Are We Coming to the End of Civil War Memory?

When I learned that an essay on teaching would be included in the Common-place project I immediately thought of my friend, Chris Lese, who teaches history at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Chris and I met at an OAH conference a few years ago and have stayed in touch ever since. We’ve exchanged ideas and on a few occasions I joined his class discussion via Skype. Chris’s efforts to introduce his students to the subject of Civil War memory as well as his use of digital tools and social media sit at the forefront of classroom innovation and creativity. 

One of the projects that I find particularly interesting is his work on connecting his students with classrooms across the country to compare and contrast approaches to– and assumptions about the Civil War. In the area of Civil War memory this can be extremely helpful in challenging some of the assumptions that we still hold about how the war is currently being remembered along regional lines. Chris set up meetings with a classroom in Virginia and Georgia. The classes utilized a Wiki page to post images that reflect their respective communities.

The Virginia students posted a furlough and a pardon slip that belonged to ancestors of one of their teachers: one a Yankee and the other a Confederate. But it was a photograph they shared that prompted one of my students to come into class and ask enthusiastically, “Did you see what the Southern class posted yesterday?” The photo depicts a local park’s Christmas light display that reads, “Once Divided, Forever United” with the Monitor and Merrimack firing at one another from either end of the phrase. Students were surprised at the openness of this community to its history of secession. When I asked why, a group of students said they thought Southerners would be more defiant and not openly support the concept of reunion through public memorials. Another group of students assumed the South—and especially Virginia, which was the center of the war’s fighting—would be embarrassed by their attempts at secession and not want to publicize that effort and failure.

During the week’s online exchanges, many Virginia students made it clear that they held a memory of the war that is similar to that held by northern teenagers. Others stated that, although some in their community do fly the Confederate flag, they do not support it. One student, for example, posted on the Wiki, “What do you all think about the fact that we have a highway nearby called Jefferson Davis highway? I believe it makes Virginia look bad and we shouldn’t be remembering him.” Another stated in response to my student’s question whether European intervention on the Confederacy’s behalf would have led to a Confederate victory: “I’d like to think the outcome today wouldn’t be different. It might have taken much longer to get to where we are now but I think we would eventually get there.” These comments online and others during a Skype conversation contradicted our initial concerns and assumptions. Although they encountered more battlefield monuments—due to their location on the Peninsula—the Virginians remembered the war in a similar manner to Wisconsin students. To further illustrate this similarity, an online Wiki poll designed by our class asked both classrooms what caused the war: seventy-six percent clicked “slavery,” nineteen percent clicked “states’ rights,” and five percent clicked “a lack of respect for southern way of life.” Not one student clicked “Lincoln and his Republican party policies.”

It might be easy to dismiss the Virginia students as representative of a broader southern view given their location in Newport News, which sees a good deal of change over owing to the military base. Perhaps the Georgia kids will deliver the goods.

When we collaborated with students in Georgia, we followed the same basic methodology but changed two aspects of our interaction. First, we added the preface to Gary Gallagher’s The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History as a joint reading exercise; both classes responded to the reading in a Wiki page comment box. And rather than videoconferencing with the entire class, students split up into small groups of four or five and used an iPad to view one another. My students wanted the ability to speak face to face with their counterparts in an attempt to experience a personal connection. For most of my students, Southerners and their history seemed almost foreign, and the students hoped to gain an understanding that their text could not provide. The difference between our collaborations was striking. The smaller group size provided more students the opportunity for direct experiential learning. I also believe the stronger defense of Southern heritage presented by some of the participants in Georgia allowed for clearer distinctions regarding the war’s memory. At one point, a Georgia teacher asked, “You don’t have a problem that the University of Wisconsin plays football games where Confederate prisoners were once held and died?” The question left this young group of Wisconsin football fans speechless. Although my students knew the stadium’s history as a prison camp, they had not even considered that Southerners could find fault in how their state remembers the Civil War in that space. Many saw the stadium’s use as a prison camp as so far in the past as to be irrelevant today. That question was a perfect example of how my students’ perceptions of the past were challenged by a Georgian interpretation of their history. In a later follow-up discussion, I asked my class how they would feel if the University of Georgia played football on the grounds of Andersonville. Many admitted they would be uncomfortable with that scenario. My students stated that this one exchange increased their awareness of conflicting memories of this shared national event. The Georgia class had a similar response to our conversations: a member of their classroom wrote on the Wiki, “My class enjoyed it a great deal and benefited from the paradigm shift that resulted from seeing the differences in culture and views about the Civil War.”

Through these collaborations, my students’ hypothesis—that since the majority of the war was fought on Virginia soil, the Virginians’ memory would be the strongest, or more “Southern”—was proven incorrect. They also were surprised that the linguistic differences between the two southern schools proved that a perceived “Southern-ness” varies from one region to another. For example, in addition to its stronger overall sense of pride in Southern heritage, the class in Georgia had a very distinct Southern accent and used the term “y’all” much more than the Virginia students. Most of my students assumed that the two southern schools would sound and think the same. The poll numbers from our Georgia interaction further exemplify the differences between these southern states. Fifty-eight percent of Georgia participants believed slavery caused the Civil War, and twenty percent thought it was states’ rights; eleven percent selected “lack of respect for southern way of life,” and ten percent chose “Lincoln and Republican party policies.” My students concluded from these disparities with the Virginia students’ answers that the farther south you go, the stronger the Southern memory of the war will be.

The contrast between the two southern classrooms is interesting and worth acknowledging, but what stands out to me more than anything else is what these kids have in common. There doesn’t seem to be nearly as sharp a regional divide over the central issues of the war and memory that we might be led to believe still persist based on the latest Confederate flag controversy. More than half the students in Georgia believe that slavery was central to the cause of the war. The defiant posture that typically accompanies blaming Lincoln is minimal.

It is very easy for those of us who get bogged down in controversies about Civil War memory to lose sight of a simple truth. The younger generation is no longer fighting the Civil War. Their Civil War is located in their history books and other primary and secondary sources along with the rest of American history. The war over memory is finished and from a certain perspective we should be able to say with a straight face: “What a relief.”

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41 thoughts on “Are We Coming to the End of Civil War Memory?

    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi Mark,

      Obviously I am being a little tongue-in-cheek, but I am sticking to my larger point, which is based on my own teaching experiences in Virginia and Massachusetts along with my work with history teachers from across the country. Students today are simply not as invested in a war over Civil War memory compared with previous generations. Are you seeing something different in your classrooms and at your university?

      Reply
      1. Mark R. Cheathem

        Kevin,

        There are exceptions, but I see pockets of Lost Cause mythology every time I teach the Early U.S. survey and Civil War courses. I’ve even developed a section on the Lost Cause as part of my survey course (both halves) to address the issue. It’s (usually) not a militant LC memory but more of a passive, ignorant understanding of slavery, the antebellum South, and the Civil War. (By ignorant, I mean uneducated or naive.)

        For example, I won’t give the exact quotation I received from one student last semester, but the gist of it was that slaves were happy and white southerners were misunderstood when it came to slavery. (It was on a final exam, so the student presumably believed that this was a correct answer.)

        My experience isn’t necessarily indicative of the southern educational system, either. I just don’t want us to minimize the amount of LC mythology still being taught, even if it is not as strong as in previous years.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          I am not sure we are really disagreeing about much. Of course, there are pockets of the Lost Cause that eventually make it into your classroom. The Georgia classroom mentioned in the essay points to this. What I am suggesting is that the emotional hold of the war on students throughout the country is much weaker than it was for their parents and grandparents. You pretty much reinforced your point when you referenced a “passive” understanding of elements of the LC. I suspect that you will find this throughout the country depending on the education of the teacher and/or the resources used.

          Reply
  1. Buck Buchanan

    Mark, I wonder if your responses would have been different in a Virginia classroom with a less transient population. I would imagine students in Lynchburg, Roanoke and Staunton may be closer to the view of the Georgian students. I also believe asking students in Annapolis and Frederick MD would have differing views. Finally I would imagine if you did this with students in your current school would have a different view than the Wisconsin students based on the strong Revolutionary War history NE.

    Alll said this is brilliant teaching and well done to all.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Not sure who you are addressing with this comment. Your point is a good one, but in the end it supports my overall argument. The South is anything but unified around a consistent narrative of the Civil War and memory. And I think this is magnified even more when considering students, who are simply not invested in it as opposed to their parents and grandparents. Americans are indeed more mobile, textbooks have improved, teachers now have access to many more primary sources and other digital tools. I’ve worked with history teachers from just about every region of Virginia and I can assure you that what they are learning reflects very little of the traditional Lost Cause narrative.

      Reply
      1. Jimmy Dick

        I agree that the Lost Cause memory is vanishing, but I do not think it is finished off yet. It definitely is a regional and generational concern though. I don’t see it in my young students. They are rejecting the Lost Cause concept and a lot of what goes with it which should be pretty scary to a certain right wing political group. When I speak to people outside classrooms and in other social media venues the generational gap is seen on a major scale.

        The ones that favor the Lost Cause are almost all over 40. If you were to make a chart it would reflect that the Lost Cause is directly proportional to age. The under 40 group would be extremely small. The under 30 group is almost non-existent. Even under 50 is very small. Also, you can directly tie political affiliation with that set of beliefs. Almost everyone I know that believes in the Lost Cause myths is a supporter of the Tea Party/Libertarianism ideas. Those two things are directly related. I don’t mean to make this political, but the evidence is overwhelming and reflects the mentality of that group.

        Like Mark, I have come to the realization that I have to incorporate Civil War memory into my US History to 1865 (TUSH) course. I think it is extremely important that I do so. How people remember the past is critical. This one issue seems to be a major dividing point for people. I’m glad that it is fading away, but we have to do our part in making it fade away. By sticking to the facts and using the historical process we are educating our students as to what actually happened and helping them develop an accurate memory of the past.

        Reply
        1. Betty Giragosian

          Mr. Dick, I read of your comments on Mr. Williams’ blog, but did not know they were yours, until I just looked them up. What do you mean,
          “we have to do our part in making it fade away?” Are you speaking of the unique love and honour we show our Confederate soldiers? They are heroes to us, and we are not going to forget them. I reminded one person on this blog that as long as the UDC and SCV exist, they will be remembered and honored and our special days for our generals will continue. We will always feel this way, no matter how you all teach the story of the War Between the States. I cannot say what you can accomplish in your teaching elsewhere in the United States, but you won’t make much headway down here. I cannot understand your crusade, why it is so important to you. Is the way we feel so strange to you, does it make you feel uncomfortable?

          Reply
          1. Jimmy Dick

            Historical accuracy is my crusade. You may feel the way you do, but you don’t speak for the American people, just for yourself. The Civil War was fought and ended in 1865. The war was caused primarily by slavery. It isn’t a hard concept to understand, but it is very accurate. Those who wish to deny that are losing the struggle mainly because the historical record and facts do not support the Lost Cause lie.

            This thread really does show what is happening. The youth of this country do not for the most part care or even believe in the Lost Cause lie. I do not teach a history of the War Between the States because that war has not been waged. There was a Civil War.

            Reply
            1. Betty Giragosian

              Mr.Dick, it was not a Civil War. it was The War Between the States.
              Period. In spite of your efforts ‘to make it fade away,’ we will prevail.

              Reply
              1. Kevin Levin Post author

                Prevail in doing what? No one is preventing you from honoring your ancestors. You have a solid brick structure on the Boulevard in which to hold whatever activities you choose to organize. Call the war whatever you want.

                Reply
                1. Betty Giragosian

                  Kevin, that is just what we do in our marble building on the Boulevard, and we will conintue to do as we were taught, call it the War Between the States. So you say no one is preventing us from honoring our ancstors? Well, you could have fooled me. If you and most of your commenters had their way, it would not be possible.

                  Reply
                  1. Kevin Levin Post author

                    So you say no one is preventing us from honoring our ancstors? Well, you could have fooled me. If you and most of your commenters had their way, it would not be possible.

                    But that’s just it, the readers that you refer to don’t have the power to prevent your organization from organizing your preferred commemorative activities. It’s just a blog. They are voicing their opinions. You are a member of a private organization that can do what it wants on property it owns. What’s the problem?

                    Reply
              2. Jimmy Dick

                Betty, you are failing. You may think you can say it was a war between the states and that it was not over slavery, but we instructors are teaching the historically accurate version. We are teaching what your ancestors said it was about in 1860-64 and not what they tried to pass off after the war was over which was a complete contradiction of their earlier statements.

                You cannot prevail because the evidence shows few people are listening to you. The bottom line is you cannot cover up the truth with patriotic heritage any more. We teach people to look for the facts and to explore the context behind everything, not just the Civil War. The result is that more and more people are coming to the realization that the whitewashing of history has been very detrimental to the people of this country. They prefer a factually accurate history.

                So your Lost Cause myth is going into the dustbin of history because it is based on a lie. If you want to honor men who fought for slavery, that’s your choice. They had their reasons for what they did and I really don’t judge them because their time period was very different than ours. I cannot change the past nor do I want to. It happened the way it did, but I can make sure the past is presented accurately to people. The SCV and UDC could help with that, but if they want to stick with the Lost Cause lie, then they’re useless and will collapse upon themselves.

                Reply
                1. Betty Giragosian

                  Mr. Dick I suspect you will end up in a dustbin long before the the Story of the Lost Cause comes anywhere hear it. I will honor the Confederate soldier for the rest of my life, and don’t care whether you like it or not. Why don’t you folks do as we asked over 150 years ago–just leave us alone. I honestly do not know what you all would write about. I am sure it gives you great pleasure to speak of the Confederacy with great disdain.
                  How on earth do you manage to teach a class on this without your personal animosity seeping through it to the surface?
                  Keep on trying, Mr. Dick. You will get nowhere. The SCV and UDC are in fine fettle, and to your dismay, I suspect will last for another century, if not longer. Too bad you are not eligible.

                  Reply
                  1. Kevin Levin Post author

                    Why don’t you folks do as we asked over 150 years ago–just leave us alone.

                    Who is “us”? You weren’t alive in the 1860s. Your membership with white southerners is purely a function of your imagination and to suggest that the Confederacy was not an aggressor in any way is pure mythology. The act of secession itself was understood as an act of aggression by Americans (North and South) at the time and the violent taking of federal facilities does not help.

                    Reply
                    1. Betty Giragosian

                      Kevin, you know good and well who “we” are. We are the folks you all rail against, we are those who love the Confederacy, we are the descendants of those who served, in the military or who gave material aid, the women who stayed at home. You must know that, you just want to aggravate me.

                    2. Kevin Levin Post author

                      Let me remind you what I was responding to: Why don’t you folks do as we asked over 150 years ago–just leave us alone. Perhaps you misspoke, but your comment suggests that you claim membership in a community that existed 150 years ago. That is an act of the imagination.

                  2. Jimmy Dick

                    Betty, you are living in an echo chamber. I teach at a college. The students do not believe in the lies of the Lost Cause BEFORE they get to my class. This entire thread is about how it has become a generational thing. People over 50 may believe in the Lost Cause lies, but under 50 it tapers off into a population pyramid with a tiny little base. You want to honor men who rebelled against the United States and fought for slavery. The younger generations do not.
                    I am not concerned with the UDC and SCV because they have failed in their missions. They lack the education to sustain real educational programs. They have to rely on indoctrination and even that fails because what the SCV and UDC pass off as history is revealed as a big giant lie.

                    You know why I can teach about the Confederacy? Because they left the records behind showing they seceded over the issue of slavery. I can’t help it if you cannot understand that and choose to believe in a lie. That is your choice. However, I teach American History and the Civil War is part of it. I teach it with the actual facts. That is why the Lost Cause will be gone eventually.

                    Reply
                    1. Jimmy Dick

                      Kevin,
                      Definitely correct on that. I thought the CSPAN3 show on the Lost Cause was interesting and was happy to see the professor point that out as well. She took the time to cover the UDC and Mildred Rutherford.
                      My school textbook covers the Lost Cause as well in explaining what it is and how it came about. I’m making sure that section is the final part of my survey course because I believe it is important to explain to the students why some people have erroneous beliefs and a distorted concept of the Civil War.

                    2. Kevin Levin Post author

                      I also think it’s important to remember that academic trends have also contributed to what we now reference as bad history. For W.E.B. DuBois the problem wasn’t so much the UDC, but academics in the so-called Dunning School. I sometimes hand out one of the final sections of his book, Black Reconstruction, which includes numerous passages from history textbooks in use in the 1930s. It’s definitely worth checking out.

              3. Bob Huddleston

                “War Between the States” as a name for the Late Unpleasantness is a post war creation, not used during the War. Alexander Stephens, in his efforts (largely successful) to make people forget his Cornerstone speeches, invented it when he published his memoirs. The popularity of the name grew in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, pushed and popularized by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). In a wonderful example of “Political Correctness” the UDC convinced most of the former slave states to require that history textbooks use that term. Perhaps the most recent use is in the Library of Congress cataloging information for the Brothers Kennedy’s tirade against Yankees, _The South Was Right _. They want the book indexed under “WBTS.” Unfortunately for their efforts, going to that subject in the Library of Congress site refers the reader to “Civil War.”

                Civil War is the name the contemporaries, both North and South, used during the conflict. The Yankees also enshrined “War of the Rebellion” in legislation (vide, the “Official Records” true name) but around the turn of the Century the War Department officially decided to call the conflict “The Civil War,” except in the those cases where existing law required “War of the Rebellion.”

                In the late 1950s legislation was introduced in Congress to create a national commission to memorialize the War’s Centennial. All wanted to create a Civil War Commission, not a WBTS Commission. The sponsors, incidentally, were seven senators and representatives from former Confederate states, four from Yankee states and one westerner. The resulting national commission and the various state commissions published roughly 250 books and booklets. With five exceptions, all used “Civil War.” Four of the five used WBTS and one used “Rebellion.”

                So if your purpose is to be neutral, then use Civil War. If you want to brand yourself as a neo-confederate or neo-Yankee, use WBTS or Rebellion.

                Reply
          2. Bob Huddleston

            Betty, I am curious about your Civil War-era ancestors. Depending on your age, you had either 4 great-grandfathers or 8 great-great-grandfathers (for the moment I am ignoring their spouses) who would have been of age to participate in the War. What was their service? Thanks in advance for taking the time to answer!

            Reply
            1. Betty Giragosian

              Great Grandfather, Robert Lee Priddy
              Co. G. 4th Virginia Cavalry, ‘Hanover Troop”
              Wickham’s Brigade
              Stuart’s Division wounded twice
              Captured at Kelley’s Ford, was in Old capitol Prison Washington DC.

              His brother, Ezekiel Priddy
              Co . First Virginia Infantry (Williams Rifles)
              PIcketts Charge, Gettysburg
              Wounded four times

              Great Great Grandfather Robert Lee Priddy, Sr
              Co C 74th Regiment Virginia Militia

              He was too old when he enlisted, and I do not know if he was allowed
              to ser ve. We have no other dates on him, other than when he enlisted.
              His son was about 30 plus when he enlisted

              Father’s side
              Louis Earnest Franck -Great Grandfather
              Co F 32 Regiment, Virgini Ianfantry

              George Franck-great great great uncle
              Co G 46th Virginia Infantry

              Ernst Frederick Franck
              Co 1 26th regiment, Virginia Infantry

              these are all we have researched, For years, I only knew of my great grandfather, Lee Priddy and his serivce, I joined the UDC on his record. A few years ago, a friend did some research for me, and found these other soldiers. If you have ancestry .com, you can go on forever, and once you get a death certilficate, the names on it opens up further research. I told her to stop, as she was doing research for others. I have some papers on a set of brothers on my great grandmother’s side, but I can’t put my hands on them. Thanks for asking.

              Reply
              1. Bob Huddleston

                Betty,

                Thanks for the information on your Civil War ancestors. I did some checking and found a little additional information on them.

                Robert Lee Priddy, Jr, your great grandfather, seems to have escaped the 1860 census. However the 1850 Census of Hanover County, Virginia, shows Lee Priddy, age 19, was living with Robert Priddy, age 54, along with Czekiel, age 14.

                In 1860, Robert [Sr.], age 64 was living with, among others, Ezechiel, age 22, but no tract of Robert, Robert L or Lee Priddy.

                It is not uncommon to find people skipped or double counted in the Census returns. Remember the Census Marshal came to the door and, usually, the head of the family provided the information. In 1860, for instance, Ulysses S. Grant and family moved from St. Louis before the Census was taken and arrived in Galena after it had been taken there. When the marshal showed up at Arlington House, someone, probably Custis Lee, told him that Col. R.E. Lee, US Army lived there. Except that when the Texas marshal arrived at the army base in San Antonio, Col. Lee said he lived *there* and he got counted twice.

                Where was Robert Priddy Junior in the summer of 1860? Visiting someone, traveling somewhere? No way to tell. He was back home on April 1, 1862, when he enlisted as a private in Company G, 4th Virginia Cavalry.

                What is interesting is looking at the 1860 slave schedules for Hanover County: there are Priddys all over the place. At least 54 slaves living in Hanover County were owned by 8 different Priddys.

                Including 2 girls, each aged 7, owned by Robert Priddy.

                So, yes, your Priddy ancestors were fighting to defend slavery.

                Reply
                1. Bob Huddleston

                  And, BTW, in 1860, Hanover County, Virginia had a white population of 7,482, a Free Colored population of 257 and a slave population of 9,483. The odds that a white person was not involved in some manner with slavery are remote.

                  Reply
                  1. Kevin Levin Post author

                    Yes, that would be a county where every white man (slaveowner and non-slaveowner alike) would have been responsible for the maintenance of the institution. One can easily imagine a Priddy included at least in slave patrols. They may have rented slaves during harvest.

                    Reply
                2. Betty Giragosian

                  Bob, I enjoyed reading your extra information. I know that Lee Priddy had a slave, called Uncle Albert by his children, and even by my mother and her siblings. I never knew him, as he died a few years before I was born, eons ago. We have pictures of him holding my uncle when he was a baby. Lee was a small farmer, and remnants of his log cabin, in which he and my great grandmother raised 12 children, all living to an old age, were standing until aboubt 30 years ago, when someone bought the
                  property and built a home where it stood. It was said that the floor where her rocker sat, was worn from rocking her babies.
                  On the monument at Hanover Courthouse, Lee’s name is on the bronze plaque, and noted that he was wounded 4 times, but in his papers, mention was made of only two wounds. A researcher, who has found more than 200 soldiers whose names are not on the monument, told me that it was Lee’s brother Ezekiel, who recived the four wounds. The country will approve another monument, not as large, to be placed on the courthouse grounds, with all the missing names on it. Incidentally, my UDC chapter has awarded him the Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal for his research. This is the highest historical award the UDC gives. Re slaves owned by my family, it must have been my great great grandfather who owned the two little girls. I only heard of Uncle Albert being owned by Lee. Thanks so much for all of this information. So you say my Priddy warriors fought to defend slavery? Let me tell you something, they all fought because Lincoln raised an army of 75,000 men to invade the seceded states, the Confederate States of America. You were so kind and so very sly, hoping to set a trap for me to fall into, so you could make your denoument-”Yes, your people were fighting to defend slavery.” If you think my great grandfather would go to war to keep his one slave, you are totally off base. What a nosy person you must be, to spend all this time looking up my ancestors, so that you could make your pointless and incorrect point. It was a War of Northern Aggression, started by Abe Lincoln. By the way, there is much more research to be done on my family lines, and who knows, you might even find loads of slaves in my ancestry. Can I get you to do my genealogical research for me at no cost?

                  Reply
                  1. Kevin Levin Post author

                    Betty,

                    It sounds to me like you are imposing your own understanding of the war on your ancestors. Do you have any documents (letters, diaries, etc.) that point to why your ancestor(s) fought in the war?

                    Reply
                    1. Betty Giragosian

                      Kevin, nothing written down, but talk that was passed down. The veterans in the community would get together on Sunday afternoons and talk war. One old lady told me she got so tired of hearing about war, war, war. She would have ben a young girl and probably was very bored with it all. I am not imposing my own ideas on my ancestors. I know why they fought. Never did I ever hear it said that they fought to defend slavery. If you guys want to believe they fought to defend slavery, I can’t stop you. It is your right to believe what you want. I know why my people fought,
                      so don’t imply that I do not know whereof I speak.
                      I think Abe Lincoln had a lot to do with it.

                    2. Kevin Levin Post author

                      You write as if I am condemning you and your ancestors. Nothing could be further from the truth.

                      It is your right to believe what you want.

                      And given your lack of evidence, beyond stories passed down, it is your right to believe what you want as well.

                  2. Bob Huddleston

                    Betty wrote: “So you say my Priddy warriors fought to defend slavery? Let me tell you something, they all fought because Lincoln raised an army of 75,000 men to invade the seceded states, the Confederate States of America.”

                    Ignoring that it was the Confederate States that started the War, I would point out that Lee Priddy joined the PACS on 1 April 1862, a year after the Yankee Vandals had invaded the Sacred Soil. Why did he wait so long? One factor may have been the expected passage by the CS Congress on 16 April of the first of three draft laws: perhaps Lee did not want to wait to be drafted.

                    Parenthetically, the only Ezekiel Priddy I find is one E Priddy, 1st Virginia Infantry, who may or may not have been Lee’s brother. I checked the several census misspellings, as well as “Pridy” and “Priddie” without success.

                    Reply
                    1. Betty Giragosian

                      Bob, the record that I have on Ezekiel Priddy is from the National Archives in DC. About 45 years ago, the UDC raised the funds to have all of the Confederate records put on microfilm to be housed in our UDC Headquarters in Richmond. I would say they are accurate. I do not know where you have looked, but I have the proof.
                      As for Lee not joining up until nearly a year later, I don’t know why he waited to long. I do know that he had four small children at that time, which may have held him back Mabye he only signed up because he did not want to be drafted, but am sure you will think of something. Maybe he did not really want to fight. I know he was a good soldier and stayed in the army until Apponmattox. He was mentioned quite honourably in the book “The Wingfields of Virginia.”

                      From your asking me a seeingly nice question, you have ballooned into a nasty person. I can only imagine that the abolitionists who ventured into the vale of evil known as the south must have been very much like you. Meddlesome, needling, nosy, exuding a holier than thou attitude, althogther an overbearing bunch. No wonder they failed to end slavery. I believe folks like you actually envy the south for the love we have for our soldiers, and certainly we had the greatest generals around.
                      You guys just don’t have it. Come to some of our ceremonies honouring our Dead, and see what it is like. On the other hand, don’t.

  2. Steve

    As a major turning point in American history, the civil war, it like WW2, Korea and all the wars American servicemen fought on cannot be forgotten, or ignored. History ignored is history repeated, it needs to be learned, with fact not interpretation or biased teaching.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi Steve,

      I think we need to distinguish between the emotional hold that aspects of our history like the Civil War have had on Americans and forgetting history. What I am referring to is the former. Despite our tendency to complain about the historical knowledge of young people I suspect that they are no more knowledgeable than previous generations.

      Reply
  3. Chris Lese

    Thank you, Kevin, for the kind words and again for the invitation to write in Common-Place. It is a tremendous honor. Your assertion that Civil War Memory is dead, based on our classroom interactions, is interesting. I tried to make it clear to my students that these Southern classrooms are not representative of the entire South but of two particular cities in different states. We Skyped with the Georgia classrooms again this past fall (after the article had been submitted) and there seemed to be even less of a “Lost Cause” sentiment expressed by our southern friends. My students reported they heard opinions that were ambivalent, bored with or even antagonistic to the idea of the Confederate flag. That said, there were a vocal few that maintained strong support for the flag and more traditional LC views. Their class even posted a road sign, clearly tongue in cheek, which advertised membership into the local Sons of Confederacy. One case in point was the Camp Randall issue provoked less of a response this year than last. But I am hesitant to draw any major conclusions from what are truly awesome experiences as one of my students commented that it is hard to really know what a high school student is feeling during a 30 minute Skype. Maybe they feel peer pressure in their group and do not speak truthfully. Perhaps they just had an off-day, are tired and as a result are not vocal one way or another on the topic at hand. So our potential collaboration where this teacher and I will (virtually) teach each other’s class for a unit on the Civil War would, I hope, provide a much better understanding of each other’s students and their views. Our students may even work on a research topic together in long distance groups as well which would provide more time for them to talk and share their views and ideas. I do know my students will be thrilled to find that their work has garnered this level of discussion. Again, many thanks!

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Your assertion that Civil War Memory is dead, based on our classroom interactions, is interesting.

      Hi Chris. Great to hear from you and thanks again for writing such an insightful essay for the Common-place issue. Let me be clear that I am not basing my conclusion on your students’ experience with the Georgia class alone. It seems to me that current teenagers represent a generational shift is away from viewing the Civil War as central to how we see ourselves as Americans and even in connection with regional identity.

      Reply
      1. Chris Lese

        Kevin, You made it clear your opinion is based on much more interaction and experience than just ours and you are right to qualify that statement. I think you are probably correct regarding this generational shift but I did have a friend from Louisiana who read my article write me that his hometown’s high school would provide a more “traditional” Southern point of view on the Civil War’s memory. I know that is anecdotal but interesting nonetheless. I intend to keep investigating the memory of war with as many classrooms in the South as I can. Indeed, one of the comments above is correct that New England may very well have a unique memory of the war to us. I even recall a teacher from California at Gettysburg College’s “The Future of Civil War History Conference” explain how he teaches the war through a Western lens. So maybe there is another region, beyond the South, that will surprise us how the war is remembered. After our Skype this fall and my students did not see the distinct differences they had anticipated, I asked how they thought Americans view themselves today, if it is not regional? They seemed to think of red and blue, not blue and grey.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          After our Skype this fall and my students did not see the distinct differences they had anticipated, I asked how they thought Americans view themselves today, if it is not regional? They seemed to think of red and blue, not blue and grey.

          That makes sense to me.

          Reply

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