Category Archives: Week 2: History past: Historical Thinking/Historiography

Thoughts and Reflections on my Research Methods class

I would first like to start out by saying that this class was so much more than what I expected. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I when I had taken my research methods class as an undergraduate,  we did not really go into great deal of research methods. It was because of this that I was not sure if I would be able to keep up. I knew what I was hoping for as far as my goals were concerned, with the end goal being to earn an MA degree in history. I wanted to meet like-minded individuals, who wanted to work in the field of history, especially in the museum field. I also wanted to find out more about the actual museum field, the theory and practices, and how to garner knowledge to get a job working within a museum setting in a curator, or museum educational director type job.

Overall the readings were very helpful, except that some were very dense and heavy, which caused me great consternation and worry. I enjoyed the discussion format of the course, as it was was extremely helpful and I was able to incorporate a lot of ideas into my “toolbox” of ideas, however, some of the theory was something that I couldn’t really wrap my head around.

I enjoyed the way that the topics of discussion each week built upon the previous one and the variety of subject matter gave me a real feel for the intentions for the class. I feel that with all that I have learned in the class; this will be extremely helpful in my chosen career path and that the ideas and theories set forth in the class were meant to allow me to think about things in a different light. The chosen readings, were for the most part very enlightening (even if I had to read through them numerous times) and made me definitely want to know more.

I also enjoyed the various topics from everyone’s personal research, especially the ones which included the video and music portions, which were, in my opinion very helpful to help to grasp the key concepts intended for the class. The opportunity to choose our own topics and build upon those was also an aspect of the class that helped me focus on using the lessons learned in the class sessions to improve my thinking skills.

As I mentioned previously, I was a little unsure of what to expect from the class at first, I just knew that I had to take this class and it sounded kind of interesting as well. I did learn quite a bit as a historian and I know that the skills learned will help me become a better researcher, a better writer, and the critical thinking skills I have learned, I will be able to look at different topics in history in a much different light. I have come to realize more so than  before, that everything is not black and white when it comes to history and analyzing history. There are any number of shades of gray involved.

If I had to find anything wrong with the course, I would like to have focused more on the practical side of history, like museums or education and less on the theories, some of which seemed outdated and very dense, some feeling almost TOO scholarly. What I mean by this, is that some of the theories that we discussed  definitely seemed like the writers were trying too hard at sounding scholarly and that they were focusing on an already scholarly audience, not for students studying an MA degree. What I mean by this, is that we seemingly skirted around this topic all semester, I just would like to have seen more in regards to the actual day to day, hands on aspect of the education field, or the museum field as opposed to the theoretical side so much.

In conclusion, I would just like to say thank you and I really appreciate everything I learned so much more from the course than I expected. I do firmly believe that my research skills, my critical thinking skills, my reading and writing skills have all improved since I started this course. I do look forward to moving towards the end of the degree, so that I can take the skills learned and polished in this course, out into the career path of my choosing and make a difference as a historian.

First Draft Thoughts and Reflections

Well, the first draft is done and now after the dust has settled, I can look at all of the comments and use the critiques, suggestions, and tips to refine and make a much better second draft. I am a bit confused by the comments on my first draft, as each one says something different. With that being said, I am trying to figure out how to implement the suggestions to make a better proposal for my second draft.

I am finding it a bit difficult to roll all three sets of suggestions into a better proposal because some of the suggestions are similar, but some almost contradict the other, so it is a bit confusing. I am excited to move forward and refine this proposal, as it will allow me to do a much better second draft.

I plan on using a lot more footnotes to help my readers see where the information came from. I also intend to show my readers which books, journal articles, information, etc. I have read, and which ones I find will be of use towards my final draft.  Another thing that I intend to do, is to find more primary source materials and more ways to utilize digital sources like the Library of Congress photographs and records of Quartermaster requisitions, etc. The details found in original ship manifests are going to prove extremely useful, so I will include more evidence from those as well.

Overall, I will try to address all of the suggestions from my first draft, but am not sure if doing so will be totally possible, as like I mentioned earlier, some of these suggestions are conflicting. I am however going to push forward and work hard at refining my second draft, so that I can eventually produce a great research paper on a topic of great importance to me.

How I Advanced My Research Over Spring Break

Because of the fact that I am an idiot…I somehow posted this original post on one of my old undergraduate blogs. Had Dr. Winling not pointed this out, I would never have thought to look there to find it, as I was frantically looking for it. I am posting this for my fellow cohort members to peruse….

Over Spring Break, I was able to advance my research by reading through many of the books and articles which I have been collecting over the last few weeks. I have been able to dig many different sources up, especially in the field of imported items into the Confederacy. The ability to uniform, arm, and equip the soldiers of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, (the specific army on which I am doing my research) more aptly than previously understood, makes for quite a compelling argument for the capabilities of the Confederate States of America’s Quartermaster system, as well as for the Confederate logistical system.

The research that I have been able to uncover shows a significant increase in imported uniforms, shoes, accoutrements, weapons, including small arms, artillery, and edged weapons. What was the main source of the downfall with the Confederacy, was not the shortage of uniforms, weapons, and equipment, not the fewer numbers of fighting men, not even the overarching agenda of slavery, reprehensible as it was, it was due mainly to political infighting, the argument between states, over state’s rights vs. a central government, and the lack of being able to properly feed the men in the field.

In doing all of the reading on my sources and digging deeper into how I am going to frame my argument, ask my questions, and attempt to redefine my focus statement, I am suddenly aware of a new direction I wish to take my research. I feel that to try to engage with the idea of dispelling the myth of the “ragged” rebel, I will be unable to tackle the myth, the material culture aspect of an argument, and the origin/longevity of the myth in one paper, and still be able to meet the assignment parameters in a timely fashion.

I therefore wish to examine the evolution of the Confederate supply system and the way that the importation of foreign military goods helped to allow the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to fight on for four years.  This will allow me to examine ship manifests, ordnance records, diaries, journals, quartermaster reports, inspector general reports and analyses, as well as much of the secondary research into various aspects of material culture, which in turn, will help to help paint the picture of how the importation of foreign goods aided the Confederacy in its fight for Southern Independence.

The source which I chose to investigate for this blog post is an article by Leslie Jensen, in which he examines extant Confederate uniforms in particular. His ability to differentiate the various depot patterns, the changes over time, the origins of the patterns for the item, the construction techniques, i.e. hand sewn vs. machine, etc., and the artifact’s significance to the field of material culture is evident in his research into the field. In his article, Jensen breaks down several different surviving uniforms, and attempts to formulate a sort of typing system for these items.

The author uses extensive research into original sources materials, not only the uniforms themselves, but quartermaster records, requisition forms, journals, diaries, and goes into great detail in secondary sources. His methodology utilizes the lenses of material culture, cultural, social, political, and economic studies. The way that he examines these items alone, is material culture. As for the cultural and social aspects of researching the topic(s), this includes a look at Southern homefront ways of meeting the challenge of supplying the soldiers in a “stop gap” way of filling the need for outfitting the soldiers until foreign goods could be secured. This includes who would have been working on these items at the time, be it women, or men that were not fighting at the front. The political and economic lenses examine the Confederacy’s trade and purchasing operations abroad from foreign supporters, or military goods companies.

My research interests and my lenses of examination will follow Jensen’s model and will look more closely at the way that the Confederate supply system evolved and how the foreign partners in supplying the Confederacy’s war efforts made the Confederate cause last longer than it should have been able to on its own.

European Suppliers to the Confederacy, Major Caleb Huse’s Reminiscences

In my recent research, I found a short history of the experiences and reminiscences of Major Caleb Huse,  the purchasing agent for the Confederate States of America. This was a great source of information and it helped to bolster my belief that there were still yet new resources to investigate, even after 150 years. The significance of this source is that these are the personal recollections of the  purchasing agent for the Confederacy in England, and other European countries. This is important because it shows that foreign goods were making it through the Union navy’s blockade of Confederate ports and thus making a difference in how efficiently the war was fought by Southern troops.

  • Why did you choose this particular item as representative of the archive you’ve created at this point in the research process? I chose to use this source as my primary source this week because it was a recent find and it was written by the Confederate officer, Major Caleb Huse. He was the Purchasing Agent for the Confederate States of America. His main job was to procure military arms, equipment, uniforms, ammunition, and other supplies for waging the war against the North. This source includes his recollections and personal insight, which provides a rare view into this important aspect of supplying the Confederacy’s military.
  • How did you discover the source? Where is it located? This source was one that I ran across during a database mining search on Worldcat and I also found it on the America’s History and Life site.
  • How does the source help you locate an answer to your research question? What can this type of source tell you? When researching the Confederate States of America’s quartermaster supply/logistics system, I have been finding multiple references to English army cloth uniforms, Austrian rifles, English accouterments, imported shoes, and various other items necessary for fighting the war. This source gives Major Huse’s unique perspective on his experiences in acquiring the aforementioned goods. When you take these reminiscences into account, and compare them with surviving ship manifests of Confederate and foreign blockade runners,  you begin to gain a better picture of the supplies making to the front line soldiers. These supplies were instrumental in keeping the Confederate fighting men equipped and surprisingly well equipped at that, during the latter part of the war.
  • How will you interrogate the source-what methodology will you employ? I plan on interrogating this source using the methodological approach of material culture, military, political, and economic lenses.
  • What are the problems with this category of sources/what can’t you learn, what are the biases? Even though this is a primary source, it was written forty + years after the events and are told from a definite pro-Confederate point of view. The information that could be missing are various ship’s manifests and possible Confederate government records, as thousands of documents were destroyed in the last few days of the Confederacy’s existence, especially in the evacuation of the capital in Richmond, Virginia. Some of the biases that need to be overcome are preconceived notions of the Confederate soldier’s lack of supplies and the image that many people have conjured up in their own minds of “what” a Confederate soldier should look like.
  • What sorts of sources will you need to confirm/ complete/ complement this source? This source will be used to corroborate surviving ship’s manifests and will also be compared to the Library of Congress holdings of surviving quartermaster records and inspector general’s reports, showing actual issuance of uniforms, equipment, shoes, supplies, weapons, and ammunition. Surviving photographs and actual material culture items will also complement this source.

I believe that this source will be of great value to my overall research and end research proposal. I am excited about finding this source and look forward to investigating this source along with the possible implications of what it could bring to future historians studying this subject.

Sources and Work in Progress Bibliography

HIST 5134 – Research Methods

First Draft Bibliography

Kevin “Tiny” Dawson

(I wasn’t quite sure where to place the numbers 1,2,3, as it would have gotten mixed in with the dates and web addresses, but I can explain which items are of what importance.)


*Adolphus, Frederick R., Civil War Sesquicentennial Uniform Series: Volume 1, Imported Confederate Uniforms of Peter Tait & Co., Limerick, Ireland, 2010.

Barry, Craig L., and David C. Burt, Supplier to the Confederacy: Peter Tait & Co., Limerick, Authors OnLine, Ltd. Bedfordshire, England, 2011.

Burt, David, Major Caleb Huse C.S.A. & S. Isaac Campbell & Co.: The Arms, Clothing and Equipment Supplied to the Confederate States of America 1861 – 1864, Author House, Bloomington, Indiana, 2009.

McCluney, Larry A., Jr., Confederate Uniforms: A Case Study in Confederate Supply, MA Thesis, Mississippi State, Mississippi, 1993.

*Wilson, Harold S., Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War, University of Mississippi, Jackson, 2002.


*Heiser, John S., The High Water Mark of an Army: The Characteristics of the Army of Northern Virginia During the Gettysburg Campaign,

*Jensen, Leslie D., “A Survey of Confederate Central Government Quartermaster Issue Jackets, Part I”, Military Collector and Historian, The Company of Military Historians, Volume XLI, No.3, Fall, 1989.

*Jensen, Leslie D., “A Survey of Confederate Central Government Quartermaster Issue Jackets, Parts II &III”, Military Collector and Historian, The Company of Military Historians, Volume XLI, No.4, Winter, 1989.

Digital Images:

The following are just a few links to the types of photographs I intend to use in my research, (These images are found at the Library of Congress Photographs and Prints Section)

A Source, A Source, My Kingdom for a Source…Well, I Guess I Have to Give Up My Kingdom

I have been talking with my adviser Dr. Quigley about places and ideas of places to search for credible resources and information. We discussed the sources at the Library of Congress as well as Confederate Quartermaster records and I began my mining operations. All of my dig sites were planned out in advance, my dig permits were in place, and the machinery was ready to go…, so I just got ready for the adventures and went to work.

This week I spent time mining the databases of the Library of Congress and the National Archives. Both of these massive collections have several very fine finding aids on their searchable websites. I am enclosing the addresses for two of these within this blog. These finding aids were very helpful in the way that they were able to help me narrow my search and with the way that key terms, i.e. names, identifiers, subject matter, etc. were collected together.

I searched both of the sites using the finding aids that were available and found a wealth of information. On the National Archives one, I found records such as Confederate Quartermaster reports, requisitions, returns, and depot supply records. These are part of a much larger collection of records of the Confederate States Government records held by the Federal Government regarding the Confederacy’s role in the American Civil War.
War Department Collection of Confederate Records (Record Group 109) 1825-1900 (bulk 1861-65)

The second finding aid was son the Library of Congress’s website, which led to a plethora of original photographs of Confederate prisoners of war, and Confederate war dead. These photographs tell a very vivid story in and of themselves and by looking under great scrutiny, on can see details about Confederate Government supply systems in the uniforms and shoes that they are wearing, how the equipment and accoutrements are being worn, what type of weapons were found on the battlefields, etc. This is also a way to see the progression of uniformity within the Confederate ranks, especially when taking the date of the photograph into account. Another source that I found within this amazing source, was a prints and art section, showing original sketches and paintings within the Library of Congress’s collection of original artwork.
Library of Congress – Prints and Photographs Section

I had requested an MA thesis from Mississippi State University by a former MA student there, which I was in hopes of getting, to see his sources and findings; that came in and did not disappoint, it was filled with great information and multiple source references.

I also spent time reading through several secondary sources that will be very helpful to the overall success of my thesis. I will include those in my first draft of my bibliography. I have been very pleased with the amount of headway that I have been able to make this week.

Reviewing the Possible Use of Wilson’s Book Confederate Industry


Spring 2015

Kevin “Tiny” Dawson

Wilson, Harold S., Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2002.


For this essay, I choose to write about one of my secondary sources, which was suggested to me by my adviser Dr. Paul Quigley. The book is Harold S. Wilson’s book titled Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War. I feel that after reading through this book, it will be paramount to my research and several of the sources that Wilson utilizes within this work have already led me to sources which I previously had not considered in my research on my topic.

In Wilson’s book, he examines the state and central government manufacturers necessary for the foundation of the Confederate Central Supply Depot System. He also explores the various entrepreneurs and businessmen that went about setting up the necessary facilities, mills, armories, etc. to supply a burgeoning military. His research into both American and foreign/import primary records, help to paint a picture of a very resourceful supply system, With the help of foreign blockade runners, ships designed to bring in much needed military supplies for the South, running through the Union naval blockade of Southern ports, and taking out valuable export raw materials, Confederate supplies were fairly plentiful even late in the war. Wilson is able to examine several different sources, ranging from mill records, Confederate States Quartermaster general records, foreign export records, ship manifests, etc. to show how the supply system operated during the war. His writing style is very engaging and his arguments are thoroughly researched, however, there are more questions that he leaves for future researchers.

The reception of this book in scholarly circles, has been well received, as it has been reviewed and found worthy of the research and time put forth by Wilson. His final work left room for future researchers to take his research and delve deeper to flesh out the lingering questions that were left after the publication. I found several reviews, both scholarly/academic and popular ones that all agreed that the book was very well written, yet some of the more scholarly reviews wanted more, which is why I wrote that there was room to research other aspects of his original work. Wilson’s intended audience, in my humble opinion was to be for both scholarly and popular readers, as was evident in his writing style. He did not seem to want to write down for a popular audience, yet he did not write in such a haughty tone that it was a turn off for hem either. The scholarly audience was also targeted in such a way that the desire for well researched evidence was met.

As for the use of his book in more recent works, I found several instances where Wilson was cited in reviews of other books as well. In several of the other secondary sources that I have investigated, I have found Wilson’s book referenced several times, which shows me that his research bears merit. I plan to mine his sources to see what primary sources, as well as other secondary sources will be available for use to me, as I move forward in researching my thesis. I want to see if any of his primary sources give any evidence of actual issue records of items to units, i.e. jackets, trousers, shoes, leather gear/accoutrements, weapons, ammunition, as well as the evidence of when foreign items began to make an appearance on the scene for Southern armies. I think that the author’s interpretation of the sources and the way that he presents his findings support what I am trying to prove. I feel that with closer scrutiny of the source materials, along with more recent secondary sources and their analysis’, I will be able to prove that as the war progressed, more and better equipment and uniforms were being provided to the soldiers, making them into a more competent fighting force. One thing that cannot be denied however, is that regardless whether the men were getting the needed uniforms, weapons, and gear, there was still a major shortage of food for the fighting men, which led to the description of them being lean and lanky. The lack of food and not the lack of fighting supplies was more of a detriment to the Southern fighting men than any uniform or leather gear shortage.

In short, I firmly believe that Wilson’s book, along with his sources will provide me with several leads for future digging and reading. I feel that his down to earth style of writing may have been what actually drew me into his writing, even after Dr. Quigley recommended the book to me. I am glad that he did so, as I have found this book to be very helpful, even after just reading through the work. I look forward to be able to get further into the reading and source material, as I wait for other books, articles, and manuscripts that I have requested through ILL and ordered off of the internet to arrive. I am getting more and more antsy to get into this project, as it has been a project that I have been thinking about for some time.

Asking the Difficult Question(s) for My Thesis on Dispelling the Myth of the “Ragged” Rebel

Last week’s readings, along with our class discussions and the readings in and outside of class on the topic of forming a solid research question for our theses have been very enlightening.  I found last week’s XYZ exercise on trying to formulate a good research question quite helpful and I hope that I have been able to tackle this first hurdle with a little more confidence than before.

I am writing my thesis about “Dispelling the Myth of the ‘Ragged Rebel’: A Case Study in Confederate Material Culture.” I wish to explore how the Confederate States government could begin supplying the various Southern armies through a non-existent supply system in the early days of the war, in such a short amount of time. Evidence points to (after the implementation of the Confederate Quartermaster Supply depots,) Confederate forces becoming more well supplied/better equipped, even as the war progressed, not the opposite. It has long been argued that the “ragged” rebels were just plain overwhelmed, overpowered, outnumbered and had they been properly supplied, or had more men, then they would have been victorious. This argument was one of the very tenet arguments upon which the “Lost Cause” myth was built.  that as the Union naval blockade tightened its grip on Southern ports, or as Union armies overran supply depots, supplies to the troops, their uniforms, and equipment, became scarcer and the men became more and more bedraggled, tattered, and worn. Close Examination of original photographs, quartermaster records, veteran’s accounts, paintings, sketches, etc, supports the thesis of the troops being better supplied as the war drug on.

With my thesis, I hope to help others understand how this myth was the very foundation of the “Lost Cause” and that without the “ragged” rebel, then it would have been much harder to explain away the Confederate defeat. This part of the “Lost Cause” has been able to remain a major component of the argument for the last 150 years and I feel that it is a disservice to the fighting men of the Confederacy and their opponents, who according to the myth, were just barely able to win the war facing off against a “ragged”, tattered, starving, worn out, army of defiant Southerners.

So, I believe that my first draft of a research question will be as follows:

Dispelling the Myth of the “Ragged” Rebel: A Case Study in Confederate Material Culture. With the predominant idea of Confederate Armies being comprised of “ragged” rebels during the war, what then took the Union four years to defeat them? Did Confederate Quartermaster Supply Depots actually provide a larger amount of uniforms, weapons, and equipment to make much more well equipped Southern armies , than previously understood?

Reflections on New Discoveries

Well this has been a great experience for me this far, as I found  out a lot more information about this great source for research. I had dabbled into WorldCat before, but not with the variations on search terms. I think that I was looking for one set of ideas in my previous search terms, i.e. just Confederate uniforming and the “ragged” rebel myth. I had been finding some information, but after this week’s searching, I began to have my eyes opened, not only open,  but, WIDE open to the possibilities of what might be out there.

I was surprised to find several new sources which really are almost exactly what I have been hoping were out there. I found leads to other thesis’ that might have new source materials, as well as other insights into Confederate uniformology and material culture. This is very helpful in my research and I am very excited about the possibilities in the next few weeks. I have a lot of sources to request on Monday. I am looking forward to getting into these, as well as many others that I have just put on my list of findings.

I started out searching Confederate, uniforms, then moved into more detailed searches, including the terms, quartermaster, requisitions, blockade runners, invoices, imports, shoes, accoutrements, etc. These search terms led me to many different sources, which I hope will lead to support for my thesis, yet if they point to a different finding, well, I guess the “ragged” rebel theory will stand, as it has for almost 150 years. However, I feel that with just reading through some of the new information, (even if it is just cursory look to start with), and combining these new sources with the digitized photographs from the Library of Congress, the myth is just that, a myth.

This evidence is important to me, as this has been a great learning experience for me this week and I am excited about moving forward on this project. These sources have helped to focus my research not only on the Confederate uniforms, but also on the other parts of Confederate material culture, i.e. mills, depots, developing a working quartermaster system from a non – existent entity to a fully functioning system, etc. I am also looking forward to sharing my recent findings with Dr. Quigley and the other faculty who I am considering consulting with on this topic and possibly on my future committee.


Embracing the 21st Century and New Sources of Search Techniques

WOW!… Just WOW! What else can be said about WorldCat? This is a phenomenal source of information, and leads, leads for days! This was such a great source fr searching. I know where I will be searching over the next several weeks … searching … searching … searching. This sources led to many different rabbit trails to explore. I found a thesis written on a topic that seems like it may be very helpful to my research and from this I am looking forward to mining some of the sources that t hey used. I also found several other leads that seem to support my thesis idea and I am looking forward to requesting them and can hardly wait to begin delving into them upon their arrival. I created an account within WorldCat and have created a list to start saving sources from which to draw.

I also began “mining” the America: History and Life site suggested by Dr. Quigley, it too held many new sources within its vast wealth of information storage. I began by searching Confederate uniforms,  which then led to material culture, quartermaster records, supply systems, blockade runners, Confederate woolen mills, Confederate supply depots …, this was something to be very wary of, as I began finding a lot of rabbit trails that led to very interesting topics, but which also could be very distracting from my research time.

I found both of these searches to be very enlightening in such a way that I hope to be able to ultimately harvest a lot of information to support my thesis/argument research. With the numerous resources found, I do not think that it will be hard to do. As I mentioned earlier, I started a list to keep relevant searches available for further reading and research, as I find them.