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Why I Won’t Be Watching Ken Burns This Week

I didn’t read a book about the American Civil War until I was in my mid-20s and it wasn’t Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote or a used copy of the American Heritage picture book. It was Stephen Sears’s Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. If memory serves me correctly the next few books included David Donald’s biography of Lincoln, Eric Foner’s book about the Republican Party and James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom. I read these books as I was finishing up a master’s thesis in philosophy – specifically philosophy of history. From the very beginning of what would become an entirely new intellectual focus for me I approached these books as analytical arguments that demanded careful thought and a critical eye.

My own Civil War memory is not wrapped up in visits to battlefields at an early age with the family. In fact, I have no memory of learning about the war in grade school or even high school. What prompted my foray into Civil War studies was a chance visit to Antietam in 1994. The visit certainly sparked something in me, but even this visit and subsequent visits in the weeks to follow was decidedly a function of my intellectual curiosity. It was my first visit to a battlefield apart from a family trip that included Yorktown, which I only remember as hot and boring. Continue reading “Why I Won’t Be Watching Ken Burns This Week”

New to the Civil War Memory Library, 09/08

Andrew TorgetJohn A. Casey Jr., New Men: Reconstructing the Image of the Veteran in Late-Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture (Fordham University Press, 2015).

Kathleen DuVall, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (Knopf, 2015).

Lisa T. Frank, The Civilian War: Confederate Women and Union Soldiers during Sherman’s March (Louisiana State University Press, 2015).

Tiya Miles, The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story (University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

Andrew Torget, Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850 (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

Mike Huckabee ‘Getting Wrong’ With Lincoln

With the presidential election season moving into high gear it is just a matter of time before we are bombarded with the tired references to the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln. It’s all about “getting right” with these men, but this past week Mike Huckabee completely missed the boat when he referenced Lincoln in his defense of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk, who as you all know is currently in jail for defying a court order authorizing marriage certificates for gay couples.

Huckabee argues that Kim Davis is following in the footsteps of Lincoln, who he believes defied the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Dred Scott. Continue reading “Mike Huckabee ‘Getting Wrong’ With Lincoln”

Why I Will Not Sign the Civil War Trust’s Petition

The Civil War Trust is asking members and others to sign a “Citizens’ Petition in Support of War Memorial Preservation,” which will eventually be sent to Congressional leaders. I will not be signing it. It is certainly not because I don’t support the spirit of the petition. Let me explain.

The petition asks the public to reduce all American wars and all soldiers as worthy of continued honor. All soldiers, including Confederates , according to CWT ought to be remembered as “young soldiers who defended freedom.” How we remember the freedoms that Confederates fought so hard to achieve is exactly what is currently being debated. It is a legitimate debate/discussion that relates directly to the meaning attached to many Civil War monuments from Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis to the standard soldier monument on the courthouse lawn. Continue reading “Why I Will Not Sign the Civil War Trust’s Petition”

Of Confederate Flags and Monuments

With the official end of summer upon us I decided to go back and list in chronological order all of the posts I have written about the ongoing debate about Confederate iconography going back to June.  I’ve been reviewing much of what I have written in preparation for a panel discussion that I will join in just a couple of weeks at the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History in Louisville. Participants include Bob Beatty, Dina Bailey, Steve Murray, W. Todd Groce and Eric Emerson. It promises to be an engaging discussion.

The other reason for going back is to try to make sense of what I’ve said and to see what threads, if any, can be discerned throughout. This brings me to an important point about blogging. Individual posts are very much time sensitive. They are opportunities to try out ideas and to see where things go. I’ve been pushed in different directions over the summer in response to various developments, many of which took me by surprise. In other words, you should expect that my thinking is going to evolve over time. Blogging is much more jazz improvisation than a carefully composed concerto. Continue reading “Of Confederate Flags and Monuments”