I am having a great time here in Hagerstown at the Civil War Preservation Trust’s annual Teachers Conference. Today was the first day. I had a chance to chat with Bud Robertson at lunch and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. It’s a talk that I’ve heard before, but it is always nice to listen to a man who has dedicated his life to scholarship and education. The organization was sad to learn that this will be his final appearance. It looks like Professor Robertson is going to retire this year.
Robertson spoke on the many legacies of the Civil War, but he was the most eloquent when it came to the importance of Union. According to Robertson, this nation did not have a history until the Civil War. Robertson quoted Lincoln and rammed home his belief that the Civil War was nothing less than a test of whether the work of the Founding Fathers could be preserved. There is nothing surprising about such a view, but I bet some people are taken back by the fact that it is Robertson’s view. After all, Robertson is best known for biographies of Confederate leaders and he is to a certain extent the academic darling of organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Unfortunately, there was no time for questions. I really wanted to ask him how he views the uptick in rhetoric of secession that is coming from both the grass roots level as well as our elected leaders. To what extent should we view this as a legacy of the Civil War? I wanted to know, given his comments about the value of Union, whether we should encourage this rhetoric and whether he believes it ought to be viewed as patriotic. Tonight we will get together for dinner and a talk by Peter Carmichael and tomorrow we are off to Gettysburg.
[photo of t-shirt at Gettysburg Visitor Center]