I spent most of Sunday gnashing my teeth. the reasons why are pointless to explain (same o'crud). then I did the stupid thing of reading myself a bedtime story so depressing that it carried my mood overnight and now I am officially in the glums.

The book, Dennis Brandt's Pathway to Hell isn't spectacularly written ~ it's rather short (barely over 200 pages), and isn't exhaustive about much ~ but that made it perfect for me: no long explanations of campaigns I already know too well, no endless nattering about hardtack. instead it's a true chronicle largely in Angelo Crapsey's own words from his letters and diary, documenting in the most painful way imaginable, his slow decline into self-destructive dementia.

Crapsey's story is unique as far as books of the war go, though there's unfortunately nothing unique about what happened to him. It tells the story that Paulson's Soldier's Heart tries to tell, but doesn't.

When I think back on the origins of Reconstruction, I think i wrote it in part because this book hadn't been written. Crapsey's story is more heartbreaking than any novel anyone could ever write: a disaster that could have been avoided a hundred different ways. The circumstances of his bizarre upbringing at the hand of a religious whack-job father, his fervor for the Union, his abolitionist sentiments that sour after emancipation drags the war into a seemingly endless slaughter, the shame of his surrender and imprisonment ~ all of it horrible, horrible ~ and then to come home to the father-figure and friend he looked up to the most only to find himself rebuffed, feared, and ostracized. And finally the everyday event that led to Crapsey's end is so banal, almost ~ so utterly human in its simple cruelty. It isn't any wonder he blew his brains out. Twenty two years old.

Of course I imagined a different end once upon a time for Reconstruction which is in many ways this same story: an endless cycle of addictions, an abusive marriage, desolation, death. Even I was never so brave to actually make any of that stick, though. I had to find some hope in there somewhere. So I did.

But there was none for a lot of young boys like Crapsey. Even Howard Bahr didn't shrink from drawing us a picture in The Judas Field (which is maybe why I didn't like that book as much as I wanted to ~ it hit a nerve with me).

So yeah. I don't know why I am writing this except to wonder at the meaning of it all. I really seem to be out of touch with the world in so many ways. I don't see that improving, either, and it concerns me from time to time.

from LookingLand.com

Nucleus LiveJournal Plugin © Evgeny Lykhin

oh the immensity ~ !

[crawls into a corner and dies]

Recently I posted about a project I brought home involving the experimental restoration of 14 volumes of Harper's Monthly Magazine. As I have been working on the books, I've been perusing some of the contents. In June of 1881 an article appeared about Edwin Booth. This opening is the sort of film-worthy anecdote that makes the Booths so irresistible, so I thought I would share it.

article portion is under a cut for bigness )

p.s. the article respectfully makes no mention of that other brother.

x-posted to [livejournal.com profile] jwb1865.

It's nearly April and I haven't gotten back to In Pursuance of Said Conspiracy, which is just a crying shame. If I can't "launch" it mid-April, I will definitely at least try to be knee deep working on it then. I just ordered Steers's two new books: The Lincoln Assassination Conspirators: Their Confinement and Execution, As Recorded in the Letterbook of John Frederick Hartranft ~ (grumble grumble grind and grumble), and The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence (less grumbling).

I'm sure they will kick me off in the right direction ~ if only out of sheer fury on the first count.

But then, this is what happens when you come up with an idea and then sit on it for two years. I will never learn.

: o p

The Smithsonian has an exhibit of the man in the funny hat's truck and deals in honor of the Obama-mama-man's inauguration. I'm going to (maybe not so delicately) avoid any discussion of why I think this is tacky, but I belong to a peculiar American minority that feels conflicted about sanctifying pseudo-martyrs. And Johnnie B., you were such a dumb cluck (I have to say it). Anyway...cool picture though! I can definitely appreciate a nice black frock.

And for the 187th time (and I mean it). I don't hate Abraham Lincoln. We've certainly had many many many worse presidents.

I wanted to launch the good ship In Pursuance this spring, but right now I'm pretty overwhelmed with other things. If I were more organized I could juggle everything a lot better. But the more I try to organize, the more I can't seem to find anything that I need. I recently acquired Lloyd Lewis' Myths after Lincoln and William Lee Miller's Lincoln's Virtues (they followed me home!), so it's not like I've stopped thinking on the subject. If anything, I think I have a clearer angle on how I want to tell the story and I have a solid outline of the chronology. What I really need now is to get the "scholarship" part in order. And even though this is not really a story about Lincoln, I would be less than honest if I said I wasn't concerned about being fair (my biases overriding my common sense most of the time). So I want to be careful. My original intention was to avoid the issue of Lincoln & Booth altogether. They are not what the story is about. But part of me says it's absurd to think I can get away without addressing the issue. Even if it is in the Ford Theater greenroom over a game of poker. When I look at Kate Beaton's work, I think: my God, this doesn't have to be so complicated!

So cross your fingers. I may get it together yet. But today I don't have time for this. I've got an outline for a novel I'm trying to poke into some semblance of sense.

from LookingLand.com

in reading news: last night i finished reading s. weir mitchell's When All the Woods Are Green (such a nice title). i couldn't find any substantial synopsis of the book online. only a single sentence: a family in the Canadian woods. then i read the book and realized that's about all the synopsis it deserves.

this book was an appalling 400+ pages. and i finished it. it was an endless prattle from start to finish between some hoighty campers who considered themselves terribly droll. about 150 pages in there was the hint that the story might be about a murder. then, about 300 pages in there was a bear attack and that almost got interesting. fifty pages later a child's gravestone was stolen and wow what a great plot that might have made. but the characters continued to talk about fly fishing and ancient greek poets and i don't even know what ~ witty nonsense, only it wasn't terribly witty, mostly just nonsense. and then in the last twenty pages of the book, the murderer made her move, shot a guy and only wounded him in the shoulder, and the last ten pages were endless denouement about the guy and the girl finally getting together to live happily ever after.

ye gads what a turd of a book. i've never thought mitchell was a "great" writer, but up until now i had at least enjoyed his stories. this was a waste of a good premise (the stolen grave, rolling rich campers for their money, hunting bears), as well as some perfectly good characters (nerdy ned lyndsey, who got almost no book time after the first few chapters and oliver ellet who was adorable but completely pointless), and had the most annoying heroine in the history of literature (whiny, stuck-up rose lyndsey). blarghhhh.

in writing news: i have spent most of the day working on various projects and have settled in to the writing this evening, though with some unease. it's very hard to cope with a protagonist who is a racist. i never used to let this bother me because i used to avoid the presence of scenarios in which the fact would come up. but clearly i can't write an epic about the Civil War and Reconstruction without addressing the issue. so i've been doing a lot of reading and trying to get some perspective on the exact kind of racist i'm writing about. and it's hard because characters in books are allowed to have flaws, but i have such a low tolerance for racists myself it's hard to permit such a flaw (and especially seeing the degree to which it manifests). and besides, character flaws are usually pc. archie bunker would never fly today. today, it's okay if your character is misanthropic ~ as long as they treat everyone equally bad. but you can't have a character who hates jews or black people or homosexuals. it's too easy to judge.

and today i was idly shopping around online for some perspectives and wound up watching the first part of Goodbye Uncle Tom, which is a heinous film. what is it about me that reads a review in which a film is declared shocking and exploitative and i immediately have to see it ~ i did the same thing with Soldier Blue and i was pretty grossed out about it. i am dead certain i will have nightmares after watching only 40 minutes of Goodbye Uncle Tom, which is ludicrous and offensive in turns. i don't know quite what to make of it, but much of the truth of what it portrays is revolting enough to make me queasy.

America doesn't like picking at its scabs. boy does it have some doozies.

painting of a Richmond slave auction
by english artist Lefevre James Cranstone (1862).
Richmond sold an average of 10,000 slaves a year
in the 30 years preceding the Civil War

you see pictures like this and everything looks so cheery and clean and colorful! then you take a real hard look at what this business was really about (i mean really look at it), and the suffering and indignity of it all can really overwhelm you. it's hard then, as a writer, trying to find ways of making a character blind enough to the humanity of slaves as some vile, egregious justification for their own lack of empathy. merg.

okay, not so cheery a thought on which to end this post. i hope everyone is having a less gruesome weekend!

: D
i have the weekend all to myself again ~ i could get spoiled! so even though i forgot my zip drive at work and it has my newly hatched bibliography (of seven pages!), and sundry other bits on it, i am content to let the weekend be whatever it will be, hoping to work on a little bit of this and that and see where it all takes me. no pressure.

and thank you, my lovely flist for all of your supportive comments on my posts over the last few days when i was feeling sort of low and kvetchy about the course of things. creative work is love and the course of love never runs smooth (and all that), so it's great to have peeps on the sidelines cheering away. you are all fabulous (really!)

i keep finding doodles in my notes everywhere. this one particularly caught my eye this week. i like it. i like the style of the doodles on the whole ~ they are rather cartoony. i can't draw very good likenesses (it's hard for me), so caricature is easier. dunno how recognizable some of these might be. i found one that was marked "Geissinger" and wondered to myself if i even know what Geissinger* looked like. and as easy as you think it maybe ought to be, i have yet to doodle a picture that looks anything like the tall man in the funny black hat. other characters are much easier for having distinguising traits (noses and hairstyles are the easiest to caricature).

oh! i found a great little source (with a picture!) of Hartranft's 16 year-old fifer/clerk, Alfred Gibson. it's not extensive, but he offers some pretty funny tidbits about his experience at the Arsenal annoying the staff, telling Grant to put out his pipe during the trial, etc. Some great little details. dunno how i had managed to overlook this one before.

always excited to find something new!

more tomorrow (i know you can't wait). meanwhile, i hope everyone is having a great friday night!

: D

* edit: oh duhhh, of course i do (he's the light-haired young guy, standing, fourth from the right). and curiously, the doodle in question (which i am not posting) actually does look like him ~ ha!
in a bid to unearth the most impossibly obscure documents ever summoned at this particular liberry, i am attempting to get my hands on this little bit of bizarre (innerliberry loan has been good to me so far!). it would be very interesting just in terms of asylum care in the 1880s, let alone that mitchell and hartranft were on the commission that slopped it together. prolly dry as coprolite, but hey, i've read weirder/worse.

exhibit A:

Hartranft, John F., Richard C. McMurtrie, Joseph A. Reed, S. Weir Mitchell, Joseph T. Rothrock, L. Clarke Davis, and George L. Harrison. Report from the Commission to Examine into the Present System for the Care of the Insane of the State, etc. Philadelphia: The Commission, 1883.
it would have never even occurred to me in a million years, in spite of the fact that both of these men are pennsylvanians, that they would ever be on a commission for anything together.

i have not pursued much on the matter of hartranft's post-gubernatorial position as a warden for crazy people. it's sort of out of the range of my interest in hartranft. but i might get interested. especially since steers is ruining my other angles (kidding).

for my own amusement, this is an insane asylum
from Mr. Hanty's hometown.
i don't believe he ever worked here.
clearly i have too much going on. my concentration is shot lately.

the new Reconstruction style is gradually finding its way (the lettering is slowly improving now that my pen and i have come to some terms). today's page is transitiony, but we're getting somewhere, i promise. next monday's page is one of my favorite so far. something to live for in case anyone needs it!

i'm also finding that the new style is doing what it needs to do: shortening the production process by hours and hours. directly putting the words on the page has shaved about half an hour off the drawing time because there is less fretting about composition (about which i am lousy). i drew a page last night and one this morning. i could probably pre-ink both of them before i leave for work, paint them tomorrow, and do the finishing over the weekend, completing both of them in about three and a half to four hours. that's half the time it took me originally to complete a single page! color me impressed at the difference it's made and only about half and hour at the most is spent futzing with the scans.

in other news, i need to finish projects shuffling off to Comic-Con from the Here There Be Monsters Press this year. lots of work to do on that front.

and yeah, i'm still in the middle of writing a novel (slowly, slowly). while In Pursuance of Said Conspiracy is on the back burner (boo hoo) until the summer is over, i still want to try to have a raw draft of this novel finished in the next few months. i'm reading Hanging Henry Gambrill as research (which i desperately need for this one), and though it's a good book, it's a bit slow going and i have a lot still to get through. unfortunately, a lot of my novel depends on my reading this book, so there are plot points i can't finalize until i've finished it. i'm going to try to spend at least some part of the coming weekend dedicated to barreling through the 400 pages i need to cover (ughhh).

i know. i brought it on myself.

me rambling on about Mobtown )

of course, you know the best part of all of this is that i get to invent a 19th century volunteer fire department company, which i have been wanting to do the whole of my life.

: D

the other reason i initially
chose Baltimore as a setting was
because it was home to the nation's
first (and at the time, only) Dental
College. from inception, Lewis was
destined to become a dentist ~ at
least that was what i wanted
i have fallen tragically behind on my flist. i'll try to catch up, promise. yesterday i read my list without logging in so i missed all the flocked posts. der....

i've been reading a lot of books on what i would categorize as "American terrorism" (19th century-style, of course). finished three books this weekend (two of them rather short). dunno if any of these would be of interest to anyone on my flist, especially since i don't necessarily recommend two of them. first up:

Victims: a true story of the Civil War by Phillip Shaw Paludan ~ The problem with this book isn't that for its 130 pages it's quite the dense, lumbering behemoth (reads more like a academic dissertation than anything else). The problem is that it sets out with a thesis that it cannot seem to prove.

The narrative starts off really strong with a very good overview of the community of Shelton Laurel, but by the time it arrives at the killings, the ambiguities of guerrilla warfare have been presented in such a way as to render me undecided on what actually went down. People were killed. Probably without cause. But while I couldn't possibly condone summary executions on any level, one has to wonder at the fear and frustration (and utter incompetence) of those who ordered and carried out the killings. We see it time and time again: some small thing that sets off a chain of events more extreme than warranted. The maze of offenses and retaliations in this arena in particular are incredibly hard to untangle.

So there's a lot of new information here and that's fabulous, but the way in which it's presented left me feeling like the author meant to take a strong stance against the killings, but actually failed to make the point that this was a bona fide war crime. While I accept that the burden of guilt is on the prosecution's head to prove (and they don't prove anything beyond reasonable doubt), it's hard to judge anything in a case in which a degree of reason is entirely lacking on both sides.
A good springboard for further investigation, but between the heavy-handed and too-often discursive writing style, and the failure to effectively make its case, I was disappointed.

for a super-short overview of the "battle/massacre", you can read a quick summary here that gives a somewhat fair context for understanding the events that lead to the heinous deed. they call it a "battle", but in fairness, i think the bushwhacking feud was really too dirty on both sides to be called a battle proper. "massacre" more accurately covers it, regardless of the circumstances by which it came about.

i ain't saying it didn't happen.
i just don't think paludan proves that it
was done without provocation.
this seriously weakens his case that these
men and boys were "victims" as opposed to
obstructive patriots and/or partisans.

on a lighter note, in completely unrelated news, if you haven't read this article on a recently authenticated picture of W. A. Mozart, you oughta, because it's pretty cool. i especially love the closing:

One of Mozart's friends described him as a man "in whose personal intercourse there was absolutely no other sign of unusual power of intellect and almost no trace of intellectual culture, nor of any scholarly or other higher interests." Yet that same man was to music what Shakespeare was to theater.

How can we turn this mysterious and unsettling fact to use? What lesson can it teach us? One thing comes to mind at once: humility. You don't need a portrait of the composer of "The Marriage of Figaro" to know that next to him, nobody looks smart.
click here to check it out!.
overall i didn't get as much done as i'd hoped, but it was nonetheless a good weekend. ate blackberries for breakfast, concocted salads with exotic tomatoes.

blowing off a wee bit of steam about the kentucky derby )

spent sunday at Fort Snelling. had a grand old time. mebbe i post more pictures later.

overall was out a lot this weekend, which always takes more energy than it gives. as a confirmed closet anchorite, public appearances are a huge drain.

in writing: beginnings and endings.

last week i wrote twenty one pages from the beginning just to get back into the voice. this week i wrote twenty five pages from the ending. i have to write endings early in the process. they give me a target to shoot for. i rarely rewrite them, though how i get from beginning to ending is prone to all manner of digressions, etc.

i think i like my ending. the last couple of beats are giving me fits, but overall, i like the way this thing winds down. because this story is essentially the beginning of a long, long battle, it's hard to find the right note that will finish this both "resolved" and yet on the edge of the next adventure. we'll see if i can pull it off. i'm pretty confident that it doesn't suck, so we're facing the right direction at least.

all that and it's update day for Reconstruction. we're getting into the weirder of the transition areas. it's going to be a little bumpy for a while. i don't really like what i did with this scene (basically condensed it into three pages, which is pretty dang condensed). but i am hoping with the new style, i won't be so prone to trim the edges. we'll see in the next couple of weeks.

in reading: will prolly make a separate post later about the reading i've been doing. interesting stuff. a lot of american terrorism in the 1860s. it's actually been kinda depressing, but very educational. let's just say my vision of this world just got a whole lot darker.

finally, much much much cleaning still ahead in preparation for the fire inspection. i've only managed to clear out the kitchen and pantry area and i am already exhausted. i'll do it little by little this week and then throw myself into it this coming weekend. bleh.

happy monday all!

: D
lookingland: (fellas)
( Apr. 29th, 2008 02:21 pm)
just ain't updating like she use to...i've been busy elsewhere, i s'pose. and inattentive to my flist (geh ~ sorry).

yesterday, i got in the mail a cheap copy of Eisenschiml's Why was Lincoln Murdered? i didn't want a paperback reprint and i didn't want to pay $20-30 for it, so i found a copy on eBay for $4 which was great. of course, it's what $4 will get you in an Eisenschiml these days. it's about as good as my copy of Weichmann's drivel, which is to say it's a readable piece of junk that's still all in one piece but wouldn't win any beauty prizes. that's about what i need. Eisenchiml is, sadly, almost relegated to the same fire-pile as Gutteridge these days, but given that it is the grandfather of all conspiracy theories, i think it's worth reading. i have a soft spot, too, for it, because i am pretty sure it's one of the first Lincoln conspiracy books i ever read (hopelessly warping my perceptions for many years, alas). as Burkhimer says in 100 Essential Lincoln Books: Eisenschiml "is both influential and incredibly bad at the same time." what's not to love?

unfortunately, it's not in the public domain, so i can't just cannibalize it like a lot of other sources i am using. but i am considering creating a hysterical conspiracy theorist-historian character to wreck havoc in the meta-theatrical layer of the world i am trying to create (based on Eisenschiml and maybe one or two other serious fruit loops). he can hang out and play poker with Washington in Carrera.

"The past is so often unknowable
not because it is befogged now
but because it was befogged then, too,
back when it was still the present.
If we had been there listening,
we still might not have been able
to determine exactly what Stanton said.
All we know for sure is that
everyone was weeping,
and the room was full."

meanwhile, here's a great article about Czar NastyOwlFace's epitaph at Lincoln's deathbed from the New Yorker Angels and Ages: Lincoln’s language and its legacy by Adam Gopnik. this is for those of you obsessed with the sort of minutiae that makes history so bizarrely compelling.
since i am no longer doing the 50bookchallenge, i'm no longer numbering, but last night i acquired and read (cover to cover ~ and to the exclusion of all else that might have been useful) Mary Abbie Walker Porter's The Surgeon in Charge.

The good news is, this is a weird little aggregation of George Loring Porter's leftover diary, letters and notes regarding the conspiracy trial (and he seemed to have saved most everything that got put into his hands).

a bonanza, right?

well no. unfortunately, Porter was a by-the-book fella who took very seriously his oath to convey no information about the proceeding whatsoever ~ not even privately to himself. so the diary ends with him saying he's been called to duty with General Hartranft, and then is dead silent until the 4th of July when he recalls the grand procession in Washington ~ complete with a hilarious reference to Sherman and Stanton: "they had a spat". i doubt anyone on my flist would know this, but Sherman was so furious at Stanton (and visa versa) that they very publicly snubbed one another on the grandstand. even today there is debate about who did the snubbing first, Stanton later claiming it was he who snubbed Sherman, not the other way around. unfortunately Porter doesn't shed light on this very pressing historical issue.

silly generals and politicians. does it amuse me that my two least favorite people in 1865 were such brats? oh yes, yes it does.

anyway ~ the book answers one really important question regarding the whereabouts of the surgeon's reports. there simply were none. Porter reported verbally to Hartranft and, if there was some pressing issue that couldn't be resolved between them medically, Hartranft reported to Hancock, who reported to Stanton, who sat on his throne and made all the decisions. so we'll never know the particulars of who was ailing and what with. and if Porter wrote no reports, then it is highly doubtful that Dr. Gray (the insanity expert who reported directly to Stanton) ever wrote any either.

click for more woobling and wibbling about all sorts of truck, including a fun picture )

Porter's "ticket" to the execution, signed by General Hancock
(i just love that guy's writing!). even with my very rudimentary
paleography skills, i am pretty confident the handwriting
on the back is General Hartranft's.
~ and you can't really help it. it has that sort of car-wreck fascination from which you just can't tear your eyes away. this has been my fodder for the last few nights. in the realms of the truly abhorrent.

for the [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge:

no. 8. ~ Christmas with Robert E. Lee by Helen Topping Miller. i can't begin to imagine what compelled this author to pen such a wretched text. i was hoping for some treacle, but instead got a full-on helping of pathetic privation and disgrace (and endless pages of expository dialogue during which General Lee's children go on endlessly about stuff they all already know). man, this was a doozy: bad writing, a depressing, bad story, and some bizarre characterizationss. worse still, i have the sinking suspicion that everything in this slim volume was documented, right down to the Arlington carpets curled under against the wall because they were too big to fit at the shack at Washington College. i honestly couldn't tell if this was written to illicit sympathy for the Lees or in the spirit of some wicked schadenfreude. someone just spork my eyes out, please.

no. 9 ~ Madame Surratt: a drama in five acts by James Webb Rogers. oh. my. word. i'm not even sure i can begin to decribe this meta-theatrical pantheon of bad taste. the plot is inscrutable, the parade of random historical personages (including ~ oh wow ~ George Washington!) is bizarre (francis scott key and powhaten and patrick henry also make appearances ~ there is also an allegorical fantasy sequence, not quite but almost a ballet, in which actors representing the dissenting states comes back to the Union). honestly, i have no idea what to make of this mangled apologetic of southern honor that simultaneously damns the assassination and begs sympathy for its perpetrators. the dialogue is truly, pricelessly, dreadful: warbling Shakespearean monologues full of bombastic overbloated metaphors. this is my favorite exchange:

BOOTH: Richard the Third is on the boards to-night, and you shall learn the lesson while I play.

POWEL: Impossible, for I return to-night.

BOOTH: Whither?

POWEL: To my command.

BOOTH: Then wherefore did you come?
it is, in fact, so absolutely dreadful, i feel i must make use of it. immediately! i'm soooo working this in to my book somehow. if you would like to see for yourself this horror in all of its glory, feel free to read it online! (i love openlibrary.org).
and because we need an accompanying picture, here's something pretty and also slightly educational:

this carte-de-visite played a big role in the conspiracy trial.
it was found in the Surratt house with John Wilkes Booth's photograph
placed behind it. the prosecution kept trotting it out as
if it were some profound piece of evidence. it becomes an interesting
fixation during the course of the testimony.

anyway: it's Thursday and you know what that means? Update Day for Reconstruction. hopefully it's palate cleanser for inflicting bad books on you!

: D
lookingland: (coach)
( Mar. 9th, 2008 11:50 am)
i've doing a lot of reading, but not reporting on it as of recent. i'm currently sort of muddling through thomas nelson page's Red Rock, which is interesting, but a long narrative with too many characters (i'm having a hard time keeping track of them all). i've also been reading fits and futz from various nonfiction books, but nothing substantial worth reporting (mostly retread). nevertheless, i have these two books to offer for the [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge:

no. 6 ~ First Blood by david morrell. i've always been curious about what the original source material for the film was like. now i need be curious no more. i have to say i was mostly disappointed. somehow the movie improved on an interesting story that ends sorta eh. the book is oddly superficial. the motivations are scant, the violence is over the top. in the book, john rambo kills everybody (including teasle). in the film he kills nobody (though his actions do lead to a single death). in the book, trautman knows who he is, but they never worked together. in the film, they're like father and son. in the book, rambo gets it in the end (by trautman's hand, no less!). in the movie, rambo is redeemed. the book is a really bleak, nihilist take on the pointlessness of human existance and the desperate failure of people to connect.

i like the movie. now i have always liked the movie. i respect it now even more.

no. 7. ~ The Douglas Diary by Henry Kyd Douglas. this is Douglas's school diary (from Franklin and Marshall College, 1856-1858). i came across it by accident while looking for his war memoir and i am glad i did. it's a nice little book (beautifully printed!) with a good detail of life in a pennsylvania college town before the war (Lancaster). he mostly writes about "idling" a lot, oversleeping, not doing his homework, and stealing test questions by elaborate means (is there no honor?). Douglas and i would not have got along if he'd been in my high school. he seems a snooty, self-important little dork (a reputation that followed him as Jackson's youngest staff officer).
of historical note: it's speculated that Douglas was the idiot who lost Lee's order (for the invasion of Maryland) and possibly cost the Confederacy that campaign. there's no hard proof, but he was shortly thereafter sacked by Jackson and sent packing (the two evidently had a rather serious falling out, though Douglas would deny it later). most of his contemporaries called him a confabulator at best, a rank liar at worst. it's hard to know what to believe.

Douglas and J. F. Hartranft became friends during the war despite being from opposite sides of the Mason-Dixon (Douglas was an ingratiating, charismatic little rebel booger, for certain ~ and Hartranft seemed to be easily taken by charmers and toadies). the circumstances under which they met was certainly ineresting ~ Hartranft captured him. let it be testament to Hartrant's marshamallowy sentiment that even as captor, he couldn't help striking up a friendship with the boy-officer who had attended his own alma mater in Lancaster. anyway, the friendship turned out to be life-long (with Douglas reaping the benefits of Hartrant's influence). Douglas delivered an address at Hartranft's memorial unveiling in 1899 (which makes me all kinds of sad, though i can't exactly explain why).

Douglas was in prison for breaking parole at the time of the conspiracy trial ~ he was arrested for wearing a uniform hat (edit: i mean coat ~ in itself a hilarious story). he was brought in to corroborate the testimony presented by one of a number of government "plants" (probably in exchange for his release), but once on the stand denied ever seeing the man and contradicted everything the man had said. this infuriated the commission, he went back to prison, and his testimony was for all intents and purposes stricken from the record. it's impossible to know what in the world he was playing at in all of this. my sense of it was that he enjoyed the power he wielded and wanted to make fools of the commission (which he did). he was that sort of person (i.e. a punk). in this way i find him an interesting study, but i still don't like him, though kudos (where duly due) for him for thumbing his nose at the military trial. and i am still endeared to him for admiring Hartranft as he did, even under the worst circumstances.

h. k. douglas about the time of his writing of the diary.
okay, he was just a kid, but i still think
he was a conceited little miscreant.
the last couple of weeks, my lincoln assassination collection has attained new heights in obscenity (and my friend [livejournal.com profile] utter_scoundrel just sent me the commemorative issue of Civil War Times Illustrated from 1965 covering the assassination ~ oooo fun!). i admit my collection had already grown obscene when i purchased my second copy of Doster's Lincoln and Episodes of the Civil War (because apparently one copy wasn't enough, and, by the way, they are finally reprinting it after i had been looking for a copy the whole of my life, it seems).

now, i had thought until recently that i was showing a great deal of restraint by not purchasing the Petersen Brothers trial transcript ($500), the Gutman book ($290), or any number of assorted temptations on eBay. but then i suddenly got a wild hair about returning some library books that i have had out for over a year now, and so have just been ordering my own copies of a whole lotta other stuff (this, in preparation for finishing that book i said i would write).

this is what i have acquired in the last week or so in hardback:

Come Retribution ~ i avoided the Tidwell book for years because i thought it might ruin my perfect little Eisenschimlian world. but eventually we all have to face facts. i still think Eisenschiml was on to something, but i'm willing to call off my own personal dogs until further notice.

John Wilkes Booth: A Sister's Memoir ~ oddly, i had never read this until recently. in my own biases, i assumed it could have little merit. but some of her anecdotes are priceless. the one about John and Joe beating the crap outta each other as teenagers over an argument of the placement of a door, and then claiming they had stumbled on a wasp's nest to explain their swollen, bloody faces is worth the cost alone.

Blood on the Moon ~ Steers is pretty much required reading, like Kauffman.

Beware the People Weeping & When the Bells Tolled for Lincoln ~ two analyses of post assassination sentiment. Beware is better than the Bells Tolled book, and includes more detail about public attitudes regarding the conspiracy trial, but both have very interesting things to say.

Katy of Catoctin ~ can any collection be complete without the first piece of lincoln assassination fiction, written by someone who actually stood at the foot of the scaffold in the end?
a couple of pieces that i still want but haven't found reasonably priced copies just yet:

Lincoln in the Telegraph Office ~ there are cheap reprints of this one, but i want an original from 1907. i just don't want to pay $50 for it. go figure.

I Rode with Stonewall the War Experiences of the Youngest Member of Jackson's Staff ~ this is one of those peripheral texts. H. K. Douglas includes a chapter about being dragged to the trial to testify, after which his testimony was stricken from the record as being immaterial (because it didn't corroborate what the commissioners were hoping to corroborate). he also tells one of my favorite incidents from the trial, regarding Anna Surratt fainting in the hallway and Hartranft having her carried into his office.

Why was Lincoln Murdered? ~ Eisenschiml's work is seriously dated and riddled with factual problems after further research, but i still think he has one or two valid questions that have never been answered to my satisfaction (particularly with regards to Eckert and Stanton ~ i don't really understand the current scholarship so cavalier about saying it was no big deal for Stanton to thwart Eckert from going to the theatre for no good reason whatsoever. likewise, am i the only one in the universe who thinks Stanton putting Eckert in charge of Powell was especially suspicious, particularly given that Eckert produced no documentation whatsoever out of the hours they talked together over the next few months?) so yeah, i'd like a copy of this just for keepsies.

The Mad Booths of Maryland ~ i've always wanted a copy of this one. eventually i'll get it.
i also wouldn't mind owning a copy of Thomas Mealey Harris's dreadful account of the business (a wretched book, but goes far to show the commission's attitude and justification for their decisions). This book is also being reprinted (as of January!). Bravo to Kessinger Publishing for making these books available again (and go buy copies since I am too much of a book snob to purchase paperbacks ~ but they totally deserve your support!).

so: anything cherished on your bookshelves? anything you are chomping at the bit to own? i now have more than 20 books, a handful of magazines, and one lonely reel of microfilm (Hartranft's) on the subject, but somehow that doesn't feel like a lot.

this is x-posted to [livejournal.com profile] jwb1865, so i apologize for the repetition.

: o p
lookingland: (water bear)
( Mar. 2nd, 2008 02:32 pm)

i haven't painted Sid yet, but i couldn't resist throwing this together and giving it a digital tint just for the effect. i'm still working on his leather overcoat and the dog.

i like Sid. i try not to populate my world with too many characters that are just completely off the wall, but Sid was irresistible: affable, easy-going, single-minded, slightly crazy, and just plain fun. he's sensitive enough that you can hurt his feelings with a sharp word, but his short-term memory means he'll forget you insulted him before the day's out. unfortunately it also means he might not remember who you are when you serve him breakfast the next morning.

everywhere Sid goes, cities burn down and maybe he sees angels sometimes. he has been a child arsonist, a soldier (u.s. army sergeant), an oddjobsman, and a sheriff, but his principal adult occupation is a fireman and watchdog against the asian sex slave trade in san francisco. he marries late in life, to a notorious retired japanese vigilante woman with no tongue named Barabas (really, i'm not kidding).

perhaps my favorite thing about Sid is that he is mercifully free of his own past. no horror he has ever suffered (and he has suffered many) can ever touch him.

to see details of the clothes sans coloring, click here )

p.s. Sid lives in frisco for most of his adult life, but the design of his uniform is taken from a new york style i found in this excellent resource.

if you ain't seen the above movie, i hope dd-lewis's oscar win will encourage you to go forth and watch! mostly i just like that poster. it's cool (almost with a "k"), so i wanted to post it. p.s. i think casey affleck was robbed (not that i actually care about the little gold man award).

in other news: i've decided to post twice a week to Reconstruction starting tomorrow. i have enough of a buffer to get me to April and presumably i will keep working (though it has been going slow).

i had been stuck on choosing a model for the Morse house on Grace Street (i am one page away from Lewis and States's inauspicious first meeting). i was going to use the infamous (and now lost) Van Lew house, but i think it's mentioned somewhere that they are neighbors to the Van Lews, so that would be kinda dorf. then i thought it ought to be something sorta eccentric (like that a sea captain would live in ~ as they all seem notoriously bizarre architects), but i think it's a family house that's older than Cleveland Morse (and possibly belonged to his first wife). i almost think something Georgian would be more appropriate except that it's gotta have columns! but i don't want a Gone with the Wind plantation house either.

right now i am leaning toward the Bellamy mansion in north carolina. i like it especially because it has a crow's nest, which i always imagined the Morse house to have.

you can read more about here.

meanwhile, i guess i should quit fribbling and go draw.
dunno what i was thinking when i chose this as an angle to draw a panel from. i meant to scan this before i starting filling in the horse so you could get a sense of what my "roughs" look like when i just slap them on the page before they get refined and inked. at least the horse isn't smiling ~ ha! and look at how wongy my perspective is on the street (that'll get corrected!). i'd have finished another two pages already if i hadn't made this silly panel so complicated.

: D

in research news, i finally found an actual photograph of two horses in harness in which one of the horses has fallen. i had seen a drawing of such long time ago and it stuck in my head, so i wrote a story called "A Horse in the Road" (which some of you might remember). it was suggested to me that one of a team of horses might not be able to fall without bringing down the other. i don't know squat about horse rigging, i only knew i had once upon seen a picture and i couldn't really trust my memory on the matter.

so finally here's a picture for reference, totally not intended as an "i told you so" since, like i said, i know nothing about how these things work. i figured that falling horses (especially in the 19th century) would be common, so it would only make sense that the rigging be designed not to injure the rest of the team if one were to fall (sort of like break away pet collars). this picture might be educational (for anyone needing such obscure education?).

cut for being a sad picture. the original caption said the horse was sick and fell down during a race, but doesn't indicate whether it recovered. )
i spent all morning drawing this train and a hundred bricks, so you are going to appreciate it. the worst thing about drawing the civil war is that there are all these trains and bricks everywhere. and when there aren't any trains or bricks, there are horse carriages and similarly difficult things to draw. talking heads i can do all day long, but wide angle establishing "shots" may well be the death of me.

the good news is that this train appears on page 9 which means i am making something like progress. and yes, i cheated by recycling some old art (which hopefully won't look too spectacularly inconsistent ~ but then i expect much of this project might be just that: wildly and bizarrely inconsistent). but tally ho and all that rot ~ onward unto the breach!

: o p

it's zowie cold out and tried to snow earlier, but then dropped below freezing, which put a kaibosh on that. i think we're s'posed to get wind chills in the -40 range. i'd rather have three feet of snow.

entertaining things for people who like random historical junk: The Civil War Diary of George Taylor Granger and a cool letter written by an assistant surgeon at Gettysburg.

i spent entirely too much time today looking for pictures of trains and street views of Baltimore during the war. i am now going to make a sandwich for lunch. yay lunch! hope everyone is having a productive sattidy!
lookingland: (picasso)
( Feb. 7th, 2008 07:35 am)
spiritual matters: welcome to the year of the rat! the year of the pig (my year) is over (i wasn't especially lucky, but i guess i could have been otherwise hit by a bus). and it ended on ash wednesday, which is good for me: start fresh today. went to mass at the university, which was odd ~ first time at a "triage" mass not in an actual church. also, the fastest mass i've even witnessed (twenty minutes, tops). but father jim was a personable fellow and not the least bit slapdish and the crowd who showed up was respectful and serious. it was nice to see so many young people (moslty men!) coming to celebrate. i haven't been to confession, so i received ashes, but no Communion. i'm going to try to be prepared for confession this saturday. please pray for me, my flist friends who are thus inclined!

update on the mugshot from yesterday: my friend mooey did some research on Claude F. Hankins. she found out some further information about his case: namely, that Claude shot an older man who made nasty advances on him (yick), that he served 10 years in san quentin (not 4), and that after he got out of prison, he married, had a family, and lived to a ripe old age, dying in 1965. photographs are so evocative. the paths they take you down are filled with such pathos. i am sad for Claude because of his childhood lost, but hopeful for him that the remainder of his life was full.

fun projects for all: [livejournal.com profile] gwyn_hwyfar is doing this fun book meme. i hope other people on my flist will also do it! i'll try to take pictures as well.

progress of the day: i'm off to go draw right this minute. anxious to get posting, but i want to make sure i can get over the hump of the eight-page slump (i'm on page 6 currently). i recycled old art for the last three pages, so i'm not 100% sure i like it, but i don't want to get bogged in self-criticism.

meanwhile, go check out Loyalty & Liberty from the fabulous [livejournal.com profile] redcoatcat. if you dig historical dramas, this is an online wonderful graphic novel set in the late 18th century (American Revolution! lobsters! tea parties, boston-style! cats in gaiters!) with exceptional painterly artwork!

p.s. all you midwesterners suffering from too much snow: SEND IT TO MINNESOTA! : o p