Libertarians and the Confederacy

We are all familiar with the libertarian perspective on the Civil War that views Lincoln as a tyrant and the Confederacy as the last bastion of limited government. It’s a strange cast of characters, including Thomas DiLorenzo and Walter Williams, both of who go out of their way to paint the Confederacy in the best light by minimizing the importance of slavery to secession and overlooking its own march toward a centralized state. Their limited understanding of historical scholarship comes through loud and clear in their books and/or Op-eds. In recent years there seems to be a realignment among those on the right regarding Lincoln and the war from folks like Glenn Beck to National Review editor, Rich Lowry, who recently published a new book on Lincoln

In this video Jason Kuznicki of the Cato Institute asks his fellow libertarians to reconsider their support of the Confederacy. Let’s ignore for a moment just how bizarre it is to be even talking about supporting the Confederacy 150 years later. I am less concerned with sound historical interpretation than I am with the fact that the Cato Institute believes there is a need for such a video. What do you make of it?

Did Confederate Veterans Hate Confederate Heritage?

South Carolina Monument at ChickamaugaLooks like I missed a great deal of Virginia Flagger silliness while away on my Civil War road trip. The group of teachers I was with heard about their plans to place a large Confederate flag on I-95 to welcome people to Richmond (and here). I used the media attention to highlight the dynamics of Civil War memory while leading the group down Monument Avenue.

A few of the teachers immediately interpreted this story as evidence of a strong reactionary element in the South that will never move beyond the Lost Cause. I stressed that, if anything, these people represent a relatively small segment of the population. In the end, this is little more than a rear guard action or a reflection of just how marginalized these people have become in a city that has made great strides on the racial and Civil War memory fronts in recent years. [click to continue…]

Civil War Memory in4

While I was in Gettysburg this past June for the CWI I took a few minutes to record a Civil War Trust Civil War in4 video with Garry Adelman on Civil War memory. I was way over-prepared and incredibly nervous. Let’s just say that I found it very difficult to whittle down this vast subject into a four minute segment, but somehow the editors managed to create some level of coherence out of the full recording.

Thanks so much to Garry for giving me my shot at stardom. I hope this serves as a useful introduction for teachers who are looking to introduce the subject to their middle school and high school classrooms. Finally, you need not worry as I promise not to quite my day job.

Heading Home

Sitting here at BWI airport waiting for my flight home to Boston and thinking about the last ten days on the road with roughy forty teachers. I am both exhausted and overwhelmed by the sites I saw, but especially by the experiences I shared with these remarkable people. It was truly an honor for me to serve as the group’s historian and guide.

I am humbled by their passion and commitment to the teaching profession. Many of these teachers work under very challenging conditions that I have no context with which to understand. During our final debriefing last night I listened as teachers talked enthusiastically about the teaching resources picked up during the trip and preliminary ideas about how they hope to integrate their experiences into their classrooms. [click to continue…]

Appearance on CSPAN

This past weekend CSPAN aired the final panel from this past year’s Civil War Institute. The panel included yours truly and addressed a number of issues related to the war in 1863.

I haven’t been able to watch it on the road, which is a good thing since I can’t stand the sound of my own voice. Even worse, I sometimes exaggerate my claims as if I am blogging. It really is OK if visitors have fun on battlefields.

The Face of Public History

The group of teachers that I have been working with over the past seven days has experienced the best in Civil War site interpretation from Nashville to Washington, D.C. At the same time, however this trip has reminded me of just how important it is that our public historians reflect the gender and racial profiles of their audiences.

This group of teachers is overwhelmingly white and female. Throughout Tennessee and Virginia our guides were almost all white and male. Let me stress that site interpretation was sophisticated and clearly based on the latest scholarship. Eric Jacobson did a fabulous job of interpreting the Carter family and the battle of Franklin that touched on gender and slavery and NPS Ranger, Christopher Young at Chickamauga, led one of the best battlefield tours that I’ve ever experienced. [click to continue…]

Report from the Road

Having a great time on my 10-day Civil War trek through Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland. Yesterday our trip was covered by the Chattanooga News. Thanks to Sean Phipps for spending some time with the group.

I also learned through the grapevine that my friends with the Virginia Flaggers Facebook Page have taken an interest as well. The comments are hilarious. 🙂

That’s it for now.