History & Politics

Pulitzer Prize-winning Author Lectures on His New John Brown Book, Midnight Rising

Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tony Horwitz will lecture on his new book, Midnight Rising, on Sunday, Sept. 23, at 2 p.m. at the Culpeper County Library.

The Eye of the Storm, written and illustrated by Private Robert Knox Sneden

Eye of the Storm

Private Sneden of the 40th New York of the Army of the Potomac served his country in several ways. He was assigned work as a quartermaster, but within days his talent and persistence at sketches and maps brought him to the attention of General Sedgwick who quickly put him to work.  The Eye of the Storm combines his unusually detailed journal and often full-color drawings with excellent commentary from Virginia historians. This volume captures his journey from battlefields to encampments to the horrors of Andersonville prison.

The Forgotten History of America: Little-Known Conflicts of Lasting Importance from the Earliest Colonists to the Eve of the Revolution by Cormac O’Brien

The Forgotten History of America by Cormac O'Brien

History, particularly popular history, need not be dull, something that Cormac O’Brien demonstrates readily in his book, The Forgotten History of America. Written in a conversational tone and broken into vignettes, old history is made new when written this way. Even so, it’s not the standard stuff taught in schools. It’s about wars and both sides in those wars, reaching back to the country’s colonial beginnings in the 16th century. With personalities writ large on both sides and a good understanding of the differences in modern and historical society, O’Brien leads his readers on journeys back in time:

It begins with the first permanent European settlement in North America:

1565

Pedro Menedez de Aviles anxiously paced the deck of his flagship, San Pelayo. Two days earlier, off the coast of Florida, he had gone ashore and met with Indians who offered valuable information about the prey he was desperately seeking.  Now, confident of success, he led his five vessels northward along the coastline, scanning the beaches for any sign of European settlement.  The day was September 4, 1565, and Menendez was hunting heretics.

Colonial Churches of Virginia, by Don W. and Sue Massey

Colonial Churches of Virginia, by Don W. and Sue Massey

Colonial Churches of Virginia is a  beautiful and beautifully-written work that does a good job of giving the history and architectural highlights of more than 50 historic churches in the Old Dominion. Most are Anglican or Episcopal, but representative early churches can also be found for Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Mennonite, and Lutheran congregations. Current service times are noted for each church.

Fredericksburg in Revolutionary Days: Part II

"Fredericksburg in Revolutionary Days: Part II"
The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Jan., 1919), pp. 164-175. Parts I and III are also available to read online.

In November, 1775, Harrower tells us of a muster of the minute men of the district, composed of the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, King George, and Stafford, which was held at "Belvideira," below the town. In the list of members of the Spotsylvania committee of safety chosen by direction of ordinance of convention on November 17th, of this year, by an assembly of freeholders of the county, meeting in Fredericksburg we find the town represented by Fielding Lewis, Charles Washington, George Thornton and Hugh Mercer. Throughout the Revolutionary War Fredericksburg was a center of distinction. "There is not one spot in the State so generally useful in our military operations," wrote James Mercer in April, 1781. The spring of 1781 witnessed in Virginia that remarkable campaign of the gallant young Marquis de LaFayette; the wonderfully conducted retreat from Richmond leading Cornwallis away from that important center and attempting a juncture with Wayne, who was on his way from Pennsylvania with reinforcements.

Fredericksburg in Revolutionary Days, Part I

William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine (William and Mary Quarterly)
Volume XXVII, No. 2. October 1918. pp. 73-95. Parts II and III may also be read online. 

FREDERICKSBURG IN REVOLUTIONARY DAYS
PART I.

In a charming diary kept by him while under indentures to Colonel William Daingerfield, of Belvideira (a plantation on the river about seven miles below Fredericksburg) John Harrower a clever Scotchman, and schoolmaster to the youth of the Daingerfield and other neighboring households, was wont from time to time to copy letters which he had addressed to his "kith and kin" across the seas. In a letter to his wife in Lerwick in Scotland, sent under date of December 6, 1774, Harrower, after alluding to the "hote war" on the frontier which had terminated in the sanguinary battle of Point Pleasant: the conflict known to history as Dunmore's War, refers to the trouble then brewing between the Mother Country and her American colonies.

Virginia at War: 1865, edited by William C. Davis and James I. Robertson, Jr.

The opening months of the Civil War had a certain boldness and cachet to them. Young men in particular signed up in droves.  Picnickers came down from D.C. to take a gander at the First Battle of Manassas, discovering all too quickly that war is no theatrical entertainment.  However, four years later when the South was playing an end-game, the damage to not just its army but also to its civilians was clearly a factor in its surrender. In 1863, there had been bread riots in Richmond.  In 1864, the Shenandoah Valley’s crops and businesses had been burned by Union General Sheridan who was advised by his commander Grant to ”Give the enemy no rest ... Do all the damage to railroads and crops you can.”

And so it was. The civilians and soldiers alike were hit with shortages, and the last year of the war was a particularly brutal time. In William C. Davis’ and James I. Robertson, Jr.’s Virginia at War: 1865, the editors include eight essays by modern scholars and a diary from a Virginia woman, the wife of a minister, who observed that last year from her refugee quarters in Richmond where she served as a nurse and a clerk.

Database in Depth: CQ Researcher

Database in Depth:  CQ Researcher

It’s 10 p.m.  Your report on wind power is due tomorrow.  It is not even close to being done.  Your teacher has said you can’t use Internet sources.  You have a couple of books, but you need at least one more source.

You can’t decide if you should start faking sick now (like you could fool your mom), go to school tomorrow and try to beg your teacher for an extension (oh, sure), or just ignore the problem and hope it will solve itself (it's never worked before, but...).

There is another option.  Get out your CRRL library card, and visit Congressional Quarterly Researcher online.  Congressional Quarterly Wha...?  If you are writing a report about any “hot button” issue in the news, you need CQ Researcher

The President’s House, 1800 to the Present: A First Daughter Shares the History and Secrets of the World's Most Famous Home, by Margaret Truman

The President's House cover

A customer recently called me to tell me that he loved The President’s House, by Margaret Truman, so when I gave a talk in Northern Virginia a few days later, I passed on the recommendation to the group. The next customer who read it just called to tell me that he is really enjoying this book, too. Several of the book reviews said that it is a fun and interesting look at the White House written by a woman who has a deep love for this national icon because she was lucky enough to grow up there. 

All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps by Dave Isay

All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps by Dave Isay

The personal histories included in All There Is are compelling and powerful. Some are joyous celebrations of love and companionship, while others are stoic accounts of tragedy and perseverance. Despite their differences, each narrative is characterized by an overpowering sense of authenticity. The stories recorded in All There Is were not shared for personal gain or publicity. Rather, they were collected through the efforts of StoryCorps, an oral history project that allows any willing volunteer to record his or her most precious memories and experiences. The participants share the most essential aspects of their lives in interviews that are recorded for their personal archives and, in many cases, for the American Folklife Center.

Since its debut in 2003, the StoryCorps project has spread across the United States, recording over 40,000 interviews. As Dave Isay, StoryCorps’ founder, states, “StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. With a relentless focus on recording the stories of people who are often excluded from the historical record, StoryCorps captures lives that would otherwise be lost to history and reminds the nation that every story matters and every voice counts.”