Reality TV Show For Historians?

You heard that right.  It was just a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of basing a reality TV show around the eccentricities and annoying behavior of history buffs.  Here is the description for the casting call:

Are you a curious person, and obsessed with history? Can you recite facts inside and out, and name-drop (and even date-drop) with the best of them? Do your friends at trivia night, dare we say it, label you as the history buff? Maybe you’re not a full-blown “buff” but if you like history and get psyched at the idea of even visiting a museum, or actually read those placards on your tour, then we want to meet you…virtually for now though.

It goes without saying that Civil War enthusiasts occupy a unique place along the history buff spectrum.  For this show to have any chance of success they are going to need at least one and perhaps three participants from this quarter.  This morning I tweeted the announcement and John Hennessy quickly responded with a suggestion, which I am in complete agreement with:


John nailed it.  Brooks would be a formidable player.  So, who would you like to see represent our little community on this show?  Remember, this is all in good fun.

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From Heroes to Survivors

Bull RunEarlier today I finished reading Michael J. Bennett’s essay “The Black Flag and Confederate Soldiers: Total War from the Bottom Up” which is also published in Andy Slap and Michael Smith eds., This Distracted and Anarchical People: New Answers for Old Questions about the Civil War-Era North.  In his essay, Bennett explores accounts of massacres throughout the war that function as a case study of how various factors shaped what Mark Neely calls the “limits of destruction.”   [click to continue…]

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Confederate Camp Servants on Saturday Night Live

Bonus material compliments of The Onion. [H/T to Bjorn Skaptason]

A number of my Civil War peeps on Facebook are passing around a Comedy Central skit about the Civil War, which I posted here a few years back.  To return the favor I give you another classic from Saturday Night Live.  Not surprisingly, I love the reference to the camp servant, who makes it into the picture.  “He’s been a big help.”  Enjoy.

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Black Confederates At Appomattox

black confederates, appomattoxIt never fails that at some point during the Q&A following a talk about my Crater book an audience member brings up the subject of black Confederate soldiers.  Most of the time the issue is raised in complete innocence.  They heard about it from a fellow history enthusiast or, more likely, read about it online.  Last week it was the first question following my talk at the Virginia Festival of the Book.  I offered my standard response and after the talk I had a nice chat with the individual, who thanked me for clarifying the issue and for suggesting some books for further reading. Earlier that afternoon I had another conversation with a good friend who referenced accounts of black Confederate soldiers during the Appomattox Campaign.  Again, the subject was honestly raised and with a sincere interest in wanting clarification.  This is one of the more popular accounts that you will find online.  It is usually brought up to link the raising of black soldiers during the final weeks of the war in Richmond with the battlefield.  [click to continue…]

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The Community of the Civil War Regiment

Lucy Nichols, slave

Lucy Nichols at a reunion of the 23rd Indiana, circa. 1890s

I had one of those moments this morning when reading the work of another historian opened my eyes to ways to deepen my own thinking about a particular subject.  Much of what I’ve written about in the first chapter of my black Confederates book explores the relationship between individual camp servants and their masters.  It offers a survey of the wide range of relationships and how they evolved owing to the exigencies of war.  The second chapter examines the presence of former camp servants at Confederate veterans reunions as well as the issuance of pensions by individual southern states to blacks for the vital roles they played during the war.  I’ve been struggling with how I can link these two chapters conceptually.  Despite claims to the contrary, individual relationships usually did not continue after the war along the lines of the loyal slave narrative.  That said, we do need to make sense of the presence of camp servants at these reunions. [click to continue…]

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The Future of Civil War History Is Not On the Battlefield

think-digital brainTomorrow I hope to finish up an essay that I was asked to write for one of the Civil War journals over a year ago about the the influence of digital technologies on how we write and research history and how that has fueled the myth of the black Confederate soldier.  At the end of the essay I take a moment to suggest ways that academic and public historians as well as history educators generally might address this myth, not by jumping head first into the very places where these emotional debates are taking place, but by re-considering what it means to educate the public at a time when everyone can be his/her own historian on the Web. [click to continue…]

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