Monthly Archives: May 2013

Vacation Time

Dear Readers – I am on vacation this week so there will be no new post today. Thank you. Arnold Regardie.

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Union Disaster at Chickamauga – Prelude To Its Death Grip on the Confederacy

With the approach of Memorial Day, it seems fitting to devote this week’s blog to one of the Civil War’s most notable, if lesser known battles, Chickamauga Creek.

This blog marks my third venture into writing about significant Civil War battles. The first one dealt with the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, two pivotal battles that saved the Union. The second one focused on the battle of Shiloh and the rise of U.S. Grant. Both are available as articles on amazon.com/Kindle Books. Here, I continue the thread addressed in the second article, which follows the career of U.S. Grant. In this blog, Grant, as a Major General, is named commander of all Union armies, save for a small area in the southwest, and immediately exercises his authority to relieve beleaguered General William Rosecrans following the disaster at Chickamauga Creek, south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The counterattack led by General George H. Thomas, who replaced Rosecrans, drove the Rebels back into northern Georgia and opened the gateway to the South for Union follow up and ultimate Confederate collapse.

The year 1863 saw a continuation of the fearful struggle of the Civil War. In early 1863, after the battle at Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Confederate General Braxton Bragg withdrew his forces southward leaving Union General William Rosecrans (“Old Rosy”) in possession of that town. The spring of 1863 saw U.S. Grant driving down the Mississippi River as part of the renewal of his campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi, some 200 miles upriver from New Orleans, Louisiana. In northern Virginia, Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s attacks caused withdrawal of Union General Joseph Hooker’s forces north from Chancellorsville, Virginia and across the Rappahannock River. In July, a major Union victory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the second attempt by Confederate General Robert E. Lee to invade the north was repulsed by Union forces led by General George Meade. However, there were events shaping up in western Tennessee as well which were also significant.
With the approach of Memorial Day, it seems fitting to devote this week’s blog to one of the Civil War’s most notable, if lesser known, battles, Chickamauga Creek.

President Abraham Lincoln wanted Rosecrans to get moving in Tennessee as well to keep pressure on the Confederates in as many places at one time as possible. In August, 1863, the skillful maneuvering of the Union Army of the Cumberland led by Rosecrans had feinted Confederate General Braxton Bragg into abandoning Chattanooga, a vital railroad junction, and to pull back his army into northern Georgia. This very successful result obtained with relatively few Union casualties caused Rosecrans to be hailed as a hero in his native Ohio. But it was soon followed by Rosecrans overextending his lines as he chased Bragg through mountain gaps below Chattanooga and presaged a Union disaster that was soon to follow at Chickamauga Creek (a Cherokee word meaning “River of Blood,” according to some historians), just south of Chattanooga.

But a heavily reinforced Bragg halted his retreat from Chattanooga and turned on the pursuing Federal army. Engaging Rosecrans along Chickamauga Creek, the collision of the two opposing armies resulted in a bloody two-day battle. When a poorly worded order caused one of Rosecrans’s divisions to pull out to support another unit, a huge, two mile gap was created in the Union line which was exploited by Confederate General James Longstreet as attacking Rebel troops poured through the gap and overran the Federals. Rosecrans ordered General Thomas to take over as Rosecrans was forced to fall back to Chattanooga. For his valiant efforts in shielding Rosecrans’s withdrawal, Thomas became known as the “Rock of Chickamauga.”

The devastating Union loss at Chickamauga Creek on September 19-20, 1863, could have spelled doom for Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland. But Confederate General Braxton Bragg, appalled at his own losses, hesitated in following up the Rebel triumph by allowing Rosecrans to retreat to Chattanooga and thereby preserve his army while Bragg occupied Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, mountains south of Chattanooga. Bragg had followed the retreating Rosecrans from Chickamauga and taken possession of Missionary Ridge overlooking Chattanooga and also occupied Lookout Mountain, west of Chattanooga, which Rosecrans had abandoned. Rosecrans also lost control of the Tennessee River and River Road to Bridgeport. Chickamauga became the worst Union loss in the Western Theater. These circumstances in Grant’s view justified Rosecrans’s replacement, effectively ending his military career.

Bragg’s mistakes ultimately led to a Union triumph after Grant, in October, 1863, ordered Rosecrans to be replaced by General Thomas. This order had come about after Grant had received a personally delivered notification from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton naming him as commander of the newly formed Military District of Mississippi. This district combined the departments of Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee under Grant’s command and included all of the territory from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River north of the area occupied by Banks forces in the southwest.

Combined Federal forces led by Thomas, Hooker, and General William Tecumseh Sherman, under Grant’s overall command, led their troops in attacks on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain causing the Rebels to retreat in chaos and ultimately led to the resignation of Bragg. The pell-mell pullback of Rebel troops from Missionary Ridge was particularly galling as the Rebel position had been supposedly impregnable.

The Union victory ultimately opened the way for Sherman’s campaign to Atlanta and subsequent epic march to the sea. Confederate armies would never mount another counterattack and would be reduced to parrying Union blows like an aging, worn out, and overmatched fighter. It marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

In Retrospect

As a long time resident of the Los Angeles vicinity there were many times that I drove south on the I-405 freeway past LAX airport. The first off ramp west past the airport is Rosecrans Blvd. With my continuing interest in the Civil War over the years and in particular my research for this blog, I came to realize and understand General Rosecrans’s contribution to the war effort for the Union cause.

In this era of electronic communications not everyone has the chance to read books on the Civil War. Hopefully this blog will help to fill the gap in knowledge that may be present in those who are interested in this area but do not have the time to read deeply about it.

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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A Delay In Today’s Blog

Good morning readers. I’m having trouble with my computer. So today’s blog will be delayed until a bit later. Thank you. Arnold Regardie.

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Clear Writing Requires A Strong Vocabulary

There is extensive research indicating that a rich vocabulary is a critical element in reading ability, as reported by the Educational Resources Information Center. (ERIC). There is also a strong link between reading and writing. If the writing process is heavily dependent upon reading and reading is heavily dependent upon vocabulary, it is clear that writing is likewise dependent upon vocabulary.

In my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on amazon.com/Kindle Books and in print), I devote an entire chapter to the importance of vocabulary building to clear writing. I state there that “[v]ocabulary building is the jumping off point to achieve clarity in writing. It is probably the single most important step you can take on the road to successful writing and cannot be overemphasized.”

My book continues to explain the importance of words. “As any business expert will tell you, the key to a successful business is ‘location, location, location.’ With a writer the key is ‘words, words, words.’ Therefore, the first “secret” to increase the clarity of your writing is to develop a powerful vocabulary. A strong vocabulary’s influence on successful writing is unquestionable. Writing your first draft (or any draft for that matter) should be considered as an excellent opportunity to continue your vocabulary building process. Strive to use all new words you have learned to fully express your thoughts.

A powerful vocabulary at your disposal is not only necessary to write clearly and compellingly and to avoid dry, colorless prose, but the right words will enable you to become expressive and develop a flair for writing. Words are your most important writing tools to command the reader’s attention. Properly used, they are potent weapons of persuasion. The breadth and depth of your vocabulary will have a direct influence upon the descriptiveness, accuracy, quality, and clarity of your writing. Any written communication is vastly more effective when a depth of vocabulary is evident.”

Examining the context in which words are used is also an effective way to increase your vocabulary. My book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” also points out that grammar can be learned by observing the context in which words are used, rather than memorizing rules:

“Memorization of grammar rules is of little use except to pass examinations. It has been my personal experience that as you train yourself to observe and appreciate good writing, you can likewise train yourself to develop and employ good writing habits in constructing sentences. This result cannot be accomplished by memorization of rules, which will have little effect on learning and understanding the context with which words are used. But, when in doubt, look up the rule.

The best expression of thoughts through good grammar can be learned by observing the association of the right word with the appropriate context in a sentence. The emphasis should be on training your eye to carefully observe how grammar is used in putting sentences together and to constantly practice what you have learned in your writing. The point was well made many years ago by the late Sherwin Cody, who authored several books and self study courses on writing and learning good English. Learn grammar by “original processes”, he wrote, “not by authorities and rules.” (See: New Art of Writing and Speaking The English Language, 59, Sherwin Cody, 1933, 1938).

Clear writing can be achieved even if you are unable to apply grammatical labels to the various parts of speech contained in a sentence. Even if you can’t diagram a sentence to break out the parts of speech or if you don’t know a pronoun from an adverb, you can still learn to write clearly.

Studying the logical relationship of words in a sentence as you read is most important in learning the practical skills of word usage. In this way you need not concern yourself with the technical definition of, for example, weak or buried verbs, as long as your eye is practiced enough to pick them out of a sentence.

This level of writing ability can only be achieved through dedicated study and the continued practice of writing. The secret is practice, practice, practice and, also, read extensively. Read books, magazines, and newspapers to see how experienced writers put words and sentences together. This will help you develop the right “feel” for your writing.”

It is important to relate new words to your own knowledge and experiences in life. Conceptualize new words by attaching them to words and concepts you already understand. Don’t just memorize the new words because they will then have little meaning for you and will be easily forgotten. Practice and repetition in writing will help to solidify the new words in your understanding.

There can be no doubt that the breadth and depth of your vocabulary will have a direct effect on the quality of your writing. It will be manifestly more effective when the reader can see that you have a well-researched command of words.

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Echoes From The Past Revisited, The Panic of 1857 and the Continuing Saga of The Discovery of Gold In California

An interesting sidelight to gold’s saga revolves around the tragic loss in September, 1857, of the SS Central America, a sailing vessel bound for New York carrying passengers and three tons of gold ingots and newly minted gold coins from California. Lashed by a massive hurricane, the ship went down in 7,200 feet of water about 160 miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C, at a time when U.S. bankers desperately needed the ship to reach its destination safely. The story was front-page news across the country and was accentuated by the Panic of 1857, which lasted for three years. Many people lost their jobs.

The sinking of the Central America was one of the worst at sea disasters in American history, claiming over 400
lives, and was front-page news all over the country. The loss of the approximately $1.5 million in gold the ship had carried, valued at roughly $18 per ounce, stunned the financial community and compounded the woes of the New York bankers, adding to the Panic.

The Panic was marked by a decline in wheat prices when the Crimean War ended in February, 1856. This drop was keenly felt by American farmers who had profited from the war. On a wider scale however, there had been a decade of land speculation and investment in railroad securities, aided by heavy borrowing. Banks had invested in businesses that were failing, causing people to panic. Investors were losing heavily in the stock market, railroads were unable to pay their debts, and businesses and factories failed idling hundreds of thousands of workers. People feared financial ruin and ran to the banks to withdraw their money. But the banks did not deal in paper money; they used gold and silver. But because of their failed invedstments, the banks could not gather all the gold their customers demanded. From August to September, 1857, a run on New York banks had required them to pay out more than twenty percent of their gold reserves and many banks failed.

However, the tragic loss of the Central America had a remarkable ending so far as the gold is concerned. In 1988, the ship and its treasure were located on the ocean floor by Tommy Thompson, an oceanographer from landlocked Ohio. Images aboard his vessel revealed a veritable king’s ransom in gold ingots and coins on the sea bottom where they had lain for over a century. Boosted by modern technological advances, the gold was recovered in 1989. The salvaged gold was estimated to be worth in the neighborhood of $1 billion, a record gold treasure haul.

The largest ingot recovered was an astonishing 933.94 ounces, nearly 80 pounds, with an 1857 value of $17,433.57. Nearly 7,500 coins were also recovered, many of them 1857-S Coronet double eagles. After being subject to a special conservation process, many coins were found to exhibit the brilliant proof like luster imparted to them the day they were struck at the San Francisco mint. The brilliance of the coins and gold bars was made possible by the oceanic conditions in which they were discovered, submerged under thousands of feet of ocean water at a temperature of 34 degrees Farenheit.

In my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on amazon.com through Kindle Books and in print), to demonstrate the use of parenthesis and brackets, I point out that coin collecting can be interesting as well as a good investment. Here is what I wrote:
Coin collecting can be very interesting, historically speaking,
as well as a good investment. Coin grading is subjective (a matter of
opinion, which can change over time), so never buy any coin without
first inspecting it.

Carson City silver dollars, aka Morgan silver dollars [named for the designer, George T. Morgan], minted in Carson City, Nevada between 1878 and 1893, are still popular today because of their attractive design and because they are a throwback
to the days of the Old West.

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Add Sound and Color To Your Writing

Clear writing requires a writer to have command of words and use of proper syntax. Both are essential to become an accomplished writer. Syntax is defined as the orderly, logical sequence of words to have maximum effect on the reader.

To me however, syntax is indistinguishable from sound and color. I cannot conceive of a situation where a writer can have good syntax and not have sound and color. For this reason sound and color have no such ready definition as syntax does. These elements of writing depend on the writer developing a feel, an ear, for his writing. For most writers, this only comes with time and experience. So, how do you know when you have it?

The ability to develop sound and color in your writing really depends on how well you apply yourself to the task of writing. I have consistently stressed my belief that clear writing is an art form, which can be attained with constant regular practice. It is only through the pursuit of this undertaking that you will come to recognize your voice as a writer.

It is hard to add sound and color to your writing unless you know what it is. The rhythm of your writing will reflect its sound and color. Listen to your writing as you write, then revise it to achieve effective rhythm. This means choosing words that fit in well with surrounding words. Jerky or monotonous sentences lack sound and color.

For example, the following sentence is repetitious and somewhat monotonous:

He was an exceedingly orderly company commander. When promoted, he became an efficient regimental commander.

Improved version:

As a company commander, he did things by the book; as a regimental commander, his efficiency was unsurpassed.

In the following example, sentence fluency has been hampered by excessive modification:

The man in the car opened the
door quickly and went hurriedly
into the restaurant.

Improved version:

The driver quickly abandoned the
car and vanished into the restaurant.

There are two ways to know when your writing has sound and color. First, you will feel it in your writing; the second, a bit more objective, a reader will remain fixed on what you have written and then compliment you on it.

The late William Manchester was a superb writer, the pages of his writing full of sound and color. His biography, “Winston Spencer Churchill, The Last Lion – Visions of Glory: 1874-1952,” Dell Publishing, 1983, speaks for itself. The following passage, (p. 7), is illustrative:

“Men who think of themselves as indispensable are almost always wrong, but Winston Churchill was surely that then. He was like the lion in Revelation, ‘the first beast,’ with ‘six wings about him’ and ‘full of eyes within.’ In an uncharacteristically modest moment on his eightieth birthday he said: ‘It was the nation and the race dwelling all around the globe that had the lion’s heart; I had the luck to be called upon to give the lion’s roar.’ It wasn’t that simple. The spirit, if indeed within them, lay dormant until he became prime minister and they, kindled by his soaring prose, came to see themselves as he saw them and emerged a people transformed, the admiration of free men everywhere.”

Adding sound and color to your writing doesn’t apply to every writing project. It may not fit at all into, say, a simple job application. But the experience of trying to add sound and color to your writing will help you acquire an ear for your writing, that sense of knowing the power of your words. It will help you to write more efficiently and more clearly.

As has been oft-mentioned in my book “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on amazon.com through Kindle Books and in print), clear writing is not easy. But the point bears emphasis. It takes work, lots of work. That’s the surest way, however, to improve the clarity of your writing. I’m reminded of books I’ve read about trying to hit a golf ball or a tennis ball. There’s only so much reading you can do before you actually go out and swing a golf club or a tennis racket. So it is with writing. Mastery of the guidelines and techniques explained in my book will go a long way to improve the clarity of your writing, but you still have to write to achieve maximum effect.

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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