Saturday, November 22, 2008

Confederates in the Attic

This is one of those books you hear so much about. Usually when I hear that I am left disappointed. Sure there are a few exceptions: Confederacy of Dunces, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Into the Wild and a few others. This one left me with mixed feelings at best.

OK, Tony Horowitz has a great repuation and has won a Pulitzer Prize. His writing is easy and not boring. My problem is there just appears to have been an ax to grind against the South and to try and show it still kind of a backwards, redneck, anti black area. Sure parts of the south are that way but let's not forget that much of the north is the exact same way. Racism is alive and well in all parts of the world not just the old Confederate states. Unfortunately most of the world can not get past skin color or religion and just accept people as people.

Horowitz hooks up with a reenactment troop and leader named Rob Hodge whose whole goal in life is to be hardcore and not be a farb. To be hardcore is to be completely authentic in dress, action, movement, and eating. If you aren't hardcore you are probably a farb. We also learn that you can be a farb, act farbishly, and more. Reenactment is something I've never quite gotten so this does nothing to change my view of this activity. Basically though these people come of as harmless, a bit odd but harmless.

In this book we get to meet whites who are just plain racist, we meet african americans who don't feel the war was about slavery, we meet young african americans who voice racist views toward whites that would be decried if the other way, we get to go on a Civil Wargasm which is a trip to as many Civil War sites as possible in a small amount of time, we see Civil War decendants, we find out that Stone Mountain has been turned into some kind of theme park with laser light shows flashing across General Lee, and much more.

Then we get asked the big question: Is there a way to politically correctly remember the Confederacy? I would ask why would we try to make such politically correct. We all know slavery was wrong however none of us had anything to do with it. We can't correct the wrongs of some in the past but we can prevent them from happening again. Tell the FACTS as they are without trying to spare people who are looking to be offended anyhow. This goes for anything not just the Civil war.

While this book is easy to read instead of calling it a travel book I would more say it is a sociological essay to show that the Civil War is still going on in the minds of many Southerners. While that may be true we should not paint all people with that bruch.

No, it's not the Six Million Dollar Man!

It's actually a grave marker for Steven Austin at the Edgwater-New Smyrna Cemetery. Pretty impressive and boy does it stick out as all the memorials around it are what is now normal size. This seems more retro in many ways back to when markers were large and grand. I do like it however and wish we did have more large scale monuments in this area. There almost seems to be something lacking in the flat markers that are all so common and required at many cemeteries. Is this a lack of respect and rememberance for the dead? I guess it depends on your point of view really. Use the link below to check out 5 close ups of vaious parts of the marker. Rest in peace Steven.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spruce Creek Cemetery

This past weekend I got to go to the Spruce Creek Cemetery . For those not familiar with the Daytona Beach area this cemetery is located within the Spruce Creek Fly In community. This is a gated community that has a private air strip. I had never been to SCFI so I didn't know what to expect. Some homes were very large and attractive while others were not so. Guess a gated community isn't always what it's cracked up to be. But then again where else can you have a nearly private air field and have an airplane hanger for a garage?

This is a small, nice, fairly well kept cemetery with everything from Civil War Confederates to more recent burials. There are probably a couple hundred burials in total. There are a full gamut of markers from homemade to what are no doubt top of the line stones meant either as a sign of wealth, grief, or greed.

The main reason for the visit was to photograph stones of the Metts family for a Find a Grave request. It made for a fun hour or so as we were able to photograph the entire cemetery.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Improvements at

I just noticed a couple of great improvements at These should be a great help to genealogists and family historians. A submitter now has the ability to easily and quickly link a parent to child. On the left hand side there is a new feature where all you have to know is the findagrave number for a memorial, then add it in the new section, findagrave does the rest. It creates an automatic link to the parents memorial. What a GREAT addition! Maybe soon they will have it go the other way as well so that you can reach a childs site from a parents memorial.

Also, editing a memorial has become easier. Once you post a memorial you can easily go back and add much more material later. Click the edit button on the top. Now you may add birth and death location and other information easily and in one place.

Kudos to Jim and his group for these great improvements. I know some members bitch and moan on the forums page about this and that but come on the site is completely FREE! I can't imagine the time and money it takes to keep this very large site going but overall they do a great job especially when you consider we don't have to pay a cent for it if we don't want to. Now if we could just figure out an easy way to stop people from creating duplicate memorials, duplicate cemeteries, putting memorials in the wrong cemetery, well if you use the site you get my drift. Well, I'm sure Jim and crew are working on it!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Assassin's Accomplice

With the 200th birthday celebration of Abraham Lincoln rapidly approaching we can expect a huge flood of books dealing with various aspects of his life and administration. It has already started really with one being The Assassin's Accomplice Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln. The work was written by Kate Clifford Larson who is a professor Simmons College and has a Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire. Don't let these credentials fool you. This is by NO MEANS a scholarly work and is by no means authoritative.

I will admit she gets the conclusion right. Mary Surratt was guilty. Other than that the book seemed to be filled with generalities that were never fleshed out. The killing of Lincoln is given just a brush over and little research seemed to have been done. The old story of John Wilkes Booth breaking his leg during the jump to the stage is given factual status despite evidence that would lead to this having happened during an accident on his horse. How else would a man who had just broken his leg have managed to get out of the theatre with no issue.

Larson spends much time discussing the publics view of Mary Surratt during the trial and the apparent shift afterwards when the realization hits that she is to be put to death. Why this shift of opinion? I still don't know after reading the book. Why did Andrew Johnson no have leniancy for an "old woman"? Beats me. What other options did the military tribunal have when faced with the mounds of evidence? Check elsewhere.

John Surratt is made out to be the scapegoat for Mary being put to death. If only he had come back to the states and surrendered Mary would have been spared the noose. Come on now. The evidence supports the verdict here and John had no more direct participation in the assassination than Mary. John was in Canada at time, depsite the author claiming he fled to Canada after the assassination.

Granted, Mary had poor attorneys. Let's face it in today's world these buffoons probably wouldn't pass the bar exam however that's what there was. They chose a poor strategy of trying to convince a military court that they had no jurisdiction in the case. How about trying to prove your clients innocence rather than arguing something that would be best done on your very limited appeals. They had an uphill battle and they didn't even get to base camp.

While not a bad read (trust me when I tell you if you no nothing about the time frame, the Civil War, or the assassination you won't be lost) my concern is people will read this and take it as gospel. Let's be honest there is no bibliography, only a scant section of notes and less than 10 photos. For those of us who actually look at this type of thing for further reading or research ideas this is a huge disappointment. The lack of review comments from respected Civil War historians on the jacket is also a give away that for top notch research we should look elsewhere. Better places to start are Manhunt by James L. Swanson or perhaps American Brutus by Michael Kauffman. Both of these authors are recognized assassination experts and while the books are not directly about Mary Surratt her life can not be seperated from the assassination.

In addition, for those with an interest in the Surratt family I would suggest checking out the Surratt website. This is a fascinating site with lots of information and the membership rates are more than reasonable.