Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes & Confabulations Associated With Our Greatest President

America’s greatest president in both popular perception and scholarly evaluation, Abraham Lincoln has garnered more than his fair share of myths, legends, hoaxes, canards, idiosyncratic theories, fables and outright distortions and lies. Some of these ‘fairy tales’ have even been propagated by widely respected Lincoln scholars and popular exponents (e.g., Carl Sandburg). Even more unfortunately, a significant number of these untruths have captivated the popular imagination, some now being accepted without question as “fact”, not fantasy.

In Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes and Confabulations Associated With Our Greatest President, Edward Steers, Jr., examines a number of the most prominent Lincoln legends and myths, adduces and evaluates the evidence for and against, then offers a judgment which is almost always inerrant and persuasive.

Lincoln Legends is thoughtfully selected and arranged, clearly and concisely written, well-researched and documented, and always entertaining. From the story of Lincoln’s birthplace cabin to the amazing fabrication of a nonexistent “Andrew Potter,” you’ll be engaged, enlightened and informed.

I strongly recommend this excellent little work to any who have an interest in the truth about the Great Emancipator.

Incidentally, several of the myths which Steers examines have been propounded about the circumstances surrounding the assassination of President Lincoln (for example, the asserted escape of John Wilkes Booth, the story of Peanut John, and several others). This next month, on April 15th – the 145th anniversary of Lincoln’s death — the Haysville Community Library will be sponsoring a special program on The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. More about that program tomorrow . . .

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just In . . .

Our latest arrival to the library reference shelf is The CIA World Factbook.

The CIA World Factbook, a comprehensive and up-to-date information resource focusing on the nations of the world, has been published annually since 1981. In the past decade, the online version of the Factbook has become an essential tool for those seeking current information on populations, politics, economics, military expenditures and much more, for each and every country on the planet, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Details include, but are not limited to location, area, climate and boundaries, elevation, natural resources, land use, population, age structure, birth and death rates, rate of population growth, net migration, urbanization, life expectancy, ethnic groups, languages, religions, type of government – and a very great deal more.

Make The CIA World Factbook one of your standard sources for quick and reliable international information.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Now You Can Tell Who We Are

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kindness is Contagious

Cooperation in a Social Network (James Fowler -- UC San Diego)

Despite the clamorous insistence of cynics and pessimists, the evidence says that acts of kindness, generosity and cooperation ripple outward, spreading with amazing ease to others far beyond the act itself. Altruism is contagious – and it only takes a handful of individuals to make a very real and important difference.

So concludes a study by researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard University and published in the March 8 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which provides “the first laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it spreads from person to person to person. When people benefit from kindness they ‘pay it forward’ by helping others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network.” And this effect doesn’t simply vaporize, but persists.

As one of the principals of the study, James Fowler of UCSD, suggests “though the multiplier in the real world may be higher or lower than what we’ve found in the lab, personally it’s very exciting to learn that kindness spreads to people I don’t know or have never met. We have direct experience of giving and seeing people’s immediate reactions, but we don’t typically see how our generosity cascades through the social network to affect the lives of dozens or maybe hundreds of other people.”

For more on this study see ‘Pay It Forward’ Pays Off’ at EurekAlert! or this item at Science Daily.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sherman: Lessons in Leadership

“You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it. You might as well appeal against the thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.”

— William Tecumseh Sherman

Steven E. Woodworth’s perceptive Sherman is a slender 178-page volume that attains its objective of providing a concise and quintessential overview of the life and military leadership of one of America’s greatest generals, William Tecumseh Sherman.

Sherman: Lessons in Leadership is one among a number of volumes in the Great Generals Series of Palgrave MacMillan, which also includes biographies of Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall, Stonewall Jackson and others. It is a lucid, well-written and perspicuous assessment of Sherman’s part in the great events of 19th century America. Woodworth’s narrative is fluid, and he consistently maintains the readers interest from start to finish. I heartily recommend this little volume to any who are curious about the life and times of this great combat leader.

A Brief Excerpt

“Sherman’s decision to rest his troops after the fall of Atlanta was to become the object of much future criticism. He may have passed up an opportunity to destroy or capture the main Rebel army in the West, although such feats were notoriously rare during the Civil War. Had Grant been in Sherman’s place, he would undoubtedly have made the attempt, but in that respect Grant was simply a better general than Sherman or any other general of the Civil War. Sherman excelled in other aspects of generalship. Though he was less likely than Grant to eliminate an enemy army, Sherman was to show that he could conceive of other, less costly, ways of winning the war.

“The failure to trap Hood’s army after the fall of Atlanta revealed how Sherman tended to focus on different objectives than Grant did. Grant aimed at the destruction of the enemy armies, while Sherman thought in terms of taking or destroying key strategic objectives that would undercut the enemy’s ability to sustain its armies. Thus, two days after the fall of Atlanta, he wrote to Halleck that there would be no point in advancing against Hood now, because ‘there is no valuable point to his rear till we reach Macon,’ and it was at present impractical to start a campaign against that city. For Grant, the object of advancing against one of the enemy’s strategic points was chiefly to induce the enemy to come out and fight, whereas for Sherman there was no reason to move against the enemy’s army if not for the purpose of taking one of his strategic points. Both approaches were sensible.

“Sherman had also displayed weaknesses in assuming his enemy would do what Sherman hoped he would do – such as evacuating Atlanta – and in misreading his enemy’s intentions – as in his failure to anticipate Hood’s attacks at the battles of Atlanta and Ezra Church. In those cases, the foresight of his younger lieutenants McPherson and Howard had prevented at least a serious check to one component of Sherman’s force. Throughout the war, Sherman had difficulty in calculating what the enemy was doing outside of the range of his direct observation. By this point in the conflict, however, he had learned to surround himself with such outstanding subordinates as Howard and McPherson and to listen to their concerns. Sherman had indeed come a long way since Shiloh.

“The capture of Atlanta was just the sort of tangible accomplishment the Northern public needed in order to grasp that the war was not, as Democratic Party orators were telling them, a failure, but that in fact victory was on its way if only the Union remained resolute. Lincoln might perhaps have won reelection without Sherman’s victory at Atlanta – though Lincoln himself thought it unlikely – but the success of the campaign did more than any other single event to insure Lincoln’s victory and a reaffirmation of the North’s determination to see the war through to final victory for the Union and for emancipation. In that sense, it deserves to be counted as one of the most decisive battles of the war.

“Throughout the campaign, Sherman had practiced maneuver warfare more skillfully and on a wider stage than any other Civil War general had done. Only at Kennesaw Mountain had he made the mistake of attacking where Johnston wanted him to attack. On every other occasion Sherman’s main effort had taken his forces around Johnston’s strength to strike at vulnerable areas the Confederate general had left uncovered. Every Civil War army commander attempted to execute turning movements, but Sherman showed himself to be the master of such maneuvers. Again and again, he successfully turned his opponents, leaving them the unenviable options of retreating or fighting at a disadvantage. Johnston consistently chose retreat. Hood, just as characteristically, chose to fight. The results, ultimately, were the same. The fundamental concepts Sherman had used – maneuvering, avoiding enemy strength, capitalizing on enemy weaknesses – transcend muzzle-loading rifles and black-powder artillery and are as valid in the twenty-first century as they were in the nineteenth.”

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm  Comments (1)