New To the Civil War Memory Library, 02/08

Aaron AstorAaron Astor, Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri (Louisiana State University Press, 2012).

Douglas R. Egerton, The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America’s Most Progressive Era (Bloomsbury, 2014).

Lorien Foote, The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army (New York University Press, 2010).

Blance M.G. Linden, Silent City on a Hill: Picturesque Landscapes of Memory and Boston’s Mount Auburn Cemetery (University of Massachusetts Press, 2007).

Jeffrey D. Marshall ed., A War of the People: Vermont Civil War Letters (University Press of New England, 1999).

Edward S. Redkey ed., A Grand Army of Black Men: Letters from African-American Soldiers in the Union Army 1861-1865 (Cambridge University Press, 1992).

George Washington Williams, A History of the Negro Troops in the War of Rebellion, 1861-1865 (Fordham University Press, 2012; originally published, 1887).

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Remembering the Battle of the Crater Reviewed in Journal of Southern History

Journal of Southern HistoryI’ve been very pleased with the reception that my book has received from the scholarly community since its publication in June 2012.. My goal was to write something that would be accessible to a wide audience, but would also be of interest to historians of memory, the Civil War and the American South. Even the critical reviews have been fair and have given me much to think about. I have to say, however, that getting a positive review in The Journal of Southern History [February 2014 (pp. 214-15)] is really something special. For many historians it is considered to be the premier journal in the field. The journal can’t review every new study in Civil War history so thanks to the editorial staff for selecting my book and thanks especially to Bonnie Loughlin-Schultz for writing the review.

Kevin M. Levin’s insightful work opens with the battle of the Crater as depicted in the 2003 film Cold Mountain, which presents the battle as most Americans think of it: Union detonation of explosives under a Confederate fortification followed by terrible hand-to-hand combat and Confederate victory. It is no fluke that the film glossed over the pivotal role of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Instead, its interpretation is the culmination of a nearly 150-year-old contest over how the battle should be remembered.

Levin, known to many historians for his acclaimed blog Civil War Memory, deftly explores the role of race in this battle for memory. In reality, the USCT played a pivotal role and fought bravely in the face of terrible conditions. Petersburg was the first time that General Robert E. Lee’s soldiers faced former slaves on the battlefield, and they responded that day with a violence that held “no tactical purpose” (p. 29). Many captured black troops were executed by Confederate soldiers bent on preserving racial hierarchy in the South. [click to continue…]

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Following Boston’s Civil War Memory Trail

I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to introduce students to some of Boston’s most important Civil War sites for some time. It almost didn’t happen given yesterday’s snow storm, but the city does an incredible job with snow removal from roads and other public spaces. It was, however, very cold this morning. The other problem was the lack of visibility at certain sites owing to the snow. No worries. We forged ahead and had a great day beginning at Mount Auburn Cemetery and ending at the Boston Common. Below is a photograph of my class at the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial.

These students are an absolute pleasure to teach.

Civil War Memory Class 2014

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Henry Louis Gates on Free Blacks and the Confederacy

I am going to feature this video with just a little commentary. Some of what Gates says here is just bizarre. Free blacks were “unmolested” by the Confederacy. Tell that to historian Clarence Mohr. In addition, according to Gates, the “dirtiest little secret in African-American history is that a surprisingly high percentage of the free Negros in the South owned slaves themselves.” Perhaps one of you can tell me what “high percentage” means in this context. [click to continue…]

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“My Great-Great Grandfather Didn’t Own Slaves” (So What)

I’ve said it before, but I don’t mind repeating that no one has taught me more about the challenges of interpreting the Civil War at America’s battlefields than John Hennessy. John’s contribution to Common-place explores some of the more recent sticking points that have arisen as a result of shifts in battlefield interpretation away from the original intention behind the creation of or national battlefield parks. National Park Service historians have fully embraced an expansive interpretation of the events that transpired on their landscapes that go beyond the experience of the soldiers without any reference to causes and consequences. [click to continue…]

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