What’s Wrong With J.E.B. Stuart?
On Friday I am heading down to South Boston, Virginia to lead a TAH Grant seminar of 28 high school history teachers. Our topic is Civil War Memory. I am going to take care of the morning session, including an overview of the topic as well as interpretive case studies with documents, film, and monuments. In the afternoon Professor Robert Kenzer is going to talk about how to use Ken Burns’s Civil War documentary in the classroom. I am really looking forward to this session given my passion for teaching as well as the subject.
In preparation for the seminar I was allowed to suggest one book that would be made available to all participants and which they would be expected to read beforehand. I selected Gary Gallagher’s recent study of the Civil War in popular culture because I thought it would both introduce the teachers to the subject of memory and give them a sense of how they can talk about the subject in the classroom. My favorite chapter is the one on Civil War “art”, which has been a regular topic on this blog from the beginning. I guess you could say I have a love-hate relationship with it. On the one hand the range of images provide the perfect gauge through which to measure our collective memory of the war. At the same time much of this art is just downright horrific. Anyway, I am going to include a few of my favorite prints in the visual portion of my presentation. As I was putting this part of the presentation together I came across this hilarious painting of J.E.B. Stuart by John Paul Strain titled “Bold Cavalier.” I apologize for the quality of the Strain print, but if you click here it will take you to Strain’s own gallery thumbnail.
It looks to me like Strain took the famous photograph of Stuart on the right and just transferred his head to the body on horseback. The effect is simply hilarious. Stuart looks completely detached from the people around him and looks to be preparing to be photographed. Or perhaps he just wants to get away from his adoring fans. Either way it makes for a good laugh.