Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Doghouse Riley

The worst thing about the internet is that it vastly expands the number of people whose suffering can crack you. Doghouse Riley has died - Douglas Case by name, was a blogger out of Indiana who has been a must read for years. He was always funny and sharp, on politics, bikes, Indiana-ness, education, you name it - I followed him to his blog from Roy Edroso's place, where he was funny and sharp, and stood out amidst one of the funniest and sharpest comments sections on the net... It is something how someone I never knew, never interacted with as anything other than a reader, can seem that important to you - but reading about his passing felt to me like a board to the back of the head. You maybe have become used to it with famous professionals, the Roger Eberts of the world, but the internet expands the pool so much....

Of course the best thing about the internet is that I know about so many people out there, that I will never meet, or interact with as anything but a reader, and who will still have made my life better. He was a joy to read, his blog absolutely essential. I will miss him.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday 10 in the Rain

Well, we've gone from a week of blistering heat to 60s and raining again, where we were at the beginning of the month. You get whiplash watching the thermometer this summer; and have had precious few really nice days to enjoy lately. Tomorrow is supposed to be hot again, though normal hot, 80s - I guess that sort of thing will have to do.

Music! next week, you'll get another band countdawn - this week, it's just the randomizer:

1. The Beatles - Good Day Sunshine
2. Acid Mother's Temple - Occie Lady
3. Badfinger - Take it All
4. Deerhoof - Lightning Rod, Run
5. Jackie Mittoo - Get up and Get it
6. Loren Connors - The Cart Ride
7. Bruce Springsteen - The Price You Pay
8. Decembrists - The Crane Wife 1, 2 and 3 (live)
9. PJ Harvey - Catherine
10. Decembrists - Leslie Anne Levine

Video? iTunes has certainly been clear about it's desire for something from the Decembrists - here's the Crane Wife live:

And PJ Harvey, I think:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Woe of RSS

I am in a terrible state of anxiety. I read blogs through RSS, not quite exclusively - but it's where I start for almost everything. Having Google Reader go away at the beginning of the month was a terrible blow - but for the most part, I made a simple enough transition to The Old Reader, and went on my way. I'm not entirely sold on it - it has some quirks I could do without, or that I haven't entirely figured out how to work around - but mostly, it's a nice replacement. Quick, stable, usable... no complaints.

But suddenly - they are down. From the looks of it, they moved their databases to a new set of servers - and things went pear shaped. They were offline a while over the weekend (irritating, but that's life) - but now, they have gone down, server issues, and have been down a while now. I am left without an RSS feed!

I tried out Bloglines before Google reader went away - it has some nice features, but it was noticeably slower than the Old Reader, and always acted a bit odd, so I went to the old reader instead.... and now, trying to go back, use it for a day, I see why I picked the old reader. Slow! weird stuff with logging in! took forever to bring up the last month's worth of feeds (since I haven't used it) - but then didn't mark them read right when I did. Oy. What a pain.

It's depressing how set in my ways I become sometimes. And a reminder of one of my hobby horses - that while the hardware keeps getting better and better and better, software does not. Software may add capabilities that it never had before - the way everything has integrated sound, pictures, video over the last 15 years or so... But I don't see the basics ever getting better - or even maintaining their quality. All this trouble with RSS has not made anything better - none of the alternatives are better than Reader was when I started using it, whenever that was. (08 or 09, somewhere in there, I think; though I don't know - I've been doing this a hell of a long time, and I lose track of how long it has been since I have changed some habit or other... I could probably figure it out by looking at how long it's been since I updated my blogroll...) It's more dramatic, I suppose, with things like word processors - I have expressed my opinions of MS Word from nearly the incipience of this humble blog - Word 5.1, back in 1991, ran better than anything I have on this machine now. Computers get more and more powerful - the hardware supports more and more things (from faster connections to cameras and sound to etc.), which find their way into programs - but while you can stick a video in a word document, here in 2013, MS Word itself does not run any faster than it did in 1991, nor has it added any word processing features that were not there in 1991. Indeed, the current version of word is markedly inferior to word 5.1, even in terms of features. Slower; less customizable; uglier and more confusing (those fucking ribbons!); not very compatible with older versions of word (and as might be apparent from these comments I have word documents reaching back to 1990; I have some word perfect and .rtf documents from 89....) Files have gotten bigger and bigger through the years, even for just text, though I'm not sure how much of that is real and how much is due to new disk formats. Etc.! I could go on... It is very frustrating - I use Word more than anything, this side of the internet - and am a lot more fussy about it than I am about browsers, and the latest version of Word (Office 2011 for Mac) is junk. Better, by a damned sight, than Office 2010 for Windows, which I'm saddled with at work, but that is no accomplishment - though even there - I never minded office 03. I skipped 07; I loath 2010. Here - one of the results of last year's (really bad) technical disaster was that I bought a MacAir (a device that delights me as much as anything I have used in years, I have to admit) - I wanted to get Office on that, but could not find my 2011 DVD (if I even had such a thing) - so I loaded 2008 on it. Office and Word 08 is actually a pretty good piece of software - certainly better than 11.

All right... Rant off! I am calm. I am annoyed - I have my habits for reading the internet, and don't like them disrupted, but it will be all right. Serenity now!

I think at this point, I am obligated to post a picture of a cat, attempting to help set up a mini-iPad:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Fun in the Sun

Summer is here with a vengeance I guess. Been hot all week, but today is supposed to be the worst - creeping up around 100 - oh good. I am out on my balcony typing this - it was almost comfortable out here yesterday at this time; today, already, it is sticky and a bit gross. Nothing I can do about it, I suppose. I think the worst of it is supposed to be over after today.

Anyway - for music? random is good.

1. DNA - 5:30
2. Jefferson Airplane - Go to Her
3. Radiohead - Codex
4. Liars - No. 1 Against the Rush
5. Ghost - Givers Chant
6. DNA - Forgery [2 DNA songs come up? randomness is sometimes very random.]
7. Wu-tang Clan - Sucker MCs
8. REM - Radio Free Europe [calling out in transit...]
9. Merle Haggard - Swinging Doors
10. Ryan Adams - Answering Bell

Video - a live DNA set seems in order:

And, oh - making their national television debut...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

54th Massachusetts at Fort Wagner

Another anniversary - via Lawyers, Guns and Money, I'm reminded that today is the anniversary of the assault on Fort Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts, made famous by St. Gauden, Charles Ives and Glory...

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Different Kind of Civil War Post

I have been writing mostly about battles, but I have been reading a wider variety of things. I recently finished reading Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering, about the process of coping with death in the Civil War. There was lots of death to cope with.

I was thinking about that last week. THe weekend of the 4th, my brothers and I went up to Bucksport and Ellsworth on a day trip; wandered around Fort Knox for a while, then went to Ellsworth, looking for our great-grandfather's grave. Our grandmother came from Ellsworth, though she moved away, and we hadn't been back all that often - but we knew some of her people were buried up there, so took a look.

We found it, the old man's grave; we then looked around for more ancestors, further back. This was more a shot in the dark - though the family hailed from that part of Maine, we did not know if they were from Ellsworth proper or somewhere else. In the end, we did find more: our great-great-grandparents' gravestone, to be precise:

Old Henry had an American flag next to him, and is listed as a veteran of the Civil War. He was not alone. There were quite a few graves of soldiers in the Civil War up there, most of them serving, like Henry, in the 1st Volunteers - a unit that, in fact, only served for 3 months. But Henry, and probably quite a few others, reenlisted in other units - quite a few of them (up in that part of the state, near Bangor, along the Penobscot) in what would become known as the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment. There's definitely a story there - the Heavy Artillery regiments had a strange history. They were posted in the Washington defenses for most of the war; they were very large, and they had a very comfortable duty, in the capitol, where they undoubtedly felt they were quite safe. But then Ulysses S Grant came east, and he saw thousands of men, trained and equipped and ready to be used, and he set about to use them. He came east with the power to take what he wanted, even if it made politicians nervous (and they were very jittery about the capitol), so he stripped the capitol's defenses, and assigned these units to regular infantry brigades and divisions and corps (and some of them were quite as big as a veteran infantry brigade all my themselves) and marched them off to Virginia with the rest of the army.

Walking around in the cemetery, not far from the Lunt family plot, I saw another one, the Higgins family plot. They too had a son in the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery. He was not so lucky (my great great grandfather survived, else I would have a different great great grandfather.) John P. died May 19, 1864, aged 17 years, 2 months, killed at Spotsylvania (probably Harris' Farm, right at the end of the battle.)

But what was really striking was on the other side of the stele:

That's lists three Higgins children, dying within a week of one another in March 1864, ae. 12, 10 and 2 - 2 months before John P. would die at Spotsylvania.

I know that sort of thing was more common in the 19th century - diseases could be deadly, whole families could die in a week like that - but it was worse during the Civil War. Especially in the south, where there was often serious shortages of food, medicine and so on - but in the north too. But here, too - one is struck by the weight of these deaths, by the weight of death itself in the war. That's the subject of Faust's book - the ways the country dealt with the shocking death totals. And it is hard to imagine how a family could deal with this - to lose three children within a week; then lose an older son 2 months later to battle. And imagining the mother's position - because John P. wasn't alone in the 1st Me. Heavy Artillery - his father was a captain. There may have been other brothers as well (I think a couple older sons did survive the war) - any of them could die at any time. What it must have been like...

All right. The regiment itself, I should say, left its mark on the war. They lost heavily at Spotsylvania, but even after that battle, they were still very large by Civil War standards - at Petersburg, in mid-June, they still had around 900 men. (400 or so would have been more typical...) And on June 18th, they were ordered to attack - next year, when it is time for the anniversary of these battles, I might go into detail... The Petersburg campaign was a blend of one of Grant's greatest moments, and the latest in a line of disastrous performances by the command structure of the Army of the Potomac. For now, leave it this way - by the time the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery was sent in to charge that June afternoon, it was too late - Lee's men were waiting, dug in to their eyeballs. THe rest of their brigade knew it - Bruce Catton reports one of them shouting "Lie down, you damned fools, you can't take them forts!" But the 1st Maine didn;t listen. They went in - they lost 632 men out of 900 or so.

One of them my great great grandfather, wounded. But he lived, served out the war, was mustered out, and went home, and had a family, and 10 years later my great grandmother was born...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Random Ten

Vacation over, things are back to normal, with no countdowns or lists to post, and no anniversaries, so here we go, ten songs, randomized:

1. John Cale - Woman
2. The Carter Family - I Will Never Marry
3. Tool - Pushit
4. Missy Elliot - Dats What I'm Talkin about
5. Richard and Linda Thompson - Smitty's Glass Eye
6. Destroyer - European Oils
7. Richard Thompson - I Still Dream
8. Mercury Rev - Secret for a Song
9. Cream - Politician
10. Beatles - Long, Long, Long

And today, from YouTube, we receive - Mercury Rev, a typically lovely song:

And - let's say - some latter day John Cale - just a video, but neat:

Friday, July 05, 2013

Cash Top Ten

It being the first Friday of the month, this week's music post goes to another countdown. Today's artist is Johnny Cash. I know I said last month that I would try to move forward through music I listened to, roughly in order - Cash doesn't quite fit that. I knew about Johnny Cash all my life, but started to really love him only later about the end of college. He's going here for a couple reasons though - first, on the 4th of July weekend, you need something American, and there are few things more American than Johnny Cash. Second - because, like the Beatles, I did listen to him all my life. And third, because of my mother. For whatever it is worth - Cash is the one real link in popular music between me and my parents' generation. This is something that has changed, I think, since the 70s. Us kids born in the 60s did not listen to the same music our parents did. Not as kids, anyway. Most of us, I imagine, at some point picked up on things our parents liked - whether that was classical or jazz or country or folk or old pop songs, whatever they listened to - but we did not listen to it growing up, and our parents did not listen to what we listened to.

I've made this speech before. Things are different now. As a kid, I did not know anyone's parents who listened to anything newer than Elvis - nor did I know any kids who listened to pop music from before Elvis. Now - I know plenty of kids who listen to Elvis and Frank Sinatra and the Beatles and The Ramones. Lots of adults who will listen to new music, stuff their kids like. That's all new... Except for country. Everyone listened to that (everyone I knew). We all watched Hee Haw; we all listened to country radio; and almost every family had a bunch of Johnny Cash records around. Some people, like my mother, only got the gospel records - others got everything - either way. We all listened to it; we all liked it.

Now as it happened, in the 70s, going through adolescence, discovering music I liked, for myself - I turned away from Johnny Cash. Some of my cousins were big country fans - I remember going up to visit summers, and preaching the wonders of Kiss and Styx, and converting them, lock stock and barrel, to cheesy metal and cheesy sorta-prog. And then, as I moved on (as I saw it) to Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, being horrified that they were still Kiss and Styx fans, a couple years later. One trembles looking back at the folly of one's youth. But getting back to Cash - he was sort of forgotten in the late 70s, early 80s - something grown ups listened to (at least in the places I grew up); someone who put out a gospel record every now and then that all the church goers might buy. But nothing there for me.

That was never likely to last. Once in a while you'd hear one of those old songs, and who could help liking them? or he'd record something new - a bunch of Springsteen songs, and a more than credible version of them. I suppose, for the public, he came back for real when he teamed up with Rick Rubin - for me, it was in the wake of the Springsteen album (Johnny 99). I paid attention to him - got a greatest hits album and remembered it all, and never stopped. When he did team up with Rubin, he puts out a string of fine records, with real bands or stripped down arrangements - it was the same thing he did in the 60s. And his past came back - the days when he was rockabilly; the days he worked with Dylan; the days (those live prison records, particularly), when he had a tight, rocking band behind him, and could negotiate everything from the coldest murder songs to the sweetest gospel. He still could do that stuff, and once he got back to doing it without a lot of fluff, he picked up where he had always been.

And so: probably the one pop musician my mother liked as much as I do, the chronicler of the nation, a man who knew thousands of songs and could make any of them sound like he wrote it about himself, and one of the Great Voices, Johnny Cash:

1. Folsom Prison Blues
2. I Walk the Line
3. If I Were a Carpenter
4. Ring of Fire
5. San Quentin
6. Five Feet High and Rising
7. Tennessee Stud
8. The Long Black Veil - that chuckle on the live version...
9. Jackson
10. Get Rhythm

Only 10 songs? well, that is the pain I have given myself. Video?

Ring of Fire:

Walk the Line:

And with June, singing Jackson:

And finally, because I grew up listening to it - Daddy Sang Bass:

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Lots of history happened today - besides what happened 237 years ago.... 150 years ago, Vicksburg fell, and "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea." At Gettysburg, the armies counted their losses and Lee prepared to leave. There was another year and a half of killing to go, but by this day, the military situation was pretty well settled.

Anyway - here today, things are rather less bellicose; the only casualties today are going to be swordfish steaks and hamburgers. Summer has arrived finally, hot ad humid, and going to stay that way a while... and now? I will leave you with a bit of Jimi, because, why not?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Gettysburg Continued

Today, I'm going to write a bit more about the military aspects of Gettysburg, the battle itself, the campaign, the strategy, and about the generals. About Lee, I suppose, in particular.

Gettysburg was one of Lee's worst battles. He was beaten - but more than that, the battle was fought in disjointed and unimaginative way, his generals failed him, or maybe his command structure failed him, and by the third day he'd run out of ideas and fallen back on the old stand by, the frontal assault, which went the way most frontal assaults went in the Civil War. But along with the Southern failures, one of the most important things at Gettysburg was that the Army of the Potomac finally had a general in charge who wasn't a fool, didn't panic, and could count. I've written before about Lee's luck in his opponents - McClellan couldn't count and saw disaster behind every bush; Pope and Burnside were plain incompetents; Hooker froze up when the shooting started. But Meade was different - not brilliant or particularly inspiring, but he read the situation, never panicked, didn't lose, and more importantly, didn't decide he'd lost before the fighting as finished. Put in all his men, that sort of thing.

The battle itself could have gone either way. It's true that neither side was looking for a fight at Gettysburg, but events fell to have the armies fight there, and both sides grasped what they found. Lee's army had the early luck on the battlefield - the positions of the troops before the battle favored them, and they got 2/3 of their army onto the field on the first day, 2 armt corps, Hill's and Ewell's, while the Union had somewhat less than a third of their army, 2 corps (though smaller corps than the Confederates), the I and XI. Hill's men came first, ran into the I corps, and got shot up pretty bad - but Ewell arrived, and the rest of Hill's men, and Ewell's men, in particular, got around the flanks of the XI corps, and caved them in. So all of Hill's men took on the I corps and drove them back with very big losses. (Somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the I corps lost the first day.) Meanwhile, the rest of the Union army came up, but not very fast - some of them, Henry Slocum's XII corps particularly, took their time about it. (That was another war-long trait of the Army of the Potomac - they did not always act with grew urgency; they seem to have picked up McClellan's tendencies, probably because he trained the whole army and almost all of its high officers, and show very little of the ability to move troops that Grant and Sherman had, or Lee and Jackson and Hill, on the other side.) But Slocum's performance the first day was actually rather anomalous at Gettysburg; Union officers showed great initiative throughout the battle. It started with John Buford, whose cavalry made a stand in the morning of the first day, and John Reynolds, who committed to the battle, and continued with Winfield Scott Hancock, who Meade sent to assess the situation, and who decided to make the stand here. (Hancock would end up being the central figure of the battle, in a lot of ways; his II corps held the center of the Union line, and Meade gave him a lot of the direct control of the battle lines, as the battle went on.) When Hancock arrived the first day, the army was in trouble - the I and XI were the only troops on the field, they had both been wrecked, the rebels were there in numbers - but the Union had strong positions south of town, it was getting dark, and the rebels were disorganized from the fighting, so things petered out. And everyone waited for the next day.

By July 2, most of both armies were on the field; the Union held a line of hills southeast of Gettysburg, the Confederates held a line of hills northwest of the town. The north, though, had the option of waiting - Lee, on hostile territory, would have to either take the fight to the Union or try to go somewhere else. Longstreet wanted to do the latter - march around the Army of the Potomac, try to lure them into a position where they would have to attack. But Lee decided to fight. And here - you wonder how much his previous good luck hurt him. Compare this battle to Chancellorsville - there, the battle took a major turn on May 2, when Jackson caved in the Union right flank, a complete success that ran out of time in the woods. The next day the rebels took up the attack again and drove back the Union, but only after a day of full on fighting (the second bloodiest day of the war). And by the end, the Union was established in strong defensive positions, with half the army uninvolved so far - but Joe Hooker was beaten. At Gettysburg, the same thing would happen - part of the Union arm driven in the first day, then a bloody toe to toe fight on the second day, that left the Army of the Potomac in a strong defensive position - but Meade was not beaten. He still held the high ground - he kept fighting. But on both the second and third days, Lee mounted major attacks against strong defensive positions, as if he took it for granted the Army of the Potomac would either lose the battle, or march away. And it didn't happen.

As it happened, the rebels had their share of luck on the second day. Lee decided to have Longstreet attack the Union left - Longstreet wasn't enthusiastic about it, and took his time. (And none of them did a very good job of determining the ground ahead, the union positions, and so on.) Preparations dragged on - and then Lee got lucky again. Daniel Sickles, commanding the III corps on the left flank of the Union line, decided his ground wasn't strong enough - so he moved his men a mile or so forward to a new line, longer than his original line, separated from the II corps on his right, and without any natural end to his line on the left, and leaving the two bigs hills on his left empty. All this happened just about the time the rebels attacked - so on they came, and the Yankees had to try to save the day. The III corps was shot to hell (wrecked, as much as the I and XI were - all three disappeared as units by the end of the year). The V corps came to their rescue, and got hammered as well, as did units from the II corps. The rebels almost took Little Round Top, a hill on the very left end of the union line, that would have given them a devastating position against the union line - Governeur Warren and Joshua Chamberlain became famous saving the place, Strong Vincent and Patrick O'Rorke and Stephen Weed could have become famous, but they were all killed fighting there... The battle stretched on into the night, with the confederates putting in more troops, the latecomers tending to hit the places thinnned out to save the left, so the Union had to scramble to meet those threats. Hancock was in charge of most of this battle - he met the threat as well as you could. (The First Minnesota regiment saving the day, there at the end.) And when this was done, the rebels attacked on the far right, on Culp's hill, where the union lines had been thinned out to deal with the threat on their left... But these troops were dug in deep and held, and darkness came and the battle stopped for the night.

So we come to the third day: this is the famous one, Pickett's Charge - 15,000 men marching across a mile of farmland into their doom. Right. People like to romanticize it, but the union soldiers had no illusions - they knew this was Fredericksburg turned around. (The way Fredericksburg was Malvern Hill turned around. Next year, they would all be topped by Cold Harbor. Frontal assaults against strong defensive positions were pretty much murder in the Civil War, though generals didn't seem to notice...) It is hard to imagine this attack working under the best circumstances - but add to that the fact that it was launched with a lack of coordination and consideration worthy of a McClellan or Burnside. Pickett was the centerpiece of the attack - he was Longstreet's third division commander (the other two divisions had fought the day before.) Pickett was supported by two of A.P. Hill's divisions - the divisions that had been shot to hell on the first day of the battle. Both lost heavily; both were under new division commanders. Longstreet was in overall command of the attack, but he didn't do much to coordinate with Hill's men. Neither did Hill (since it was Longstreet's attack). Nor did Lee. Hill's men were just told to go in on Pickett's left. They did, but they started behind him, separated from him, at a different angle, without much connection. The results? After a huge artillery barrage, that used up all their long range ammunition (while the Yankee gunners mostly waited) the confederates went forward - and were murdered. There were masses of guns on their right, that blasted Pickett's division lengthwise. There were masses of guns on the left that blasted the hell out of Hill's men. Union soldiers got out on both flanks and cut them down from the side. Hill's two divisions got half way to the Union lines and that was about it - they were just blasted apart. Pickett's men did better - partly because the artillery in the II corps, in front of them, had kept up the fight with the rebel artillery earlier, and used up all their long range ammunition, partly because they had a slightly clearer path, and probably because they hadn't been shot up two days before. Some of Pickett's men reached the Union lines, got into hand to hand fighting there, chased off a couple regiments, but they got there alone, the union line didn't break, and they never had a chance. In after years, the romanticists would cal this the "high water mark" of the Confederacy, but mostly this was just a pointless hopeless attack that killed an appalling number of men, to no purpose. (If there was a high water mark of the Confederacy, it was the day before on Little Round Top.) And that, more or less, was the battle of Gettysburg.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Gettysburg Beginning

150 years ago today, the battle of Gettysburg began. It started almost by accident - Lee had brought his army north, looking to case trouble, feed his troops, maybe threaten Washington, get the union nervous enough to pull troops away from somewhere else, Vicksburg maybe (fat chance of that happening, though), and eventually get in a fight and try to win, in the north, creating all the more confusion and panic - he had to hope. Marching north strung out his army, strung out the Union army, so both sides were looking for one another, trying to force the other to attack it, really. And Gettysburg was a road hub, and thus a convenient point for Lee's army to assemble. S they started to converge, but the Federals were there - a division of infantry found a division of cavalry blocking the roads to town, and got into a shooting match with them. Lee did not want a full on fight - but the division commander at the front started one anyway. With the cavalry - then infantry started to arrive, and Henry Heth (the division commander) continued to attack. The Union soldiers drove him back; most of the I Corps of the Army of the Potomac came up, opposed by half of A.P. Hill's corps - there was a hard fight in the morning, then it died down - but then Richard Ewell's confederate corps arrived, and attacked on the right of the union lines. By the time the day ended, the South had won a major victory - 2/3 of Lee's army made it up (Hill and Ewell), against about a third of the Union army (the I and XI corps), and the sheer weight of numbers won the day. Casualties were appalling - Hill's corps particularly was shot to pieces, losing far more men killed and wounded than the Yankees, though prisoners evened the total losses out. The Union retreated south of Gettysburg and dug in on a line of hills and waited for the rest of the army. The two sides would go at it for two more days before they were done....

It is the most famous battle of the war, far and away - the biggest battle, the most decisive Union victory, and on northern soil, which gave it additional importance and fame. And of course, it would be the site of Lincoln's greatest speech, in the fall of 1863. It was a crucial battle - and it provided three days of high drama - Warren and Chamberlain on Little Round Top, Pickett's Charge, etc. - stories and images to hang legends on. Now, it might not have been the most important battle of July 1863 - Vicksburg had a good deal more strategic importance - but happening so close to Washington, on northern soil, and, you can say, given the level of risk had Lee won...

So let us remember it today, remember the carnage of the battle, remember the heroism of the men who fought. We can note too that this was probably the last time the Confederates could have won the war - if they had smashed the Army of the Potomac, if they could have taken or seriously threatened Washington, they would have forced a peace. After this, all they could hope for is to run out the clock - still possible, but a hard way to win. I imagine Lee had that in mind, along with everything else - the hope that one big victory in the north could throw everything off, enough to give the south a chance. That didn't happen - it was a very long shot, probably longer than he thought - but it could have been, and wasn't because the union army won.

I will be back to this subject in the next couple days. I know there is a lot more to the Civil War than battles, but I can't help finding the military history endlessly fascinating. Have since I was a boy. So - in the next day or so, I shall belabor you, my readers, with more military details and more opinions on the generals and such... But for now - hold the whole thing in your mind.

And I'll note again Bob Bateman's series at Charles Pierce's blog - a fine place for a variety of stories, from a soldier's perspective.