Tad Lincoln reviews the troops

The Union Light Guard was an independent cavalry unit organized in late 1863 by Ohio Gov. David Tod to serve as Lincoln’s military escort and bodyguard.  Here’s one veteran’s account of a memorable Sunday morning inspection:

Tad was present, dressed in the uniform of an officer, and accompanied Captain Bennett during inspection with the gravity of a veteran.  Inspection over, Captain Bennett took position in front of the company to deliver his usual scolding.  Tad stood by his side.  The Captain proceeded to criticize sharply the condition of the quarters.  He described the manner in which they should be kept and said: “The condition of the quarters is disgraceful.  Instead of being kept as they should be kept, they look like”——At this point Tad’s shrill voice rang out, completing the sentence in a manner more pungent than elegant and quite unprintable.  The effect was ludicrous.  The sternness of the Captain’s face relaxed in a broad smile, as he turned on his heel, while the company, regardless of discipline, burst into unrebuked laughter.

Tad decked out for action, from the Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War

James K. Polk Project reaches the finish line

Belated congratulations to the University of Tennessee’s own James K. Polk Project for completing its mission after more than six decades of scholarly effort,  The project’s staff have sent the fourteenth and final volume of annotated Polk papers off for publication.

UT has also been home base for two other presidential documentary editing projects: the papers of Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson.  Only one other university has hosted multiple presidential papers endeavors.

You could make a good case that documentary editors make a bigger and more lasting contribution to the historical profession than any other group of people, except maybe the archivists who preserve and provide access to the originals.  Books and articles will go out of date, but researchers will keep turning to the primary sources again and again, long after the folks who collate and shepherd them through publication have passed on.  Heck, this afternoon I was poring over material from a couple of documentary editing projects that ended more than a century ago.

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Filed under Tennessee History

King’s Mountain movie in the works

Well, folks, we’ve been doing what-ifs on this for years, and now it looks like somebody’s taking a crack at it.  From WBTV:

NORTH CAROLINA (Théoden Janes/Charlotte Observer) – The most noteworthy film credits he’s got to his name are producing and co-starring in a low-budget faith-based movie titled “Only God Can” and a small role as a character named John Rock in a practically-no-budget comedy titled “Cinema Purgatorio.”

She, meanwhile, is a Charlotte consultant who works with a few private equity firms and has no prior experience in the film industry.

Yet the startup filmmaking team of John Oliver (no, not the HBO talk show host; this John Oliver primarily makes his living as a voice actor) and Stacy Anderson says they are extremely close to beginning production on an ambitious new movie project that features a screenplay by a New York Times bestselling author and is set to be directed by an established Hollywood name.

And the thing they’re most excited about? “Revolutionary!” — which is the movie’s working title — has the Carolinas written all over it.

It’s to be set not far from Charlotte: Based on the Battle of Kings Mountain, the story centers on a ragtag band of militias backing the patriot cause that surprised and overwhelmed British-loyalist forces near the N.C.-S.C. line on Oct. 7, 1780, marking the first of a string of significant American victories that changed the course of the Revolutionary War in the South.

I haven’t read anything by Patrick Davis, the guy doing the screenplay, but it looks like his oeuvre consists of military thrillers.  Director Nick Searcy‘s got a whole slew of acting credits.

The good news is, they’ve already got NPS historians on board.  And it’s fitting that the people behind this have Carolina backgrounds and want to shoot the whole movie in the Old North State.  Regional, state, and sectional concerns have galvanized efforts to commemorate and write about King’s Mountain for well over a century.  This is partly because people hailing from regions associated with the battle and the men who fought it have been foremost in perpetuating its legacy.  That’s what I’ve argued some of my own research into historical interpretations of King’s Mountain.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how this progresses.  Wonder if they’ll go with my suggestion and cast James McAvoy as Ferguson?

National Park Service map via Wikimedia Commons

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Filed under American Revolution, History and Memory

Peale’s mastodon is headed back to America

While we’re on the subject of moving really big museum artifacts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is bringing the Peale mastodon from the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt back to the U.S. for a special exhibit.

By the time Charles Wilson Peale—artist, museum entrepreneur, and Rev War veteran—was excavating mastodon bones near present-day Montgomery, NY in 1801, the fossils of massive, elephantine creatures had been turning up in America for almost a century.  But Peale was the first to mount a mastodon skeleton for exhibition.  (Indeed, he was among the first to articulate any fossil skeleton for display.)  It became a star attraction at his Philadelphia museum, alongside his taxidermied birds and portraits of Revolutionary notables.

The mastodon figures in two of Peale’s artistic works.  He painted the scene of its exhumation in 1806…

…while its bones are visible beneath the curtain in the 1822 self-portrait, The Artist in His Museum.

Since mastodons became an emblem of the young American republic’s vitality—and since Peale himself was so caught up in the intellectual currents of the founding era—it’ll be nice to have this specimen back in the U.S., at least for a while.

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Filed under Museums and Historic Sites

The plane, boss!

Moving everything out of the ALLM to make way for our big renovation project has been a labor of herculean proportions.  But hey, at least we didn’t have to disassemble an entire DC-3 and haul it across town, like the folks at the Smithsonian.

The biggest items we had to take apart and move were a 3-inch Ordnance rifle, an ambulance wagon, and William Seward’s carriage.  Seems pretty easy compared to a 17,000-lb. aircraft, although we weren’t thinking it at the time.

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Six degrees of Little Bighorn

I learned two things about legendary Western historian Robert Utley from the blog of author, artist, and True West editor Bob Boze Bell. 1) He just turned ninety.  2) He interviewed a Little Bighorn survivor.

Ho-lee cow.  About the Little Bighorn thing, I mean—although turning ninety is nothing to sniff at, either.

I’m assuming the guy Utley interviewed was Charles Windolph, who died in 1950 at age ninety-eight.  Windolph was one of the men engaged at the Reno-Benteen sector of the battlefield, east of the Indian village.  He covered the troopers supplying river water to their comrades pinned down on Reno Hill, earning himself the Medal of Honor.

A veteran of Custer’s last battle living in the atomic age.  That’s quite a thing to get your head around.

Reno Hill. Photo by William Neuheisel from Wikimedia Commons

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New book on Banastre Tarleton coming

Oscar and Catherine Gilbert’s Bloody Ban: Banastre Tarleton and the American Revolution, 1776-1783 is on the way from Savas Beatie.  The Gilberts’ work on backcountry militia in the Revolutionary South has been good, so this one ought to be well worth a place on the shelf.  It’ll be interesting to compare their conclusions with those of Anthony Scotti, whose Tarleton study appeared in 2008.

Military history buffs should be quite familiar with Savas Beatie.  In fact, independent publishers like SB and Westholme have been putting out some of the most interesting Rev War and Civil War books of the last few years—fresh takes on important campaigns, new light on neglected events and theaters, and reconsiderations of prominent figures.

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Filed under American Revolution, Historiography