I apologize for the lack of posts over the past week, but as most of you know my wife and I just completed a move to Boston. We absolutely love our new home as well as the surrounding neighborhood. I am enjoying a very cozy reading room surrounded by my Civil War library. Our house is a short walk from a village area that includes a nice variety of restaurants and small shops.
Unfortunately, we are without Internet access until the middle of next week. Let’s just say that our local Department of Motor Vehicles is more efficient than Comcast. Although we’ve been tied up with house chores, we did manage to take a short walk through Forest Hills Cemetery, which is absolutely beautiful. Along the way we found a number of noteworthy grave sites, including that of William Lloyd Garrison.
Posts may be sporadic for the next two weeks. I have to make some final changes to my Crater manuscript and put together two teacher workshops for a Civil War Preservation Trust conference. See you soon.
Yesterday I took one final trip up Rt. 20 to Fredericksburg. Apart from a few select pieces I was able to sell the remainder of my Don Troiani collection to a Marine officer, who is going to auction them off to help raise money for the Wounded Warrior project. [More on this at a later date.] It’s one of my favorite drives and it gave me the opportunity to reflect on just how much I am going to miss this place.
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I know some people have trouble with these kinds of awards, but since the Society of Civil War Historians has created the prize we can have some fun and suggest a few nominees. Last year Daniel Sutherland won for his outstanding synthesis of guerilla warfare, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War. You can read Sutherland’s acceptance speech in the latest issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era. Here is the announcement for the 2011 award:
The Society of Civil War Historians is soliciting nominations for the Tom Watson Brown Book Prize for books published in 2011.
All genres of scholarship on the causes, conduct, and effects, broadly defined, of the Civil War are eligible. This includes, but is not exclusive to, monographs, synthetic works presenting original interpretations, and biographies. Works of fiction, poetry, anthologies, and textbooks will not be considered. Jurors will consider nominated works’ scholarly and literary merit as well as the extent to which they make original contributions to our understanding of the period.
Elizabeth R. Varon, Professor of History at the University of Virginia, will chair the prize jury. The other members are Daniel E. Sutherland, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, and J. Matthew Gallman, Professor of History at the University of Florida. Tad Brown, President of the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., will serve as a non-voting member of the jury.
Publishers are asked to send nominated books (only those published in 2011 will be considered) directly to the four jurors no later than January 31, 2012. The winner will be announced by August 1, 2012. The award will be presented at the SCWH banquet at the Southern Historical Association meeting, where the winner will deliver a formal address that will be published in a subsequent issue of the Journal of the Civil War Era.
Of course, I could nominate any number of studies that fulfill the requirements included in the prize description, but I am going to limit it to just one. My nomination is George Rable’s, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War. I suspect that this book will make the short list for most people and that makes two books by UNC Press that are likely to win back to back prizes. That is a testament to the top-notch editorial work of Gary Gallagher.
So, which book do you think deserves to win?
An official count showed about 21,015 people stood in lines with waits ranging from 3 to 7 hours to see the Emancipation Proclamation, which was on display at the The Henry Ford, in Dearborn, Michigan, for 36 straight hours. Meanwhile, the Sons of Confederate Veterans continue their quest for vanity plates in former Confederate states and even states that never seceded.
Here is some more video from the new documentary, Southern Belle. In this segment historians respond to the attempt on the part of the organizers to remove any discussion of slavery from their program. They address the following question: Why would the “yeoman” farmer go to war with no dog in the Civil War fight? The list of historians interviewed includes, R. Blakeslee Gilpin, Assistant Professor of History, University of South Carolina; Carroll Van West, Director, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area; Tara McPherson, Professor of Critical Studies, University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and Stan Deaton, Director, Georgia Historical Society. Additional films can be viewed on the documentary’s website.
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This looks to be a fairly interesting documentary. Here is a brief description:
The Civil War may be long over, but the spirit of rebellion is hard to extinguish even in something as innocent as a girls’ summer camp. Southern Belle is an insider’s look at the 1861 Athenaeum Girls’ School in Columbia, Tennessee, where the antebellum South rises again. Every summer, young women from around the world eagerly sign up to become that iconic and romantic image of southern identity: the southern belle, replete with hoop skirt, hat and gloves, singing the region’s anthem, “Dixie.” However, the camp can only achieve this version of Southern femininity by whitewashing the past. The teachers, all of whom work for no compensation, hope to instill genteel manners and build pride in southern heritage. To accomplish this, they have carefully selected the time period so they can share the “truth” with the next generation about why the South seceded from the Union. For them, the Civil War had little to do with slavery and everything to do with states’ rights and unfair taxation.
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Update: Andy Hall has an interesting post up on the absence of any significant debate on the arming of slaves in Texas. Philip Dillard recently wrote an essay that analyzes the various factors that led to the debate in Virginia and the reasons why Texans failed to consider this crucial step. It can be found in Inside the Confederate Nation: Essays in Honor of Emory M. Thomas, which is edited by Lesley Gordon and John Inscoe.
Resolutions Against the Policy of Arming Slaves
Resolved, That the State of North Carolina protests against the arming of slaves by the Confederate government, in any emergency that can possibly arise, but gives its consent to their being taken and used as laborers in the public service, upon just compensation being made.
Resolved, That North Carolina denies the constitutional power of the Confederate government to impress slaves for the purpose of arming them, or preparing them to be armed, in any contingency, without the consent of the States being freely given, and then only according to State laws.
Resolved, That his Excellency Governor Z.B. Vance be requested to communicate a copy of these resolutions to each of our Senators and Representatives in Congress.
Ratified 3d day of February, 1865.
I would love to be able to transport a group of modern day black Confederate myth proponents back to 1865 to discuss this issue with the North Carolina legislature. Now that would be a real whoot.
Yesterday I shared a short excerpt from the John H. Claiborne letters, which are located in Special Collections at the University of Virginia. I was looking for one particular letter in which he discussed his camp servants. Unfortunately, no date was included in the description of the collection so I had to make my way through roughly 50 letters. I finally found it at the very end, but it was well worth the time spent. Claiborne briefly references a number of slaves that assisted him as chief surgeon in Petersburg, but not until the letter below did he reflect on their place in the army as well as the future of slavery.
Claiborne references the impressment policies of the Confederate government along with his own responsibilities as a slaveholder. There is a great deal of paternalism that courses throughout and an interesting passage in which he reaffirms the supposed loyalty of his slaves. In reading the letters you get a clear sense that Claiborne and his slaves endured great hardship in Petersburg during the final year of the war, but in the end his slaves never move beyond being acknowledged for their instrumental value.
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