Thanks to the staff at the American Civil War Center at Tredegar as well as the University of Richmond for hosting what was by any measure a first-rate conference. Special thanks go out to Mark Howell who organized the sessions and for inviting me to take part in the conference. It was a true honor to be included in such a fine list of Lincoln scholars and Southern historians. I am not going to try to summarize the entire conference in one post; instead, I am going to take the time to think about some of the things I heard and offer reflections in the coming weeks. I do hope, however, to offer a summary of Ed Ayers’s keynote address, which included a new digital project that Ayers and others are now working on at the University of Richmond.
The most enjoyable parts of these gatherings is the opportunity to interact with talented scholars. For me it was a chance to finally meet James McPherson. Although I only spoke with him briefly it was nice to shake the hand of a man whose scholarship helped to fuel my interest in the subject and continues to frame many of the questions that drive my own research. I can explain to you just how important his body of scholarship is to the field, but you don’t really get a feel for it until you attend one of these conferences. Throughout the weekend speakers acknowledged McPherson’s role in shaping their own thinking on various topics as well as his generosity and encouragement. You also get a sense of just how many historians were trained by McPherson and who went on to respectable careers in their own right. I also spent time talking with historian and fellow blogger, Brian Dirck. Brian is a hell of a nice guy and his presentation was particularly interesting and one that I will comment on at some point soon. Sorry for sounding a bit over the top, but some people get excited about sports personalities while others get excited about historians.
In addition to meeting McPherson I had a wonderful time talking with Elizabeth Brown Pryor about her recent biography of Lee as well as the range of responses to it. I also enjoyed chatting with Frank Milligan, who is the director of the Lincoln Cottage in Silver Spring, Maryland and look forward to the opportunity to work with teachers on the cottage grounds. On Friday evening I had a wonderful dinner with Frank Milligan, Michael Burlingame, Manisha Sinha, and Leslie Rowland.
My teaching session yesterday morning went well. We had a small group of educators and we spent the time talking about how we go about teaching Lincoln and the difficulties involved in moving beyond some of our own biases that may have been learned early on in our own lives. It was a nice change of pace from the conference proceedings and gave me a great deal to think about in terms of my own teaching. Thanks to everyone who attended.
On a different note, I noticed that the average number of visitors per day has topped 1,000. I don’t know what this means relative to other Civil War/history blogs; perhaps I am being blown out of the water in this regard. Still, it seems fitting to use it as an excuse to thank each and every one of you for making Civil War Memory part of your daily routine.