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Are the Virginia Flaggers A Threat to Confederate Heritage?

Long-time commenter and blogger, Patrick Young, offers some thoughts about what he sees as the likely effects of the Virginia Flaggers’ actions on the preservation of the Confederate Memorial Chapel on the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Updated as of 4:39pm [see #2 and #3 below]

I like to visit the different Civil War blogs, but I often feel like a tourist. I live in a world where no one argues about the right to secede or whether slavery was not as bad as it is made out to be. I never meet people with views similar to those of the flaggers and white Protestants make up roughly 6% of the population of my region of 2.8 million people. When I read Civil War blogs, the frames of the discussions take some getting used to. As an ex-girlfriend observed last year “They are white people arguing with white people.” This discussion of the chapel and other discussions of the flaggers have that feel to me sometimes. Continue reading “Are the Virginia Flaggers A Threat to Confederate Heritage?”

John Bell (Stephen) Hood, Ted Savas and Civil War Marketing

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 7.27.16 PMTed Savas is having a field day marketing his new book about John Bell Hood by author Stephen Hood. He has gone out of his way to emphasize how the book breaks new ground, specifically in reference to the popular claim that Hood was both an alcoholic and drug addict. In one of his latest posts he takes author Allen Guelzo to task for casually referencing this little piece of Hood lore in his new book about Gettysburg. I will let Savas take it from here.

General Hood did not sustain himself or even use alcohol or opiates as Sword and others continue to endlessly prevaricate about, and historians who should know better copy without curiosity or question.  Stephen Hood’s John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General (2013) unhorses these (and other) untruths and buries them under a flurry of stomping hooves. He does this in two ways: with newly found original firsthand sources, and a simple if time-consuming comparison of the “sources” originally used by Sword and others to characterize Hood as a drunk, crippled, drugged, hack of a leader.

This new book conclusively demonstrates that, even WITHOUT these newly discovered documents, the sources used by Sword and others were all hearsay or misread or intentionally misused (readers can decide, and the plentiful reviews on Amazon and elsewhere demonstrate that they are shocked by the mountain of evidence). The record is one secondary slander built upon another, piled upon a third, each with its own new purple adjectives thrown in for good measure. If Stephen Hood had left this subject alone, there is no doubt some author would have soon described an inebriated General Hood selling crack and meth in an Atlanta ghetto during leave.

The Civil War is filled with little stories that are told and re-told often with little attention to whether there is sufficient evidence. I’ve fallen into that trap on numerous occasions and I suspect that many of you have done so as well. Most historians welcome being corrected. Here’s the problem. Savas seems to be on some kind of crusade with this particular title as if it alone offers the necessary corrective regarding Hood’s drug and alcohol use. Not so fast; in fact, Stephen Hood is fairly late to the game. Continue reading “John Bell (Stephen) Hood, Ted Savas and Civil War Marketing”

Boston’s Civil War Top 10

black-soldiers-of-the-54th-massachusetts-regiment-memorial-in-boston-massachusettsI am working on finalizing a list of my top 10 favorite Civil War-related sites here in Boston for an upcoming issue of The Civil War Monitor. I’ve given a couple of talks in the area about how Bostonians commemorated and remembered the Civil War. It’s an interesting challenge given the extent to which the American Revolution dominates popular memory and heritage tourism. Boston’s commemorative landscape rivals any southern city and reflects the direct impact that the war and its outcome had on the region. Most of the sites listed below can easily be included in a family’s vacation itinerary.

  1. Robert Gould Shaw Memorial and Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (the Boston Common)
  2. African Meeting House
  3. Grand Army of the Republic Hall in Lynn, MA
  4. Memorial Hall at Harvard University
  5. Mount Auburn Cemetery
  6. Tremont Temple
  7. Faneuil Hall
  8. Public Gardens (statues of Edward Everett Hale, Wendell Phillips, Thomas Cass, William Ellery Channing, and Charles Sumner and Emancipation/Lincoln statue)
  9. Fort Warren
  10. Governor Andrew House

The list is a work in progress so feel free to offer suggestions.

“Ask A Slave”

It’s a new web comedy series, but it’s not very funny.

Azie Dungey played a slave at Mount Vernon and is now sharing the colorful and not very thoughtful questions asked by visitors. I certainly appreciate the explanation and intent behind the project.

So, I wanted a way to present all of the most interesting, and somewhat infuriating encounters that I had, the feelings that they brought up, and the questions that they left unanswered. I do not think that Ask A Slave is a perfect way to do so, but I think that it is a fun, and a hopefully somewhat enriching start.

The problem is that Dungey’s own apparent frustrations are expressed through her slave character. There is no exploration as to why some of these questions are problematic. She merely pokes fun at the visitors’ questions. I suspect that there are any number of factors beyond mere intelligence that shapes the kinds of questions posed to reenactors at historic sites. I wonder what the staff at Mount Vernon thinks of this.

It’s still early in the production of the series, but as it stands Ask A Slave isn’t very entertaining and it doesn’t help us to understand the experiences of living history actors, especially those dealing with the tough questions of race.

Staking Out a Position on the Confederate Flag

On more than one occasion I’ve recommended John Coski’s wonderful book, The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem. There is nothing else like it. Coski offers a very readable and balanced view of the history of the flag. Toward the end, Coski offers his own interpretation of how to move forward with the debate over the public display of the Confederate flag. It involves compromises from all parties with a stake in this ongoing drama over history and heritage. Continue reading “Staking Out a Position on the Confederate Flag”