Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Removing Confederate monuments doesn’t “erase” history. It reveals it.

August 19, 2017 @ 7:39 am | Filed under: Alabama, Current Affairs, History

My roots are Southern. There are both Confederates and Unionists on my family tree. The Unionists are the ones I’ve spent five years trying to write a book about—complicated in more ways than I can express. They were a bunch of Northern Alabamans who wanted no part of Secession. Their county delegate to the January 1861 Alabama Secession Convention, a schoolteacher named Christopher Sheats, was beaten and jailed for refusing to sign the ordinance of secession.

These Winston County folks—led by my direct ancestors, the Curtis brothers—passed a resolution saying that if Alabama could secede from the Union, Winston County could secede from Alabama. Many Winston County men joined the Union army, including my 4th-great-grandfather, John Curtis. Others were killed in various gruesome ways by members of the Confederate Home Guard—their own neighbors. Another of my 4th-greats, one Wiley Tyler, died of starvation and infection in a Confederate prison camp. He’s where my pen name comes from.

I wish I could say that these devoted Unionist ancestors of mine—who fought and died because they refused to be traitors to their nation—had been passionate abolitionists. They weren’t. But they did know that the reason behind the War was slavery. Frank discussion of that reality is everywhere in their letters—just as it is in the letters written by the leaders of the Secession movement. In 1860 and early 1861, a number of men were appointed by various Southern states to be secession commissioners. These men traveled far and wide, speaking and writing in favor of Secession. You can read their letters. I have. They don’t beat around the bush. They believed that Lincoln was going to destroy the institution of slavery. You can read these letters—this primary source material—in a book called Apostles of Disunion.

When we get our information second-, third-, tenth-hand—when it comes to us filtered and packaged by people with something to sell—it can be difficult to get at the truth. The myth of the Lost Cause is one of those packages. The Confederate monuments, most of which were put up in the 20th century, long after the War—including many that were built in the 60s during the Civil Rights movement—are part of that mythology, that package. And it’s a package that was designed for and marketed explicitly to white people.

Those monuments celebrate men who went to war against the United States of America. Men who went to war because the Republic was finally moving to end the practice of enslaving other human beings.

Enslaving. Other. Human. Beings.

My friend Lydia Netzer wrote,

A statue of General Lee is NOT the same thing as a concentration camp turned into a museum.

A concentration camp turned into a museum would be like a slave market turned into a museum, or a slave plantation turned into a museum.

A statue of General Lee would be like if you tore down a concentration camp and left up a statue of Hermann Göring on a pedestal.

Removing these statues—moving them, perhaps, to a museum where these men’s own words could provide context on their intentions in declaring war against their own country—is in no way “erasing history.” We must not let pat phrases like that cheapen the way we talk about and think about these grave matters.

We must go deeper than the talking points. If you are bothered by the idea of history being “erased,” then READ that history—the primary source materials that clearly, directly, unequivocally laid out the reasons for the war in the first place.

Such as this address made by William Harris, a sitting Mississippi Supreme Court justice, to the Georgia state legislature, in his role as a secession commissioner:

“They [Lincoln’s Republicans and the North] have demanded, and now demand, equality between the white and negro races…equality in representation, equality in the right of suffrage, equality in the honors and emoluments of office, equality in the social circle, equality in the rights of matrimony…

“Our fathers made this a government for the white man, rejecting the negro, as an ignorant, inferior, barbarian race, incapable of self-government, and not, therefore, entitled to be associated with the white man upon terms of civil, political, or social equality…[Mississippi] had rather see the last of her race, men, women, and children, immolated in one common funeral pile [pyre], than see them subjected to the degradation of civil, political, and social equality with the negro race.”

The push to remove Confederate monuments isn’t an attempt to “erase” history. Quite the opposite. It’s an effort to expose the truth that has been papered over for far too long.

Finally

April 13, 2016 @ 4:26 pm | Filed under: Fun Learning Stuff, History

All these years of the kids’ piano lessons have been leading to this.

Hamilton Vocal Score

early 20th century historical fiction reading list

January 4, 2016 @ 8:52 pm | Filed under: Betsy-Tacy, Books, Fun Learning Stuff, History, Homeschooling

Thought I’d share a few of the books I’ve tossed/will be tossing Beanie’s way during our 20th Century History studies…

Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart LovelaceRilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace. Betsy’s family, ever supportive of her writerly dreams, sends her on a trip to Europe in 1913. Venice, Germany, England. She’s in London when the Great War begins.

Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery. Always and forever one of my favorite books. Life on P.E.I. during WWI, with beloved brothers…and Ken Ford…away at the front.

 

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth CareyA Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. When you hit the Roaring 20s, you gotta read Cheaper by the Dozen. That’s practically a Law of Homeschooling.

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller. This was one of my favorite reads during the CYBILs 2014 judging: the story of an English girl who gets involuntarily (at first) swept up in the fight for women’s suffrage.

 

Lost by Jacqueline DaviesLost by Jacqueline Davies. Wrenching story (how could it not be?) about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

Stuff that’s working

January 31, 2014 @ 5:14 pm | Filed under: Fun Learning Stuff, History, Homeschooling

mapandcars

Some quick notes on things we’re using a lot lately:

Spellosaur app (Rilla and Huck). With the paid version, you can enter lists of spelling words for each kid. They both ask to play it daily, which is fine by me. 🙂 Huck’s favorite part is recording his own audio for the words, which he then laughs at on playback during the activities. I wouldn’t normally be working on spelling with a five-year-old but he enjoys the app so much, it isn’t work. For Rilla, I’ve been entering word lists from an old copy of Spelling Power. She also created a second user account to use for French words. Here, too, she loves recording the audio herself.

• I couldn’t find our Chronology game (I know it’s around here somewhere), but Rose and Beanie have been absorbing a lot of history this year, in a jumble of time periods. Science history in the Renaissance, American history between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, medieval English literature (now heading into Renaissance there too), all sorts of non-coordinated reading going on. We took our old timeline down last year—it was up too high and we weren’t really adding to it anymore—and I wanted some way to make chronological sense of all these events they’re soaking up. So I had a brainstorm and made our own custom Chronology set, sort of. We got index cards and wrote various key events and people on them, with a little stripe of colored highlighter on one side to indicate science, literature, arts, or political history.* They put the dates on the back of each card. We play the game just like Chronology: I put down one starter card and then they take turns picking another card, taking a stab at the date, and putting it down in a row in chronological order. If we can keep it up, we’ll build a nice collection of the main points of our history/science/literary studies this year. They get pretty giggly and competitive in the game, so it’s been way fun so far.

*A fifth color denotes fictional works related to a period we’re studying. There are certain novels and films that will always represent a particular time and place—Betsy in Spite of Herself, for example, popped immediately into the girls’ minds when we read about German immigrants building a home away from home in Milwaukee.

• The other thing we do quite a lot in our history studies is link whatever we’re reading about to our own family history, as far as we’re able. This applies mostly the 18th century and on, of course (although we do have a couple branches on the family tree traced back to the 16oos). I like to pull up our tree on Ancestry.com and take a look at who among our ancestors was living in a particular area at a given point in time. The big waves of Irish and German immigration in the first half of the 19th century, for example, became much more vivid to the girls when they got a look at the names and disembarkation dates of their forebears who were among those masses.

“Obnoxious and disliked”: you had me at hello.

September 3, 2013 @ 4:06 pm | Filed under: History

Some days you just need a little dose of Mr. Adams.

First Minnesota

August 15, 2013 @ 8:02 pm | Filed under: Betsy-Tacy, Books, History

1st MinnesotaImage source: Wikimedia Commons.

Reading this story, my heart is in my throat.

The Battle of Gettysburg, Day 2, July 2nd, 1863.

“The scene is the center of the American line. Most of the attacks on the flanks have been repulsed by now, or nearly so, and the sun is near to setting. The American lines are now almost set into the famous ‘fish-hook’ formation that one can find on so many maps. But the operative word is ‘almost.’

“In the center, there is a gap…”

The writer is Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, and his recounting of the events in the weeks leading up to Gettysburg has had me enthralled for days. I’ve followed him from Fredericksburg, Virginia—the town, incidentally, where I graduated from college, and where I met Scott—north to Pennsylvania, his posts spanning the months of June and July, 1863, just over 150 years ago. I don’t particularly want to be in Gettysburg right now; my attention ought to be far to the south, in Alabama. But I can’t look away. Lt. Col. Bateman’s account is riveting.

“In the center, there is a gap because one American Corps commander took it upon himself to move well forward earlier in the fight. The rebels are now finishing crushing that Corps. But ever since that audacious Union Corps commander created that gap in the first place, a succession of recently arriving units have been fighting to keep the middle from collapsing. Now, as the sun sets over Seminary Ridge, the game is almost over. But there is a half-mile opening in the remaining American line, and two whole rebel brigades are headed straight to it.”

You’ll have to read the entire post to get the full thrust of what’s on the line in this moment—heck, you ought to read the whole series—but some of you will understand why this next passage made me gasp.

The American Corps commander now in charge of the section of the line closest to the hole, a fellow named Hancock, sees what is about to happen. The rebels are moments away from breaking the center of the Union line. His own Corps line ends several hundred yards to the north. The next American unit to the south is a quarter mile away. Hancock can see the reinforcements he has called for, as can others on the crest of the hill. Those troops are marching at full speed up the road. By later estimates, the relieving troops are a mere five minutes away from the ridgeline. But the Confederates are closer.

I talked about psychology yesterday. I wrote about how sometimes something that can only be described as moral ascendency (or perhaps morale ascendency) can make it possible for a smaller force to defeat a larger force — first emotionally, then physically. Rufus Dawes and his 6th Wisconsin Infantry pulled that off on the First Day, albeit at a horrendous cost. General Hancock understands in an instant the bigger picture. This is not some small slice of the field. He sees that if the rebels make it to the ridge, they might gain the psychological advantage over the whole Army of the Potomac, much of which is still arriving. So the rebels must be stopped. Now. Here.

And now, what I am about to describe to you transcends my own ability to explain. Hell, it is beyond my own understanding, and I have been a soldier for decades.

General Hancock sees a single American regiment available. But, though it is a “regiment,” this is in name only at this point. A “regiment,” at the beginning of the war, would be roughly 1,000 men. Before Hancock stand 262 men in American blue. Coming towards them, little more than 250 yards away now, are two entire brigades of rebels. Most directly, half of that force — probably about some 1,500 men from a rebel brigade — were coming dead at them. Perhaps a thousand more, at least two entire additional regiments, were on-line with that main attack, though probably unseen by Hancock. But what does that matter? The odds were, already, beyond comprehension.

“My God! All these all the men we have here…What regiment is this?” Hancock yelled.

“First Minnesota,” responded the colonel, a fellow named Colvill.

First Minnesota.

That’s right, Lovelace readers. The very regiment Emily Webster’s grandfather fought in, the one Carney’s Uncle Aaron (her great-uncle, surely) died in—in that charge on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

“When Colonel Colville told us to charge,” [Grandpa] said, nobody ran out on that field any faster than Aaron Sibley.”

“You ran fast enough to get a bullet through your arm.”

“Only winged, only winged,” he answered impatiently. “It might have been death for any one of us.”

It was for a good many of them, Emily remembered. She had heard her grandfather say many times that only forty-seven had come back out of two hundred and sixty-two who had made the gallant charge.

—from Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace

“Every single man of the 1st Minnesota,” writes Lt. Col. Bateman,

“placed as it was at the crest of the gentle slope, could see what was going on. All of them were veterans, having fought since the beginning of the war. Each of them understood the exact extent of what they were being asked to do by General Hancock. And, it would appear, that they all understood why.

“On this day, at the closing of the day, there was no illusion that they might win. There was not any thought that they could throw back a force more than seven or eight times their own size. Not a one of them could have entertained the idea that this could end well for them, personally.

“I suspect, though of course nobody can actually ‘know,’ that there was only a silent, and complete, understanding that this thing must be done. So that five minutes might be won for the line and the reinforcements and that their widows and children might grown up in a nation once more united, they would have to do this thing. Then, as men, the 262 men of the 1st Minnesota followed their colonel as he ordered the advance, leading them himself, from the front.

“They charged, with fixed bayonets, to win 300 seconds for the United States. Union and Confederate sources agree on this next point: There was no slacking, no hesitation, no faltering. The 1st Minnesota charged, en masse, at once alone and together. One hundred and fifty years later, those 300 seconds they then won for the United States have proven timeless. Because it worked. They threw a wrench into the rebel attack, stalling it, before the inevitable end.

“And, as Fox’s Compendium pointed out in cold, hard numbers, it only cost 82 percent of the men who stepped forward.”

Grandpa Webster and Aaron Sibley are fictional characters, but they are based on real people, just as Emily and Carney were. In the afterword to HarperPerennial’s 2010 edition of Emily of Deep Valley, Lovelace historian Julie A. Schrader tells us that Grandpa Cyrus Webster represented a man named John Quincy Adams Marsh, the grandfather of Maud’s friend Marguerite Marsh, the “real” Emily. He was not, however, a Civil War veteran. Schrader writes,

“Maud appears to have based Grandpa Webster’s experiences on those of Captain Clark Keysor (Cap’ Klein)…. General James H. Baker, a veteran of the Dakota Conflict and the Civil War, was the basis for the character of Judge Hodges. In 1952 Maud wrote, ‘Old Cap’ Keysor and General Baker used to visit the various grades on Decoration Day to tell us about the Civil War…'”

Emily is, as I’ve often mentioned, not only my favorite Maud Hart Lovelace book, it’s one of my favorite novels period. Grandpa Webster is very real to me. I can’t describe my astonishment to find him there, suddenly, in Lt. Col. Bateman’s account, rushing unhesitatingly toward that gap in the line. 262 men made the charge. 47 survived. One of them was Cap’ Clark Keysor, who visited Maud’s school classrooms and told her stories she never forgot. Nor shall I.

***

For Lt. Col. Bateman’s entire Gettysburg series, click here.

For more background on the real people who inspired Maud Hart Lovelace’s characters, I highly recommend Julie Schrader’s book, Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley.

Related posts:
Why I love Carney
Why I love Emily
A Reader’s Guide to Betsy-Tacy

Bones Under Parking Lot Belonged to Richard III – NYTimes.com

February 4, 2013 @ 9:29 am | Filed under: History, Links

“We knew then, beyond reasonable doubt, that this was Richard III,” he said. “We’re certain now, as certain as you can be of anything in life.”

Methinks it’s time to reread some Josephine Tey.

Ancient Greece: An Incomplete & Rather Hasty Bonny Glen Roundup

June 20, 2011 @ 4:44 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, History

800px-Parthenon-2008

I’m still answering questions in the Open Thread comments (and will continue bumping longer answers to new posts, like this one).  Stephanie wrote:

I would love some suggestions for my 2nd grader – we are going to be covering Ancient Civilizations (Greeks, Romans, China) this coming school year and I’m wondering what read-alouds or chapter books you would suggest to her. She is an advanced reader so I’m looking for both books that would challenge her plus ones I could read to her with younger siblings. I’ve never tackled Greek myths before and need some age appropriate guidance! : )

I replied with a list of things we’ve read & enjoyed. I know there are lots and lots of other good books on these topics; this is just a sort of top-of-my-head collection of standouts from my family’s experience. And linking things nicely takes more time than I have this afternoon, so pardon the dashed-off character of this post.

UPDATED 6/21 to add a book I forgot—possibly Rose’s favorite besides the D’Aulaire. Adventures of the Greek Heroes by Mollie McLean & Anne Wiseman, a book she read so often I had to buy a second copy to replace the tattered, brokenbacked, page-shedding first copy.

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths is the main one, the book that has enchanted every single one of my girls from age four on. (Neither of my boys are ready for chapter books yet; see this comment for more on that.)

(D’Aulaire’s Norse Myths is another tremendously and enduringly popular book in these parts. Also the Trolls collection.)

Mary Pope Osborne has a lovely Greek myths collection as well. (And I’ll add, though off topic, a cheer for her Favorite Medieval Tales, a book I myself adore.)

A bit older, of course, and my kids go nuts for all things Percy Jackson.

Jim Weiss has several Greek myth cds—they + D’Aulaire are what sparked my Rose’s interest in Ancient Greece at age five, a passion that endures to this day. (Though lately she’s more into Egyptian mythology.)

Odds Bodkin has an Iliad storytelling CD—we checked it out once years ago after hearing many rave reviews, but I think I jumped the gun; the graphic snakes-eating-the-daughters-of-Laocoön part in the beginning terrified my tiny girls. I’m sure they would listen with relish these days, bloodthirsty lasses that they are. ;)

Oh, another big hit has been Famous Men of Greece by John Haaren (you can read it for free at Mainlesson.com). That one focuses more on historical figures (some legendary) than gods & goddesses.

Also, the Ancient Greece chapters of A Child’s History of the World.

As I said, there are oodles of other good books on Greek myths & historical figures, but these are the ones I can vouch for as having engaged my own children across a wide age span.

Oh, and for a while, they were crazy about this website where you can follow the adventures of some cartoony Athenians and Spartans.

Here’s a post I wrote in 2006 about Rose’s passion (age seven at the time) for Ancient Greece: What the Tide Brought In.

And one from another round of enthusiasm in 2009: This Week in Ancient Greece.

(That post reminded me, duh, of Padraic Colum’s The Children’s Homer, which Rose devoured that year. And that was the year I read huge chunks of The Iliad and The Odyssey to the girls—my college texts, not children’s translations, and they were so into it! Ages eight, ten, thirteen, roughly, I think? I can’t be bothered to do the math. Anyway, I mention this not at all in a braggy sense but quite the opposite: there’s a reason those cracking good tales have endured for centuries. They GRAB you, even if you’re little.)

I know the original question asked for Ancient Rome & China suggestions too; will tackle those in separate posts.

**UPDATE! Be sure to see the comments for great suggestions from other readers!**

More Victorian Stuff and a Note from Howard Whitehouse!

January 17, 2011 @ 7:27 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, History

Another quickie post to record some fun learning moments from this morning…I seem to keep doing this lately, these kind of “here’s today’s rabbit trail” posts. Bit lazy of me; I have a separate blog where I (sometimes, sporadically) record these things. Somehow it’s easier to do it here. Never know whether it’s of interest to anyone but our own family, but I kind of like having the archive all in one place.

Anyhoo. We read about Luddites in Story of the World (we’re bouncing, lately, between that and Abe Lincoln’s World and Landmark History of the American People—I may have said this already; and also by “we” I mean mainly Rose and Beanie and me), and then, taking the excellent suggestion of kind Anne in the comments, we visited the BBC Schools website’s section on the Victorians. I had forgotten about this site, which has a smorgasbord of fun stuff. We spent a lot of time there back in Ancient Greece days. Today we mostly looked at the photos and illustrations pertaining to the rise of factories, especially the parts involving child labor. My lasses are fascinated by the contrast between their lives and the lives of, say, an eight-year-old coal-mine door-opener in the north of England, in the days before laws were passed that said you had to be at least ten years old for that sort of work, and could spend no more than ten hours a day at it. Beanie will be ten in just over a week; the notion of spending all daylight hours huddled in a dark coal tunnel caused her eyes to grow as large as if she had, in fact, done just that. Well, almost.

We looked at Victorian architecture a bit, too. And then squeezed in a chapter of Strictest School in the World before lunch.

Speaking of which! Fun news from the author, Howard Whitehouse, who kindly wrote me an email yesterday! He’s offering a very nice deal on the three Emmaline and Rubberbones books: His publisher, Kids Can Press, has made it possible for him to offer a limited number of inscribed, hardcover copies at a much reduced rate:

$5 USD each, plus actual shipping at media (book) rate by the post office.  A set of all three, inscribed to whoever you like, would be $21 including a very nice mailer envelope (!) delivered within the US. More outside, obviously.

The books are The Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken (2006)—a Victorian prison break tale set at a boarding school involving flying machines and pterodactyls.

The Faceless Fiend, Being the Tale of a Criminal Mastermind, His Masked Minions and a Princess with a Butter Knife, Involving Explosives and a Certain Amount of Pushing and Shoving (2007)—in which a master criminal plans to kidnap lovable-yet-deranged Princess Purnah, with Sherlock Holmes, a Belgian Birdman, and an elderly dog.

The Island of Mad Scientists, Being an Excursion to the Wilds of Scotland, Involving Many Marvels of Experimental Invention, Pirates, a Heroic Cat, a Mechanical Man and a Monkey (2008)— where our adventurers are pursued madly, and a whole collection of Victorian scientists (some real, some not) are held captive.

Personally, I think those subtitles alone are worth five dollars apiece. 😉 We already own the first but I might take advantage of the sale to round out our set, and stash the extra copy away for a future birthday gift.

To order, contact Mr. Whitehouse at professorbellbuckle (at) yahoo (dot) com.


Official blogger disclosure notice: Nothing to disclose! Just passing along the author’s kind offer.