Leo Tolstoy, Phil Ochs, Joan of Arc and other ghosts

On Twitter awhile back, I saw a challenge: “Describe your job in four words. I answered: “I talk to ghosts.” I mostly meant as a gonzo-historian, something I specialized in long before the Internet : the smell of microfilm rolls of decades-old newspapers still in my nose. Now, give a woman JSTOR ass and goodContinue reading “Leo Tolstoy, Phil Ochs, Joan of Arc and other ghosts”

Oceanside soldiers, John Brown, and how the Civil War flips the script on dissent

  I was reshaping my Civil War chapter, with a scene on May 12, 1861 — with soldiers in the newborn Union Army singing a song for John Brown. That happened at Boston’s Fort Warren, on the harbor’s Georges Island. As I was trying to evoke that day, I realized a potential problem; I’d begunContinue reading “Oceanside soldiers, John Brown, and how the Civil War flips the script on dissent”

Old soldiers, new century

Again with the cutting-room floor — this time with a section I’d worried was superfluous when I wrote it, but had been irrationally seized with wondering how my two Civil War storytellers had reacted to the beginning of the 20th century. Old Soldiers in a New Century The morning of August 18, 1906, is seasonablyContinue reading “Old soldiers, new century”

45 years ago, people learned what had happened in My Lai

And all  earlier drafts of my book included a sort of big-picture retelling of those events, focusing on signature dissenters like Hugh Thompson and Ron Ridenhour. Now that I’ll be referring to those events ONLY in a leaner, character-based narrative, I wanted this blog to have this version, of which I am pretty proud. IContinue reading “45 years ago, people learned what had happened in My Lai”

a bridge for Memorial Day

(The guy who sang the song above didn’t serve, but his dad Ernest sure did, spending the rest of his life in nightmares.) The piece behind yesterday’s photos went up today at the Inquirer, with a small amount of reader mail. Ak of the latter (so far) was respectful, and some of it was ofContinue reading “a bridge for Memorial Day”

On Memorial Day, remember these priests, poets, politicos and pranksters!

That’s how I’ve tended to characterize the huge, diverse and boisterous movement working to stop the U.S, war against Vietnam, 1963-1975. I should have written an essay here about them last month, for the anniversary of the 1975 evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, but I could barely fit them in a chapter forContinue reading “On Memorial Day, remember these priests, poets, politicos and pranksters!”

No #47traitors here;The Logan Act’s namesake just wanted peace with France

If you’ve been following national politics some, you may have heard, from both the left and the right, people naming the “Logan Act” as a way to penalize those Republican senators who sent a letter to Tehran behind Obama’s back. This isn’t the site for it, so I’ll leave it to Charlie Pierce to  explainContinue reading “No #47traitors here;The Logan Act’s namesake just wanted peace with France”

96-year-old outtake: fort leavenworth goes on strike

Long after the Armistice was signed in November 1918, open rebellions continued to startle military authorities, including the conglomeration of deserters, CO’s and malcontents that stuffed the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in 1918.