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The Last of the Official Records

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  • Bob Huddleston
    COMMENT Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.-In arranging for the publication of Captain Howell s article on Grant s campaign of 1864 we endeavored to
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 25, 2005
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      COMMENT

      Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.-In arranging for the
      publication of Captain Howell's article on Grant's campaign of 1864 we
      endeavored to secure copies of the original plate of O. R. Atlas, No. 135-A,
      copies of which could formerly be secured in any quantity. A letter to
      Lowdermilk & Company elicited the following: "We regret to say that the
      source from which we thought it possible to secure these is no longer
      available as the owner of the stock of separate maps destroyed the whole
      lot, finding practically no sale for them."
      Inquiry was then made of the Pasbach-Voice Lithographic Co., Inc.,
      who had the original zinc plates, to see if the plates for reproducing this
      map could be obtained. And from this source came a reply: "In reference to
      lithographic plates of the above, we are very sorry to inform you that they
      have been sold by the pound as metal. The writer time and time again tried
      to induce, not only the War College, but the public printer to buy these
      plates at very low figures, but they did not seem prepared, and as the price
      of zinc was going up at a terrific rate and seeing no future in the plates,
      we took advantage of the situation and sold them. We admit that it was a
      shame to do it, considering the fact that they originally cost over $35,000
      to make."
      What is to be said of this final ringing down of the curtain upon
      this tragedy of errors-our Civil War Rebellion Records? Costing nearly two
      million dollars of the people's money, in direct expenses, and at least
      another million in indirect, the whole undertaking of selecting,
      classifying, editing, indexing and printing the documents and distributing
      the sets of 128 bound volumes and unbound atlas, cannot be described other
      wise than as a botched job from beginning to end
      Perhaps the saddest feature was the fate of very many, It not the
      majority, of these bulky sets. Distributed to many political heelers, who
      hoped that at last a free government publication would be found to have some
      saleable value, a few of the Congressional sets found their way to
      secondhand book stores; but the dealers found their shelves choked with a
      set or two, and could secure no purchasers. Thereafter the rag-man bought
      them for old paper and they went to the papermills to be ground into pulp.
      Distributed to every field officer of the old army, whether they wished them
      or not, they proved, in nine cases out of ten, a white elephant to the
      recipient. In one western post, where the quarters were exceedingly small
      and where neither closet nor shelf room was available, one set was left
      exposed on a back porch to rot during the winter's storms; another, more
      considerately, was taken out and stacked in a shed to share the shelter of
      the family cow, while a third was piled in a cellar where it survived a long
      winter, affording lighting material for the furnace fire.
      When one asks of what use have these volumes been, the answer is
      that one German and two English army officers, and two American civilians
      have utilized them for writing on the subject of the Civil War, perhaps more
      intelligently than would otherwise have been possible. They have furnished
      food for tons of controversial publications, devoid of interest and of no
      historical value. Lastly, they have perhaps curbed some of the extravagances
      of subsequent memoirs. So much for the past: well may the doubt be expressed
      if any return has accrued to the government for its millions.
      Now, however, the impetus given to the study of the Civil War at our
      Leavenworth Schools has started many of our younger officers to a
      realization of how to study military art. The demand for O. R. sets is a
      constant one among graduating Staff College students, and has led, as one
      German General Staff officer put it, to the rediscovery of the Civil War by
      the American army officer.
      The satisfying of this newly sprouting demand has about exhausted
      the sets on the market. Nearly all the maps with the sets, having been
      loosely issued in paper covers, have been lost or destroyed to cap the
      climax, the unreplaceable zinc plates for the making of the maps, without
      which the series are useless, have been sold as old junk for some paltry
      hundred of dollars
      Who is alarmed lest America be overswept by militarism?

      Military Historian and Economist, 1 (April 1916), 199-200

      Take care,

      Bob

      Judy and Bob Huddleston
      10643 Sperry Street
      Northglenn, CO 80234-3612
      303.451.6376 Huddleston.r@...

      "Don't argue with someone who claims the earth is flat. You haven't given it
      a second thought, whereas he has spent 20 years thinking about and obsessing
      over why it is flat."
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