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.

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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]

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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. [click to continue…]

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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. [click to continue…]

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New To the Civil War Memory Library, 08/13/14

Jonathan WhitePaul Escott, Lincoln’s Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era, (University Press of Virginia, 2014).

Evan Jones and Wiley Sword eds., Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863, (Louisiana State University Press, 2014).

Michael Korda, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee, (Harper, 2014). I have not read through the entire book nor do I plan on doing so for the reasons outlined in Allen Guelzo’s review.

Thomas O’Connor, Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield, (Northeastern University Press, 2014).

Jonathan W. White, Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln, (Louisiana State University Press, 2014). This is a must read. White challenges long-standing views about the support within the ranks for Lincoln and the Republican Party in 1864. His analysis of the extent to which the Lincoln administration and Union high command suppressed dissent in the ranks is also very interesting.

I also want to highlight a new book co-authored by Michael Musick called “I Am Busy Drawing Pictures”: The Civil War Art and Letters of Private John Jacob Omenhauser, CSA, which you can pick up from the Friends of the Maryland State Archives. Omenhauser spent time at Point Lookout Prison. While his letters are insightful, the real prize are the incredibly rich images that detail life in prison – some of the most interesting focus on race relations and the humiliation of being guarded by black Union soldiers.

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