Crater 150 Talk on C-SPAN3 Tonight

Just in case you have absolutely nothing else to do tonight C-SPAN3 will air (10:15pm) the talk I recently delivered in Petersburg as part of the 150th anniversary of the battle of the Crater. In fact, C-SPAN is going to re-run the commemorative ceremony that took place on July 30 as well as Emmanuel Dabney’s CWI talk on the Crater beforehand. Yes, it’s an entire evening devoted to the Crater in history and memory. Continue reading

Coates on Ferguson and Civil War Memory

There is a wall that I always hit when I read commentary by Ta-Nehisi Coates owing to my personal background and race. While I can relate to his preferred interpretation of Civil War memory on an intellectual level I am aware that his understanding comes from a very personal place and a sense of community that will always be foreign to me. The following comes from Coates’s most recent post on the killing of Michael Brown and the overall situation in Ferguson, MO.

Some 600,000 Americans—2.5 percent of the American population—died in the Civil War. What came before this was a long bloody war—enslavement—against black families, black communities and black bodies. What came after was a terrorist regime which ruled an entire swath of this country by fire and rope. That regime was not overthrown until an era well within the living memory of many Americans. Taken all together, the body count that led us to our present tenuous democratic moment does not elevate us above the community of nations, but installs us uncomfortably within its ranks. And that is terrifying because it shows us to be neither providential nor exceptional, and only special in the subjective sense that our families are special—because they are ours.

Read the rest here.

Nature’s Civil War: Lecture by Katherine Shively Meier

My friend, Katy Meier, recently delivered a Banner Lecture at the Virginia Historical Society on her new book, Nature’s Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia. The book recently won The Wiley-Silver Book prize, which is given yearly by The Center for Civil War Research at the University of Mississippi. I highly recommend the book.

[Uploaded to Vimeo on August 15, 2014]

A Fitting Conclusion to the Silas Chandler Story

Andrew and Silas Chandler
Andrew and Silas Chandler

[Hat-tip to Andy Hall]

As many of you know, over the past few years I’ve maintained a sharp interest in the story of Silas Chandler. The famous image of Silas seated next to his owner, Andrew Chandler, remains one of the most iconic images of our Civil War. Around it revolved a divisive and often confused debate about race relations in the Confederacy and the existence of black Confederate soldiers. The original tintype remained in the hands of Andrew Chandler Battaile Jr., a descendant of Andrew’s. While there is no doubt that Mr. Battaile cared deeply about preserving the original artifact there can also be no doubt that he did not fully understand the story represented in the image. Yesterday he donated the tintype to the Library of Congress. Continue reading

John A. Andrew’s Abolitionism Through Whiggish Eyes

I am making my way through and thoroughly enjoying Henry Greenleaf Pearson’s, The Life of John A. Andrew, which was published in 1904. It’s nice not having to compete with multiple biographies of the Massachusetts governor and in this case Pearson’s biography is a different kind of beast altogether. It’s been a while since I read one published at the beginning of the twentieth century. Like many biographies published at this time this one has a strong Whiggish bent to it. Continue reading