UPDATE 7/24: Today Eric and I signed another contract with Kent State University Press to author "You Stink Too! Pro Football's Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players" and we are currently in discussion with KSUP to write "Baseball's Could Have Beens: Major League Mishaps, Misfortunes, and Mistakes." Stay tuned!
You may have noticed that posting here at Blog, or Die! has been less and less frequent over the last month or so. This has been due to the fact that the promotional commitments for "You Stink!" have required the majority of my attention. Eric and I are grateful for how well this book is doing as it has certainly exceeded both of our expectations. One of the funnest aspects of this project has been the You Stink! Blog. The majority of my blogging-time for the forseeable future will be focused on maintaining that blog. I invite you to visit us both there and on our Facebook page. (*Civil War and Revolution-era posts and projects may intermittently appear here when applicable.)
149 years ago today...
The Gettysburg Cyclorama is an epic, 360-degree circular oil-on-canvas painting that depicts the third day's battle known as "Pickett's Charge." It was created by French artist Paul Philippoteaux and originally debuted in 1884. One of the last surviving cycloramas in the United States, the curved-panel painting is a marvel of both art and science. Standing in the center, visitors are completely surrounded by a breath-taking, panoramic view that depicts, in meticulous detail, the triumphs and tragedies of July 3rd, 1863. The following panels were scanned from a postcard book that I purchased as a souvenir in 1978. View entire Cyclorama
PANEL 1: Federal infantry and artillery hurry toward the fighting at The Angle. Major General W.S. Hancock is shown with his staff at the left center and beyond, at the top of the picture, is Little Round Top.
PANEL 2: Pickett's Charge reached its climax when the Confederates, dressed in brown, followed their red battle flags into the Union line at the Copse of Trees. These trees seen in the upper left, mark the Union center, the objective of Pickett's Charge. Confederate General Armistead falls mortally wounded to the right of the flags.
PANEL 3: Pickett's Charge reaches its climax at The Angle. Union troops, in the foreground, meet the advancing Confederates and hurl them back. The Codori buildings may been seen at the top of the card.
PANEL 4: The Angle, in the foreground, and the field of Pickett's Charge. The Confederates, beyond the exploding ammunition chest and advancing across the fields, have come from Seminary Ridge marked by the trees and smoke in the background.
PANEL 5: Tradition holds that French artist, Paul Philippoteaux, identified himself with the Cyclorama by portraying himself as the Union officer standing beneath the tree to the right. He watches Pettigrew's Division advancing from Seminary Ridge.
PANEL 6: The stone wall north of The Angle and the Bryan barn. Wounded are being evacuated on mules.
PANEL 7: Arnold's Rhode Island Battery in action north of The Angle and Copse of Trees.
PANEL 8: Hospital. A surgeon amputates the leg of a wounded man in the shed on the right.
PANEL 9: A New York battery gallops towards the fighting near the Copse of Trees.
PANEL 10: Major General George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, as shown with his staff on the right at the edge of the Wheatfield. Meade's Chief of Artillery, Brigadier General Henry J. Hunt, watches the fighting in The Angle from the gray horse in the foreground.
Battlefield before bike trail
Today I sent a letter to the Editor at The Free Lance-Star newspaper defending the National Park Service’s recent decision to add a top layer of pea-gravel to Lee’s Drive. This was mainly done to help curb speeding and it also improved the historical appearance of the park. Many local cyclists, joggers and stroller moms have voiced their displeasure with the new road surface. I believe their opinions are somewhat misguided as they tend to look at these Civil War Battlefields as recreational parks and forget what their real purpose is. These are not bike trails or nature preserves and although both the NPS and I support the idea of locals enjoying the battlefield, their opinions should not dictate how the park is preserved or maintained. They are 'guests' who are simply taking advantage of a convenient exercise location on a road less traveled. Stay tuned...
UPDATE 6/11: My letter (see transcript below) ran in today's issue of The Free Lance Star. I am already getting emails from both sides of the argument.
Let us not forget what Lee Drive is all about
Recently, some in our community have taken the National Park Service to task for its decision to resurface Lee Drive using gravel.
The goal, as Park Superintendent Russ Smith describes it, is to calm traffic through the Fredericksburg Battlefield.
Given that Lee Drive currently holds claim to roughly half of all the speeding tickets the Park Service hands out, this seems an ideal solution indeed.
Many of those opposed to the new gravel surface use the road chiefly to jog, bike, and the like.
As a local battlefield guide specializing in wheelchair tours, I feel that it is important for us to remember that Lee Drive is the main thoroughfare of a Civil War Battlefield, not simply another recreational park or nature preserve.
The primary purpose of Lee Drive is not to provide local residents with a place to exercise, nor to serve as a convenient shortcut during rush-hour traffic.
Its purpose, like that of the rest of the battlefield's roads, is to allow visitors access to the multiple historic sites that dot the landscape of this hallowed ground where thousands of men died.
While it is great that residents utilize Lee Drive for recreational purposes, such purposes should not dictate how the road is maintained. The recent resurfacing not only serves as an improved safety factor, but also enhances the aesthetic appearance of the park. This benefits everyone.
Fredericksburg is no ordinary place, and our battlefield is no ordinary park. I commend the Park Service and Superintendent Smith for their skillful stewardship of this one-of-a-kind natural and historic treasure and am grateful for the newly revamped road that runs through it.
I also ask those who question the resurfacing to keep in mind why Lee Drive is there at all.
The writer is owner, All-Access Battlefield Tours.
Now available as an eBook...
The Civil War in Spotsylvania County is now available as an eBook. You can purchase a copy for the Kindle (here), the Nook (here), and also as an Apple iBook (here).
Update: The Historians Project
Some folks have emailed inquiring about the status of The Historians Project. For those of you who are unfamiliar with THP, here is a little background… The intent of The Historians Project is to bring together historians, who are also musicians, to raise awareness, and hopefully some money, for Civil War battlefield preservation. The end-game is to assemble a band made up of semi-professionals in order to perform a show that features history and music. All proceeds will go directly to the organizations that fight to save these hallowed grounds and the event will also provide them with an opportunity to address the public in order to spread awareness for their cause.
Although this is being done in fun and for charity, we also want serious participants who can play. I already have a very talented vocalist tentatively signed on (a university historian and recording artist), but need the roles of guitar, bass and possibly keys. Of course just like with a book, or a lecture, preparation means everything. No one is going to get back up in front of a crowd and petition for funds without being able to entertain. I have been practicing daily in order to get my chops back, but am nowhere near where I want to be. Our singer is about to release a new album with his own band and he won’t be able to dedicate time to a side-project until the band is assembled.
So at this point, THP is merely a vision. The process of forming an ensemble, defining a rehearsal schedule, and producing a set takes time so I can’t give you a specific timeline for all of this to come to fruition. I anticipate that this venture is still many months away from lifting off. I can say for sure is that it will ONLY happen if it’s going to be good. There is nothing worse than watching a bunch of middle-aged adults fail miserably at playing rock star. This project is NOT about forming a bar band. It's about giving folks an opportunity to share their musical talents with others while raising money and awareness for something greater than themselves.
If you are interested in playing in The Historians, please send me an email along with an audio or video sample for audition purposes. If you know of anyone else who might be interested, please pass along this post. *Serious inquiries only.