Saturday, August 30, 2014

Electricity, Yes; Power Lines, No

Another little squabble in the ongoing war over power lines erupted this week at the western end of Prince William County, Virginia, an area that has been transformed from farms to suburbs over the past 25 years. (I helped, in my small way, since I did archaeology on two big developments out there.)
Local opposition is growing in just the two weeks since residents found out about the plan for a 230,000-volt line, which would run for six miles from a north-south line in Gainesville. The line, on 120-foot poles, would run along Interstate 66, cut across a wooded area near Catharpin Road in the Somerset Crossing neighborhood, and then run parallel to the north fork of Broad Run and the Norfolk Southern train tracks behind the Greenhill Crossing neighborhood to an as yet-unbuilt substation in Haymarket.

Residents say the line would cut through protected wetlands, reduce property values of entire neighborhoods and possibly cause health problems. Jim Napoli, president of the Somerset Crossing homeowners association, said a quickly called community meeting last week drew 200 Gainesville residents.

“The community is very upset about the proposal,” Napoli said. “We didn’t sign on for these monstrous towers of 230,000 volts of electricity surging through us.”
Dominion Power spokesman  Chuck Penn responded like this:
Penn said the population of Haymarket “has more than doubled since 2000, and during that same time period, the demand for electricity has roughly tripled.” The 2012 population of Haymarket was estimated to be 1,900; it was about 900 in 2000. “We’re looking at staying ahead of that,” Penn said. “In our business, we cannot wait until we need the power. You have to stay on top of the development.”
And there you have it. Nobody wants to live near high voltage power lines, but nobody wants to go without electricity. If you want to get rich in a big hurry, invent an affordable way to bury high voltage power lines.

The Cammin Casket

The Cammin Casket is an ivory and gold chest, 22 inches (56 cm) long, made in Scandinavia around 1000 CE.

Actually I should say that it was an ivory and gold chest, since the original was destroyed during World War II and all of these pictures are of a replica kept in the Danish National Museum.

Love the wolf and raven heads done in gold.

The carved panels are all different, but four of the panels depict beasts rather like this one, and four depict serpents.

What a marvelous thing, and how fun to imagine one of the saga queens putting her gold combs into it as she plotted the ruin of her enemies.


Our Wisdom is Our Own

We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we can’t be wise with other men’s wisdom.

--Montaigne

Bobby Jindal is Making a Fool of Himself

Bobby Jindal has acquired a bad case of what we might call Romney Syndrome, the determination to become President at any cost. His latest stunt is suing the Education Department over the Common Core education reform scheme. This is rich because 1) back when Common Core was popular with conservatives, Jindal was a big supporter, and 2) Jindal has so far been unable to get his own state to give up on its version of Common Core. He has just decided that grandstanding against Common Core will help make him the conservative champion in the primaries, so away he goes.

I find Jindal ridiculous. He has alienated many of his friends in Louisiana by taking stand after stand that has nothing to do with the actual politics of Louisiana and everything to do with his own vision of the 2016 nomination contest. He is hardly the first governor to arrange his time in office as a resume-building exercise, but he is just so crass and obvious about it. He flaunts both his ambition and his emptiness. My favorite example was when Jindal gave a speech to the Republican National Committee and said that Republicans "can't afford to be the stupid party," then went on to embrace all of the positions that led pundits to drag out the "stupid party" label in the first place. (Viz., he said Republicans should not be the party of austerity, then called for a balanced budget.)

I don't really expect very much of politicians. But shouldn't a candidate for President have something to offer beyond the recitation of slogans and relentless catering to the whims of the party base? I hate Ted Cruz but I do believe he means much of what he says. After his epic battle with Wisconsin's unions, I think everybody knows where Scott Walker is coming from. Marco Rubio may be an empty suit, but at least he is handsome and stylish and seems well-informed about important issues. Rand Paul may have shed his most extreme and interesting positions as he gets ready to run, but I still think he would govern very differently from the other candidates. What does Jindal have to offer? The more he talks, the smaller and less significant he seems.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Votive Plaque of St. Simeon Stylites

From the Louvre:
The plaque, dating from the late 6th century, was long thought to be part of a reliquary but recent scholarship suggests it is an ex-voto plaque dedicated to Saint Simeon Stylites, because of the inscription in Greek letters along the bottom of the plaque. The inscription reads "In thanks to God and to Saint Simeon, I have given." Recent research has allowed scholars to site the plaque in its original context and seems to lend support to the hypothesis of its votive function. The plaque was part of the treasure of the church of Ma'arrat an Numan in Syria. The treasure also contained a number of other similar small silver plaques engraved with invocations and dedicatory inscriptions. . . .

Unfortunately, the dedication does not indicate whether the saint in question was Simeon Stylites the Elder, who lived in northern Syria between AD 390 and AD 459, or Simeon Stylites the Younger, inspired by the older saint, whose dates are approximately AD 521-592, and who was worshipped at the Admirable Mountain near Antioch. However, the scene illustrated on the plaque suggests the origins of stylitism (from the Greek stylos, meaning a column), which was a particular form of asceticism whose followers spent their lives sitting atop a pillar. This form of mortification was first practiced in the 5th century by Simeon the Elder, who avoided worldly temptation by living on a high column. The saint is depicted as an elderly, bearded man wearing a loose hooded garment and with a large shell above his head. He is perched atop a column behind a latticed parapet. There is a ladder leaning against the pillar and an opening halfway up it to get in and out. The saint is holding a book and seems plunged in deep thought, calm in the face of the danger of the monstrous serpent that is threatening him. The animal is thought to be a reference to an episode from the life of Saint Simeon the Elder, when a snake came to visit the saint to request his help in treating his sick mate.

Conservative Humanism

Bradley Birzer, the second person to hold the University of Colorado's visiting chair of conservatism, had this to say about his own beliefs:
But, what about that label, “conservative”? Well, let me explain—as I see it—what a conservative is NOT.
  • A real conservative is not a loud, platinized, remade and plastically remolded talking head on Fox.
  • A real conservative is not that guy on the radio who seems to hate everything and everyone.
  • And, a real conservative never wants to bomb another people “back to the stone age.”
My own tradition of conservatism—whether I live up to it or do it justice—is one that is, for all intents and purposes, humanist. I believe there is a line of continuity from Heraclitus to Socrates to Zeno to Cicero to Virgil to St. John to St. Augustine to the Venerable Bede, Alcuin, and the Beowulf poet, to Thomas Aquinas to Petrach to Thomas More to Edmund Burke. The last one hundred years saw a fierce and mighty revival of the humanist tradition, embracing and unifying (more or less) T.E. Hulme, Paul Elmer More, Irving Babbitt, Willa Cather, G.K. Chesterton, Christopher Dawson, Sigrid Unset, Nicholas Berdayeev, Sister Madeleva Wolff, T.S. Eliot, Romano Guardini, Dorothy Day, Gabriel Marcel, Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Leo Strauss, Flannery O’Connor, and Russell Kirk, to name a few.

George Orwell, both shocked and impressed by the movement, noted in December 1943 that it was nothing more than neo-reactionary: a strange mix of traditionalism in poetry and literature, religious orthodoxy in ethics, and anarchy in politics and economics. I must admit, though I have never called myself a neo-reactionary, almost all those who Orwell reluctantly admired are certainly heroes of mine.

But as I see it, the conservative or humanist—or, the conservative humanist, if you will—only possesses one job and one duty, when all is said and done, and she or he performs it to the best of her or his ability: A conservative attempts to conserve what is most humane in all spheres of life: in economics, in education, in the military, in the culture, in faith, in business, in government, and in community. The conservative is, at the most fundamental level, a humanist, reminding each and every one of us what it means to be human.
Interesting, although that omnium gatherum of past intellectuals has some strange bedfellows, with some outright authoritarian monsters thrown in.

My broader critique would be to say that humanism as I understand it —I also consider myself a humanist — requires belief in the possibility of making things better. I obviously do not think that all change is for the better, and I rather dislike change for its own sake. The cult of Revolution, meaning the radical overthrow of the whole social order and its replacement with something completely new, has proved to be one of the worst ideas ever. By all means, let us preserve what is best and most humane about the past. But if you believe in humanity, you must believe in our power to reason and experiment and find new ways of doing things that improve on the old. If you deny this — if you insist the people cannot be trusted to find their own way and must always be guided by tradition — do you really have any faith in humanity? Some of the thinkers on Birzer's list, such as St. Augustine and Leo Strauss, had no faith in the human mass; in fact if I compiled a list of people I consider anti-humanist thinkers they might both be on it. To me, humanism means believing that human reason is profoundly powerful. It may often go astray, but to dismiss its power is to dismiss the potential of the modern world, and that seems to me a grave mistake.

Remembering the Great War

Graves of German soldiers, Hooglede Cemetery, Belgium.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

KDP C for the SLS

Yesterday NASA announced its decision to go ahead with the most powerful rocket ever built, the SLS, like this:
This decision comes after a thorough review known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), which provides a development cost baseline for the 70-metric ton version of the SLS of $7.021 billion from February 2014 through the first launch and a launch readiness schedule based on an initial SLS flight no later than November 2018.  
Ah, the poetry of exploring unknown worlds!

Many space enthusiasts think this is a big mistake. Some think it is foolish to invest $7 billion in a new rocket based on 1970s technology, and they want NASA to leap ahead to ion propulsion, space sails, or something else high tech and clever. (Congress actually mandated that NASA re-use parts from the Space Shuttle wherever feasible.) Others think private companies could do the job cheaper; Elon Musk of SpaceX said he could do it for $5 billion. NASA responds that they are under orders from Congress and the President to launch a Mars mission in the 2030s, which means they need to start developing the pieces now, not wait around for new technologies that may or may not be ready in time. And while private companies have been able to do, at a discount, things that NASA has been doing for fifty years, private companies have no track record of going where no one has gone before; to see what can happen when the government asks private companies to build radically new machines, have a look at the F-35 program.

I still have my doubts about this whole Mars mission business, but I would rather we spent our money on new space rockets than more drones or fighter planes.

In Which the Usefulness of Sons is Demonstrated

Our sink was leaking very badly -- actually "flowing" is probably a better verb for what it was doing. I isolated the problem to the faucet and began trying to remove it. But we have a garbage disposal and the space under the sink is very crowded, and I found it utterly miserable to squeeze myself into the tiny space and twist my arms into the pretzel necessary to get pliers on the bolts at the correct angles. As I was cursing my fate, my elder son chose to rouse himself from slumber -- this was 1:45 in the afternoon -- and wander into the kitchen. "Would like to learn some plumbing?" I asked innocently. "Sure," he said. So I pointed to the bolts that had to be undone, handed him the pliers and fled. Since he had never done any plumbing at all before, my hopes were not that high. But ten minutes later he emerged from the kitchen with the old rusty faucet in his hand, saying, "Got it."

Well I'll be.

The Duke of Richmond's Fireworks, 1749

This etching depicts the "A View of the Fire-workes and Illuminations at his Grace the Duke of Richmond's at White-Hall and on the River Thames, on Monday 15 May 1749, Perform'd by the direction of Charles Frederick Esq."

Should you seek it out on the internet, you will find it almost invariably associated with Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, also first performed in the spring of 1749. In fact wikipedia transcribes the title of this etching as "Handel's Fireworks Music, performed at his GRACE the Duke of RICHMOND'S at WHITEHALL and on the River Thames on Monday 15 May 1749. Performed by the direction of Charles Fredrick Esq." Which is not at all what the original says.


However, the date on this etching is clearly May 15, and the generally accepted date for Handel's premier is April 27, not to mention that this is not the royal fireworks, but those of the Duke of Richmond.

And, Handel's royal fireworks are said by all the usual sources to have been in Green Park, not Whitehall. So, a mystery; were there two sets of spectacular fireworks in London to celebrate the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, or just one?


Part of the lore of Handel's first performance is that it went badly because it rained and one of the pavilions caught fire; could this have been a repeat staged a few weeks later in better weather? Any experts in 18th-century Britain out there who might be able to help?

No More Huge Dams

Huge hydroelectric dams are not cost-effective and we should stop building them. The projected costs of the biggest contemporary dams run into the tens of billions, but even those numbers are inadequate; the average big dam costs 44% more than projected. The money borrowed to build huge dams became a terrible financial burden on Mexico, Turkey, Brazil and other places, partly because of currency fluctuations. And that's before we get into the social cost of uprooting tens of thousands of people from fertile riverbanks and moving them to dry land. Consider the 57,000 Tonga people relocated in 1956 to build a dam on the Zambezi River between Zimbabwe and Zambia:
Construction of the Kariba Dam, which relied on what was then the largest loan in the World Bank’s history, required the Tonga to move from their ancestral homes along the Zambezi River to infertile land downstream. Mr. Scudder has been tracking their disintegration ever since.

Once cohesive and self-sufficient, the Tonga are troubled by intermittent hunger, rampant alcoholism and astronomical unemployment. Desperate for income, some have resorted to illegal drug cultivation and smuggling, elephant poaching, pimping and prostitution. Villagers still lack electricity.
Dams are built because the costs are systematically undercounted and the benefits oversold. (What happened to the electricity the Tonga were promised back in 1956?) International development gurus have been fixated for too long on mega-projects that are supposed to “jump start” the economies of developing nations, but all our experience is that they rarely do. Huge projects like dams or steel mills simply do not generate the broad ripples that their designers envisage. Many small investments, broadly distributed, always work better. Plus, there are now better ways to produce electricity than huge dams:
Instead of building enormous, one-of-a-kind edifices like large dams, the study’s authors recommend “agile energy alternatives” like wind, solar and mini-hydropower facilities. “We’re stuck in a 1950s mode where everything was done in a very bespoke, manual way. . . . We need things that are more easily standardized, things that fit inside a container and can be easily transported.”

The biggest dams look so seductive, so dazzling, that it has taken us generations to notice: They’re brute-force, Industrial Age artifacts that rarely deliver what they promise.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gut Bacteria and Food Allergies

In our ongoing mission to keep our readers up to date on the exciting world of gut bacteria, we bring you the latest on the possible connection between our heroes and food allergies:
Food allergies have increased about 50% in children since 1997. There are various theories explaining why. One is that the 21st century lifestyle, which includes a diet very different from our ancestors’, lots of antibiotic use, and even a rise in cesarean section deliveries, has profoundly changed the makeup of microbes in the gut of many people in developed countries. . . .

Cathryn Nagler, an immunologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois, has spent years probing links between the immune system, intestinal bacteria, and the onset of allergies. Back in 2004, she and her colleagues reported that wiping out gut bacteria in mice led to food allergies. Since then, Nagler has continued trying to understand which bacteria offer allergy protection and how they accomplish that.

In one of the latest efforts, Nagler’s team first confirmed that mice given antibiotics early in life were far more susceptible to peanut sensitization, a model of human peanut allergy. Then, they introduced a solution containing Clostridia, a common class of bacteria that’s naturally found in the mammalian gut, into the rodents’ mouths and stomachs. The animals’ food allergen sensitization disappeared, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When the scientists instead introduced another common kind of healthy bacteria, called Bacteroides, into similarly allergy-prone mice, they didn’t see the same effect. Studying the rodents more carefully, the researchers determined that Clostridia were having a surprising effect on the mouse gut: Acting through certain immune cells, the bacteria helped keep peanut proteins that can cause allergic reactions out of the bloodstream. “The bacteria are maintaining the integrity of the [intestinal] barrier,” Nagler says.
When you consider what a huge deal food allergies have become in our society, and how mysterious and alarming their rise has been to scientists, this might turn out to be extremely important.

Home from Charlottesville

Home from three days and two nights in Charlottesville, Virginia, visiting friends. One of those friends gave us a wonderful tour of the University of Virginia campus, of which I present some highlights. Above, the utterly bizarre sculpture honoring World War I airman James Rogers McConnell, known, according to our guide, as the Flying Monkey.

Homer, and a boy sitting at his feet, a pose that would not be chosen today.

One of the adorable animals on the old science building.

The highlight of the tour was the mural in Cabell Hall by American artist Lincoln Perry, born 1949. This is called A Student's Progress, and it follows a red-haired (Jeffersonian?) girl from admission to graduation and beyond.

She enters her first class.


Individually the figures are nothing special, but en masse the effect is quite cool. This is Halloween on the Lawn.

This bacchanal caused, we were told, a bit of controversy -- note the poor guy duck taped to the pillar. But since life at UVA is really like this, how could anyone really object?

More debauchery. So this was fun, and the trip was splendid. But now I am home and need to get back to ordinary life tasks like parenting and blogging.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Vacation

I'm headed out of town for a couple of days. Not sure if I will post anything before Thursday or so. Happy August!

Tutu Fella

Tutu Fella, one of the world's best-named archaeological sites, is a complex of stelae and associated graves in Ethiopia. There is little information on them online and that is full of contradictions about everything from their date to what they are. Ethiopia contains many of these "stelae fields." One of them, Tiya, is a World Heritage Site, but not even the WHC documentation states clearly how old these things are, who put them up or why. So, a bit of mystery for your amusement.






Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stained Glass by Henry Holiday



Windows from the old headquarters of the Royal Society of Chartered Accountants in London, on sale recently from the collection of Led Zeppelin's former manager. Curious.

Explosive Dust and Regulatory Stasis

From an NYT article on the dangers of explosive dust in factories, I extract this little parable about regulation and democracy:
Dust explosions are readily preventable with engineering controls, ventilation, training and other measures. The voluntary, industry-supported national fire codes have urged these measures for decades, and they now must be codified and enforced through federal regulations.

In 1987, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the United States Department of Labor, promulgated a set of regulations for combustible dust for the grain industry. This resulted in a significant drop in grain dust explosions and an increase in lives saved, at an acceptable financial cost.

Following a study that our board conducted in 2006, we recommended that OSHA establish a comprehensive combustible dust regulatory standard for all industries. The following year, it developed an enhanced enforcement program, but the critical component — a national standard with clear requirements — has yet to be created.

Despite the fact that a dust standard was one of the Obama administration’s earliest regulatory initiatives, there has been little progress because of a daunting rule-making process. Since 1980, a series of laws, executive orders and judicial barriers have virtually paralyzed the government’s ability to issue new safety standards. According to a nonpartisan congressional study, the process can take nearly 20 years from start to finish. Given those conditions, is it any wonder that a recent RAND Corporation report found that American workers are three times more likely than their British counterparts to die on the job?
These measures to keep the government from issuing regulations have come from both parties -- one of the most burdensome laws for Federal employees came out of Al Gore's "reinventing government" initiative. Both parties do this because American voters hate regulations. There is no more sure winner in American politics than running against "Washington red tape."

Are voters wrong to worry about this? I don't think so. I make my living helping my clients navigate one small part of the regulatory maze, and I can tell you that it is daunting. If I tried to explain to you all the steps involved in a complex undertaking like building a new highway or Metro line you probably would not believe it. It takes hundreds of dedicated professionals working for years if not decades to jump through all of the necessary hoops, and it costs tens of millions of dollars.

But what is the alternative? I think we got a good look at a world without "burdensome regulations" recently in North Carolina, where an administration determined to weaken the regulation of industry let Duke Energy oversee its own coal ash ponds. Environmental Cassandras shouted about the danger of this, but they were ignored until a major spill dumped thousands of tons of toxic waste into the Dan River. This led to a judge slapping Duke Energy with a demand that it immediately clean up all the ash, which is probably impossible, and the state legislature is now trying to work out a compromise measure. Compared to this environmental, legal, and political mess, is a set of comprehensive, detailed regulations really so burdensome?

Our industrial economy produces billions of tons of dangerous stuff every year; the leakage of even one percent would destroy us. We, as a society, cannot trust anyone else to protect us from those dangers. Our society also produces vast pools of capital that developers can use to rapidly level whole towns or blast away whole mountains. If we care about the quality of our lives, we cannot let them do whatever they want, either. And yet bureaucracy really is, I believe, one of the great banes of life in our age.

It is a problem without a solution; we can only grope forward as best we can.

The Dinocycle


Norwegian art student Markus Moestue has the coolest ride.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Swoon, Submerged Motherlands



Submerged Motherlands is an installation by American conceptual artist Swoon (born 1978). This pictures are from the Brooklyn Museum. Review here.

The Swash Channel Merman

Carved wooden figure from the Swash Channel Wreck, discovered in 1990 just outside the harbor of Poole, England and now being investigated by archaeologists. It has been tentatively identified as a Dutch East Indiaman that sank around 1630.

Andre Ermolaev, Iceland from the Air

Russian photographer Andre Ermolaev is fascinated by the patterns made by water flowing across Iceland's fields of volcanic ash and ice. Many more here.




Why Western Men Join ISIS

Michael Brendan Doughterty on why thousands of men from Europe have gone to fight for ISIS and other jihadist groups in the Middle East:
This shouldn't surprise us, and not because of the depredations of the French banlieues, vicious poverty in Western nations, or misspent youth in America. As long as Western liberalism has existed, it has been found charmless or contemptible by some men. Western liberalism asks men to be governed by laws made by mere men and their politicking. It demands of most men that they be mere citizens. It urges thrift, prudence, and industry. This is not for everyone.

Fascism and communism promise more to men dissatisfied with liberalism. First of all, power. To succeed in a revolution is to step over the grubby merit system in the old regime, on which you would have been last and least in line if you were counted at all. Revolutionary movements also offer visions of justice that are larger and deeper than some dirty court system. And the struggle in establishing them holds out prizes that are extremely rare for men of the West: glory, martyrdom, and heroism. Revolution beats a life of traffic tickets, creditors, bosses, and — if you're especially lucky — angst about real-estate.
I have a better idea for anyone who wonders about this: watch Fight Club. Violence, as it shows, can be a great antidote for purposeless boredom.

Whether a large subset of men drawn to conflict can really thrive in a peaceful bureaucratic society is, I submit, still an open question.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Who Trusts the Police?

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers wrote in about his recent experience on a jury:
A young Hispanic male from a nearby town known for its drug trade was targeted and arrested by a drug task force, although no drug charges were presented. He was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon (ramming the undercover cruiser behind him with his car), operating a motor vehicle to endanger (driving on the sidewalk to evade the ad hoc police blockade), leaving the scene of an accident, negligent operation (running stop signs) and failure to stop for police.

The very first question the defense lawyer asked was, “Where’s the video?” Of course there was none, and in the absence of actual evidence, video or otherwise, the six middle/upper-middle class white people that composed our jury took it on faith that four police officers would casually perjure themselves and voted not guilty on the assault and endangerment charges. At one point, one of the jury members asked “Why are there no witnesses?” I’m no friend of the police, but I felt I had to remind the group that technically the State presented four witnesses – the four police officers.

In the end, we voted to convict on the negligent operation and failure to stop charges, based on the defendant’s own account of the episode during his testimony. I couldn’t help but think that the police have a real, existential problem when the juror I expected to be most sympathetic to the police – the contractor who told the court he knew a few cops from the neighborhood – turned out to be the one most adamant that the officers’ testimony should be completely disregarded.
I recently heard a similar story from a colleague about a trial in Baltimore; he and his fellow jurors acquitted a young black man accused of being part of a drug gang, not so much because they doubted that he was in the gang as because they found the police account of what happened unbelievable.

Civil War Sketchbook

This week I was searching for a particular Civil War sketch of a place where I may do some archaeology and found myself sucked into the world of Civil War artists and their drawings. The American Civil War was fought in the newspaper age, and millions of readers north and south expected daily updates from the fighting. They also expected pictures. So the media magnates of the day obliged them, hiring dozens of draughtsmen to tour the battle fronts and produce the renderings of battle and camp that their readers demanded. (Edwin Forbes, Sergeant William Jackson of the 12th New York Volunteers on Picket Duty, January 27, 1863)

Some of these illustrators were drawn from the first rank of American artists: Winslow Homer, Alfred Waud, Edwin Forbes, Frank Schell. These works were eventually published as engravings, but those were usually made in great haste by men without the subtle eyes of these artists, and I much prefer the original drawings. Above, Winslow Homer, the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry Embarking for the Peninsula, 1862.

The usefulness of these works for military history is quite limited. The artists were not soldiers and often had only the vaguest idea what was happening in front of them, and for the details of uniforms and weaponry you are better off with photographs. But they are extremely useful sources for social history. As I have mentioned before, there are remarkably few surviving nineteenth-century photographs or drawings of ordinary houses and farms. America was full of houses like this one in Centreville, Virginia, sketched by Edwin Forbes because it happened to sit beside the road down which Pope's defeated army retreated from Manassas in 1862. Hardly any of these crude structures still stand, and if the fields where they sat have been plowed, there is next to no archaeological trace of them, either. Just about the only time anyone bothered to record these houses was when they happened to sit in the middle of a battlefield.

So that is why I often consult these renderings. But I find that they summon up the Civil War world for me in a powerful way. The feeling I get from them  is completely different from that I get from photographs (Edward Mullen, Crow's Nest Signal Station along the James River, 1862)

Nineteenth-century photography was too slow to cope with scenes like this famous moment from Gettysburg. (Alfred Waud, Attack of the Louisiana Tigers on a Battery of the 11th Corps, July 2, 1863, Detail)


Arthur Waud, Burying the Dead after the Battle of Fair Oaks, June, 1862, and detail.

Edward Mullen, Execution of a Deserter.


Edwin Forbes, Retreat of General Pope's Army, 1862.