Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Looking back at the goth girls of 2009 / The U.S. Capitol lives on / Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump / A decade since the Arab Spring / The hellish three months ahead of us

This week: Looking back at the goth girls of 2009 / The U.S. Capitol lives on / Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump / A decade since the Arab Spring / The hellish three months ahead of us

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. After the insurrection
The Economist | January 2021
“The terrible scenes on Capitol Hill illustrate how Donald Trump has changed his party”

2. Our Capitol perseveres
By Greg Roney | Opinion :: The Washington Post | January 2021
“The Capitol Dome is topped by the Statue of Freedom, under which Lincoln lay in state for three days following his funeral. … The Union did not allow the South within the city limits, yet Wednesday’s lawless rioters trampled the Capitol’s sacred halls waving Confederate flags over the very spot Lincoln was bid farewell by a grateful nation.”

3. This impeached, one-term president refused to go to his successor’s inauguration. Now Trump will do the same.
By Robert G. Schafer | Retropolis :: The Washington Post | January 2021
“It’s been 152 years since Andrew Johnson decided not to attend the swearing-in of Ulysses S. Grant”

4. Raven, the Acid Bath Princess of the Darkness, Emerges from the Depths of Hell (the Internet)
By Clare Martin | Vulture :: New York Magazine | January 2021
“Their YouTube channel, xXblo0dyxkissxX, featured the girls and, occasionally, their friend Azer (who was briefly disowned after being spotted in a Hollister) dancing and singing along to the likes of Good Charlotte and Papa Roach, while also asserting their devotion to the goth lifestyle.”

5. The Next 3 Months Are Going to Be Pure Hell
By Timothy Egan | The New York Times | December 2020
“We are prisoners of our homes and our minds, Zoom-fatigued, desperate for social contact. As a nation, we are diminished and exhausted, and millions remain out of work.”

6. Pandemic-era Mardi Gras: No big crowds, but plenty of cake
By Rebecca Santana | Associated Press | January 2021
“The season is usually marked by extravagant balls and parades where costumed riders throw trinkets to the mobs of people packed along the parade routes. The coronavirus has put an end to those large events. But that has not stopped notoriously creative New Orleanians from coming up with socially distant ways to celebrate.”

7. How to Collect Salt
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | December 2020
“Find somewhere warm, near the sea, and fashion shallow evaporation ponds to concentrate salinity.”

8. Mapping Perspectives of the Mexican-American War
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: Effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade on the Americas | Russia’s October 1917 Revolution | The International Energy Crisis of 1973 | America and the Beginnings of the Cold War

9. ‘He ruined us’: 10 years on, Tunisians curse man who sparked Arab spring
By Michael Safi in Sidi Bouzid | The Guardian | December 2020
“Thanks in part to Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, Tunisians are freer than before, but many are miserable and disillusioned”

10. Fernando Pessoa
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2020
Also see: The Zong Massacre | Maria Theresa | Alan Turing | Macbeth

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Reading faster / Biden’s foreign policy challenges / Remembering a slave’s death in a pandemic / The rise of freebirthing / The fall of Rome and the fall of America

This week: Reading faster / Biden’s foreign policy challenges / Remembering a slave’s death in a pandemic / The rise of freebirthing / The fall of Rome and the fall of America

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. What’s next for America’s favorite news podcast
By Kerry Flynn | CNN Business | December 2020
“[W]ith an incoming president who ran on restoring normalcy to a chaotic White House, what remains to be decided is whether listeners will still flock to ‘The Daily’ for deep dives and explanations of the news.”

2. How to Read Faster
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | March 2020
“You tend to read faster by reading more.”

3. Biden faces a changed world and no end of foreign policy challenges from China to Iran
By Karen DeYoung | The Washington Post | December 2020
“Biden faces competing priorities, congressional hurdles and wary, if welcoming, allies. In some cases, such as with North Korea and Venezuela, the most daunting obstacle to foreign policy success is the one that has bedeviled several presidents before him. There are no good options.”

4. How to Talk to Yourself
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | April 2020
“Research suggests that people with low self-esteem who try to force positive self-talk can end up feeling worse.”

5. A Brief Appreciation of the Incest Gnocchi Scene in The Godfather: Part III
By Roxana Hadadi | Vulture :: New York Magazine | December 2020
“In the kitchen of Vincent’s club, though, Mary stops being his ‘little cousin’ and asserts herself as the executor of her own desires. She is a young woman discovering her sexuality, and I’m sorry, who wouldn’t fall for a man who makes his own pasta?”
Also see, from Vulture: In Conversation: Francis Ford Coppola

6. Cicely was young, Black and enslaved – her death during an epidemic in 1714 has lessons that resonate in today’s pandemic
By Nicole S. Maskiell | The Conversation | December 2020
“Throughout the United States, as COVID-19 affects frontline workers and communities of color far more than other demographic groups … I believe it’s important to look back at how a few marginalized and oppressed people who served on the front lines of prior epidemics have been treated and remembered. ”

7. ‘Women feel they have no option but to give birth alone’: the rise of freebirthing
By Hannah Summers | The Guardian | December 2020
“As Covid infections rose, hospital felt like an increasingly dangerous place to have a baby. But is laboring without midwives or doctors the answer?”

8. The Social Life of Forests
By Ferris Jabr | The New York Times Magazine | December 2020
“Trees appear to communicate and cooperate through subterranean networks of fungi. What are they sharing with one another?”

9. America Is Eerily Retracing Rome’s Steps to a Fall. Will It Turn Around Before It’s Too Late?
By Tim Elliott | Politico Magazine | November 2020
“Two thousand years ago, the famous Republic had a chance to reject a dangerous populist. It failed, and the rest is history.”

10. The Amazon has seen our future
The New York Times | October 2020
“We’ve been talking about ‘saving the rainforest’ for decades, but trees are still burning, oil is still spilling, and dams are still being built. Today, the people of the Amazon are living through the most extreme versions of our planet’s most urgent problems.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The fate of Trump’s followers / How we speak to our dogs / The women taking down Harvey Weinstein / Slavery in Native America / Are you doing enough?

This week: The fate of Trump’s followers / How we speak to our dogs / The women taking down Harvey Weinstein / Slavery in Native America / Are you doing enough?

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. What Will Happen to The Trump Toadies?
By Frank Rich | Intelligencer :: New York Magazine | January 2020
“Look to Nixon’s defenders, and the Vichy collaborators, for clues.”

2. Which Star Trek Captain Has the Best Managerial Technique?
By Keith Phipps | Vulture | March 2019
“We considered the captains featured in various film and TV branches of the Star Trek universe and tried to rank them based on who would provide the best work experience — and who would be most likely to bring you back home in one piece.”

3. Why Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis spent her final days in an office instead of a yacht
By Eric Spitznagel | The New York Post | April 2019
“What makes her editing career so remarkable — besides that it lasted longer than her two famous marriages combined — was how it shed new light on a woman whose name is synonymous with 20th-century glamour.”

4. Things People Say to Their Dogs
By Alexanda Horowitz | The New York Times | August 2019
“Our running commentary tells us a lot about who we are — and who we think animals are.”

5. Can CBD Really Do All That?
By Moises Velasquez-Manoff | The New York Times Magazine | May 2019
“How one molecule from the cannabis plant came to be seen as a therapeutic cure-all.”

6. We Have Always Loved Ranking Things, Particularly American Presidents
By Douglas Brinkley | LitHub | May 2019
“In the 18th century, when the Republic began, ranking the American presidents was not much of a discussion. Washington was a demigod, and Adams acted like one, making him a bitterly controversial second choice. From 1800 onward, however, as more presidencies piled up, the debate expanded, but only in a cracker-barrel way.”

7. 100 Women vs. Harvey Weinstein
By Irin Carmon and Amanda Demme | The Cut :: New York Magazine | January 2020
“The disgraced movie mogul finally faces his day in court. But as his accusers know best, there might not be a Hollywood ending. ”
Also see: The Complete List of Allegations Against Harvey Weinstein

8. The Voice of Orson Welles
By Farran Smith Nehme | Current :: The Criterion Collection | November 2018
“In Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), the summit of his work as a vocal actor, he is chronicling the decline of an entire wealthy midwestern civilization—both how the Ambersons pulled their own world down and what was lost with it. He does so with breathtaking grace.”

9. Slavery in Indian Territory
By Brooks Winfree | Not Even Past :: UT Austin Department of History | December 2018
“Many American Indian cultures, like the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, practiced a form of non-hereditary slavery for centuries before contact with Europeans. But after Europeans arrived on Native shores, and they forcibly brought African people into labor in the beginning of the 17th century, the dynamics of native slavery practices changed.”

10. Do you ever feel like you’re not enough?
By Mary Halton | Ideas :: TED.com | March 2019
“If your self-worth seems to rise and fall according to what other people think, you’re not alone. But you can challenge this mindset and find a new way of valuing yourself, says psychologist Meag-gan O’Reilly.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Your dog’s mind / John Bercow, the unlikely hero / Baltimore, the fallen city / La Malinche / Slavery in the Pacific

This week: Your dog’s mind / John Bercow, the unlikely hero / Baltimore, the fallen city / La Malinche / Slavery in the Pacific

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. ‘I shouldn’t really be saying this’: John Bercow on Brexit, backbenchers and why nobody dreams of being speaker
By James Graham | Prospect | April 2019
“The speaker’s chair has become the crucible for the whole Brexit constitutional crisis. And John Bercow is loving it”

2. The Tragedy of Baltimore
By Alec MacGillis | ProPublica | March 2019
“Since Freddie Gray’s death in 2015, violent crime has spiked to levels unseen for a quarter century. How order collapsed in an American city.”

3. Inside the grand and sometimes slimy plan to turn octopuses into lab animals
By Ben Guarino | The Washington Post | March 2019
“In a cavernous laboratory here, scientists are raising thousands of octopuses, cuttlefish and their kin as part of the Cephalopod Program, a three-year-old initiative to transform these sea creatures into the next lab animals. Cephalopods ooze scientific appeal: They have complex bodies, unusual genetics, impressive spatial skills and intelligent minds. Yet the animals can be reluctant to breed, hard to raise and difficult to keep from escaping their tanks.”

4. Let’s Journey Through the Mind of a Dog
By Erica Tennenhouse | The Crux :: Discover | March 2018
“While our grasp of canine cognition may never approach what we know of the human psyche, the latest research has yielded tantalizing nuggets about the inner lives of dogs.”

5. The Democrats’ Dilemma
By Tim Alberta | Politico Magazine | March 2019
“What Ilhan Omar and Dean Phillips tell us about the future of the Democratic Party.”

6. How Regime Change Breeds Demagogues
By Kristen Ghodsee | The New Republic | March 2019
“Economic liberalization can be just as traumatic as military intervention.”

7. Who Was La Malinche?
By Farah Mohammed | JSTOR Daily | March 2019
“La Malinche was a key figure in the conquest of the Aztecs. But was she a heroine or a traitor It depends on whom you ask.”

8. Richmond exhibit seeks to reimagine Confederate statues
By Denise Lavoie | Associated Press | March 2019
“The exhibit grew out of an international design competition that asked architects, planners, designers, and artists to reimagine Monument Avenue, a 5-mile historic urban boulevard where five giant statues of Confederate figures from Virginia stand, including Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and Confederate naval commander Matthew Fontaine Maury.”

9. How the Daughters and Granddaughters of Former Slaves Secured Voting Rights for All
By Martha S. Jones | Smithsonian Magazine | March 2019
“[T]he history of black women and the vote is one about figures who, though subjected to nearly crushing political disabilities, emerged as unparalleled advocates of universal suffrage in its truest sense.”

10. The Trans-Pacific Slave Trade
By Christopher Rose | Not Even Past :: UT Austin Department of History | January 2016
“At the height of the Spanish Empire, the Manila Galleon – an annual flotilla between Manila and Acapulco – was considered the lifeline of Spain’s economy, bringing silver from the mines of New Spain to the markets of Asia. On the reverse trip, the galleons would be loaded with Asian luxury goods, such as spices, silks — and slaves.”

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 28: Ira Berlin

From Oct. 2016: “Ira Berlin has been called ‘one of the greatest living historians of slavery in the United States.’ “

Dr. Berlin talks about his first plane ride, activism in the 1960s, and why he chose to exchange a lab coat for the historian’s garb. Also, Ira and Colin share their thoughts about the 2016 election.

via Podcast 28: Ira Berlin — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 25: Daniel Crofts

From Sept. 2016: “He is the author of ‘Reluctant Confederates’ and more recently ‘Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery.’ “

Here, he talks with Colin about growing up in Chicago, studying under C. Vann Woodward at Yale, and his adventures teaching in China, following in the footsteps of his missionary grandfather.

via Podcast 25: Daniel Crofts — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: George Michael dies / 2016’s best science stories / Texas and Planned Parenthood / What men should know by 22 / Plantations and public history

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This week: George Michael dies / 2016’s best science stories / Texas and Planned Parenthood / What men should know by 22 / Plantations and public history

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. Ex-Wham singer George Michael dies
BBC News | Dec. 25
“The star … is said to have ‘passed away peacefully at home.’ … Police say there were no suspicious circumstances.”

2. Ordered Deported, Berlin Suspect Slipped Through Germany’s Fingers
By Alison Smale, Carlotta Gall, and Gaia Pianigiani | The New York Times | Dec. 22
“Amri’s life and odyssey underscore a vexing problem, common in Europe: how to handle hundreds of thousands of virtually stateless wanderers who are either unwilling or unable to return home.”

3. ‘Life disappeared before my eyes’: photographer describes killing of Russian ambassador
By Burhan Ozbilici | The Guardian | Dec. 19
“Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici went to view an exhibition in Ankara but instead witnessed the assassination of Andrei Karlov”
Also, from the Associated Press: A look at the most significant attacks in Turkey in 2016

4. The Most Popular Science Stories of 2016
By Andrea Gawrylewski | Scientific American | Dec. 19
“The presidential election took center stage, but our readers were also fascinated by everything from particle physics and rage disorder to autism in girls and the polar vortex”

5. The Best TV Performances of 2016
By Tim Goodman and Daniel Fienberg | The Hollywood Reporter | Dec. 20
Sadness, fear, strength, vulnerability — 2016 had an incredible array of acting achievements.

6. Texas officially kicking Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid
By Alexa Ura | The Texas Tribune | Dec. 20
“Planned Parenthood had previously received $3.1 million in Medicaid funding, but those dollars will be nixed in 30 days …”

7. 22 Things Men Should Know By Age 22
By Todd Brison | Medium | Dec. 15
“Most of the people in your life now will not be there in 5 years. Tell them how much they matter to you today.”

8. The Plantation Tour Disaster: Teaching Slavery, Memory, and Public History
By Niels Eichhorn | Muster :: Journal of the Civil War Era | Dec. 5
“Regardless whether a plantation does or does not cover slavery, they provide an interesting mechanism to teach about the institutions of the Old South, collective memory, and public history.”

9. Mexico: The Cauldron of Modernism
By J. Hoberman | NYR Daily :: The New York Review of Books | Dec. 12
“To a degree, ‘Paint the Revolution’ is the story of the three star muralists, Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco, who along with the posthumously canonized Frida Kahlo, defined the new Mexican art.”

10. From White Knight to Thief
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | September 2014
“At the start of the terrifying market plunge of October 1929, he had bravely helped shore up the market by parading around the exchange floor, placing bids for shares of U.S. Steel, as well as other blue-chip holdings.”

Loreta’s Civil War: The proper costume of my sex

Velazquez barely escapes a hotel fire, reunites with her missing slave, and returns to Richmond to resume her espionage activities.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 25: Velazquez barely escapes a hotel fire, reunites with her missing slave, and returns to Richmond to resume her espionage activities.

******

In leaving New Orleans I had no very definite plans for the immediate future … but did not doubt of my ability to find a field for the display of my talents ere a great while. I was now more intent than ever upon being employed on detective and scouting duty, for which my recent residence in New Orleans had been an excellent schooling; so excellent, indeed, that I considered myself as well out of my apprenticeship, and as quite competent to assume all the responsibilities of the most difficult or dangerous jobs that might be thrust upon me. …

I judged that matters ought soon to be approaching a crisis somewhere, although exactly what definite aims the belligerents were driving at, if, indeed, they had any just then, I could not comprehend. I resolved, if a grand movement of any kind was coming off, that I must have a hand in it in some shape but that if something of importance was not attempted before a great while I would return to Virginia and see what Fortune had in store for me there. I judged, however, that I would not have much difficulty in finding work to do in the West if I went about looking for it in the right way, and I knew of no better locality in which to seek the information I needed before commencing operations in the field again than Jackson.

To Jackson, therefore, I went … and arrived just in time to witness an occurrence for which I was sincerely sorry. This was the burning of the Bowman House by [Confederate Gen. John C.] Breckenridge’s men, who were infuriated at being told that the proprietor had permitted the Federals to occupy the hotel, and that he had entertained them. … The unfortunate man was in reality not to blame in the matter, for the Federals had occupied his house without his consent. … This incident will serve to show the desperately unpleasant position of the non-combatants throughout this whole region at this and later periods of the war. They were literally between two fires, and no matter how peaceably disposed they might be, they could satisfy neither party and were made to suffer by both. The proprietor of the Bowman House was forced to witness a fine property destroyed before his eyes through the reckless and unthinking anger of men who never stopped to inquire whether he was guilty or not of any offense against them or their cause before taking vengeance upon him. He was reduced to poverty by the burning of his hotel, and I could not help feeling the keenest regret for the occurrence, although I recognized it as one of the inevitable calamities of warfare.

I was, myself, in the hotel when it was fired and barely succeeded in escaping from the building with my life. Not expecting any such occurrence, I had taken rooms and was proceeding to make myself comfortable when, all of a sudden, I found that it was in flames, and that it would be as much as I could do to get out unscathed. The men who fired the building did not give the proprietor an opportunity to make explanations, or if they did, they refused to believe him. …

Several times already had the Federals made attacks of greater or less importance on Vicksburg, which city was now the most important position held by the Confederacy, and commanding the Mississippi River as it did, its possession was considered a matter of the most vital importance. The fall of Vicksburg, everybody knew, would practically give the Federals possession of the river throughout its entire length, and as such a calamity would … be an even greater blow to the Confederate cause than the fall of New Orleans had been. … That sooner or later the Federals would make a more determined effort than they had done previously to take this post appeared to be certain but the natural advantages of the position were such and the fortifications in course of construction were so strong … that the utmost confidence in the ability of the garrison to hold it was felt by every one. …

On my arrival at Jackson I heard of my negro boy Bob for the first time since I had lost him, just after the battle of Shiloh. I therefore proceeded to Grenada, where I found the darkey, who appeared to be heartily glad to see me again after such a long separation. Bob, it seems, had gone plump into a Federal camp, having missed his road, after I had started him off for Corinth but, not liking the company he found there, had slipped away at the earliest opportunity and had wandered about in a rather aimless manner for some time, seeking for me. Not being able to hear anything of me, he had made up his mind that I was dead, and was quite surprised to see me turn up again alive and well. …

From Grenada, I returned once more to Jackson and found the place in considerable excitement over the prospective army movements but as there did not seem to be much for me to do in the particular line of business I desired to take up, I now determined to put my old intention of returning to Virginia into execution, and … I was soon speeding eastward again on my way to Richmond.

I should have mentioned that after leaving New Orleans I resumed male attire at the earliest possible moment and figured once more as Lt. Harry T. Buford. Perhaps if I had gone to [Confederate Gen. Joseph E.] Johnston or some other commanding officer of high rank and frankly stated that I was a woman, giving at the same time a narrative of my exploits, and furnishing references as guarantees of the truthfulness of my story, I would have obtained the kind of employment I was looking for, with permission to use the garments of either sex, as I might deem expedient for the particular errand I had in hand. …

Once past the Confederate pickets, I believed that I could easily reach Washington, and I felt certain that a skillful spy, such as I esteemed myself now to be, could, without great difficulty, find out plenty of things which the Richmond authorities would be glad to know, and for the furnishing of which they would be glad to extend me such recognition as I desired. The military situation in Virginia, too, was more satisfactory than it was in the West, and I had a hankering to be where the Confederates were occasionally winning some victories. Since I had been in the West, I had witnessed little else than disaster, and I greatly desired to take a hand in a fight when the victory would rest with the Confederates, if only for the sake of variety. …

The war had now been in progress nearly two years, and, although the South had not been conquered, affairs were beginning to look decidedly blue for us. All our fine expectations of an easy achievement of our independence had long since vanished, and the situation every day was getting more and more desperate. The country was becoming exhausted, and had not its natural resources been enormous, our people must, ere this, have given up the contest. As it was, with a large portion of the male population in the field, and with heavy drafts being constantly made upon it to fill the ranks of the armies, the cultivation of the ground was neglected, and the necessities of life every day became scarcer and dearer. We were shut out, too, owing to the stringency of the Federal blockade, from anything like regular intercourse with Europe, and all kinds of manufactured articles, and the food we had been accustomed to import, were held at such enormous figures, that they were utterly beyond the reach of any but the most wealthy. The suffering among the poorer classes in all parts of the South was very great, and in those portions which had been devastated by the tramp of the different armies, many of the people were very nearly on the verge of starvation.

It was fast becoming a serious question how long the contest could be prolonged, unless some signal advantage could speedily be achieved in the field by the Confederate forces. It is impossible to express in words how eagerly all classes looked for the achievement of some such advantage, and how bitter was the disappointment, as month after month wore away, and in spite of occasional victories, the people saw, day by day, the Federals drawing their lines closer and closer, and slowly but surely closing in upon them.

We were now entering upon the desperate stage of the war, when the contest was conducted almost against hope, and had the South been inhabited by a less determined race, or one less animated by a fixed resolve to fight to the very last, and until it was impossible to fight any longer, the Federal forces would have succeeded long ere they did in compelling a surrender of the Confederate armies. The men who commanded the armies, however, were not the sort to give up until they were absolutely defeated, and it was starvation, rather than the Federal arms, that at length forced the contest to the conclusion it reached, by the surrender of the armies under the command of [Robert E.] Lee and [Joseph E.] Johnston. …

Richmond … was a very different place from what it was on my last visit to it, as I soon found to my cost. Martial law was in force in its most rigorous aspect. … Beleaguered as Richmond was, every person was more or less an object of suspicion, and strangers, especially, were watched with a vigilance that left them few opportunities to do mischief, or were put under arrest, and placed in close confinement. …

It is not surprising, therefore, that almost immediately upon my arrival in Richmond I fell under the surveillance … as a suspicious character, and was called upon to give an account of myself. My story was not accepted in the same spirit of credibility that some rather tough yarns I had manufactured in the course of my career, for the purpose of satisfying the curiosity of inquisitive people, had been. … There was, evidently, something suspicious and mysterious about me, and, suspicion having once been excited, some lynx-eyed detective was not long in noting certain feminine ways I had, and which even my long practice in figuring as a man had not enabled me to get rid of, and the result was, that I was arrested on the charge of being a woman in disguise, and supposedly a Federal spy, and was conducted to Castle Thunder to reflect upon the mutabilities of fortune until I could give a satisfactory account of myself.

I thought that this was rather hard lines, but as good luck often comes to us in the guise of present tribulation, as matters turned out it was the very best thing that could have happened to me, for it compelled me to reveal myself and my plans to persons who were willing and able to aid me, and to tell my story to friendly and sympathetic ears.

The commander of Castle Thunder was Major G. W. Alexander, a gentleman who, ever since I made his acquaintance through being committed to his custody as a prisoner, I have always been proud to number among my best and most highly-esteemed friends. Major Alexander and his lovely wife both showed the greatest interest in me, and they treated me with such kindness and consideration that I was induced to tell them exactly who I was, what my purposes were in assuming the male garb, what adventures I had passed through, and what my aspirations were for the future. They not only believed my story, but thinking that my services to the Confederacy merited better treatment than I was then receiving at the hands of the authorities, interested themselves greatly in my behalf.

Both the major and his wife … seemed to be shocked, however, at the idea of a woman dressing herself in the garb of the other sex and attempting to play the part of a soldier, and they eagerly urged me to resume the proper costume of my sex again, assuring me that there would be plenty of work for me to do if I were disposed still to devote myself to the service of the Confederacy. The major, however … was urgent that I should abandon my disguise and represented, in forcible terms, the dangers I ran in persisting in wearing it.

To these remonstrances I turned a deaf ear. I had passed through too many real trials to be frightened by imaginary ones, and I did not like to change my costume under compulsion. I accordingly refused positively to put on the garments of a woman, except as a means of gaining my liberty, and with the full intention of resuming male attire at the earliest opportunity. Major Alexander, therefore, finding me fixed in my determination to have my own way, undertook to have matters arranged to my satisfaction without putting me to the necessity of discarding my disguise. …

Book gems of 2016, Part 5

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on slavery and the U.S. Civil War era

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Throughout the next few weeks, Stillness of Heart continues its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on slavery and the U.S. Civil War era

Emily West’s Enslaved Women in America: From Colonial Times to Emancipation (Rowman & Littlefield, 168 pp., $35) offers a stunning symphony of long-lost voices struggling to survive, caring for and protecting their children, and fighting to keep their communities intact. Few if any other scholars have studied slave women as deeply and broadly as West, and hopefully her work will become required reading in history and women’s studies courses throughout a nation and society that still owes them so much.

Patrick H. Breen’s The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt (Oxford University Press, 304 pp., $23.96) recounts the fascinating story of the 1831 slave rebellion in Southhampton County, Virginia. He then analyzes whites’ reaction to the rebellion, which in some ways is even more complicated and unexpected. As mobs exacted brutal vengeance on the slave populations — guilty or not — slaveowners found themselves protecting their slaves from their own white neighbors. Breen examines the manufactured narratives the slaveholders provided to the lynch mobs and deepens our understanding of the precarious stability of the antebellum slaveholding societies.

Mark K. Christ’s Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State (University of Oklahoma Press, 336 pp., $19.95) offers a fascinating analysis of the campaigns for control of the strategically valuable Arkansas River Valley, which were (and still are) overshadowed by U.S. Grant’s brilliant Vicksburg operations unfolding at the same time. His work challenges scholars, students, and enthusiasts to look beyond traditional war histories and theaters and envision a far more complicated war and wartime era.

For a personal account of how the Civil War ripped apart Arkansas communities, spend some time with Torn by War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Adelia Byers, edited by Samuel R. Phillips (University of Oklahoma Press, 248 pp., $19.95). Union military forces occupied her hometown of Batesville. She witnessed unprecedented suffering. The war overturned her understanding of her place in her state and in her nation. Byers takes her place alongside Southern diarists like Mary Chesnut and Kate Stone as an important witness to the wrenching changes the war brought to the South.

Another fascinating primary source is Vicki Adams Tongate’s Another Year Finds Me in Texas: The Civil War Diary of Lucy Pier Stevens (University of Texas Press, 367 pp., $29.95). Stevens, from Ohio, found herself trapped in Texas when the war broke out. Fortunately, she channeled her concerns, observations, sense of humor, and wide-ranging interests into a diary, which is an incredible encapsulation of wartime Texas from an outsider’s perspective. It’s a Unionist memoir with an extra twist, touching on gender identities, social changes, and even political loyalties, specifically when, like Stone, Stevens grew fond of Texans.

Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Tejas, edited by Jesus F. de la Teja (University of Oklahoma Press, 296 pp., $29.95), brings the necessary complexity to the story of Texas in the Civil War, shattering the assumption that the Confederate state was filled with Confederate loyalists. The essay anthology explores how Unionist Texans, slaves, German immigrants, Tejanos, women, and political leaders waged their own wars of independence or resistance throughout its societies and communities during and after the war.

John W. Robinson’s Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865 (University of Oklahoma Press, 204 pp., $19.95) paints a portrait of a place starkly different from what we know today. The small California town stood in the long shadow of San Francisco, and war brought economic and social strife to the area. Robinson explores how it became a microcosm of the struggle between pro-Union and pro-secessionist forces, a battleground between different races and cultures fighting for dominance, and the site of sickness, drought, and riots.

Stephen D. Engle’s Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union’s War Governors (University of North Carolina Press, 624 pp., $49.95) highlights a rarely-explored perspective of the Civil War. Governors of the loyal states gathered troops for the Union armies, marshaled public support for the war effort, and calculated political support for the Lincoln administration. Engle’s work is part biography anthology, part political analysis, and part homefront history. Engle enriches all three aspects of Civil War literature and highlights relationships that were far more crucial to Union victory than historians previously understood.

Louise L. Stevenson’s Lincoln in the Atlantic World (Cambridge University Press, 283 pp., $79.99) is a valuable addition to the growing scholarship on the Civil War in a global context. Personally, it is one of the literature’s most exciting, challenging, and fascinating conversations. Stevenson considers the African and European influences on Lincoln’s growth into a “global republican,” a champion of democratic republics in a predatory world of empires and kingdoms, and the supreme warrior in that global struggle who faced the challenge of civil war and saved the future of democracy.

Laura F. Edwards’s A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Nation of Rights (Cambridge University Press, 226 pp., $64) reminds us that the Civil War’s greatest effect was on American law and on the redefinition of citizenship, with all the rights that came with it. But Edwards is also careful to remind us that initial improvements did not lead to ultimate success or justice. The incredible accomplishments of the war and the Reconstruction Era required sustained commitment from subsequent generations for the benefits of those triumphs to take hold. Her history is a cautionary tale for modern citizens who not only take for granted today’s freedoms but also forget how brittle those rights can be when not actively sustained and protected.

Life and Limb: Perspectives on the American Civil War, edited by David Seed, Stephen C. Kenny, and Chris Williams (Oxford University Press, 240 pp., $29.95), offers vital insight into medicine in the Civil War, one of the era’s saddest subjects. For the men and women who participated as doctors, nurses, and caretakers, the war’s truest victories were found in their patients’ and loved ones’ survival and recovery. The essays explore the evolution of medical knowledge, the way writers coped with their experiences, the way the war shaped fiction, and accounts from the patients themselves. Nothing should be more important than to highlight the primal and complete suffering any war of any era unleashes on the human experience.

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Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Loreta’s Civil War: I told him who I really was

In the aftermath of the Confederate defeat at Shiloh, Velazquez is wounded, and she decides the surgeon treating her should know that he is treating a woman disguised as a man.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.


You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 21: In the aftermath of the Confederate defeat at Shiloh, Velazquez is wounded, and she decides the surgeon treating her should know that he is treating a woman disguised as a man.

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About five o’clock I found my boy near the hospital. He had my horse and another fine animal that he had picked up. In reply to my query, Bob said that he had found him in the woods without a rider. He was branded “U.S” and had an officer’s saddle on, and as he seemed, from outside appearances, to be superior to my own steed, I concluded to take possession of him. Mounting him, I tried him over a fence and a large log, which he cleared like an antelope, so deeming him a prize worth securing, I turned over my own horse to Bob and started him off on the road to Corinth. The boy, however, mistook the road, and went plump into the Federal camp at Purdy, thus depriving me of his valuable services.

As for me, I remained in the woods all night, the roads being perfectly blocked up with the retreating army, trying to shield myself as best I could from the furious storm of rain and hail that came on, as if to add to the miseries which the wretched soldiers of the Confederacy were compelled to endure on their weary march back to Corinth. Although I had escaped from the two days’ fighting unhurt, I was so utterly worn out and wretched that I really did not care a great deal what became of me, and was almost as willing to be taken prisoner by the Federals as to return to Corinth, with a view of again undertaking to exert myself in what was now beginning to appear the hopeless cause of Southern independence. I managed, however, after the worst of the storm was over to find a tolerably dry place, where, completely used up by the fatigues I had undergone, I fell into a sound sleep.

Rested but scarcely refreshed by a brief slumber on the damp ground, and with thoughts of the most gloomy description filling my mind, I mounted my horse at daybreak and started to ride back to Corinth. … I was so despondent over the way things seemed to be going that I had little heart to continue in the contest any longer. At the same time I was loath to give the thing up and could not help reflecting that the true spirit of heroism required me to bear adversity with fortitude and to seek to advance the interests of my cause, no matter how unpropitious the times might seem. …

On arriving at camp I found a mail awaiting me. Among my letters were some from my friends in the army of Virginia, and one from my little Memphis lady, which read as follows:

“Memphis, Tennessee, April 2. 1862.

“My Dear Harry: Yours was handed to me the next morning by our trusty and faithful old servant David, and I hastily opened it, knowing it to be from you by the handwriting. My dear, I am afraid that this will appear unintelligible, being wet with tears from beginning to end. When your letter was handed to me we were at breakfast, and grandpa was reading the “Appeal,” wherein it was stated that all officers and soldiers away from their commands should report for duty. I was afraid that you would have to go, but some hope remained until your fatal letter convinced me that my suspicions were too well founded. Alas, how vain are human expectations! In the morning we dream of happiness and before evening are really miserable. I was promising to myself that one month more would have joined our hands, and now we are to be separated — yes, perhaps for years, if not forever, for how do I know but that the next tidings may bring intelligence of your being killed in battle, and then, farewell to everything in this world, my prospects of a happy future will vanish, and although unmarried, I will ever remain the widow Buford until death.

And is it possible my dear Harry can doubt for one moment of my sincerity; or do you think that these affections can ever be placed on another, which were first fixed upon your dear self, from a convincing sense of your accomplishments and merit? No, dear Harry, my fidelity to you shall remain as unspotted as this paper was before it was blotted with ink and bedewed with tears. I know not how others love, but my engagements are for eternity. You desire me to remind you of your duty. My dear, I know not of any faults, nor am I disposed to look for any. I doubt not that the religious education you have received in your youth will enable you to resist the strongest temptations, and make that everlasting honor to the army, Lieutenant Buford, although not afraid to fight, yet afraid to sin. However terrifying it may be to meet death in the field, yet it is far more awful to appear before a just God, whom we have offended by our iniquities. There are no persons in the world accused more of irreligion than the military, while from the very nature of their employment none are more obliged to practice every Christian duty. They see thousands of their fellow-beings hurried into eternity without a moment’s warning, nor do they know but that the next day they may themselves meet the same fate. My dear Harry, never be ashamed of religion; a consciousness of your own integrity will inspire you with courage in the day of battle, and if you should at last die in defense of the right in your country’s cause, the Divine favor will be your comfort through eternity. In the meantime my prayers shall be constantly for your safety and your preservation in the day of battle, and my earnest hopes will be fixed upon your happy return. …

‘Farewell, dear Harry, and may the wisdom of God direct you, and His all-wise providence be your guard. This is the sincere prayer of one who prefers you before all the world. Grandpa and Auntie wish to be remembered to you kindly. I wrote to Brother that you would hand him a letter.

Your loving intended till death,

I give this as a favorable specimen of the love letters I was in the habit of receiving during my military career, and I have the less hesitation in doing so as it is one that no woman need be ashamed of having written. I could not help laughing a little as I read it, and yet I felt really sorry for the writer, and reproached myself for having permitted my flirtation with her to go to the length it did. The case was a particularly sad one, for the reason that the man who loved her devotedly, and who would doubtless in time have succeeded in curing her of her misplaced affections for the fictitious Lt. Buford, was among the slain at Shiloh. There was no braver soldier belonging to the Confederate army engaged in that bloody battle than Phil Hastings, and his death was doubly a source of regret to me, as by it I lost a warmhearted and sincere friend, and also an opportunity to undo the wrong I had unwittingly done him through capturing the affections of the girl he loved, by endeavoring to make matters right between him and her.

At the time of the receipt of this letter, however, I had something of more pressing importance to think of than explanations with Miss M. My boy had not put in an appearance, and suspecting that he must have lost himself, I started out to search for him; but, although I made diligent inquiry, I could not obtain any intelligence of him. This vexed me extremely, for Bob had become an invaluable servant, being very handy and entirely trustworthy, and I felt that he would be indispensable to me in the movement I now had more than half determined to make, with a view of trying to win the favors of Fortune in a somewhat new field of action.

To make matters worse, when about five miles from Corinth my horse broke from me, and stampeding out of sight, left me to get back the best way I could. I was now in a pretty fix, with scarcely any money about me, and with miles of terribly rough and muddy roads to traverse before I could regain my quarters. There was nothing, however, to do but to bear up under my misfortunes as bravely as possible, and so plunging through the mud, I tried to make my way back to Corinth with what rapidity I could. … Obtaining a horse from the quartermaster, I started back to the battlefield in company with Capt. G. Merrick Miller, who desired to bury the dead of his company.

The road was lined with stragglers, many of them suffering from severe wounds, who were slowly making their way back to their respective camps, and as we reached the scene of the late action the most ghastly sight met our eyes. The ground was thickly strewn with dead men and horses, arms and accoutrements were scattered about in every direction, wagons were stuck in the mud and abandoned, and other abundant evidences of the sanguinary nature of the conflict were perceptible to our eyes. I could face the deadliest fire without flinching, but I could not bear to look at these things, and so, after having made a number of vain inquiries for Bob, I rode back to camp, and said good-by to my Louisiana friends, leaving them under the impression that I intended to take the train.

This I probably might have done had I not fallen in with some cavalry who were about starting out on scouting duty, and been tempted to accompany them. This was the kind of work that I had a particular liking for, and as I had no definite plan for the immediate future arranged, and was desirous of finding Bob before leaving Corinth or its neighborhood, I concluded to try whether a little cavalry service would not be productive of some adventure worth participating in. An adventure of importance in its influence on my future career, sure enough, it did bring me, although it was not exactly what I anticipated or desired.

It was about dark when we set out, and we spent the night hovering about in the neighborhood of the enemy, but without anything noteworthy occurring. The next day we had a little brush with a party of Federals, and after the exchange of a few shots were compelled to retreat. After this, we came across some dead men belonging to the 10th Tennessee Regiment in the woods. Carefully removing the bodies to a field nearby, we put them in a potato bin, and with a hoe, which was the only implement we could find suited to our purpose, we covered them as well as we were able with earth.

While engaged in this melancholy duty, the enemy were occasionally firing shells in different directions, apparently feeling for us. We paid no special attention to them, as the Federals seemed to be firing at random, and, so far as we could judge, did not notice our party. Soon, however, [a shell] burst in our midst, killing a young fellow instantly, and wounding me severely in the arm and shoulder. I was thrown to the ground, and stunned with the suddenness of the thing. One of the soldiers picked me up, and stood me on my feet, saying, “Are you hurt?”

“No, not bad,” I replied, in a vague sort of way, but my whole system was terribly shocked, and I felt deathly sick. Before a great many moments, however, I perfectly recovered my consciousness, and by a resolute effort of will, endeavored to bear up bravely. I found, however, that I was unable to use my right arm, and soon the wound began to pain me terribly.

The soldier who had picked me up, seeing that I was too badly hurt to help myself, lifted me on my horse, and started back to camp with me. It was a long ride, of nearly fifteen miles, and I thought that it would never come to an end. Every moment the pain increased in intensity, and if my horse jolted or stumbled a little, I experienced the most excruciating agony. My fortitude began to give way before the terrible physical suffering I was compelled to endure; all my manliness oozed out long before I reached camp, and my woman’s nature asserted itself with irresistible force. … I longed to be where there would be no necessity for continuing my disguise and where I could obtain shelter, rest, and attention as a woman. My pride, however, and a fear of consequences, prevented me from revealing my sex, and I determined to preserve my secret as long as it was possible to do so, hoping soon to reach some place where I could be myself again with impunity.

By the time we reached camp my hand and arm were so much swollen, that my conductor found it necessary to rip the sleeve of my coat in order to get at the wound for the purpose of bathing it in cold water. The application of the water was a slight relief, but the hurt was too serious a one for such treatment to be of permanent service, so an ambulance was procured, and I was taken to the railroad and put on the train bound south, The cars stopped at Corinth for two hours, and, feeling the necessity for some medical attendance as soon as possible, I sent for a young surgeon whom I knew intimately, and telling him that I was wounded severely, asked him to try and do something to relieve my suffering.

He immediately examined my arm, and, as I perceived by the puzzled expression that passed over his face, he was beginning to suspect something, and guessing that further concealment would be useless, I told him who I really was. I never saw a more astonished man in my life. The idea of a woman engaging in such an adventure and receiving such an ugly hurt appeared to shock him extremely, and he declared that he would not take the responsibility of performing an operation, but would send for Dr. S. This frightened me, for I had witnessed some specimens of that surgeon’s method of dealing with wounded soldiers, and I insisted that he was too barbarous, and that he should not touch me. He then proposed to send for Dr. H., but I objected to this also, and finally, at my urgent solicitation, he consented to make a careful examination himself and try what he could do.