Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chickamauga, Stereos and Boris Godunov


It's been a beautiful summer day here in northwest New Jersey. I've been spending the afternoon reading Steven E. Woodworth's (ed.) The Chickamauga Campaign with Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov blasting in the background.

The book is excellent and highly recommended. I don't pretend to be a Chickamauga expert, but provided one knows the broad brush outlines of the battle the essays are uniformly understandable and of high quality. I hesitate to highlight certain essays for fear of unfairly slighting others, but I particularly enjoyed William G. Robertson's "Bull of the Woods? James Longstreet at Chickamauga" for its detailed and contrarian analysis of Longstreet's actions in connection with his transfer to the western theater and his actions on September 20, 1863. Together with Robert K. Krick's essay "Longstreet Versus McLaws - and Everyone Else - About Knoxville" (which appears in his book of essays entitled The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy: The Death of Stonewall Jackson and Other Chapters on the Army of Northern Virginia), Prof. Robertson's chapter should be required reading for those inclined to worship Lee's Old War Horse.

Editor Woodworth has written before on the Confederate fiasco at McLemore's Cove on September 10 and 11, but I found his chapter on the subject, "'In Their Dreams': Braxton Bragg, Thomas C. Hindman, and the Abortive Attack at McLemore's Cove", particularly lucid in explaining the dispositions and in offering some reasons as to how such a golden opportunity could have been lost despite Braxton Bragg's clear (to me at least) orders - a subject on which Alexander Mendoza also touches in his "The Censure of D.H. Hill: Daniel Harvey Hill and the Chickamauga Campaign". It's hard not to feel sorry for Bragg after reviewing the stupidity and outright insubordination to which he was subjected.

For a beautiful summer day, I broke out the summer stereo for the first time - a 100 Watt solid state AKSA amp, an Assemblage L-1 tube preamp, and an old Sony cd player, all driving a pair of Pi Speakers Two Pi Towers. I've used this combo for a number of years and it remains superb.

On the cd player has been (among other things) an EMI recording of Mussorgsky's unfinished masterpiece originally recorded in 1952 and featuring Boris Christoff in the title role (and two others).

A wonderful day.

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