Northern Soldiers, Race, and the Crater

battle of the craterI am really enjoying the opportunity to go back and review the letters and diaries of white Northern soldiers who fought at the Crater. Now that I’ve done so I regret not going deeper into these wartime accounts in the book. Hopefully, this little essay project will make up for it. In this post I want to share a couple soldier accounts from the battle and solicit some feedback.  [click to continue…]

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Common-place Commemorates Civil War at 150

logo-cp-civilIn a few weeks the online journal, Common-place, will publish a special issue on the Civil War Sesquicentennial that Megan Kate Nelson and I edited. The issue features essays by Caroline Janney, Ari Kelman, Manisha Sinha, John Hennessy, among others. They cover a wide range of topics that will be of interest to academic and public historians, educators, and Civil War enthusiasts.

Megan and I are very excited about this project and are very much looking forward to its publication. For now we wanted to give you a little taste of the issue by sharing our Editors’ Note.

The Civil War at 150: Memory and Meaning

The making of Civil War memory began not only after the war ended, but also in camps, on battlefields, and in homes across the nation as early as the spring of 1861. Officers wrote battle reports and soldiers jotted down diary entries, describing their experiences and shaping the war’s many histories. They picked up cotton bolls and shards of trees, bullets and buttons, and sent these souvenirs home as records of their wartime experiences. After 1865, veterans and their families pondered these relics and thought about their wartime experiences, telling stories and sharing memories of those who had fallen in battle. [click to continue…]

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An Unusual Voice of the Lost Cause

I don’t know anything about this individual, but I think you will agree that he is unusual given the common ethnic/racial profile of the Lost Cause advocate. It really is amazing what you can find on YouTube.

[Uploaded to YouTube on January 13, 2014]

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The Tragedy of a Nation “Born Perfect”

An anonymous comment in response to David Blight’s recent Fortenbaugh Lecture at Gettysburg College.

“In this enduring vision the United States was essentially born perfect and then continued its improvement.” — David Blight

The “tragedy” in US history seems to me to be embedded in its historiography: the repeated description of the immense human sacrifice to remove a deep stain from America’s past. This should have been more “effortless”, right? And on the way, those that had to remove the stain (not all that voluntarily) began to complain and the other side simply denied there ever was one. But in the end those that should have complained never got a voice until recently and only through the foggy interpretations of what slavery meant by focusing mainly on battlefields and where flanks of Union troops met Confederates, nothing of which even sheds a glimpse on the actual society in which slavery existed. [click to continue…]

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“Bruce Catton’s Civil War and Ours”

David Blight at Gettysburg CollegeI just finished watching David Blight’s Fortenbaugh Lecture at Gettysburg College, which took place back in November. His lecture, “Ambivalent about Tragedy:  Bruce Catton’s Civil War and Ours” is well worth watching. His thoughts on historical writing and tragedy are particularly interesting. As usual I could have listened to him for another 75 minutes. Definitely check it out when you have the chance.

Congratulations to fellow Bostonian Nina Silber for being selected to deliver the 2014 address. She is currently researching a book on Civil War memory during the New Deal, which I can’t wait to read.

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