Interview with Actor and Voice Artist James Horan

James Horan is a man of many talents—with more than 120 film, television, and video game acting credits to his name, it is difficult to know where to begin. Well, for me, he is Colonel Arthur Cummings from Gods and Generals, a character that holds distinction as the first of many officers to order a charge, when he reluctantly does so in the battle of First Manassas. But to others, he is the voice of their favorite video game characters, as James is mainly a voice artist, supplying anything from actual character dialogue, to narration, and even singing; I hear he does a killer Elvis impersonation!

When I contacted him about his filming experiences in G & G, he agreed to share them, and as you will read below, he even discussed what it was like being on the set the day of 9/11, something that the actors in the Extended Director’s Cut on-stage panel talked about briefly back in July. James has also appeared in television shows such as Star Trek: Enterprise, and more recently, in the films Flags of our Fathers and Dying God. I would like to thank him for taking the time to conduct this interview, and sharing such great stories!

GC: What did you do to prepare for your role as Colonel Cummings in G & G?

JH: Basically not much–I had long hair at the time, which the director felt would be fine for the character, and I thought it was an interesting look.  I did do some research online that Arthur Cummings had been a lawyer in Abingdon, VA before the war, and after his service to the Confederacy, he returned to being a lawyer there.  He seemed like a decent man who was fighting for a cause in which he believed, and a way of life that he felt was being threatened.  I of course had seen the original Gettysburg, and re-watched it a couple of times  to immerse myself in the period.

GC: Did you have any knowledge or interest in the Civil War prior to filming? 

JH: I had seen Ken Burns amazing documentary on the Civil War, and had seen several other films, including the aforementioned Gettysburg. Of course, being from Louisville, Kentucky, I had heard stories about the war and it’s effect on Kentucky as a “border” state, and how the war forced families to take sides, sometimes causing brother literally to be fighting brother.  I went to school in Danville, Kentucky at a small college called Centre College, which was founded in 1819, and one of the oldest buildings on campus had been used as a hospital by the Union army for a time.  The Perryville battlefield was near the school, and I’m sure many skirmishes took place around those parts.  But I wouldn’t describe myself as a “buff”, no.

GC: Can you tell us what your overall filming experience was like?

JH: It was great.  I was only there for one week, I think, but I made quick friends among my fellow actors.  I met Stephen Lang, who has gone on to do some amazing work, most recently of course in Avatar.  He told me he would have liked to have me around longer in the movie, as he felt too many of the actors around him were a little on the younger, greener side.  He said he wanted someone around him with more “mileage”, and I took that as a compliment!  The director was also very cool to work with, and the overall experience was wonderful.  Except for the fact that my last day of shooting was Sept. 11 of 2001, the day of the great tragedy in New York City.  Many of the cast and crew were based in New York, so of course they were deeply personally touched with concern for their family and friends.  One of the actors told us his father worked in the World Trade Center, but he didn’t know which tower, so he was nearly beside himself, understandably.  Thank God we later learned his dad had followed his instincts and got out of the building once the attack had taken place, even though he had been told not to leave by security.  It was very surreal to be watching the destruction on the one television at our location, which was in the middle of a huge field in Virginia.  All of the cast and crew huddled around the tv, watching what looked like Jerry Bruckheimer special effects.  All filming stopped, and after a time, the director summoned everyone together, and asked if we wanted to continue shooting or take the day off. It was nearly unanimous that everyone wanted to keep making the picture, because they felt they were telling a great story about an important part of American history, and history had certainly been made that day.  I remember thinking that the toppling of those buildings in New York was probably the worst attack on the American mainland since the Civil War had wrought such destruction on so many town and cities.

GC: You have supplied the voices for many characters in video games over the years. What is that like? Is it easier than acting in a movie?

JH: I’ve voiced characters in over seventy video games, and yes, I find it very challenging and fun.  Having been trained for the theater, I particularly enjoy creating characters with just my voice, as I’ve always felt the voice is an integral part of any role I create.  It is “easier” than acting in movies, since no one cares what you look like in a game, but I like to bring the same level of professionalism and care to the voice work as I do to the on-camera stuff.

GC: Do you have any upcoming film/TV/video games projects coming up? Please tell us about them.

JH: I’ve just finished working on several voices for the upcoming game Diablo 3, which I know many of the fans are eagerly awaiting.  Can’t reveal details, as I’m sworn to secrecy, but I’m sure the game won’t disappoint, and hopefully my voice acting won’t either!   Recently I contributed several voices for Batman, Arkham Asylum, and I also worked a lot on Dawn of War in its various incarnations.  If you visit my IMDb page, you’ll find a full list of the games I’ve done with details on who I voiced—I can’t remember them all.  And that’s a good thing—I’d hate to have done so few I knew them all!

Once again, I would like to thank Mr. Horan for conducting this interview! You can check out his official website here.


Disappointment from the History Channel…Again

Let me just point out that it is no longer the History Channel, just “History” by itself, but to avoid confusion, I am going to refer to them by their older name.

Just last week, when I ripped into the Emmy Awards for giving the History Channel’s latest bust-documentary, Gettysburg, the award for outstanding non-fiction special, I mentioned that although this channel is slipping each and every day in regards to the quality and ideas behind their programming, at least one of their sister-networks was still around for us die-hards to relive the glory days of the mid-1990’s and early 2000’s. This network, as I have written about and lauded on several occasions, was History International, a network that replayed the older shows that put the History Channel on the map, before their obsession with aliens, the apocalypse, and reality shows took hold. However, just the other day, I realized that this channel has been renamed, changing to H2, and the amount of older programming has been almost all cut out.

Mornings on H.I were very enticing for me, as I would DVR most of the shows to watch later in the evening when I had free time. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Leonard Nimoy narrate Ancient Almanac from 1995 and a few years after, as the show covered various mysteries and amazing tales and stories from the ancient world. Next came Vanishings, a story about famous disappearances, then one of my favorite shows, the informative and quirky Naked Archaeologist, which made history and archaeology fun for everyone, no matter what their educational background. Lastly, History’s Mysteries, one of the main network’s most popular shows when they aired more than 150 episodes between 1996 and 2004, has been pretty much narrowed down into one day. The one thing I could never understand about that show, is that of all the episodes filmed, only the same 20 or 30 continued to air. Maybe this is something they can fix, if they are indeed going to keep them on the air. There were other shows too, a lot to name here specifically, but you can see how disappointing it would be if this lineup were to come to an abrupt end with almost no warning.

Just when I couldn’t get anymore closer to stop watching this network completely, they pull this stunt. Perhaps I am overreacting, but maybe I prefer the older greatness to this newer crap. The first show I just happened to view on this new network? Mega Disasters. Terrific. Want to know what is airing on Friday night at 8pm? Gettysburg!

I really hope that these old shows will make their way back, and that this new lineup is just a way of ushering in the new channel. I am tired of apocalypse and how the aliens built everything on ancient earth. I am tired of all the speculative nonsense. I want straight-up history; is that too much to ask for? Please, give us back our network, and know that not everyone is captivated by Ice Road Truckers and Swamp People (see one episode, you’ve seen ’em all), and not everyone is in a paranoid frenzy like Ancient Aliens.

NHL Players and Discipline: Are They Really That Stupid?

The ensuing scuffing in last night’s Rangers-Flyers preseason game, after Tom Sestito (PHI) nailed Andre Deveaux (NYR) from behind.

Since the end of last season, the NHL has made it clear that they are going to crack down on head shots and illegal hits. They have amended the rules, and even hired former player and future hall-of-famer Brendan Shanahan to be the new disciplinarian. All summer long, it was absolutely drilled into everyone’s head that there would be a zero tolerance policy for these kinds of activities. They might as well call it a policy against stupidity.

We are only in the preseason, and have seen four suspensions, with probably another coming along to Tom Sestito of the Philadelphia Flyers, for boarding Andre Deveaux in last night’s matchup against the New York Rangers. I could not help but scream out loud, “Are the players really that stupid?!” This is even more relevant when it comes to the Flyers, past acts aside, because they have already lost Jody Shelley this season for 10 games, due to one of Shanahan’s first suspensions. The new disciplinarian is making a name for himself early on, with a slew of no-nonsense decisions. One can hope that he will stick to it during his entire tenure, and continue to judge fairly no matter what team or player is involved. Anyway, getting back to what I asked earlier, it is almost as if these players are doing it intentionally, saying, “I am going to play on the edge and hurt people. I don’t care what is going to happen.” Now that they know they are going to get punished, it is as if they are daring Shanahan to suspend them.

I ask again, are they really that stupid? I hope these goons keep on doing what they’re doing, leveling people face first into the boards and elbowing players in the head. Maybe if they do it enough times, the suspensions will be a little more permanent, and there will be no room left for idiots who continue to spit at the rulebook with their ignorance. Hockey is a gritty game, and hitting and fighting are two things that make it exciting. However, the line is there for a reason, and we have seen it crossed far too many times already, before the season has even started. How many more times will it happen? How long will it take before the new and improved ideology of NHL discipline is ingrained in the heads of players who want to skate along the slippery slope? One can hope sooner, rather than later, because as each suspension is doled out, I cringe at the stupidity at hand—they cannot say there weren’t warned.

Have Fun and Win Prizes at Our “Hockey Cares!” Fundraiser

This event and all that has led up to it in the last few days is proof that one idea can lead to a snowball effect, making things happen that you never imaged would. Mother Teresa Regional School, where I coach hockey and teach the Civil War elective, is having a fundraising event to support the American Red Cross for hurricane relief in our immediate area. The school, which is located in Atlantic Highlands, has many students from nearby towns that were effected by Hurricane Irene a few weeks ago, and this is our way of giving back to the community. Originally, we were just going to have a special Saturday night event for our regular hockey games, but then I made the suggestion that we should charge a dollar or two and donate it. From there it took off, and Vinny and Ann Margret  Duminski began to work the phones, and now, we have this massive event planned for Saturday night, September 24, from 4-8:30pm.

The New Jersey Devils, who sponsor our league, are kind enough to send us former player Jim Dowd for an autograph session, as well as donations of autographed sticks of Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise for us to put up for auction. They are also bringing pucks, posters, magnets, and pre-season tickets against the Islanders and Flyers for a free giveaway, and the team’s mascot will be on-hand for entertainment and photo-ops. However, other local businesses have stepped up to the plate. When we asked if we could leave a flier, they not only allowed us to do so, but offered donations of gift items. Below is our current list of available prizes. A decision has not been made in regards to what will be auctioned and what will be door prizes, but these are some great items! We are currently in talks with other local restaurants and businesses, and hope to have an updated list by Saturday night with even more (it’s been updated three times already since I published this, so there is definitely hope for more!):

New Jersey Devils (Newark)

  • Jim Dowd autograph session
  • Martin Brodeur autographed hockey stick
  • Zach Parise autographed hockey puck
  • Pre-Season tickets to games on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1
  • Pucks, posters, and magnets

Park East Bar and Restaurant (Hazlet)

  • $50 gift certificate

The Wine Bar (Atlantic Highlands)

  • $25 gift certificate

Tab Ramos Sports Center (Aberdeen)

  • Two $50 gift certificates

Denino’s Pizza Place (Aberdeen)

  • $25 gift certificate

The Hobby Shop (Aberdeen)

  • $25 gift certificate

Eli’s Hot Bagels (Aberdeen)

  • Certificate for a dozen bagels

Pinebelt Nissan (Keyport)

  • Certificate for one auto detail service

Angela’s Pizza (Hazlet)

  • Certificate for two large plain pies

Shore Cafe (Hazlet)

  • $30 gift certificate

We also have a lot of fun events planned, including some that will give participants a chance to win prizes. There will be a skills competition as well as a “Score-O” contest. Later on in the evening, the teachers and older students will play against each other in a game. Other games, broken down by age level, will be scheduled throughout the night.

How you can help: We invite anyone and everyone to come on down and participate in this fun night. Adult admission is $2 and children are $1. Every single dollar earned that night will be donated, so your attendance and participation will help us as it is! If you own a local business or restaurant and would like to donate a gift card, no amount is too small, and please contact me at or Vinny Duminski at If you cannot make it, and would like to send a donation, please make the check payable to the American Red Cross, and send to:

Hockey Cares

Mother Teresa Regional School

55 South Avenue

Alantic Highlands, NJ 07716

Thank you very much, and have a great day!

Travesty to History: Gettysburg Documentary Wins Four Emmys

This poster is currently selling on Ebay for $4.99.

When I read that the History’s Gettysburg documentary from this past May was nominated for six Emmy Awards, I wanted to laugh. Today, when I found out that they actually won four, I wanted to cry. Okay, so maybe tears did not really well up in my eyes, but that does not make me any less upset or angry that this travesty to American Civil War history was lauded on a world-renown platform, an Awards ceremony that is supposed to recognize the absolute best in American television. Gettysburg, as I noted when I reviewed it the night it aired, came with so much hype and promise, and it not only failed to deliver, but left history buffs and experts at a loss for words at how laugh-out-loud horrible the facts were. Special effects aside, because they were very good and their Emmy win was deserved, this documentary did more harm than good for those who knew little or nothing about the battle that changed the tide of the Civil War, and thus the nation, as a result.

When I spoke to historian and Gettysburg battle expert J.D Petruzzi back in August, I asked him about how it was possible for a major production to be so flawed, with so many resources available. This is an excerpt of his answer:

How something like that can air?  I think much of it has to do with marketing and trying to appeal to an audience which today is pretty inflicted with ADD.  And I also know that the writers and producers didn’t consult with the historical advisers and consultants beyond just their few minutes of speaking throughout the episode.  If they had – consulted with knowledgeable folks like Garry Adelman and such – most or all of the garbage that aired wouldn’t have seen the light of day.  It was filmed in South Africa literally on the cheap, so the terrain looked nothing like Gettysburg (unless Gettysburg is comprised mainly of acres and acres of sand and pine stands and I’ve somehow missed that).  If you read my review of the show, you’ll see that I point out an error committed just about every minute, and I actually didn’t include most of them.  The show was very, very hard to watch, and my wife kept running into the room thinking that I was screaming in physical pain rather than mental… All the CGI and graphics done by the Scott Brothers studio – which was brought onto the project only at the very last second in order to do the CGI and attach their names to it – couldn’t save that show from making everyone’s eyes bleed.  The History channel can only do the right thing by burning all copies of that program and never allowing it to see the light of day ever again.

So, not only was the film not destroyed, but it actually won the award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special, which is pretty ironic considering some of the scenarios they presented were either so distorted or misinformed that they could have been the work of a master fiction author. What they did not tweak to fit their own little docudrama, they made up out of thin air, my favorite part being when one of Rick Harrison’s “experts” from Pawn Stars came on the screen and told the audience with a straight face that the impact of firing artillery for long periods of time would cause the ear drums of the artillerymen to explode, and send blood oozing out of their ears, among other things that I have never heard of before (it is best to read J.D’s blow-by-blow description).

This is definitely my disappointment of the day, because this was a show that quite literally deserved to be disposed of. I have grown ever critical of the History Channel in recent years, because of their shying away from actual history and movement towards endless Doomsday and Apocalypse shows. But what upsets me here is not how bad this show was, but because it had the chance to reverse the nonsense coming from what used to be my favorite channel, and one that earned worldwide respect. This could have been the beginning of a new era of real programming, but instead, it just serves to insult historians even further, as if being told that every accomplishment in world history was because of aliens and flying saucers is not enough. I am thankful History International is still around, because they show the older, better shows, but as for History (as they are called now, omitting the word “channel”; it should be the other way around, I think) it is safe to say that all hope is lost. They do not care about facts, they care about money and awards, and that is evident after last night.

What scares me here is something that I have only recently thought about—the main reason why I hated this show is because I know enough about the Civil War to see how bad this was. But what about all the other documentaries we have watched over the years that we don’t know much about? How many facts did they get wrong with those that just went unnoticed? I watch a documentary to get the right information, and I don’t want it to be a guessing game. Thanks to this trash, I have this in the back of my head the next time I sit down to watch one of their programs…if I ever do again.

What I Learned While Coaching Hockey Vol. 1: Shirt-Stealing, Question-Asking Mayhem

Well, we’re back again for another street hockey season at MTRS, one with the same cast of characters as the spring, so you know exactly what to expect. We have made some changes this season, both adding ties due to the time constraints of shootouts, and moving the 5th graders up to the senior division, going through the 8th grade, while making the junior division only grades 1-4. We have only had two full nights of hockey, totaling four games for each team, and already, stuff has happened that just cannot be made up, including something that has never happened to me before. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, yours truly had his shirt stolen from him on Friday night…while he was wearing it! No, games are not being played in a bad neighborhood, rather, the theft happened out of necessity by a dear friend.

I am coaching two teams this time, one in each division, and because my senior team is orange, I thought it would be cool if we showed some solidarity and I wore orange with them. This fateful decision led me to wear a bright orange San Francisco Giants t-shirt on Friday night. It seemed as if there would be no drama, until Ann-Margret came to me with the horrifying news that one of my players, a girl who missed the first two games due to a broken foot, had forgotten her shirt at home. No problem, right? The kids know each other and we could survive a couple of games without her wearing a jersey? No! Because we decided to adopt a strict policy that players must have their own shirts, which led us turning away someone else on the first night for the same reason, we could not bend the rules this one time. Okay, there is still an easy solution: take an orange shirt from someone on one of the junior teams and let her borrow it. Well, a complication arises, since this girl is the female version of Goliath. A search ensued, as adults with college degrees scoured the school for an elusive orange shirt, but alas, it was all to no avail. Enter yours truly. Who is the only person in the building wearing an orange shirt big enough to fit her? Voila! Me! I knew there would be trouble when Ann-Marget came over and said, “You have another shirt under that, right?” Knowing immediately where this was going, and trying my best to save my shirt, I told her that it was a sweaty, wrinkled undershirt (which was the truth) and that I would not wear it by itself. This annoyed her, which sent her on another hunt for the next twenty minutes.

A little while later, I was confronted by she who will not be named, whose complexion had turned crimson. She pulled me outside, and after some convincing (and threats to do bodily harm), she magically pulled a black shirt from behind her back. It belonged to one of the other mother’s brothers (try saying that five times fast), who left it in her car. Problem solved yet? Sort of. The shirt, which was marked a men’s XL, was so tight that I felt as if I was a woman from Victorian England slipping into a corset before afternoon tea and cucumber sandwiches. I was scolded, severely, by multiple parties, for caring so much about my appearance when I said that it did not fit. “You’re fine!” all of these mothers told me, no doubt enjoying my plight. I looked at myself in the mirror and thanked God that I had lost 35 pounds since January, or else this thing that they called a shirt would not have fit around my arm. It was so tight, I told them, that I could smell what this gentleman had eaten for breakfast, which probably was not much because of how damned tight it was.

Anyway, the night was saved as I bit the bullet and wore the shirt. The girl went on to play very well, and they all lived happily ever after and sang Kumbaya when it was done. Now to the real stuff, the reason why we are here: hockey. Let’s just say my two teams are complete opposites of each other. My juniors, the Checkers, do not know a blue line from a clothes line, and I sometimes wonder if they even know what planet we are on, save for three players who were on the team last year when we won the championship. At 0-3-1 with 11 goals against and only 2 goals scored, I think it is safe to say we are playing the rest of the season for fun (though they tell me that is the only reason why are playing to begin with). I don’t understand all this, “It’s just a game” nonsense. Yes, as coaches we are supposed to take it seriously, but you mean to tell me the players don’t care? They do, and they want to win, but my problem is that I have a very good shooter and a very good goalie who can also shoot. Because I have no backup, that means he stays in net, and therefore, we have only one person that can score. As you very well may gather, it is hard to win a game by yourself. So essentially, we do not score and therefore, we cannot win. I’m pretty sure Confucius said something about that.

My seniors, who are named the Wolfpack, meanwhile, are 4-0-0 with 15 goals scored and only 1 goal allowed, my leading scorer having 11 goals himself. The team is so good, that we actually made a trade to shake things up a bit and even the teams, which sends Vinny’s son, who I had last season when we tore it up, to another team. I did not like this move, but it was something that needed to be done, and I am waiting to see who I will be getting. They do everything I ask of them, but still need a little bit of work. I can see a good season ahead, I just hope they can keep it up when the playoffs roll around. Now it is time for some observations that I have gathered in the four games I have coached this season. By the time this all ends, I fully believe I will have enough material to write a book:

  • Never answer a 3rd grader’s question with, “It depends”. It will only create an onslaught of further questions asking, “On what?” that won’t stop until your head explodes. Remember, these children are clever and will get what they want in the end. Your best bet is just to lie.
  • Small children cannot understand the concept of pulling the goalie for an extra attacker. Telling them, “He needed to take a nap.” will only prompt further intrigue.
  • Teaching a history class to a group of your hockey players allows them to indeed discover that you know words other than “Shoot!” and “Clear it!”.
  • When a 1st and 4th grader accidentally collide, the 4th grader will get up first every time.
  • The sport of hockey makes people do extraordinary things. Just ask a girl on my senior team who had a broken foot on Monday and played on Friday.
  • Confucius say, “Score no goals, win no games.”
  • Conversation of the week: George: “Why is she crying?” Me: “I don’t know.” George: “That’s okay, I cry every night too.” Me: “If we don’t score a goal in the next five minutes, I’ll be joining the both of you.”
  • Sarcasm works in practice for a struggling team, but only if you are a 50-year old Brooklynite named George: “Ooh! Ooh! A puck! Somebody want to play hockey? Nobody played on Monday night!”
  • Allowing a 5th grader to be an assistant coach on your junior team will ensure that he is yelling louder than you by the end of the game.
  • Words of wisdom between me and my little assistant: Steve: “What do I do?” Me: “You’ve heard me coach before. Just yell random words when we have the puck.” Steve: “Okay…elephant!” Me: “You might want to try ‘Get it to the net’ next time.”
  • On to a more serious note, the New Jersey Devils have once again come through for us, this time sending us Jim Dowd for our Hockey Cares! event that will take place on September 24. The area surrounding the school was hit pretty hard by the hurricane, and all proceeds (which include admission and various contests) will go directly to the American Red Cross. Please stop by—you don’t need to be a member to get in!

Teaching the Civil War Vol. 2: The Intro Packet

As you might already know, I will be teaching an elective class on the American Civil War at a nearby middle school this fall, starting on Wednesday afternoon. Though it is only once a week for less than an hour, I am excited nonetheless, even more so when I realized that probably half the class or more are players in our hockey league that I coach at—I am still waiting for my official roster, but I just had to ask around [and campaign] during our last practice! I have several worksheets made up, but I have decided to post the gist of my intro packet here for you, whether you would like to use it yourself for a class or lecture series, or just if you are interested in reading it. I will include everything except my actual weekly skeleton outline, which was posted in my first article regarding this class.

One thing I have decided to do is have the students address each other and myself by rank, me being a General, of course. Because the actual description of this class is that we are living the Civil War, and not just learning about it, I thought this would be a nice touch. Each student will begin as a private, and with each 100 they get on a quiz or extra credit assignment they hand in, they will receive a promotion. Because there are a lot of potential assignments, it is certainly possible for them to attain the rank of Lieutenant General. How awesome is that? When the class ends, they will receive discharge papers noting the rank they finished with. Below is the packet:

Course Description

The American Civil War is one of the most important and tragic events in our nation’s history. For the next twelve weeks, we will not only be learning about it, we will be living it. Through our work as history detectives, we will be looking at the major battles, events, and people involved in the war that divided a nation. This course is being offered because we are in the midst of commemorating the War’s 150th anniversary.

If you or a parent/guardian has any questions, please feel free to email me anytime at  Also, if you are absent from class, have someone email me and I will send you the notes in .PPT format, and quiz (if there is one that week), which you can print, fill out, and submit the next week, so you do not fall behind.

Grading Breakdown

1) Seven take-home quizzes: 10% each for a 70% total

2) Class participation and behavior: 20%

3) One page paper at end of course: 10%

  • After major lessons, you will be given a brief (and hopefully easy) quiz to do at home. Because we have such a limited amount of time in the classroom, we cannot waste time doing them in class. You can use your notes, or hang out with a classmate and work together. The questions are taken directly from the notes, so if you write what I tell you, then you will have the test in your hands!
  • 2) This is an easy 20% of your grade right here (it basically counts as two quiz grades, because everything is worth equal weight). If you pay attention, take notes, ask and answer questions, and just participate, you will get a 100 in this category. Every student starts out with a 100, but if you misbehave or disrupt the class, the grade goes down. However, you can boost your grade back up again with a change of attitude in the following weeks. For those of you who will be playing in the hockey league, if you do not behave well, you will not play—it’s that simple.
  • 3) Near the end of our twelve weeks together, you will have to write a very simple and short paper on the most interesting thing you learned about in this class. It can be anything you want. You can even write more than the required one page for extra credit. They will not be graded harshly, so do not stress over it, because it is easier than you think! (This will most likely be given out in Week 11 and due in the final week.)

Enrich Your Learning Experience

Because the course is so short, unfortunately, we will not have enough time to cover everything involved with the American Civil War. If you find yourself interested and wanting to learn more, please email or see me before/after class, and I can give you titles of some good books to read or films to watch that are age appropriate. If your family is considering a vacation to a battlefield (Gettysburg and Antietam are less than five hours away), please ask me for travel tips and secrets as I have been to these locations many times.

Weekly Descriptions

1) During this week, we will get to know each other a little bit and ask ourselves, “What is history?” and “Why is it so important?” This will be our first step in becoming history detectives that will bring the past alive. Keep in mind, over these twelve weeks we are not going to learn about the Civil War, we are going to live it. We will start by looking at actual battlefield photos from the war, to get familiar with what we will be learning about.

2) Contrary to popular belief, the Civil War did not just “happen”; it was a slow build up of different events and opinions that really began right after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Here, we will look at some of these causes, and you may be surprised to learn that slavery was not the only issue at hand. Movie clip includes pre-war scenes from Gods and Generals.

3) This is our chance to experience life like a soldier, even though you will be wearing comfortable shoes and nice new clothes. We will be going outside for this, and learning how the soldiers marched, by trying out battle line and column formations, and using steps such as regular marching, double-quicking, and charging. Please wear comfortable shoes because we will be on the move.

4) This is the first major battle of the war, one that came after Union generals were so sure of victory, that they openly said the war would be over within weeks. Well, the Confederates would surprise them with a stunning victory, and then everybody knew the war would not be over quickly. There is also some humor involved, when wealthy civilians came and picnicked up on a hill while watching the battle, and accidentally got fired upon by cannons. Movie clip includes a battle scene from Gods and Generals.

5) We have our first crammed class, as we will learn about three battles and a major campaign. This will focus on two Western battles, Shiloh and Stone’s River, under the famous Ulysses S. Grant, and one battle and a campaign that both ended in complete disaster, under Union General George McClellan (you are going to want to hurt this guy by the time we are done with him!)

6) This is the bloodiest battle of the war, and most deadly day in American history. In just twelve hours of fighting near the small Maryland town of Sharpsburg, 23,000 men combined from both sides would lay dead and wounded. Why were there so many casualties? We will look at the tactics used during the day, and do our best as history detectives to find out what went wrong. Movie clip includes a brief, yet action packed battle scene from Gods and Generals. If time allows we will also watch a short scene from Glory, which includes a discussion on the Emancipation Proclamation.

7) One of the saddest battles of the war, in which Irish Brigades from both sides clashed on the same field, and one that saw a massive blunder by Union General Ambrose Burnside. The Union sent sixteen waves of soldiers to march across an open field to attack the Confederate position along a stone wall. Another general, Darius Couch, would remark, “This was not warfare, it was murder.” Movie clip includes a sad scene from Gods and Generals.

8 ) The Confederacy reached its high point at this battle, where Lee surprise attacked the Union army and sent them fleeing for miles. However, the victory was short lived, as beloved General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson would be seriously wounded, before dying just days later. Movie clip includes a battle scene and the death of Jackson from Gods and Generals.

9-10) The most important and massive battle of the entire war. The Confederacy felt they were just one win away from forcing the Union to surrender, and in a series of bold attacks, they lost more than they gained, which signaled the beginning of the end for them. 53,000 men would be killed or wounded in just three days at the sleepy Pennsylvania town. This is so important that we will be spending two weeks on it. Movie clips from the film Gettysburg include action from all three days of fighting, including a spectacular scene from Pickett’s Charge on the third day.

11) Here we will be cramming the last major battles of the war into one day. We will cover Fort Wagner, Chickamauga, Vicksburg, Petersburg, and the Wilderness and Atlanta Campaigns. It will end with Lee’s somber surrender to Grant at Appomattox.

12) For our last class, we will wrap it up with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, as well as an in-depth look at his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. We will examine whether or not the assassination was an act of insanity or patriotism, and will view scenes from Gods and Generals, that show Booth’s performances in Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar, as he was the most famous actor in America at the time.

Obviously I will not be able to cover everything that I would like to, and everything that should, including the battles of the Western Theater in great detail, but this class is a bit of a trial balloon, which I hope to perfect after [hopefully] teaching it many times. Depending on my college schedule in the fall, I may be returning to the school for their second and third trimesters, but am undecided on what I would want to teach. Maybe if the students enjoy this and want to have me again, I will leave it up to them. The two topics I floated by the principal when we first met, the first on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and the second on 1960’s America were warmly received. Time and fate will tell what shall happen after the fall trimester.

Hockey Tragedy: KHL Team Plane Crashes in Russia

The horrific off-season for hockey, which saw us lose Derek Boogaard to an accidental overdose in May, and Rick Rypien and Wade Belak due to suicide in August, just got about a million times worse. I woke up at 10:30 this morning to read that the plane carrying Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, a team in Russia’s KHL, had crashed. There are still conflicting reports, but it is confirmed that over forty are dead, including quite a few former NHL players and prospects. The last report was that two people had actually survived, including a flight attendant and one of the players, Alexander Galimov, who had burns on 80% of his body, and was in a coma. It now appears, sadly, that he will not pull through, even though it is said that the doctors are fighting hard.

Not to say that the lives of the former NHL players here are more important, but they are just the names we would recognize. Former New York Ranger Alexander Karpovstev, who won the Stanley Cup with them in 1994 (one of the first Russians to ever do so) was on board, due to him being an assistant coach. Another NHL vet from the 80’s and 90’s, head coach Brad McCrimmon, was also killed. Among more recent players included are Pavol Demitra, Karlis Skrastins, Karel Rachunek, Josef Vasicek, and Ruslan Salei, as well as New Jersey Devils prospect Alexander Vasyunov, who played 18 games for the team this past season, but wanted to get more playing time in Russia to improve, before coming back to the team.

This crash will do a lot to effect the lives of the players currently in the NHL. Demitra was best friends with Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara, among others, while their goaltender who was also killed, Stefan Liv, was very close with Henrik Lundqvist. Gaborik also lost his other good friend Boogaard in May. There are countless relationships that have been torn here, and there is no telling how deeply this tragedy will affect a league that was already shaken this summer by the deaths of three players. It is too early to attach the blame of this plane crash on anyone, but there has been speculation that the plane took off heavily overloaded, which caused it to not get much lift, and strike a radar tower. It was after that when the plane supposedly split in two and caught fire, the flames shooting ninety feet into the air.

All I can say is that my thoughts and prayers are with the players, families, and friends in this day of sorrow. This can equate to be the “Day Hockey Died” in the coming months, as every hockey player, professional or not, is affected in some way. This is the type of event that no one ever dares to talk about, because of the unspeakable horror it would cause, but now it has happened, and unfortunately, we are helpless to do nothing.

Civil War Injustice: Confederate Flag Banned in Lexington, Virginia

For something that happened a hundred and fifty years ago, the Civil War is the one event that still stirs up controversy, more often times caused by people who know nothing about the war, and even less about why it was fought. The Confederate Flag will always been an undying symbol of hatred and slavery for the ignorant, who have nothing better to do than march in rallies protesting its showcasing. Granted, the hillbillies and racists who tattoo themselves with it while unfurling massive banners on the backs of their rusted pickup trucks do nothing to help the cause that it should fly, and fly proudly, but what about those who respect the flag for what it really is?

We know that the Civil War was not fought entirely because of slavery—yes, the government and wealthy aristocratic plantation owners of the south made that their reason, but what about the common man, the overwhelming majority? What about the soldiers who hardly had the money to feed their families, yet alone own another human being? Political correctness in this country is appalling, and while I would love to sit down and rant to you about what my feelings for the flag are, I have already done so here. No, why I write to you this afternoon is because of an ordinance recently passed in Lexington, Virginia, which has banned the Confederate Flag from being flown on public property. No big deal right? Well, unfortunately, that might encompass the grave-sites of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (EDIT: still trying to find confirmation if this applies to cemeteries). The proposed answer to the ban? Flying an American Flag over their places of burial instead. Why don’t we just dig up their bones and throw them into a dumpster while we are at it? Maybe we can re-write history books to say the War never happened. Can this nation further desecrate, humiliate, and cloud the honor of those that found themselves on the opposing side of the Union?

Is removing the Confederate Flag from the graves of two men who both publicly detested slavery while fighting for their home state really the answer? How about shunning it from city streets? No, this is not being done for any other reason than political correctness and boredom. When people have time on their hands, they tend to think of things they can do to screw with peoples lives for sport (controversy sells, does it not?) . To my friends and those up here in the north who might not see this as a big deal, I have to remind you that there is a different climate down south, when it comes to history, and this is a very drastic ordeal the city of Lexington is undertaking. Men died fighting for the Confederate Flag, and their ancestors still live on to this very day. Do you have any ancestors or know someone who died fighting for our American Flag? I must say, that too is a flag that has been involved in controversial wars, and of course, the mass killing of American Indians. I hate to go that route, but something like this leaves me with little choice to do otherwise. How are they not to be judged on the same level? Thousands of people owned slaves while the American Flag was flying before the Civil War erupted, and even states that fought for the side of the Union continued to do so, even after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. What’s the matter, your history teacher leave that out? Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both authored with slavery very much apart of society in the 1700’s, all while Old Glory flew proudly over the capital.

Let’s keep destroying our history. Let’s keep ignoring the truth. I have spoken to even the staunchest of Unionists on this very matter, and they all agree that the flag these men fought for should remain over their eternal resting places. This is what happens when people with no knowledge have final authority on the matter. I cannot think of anything more infuriating when it comes to the Civil War, except of course when someone wants to build a Wal-Mart near a battlefield. You can say I am pretty angered at this, almost with a tear in my eye thinking of my heroes having their grave sites ravaged by some politically correct charlatans.

Wanna Make a Buck? Exploit 9/11

People say they want a national holiday for September 11th. Why, so we can have a day to bargain shop and barbecue on the closest Monday? I must say that I am surprised at what has ensued on television in the past few weeks—by surprised I mean, I can’t believe it actually took this long. America does one thing better than anyone else in the world, and that is know how to make a buck. It seems that one cannot turn on the television without seeing advertisements for documentary programs that will be airing in the days leading up to the tenth anniversary of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. The New York Post reported in today’s issue that more than 40 documentaries will be airing on the subject in the next nine days: that’s an average of more than four per day. Of course, the newspaper could not help but recommend something on the History Channel, which will be an in-depth look at how our country caught Bin Laden. The exact phrase used to describe it, if I remember correctly while reading it with my morning bagel and coffee, is that this special will be so important, because it shows how we won over terrorism in the end. Yes, I guess that is a way of looking at it. Nothing like the victory of killing one man after ten years of aimless searching and nearly five thousand dead men and women.

These upcoming documentaries, based on their commercials, promise to show the terror attacks from every angle possible, and the ad for the National Geographic interview with George W. Bush even had a dramatic computer-generated freeze frame of one of the airplanes right before it smacked into the twin towers. How is that for clever? It apparently is not enough that they need to talk about and jam the material down our throats, but now we have to look at the mathematical analysis of what brought the towers down. Is that going to bring the dead back to life? The source you can cite for that one is probably 90% of what will air in the next week.

This is nothing but a sickening commercialization of a mass murder, because there is money to be made here. How many millions will be spent on advertising during these programs, because you know that millions of people are going to tune in? How much revenue will be generated by the networks for the exploitation of families and their lost loved ones? This is not a solemn remembrance, its good old-fashioned marketing! September 11th should be a day of commemoration, service, and inner thought. The simple broadcast of the ceremony that morning should suffice, but with the way things are going, maybe they should make it a Pay Per View event. Then there are the gold coins that have been for sale, made exclusively out of material found underneath the rubble at Ground Zero, a statement that they so proudly exclaim. The fact that they went gold-digging underneath a pile of human ash and destruction only so they can sell these to unsuspecting fools and obsessed collectors for $19.95 a piece (limit five per caller!) should be enough to make a normal person puke. But no, not for Americans. Shall we print out t-shirts and hats too?

The sad part is, this is all being done under the guise of it being a service for our nation. Just like that fateful day nearly ten years ago and the “war” we decided to fight shortly after, those who decry it will be called un-American and evil. There are probably those among you reading this who think that I am un-American, and clearly, the “Remember 9-11-01” banner I have had on the side of the page since I started this blog in March of 2010 is evidence of that. We should remember, but not when that borders on all-out commercialism. I can play out the events of that day in my head any time I want to—I do not need a political agenda driven computer generated spectacle from the Mayan Apocalypse History Channel to help me. The only special I would ever watch every year was called 102 Minutes, which comes from the channel I do not want to mention again. This, to me, was the only one worth watching because there were no politics or opinion involved, just raw home video footage from normal people located in different parts of New York City. I want to watch it this year too, but I have taken a vow to change the channel every time I see something about September 11th, with the exception of the morning memorial service. I wonder how families who lost a loved one feel about this? Seeing the buildings coming down in a heap of smoke again and again, with thousands still trapped inside, being abused for financial gain.

Then there is the argument that I have heard from people, saying, “These are not for us, they are for our children who were not here to witness it.”. Oh yes, the children! Whenever someone needs justification for something that makes no sense, just say it affects children in some way. I can think of no better way of educating our youth than gluing a five-year old to the couch and forcing him to watch footage of American citizens being murdered live on national television. Seems more like shock value than education. These acts of terror deserve to, and need to be taught, but having them watch documentaries from channels who have shows such as Life After People, Ancient Aliens, Cash Cab, and Inside Area 51 is not the way to go; then again, this is a country that values FOX News as a reliable source of “clear and unbiased” information.

When September 11th rolls around this year, I am not going to be taking part in any of this insanity. I will watch the morning service, likely broadcasted on every basic cable network, then head down to Union Beach, where myself and many others gathered ten years ago, where we could see the smoke covering Raritan Bay in New Jersey like a blanket. I also have a tape that my mom threw in the VCR to record the news footage live, about twenty minutes after the first plane struck—perhaps I will watch that with some friends I attended school with in fifth grade, which is where we were when these events happened. That is how we should remember, not through mass media and gimmicky collectible items. Conspiracy theorist or not, people died on 9/11 and they are not coming back. This is a day that needs respect, not a day off from work. This is a day that needs our inner thoughts, to provoke what it means to be an American, not a commercial laden television marathon. That is what I am asking you, to remember in your own way. As people who lived through it and witnessed the horror firsthand, that is all we can hope to do.