I so wish I could be in Fredericksburg, Virginia this weekend to take part in events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the famous battle and the war in 1862. I’ve been following events through my preferred social networks, but this video captures what remembering the war should be all about. John Hennessy is the chief historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. No one that I know personally thinks more deeply about what it means to do public history and how best to steer the general public through the many landmines of Civil War memory. Even through video John’s passion for history and commitment to engaging the entire community is palpable.
No doubt, we all glean something different from such a message, but I am reminded that how we remember as a community often reflects boundaries that we would do well to overcome.
That’s a euphemism for slaves who were forced to work for the Confederate government during the war or who accompanied a master into the army. Of the ten men who will be recognized today in Union County North Carolina, nine were slaves. All received pensions after the war, but not for their service as soldiers. The marker reads: “In Memory of Union County’s Confederate Pensioners of Color,” and lists their names: Wilson Ashcraft, Ned Byrd, Wary Clyburn, Wyatt Cunningham, George Cureton, Hamp Cuthbertson, Mose Fraser, Lewis McGill, Aaron Perry and Jeff Sanders. I have the pensions for most of these men, including Clyburn’s whose file includes a letter confirming that his pension was not a recognition of service as a soldier – just in case there was any confusion.
It will be interesting to see whether event organizers, including speaker Earl Ijames, will mention that these men were indeed slaves. It is nice to see that at least one newspaper includes a reference to these men as slaves. That inconvenient fact is almost always ignored, but without it the history of these men makes absolutely no sense.
As I’ve said before, there is nothing wrong with remembering these men, but Confederate slaves ought to be recognized forsurviving the Confederacy.
You will notice that I am giving the Disqus commenting platform another try. I’ve been using Disqus over at the Atlantic and I have not had any problems. In the past the biggest drawback was the speed with which comments loaded, but that does not seem to be any longer an issue. The interface has also been streamlined, which I like a lot. I recommend playing around a bit by leaving a comment or two on this post.
Some of you will notice that I removed the Recent Comments feature from the sidebar. The standard WordPress widget is not compatible and Disqus no longer supports their own, which I do not understand. I am looking into possible solutions, but for now I recommend subscribing to the comments for those posts that are of interest. You can subscribe via feed or email, which you will find at the end of the thread. Of course, I will monitor things from my end, but let me know if there are any problems and/or if this is going to seriously hamper your Civil War memory experience.
The following video was uploaded yesterday. It is a wonderful example of the power of social media in shaping Civil War memory. Of all the social media platforms currently being utilized YouTube has by far gone furthest in allowing individuals the opportunity to contribute to a collective memory landscape.