | September 4, 2013

Book Review – Where They Bury You

Book Cover

I find it interesting how authors find their inspiration for the books that they write.  Author Steven W. Kohlhagen‘s new book, Where They Bury You, found its inspiration in the 1863 death of one Major Joseph Cummings.  During one of Kit Carson’s raids / campaigns, Cummings charged ahead of the main column (according to Carson) and was found dead on the canyon floor when the main body finally reached him.  The big mystery was why Cummings had $4,200 in cash on his person.  (See Hampton Sides’, Blood and Thunder, page 341 for a brief account.)

Kohlhagen has taken this event and woven an interesting, fast paced, historical novel that combines Civil War New Mexico / Arizona, white Americans, Native Americans, and Mexicans sticky relationships to one another.  Along the way we meet con artists and card sharks; historical figures such as Kit Carson, Cochise, Geronimo, Kit Carson, and others.  Not to give away the plot, but this is a Western that tells the tales of hostage taking, Indian wars, and gamblers’ who come up with a scheme for getting rich.  A gripping Western told on the eve of the Civil War in the Arizona and New Mexico Territories.

The book is a good, quick read.  While it is a historical novel, the history serves as a background for the events of real (and no so real) life people.  The historical details add color, there is no “data dump” here.  Kohlhagen does an excellent job of placing the “smaller” story in the context of the larger picture.  So if you are looking for a fun read, I highly recommend Where They Bury You.

Posted by: ushistoryfiles | August 15, 2013

Periodic Presidents

A periodic table of the Presidents of the United States?  Who would have thought of it?  PJ that’s who:

http://periodicpresidents.com/

 

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