“Evilizing” or Explaining Confederates at the Crater

And here is the final comment from yesterday’s SHPG thread:

A few months ago, I saw on the History Channel some stories of earlier armies, who killed every standing soldier left in the battle. The Black Flag became a Flag – Understood by Pirates and Armies, that there would be “No Survivors” left standing – from either side. The Black Flag was raised by the Federals at Fort Pillow and again by the Black Troops at the Crater. Confederates going into battle were informed that the blacks had cried “Fort Pillow – No Surrender & were fighting under a Black Flag”. More importantly, when the blacks were trying to surrender – other men in the vicinity were still shooting from the Federal forces. A “White Flag” and a “Cessation” in Firing are two Critical Elements which would or could have caused the Confederates to Stop Shooting, however both of these were not forthcoming, until the Confederate Officers closed the door on the Fighting.

The question for Levin is – Has he ever defended the injustices done to the Indians by Federal Troops after the War Between the States? I doubt it. In his mind – it’s all about “Evilizing the South”.

I’ve grown use to these comments and I suspect they will increase in frequency once the book comes out.  As much as I probably should be offended by such accusations, I’ve come to realize that they are not really about me.  It’s hard to be offended once you understand that we are engaged in two different projects.  For the author of this comment the goal is to defend a certain narrative of the past by striving for some sort of moral balance.  Notice the references to previous wars or the query regarding whether I have any plans to explore the history of violence between the U.S. army and Native Americans.  The assumption appears to be that the history of racial violence during the Civil War is no different from any other historical event.  Well, if your goal is simply to maintain a moral balance sheet than the fact that there are salient differences will remain irrelevant.  Historians, on the other hand, must look deeper.

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Southern Heritage Community Takes Notice

It’s one thing to get advanced praise from scholars such as David Blight and Earl Hess, but you really can’t beat the honest assessment from my friends in the Southern heritage community.  Consider the following Facebook thread from my old buddy, Carl Roden (aka Amanda). It’s nice to know that my book is on their radar screen and if it makes for some comfortable toilet paper then so be it. 🙂

This last comment didn’t make it into the screenshot:

“I will guarantee you that Amazon will not allow the “Reviews” to this book that will come in. Levin is just like the rest of the POG’s that Michael Phipps often refers to, for those who have no concept of what a “Military Experience in War” is like. Perhaps, that why someone like Edwin Bearss, a Marine Combat Vet was so successful in his writing about the battles that took place. Levin was trying to “Construct a Narrative” that there was an Attempt by the Southern Defenders along the Jerusalem Plank Road by the St. Johns Blandford Church in putting down a “Slave Rebellion”. How utterly Ignorant, Stupid, Moronic, and Ass-Backwards from what was happening, with the Courageous and Determined Defense of a Break in the Lines. The Fool just does not get it, not matter how many “Contortions” and “Revisions” he engineers into the Narrative.”

Rest assured that no reviews will be censored on the Amazon page.  The more attention, the better.  Keep it coming and thanks for acknowledging my book.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Hi Everyone.  Sorry for the lack of posts over the past few days, but I’ve been on the road.

Dr. Levin

This past weekend I accompanied my wife to Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, where she successfully defended her PhD dissertation in Neuroscience.  It’s been a long 7 years and a lot of late nights, but she finally did it and I could not be prouder.  I was able to sit through the public portion of the defense and although I still have a great deal of trouble following along it is hard not to be humbled by the amount of time and effort that went into this project.  I know we historians like to think that we explain things, but the good folks in the science world really do EXPLAIN the world around us.  [Here is the abstract for Michaela’s most recent publication in the Journal of Neurophysiology, which outlines her project.]  It’s unfortunate that so much of our public discourse centers on the kind of science popularized by Oliver Sacks, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and others.  I don’t mean to diminish their contributions, but their books do not reflect the daily grind that takes place in laboratories across the country.

Crater Book

On Monday I had a conference call with the marketing staff at the University Press of Kentucky.  As it stands, the book should be in their wearhouse by mid-June and available on the shelves one or two weeks later. A few of you have asked if books will be available at this year’s Gettysburg CWI conference.  It’s going to be a close call.  As an incentive you can now purchase the book with a 40% discount.  Just click through the image in the sidebar and use the code at the point of purchase.

…and thanks to the 18 people who have already ordered it.

Body Slamming the History of Slavery

I finally caught an episode of American Digger last night and I was appalled.  This episode focused on the history of slavery in Aiken, South Carolina.  It begins with a few rebuffs from folks who want nothing to do with this past; however, the boys finally come across a home owner who is more than happy to comply only after renegotiating the standard agreement on any profits resulting from the dig.  The worst part of this show is its star.  Former pro-wrestler Rick Savage is obnoxious and seems to know very little about the history of slavery.  These guys basically go into a site, dig up relics, and split the proceeds with the highest bidder.  The scenes where Savage gets emotional about what he uncovered are priceless.  And what does this have to do with the preservation of history?

You will need a shower after watching just 3 minutes of this episode.

Shiloh Hill

Performed by William Lee Golden, with Chris Golden on guitar and Jenee Fleenor on fiddle. Written by M.G. Smith

How Should the 150th Anniversary of Emancipation Be Commemorated?

Emancipation Day Parade, Richmond, Va

Today I came across the Remembering Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom Project, which is a partnership between The College of William and Mary and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Association.  This really is a wonderful example of how technology can promote and shape a community’s efforts to commemorate its past.  What I like most about this project is the grassroots element.  Organizers are not just looking for Facebook likes or Twitter followers; rather, they are encouraging involvement through attendance at any number of community meetings across Virginia.  Here is a list of their goals:

  • To publicly recognize sites throughout the Commonwealth associated with slavery, resistance to slavery, and emancipation from slavery
  • To foster respect for the lives of enslaved persons and to contribute to an honest and informed public understanding of the consequences of the enslavement of Africans and African Americans
  • To assist in the public’s recognition of “slaves” as complete persons who recognized and asserted their own humanity by memorializing their dead, who should be credited for what they produced, and who, by their very humanity and personalities, naturally resisted attempts to turn Africans and African Americans into property
  • To reveal the pervasive historical presence of African and African American lives and experiences
  • To provide events of remembrance that contextualize Virginia’s commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, Lincoln’s relevance to Virginia and the Emancipation Proclamation
  • To design a commemorative website based on the messages and goals identified by regional communities

Whether you like it or not, Lincoln is central to Virginia’s story of emancipation.  You may remember that the Virginia Assembly recently failed to pass a resolution honoring Lincoln.  With the Assembly’s backing of this project I have to wonder whether they had any influence on the goals listed here.  It will be interesting to see whether the meetings and other forms of feedback lead to any substantial recognition of his place in this story.

This project is a positive sign given that I have not heard much on the Emancipation 150 front.

“The American Juggernaut”

In a dramatic image worthy of Goya or Daumier, the terrible carnage of Grant’s campaign against Lee in Virginia during the summer of 1864 is represented by an enormous cannon mounted on a gun carriage with studded wheels, rolling unchecked over the bodies of hapless Union troops and leaving their mangled forms in its train. The “American Juggernaut” looms ominously out of roiling clouds of black smoke, driven onwards by the Three Furies of Greek tragedy, who hold aloft flaring torches. This powerful image expresses the uneasiness that many Europeans felt over the mounting death toll across the Atlantic, which led many to urge a British attempt to mediate a peace settlement on humanitarian grounds, even as the War entered its final stages.”

Punch, Volume 47, September 3, 1864, pp. 96 – 97