Of All the Books To Read After the Antietam Campaign

William Dorsey PenderI am just about finished reading Brian Steel Wills’s new biography of William Dorsey Pender. It’s a solid biography, just what we’ve come to expect from Wills. Indeed, he has been very productive in recent years. Pender’s letters to his wife Fanny are front and center in this biography. One of the most interesting sections occurs early on in the book when Dorsey is chided by his wife for admitting to flirtatious behavior with women in Suffolk, Virginia, who he openly admitted, “will do anything for me.” That’s probably not what you want to write to your wife, who is struggling back in North Carolina to take care of two young children. Live and learn.

Even more interesting, however, is the revelation that shortly after the Antietam Campaign Pender chose to read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Continue reading

New to the Civil War Memory Library, 04/20

By now many of you have heard that Alan Taylor has been awarded his second Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832. It’s a fabulous book and the award is certainly well deserved.

Loathing LincolnMichelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010).

John McKee Barr, Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from the Civil War to the Present (Louisiana State University Press, 2014).

Michael Korda, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee (Harper, 2014).

Brian Steel Wills, The River Was Dyed with Blood: Nathan Bedford Forrest and Fort Pillow (Oklahoma University Press, 2014).

The Future of Civil War Memory Only Recently Arrived

No one has done more to remind me of the importance of the experiences of immigrants during the Civil War era than Patrick Young. More importantly, Pat has convinced me that future efforts to keep the Civil War front and center in our collective memory must take seriously the changing ethnic dynamic of our nation. More specifically, educators and public historians will have to think carefully about how to make the Civil War relevant to new Americans who desire to build new roots in this country? Continue reading

A Taste of Gettysburg

I thought it might be nice to start the end of the work week on a lighter note. Looking forward to two trips to Gettysburg this summer. The first is the annual Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. This year will be my busiest institute yet. I will deliver a talk on the Crater, lead a breakout session on Confederate morale in the summer of 1864 as well as a dine-in on Pat Cleburne’s proposal to arm slaves. The highlight for me, however, will be the opportunity to once again work with the high school students.

A week later I head back to Gettysburg to take part in the 2014 Sacred Trust Talks. My talk is at 3:30pm on July 5 with a book signing at 4:30pm. Hope to see some of you between these two events.

Does W&L’s Lee Chapel Contribute To the “Psychological Shackles” on Campus?

According to the members of “The Committee” both the chapel’s Confederate flags and its use by “neo-confederates” have contributed to “both the past and current racial bigotry and discrimination found on our campus.” I don’t for a minute deny that these students perceive the chapel as contributing to the school’s racial climate, but that shouldn’t prevent us from taking a quick look at how the chapel has been utilized. What follows is not meant in any way as an exhaustive list of the range of speakers and subjects that have been discussed in the Lee Chapel, but as a small sample. Continue reading