Sally Field Reflects on Mary Todd Lincoln

Like many of you I am looking forward to seeing Speilberg’s film, Lincoln.  There is quite a buzz, which I hope translates into a good showing at the box office.  As long as we don’t get carried away with critiquing the film along the narrow lines of historical accuracy we should be just fine.  I am hoping Daniel Day-Lewis presents us with a sympathetic portrayal of Lincoln that is placed within a solid historical context.  I am not looking for nor do I desire a scholarly treatment of Lincoln.  First and foremost, I want to be entertained.  I plan on writing a review for the Atlantic and I have agreed to take part in a roundtable discussion that will appear at some point in the journal, Civil War History.

I am also looking forward to seeing what Sally Field does with Mary Todd.  If anyone deserves a sympathetic treatment it’s Mary Todd and after listening to Field reflect on her character I am confident that this is just what we will see.  It would have been easy to present the popular view of an unstable woman, who caused her husband nothing but trouble.  Remember Mary Tyler Moore in the TV adaptation of Gore Vidal’s Lincoln? This is still a common theme in the Lincoln literature as well.  Back in 2007 I taught an elective on Lincoln, which included a couple of classes on Mary Todd.  Students examined a number of secondary sources including an essay by Jean H. Baker in which she offers her own interpretation of why this particular view continues to hold sway.

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Dedication of Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site

The Battle of Island Mound marked the first time that African-American troops were engaged in Civil War combat, nearly a year before the battle depicted in the film Glory. Battle of Island Mound State Historic site encompasses Camp Africa, where the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry were camped in 1862 before a pitched battle with pro-Confederate forces near a low hill named Island Mound. When the site is developed, it will interpret the battle, as well as the effect that the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry has on later Union decisions to allow African-American units to fight.

[website for the Missouri Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission]

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Scalia on the Legality of Secession

A few years ago a screenwriter, Dan Turkewitz, solicited the opinions of all nine Supreme Court justices on their views of the legality of secession.  Apparently, Turkewitz was working on a screenplay in which the state of Maine attempts to secede from the United States to join Canada.  Only one justice responded and it turned out to be, arguably, the court’s most conservative member.

And there you have it.  What value you place in Scalia’s response is entirely up to you.  Like I’ve said before, I have very little interest in the question of whether a state has the right to secede from the union.  I do find it interesting, however, that the most conservative member of the court can find nothing in the Constitution that would render it legal.

Hey, there is always revolution.  [Hat-tip to Andy Hall]

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Contemplating a Different Trail

I moved to Boston in July 2011 and I’ve loved every minute of it.  It’s a beautiful city and for a history buff it really does feel like I am a kid in a candy store.  That said, I’ve lived two lives since arriving here and I am now wondering if it is time to give in and embrace this thing called the American Revolution.  Over the past year I’ve halfheartedly explored a few potential Civil War research projects that are centered here in Boston.  They include a regimental history of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and a Civil War biography of Governor John Andrew.  Both are projects that would, no doubt, be interesting to explore and I have no doubt they would be embraced by both scholarly and popular audiences.

The problem is that beyond a few trips to the archives I can’t seem to maintain my excitement level.  I walk to the archives or wander through the city and I am distracted by a very different history.  Downtown Boston is defined by the sights/sites and sounds of the American Revolution.  There is no escaping this and since I have always viewed history as a way to connect to my surroundings I want to know more.  This includes not only the physical landscape, but the community of people who are involved in its interpretation and maintenance.  [click to continue…]

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Prayers For the Descendants of Invaders

Update: Once again, the post was removed.

I can only imagine the personal courage behind these sincere words of concern from the SHPG for those Northerners in the path of hurricane Sandy.  As the descendant of people who would not arrive in this country until the early twentieth century, I truly appreciate Carl’s willingness to look beyond our complicity in the unconstitutional invasion of the South.  In all seriousness, things are fine up here in Boston.  We had a few hours of high winds, but through it all we never lost power.  The same can’t be said for my hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey.  My thoughts are with my good friends still living in the area.  Hope all of you are safe.

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