Monthly Archives: January 2009

Guilford Courthouse study on the way, and it’s about time

One of the most critical battles of the Revolutionary War was the brutal face-off between the armies of Nathanael Greene and Lord Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina on March 15, 1781.  It was a pivotal engagement, a Pyrrhic victory that crippled the British army and contributed to Greene’s reconquest of South Carolina and the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

I’ve looked long and hard for a full-length, documented account of this battle and I’ve never been able to find one.  That’s why I was thrilled to discover that a new one will be available this March, courtesy of UNC Press: Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse, by Lawrence Babits and Joshua Howard.  Babits is also the author of an incredibly detailed book on the Battle of Cowpens, in which he used intensive research to clear up quite a few misconceptions, providing us with a clearer understanding of that event than ever before.  I can’t wait to see what he and Howard have uncovered about one of the unduly-neglected battles of the decisive Southern Campaign.

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Filed under American Revolution, Historiography

Culling the blogroll

A few of my linked blogs went defunct, so I dropped them and added some worthies from the list at Cliopatria.  Have fun!

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The face of Lincoln’s father?

One of the highlights of the collection at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Harrogate, TN is the photograph seen here, which may be the only image of Abraham Lincoln’s father, Thomas.  It’s been published and reproduced numerous times since it first surfaced many decades ago, but there have always been doubts about the identity of the man in the photo.

It once belonged to the daughter of an Ohio veteran of the Civil War named O. V. Flora.  According to her, he bought the photo during the war in Coles County, IL from someone he believed to be a relative of the Lincoln family.  Thomas Lincoln did indeed settle in Coles County, and the man in the photo matches descriptions of Thomas by people who knew him, but a relic owner’s testimony and a physical resemblance do not, by themselves, a Thomas Lincoln photo make.

When I worked at the ALLM I did some research to try to settle things one way or the other.  My good friend Steven Wilson kindly offered to publish the results in the Lincoln Herald, a quarterly journal devoted to Lincoln and Civil War studies.  My long-ago little foray into the murky world of Lincolniana has accordingly been dusted off for publication in the next issue.

For such a seemingly narrow research project, I found this to be incredibly frustrating.  I ended up looking into everything from nineteenth-century clothing styles to Confederate subversive activity in wartime Illinois…and I still couldn’t conclusively determine whether or not the photograph depicted Thomas Lincoln.  I did, however, arrive at a tentative conclusion about which explanation is most probable in light of the available evidence.

Based on what I could uncover about O. V. Flora, the historical record relating to the circumstances under which he claimed to have acquired the photo, and what is known about the Lincoln family, I think the case for the picture’s authenticity  is much more sensible than the case against it.  All the evidence I was able to find will be available for both perusal and vehement disagreement when the forthcoming Herald rolls off the press.  Have a look and see if you’re convinced.

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Credit where credit is due

Here’s an interesting dilemma for those of you engaged in reading and writing about history online.  How should one go about attributing sources in a blog post, if at all?

In many cases, of course, historical bloggers are referencing another post, a website, or an online news story.  In these cases the sensible thing to do is provide a link within the text itself, which seems (to me, anyway) to make any kind of citation a little redundant.

Sometimes, though, one wishes to deal with a book or other published source.  Usually, when I’m talking about a book in general terms, I’ll just link to the title on a publisher’s or a seller’s page as a simple convenience for those readers who are interested in it, as I did here.

At other times, though, I’ll want to include a quote or other specific material, which would seem to require some kind of attribution.  When posting about a specific book, I once used simple in-text, parenthetical methods to reference a quote.  On another occasion, since I didn’t mention the book itself in the text of the post, I was at a loss as to how to credit the quote.  I finally fell back on the trusty and venerable footnote, but I probably just ended up looking like a pedantic jerk.

Does any of this even matter?  Should we try to employ the same scruples in blogging that we use in other types of historical writing, or is this medium too inherently informal?  Are there already standard blogging reference rules that I don’t know about?  The floor’s open for audience participation.

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Filed under History on the Web