Who is Colonel Robert Gould Shaw?

The news coming out of the Massachusetts Historical Society here in Boston could not be more exciting. Yesterday the MHS announced that they are in possession of the sword that was carried into battle at Battery Wagner by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Shaw was killed leading his men at Wagner, outside of Charleston, South Carolina on July 18, 1863. His body was buried with his men on Morris Island. [click to continue…]


The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library Has “Books and Books and Books”

This is a short tour of the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum by one of their librarians. In it she explains the various resources that are at the disposal of researchers and others interested in Davis and the Confederacy. And that’s not all.

After watching this video I think we can all breathe easier that the bulk of the papers of Jefferson Davis are located at Rice University.

[Uploaded to YouTube on July 10, 207]


Arlene Barnum Goes Looking For Black Confederates

Today the South Carolina Secessionist Party held a rally on the Columbia State House grounds to mark the anniversary of the lowering of the Confederate battle flag in the summer of 2015. The group was allowed to raise a battle flag for a few hours, which itself symbolizes the waning influence of the Lost Cause in public life. A Robert E. Lee impersonator was accompanied by Arlene Barnum, who played the role of the loyal slave. [click to continue…]


American Civil War Exceptionalism

There are so many things wrong with this photograph that I don’t know where to start. It sums up perfectly how Americans continue to commemorate and think about their civil war.

This photograph was taken some time during the 2017 Gettysburg reenactment.

[image is from the Gettysburg Times]


Can Historians Disentangle Reality From Myth on Twitter?

Jason Steinhauer thinks so. In a brief op-ed published at CNN Steinhauer calls on academic historians to take up arms behind their keyboards and “interject their expertise into contested exchanges about the past” on twitter. He sees historians such Heather Cox Richardson, Kevin Kruse, and Joanne Freeman as models of such engagement. [click to continue…]


*Jefferson Davis’s Final Campaign*: Preliminary Thoughts

For obvious reasons I’ve been looking forward to reading Philip Dillard’s new book, Jefferson Davis’s Final Campaign: Confederate Nationalism and the Fight to Arm Slaves (Mercer University Press, 2017). I spend a little time in chapter 2 of Searching For Black Confederates tracing the broad contours of the debate throughout the Confederacy over whether to arm slaves as soldiers in 1864 and 1865. For that I rely heavily on the scholarship of Bruce Levine, Robert Durden, and a piece by Dillard that appeared some years ago in a volume of essays in honor or Emory Thomas.

Having just finished reading the book I wanted to share some preliminary thoughts. I will write up a formal review for Civil War History by the end of the summer. [click to continue…]


New to the Civil War Memory Library, 06/29

Update: My first book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder was recently released in paperback. You can order it directly from the publisher with a 30% discount by using the code (FS30) at checkout. I am just about finished putting together the index for Interpreting the Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites, which will be released in September, if not before. You can also pre-order this book at 30% off directly from the publisher with the code (RLFANDF30).

Many of you will be happy to hear that Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth is almost finished. The manuscript will be submitted to the publisher by the end of September. Stay tuned for more information on this front.

And now here is what is on my reading table:

Philip D. Dillard, Jefferson Davis’s Final Campaign: Confederate Nationalism and the Fight to Arm Slaves (Mercer University Press, 2017).

Kevin M. Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (Princeton University Press, 2005).

Ann M. Little, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright  (Yale University Press, 2016).

Steven E. Sodergren, The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns: Union Soldiers and Trench Warfare, 1864-1865 (Louisiana State University Press, 2017).

Bobbie Swearingen Smith ed., A Palmetto Boy: Civil War-Era Diaries and Letters of James Adams Tillman (University of South Carolina Press, 2010).


What Monument Avenue Does

There was nothing inevitable about the end of slavery in the United States. Enslaved people fueled this country’s economy, generated great amounts of wealth for their owners, and helped to define American Exceptionalism for many, who envisioned a greater role on the world stage for this slave holding nation. [click to continue…]