Harlan Bonar’s Crater

Battle of the Crater by Harlan Bonar

I kind of like the colors that Harlan Bonar employs for his interpretation of the battle of the Crater, though I don’t see any USCTs.   Check out his portfolio for other Civil War scenes.  On the Crater front, just a quick reminder that I will be speaking tomorrow night at Genessee Community College in Batavia, New York.

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Has Edward Sebesta Ever Visited The Museum of the Confederacy?

This morning neo-Confederate crusader Edward Sebesta posted the third of his four-part series on the Museum of the Confederacy.  Sebesta is convinced that the museum stands at the center of the neo-Confederate cause: “The 3rd installment covers how the MOC creates Confederate identification amongst its supporters, visitors, and others by being a shrine and reliquary.”  This most recent entry displays the same shoddy analysis and research that can be found in the other parts.  According to Sebesta, this is clearly reflected in the museum’s flag conservation program:

National flags are by definition national identifiers. Confederate flags are those flags adopted by the Confederacy in its quest to be a nation and were intended to serve as a symbol of the Confederate nation. The conservation of flags, like the conservation of any historical artifact, is a legitimate activity for a museum. However, flags are powerful instruments of national identity and act as such – it is the purpose for which they designed.  The MOC uses Confederate flags as symbols that both assert and reinforce Confederate national identity.

Sebesta seems to think that the financial support for this project by the Sons of Confederate Veterans implies that the flag’s restoration is for their benefit only and that its purpose is to keep alive the Confederate cause.  This is absurd.  First, there is nothing necessarily wrong with the SCV offering financial support to the museum nor is there any conflict of interest for the MOC in accepting and publicizing it.  The flags belong to all of us.

Click to continue

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A Sesquicentennial From the Bottom-Up

The following video was uploaded to YouTube a couple of days ago.  I know nothing about the woman who produced it, but I think it is a wonderful example of how the Web2.0 world has shaped the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  As opposed to the centennial years, when relatively few historical institutions exercised control over how the nation remembered the war, the sesquicentennial’s narrative is being written one blog post, one video, and one tweet at a time. Much of what is being produced, including this video, defies easy categorization. Watch this through to the end.

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New to the Civil War Memory Library, 03/02

Glenn David Brasher, The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom (University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

Thomas J. Brown, ed., Remixing the Civil War: Meditations on the Sesquicentennial (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).

David Glassberg, Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life (University of Massachusetts Press, 2001).

Guy Gugliotta, Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War (Hill and Wang, 2012).

Harold Holzer, Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory (Harvard University Press, 2012).

Brian Matthew Jordan, UNHOLY SABBATH: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862 (Savas Beatie, 2012).

Candice Millard, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President (Doubleday, 2011).  Loved it!

Chad L. Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

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Glenn David Brasher Moves us Beyond Black Confederates

Given the frequency of posts on this site concerning the myth of the black Confederate soldier I wanted to point out the release of a new book that many of you will want to consult.  I’ve been looking forward to Glenn David Brasher’s book, The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom, for some time and having completed two chapters I can now say it was worth the wait.  Brasher provides an overview of history on the Virginia peninsula and analyzes the ways both free and enslaved blacks influenced the strategic and tactical decisions of both armies during the spring campaign of 1862.  Brasher believes that the influence of African Americans on the Peninsula Campaign and its ultimate outcome is more important that Antietam in leading to leading to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

The most important important analytical point that Brasher has made thus far is that there was nothing inevitable about black loyalty to either side during this period.  So much of the discussion surrounding black Confederates is about who can claim a moral victory for their respective side.  It’s nice to remove this issue from our own soiled hands and place it back in a more strictly defined historical context.  Many of the slaves who risked their lives by imposing themselves on Union forces at Fort Monroe and elsewhere remained uncertain as to whether their status as contraband would translate into real freedom.  And while Brasher acknowledges the presence of slaves in Confederate ranks, he reminds us that even those who may have taken shots at Yankees may have done so for reasons that have little to do with loyalty to the Confederate cause and master.

Ultimately, this book is about the place of free and enslaved blacks in our understanding of a military campaign and the course of the war in 1862.  What we ultimately learn is why the United States eventually recruited blacks into the army by early 1863 and why it took the Confederacy much longer.

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