Confederate Like Me

black confederate

Earlier this week I received my author copies of the latest issue of The Civil War Monitor, which contains my essay on Confederate camp servants.  As I’ve said before, I am very excited about this particular piece.  It encompasses some of what I am trying to address in the first chapter of my book on the same subject. [click to continue…]

13 comments

The Way Home

H/T to Peter Winfrey

I highly recommend taking the time to watch this video in its entirety.  It follows a group of black seniors to Yellowstone National Park.  Along the way there is a discussion of why black Americans have apparently lost touch with the history of our national parks, nature and the joys of reconnecting.  It’s an incredibly touching film and in my mind Ranger Shelton Johnson is a superstar.

7 comments

Confederate Heritage Advocates Devour Their Own

Confederate Heritage FlaggersIf you want a sense of how obsessed some Confederate heritage advocates are about the battle flag look no further.  I came across this gem of a thread on the Confederate Flaggers Facebook page earlier today and it doesn’t disappoint.  Billy Bearden is an active Flagger and on occasion will share a thought or two on this site.  I like having him around.  Once in a while he offers something worthy of reflection, but this clearly represents a walk off the deep end.

No one on this page seems to know why the Covington (Tenn.) chapter of the SCV chose to remove the battle flag from the cemetery in favor of a First National Flag and as far as I can tell no one has bothered to ask.  I actually don’t have a problem with the display of battle flags in Confederate cemeteries.  It seems to me that the people who are offended by the symbol are not likely to visit and if its presence helps those who wish to commemorate/remember these men than so be it.  Perhaps the group removed it because the battle flag has proven to be too much of a distraction from the men they wish to honor.  Perhaps the group understands that their ability to reach out to the broader community will be hampered by all the negative attention that particular flag will likely generate.  Ultimately, what is more important, debating the divisive history of the flag or sharing the stories of the men the SCV are committed to honoring and a time when that project is under assault?

[click to continue…]

6 comments

Nathan Bedford Forrest, Race, and Memory in Memphis

Over at the Atlantic I share some thoughts about the recent controversy in Memphis surrounding the renaming of Forrest Park.  I hope the essay at least provides a bit of historical context to this issue.  Once again, thanks to Court Carney for making my job much easier.  Tennessee’s state legislature finally passed a measure making it illegal to remove monuments and/or change the names of public places in honor of military figures.  The legislation is not affect recent changes in Memphis.  Here is a short clip from the debate in Nashville between the sponsor of the bill and Representative G.A. Hardaway of Shelby County/Memphis.

The state of Georgia is now considering similar legislation.  There is something ironic about the passage of legislation by state legislatures to protect monuments to people who supposedly fought for nothing more during the Civil War that the right to make decisions through their local governments without outside interference.

[Click here for all my posts at the Atlantic.]

4 comments

Your Book Better Deliver On Its Promises

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 7.27.16 PMLast night I spent some time browsing Civil War titles on Amazon to redeem my book credit from last quarter.  As always, thanks to those of you who purchase items on Amazon through my affiliate links.  During my search I happened upon this forthcoming biography about John Bell Hood by Stephen Hood, who is apparently a distant relative.  I recently learned of a new collection of personal letters and other documents about Hood that were discovered, but have been kept under close wrap by Stephen Hood.  Given this development I decided to click the link for more information.  I was immediately struck by the description, which I assume will appear on the dust jacket.

Outlived by most of his critics, Hood’s published version of the major events and controversies of his Confederate military career met with scorn and skepticism. Many described his memoirs as nothing more than a polemic against his arch-rival Joseph E. Johnston. These unflattering opinions persisted throughout the decades and reached their nadir in 1992 when an influential author described Hood’s memoirs as “merely a bitter, misleading, and highly distorted treatise” replete with “distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications.” Without any personal papers to contradict them, many historians took full advantage of the opportunity to portray Hood as an inept and dishonest opium addict and a conniving, vindictive cripple of a man. One writer went so far as to brand him “a fool with a license to kill his own men.” Authors misused sources and ignored or suppressed facts sympathetic to Hood.  Stephen M. “Sam” Hood, a distant relative of the general, embarked on a meticulous forensic study of the common perceptions and controversies of his famous kinsman. His careful use of the original sources of the broadly accepted “facts” about John Bell Hood uncovered startlingly poor scholarship by some of the most well-known and influential historians of the 20th and 21st centuries. These discoveries, coupled with his use of a large cache of recently discovered Hood papers-many penned by generals and other officers who served with General Hood-confirm accounts that originally appeared in Hood’s posthumously published memoir and resolve, for the first time, some of the most controversial aspects of Hood’s long career.   “Blindly accepting historical ‘truths’ without vigorous challenge,” cautions one historian, “is a perilous path to understanding real history.” The shocking revelations in John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General will forever change our perceptions of Hood as both a man and general, and those who set out to shape his legacy.

I know in a tough economy publishers must do whatever they can to market new titles so that they stand out from the crowd, but I am not sure I would want to impart such a tone on my book.  Is Mr. Hood really going to demonstrate that historians have “misused” and/or “ignored or suppressed facts sympathetic to Hood”?  It’s also difficult to tell whether some of these nameless historians intentionally distorted Hood’s record or simply came up short because they didn’t have access to these new sources.  This just comes off as downright reckless.

John Bell Hood’s name has come up a few times on this site, most notably in connection a few years ago with the John Bell Hood Society, which took out an advertisement at Civil War News attacking Wiley Sword.  Stephen Hood is the president of that organization and apparently has some real interpretive disagreements with Sword’s interpretation of John Bell Hood.

Is this the case of an author with too much of a personal investment in his subject?  We shall see.

28 comments