A Quick Response To Edward Sebesta

Henry L. Gates and Chris Rock

Edward Sebesta seems to think that there is a Neo-Confederate boogeyman lurking around every corner.  His reading of a post by Ta Nehisi-Coates on my recent visit to Harvard to listen to a talk on black Confederates by John Stauffer led him to post the following at H-Afro-American:

Henry Louis Gates is promoting the neo-Confederate nonsense of black Confederates at Harvard. You can read about it here.  I am not sure what else is happening at Harvard, perhaps the physics department is promoting the idea of caloric fluids, or the chemistry department is reviving the idea of phlogiston. Perhaps the biology department is going to be teaching creationism. Maybe the geology department is going for a six-day creation. The astronomy department might be re-considering Ptolomeic spheres.

I won’t go into how the overwhelming weight of historical evidence is against it. What I think is of importance is what this reveals about Henry Louis Gates. There is a current effort to get Confederates memorialized at Harvard. It might be that the rationalization will be that persons of African ancestry fought for the Confederacy so it is okay. That is the underlying point of this Black Confederate nonsense.

Sebesta’s attempt at humor only serves to highlight his ignorance about the presentation and Gates’s interest in the subject.  He doesn’t even seem to be aware that the talk was presented by John Stauffer.  Gates simply hosted the event.  I’ve already shared what I perceive to be some major problems with Stauffer’s presentation as well as Gates’s comments during the Q&A.  To assume that Gates is providing the “rationalization” to have Confederates memorialized at Harvard Memorial Hall, however, is patently absurd and irresponsible on his part.

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Our Civil War Soap Opera

Ethan Rafuse recently shared a writing assignment that he was given by “America’s Civil War” magazine to come up with a list of six Civil War generals that we “like to hate.”

Civil War buffs love to blame particular generals for lost battles and campaigns—McClellan, Bragg, McDowell, etc. Why do we like to hate them so much, and do they deserve it? Pick a couple from each side and examine what made them pariahs—and whether hindsight should rehabilitate their Images. Pick three from each side, 500 or so words on each, and a 500-word intro for about 3,500 words.

I guess the editor could have framed the question around major mistakes made in the field by Civil War generals, but the choice to inquire as to why some military figures engender such a visceral reaction in some is potentially interesting.  Perhaps we should take one step back for a little perspective.  Is there anything comparable in America’s other wars?  Anyone out there hate Henry Knox, Winfield Scott, John J. Pershing, Omar Bradley, or William Westmoreland?

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Dixie Outfitters Cashes In on Lexington

Dixie Outfitters t-shirt

I still don’t quite understand how a city of Southerners can discriminate against themselves, but logic probably isn’t a top priority when you are marketing to the fringes of society.  The other question is why did the designers choose to substitute the First National for the Confederate battle flag?

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One Day, We’ll Commemorate 9-11 Like the Civil War

9-11 Memorial at World Trade Center

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the intersection of 9-11 and Civil War remembrance.  It started with a post on the subject and that led to two newspaper interviews.  An Associated Press article on 9-11 that I was recently interviewed for gave me the opportunity to explore the subject a bit further.  It will be published at some point soon.  A couple of days ago I decided to write it up as an editorial and the History News Network agreed to run it.  You can read it here if interested.  Thanks again to HNN for agreeing to publish it.  My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who were lost on 9-11.

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We Must Not Give Way To This

Melvin Memorial by Daniel Chester French

It’s always nice to have a decent writing session given how rare they are for me.  I am close to finishing up a magazine article that explores how veterans from Massachusetts framed the war in what I would like to think were fairly local places.  For example, I am looking at private reminiscences, unit histories, some G.A.R. events, and monument dedications as opposed to more high profile events such as reunions between Confederate and Union veterans and other public events involving political leaders and other national figures.  It seems to me that when you focus on the former there are far fewer expressions of reunion and reconciliation.  In fact, you will find some powerful examples of individuals who explicitly see themselves as standing up against the broader trend of reconciliation that had taken hold by the beginning of the twentieth century.  This is a narrative that has all but been lost in a collective memory that prefers stories of former enemies embracing one another at Appomattox and beyond.  I haven’t decided where I am going to send it, but I hope you have a chance to read it at some point soon.

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