I want to take a minute to respond to Brooks Simpson, who has apparently misinterpreted a recent post of mine in which I ask whether the Civil War Sesquicentennial is over. Here is the offending passage that seems to suggest that I don’t believe that the years 1864-65 offers anything significant to commemorate.
We’ve commemorated the trifecta of our Civil War Sesquicentennial, which in my mind includes Emancipation, Gettysburg, and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Other than the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, what else is there to acknowledge?
What I was attempting to get at in the above passage is that for many Americans the summer of 1863 represents a high point in the Civil War. In the follow-up post I briefly mentioned why I believe it might be difficult to generate the same level of enthusiasm that we’ve seen over the past two years. I attempted to convey this point this out on Sunday and earlier today (and here) on Brooks’s blog.
I admit that the post could have been more clearly written, but I hope it is sufficiently clear that I was not in any way suggesting there is nothing more that needs to be commemorated. I completely agree with Brooks’s list of what is still worthy of being commemorated.
There’s a lot we can learn from the eighteen months from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to the spring of 1865, but only if we want to drop old-fashioned and even quaint notions of the American Civil War. What about the Democratic claim that the war was a failure? What about the debate over prisoner exchanges? What of the impact of the war waged by William T. Sherman in Georgia and the Carolinas and Philip H. Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley? What about Confederate efforts to continue the struggle, most notably through enlisting blacks, and what of the collapse of support for the war that created such a crisis? What about the struggle to end the war? What, indeed, about Appomattox?
Let’s throw in the battle of the Crater to boot. In fact, next July I will deliver the keynote address for the NPS’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the battle. And as I pointed out the other day, we ought to make every effort to acknowledge the 150th anniversary of Reconstruction.
No, I am not “trying to pull one over” on all of you. This is a simple case of misunderstanding that I hope will be acknowledged as such soon.