Reading Update and more

I peeked ahead in Bearss to see what information he had on General Hamilton. It was pretty much what I expected. At some point in early 1863 he was passed over when McPherson was made a corps commander on the Mississippi expediton and Hurlbut was made commander at Memphis.  He agitated to get an independent HQ from Hurlbut, or to replace McPherson.  He was offered a subordinate postion under McClernand, which he refused. He eventually was allowed to transfer out and he then resigned.

Hard to say if he had a point. Grant definitely was not interested in satisfying him over McPherson. I’m not sure if Hamilton even ranked McPherson – neither was Hamilton. But within reason, commanders are allowed to jigger matters to enhance the career of superior, but junior officers. Remember, Grant disliked McClernand, so a position under him might well mean a promotion if Grant got him relieved. This actually happened during the siege, of course. 

But even if Grant was promoting his favorite unduly, there was no worse thing to do than play the primadonna about it. Grant valued harmony among his commanders pretty highly. When he was made head of the armies, nothing impressed him about Meade was his request that if Grant wanted to replace him with a more familiar officer, that he would gladly serve anywhere he was placed. This ironically made Grant very unwilling to relieve him!

Well, this is getting ahead of where I am in the book. Sherman is still noodling around Vicksburg, preparing to assault the bluffs under the assumption that Grant is holding the defenders away or is fast approaching. Instead, Grant will soon be leaving him in the lurch to attack high cliffs against fully defended lines. Sherman and Grant have ‘stolen’ McClernands independent army raised to take the city, and are using it themselves. McC is up north on his honeymoon, and hasn’t noticed that his troops have been taken off on the expedition.

I also read a few pages of the Glantz book on Smolensk, but not enough has happened to make it worth going into.

General Charles S. Hamilton

I am reading Bearss’ History of the Vicksburg Campaign. I’m on the first volume, and General Hamilton is playing a big part, yet soon thereafter I don’t recall him being present during the rest of the campaign.

I looked up his records, and he apparently resigned his post in Mid April 1863. The summary I found said he was critical of Grant and his superiors, the Wiki gives no reasons. Certainly at that point Grant was down the river, with Corps commanders McClernand, Sherman, and McPherson. If Hamilton was still in North Mississippi, a backwater, could have rankled. Also the elevation of McPherson and/or McClernand could well have rankled.

I’ll have to see if the subject is mentioned in the book when I get to it. It may not be that big a thing – this was a period where many of the larger players in the early war were moving aside or being pushed aside for younger officers. For example in the east, Franklin, Sigel, Sumner, Franklin are being phased out in favor of Hancock, Reynolds, Sedgewick, and Meade.

TV Review: Unearthing Ancient Secrets – The Death of Cleopatra

This is an episode of a series I have started TIVOing. In this episode they have a profiler, Pat Brown, look into what might be wrong with the story of Cleopatra and the asp. Who is Pat Brown? Well they give has her credential the profiling of the Washington DC Sniper. Given the hopelessly bungled investigation of that incident, this hardly seems like something to have confidence in.

The repudiation of the suicide story is pretty thin. The “evidence” is that Cleopatra was a ‘fighter’ or ‘survivor’. Given her situation, a prisoner of the man who was the sole ruler of the entire known world, supposedly destined for a humiliating triumph followed by execution, the supposition that she should fight on assuming something would ‘turn up’ is ludicrous. The argument that today’s suicides are sad and ineffectual hardly applies to the drives of a queen and demigod. Andi its notable that the suicide of Mark Anthony somehow escapes any sort of scrutiny.

Another other piece of counterargument is that Cleo was dead before her suicide note brought the guards. Since her handmaidens were not dead at the same time, its reasonable to think that Cleo made sure that she was dead before having her handmaidens send the note.

And the final nail, the “motive” is that Augustus had her killed, is pretty silly. For one thing, reportedly he wanted her to display in his triumph. If he did not, there’s no reason why he would feel constrained in ordering the execution of a foreign ruler that Rome had gone to war with. There would be no reason to conceal it because to Rome it wasn’t a crime!

The reason the story of Cleopatra’s suicide resonates through history is that by her death she defied the might of Rome one last time. They make the point that Octavian/Augustus was a master of spin and message control. This would not be the kind of message he would prefer to get out about the woman who he blamed for a huge war and whose son by Julius Caesar was a possible threat (if a remote one) to Octavian’s positon as the heir of Caesar.

There was a funny moment where they said that Augustus got his name from the month he conquered Egypt. Actually August got its name from him, not the reverse. This hardly requires much research to discover.

Most of the rest of these shows are much better done – even the one on the possible murder of King Tut presents the pros and cons of the theory to a much greater extent, even showing at the end some new evidence that casts some doubt on the murder theory – first by countering the X Ray evidence for a head injury, and second by showing a possible leg wound. Although they don’t emphasize this, a lingering wound and decline could lead to the succession crisis between the childless queen and dying king versus the viziers who need to set up a new government after his death, without the need for an actual act of murder.

Kindle Quick Review

I tried a lot of the functons of the Kindle. Its major function of reading seems perfect. Once I bumped the text size up a little there was no problem reading. The battery life was a little low when I left the networking on, just one day.

I read several of the stories and one of the novels in the SF book – Cosmic Computer by H Bean Piper.. Its a story about men trying to get society on their world restarted. Everyone has been living off of leftover loot from an earlier war and were expecting a godlike computer to solve their problems rather than work on them on their own. Conn Maxwell and his father, who don’t believe in the computer, decide to use the search for it as a blind to trick others into going along. But what if the computer really exists?

Piper excells at describing the ‘practical man’ kind of hero – the doers and thinkers rather than the emotional or irrational. His worlds are complex and have that sense of real-ness that, for example, Larry Niven’s lack  While I like Niven’s writing, his worlds are constructed to serve a plot point. Over a large number of stories, this “thinness” starts to show. His collaborations with Jerry Pournelle are his best, since Pournelle adds a lot of historical sense. And Niven’s writing livens up the often pedestrian writing of Pournelle.

I scanned some of the history books. There’s a lot of the 10 dollar variety, but I also found some things like Tacitus’ works for a dollar, or even free. This has promise, since I’m still leery of spending 15 dollars on a e-book.

Uh oh

I just got a package in the mail – its a new Kindle that I ordered for my birthday using a pile of accumulated credit card points.

I ordered a package that has about thirty science fiction novels and stories – H Beam Piper, Mack Reynolds, and Doc Smith. I’m a big fan of Piper, and have read a bit of the other two. And for two bucks, not bad.

Books in Progress

I usually have several books in progress at any one time – its been a while since I would devour books that fast.  These days I have books set up in various places that I read when I am there.

  • In the Living Room I have two books – Volume I of Ed Bearss’ trilogy on the Vicksburg Campaign and Glantz’ Barbarossa Derailed on the WWII Smolensk battle.  I got away from Glantz’ because he’s a bit harder to work through, and since I was feeling ill last week thought Bearss’ would be easier, both because he’s writes more conversationally and because I am more familiar with the subject.  The Civil War is one of my favorite subjects.
  • Upstairs in the bedroom I have one of my Shelby Foote Civil War: A Narrative. It’s a new edition which busts the original three fat volumes into a dozen or so thin ones. I’m on the second to last one – Atlanta just fell.  There are a few of my Folio Society book club bonus books in there too – I’m in the middle of a set of Famous Trials, and also halfway through the “Red Fairy Book”. Not my usual subject, but its a nice volume none the less.
  • Scattered about and in the office are some of my books on the Fall of the Western Roman Empire I’m looking over for research.
  • There’s some books in the bathrooms too. I’ve put some of the “historical dictionary” type books or “who’s who in History” books I’ve gotten as bonus book club books in there. Eventually the entry or so you read adds up, and you at least get the feeling you are making progress.
  • I have my exercise books. When I walk to lunch at work twice a week or so I carry a book. The current one is Medieval Civilization. It’s another Folio book, and like most of them is a good book in content as well as being physically a great volume. This is a subject I don’t know all that well, which is nice.  The other exercise book is for when I take walks in my neighborhood. Right now its Thunder Along the Mississippi by Combes. Its a decent overview of Civil War river operations, marred by some incredible editing errors. Such as calling Gen. McClernand “McLernand” repeatedly. I’m also suspicious of him naming a “McMillan” as a luminary like Grant and Halleck. I’m not sure if the error here is calling an obscure person a ‘luminary’ or if this is misspelling a general that I have heard of.  In any event, the errors, although jarring, don’t really impact the subject of the book much and its nice to have a collected and condensed book on the subject.

When you write it all down, it sounds almost psychotic. I think I have a book somewhere around I can use to research this and find out for sure.


Insider note

On my portable the Choco theme cuts off short, so I can’t see the pretty date tag.  This theme doesn’t have the cool post styles, which is probably not an issue. I’m not sure why the widgets are the way they are right now – all in the inactive region, yet they remain on the final blog.

In good news, each free blog appears to get its 3 gig of space. whoot!