Alistair Cooke Explores America’s Civil War

This BBC documentary hosted by Alistair Cooke, which aired in 1972, is well worth watching if you have the time. The content of the documentary reflects some of the new scholarship on slavery but overall the script is marred by the Lost Cause narrative and a problematic view of Lincoln and, especially, Reconstruction. Some of the places visited by Cooke include the Custis-Lee Mansion, Shiloh National Military Park, Boone Hall Plantation, South Carolina, and Natchez, Mississippi. Enjoy.

[Uploaded to YouTube on October 14, 2014]


Outrage From Old Virginia

Update 2: Guilty as charged. It turns out that I “completely agreed” with a comment that included the word ‘manure’. I was responding to the reference to Baptist. Williams really needs to get a life. Although there is a Part 2 scheduled from Williams, I will do you all a favor and move on.

Update: Hypocrisy lives in Old Virginia. Apparently, Richard Williams disapproves of my reference to him as “insecure” but he has no problem describing me as a “Northern elitist” and “envious.” And how does linking to a story implicate me with every word choice? I simply linked to the story. Unfortunately, this is business as usual for Williams. He should look more closely at the kinds of websites he links to as well as his own track record of generalizing and insulting people that he knows nothing about before he goes after others. [click to continue…]


Southern Style Before the Yankees Came

Update: Check out Joshua Rothman’s take on this story.

Allure of AntebellumWhat better way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the release of the movie, “Gone With the Wind” than with a Fall fashion spread inspired by life on an antebellum plantation. That’s exactly what some actress by the name of Blake Lively is doing. I guess this is how one gets old because before today I never heard of this person. Having just finished Baptist’s new book, I have very little patience for such nonsense.

Georgia peaches, sweet tea, and the enticement of a smooth twang…we all love a bit of southern charm. These regional mainstays, along with an innate sense of social poise, evoke an unparalleled warmth and authenticity in style and tradition.

The term “Southern Belle” came to fruition during the Antebellum period (prior to the Civil War), acknowledging women with an inherent social distinction who set the standards for style and appearance. These women epitomized Southern hospitality with a cultivation of beauty and grace, but even more with a captivating and magnetic sensibility. While at times depicted as coy, these belles of the ball, in actuality could command attention with the ease of a hummingbird relishing a pastoral bloom.

Like the debutantes of yesteryear, the authenticity and allure still ring true today. Hoop skirts are replaced by flared and pleated A-lines; oversized straw toppers are transformed into wide-brimmed floppy hats and wool fedoras.

The prowess of artful layering -the southern way- lies in inadvertent combinations. From menswear-inspired overcoats to the fluidity of soft flowing separates, wrap yourself up in tactile layers that elicit a true sense of seasonal lure.

Embrace the season and the magic below the Mason-Dixon with styles as theatric as a Dixie drawl.

Just don’t ask where their allowance for clothing came from or the raw material itself.


Standing Up For Citations

The question of how sources ought to be cited in a work of non-fiction history came up again this past week with the release of Karen Abbott’s new book, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War. The book tells the story of four women, who engaged in various acts of espionage during the Civil War. From all the reviews I’ve read this looks like a highly entertaining read, which should come as no surprise given the author’s success with previous books. [click to continue…]


A Visit With Governor Andrew

John AndrewToday I took advantage of a day off from work and beautiful weather to drive down the coast to the Hingham Cemetery to visit the final resting place of Governor John A. Andrew. The headstone is very simple, but a few years after his death a group of admirers commissioned a beautiful statue sculpted in Cararra marble in Florence, Italy. I am still very much in the early stages of my Andrew project. I made it through the first volume of Henry G. Pearson’s 1904 biography along with a number of other secondary sources. With three days off next week I hope to finally sink my teeth into the Andrew Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Any biography project is an enormous undertaking, but one of the things that helps to make it more manageable is the fact that Andrew died relatively early in 1867. The timing helps to frame this as a Civil War biography. No reason to wade into the complexity of Gilded Age America and no worrying about how the politics of the period might have shaped Andrew’s views on emancipation and black civil rights, which defined his time on Beacon Hill. [click to continue…]