The Emancipation Proclamation and its Role in GPO and African American History

February 5, 2014

February is National African American History Month, also known as Black History Month in the United States. One significant event in African American history happened 151 years ago.  On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, announcing “that all persons held as slaves” in rebellious areas “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” While this Executive Order only freed slaves living in Confederate states during the Civil War, it nevertheless ultimately paved the way for the eventual abolition of slavery in America and became an important aspect of President Lincoln’s legacy.

lincoln-signs-emancipation-proclamation-on-New-Years-Day-jubilee-dayIn his proclamation of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 2013, President Barack Obama encouraged all Americans to acknowledge and celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation and “reaffirm the timeless principles it upheld.

Image: Illustration of President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, in Washington. Source: AP 

As we honor African American heritage this month, I’m reminded of the Emancipation Proclamation and the “timeless principles” President Obama was speaking of.

A symbol of equality and justice

The significance of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Proclamation during the Civil War was two-fold for African Americans. As mentioned earlier, not only did it lay the foundation for the eventual freedom of all slaves, it also allowed black men to enlist in the Union Army and Navy. This strategic Presidential “war measure” provided African Americans the opportunity to join in the fight for their freedom, in effect enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

As history teaches, the Civil War was initially about preserving the Union; however, the Emancipation Proclamation also made it about freeing the slaves– “an act of justice” that would grant African Americans, and generations to come, equal citizenship in the U.S.

For this reason, the Emancipation Proclamation remains a widely recognized symbol of freedom in American History that will forever be revered in Black History.

Fancy-Emancipation-ProclamationImage: Engraving by W. Roberts with the text of the Emancipation Proclamation. Source: Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID pga.04067.

GPO’s role in the Emancipation Proclamation

But the Emancipation Proclamation also played a significant role in GPO’s own history. Did you know… the then newly established Government Printing Office printed the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation for President Lincoln as one of its first major tasks? The original printer’s proof version was displayed for six months at GPO’s 150th History Anniversary exhibit that opened in June of 2011. I (along with many other GPO employees and visitors) was given an extraordinary opportunity to personally view the original historic document, which contained the printer’s actual proofing marks with requested changes!

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERImage: Former Public Printer William Boarman views original GPO printer’s proof copy of the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation with Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray at the GPO history exhibit. In 1862, GPO printed the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation in general orders format, issued as an Executive Order from President Lincoln in his role as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. GPO printed 15,000 copies for the War Department, which were distributed to military commanders and their troops and diplomats in foreign countries. The copy displayed at GPO contained proofing marks; those corrections were made in the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Source: GPO

The GPO history exhibit is currently open to the public with free admission, Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm at GPO’s Washington, DC, headquarters at 732 North Capitol Street NW. Unfortunately, the landmark document, which was on loan for six months from the Library of Congress, is no longer available for viewing, but many more historic exhibits are on view for free.

Visitor at GPO History Exhibit carrying Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office 150 Years of Service to the Nation ISBN: 9780160887048Image: Visitor who has just purchased the GPO history book “Keeping America Informed” views the GPO 150th Anniversary History Exhibit. Source: GPO

To learn more about GPO’s role in the printing of this historic document and other important Federal publications, read GPO’s 150th anniversary history book, Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office 150 Years of Service to the Nation.

However, you can view and/or read the entire Emancipation Proclamation online at the National Archives website or visit the National Archives in Washington, DC, to see the original signed document.

Teaching the Next Generation about the Emancipation Proclamation

To help parents and educators teach children about the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation and its role in Black History, the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) published the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: Commemorative Coloring Book: Forever Free.

National Archives 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: Commemorative Children's Book: Forever Free ISBN: 9780160916342Image:  Buy the family friendly 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: Commemorative Coloring Book: Forever Free.

This 150th anniversary commemorative publication about the Emancipation Proclamation is not a typical children’s coloring book. The wealth of information contained within this great little read makes it useful as a history book for the entire family, not just for kids. For example, I learned about the origins of “Watch Night”:

On December 31, 1862, many enslaved African Americans gathered in churches and prayed. Throughout the night, they waited for the moment when the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect. This special night became known as “Watch Night,” and continues to be celebrated today in many African American churches on New Year’s Eve.

The publication opens with a brief history about President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It also provides portraits and short biographies describing historical events involving African Americans, such as Harriet Tubman, a former slave and Union spy who also helped recruit black troops, and Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist who helped Abraham Lincoln recruit black troops during the Civil War. It even includes a reference to this famous image:

reading-emancipation-proclamation-torchlightImage: By torchlight, a Union soldier reads the ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ to a room of slaves and their children, 1860s. The image was published as part of the ‘Life of Lincoln: Additional View’ series by the C.W. Briggs Company. Photo credit: George Eastman House/Getty Images

Other short biographies of important figures in black history covered in this book include Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and President Barack Obama.

National Park Service Discovering the Underground Railroad: Junior Ranger Activity Book ISBN: 9780160900181The National Park Service also has produced another children’s publication focusing on black history and mentioning the Emancipation Proclamation: Discovering the Underground Railroad: Junior Ranger Activity Book. Young children ranging from ages 5 to 10 and older are taught about the history of the Underground Railroad and the struggles African Americans endured in their quest for freedom. Activities include a wordsearch of terms related to the Civil War; a maze routing the journey to freedom; and a timeline highlighting significant events in Black History, such as the Emancipation Proclamation and much more. Upon completion of the activities, children are encouraged to send in their completed booklet for an official Jr. Ranger Badge. [Read about this and other Underground Railroad publications in our blog post: "The Underground Railroad Leaves its Tracks in History".]

How can you get these publications?

About the author: Guest blogger Trudy Hawkins is a writer and marketing specialist in GPO’s Publication & Information Sales Division supporting the U.S. Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov).

Images and additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram. Bartram is Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Federal Favorites: Our Best Selling Books of 2013

January 16, 2014

Ahhh…. It’s that time of the year again: Awards season! From the Golden Globes to the Academy Awards, red carpets abound with interviews of movie stars and other celebrities boasting about their best work during the past year.

We at the US Government Bookstore want to make sure our star publications and Federal agency publishers get their moment in the limelight, too. So, we are pleased to announce the winning publications that you, our readers, chose through your purchases over the past year: The US Government Bookstore Best Sellers of 2013!

Top-Government Books and Best-Sellers-of-2013 from the GPO US Government Online BookstoreHere are some of the more notable books, eBooks, posters and more that were winners in your eyes over the past year:

ART & TRAVEL

National Park System (Wall Map Poster)Americans love our national parks, so it’s no surprise the National Park System Wall Map Poster was a big hit.

Humanities-Magazine-2014-01Humanities is a bimonthly magazine published by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) which covers NEH sponsored research in the humanities and NEH programs and projects, as well as information on recent and upcoming NEH grants.

HISTORY

With the 150th anniversary and reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg last summer, The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863 was a smash success (Read our post “Gettysburg, America’s Bloodiest Battle” for more information).

Perennial favorite Underground Railroad: Official Map and Guide (Read our post “The Underground Railroad Leaves its Tracks in History”) was joined by two publications commemorating 50th anniversaries:

Book Cover Image for Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012 (Paperback)Finally, the Statistical Abstract of the United States, the last official edition published in 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau, contains a standardized summary of all official key statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States (Read our post: “Statistical Abstract and Print Mashups in a Digital Age”).

TREES & FORESTS

Book Cover Image for The Little AcornI won’t be going out on a limb to say that our customers definitely wanted to hug trees this year, as books about Trees & Forests topped the lists. Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down? and The Little Acorn are extremely popular books for children explaining about the uses and life cycle of trees.

Image for Timber Management Field BookHow to Prune Trees and How To Recognize Hazardous Defects in Trees for amateur and professional gardeners, landscapers and foresters alike, and the Timber Management Field Book serves as the most popular reference handbook for forestry professionals.

(Read our posts “Oh, say, can you tree? American Christmas tree traditions,” “Pruning Trees” and “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax Inspires Kids to Hug a Tree” for more information on these titles.)

BUSINESS AND LAW

A Basic Guide to Exporting for Small & Medium-Sized Businesses (10th Revised)International business entrepreneurs and would-be exporters have made A Basic Guide to Exporting: The Official Government Resource for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses a best-seller every year (Read our posts: “Exporting Made Simple and “Government eBooks Made Easy– and Sometimes Free” for more information).

Copyright Law of the United States in U.S. Code as of 12/2011Protecting intellectual property and privacy were extremely hot topics in 2013, making the Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws and the Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974, 2012 Edition (extremely popular last year (Read our post: “The Privacy Act: What the Government Can Collect and Disclose about Youfor more information).

TRANSPORTATION AND NAVIGATION

TAstronomical Almanac for the Year 2014 and Its Companion the Astronomical Almanahe latest versions of the annual best-selling Astronomical Almanac for the Year 2014 (Combined Print plus Online Edition) and The Nautical Almanac for the Year 2014 are critical tools to aid commercial and private navigation by both air or water (Read our post: “Navigating by the Moon, Planets, and Starsfor more information).

Specifically for maritime navigation, Navigation Rules, International-Inland contains the latest international regulations for preventing Book Cover Image for FAA Safety Briefingcollisions at sea as well as the U.S. Inland Navigation Rules which have been in effect for all inland waters, including the Great Lakes.

The FAA Safety Briefing magazine provides updates on major Federal Aviation Administration rule changes and proposed changes, as well as refresher information on flight rules, maintenance air worthiness, avionics, accident analysis, and other aviation topics.

CITIZENSHIP AND CIVICS

Preparing to become a United States citizen and reaffirming knowledge of the American system of Government is extremely popular with our customers, and this year was no exception. Top civics and citizenship publications for 2013 included the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence (Pocket Edition) and materials for preparing for the U.S. Naturalization Test to become a United States citizen—

(Read our posts: “Quiz and History for Bill of Rights Day December 15”, “Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?”, and “Notable Documents 2009: Civics Flash Cardsfor more information on these products.)

Another patriotic publication that proved popular (Do you like the alliteration?:-) was Our Flag, which briefly describes the history of the American flag and sets forth the practices and observances appropriate to the display of Old Glory, was a top-seller.Book Cover Image for How Our Laws Are Made

The Congressional book, How Our Laws Are Made, provides citizens with a basic outline of the numerous steps of our Federal law-making process from the source of an idea for a legislative proposal through to its publication as a statute and becoming the “law of the land”.

HEALTH

Watching our weight and eating better were definitely on the minds of Americans this year as Diet & Nutrition books and posters were best sellers, including:

Book Cover Image for Special Operations Forces Medical HandbookHealthcare professionals turned often to the U.S. Government Bookstore for Physician References & Medical Handbooks, Medical & Health Research, and Military & Emergency Medicine publications in 2013. Top on the list were copies of the new Healthcare Law, as well as the Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook.

But also important were publications used to improve the quality of healthcare research and patient care and safety. These included the ORI: Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research  (also available in Packages of 50) which provides guidelines for Public Health Service-funded researchers, as well as the TeamSTEPPS patient care and safety training materials for healthcare personnel, such as the TeamSTEPPS Instructor Guide (Binder Kit) and TeamSTEPPS Pocket Guide that should be handed out to all healthcare personnel who attend TeamSTEPPS training.

SECURITY AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

Emergency management personnel and first responders responded strongly to the many great safety and emergency response publications on the U.S. Government Bookstore.  These books and pocket guides topped their “must have” list in 2013:

Specifically for dealing with Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) and Chemical-Biological-Radiological-Nuclear-Explosive (CBRNE) incidents, clean-up and response were these best-selling guides:

The importance of radio communications was underscored by the popularity of the United States Frequency Allocations: The Radio Spectrum Chart (Poster) of all assigned frequencies and the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide which contains radio guidelines for establishing or repairing emergency communications in a disaster area.

GOVERNMENT

Every year, the publications containing the President’s proposed Federal Budget for the upcoming fiscal year are on our best sellers list, and the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget publications followed this tradition. (Note: Stay tuned! The new Fiscal Year 2015 Budget publications will be coming out soon from the White House).

United States Government Manual 2013 lists all federal agenciesThe U.S. Government Manual, the ultimate handbook of all Federal agencies, was a hit as it is every year. Now you can get the new edition: United States Government Manual 2013 (Read about it on our Blog post:  “Understand How the U.S. Government is Organized”).

Other “Best of the Best” Government titles include:

How can I get these “Best-selling Books of 2013”?

  • Shop Online: You can purchase these publications from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov by clicking on the individual links above in this blog post. You may also click here to shop our entire “Best Sellers of 2013” collection.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for one of these publications in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is also Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public. Assistance provided by Stephanie Jaeger, Sales & Marketing Coordinator for GPO’s Sales & Marketing Division that markets GPO’s publishing services to the Federal sector.


Quiz and History for Bill of Rights Day December 15

December 13, 2013

Bill-of-Rights-Founding-Father-President-James-Madison-statue-AP-PhotoImage: James Madison statue in front of Bill of Rights. AP Photo.

We celebrate Bill of Rights Day on December 15 every year in the midst of the bustling holiday season. Although it’s not a Federal holiday, it’s definitely a day for American citizens to commemorate the freedoms we enjoy by law. And no, the right to shop—while popular in America— is not listed in the Bill of Rights!

History of the Bill of Rights

The Founding Fathers drafted the United States Constitution during the First Constitutional Convention, held from May through September 1787 in Philadelphia. The completed draft constitution, sent to the States for ratification in September 1787, did not include any mention of individual rights. The framers’ focus was largely on structuring a strong government, and getting that structure put into place. Without such a structure, the Founding Fathers feared the country’s collapse into chaos or new attacks from outsiders. They left the issue of individual rights without adding it to the Constitution during that meeting.

As a result of this omission, Edmund Randolph, George Mason, and Elbridge Gerry refused to sign the Constitution on principle. Maryland delegates Luther Martin and John Francis Mercer reportedly walked out of the Convention, at least in part because the draft did not include a Bill of Rights. In September, Randolph, Mason and Gerry joined in asking for a second constitutional convention to address the issue of personal rights. All three men advocated strongly for a bill of rights throughout most of the constitutional convention. The people ultimately adopted the Constitution, sans any bill of rights, on September 17, 1787. Eleven states ratified it and it went into effect in 1789.

Founding Father James Madison was a delegate from Virginia who had been a key actor and speaker at the First Constitutional Convention. He had held onto the idea of the individual freedoms as discussed at that Convention. Although Federalist Madison was originally a skeptic about needing a Bill of Rights, like Randolph, Mason and Gerry he came to believe that the inclusion of personal rights was imperative to be added to the United States Constitution.

quote-enlightened-statesmen-will-not-always-be-at-the-helm-President-James-MadisonImage courtesy IZQuotes.

In Madison’s view, the value of a listing of rights was:

  • in part educational for the populace under this new form of Government,
  • in part as a vehicle that might be used to rally people against a future oppressive Government when “less enlightened statesmen” may be in power,
  • and finally–in an argument borrowed from Thomas Jefferson–Madison argued that a declaration of rights would help install the judiciary as “guardians” of individual rights against the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal Government.

Thus, while serving in the first U.S. House of Representatives, Madison framed and introduced the Bill of Rights as legislative articles to amend the Constitution on June 8, 1789.

He used as a model George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, written in May 1776, and also based his legislative articles in part on the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Magna Carta and other documents.

Painting-Adoption-of-VA-Declaration-of-RightsImage: This painting, The Adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, depicting the adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights by the fifth Virginia Revolutionary Convention was made by Jack Clifton in 1974. It now hangs in the Virginia State Capitol. Courtesy: Virginia Memory online exhibit of the Library of Virginia.

What rights are in Bill of Rights?

Painting-of-James-Madison-reading-Bill-of-Rights-to-First-CongressMadison included in his articles a list of rights of the individual, such as free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, free assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and others, as well as some limits on government powers.

Image on the right: Madison reading his Bill of Rights to Congress. Courtesy: University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

On August 21, 1789, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted Madison’s articles, proposed them in a joint resolution of Congress on September 25, 1789, and finally ratified them on December 15, 1791.

The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and is a key “fundamental document” of the United States Federal government.

Cartoon of the Bill of Rights depicting the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution. From a 1971 Teacher's Guide transparency for "Young Citizen"

Image: Bill of Rights depicted in cartoon format from 1971 Young Citizen teacher’s guide transparency. Courtesy: Syracuse University. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE and for teacher printable version.

  • First Amendment:  Freedom of Religion, Speech, and Press, the Right to Assemble Peaceably and to Petition the Government “for a redress of grievances.
  • Second Amendment: Right to Keep and Bear Arms- “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
  • Third Amendment: Quartering of Troops- “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
  • Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure- “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • Fifth Amendment: Grand Jury, Double Jeopardy, Self-Incrimination, Due Process
  • Sixth Amendment: Criminal Prosecutions – Right to  a speedy public trial by an impartial jury, to confront witnesses and to counsel for defense.
  • Seventh Amendment: Common Law Suits –Right to a Trial by Jury
  • Eighth Amendment: No Excessive Bail or Fines or Cruel and Unusual Punishment- “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
  • Ninth Amendment: Non-Enumerated Rights or “Rule of Construction of the Constitution”-  “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
  • Tenth Amendment: States’ Rights- Rights not explicitly delegated to the Federal Government in the Constitution are reserved to the States or to the People.

Where can you learn more about the Bill of Rights?

US-Constitution-and-Declaration-of-Independence-Pocket-Guide_I9780160891847 Buy at the US Government Online Bookstore http://bookstore.gpo.gpvIf you want to learn more about the Bill of Rights, an excellent place to start would be reading the source document, the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence; the GPO U.S. Government Bookstore sells a handy Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence Pocket Edition. The full text of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights is there for you to read and study.

US Citizenship and Immigration Service Civics Flash Cards for the US Naturalization Test ISBN-9780160904608 Available from GPO's US Government Bookstore a http://bookstore.gpo.govImage courtesy Citizenship Guru.

Kids in school, or adults wanting to revisit the fundamentals they learned in civics classes, can learn a lot from the Civics Flash Cards for the U.S. Naturalization Test (English Version)—and obviously the target audience, U.S. residents who want to become American citizens, will benefit from studying these, too.

Spanish-Civics-Flash-Cards-for-US-naturalization-test Tarjetas de Educación Cívica ISBN 9780160902048 Available from the US Government Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.govIf you’re more comfortable reading en español, you can study using the same flash cards in Spanish: Tarjetas de Educación Cívica para el Exámen de Naturalización to cover the same material.

You can also listen to the same questions in English on the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) website. (I didn’t see them offered in Spanish on their site, though.) If you’re cramming for the naturalization or a civics exam, listening to the questions is excellent reinforcement for your study plan.

Mini-Quiz from the Citizenship Test

Civics-Flash-Cards-Question-38If you’ve already read this post, or studied the Constitution, you will probably ace questions #1 and #2 of the United States naturalization test for citizenship:

  1. “What is the supreme law of the land?”
  2. “What does the Constitution do?”
  3. “What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?” (Bonus points if you get the answer to this question #5 correct!)

(Answers: 1- The Constitution. 2- Sets up the government; Defines the government; Protects basic rights of Americans. 3- The Bill of Rights, of course! )

For even more challenging questions based on the U.S. Citizenship test, take our fun Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?

In-depth civics questions can be answered by the capsule summary answers to the questions in Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lesson for the Naturalization Test 2013 (Book Plus CD). Students need to know the principles and background behind the answers, not just the answers themselves, obviously.

Question six asks, “What is ONE right or freedom from the First Amendment?” The text lists the possible answers, and then relates the reasons for the guarantee of those freedoms. The authors explain freedom of expression as follows:

“The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights protects a person’s right to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression allows open discussion and debate on public issues. Open discussion and debate are important to democracy.”

You’ll definitely have a thorough grounding in the basics of American Federal government by the time you’re done with the lesson.

The Right to Exercise… Your Rights, That Is

Exercise your right to open discussion by reading some of these documents, and talking to friends about them. If you are a school student, maybe you’ll have an opportunity to write about the Bill of Rights or the freedoms the Bill of Rights guarantee.

1963-2013-Civil-Rights-logoIn this year, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of three significant events from the Civil Rights movement— the March on Washington for Rights and Freedom, the murder of African-American civil rights activist Medgar Evers who was involved in efforts to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama— it’s a good time to reflect on our civil rights and liberties, and how lucky we are to have them.

Image: Civil Rights Movement 50th Anniversary logo. Courtesy: City of Birmingham, Alabama

How can you obtain official publications that explain the Bill of Rights and other documents of American rights?

About the author(s): Adapted by Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and the US Government Printing Office (GPO) Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram, from an original blog post by Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Happy holidays from us both!


Gettysburg, America’s Bloodiest Battle

July 2, 2013

Maybe you’ve been to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to tour the battlefield and visitor’s center. Maybe you’ve even gone to one of the annual battle anniversaries, where men and women with Civil War-era clothes and weaponry reenact the battle details with great verve. Lasting three days in 1863, from July 1-3, Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil, with up to 10,000 Union and Confederate troops dead and another 30,000 wounded. But surprisingly, this tremendous battle was a purely unplanned accident that grew out of a desperate need for soldiers’ shoes!

Gettysburg-Reenactment

Image: Battle of Gettysburg Reenactors at “the Wall”. Image source: Breitbart.com

Visiting the Gettysburg National Military Park

Having witnessed the activities of scores of reenactors who visited the park during the years I lived near the town, I know that people invest themselves very deeply in the Civil War in general, and in the Gettysburg battle in particular. You don’t have to be an extreme fan to appreciate the silence of the rolling battlefield landscape. Imagining the July heat, the stench of sweat, horse, wool clothing and blood, the cries of pain and death, is easy to do when you’re standing there on that “consecrated ground” as Lincoln said in his famous Gettysburg Address after the battle.

Park officials and enthusiasts always commemorate the battle days in Gettysburg, as is happening this week, and it’s a great event for those who can attend in person. When you want to actually (or mentally) place yourself in specific skirmishes in the battle on specific points on the field, you will need a guide. You can hire a guide to ride with your group and interpret the tour for you. That kind of activity is excellent, but is pricey and requires advance planning.

But if you haven’t visited the battlefield, this sesquicentennial anniversary year is a good time to make a virtual trip, if not a real one. (There are over 12,000 reenactors, with 300 foreign reenactors from 16 different countries, and tens of thousands of visitors anticipated for this year’s 150th anniversary reenactment!)

Starting with these guide and history books below is a great beginning to what could be a life-long interest.

The Best of Guides

To fully understand the Gettysburg Campaign and its significance as the pivotal point in the American Civil War, you need to learn from experts. Fortunately, GPO has publications from the two best sources: the US Army Center of Military History and the National Park Service.

The Gettysburg Campaign: June–July 1863 and Gettysburg National Military Park Handbook

   Gettysburg-Campaign-from-GPOThird in “The U.S. Army Campaigns of the Civil War” series  of campaign brochures from the U.S. Army Center of Military History that commemorate our national sacrifices during the American Civil War, The Gettysburg Campaign: June–July 1863 describes the turning point in the “Battle Between the States.” Authors Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler examine the military operations and strategies along with the somewhat accidental circumstances that culminated in the pivotal and devastating three-day Battle of Gettysburg. With many maps and illustrations, this helps provide some back story and military strategy, as it goes into the various skirmishes leading up to the battle starting back in June and up to the battle itself.

As General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army said,

“It had not been intended to fight a general battle at such a distance from our base, unless attacked by the enemy, but finding ourselves unexpectedly confronted by the Federal Army, it became a matter of difficulty to withdraw through the mountains with our large trains. . . . A battle thus became in a measure unavoidable (Campaign, p. 31).”

Gettysburg-National-Park-Handbook

The National Park Service’s publication, Gettysburg National Military Park Handbook, delves into the history of the battleground itself, that “consecrated ground” and provides a detailed guide of all the amenities of the park along with the on-field maneuvers and results, as well as insight into the personalities and anecdotes that such an epic event always generates. It also covers post-battle events, such as the establishment of a cemetery at Gettysburg and the genesis of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, as well as reproductions of 12 battle paintings by F. D. Briscoe. It’s like having a National Park ranger pointing out key aspects and giving you insights about this important national landmark.

Hooker out, Black Hats in

Through both of these excellent publications, you can come to know a bit about the personnel of the Gettysburg Campaign, such as the story of the last-minute, last-ditch replacement of General Hooker as Commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac by General George G. Meade. Commander of the U.S. Army General Halleck replaced Hooker at his own demand, and Hooker left his command in a great hurry. Meade arrived at Gettysburg knowing little of the status of his troops and even less about Lee’s troops. You can also read all the details of General Daniel Sickles’ unauthorized movements from Cemetery Hill.

Michigan-soldier-iron-brigade-Civil-WarDon’t forget to study the awe-inspiring story of the Iron Brigade, also known as the Black Hat Brigade. Some Confederates called them “them Black Hat Fellers” because of the black Hardee hats they wore that were different from the standard-issue Union blue kepi hats. Made up of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiments, the 19th Indiana, and the 24th Michigan, the Iron Brigade was famous for its fierceness on the field. The Iron Brigade made a tremendous impact during the Gettysburg Campaign, and they suffered dire casualties as a result. Their bravery in fighting on Herbst’s Woodlot and against the 26th North Carolina had a strong effect on the outcome of the Gettysburg Campaign.

Image: Gochy Charles. Company F, 24th Michigan (Iron Brigade). Image Source: WaterfordHistory.org

How can I obtain these Gettysburg publications?

The more you read about these and other stories of the battle, the more easily you can get drawn in to the story of all the human bravery, pathos and drama that was part of the Gettysburg Campaign and the American Civil War. Immerse yourself in the history of The Gettysburg Campaign: June–July 1863 and familiarize yourself with the park through the Gettysburg National Military Park Handbook. You’re likely to be endlessly fascinated.

Federal Depository Librarians: You can find the records for these titles in the CGP.

About the author(s): Our co-bloggers include: guest blogger Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP) and Government Book Talk Editor, Michele Bartram, GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager.


Agency of the Month: US Army Center of Military History

May 14, 2013

CMH_AgencyoftheMonth_Slide

We are starting a new series to feature various Federal agencies of note as Agency of the Month. With it being National Military Appreciation Month in May, Armed Forces Day this Friday and Memorial Day coming up in under two weeks, it is appropriate that we highlight one of our most distinguished and prolific agency publishers: the United States Army Center of Military History.

The Center’s Mission

What is the CMH’s mission? The Center of Military History (or CMH to military history buffs and cognoscenti) reports to the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army and is the primary historical branch for the Army. According to its website on its Origins, the Center is responsible for the appropriate use of history throughout the United States Army which encompasses these tasks:

  • Recording the official history of the Army in both peace and war, including written and oral history;
  • Advising the Army Staff on historical matters;
  • Providing historical support to the Army Secretariat and Staff, contributing essential background information for decision making, staff actions, command information programs, and public statements by Army officials;
  • Expanding its role in the vital areas of military history education, including working with Army schools to ensure that the study of history is a significant part of the training of officers and noncommissioned officers;
  • Managing the Army’s museum system and historical artifacts (See photo below);
  • Introducing automated data-retrieval systems and maintaining an Army history archive and publications list;
  • Maintaining the organizational history of Army units, allowing the Center to provide units of the Regular Army, the Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve with certificates of their lineage and honors and other historical material concerning their organizations.

Westphal-views-CMH-Museum

Image: (Fort Belvoir, Virginia, May 30, 2012)–Under Secretary of the Army Dr. Joseph W. Westphal visited the U.S. Army Center of Military History’s Museum Support Center Facility to view the impressive collection of over 16,000 pieces of American history housed in the state-of-the-art facility. Image Source: United States Army

Today, the Center is made up of a team of distinguished military historians, translators, editors, archivists, and even cartographers to accurately record, analyze and publish the Army’s history in all its forms.  These dedicated professionals live by early 20th century philosopher George Santayana’s motto, who wrote that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Research Focus Areas

Under the direction of the Chief of Military History and his principal adviser, the Army’s Chief Historian, CMH’s staff is involved in dozens of major writing projects at any one time. Topics can range from those that involve new research such as traditional studies in operational and administrative history (from the present on back) or the examination of such areas as procurement, peacekeeping, and the global war on terror, to name a few.

The Center serves as a clearing-house for all oral history programs in the Army, as well as conducting and preserving its own oral history collections, including those from the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the many recent operations.  Its famous end-of-tour interviews of officials within the Army Secretariat and Staff are critical for providing a basis for its annual histories of the Department of the Army.

“Famous and Favorite” CMH Publications

With hundreds of top-quality publications available from the Center of Military History, and many of these award-winning books, it’s hard to choose just a few, so I’ll highlight some currently available titles that are not only my personal favorites, but that also just happen to be customer favorites and best-sellers as well.

Civil War Sesquicentennial Series

The Center traces its lineage back to those historians under the Secretary of War who compiled the Official Records of the Rebellion, a monumental history of the Civil War begun in 1874. Today with America honoring the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Center returns to those roots by producing a series of commemorative campaign brochures for the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

The Civil-War-Begins: Opening Clashes 1861 a Center of Military History publication 75-2The first title in this series, The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861, is already out and describes those confusing and bloody early battles. (Read our earlier review of this title on this blog, entitled First Blood: Year One of the War Between the States.)

How to obtain The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861?  Order it from the U.S. Government Bookstore website:

Additional brochures covering Chancellorsville, Vicksburg and Gettysburg are due out after Memorial Day.

Army History Bulletin

One of the Center’s most popular publications for the public and military alike is its best-selling quarterly journal entitled “ Army History: The Professional Bulletin of Army History.”

Army History: Professional Bulletin of U.S. Army History Spring-2013_AH87This full-color magazine has articles spanning the gamut of Army history topics by a myriad of knowledgeable authors. For example, the Spring 2013 issue features these guest articles:  “The Doughboys Make Good: American Victories at St. Mihiel and Blanc Mont Ridge“, by Mark E. Grotelueschen and “The Indomitable Dr. Augusta: The First Black Physician in the U.S. Army“, by Gerald S. Henig.

Regular columns in Army History include: News Notes, U.S. Army Artifact Spotlight, Book Reviews and Chief Historian’s Footnote.

How can I obtain the Army History: The Professional Bulletin of Army History?

World War II Collected Works

Perhaps my personal favorite is The U.S. Army and World War II: Collected Works (DVD). It is a comprehensive DVD compilation of PDFs of every book on World War II that the Center of Military History every published, which encompasses an astonishing 156 volumes!

The U.S. Army and World War II: Collected Works (DVD)For fans of World War 2 history, it doesn’t get any better—or more comprehensive—than this, as battles, tactics, and outcomes are sourced straight from those who were in the thick of things and analyzed by top historical experts.

How can I obtain “The U.S. Army and World War II: Collected Works (DVD)”?

Thus, as we honor our members of the Armed Forces this week and remember our lost servicemen and women on Memorial Day, we can be comforted by the fact that the dedicated team at the Center of Military History is there to ensure that their sacrifice, wisdom and experiences are not forgotten.

About the author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


From Prairies to Peaks with Rockies and Roosevelts

April 3, 2013

Guest blogger GPO Public Relations Specialist Emma Wojtowicz reviews this new publication by the U.S. Forest Service that explores the history of the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain region, including the involvement of two Roosevelts.

From-Prairies-to-Peaks-US-Forest-ServiceThose traveling west-bound for spring break and summer vacation should check out From Prairies to Peaks: A History of the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, 1905-2012. This publication focuses on the Rocky Mountain region, which encompasses Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming and is home to 17 national forests and seven national grasslands.  In From Prairies to Peaks, author Anthony Godfrey takes readers on a tour of the Rocky Mountains to learn about the topography, climate and wildlife as well as the history stretching from when Native Americans originally inhabited the region to the preservation efforts made in recent decades by the Forest Service.

Readers must be true aficionados of the West and Rocky Mountains to digest this nearly 400-page publication. The history is very detailed, but very fascinating.  During the development of the West in the 19th century, it was believed that the United States had an abundance of forest resources, and millions of acres of trees were cleared as a result.

After the Civil War, the threat of a timber famine alerted the government to the problem and brought greater attention to forest management. Passed under President Theodore Roosevelt, the Federal Forest Transfer Act of 1905 moved control of the 63 million acres of national forest reserves from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Forestry, which was renamed the Forest Service.

President-Theodore-Roosevelt-1908-Cartoon-as-Practical-Forester

Image: 1908 editorial cartoon of President Theodore Roosevelt as “A Practical Forester.”  Source: St. Paul Minnesota “Pioneer Press”.

One of the most interesting time periods for the region was the 1920s-1930s. Upkeep and development of the Rocky Mountain region created many jobs for men through New Deal programs during the Great Depression.  In national forests, workers were assigned to tree planting and thinning, insect and rodent control, road building and improvement, telephone line construction, and lookout tower and house construction to increase communication for fire control and timber conservation.

Then during the Dust Bowl, the region played an important role in President Franklin Roosevelt’s Great Plains Shelterbelt Project from 1934-1942, which involved planting a shelterbelt or windbreak of drought-resistant trees and shrubs and from Canada to northern Texas to protect against the winds and prevent erosion.

10-row-shelterbelt-cross-sectionImage: Cross-section of a shelterbelt of various sized evergreens, large and small deciduous trees, and shrubs using the Forest Service-recommended standard of 10 rows that serve as a windbreak and wildlife shelter. Image source: MyFarmlife.com.

The Forest Service assigned the Rocky Mountain region with supervising the planting of more than 217 million trees and shrubs on the windward side of more than 30,000 individual farms. This is just a snapshot of the in-depth history chronicled in this publication.

Planting-first-shelterbelt-tree-OKFrom Prairies to Peaks provides a historical account of one of the lesser known regions in the United States. The West conjures images of cowboys, mountains, hikers and skiers, but there is more to the Rocky Mountain region.

This publication is a great resource for those interested in learning more about the West and the Forest Service. And for those already familiar with the Rocky Mountains region, this book will help you brush up on your history.

Image: Planting the first tree in the Nation’s first shelterbelt on the H.E. Curtis farm near Mangum in Greer county, Oklahoma, on March 18, 1935. Image source: Oklahoma Farm Report.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THIS  PUBLICATION: From Prairies to Peaks: A History of the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, 1905-2012?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

The Untold Story Behind the Engineering of Washington DC

January 24, 2013

Watching the many tourists visiting my hometown of Washington, DC this week for the Presidential Inauguration and enjoying the wonders of our beautiful neo-classical architecture in our monuments, buildings and museums, I was inspired to write this post on this intriguing new book by Washington, D.C. and architectural historian Pamela Scott entitled Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004.

Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004. ISBN-9780160795572Although best known for its “water resources and environmental work and its construction of facilities on military bases,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers played a pivotal role in the design and construction of our Nation’s capital: Washington, D.C.  Not only did Army Engineers fill the role of one of three commissioners who ran the city, they were instrumental in constructing a new and rapidly growing city on donated land, including literally creating land out of swampy terrain on the banks of the Potomac River where today National Airport, majestic monuments and sprawling public spaces can be found.

The purpose of this large, beautifully presented book is to bring to the public’s awareness the depth of involvement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the design, development, construction, and maintenance of our Nation’s capital by effectively chronicling its history and showcasing rare images, maps, and drawings of the Corps’ work.  In the preface we learn that many of these images were in poor condition and not accessible to the public before, but the advent of digital photography and scanning has made these available to stunning impact in this high-quality publication.

The book is broken into 6 sections covering periods from 1790 to 2004:

  1. The Grand Design, 1790-1800. During this period our first President George Washington hires French engineer Peter Charles L’Enfant (who had served with him in the Continental Army) to create a grand vision to lay out the city on the land donated for the purpose from Maryland and Virginia. In addition to creating the original plan for the capital city of this new nation that was reminiscent of Paris, L’Enfant also proposed the founding of the permanent Corps of Engineers to “play a key role in the development of the country’s public as well as military infrastructure.”
  2. The Antebellum City, 1800-1865, is a period where The Smithsonian Institution is built along with the start of the Capitol, and infrastructure begins to be laid.
  3. The Victorian City, 1865-1890, marks the building of the Washington Monument and the Library of Congress.
  4. The Progressive City, 1890-1915 delivers the Government Printing Office, The Lincoln Memorial, Rock Creek Park, and Potomac River bridges.
  5. The Expanding City, 1915-1950, is the period during two world wars, and noted is the building of the Pentagon among other Federal buildings and growing infrastructure.
  6. Metropolis, 1950-2004 is the final stage covered, when the city turns into a metropolis, and requires expanded infrastructure to support this.

However, the most fascinating part of the book is the many anecdotes sprinkled throughout, giving the reader a feel for the many strong personalities involved in building the beautiful city we have today and the many controversies that surfaced throughout the over two centuries since its founding.

For example, this year’s Inaugural Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) organized the 2013 Inauguration ceremony around a theme commemorating the completion of the Capitol Dome 150 years prior on December 2, 1863, two years ahead of President Lincoln’s second inauguration on March 4, 1865.  Said Senator Schumer on Monday as he kicked off the second inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden:

When Abraham Lincoln took office [in 1861], two years earlier the dome above us was a half-built eyesore… Conventional wisdom was that it should be left unfinished until the war ended, given the travails and financial needs of the times. But to President Lincoln the half finished dome symbolized the half divided nation. Lincoln said, ‘If people see the Capitol going on it is a sign we intend the union shall go on.’ And so, despite the conflict which engulfed the nation, and surrounded the city, the dome continued to rise.”

Unfinished Capitol dome at Lincoln;s first inaugural

Image: First Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, beneath the unfinished Capitol dome. Source: Library of Congress

To continue Lincoln’s vision to complete the construction in spite of the Civil War, the Corps continued work on the ambitious and tricky Capitol Dome, with the book showing rare photos and drawings of the work being done, including the planned design and engineering behind this magnificent structure.

Capitol-dome-cross-section

Image: Cross-section drawing by Thomas Ustick Walter for the dome of the United States Capitol building, circa, 1859. Source: Library of Congress.

Another story from the book is that General Thomas Lincoln Casey, Chief of Engineers at the time, decided to avoid both extensive congressional debate and public criticism in the building the Library of Congress and “embarked on the Library’s decorative scheme without prior approval of Congress.”  Using the time-honored Washington tradition of masking expenditures in generalities, Casey hid the hiring of sculptors under a generic heading of “marble work” and that of fine artists under “painting” in his annual reports.  Such was the faith in his work that Congress was not fazed by this deception when it was revealed.

An interesting chapter about the Washington Monument showed the Corps identified a need to shore up the foundation in order to build the obelisk to the necessary height in accordance with ancient Egyptian proportions. Such was the respect for their findings that Congress authorized additional funds for the Corps to build a new cement foundation to provide the long-lasting support desired.

Washington-monument-base

Image:  Cement foundation under the Washington Monument in May 1880. Source:  Library of Congress

Eventually, the foundation was covered with a beautiful lawn and the entire grounds landscaped by the Corps, to the delight– and relief– of all D.C. residents, expressed by local newspaper columnist George Alfred Townsend:

“The old grounds around the Washington Monument, which the very goats disdained to frequent and truant school-boys passed through with awe… were now brought into civilization… and a sense of gratitude toward the Engineer was felt by every thoughtful visitor.”

Skeptics throughout the history of the city from Washington’s cabinet to Abraham Lincoln’s own administration, did not see the vision of the completed city that the Corps of Engineers could. In fact, shortly before President Lincoln’s First Inaugural on March 4, 1861, aide John Hay ascended to the base of the Capitol’s yet-unconstructed dome and was quoted giving a bleak portrait of the unfinished city, saying:

Why did they attempt to build a city where no city was ever intended to be reared? It will never be a capital, except only in name; never a metropolis like Rome, or London, or Paris.

Fortunately, the book shows that Corps of Engineers had a broader vision and optimism, creating a major city with stunning vistas that rival those of major capitals throughout the world. All Americans owe, as Townsend said above, “a sense of gratitude” to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for our beautiful capital city!

Capitol-at-2013-inauguration

Image: United States Capitol bedecked in red, white and blue for the Presidential Inauguration this past Monday, January 21, 2013. Note the magnificent dome with the statue of Freedom atop it, and compare it to President Lincoln’s inauguration above. Photo courtesy of MarthaStreet.com

How can I obtain a copy of Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a federal depository library.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


First Blood: Year One of the War Between the States

November 22, 2012

On another Thanksgiving Day 150 years ago, America was embroiled in a bitter Civil War. A year later, expressing gratitude for the key Union Army victory at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln would proclaim that the nation will celebrate an official annual Thanksgiving holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. But in 1862, 25 states and three territories were already celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thus it is fitting that we have this wonderful guest post about the newest book from the Army’s Center of Military History series about the U.S. Army Campaigns of the Civil War. Those who had survived these clashes had much to give thanks for that Thanksgiving Day- as do we all, particularly members of our military and diplomatic services and their families who have served in harm’s way. Enjoy the post and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,  Michele Bartram


Guest blogger Sonya Kunkle was a writer and editor for more than 15 years before she joined GPO’s Proof & Copy Markup section. Here she reviews a U.S. Government Bookstore booklet on a topic that caught her interest fairly recently—the American Civil War.

As a child growing up in the Washington, DC, suburbs, I once walked through the grassy fields of Antietam Battlefield (near Sharpsburg, MD) oblivious to the historical struggle waged under my feet. American history wasn’t my favorite subject in school, but as an adult my interest in the Civil War was sparked when I read “The Killer Angels,” a novel by Michael Shaara. “The Killer Angels,” a work of historical fiction, details the Battle of Gettysburg.

This is a good time to be a Civil War history enthusiast, with 2012 being part of the sesquicentennial (150-year anniversary) of America’s bloodiest war. To mark the occasion, the U.S. Government Bookstore has for sale a 64-page booklet, The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 published by the U.S. Army’s Center for Military History.

Image: (Cover of the booklet,. Detail from Capture of Ricketts’ Battery by Sidney E. King, courtesy of William V. Fleitz, Manassas Battlefield Park.

 In this booklet you can read about the reasons for going to war and why key players made many of the decisions they did during the first year of the conflict. The author, Dr. Jennifer M. Murray, also provides a lot of information in text and graphics on the troop movements of both the Federals and the Confederates during each of the key battles of 1861.

Strategic Setting

In his inaugural address, on March 4, President Lincoln declared that he didn’t intend to abolish slavery in states where it existed. Stating that he would not initiate a war, Lincoln informed Southerners, “In your hands … is the momentous issue of civil war …You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors.

If you look at the numbers, perhaps the Confederates were doomed from the start. The 1860 Census shows that the Union could call on 4 million military-age white males to build their army, whereas the Confederacy could assemble 1 million at most.

The Union also had 10 times the industrial capacity, not to mention better transportation capabilities. In spite of these disadvantages, the South started the Civil War with its first big move—firing on Federal Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

Operations—Fort Sumter

Charleston, South Carolina, was well fortified with Fort Sumter and other defenses. Sumter was built to guard against an enemy fleet, and the walls facing the city were much weaker than those facing the water, leaving the fort vulnerable to attack on land.

On April 11, the Southern Brigadier General Pierre G. T. Beauregard demanded that the Union forces evacuate Fort Sumter. The North’s ranking officer at Sumter, Major Robert Anderson, declined.

At 3 a.m. (or 0300; the author uses military time) on April 12, the Confederates notified Major Anderson that General Beauregard and company would open fire on Fort Sumter in one hour. Twenty minutes after the deadline, a single shell from nearby Fort Johnson, which the North had abandoned, exploded over Sumter. War had begun.

Into Virginia—Bull Run

Image: First Battle of Bull Run. 1889 chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison. Source: Library of Congress. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

In May the Confederates moved their capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia. Richmond became a strategic target for the North, both for its industrial capability and its political importance. The two capitals, separated by only 100 miles, now figured prominently in both sides’ strategies.

The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 explains why the Union was determined to control Manassas Junction and why in May 10,600 Confederates defended the northern entrance to the Shenandoah Valley.

The author notes an interesting moment caused by the differing (and lack of) uniforms:

Viewing the Virginians, who were wearing civilian clothes, the Federal troops were unsure of their allegiance. To complicate matters further … Federal units were not uniformly dressed in blue; soldiers in the 11th New York, for instance, were dressed in colorful Zouave uniforms, which were also worn by some Confederate units. The Virginians clarified the matter by opening a deadly volley on the New Yorkers.”

Image: Brandy Station, VA, Band of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry (Zouaves). Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-B8171-7611 DLC. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

The Confederates won the fight, protecting their capital. The first battle of the Civil War resulted in the death of nearly 5,000 men.

The Fight for Missouri

While emotions roiled to the east, the majority of delegates attending a special Missouri secession convention voted to remain in the Union. This decision ran counter to Governor Claiborne F. Jackson’s personal preferences, and he mustered forces in favor of the Confederates.

This part of The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 provides details about how the Civil War reached into Missouri, with one of the key players being Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon.

While directing his men on the front line, Lyon got hit in the calf by a bullet, so he left the field for medical treatment. When Lyon got back on the field, a bullet grazed his head.

Determined to continue the fight, and apparently not taking the hint, Lyon returned to the field. Moments later, a bullet hit him in the chest. He was the first Union general officer to die in the Civil War.

From Belmont to Port Royal

In The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 you can read about the Union Navy’s entry into the Civil War.

It’s an interesting read, with a little information about Southern pirates (pirates!) lurking inside the Outer Banks of North Carolina, pouncing on merchant vessels before Union warships could react. To thwart these outlaws, the Federal Navy designated the Outer Banks as its first target. Union forces prepared for the war’s first joint Army-Navy operation.

You learn something about the battle for Fort Hatteras and the naval tactic (and the Confederates’ faulty ammunition) that helped the Union win the day.

The North’s capture of Fort Hatteras and nearby Fort Clark improved the Union’s outlook soon after their defeat at Bull Run. Offering a “Congratulatory Order,” one Federal officer commented, “This gallant affair will not fail to stimulate the regulars and volunteers to greater exertions to prepare themselves for future and greater achievements.

The Union’s euphoria didn’t last long.

The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 describes what happened between the North and South about 35 miles north of Washington at Ball’s Bluff. Perhaps the statistics are most noteworthy—there were an evenly matched number of men fighting on both sides, but the outcome was lopsided in terms of soldiers wounded and captured. The battle’s uneven results favored the South.

This section also addresses the Union’s win at Port Royal, South Carolina. Here you also can read about what Brigadier General (and future U.S. President) Ulysses S. Grant did in the area of Belmont, MO, that earned him President Lincoln’s favor.

The chronological coverage of the war ends with Union Major General George B. McClellan’s training the Army of the Potomac outside of Manassas. McClellan said he believed that he controlled the “destinies of this great country.”  There was no further action along the Potomac as the curtain closed on 1861.

Analysis

Dr. Murray offers incisive analysis at the end of The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861. She describes the early missteps of the secessionists, as well as what the South got right. She also notes the Union army’s mixed results.

Dr. Murray concludes, “As Federal forces grew more experienced and competent, they would gain key victories in 1862 that helped to shape the outcome of the Civil War.”

The last page of the booklet provides a short list of texts for further reading about the first year of the war.

Conclusion

The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861 helps me to appreciate the history in my own backyard. Although I find all of the information about the armies’ positions and movements a bit overwhelming, the booklet tempts me to take the 70-mile trip from Baltimore, where I live now, to explore the fields of Bull Run at Manassas. Taking the booklet with me, I’ll have a better understanding of the history I’m walking through.

HOW DO I OBTAIN The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a federal depository library.

Other Federal Titles about the Civil War

You may also be interested in these titles about the Civil War available from the U.S. Government Bookstore:


Librarians Pick Notable Federal Books- 2012 Edition

July 3, 2012

It’s that exciting time of year again if you’re a publisher of Federal publications. It’s the equivalent of the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards or the Grammy Awards… Well, maybe that’s pushing it, but when the American Library Association’s (ALA) Government Documents Round Table or GODORT convenes the Notable Documents Panel of its Publications Committee to choose the top government-produced publications of the previous year, we can’t help but get caught up in the excitement.

Each year, this ALA GODORT Notable Documents Panel selects what it considers to be the most “Notable Government Documents” published during the previous year by Federal, state, and local governments and includes the list of winners in its prestigious Library Journal (LJ).

According to its website, Library Journal is “the most trusted and respected publication for the library community. LJ provides groundbreaking features and analytical news reports covering technology, management, policy and other professional concerns to public, academic and institutional libraries. Its hefty reviews sections evaluate 8000+ reviews annually of books, ebooks, audiobooks, videos/DVDs, databases, systems and websites.

This year, as usual, many of the Federal publications the panel selected are available through the Government Printing Office’s Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) libraries and GPO’s Sales Program.

Out of all of the Federal Government documents LJ looked at in the past year, here are some of those it found most notable:

  Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office 150 Years of Service to the Nation

Publisher: Government Printing Office (GPO)

GPO’s own role in producing excellent Government publications in its 150 years of history gained it a place on the GODORT list for the past year:“Liberally illustrated with historical photographs and facsimiles of famous government documents, this volume will appeal to a wider audience than depository librarians. Historians and history buffs who have an interest in government and how it interacts with both the private sector and public employee unions will find a compelling story that focuses on the federal government’s obligation to keep citizens informed about its activities.” – LJ

  Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012 (Hardcover)

Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012 (Paperback)

Publisher: Commerce Department, U.S. Census Bureau

The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published since 1878, is the standard summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. It is designed to serve as a convenient volume for statistical reference and as a guide to other statistical publications and sources. The latter function is served by the introductory text to each section, the source note appearing below each table, and Appendix I, which comprises the Guide to Sources of Statistics, the Guide to State Statistical Abstracts, and the Guide to Foreign Statistical Abstracts.

The Library Journal adds an important update about this: “In addition to being the quintessential statistical resource of all time, Statistical Abstract is a Notable Document for 2011 simply because this edition will be the last produced by the Census Bureau and distributed through FDLP. Future editions will be published commercially, so librarians will still have options for maintaining the continuity of their print collections. A classic reference tool.” – LJ

  Macondo: The Gulf Oil Disaster. Chief Counsel’s Report 2011

Publisher: National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

“The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was created by President Obama and charged with investigating the root causes of the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The committee concluded that the cause of the blowout was not mechanical. Instead, a number of poor management decisions, combined with an inadequate regulatory structure and an indifferent regulatory agency, overwhelmed the safeguards designed to prevent such disasters. Plenty of illustrations and photographs offer a glimpse into the technology of offshore oil rigs.” – LJ

  Then Came the Fire: Personal Accounts From the Pentagon, 11 September 2001

Publisher: Defense Dept., Army, Center of Military History

“In 2011, there were many publications designed to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. In addition to the 59 people aboard the flight that struck the Pentagon, 125 people in the Pentagon were killed. The editors of this memorial volume have collected the stories of eyewitnesses, including the military and civilian personnel who escaped the burning building and first responders and reporters at the scene. It also includes hundreds of photographs.”- LJ

  Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867

Publisher: Defense Dept., Army, Center of Military History“

In what may be the definitive operational history of black troops in action during the Civil War, [author] Dobak describes the differences in how freedmen and runaway slaves were recruited, how they lived, and how they were trained. Most important, it considers how gallantly these men performed in combat at a time when many of their own leaders questioned whether they would be willing to fight for their own freedom and for that of their families. Much of the documentation comes from the ‘War of the Rebellion’ series.” – LJ

  Legacy of Excellence: The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology 1862-2011 

Publisher: Defense Dept., Army, US Army Medical Department Center and Schoo1, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Public Affairs Office, Borden Institute

“In 1862, shortly after the Battle of Antietam, army surgeon general Brigadier Gen. William Hammond ordered the establishment of the Army Medical Museum. Surgeons working on Civil War battlefields were encouraged to preserve anatomical specimens, such as severed limbs and diseased organs, and send them to the museum for further research. From the start, the museum made its displays of specimens and instruments, as well as its medical library, available to the general public. Under the leadership of later curators, such as John Billings and Walter Reed, the museum evolved into the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Readers interested in the history of science, especially medical science or in the devastating effects of Civil War weaponry on the human body, will be fascinated by the hundreds of graphic photographs.” – LJ

And a hearty congratulations to all the winning Federal agency publishers for an excellent job!

How can you get these publications from this year’s Federal Notable Government Documents collection?

  • Buy any of these publications online 24/7 by shopping the Notable Government Documents 2012 collection at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy them at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find these publications in a library near you.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Today in History: War of 1812 and Army Chaplains

June 18, 2012

Two hundred years ago today, on June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed into law the United States of America’s declaration of war against Great Britain to start the War of 1812.

Image: Naval services’ 1812 Bicentennial logo. Source: Navy History

Madison’s War

Fought for a myriad of reasons from the illegal impressment of American sailors onto British Navy ships to help them fight France to land grab ambitions against Canada, the War of 1812 was derisively called “Mr. Madison’s War” initially by many Americans, particularly in the Northeast.  Ill-prepared for the war with many untrained militia and without initial support from many individual states, America suffered a number of defeats, up to the capture and burning of Washington, D.C, including the White House and the Capitol building, in August 1814.

There were a number of American triumphs at sea with a much smaller American navy, and eventually, America was able to turn back British invasions in New York; Baltimore, with the famous battle at Fort McHenry where Francis Scott Key wrote the poem “Defence of Fort McHenry” that became our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner;” and finally at New Orleans. (Remember Johnny Horton’s 1959 song “The Battle of New Orleans”?)

Eventually, the War of 1812 united Americans and became known as “America’s Second War of Independence.”

Army Chaplains during the War of 1812

In the book, Reliable and Religious: U.S. Army Chaplains and the War of 1812 by Kenneth E. Lawson, and published by the Office of the Chief of Chaplains of the Department of the Army, the heretofore untold story of Army Chaplains during the War of 1812 is explained in detail.

Historically, during the Revolutionary War, “there were 174 Continental Army chaplains and 93 militia chaplains.” A number of New England clerics served at Concord in, with some even shouldering muskets and fighting alongside their fellow soldiers. This continued to be true in the War of 1812, as many United States Army chaplains even fought alongside the soldiers they served.

Most of the chaplains (over 200) who served in the War of 1812 were militia chaplains. Only 13 official regular army chaplains served during the war, either directly with units or headquarters. One of the chaplains ministered to West Point cadets. Regular army chaplains were classified as  ”those of the rank of major and captain” and “received the same pay, rations and forage as a surgeon,” since presumably they “healed men’s souls.”

All 13 U.S. Army ministers were Protestant, and they came from all over the United States—from Vermont all the way down to South Carolina. Two chaplains, Rev. Carter Tarrant and Rev. James Wilmer, died while serving as military chaplains.

Reverend Joshua Thomas, “Parson of the Islands”

Reliable and Religious gives detailed accounts of the war and religious situation and chaplaincy activities in each state and territory during the War of 1812, including biographies of the chaplains who served in the campaigns in each state.

One of the more famous chaplains was Reverend Joshua Thomas, a fisherman turned Methodist minister who  founded churches and preached along Virginia and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, often using his log canoe. Joshua and his wife Rachel were living on Tangier Island just below the Maryland-Virginia border during the War of l812, when the British took possession of the Island and used it as build the 100-acre Fort Albion as their center of operations as they plundered the Chesapeake Bay shoreline and prepared for their invasion of Baltimore.

Image. Reverend Joshua Thomas, “Parson of the Islands”. Source: Findagrave.com.

Thomas, dubbed “Parson of the Islands”, was held in esteem by the infamous Admiral Cockburn who asked the minister to preach to 12,000 British troops as they prepared to go to war against Ft. McHenry in Baltimore.

On September 11th, 1814, on Tangier Island, Parson delivered his famous, fiery sermon, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” with its dire prediction to the British that they would be defeated at the upcoming Battle of Baltimore.

Image: Rev. Joshua Thomas gives his “Thou Shalt Not Kill” sermon to British troops before the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 on Tangier Island. Source: “The Parson of the Islands” by Adam Wallace.

According to Lawson’s research, Rev. Thomas warned the British “of the danger and distress they would bring upon themselves and others by going to Baltimore with the object they had in view” and told them “it was given to me by the Almighty that they [the British] could not take Baltimore and would not succeed in their expedition.” His sermon turned out to be correct, as the Redcoats were turned back at Fort McHenry, with Francis Scott Key looking on and scribbling away.

To this day, the coastal Maryland celebrates “Joshua Thomas Day” in his honor.

Today’s Army Chaplains

During the Civil War, the Army Chaplaincy developed many procedures still in place, and most chaplains became less a “fighting parson”, and more “spiritual” in their emphasis. After the Civil War, in fact, chaplains were no longer permitted to carry weapons and are presently supposed to be issued a Geneva Convention Identity Card.

Today, the United States Army Chaplain Corps consists of highly educated (college degree plus theological graduate degree required) chaplains who are ordained clergy and endorsed by their particular faith group to serve all people, regardless of religious or non-religious affiliation. Most are typically embedded with the troops in deployed combat units, at service schools, military hospitals in the field and at military installations around the world.

Image: U.S. Army Chaplaincy image. Source: U.S. Army

According to the Office of the Chief of Chaplains’ website, the Army Chaplaincy has a long and distinguished record of proving aid and comfort to America’s soldiers around the world:

Since July 29, 1775, approximately 25,000 Army Chaplains have served as religious and spiritual leaders for 25 million Soldiers and their Families. Always present with their Soldiers in war and in peace, [U.S.] Army Chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars and combat engagements. Nearly 300 Army Chaplains have laid down their lives in battle. Six have been awarded the Medal of Honor… Currently, over 2,900 Chaplains are serving the Total Army representing over 130 different religious organizations… Their love of God, Country and the American Soldier has been a beacon of light and a message of hope for all those who have served our nation.

The Army Chaplain Corps’ mission is to provide “religious support to America’s Army while assisting commanders in ensuring the right of free exercise of religion for all Soldiers. In short, we nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen.

Knowing this, it is probable that the Army Chaplains from the War of 1812 sang more loudly this forgotten stanza from Francis Scott Key’s original “Star-Spangled Banner” poem:

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Image: Francis Scott Key standing on boat, with right arm stretched out toward the US flag– The Star-Spangled Banner– flying over Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland, during the War of 1812. Source: National Archives

Find War of 1812 Bicentennial information and events in the United States and Canada at www.Visit1812.com. I’m off to see the War of 1812 Bicentennial “Star-Spangled Sailabration” in Baltimore Harbor!

HOW DO I OBTAIN the Reliable and Religious: U.S. Army Chaplains and the War of 1812 publication?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Ball’s Bluff: A Little Battle with Lasting Consequences

September 20, 2010

A few Veterans Days ago, my wife and I made a day trip to Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park  in Loudon County, Virginia. You’d never know it was there, tucked away as it is behind a suburban housing development. Once you step out of your car and into the park, you’re in another place altogether. For one thing, Ball’s Bluff is really two sites in one.  Just inside the park is a small National Cemetery, containing the remains of 54 soldiers in 25 graves, all killed during the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. We were there on a cold, cloudy day, the kind of day that really made us think somberly about that long-ago battle near the beginning of the Civil War. Given that it was a small engagement, we were able to walk most of the battlefield, up to the edge of the high bluff where the inexperienced Union soldiers made their last stand. 

This battle was relatively inconsequential militarily, but it had a larger impact politically. An overly ambitious reconnaissance in force that resulted in the death of Abraham Lincoln’s friend Colonel and Senator Edward D. Baker, it cost Union General Charles Stone his career and was the impetus for the establishment of the Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, which became long-term Radical Republican thorn in the side of Lincoln’s Administration.

The U.S. Army’s Center of Military History has a neat little booklet on the battle that I wish we’d had that day. Battle of Ball’s Bluff was developed as a staff ride guide for Army personnel so they can “learn from the past by analyzing the battle through the eyes of the men who were there.” The best part of the booklet is the blow-by-blow account of the battle, accompanied by a number of detailed maps. As I said, the battlefield is relatively small, so you can really get a sense of what happened in just an hour or two.

What sticks in my mind is the fearful predicament of the Union troops, unfamiliar with the area and forced back to that steep bluff above the Potomac.  Many of them jumped to their deaths or died on the narrow little strip of land beneath under a rain of Confederate musket fire (left). I’m not that crazy about heights, so looking down from the top of that cliff really brought at least a bit of the grim reality of that day home to me.

You can read about this little battle with lasting consequences here, get your own copy here, or find a library that has a copy here.


A Book about the Civil War – and a Mystery

May 3, 2010

I was at a book sale last week and, lover of obscure historical topics that I am, picked up a book on the Civil War in Maine. Yes, there was a naval battle in Maine in 1863: the battle of Portland Harbor, when Confederate raiders seized the revenue cutter Caleb Cushing and, after pursuit by Federal forces, set it afire. Seeing this incident mentioned in the table of contents reminded me that the vast Government Book Talk vaults (AKA my office) held a copy of U.S. Revenue Cutters of the Civil War – a Government book published years ago and a perfect subject for blogging.

Things got mysterious after I unearthed it, though. Upon examination, I couldn’t find any indication that it was a Government publication. In fact, the publisher seemed to be “Alised Enterprises.” Had I been deluding myself all these years? On the other hand, the book also stated that it was “A U.S. Coast Guard Bicentennial Publication” and had a foreword by the Coast Guard’s official historian.

After a quick perusal of the Internet, I relaxed. It had a SuDocs classification number – TD 5.30: C49, to be exact – which means GPO had cataloged it as a Government book. I then learned that, according to WorldCat, which bills itself as “the world’s largest library catalog”, U.S. Revenue Cutters of the Civil War was published in 1988 by Alised Enterprises and again in 1990 by the Coast Guard. I couldn’t find a publication date in my copy, but my guess is that it’s a Coast Guard printing and that the author, Florence Kern, may have done the book under contract. (If anyone can add to the solution of this bibliographic mystery, please let me know.)

Florence Kern wrote a number of short pamphlets about various revenue cutters, mostly of the Revolutionary era. This book does something similar for Civil war cutters but also covers which ships went North or South at the beginning of the war, their work as blockaders for the Union, and much more, including the battle of Portland Harbor. It’s based on extensive archival research and provides a good introduction to a little-known aspect of the war. I wouldn’t mind delving into some research on this topic myself – maybe once I finish reading that book about the Civil War in Maine…

I couldn’t find an online version of U.S. Revenue Cutters of the Civil War, which is long out of print, but used copies do seem to be available at reasonable prices – and through Federal depository libraries, of course.

GPO does have other, more recent books about the Civil War that are well worth reading, so feel free to take a look.


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