So It Was a Holy Cause After All

Pope Benedict and the Confederate FlagUpdate: I don’t mind having to admit a mistake every once in a while, but this time I really dropped the ball.  I thought I had confirmed this story with a sufficient number of SCV websites, but Karen Cox tells me that the entire story is apocryphal.  Ruth Ann Coski, who used to work at the Museum of the Confederacy, carried out the necessary research and discovered that the crown was made by Varina Davis.  It looks like the Myth of the Lost Cause is indeed just a myth, but I would still like to know why Pope Benedict is standing in front of a Confederate flag.

I had no idea that Pope Pius IX sent Jefferson Davis a hand-written note along with a crown of thorns during his brief imprisonment following the war.  The note included the following: “Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” and supposedly the crown was handwoven by the thorn. Robert E. Lee, pointing to his own portrait of Pius IX, is supposed to have told a visitor that he was “the only sovereign…in Europe who recognized our poor Confederacy.” The crown is located in a museum in New Orleans.  Apparently, Pope Benedict is continuing the Catholic Church’s tradition of sanctifying the Confederate cause.  So, it looks like the Myth of the Lost Cause wasn’t a myth after all.  I had no idea.

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For Brooks Simpson

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How Well Do You Know Robert E. Lee?

As part of a search for information on Robert E. Lee and Arlington House I came across teaching materials that I assume are to be used for home schooling purposes.  It includes a multiple choice test.  Let’s see how well you do and remember that some of the questions have more than one answer.  Good luck. Here is the link, which includes a “history” as well as the test.

1. _____ In Lee’s January 22, 1861 letter to his cousin, Martha Custis Williams, whom does he state can save us; and from what? (Circle one)
a. The Federal Government
b. The media; bad publicity
c. The Union; anarchy
d. God alone; folly, selfishness, short-sightedness and sin

2. _____ In his General Order; whom does Lee state is our only refuge and strength? (Circle one)
a. The Confederate Army
b. The cavalry
c. Stonewall Jackson
d. Almighty God

3. _____ According to Chaplain Jones of the Confederate Army, the result of this Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer was a work of grace among the troops, which widened and deepened, causing at least: (Consult your text and fill in the blanks)
a. 500 professions of faith in Christ as a personal Saviour
b. l,000 professions of faith in Christ as a personal Saviour
c. 5,000 professions of faith in Christ as a personal Saviour
d. 15,000 professions of faith in Christ as a personal Saviour

4. _____ What results does Chaplain Jones state “eternity alone shall reveal” in terms of Robert E. Lee’s actions during this Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer? (Circle one)
a. Lack of interest and participation
b. Absence
c. Quiet influence and fervent prayer
d. Resignation and “moment of silence”

5. _____ Colonel Johnston was an intimate friend of Lee, and a distinguished faculty member of his college. In his eyewitness account of the General’s dying moments reflect Lee’s true character traits in action. They are: (Circle all correct answers)
a. Impatience
b. Anger
c. Reticence
d. Hatred
e. Self-contained composure
f. Obedience to proper authority
g. Boastfulness
h. Magnanimity
i. Bitterness
j) Christian meekness

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Is Your Book Worth $50,000?

petersburgThe Society of Civil War Historians has announced the First Annual Tom Watson Brown Book Award.  The award recognizes “an outstanding scholarly book published in 2009 on the causes, conduct, and effects, broadly defined, of the Civil War.”  The prize will be awarded at the November 2010 Southern Historical Association meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.  What kinds of books are qualified?

All genres of scholarship within the field will be eligible, including, but not exclusive to, monographs, synthetic works presenting original interpretations, and biographies.  Works of fiction, poetry, and textbooks will not be considered.  Jurors will consider nominated works’ scholarly and literary merit as well as to the extent to which they make original contributions to our understanding of the period.

George Rable, Charles G. Summersell Professor of Southern History at the University of Alabama and the immediate past-president of the SCWH, will chair the first prize jury. The other members are Elizabeth Leonard, John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History at Colby College, and Peter Carmichael, Eberly Family Professor of Civil War Studies at West Virginia University. Publishers are asked to send nominated books (only those published in 2009 will be considered) directly to the jurors and to the Foundation no later than January 31, 2010.

I am nominating Earl Hess’s In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortification & Confederate Defeat.  In doing so, I acknowledge the enormous amount of research that has gone into all three volumes and the extent to which these studies have forced us to reconsider the importance of earthworks and their effect on the evolution and outcome of the War in the East.

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The Real Reason Why I am Feared and How I Can Be Stopped

kevinlevin2Brooks Simpson explains at Civil Warriors.  Like Brooks I am also looking forward to our first meeting in person at the upcoming meeting of the Southern Historical Association.  Over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of meeting a good number of readers of my blog, many of whom are well established in the field of Civil War and Southern history.  At times it’s a bit awkward as both parties make the adjustment to dealing with an actual person rather than words on a screen.  I am anticipating a good time.  No doubt, we will hunt down Mark Grimsley and grab a few beers.  Finally, I hope to announce a project that Brooks and I are planning to get off the ground in the near future.  Click here for more information about the cartoon character.  I am struck by the resemblance, especially the physique.

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The 50 Greatest Civil War Books

Head on over to the History Enthusiast for an excellent follow-up to this post. Kristen suggests that the list reflects the state of the field today and how students of the Civil War are still in many ways an “old boy’s club.”

Eric Wittenberg’s latest post includes a list of the “50 greatest Civil War books” compiled by the Old Baldy CWRT in Philadelphia.  The list caught Eric’s attention because it includes his own recent book on Jeb Stuart and the Gettysburg Campaign.  Not surprisingly, the discussion following the post has already turned to the question of whether specific titles deserve to be on the list as well as what was not included.  It’s a monotonous discussion and one that has no end.  Rather than add to that thread it seems to me that we should step back and ask what the list actually reflects.

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Warning: Hide Your Children, the President of the United States is About to Speak

ME/Sachs-obI apologize beforehand, but I can’t help but comment on the controversy surrounding President Obama’s planned address to the nation’s student body this coming Tuesday.  I got a taste of the strong opinions on both sides this morning when I updated my Facebook profile with a quick word of approval for the planned speech.

As a high school history teacher how could I not voice approval for the fact that our highest elected official has decided to take a few minutes from what must be a busy schedule to address the future of this country.  Instead what I was shocked to find was a deep-seated paranoia over what such an address may lead to.  One comment included the suggestion that since Obama is losing popularity with adults that he might be trying to make up for it by rallying children to his support.  Others actually believe that his goal is to brainwash or “indoctrinate” our children.  You can find such sentiments all over the Web.  What is one to make of all of this and what does it say about our country now that there is a significant portion of the population that actually believes that our students ought to be afraid of the president?

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“Why Would Anyone Fight For Union?”

My Civil War courses are in the middle of reading two essays about the 1850s and secession by James McPherson and Charles Dew.  It is interesting that every year I end up having to spend the most time on two specific issues at the beginning of the semester.  Even if my students claim not to have spent considerable time studying the Civil War they arrive in my class believing certain things.

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Confederate Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Promise of a New Football Season

With the new college football season upon us it might be worthwhile to reflect on the cultural connections with the Civil War and defeat and the Lost Cause.  While the enthusiasm here in Charlottesville, Virginia probably doesn’t match the anticipation found elsewhere around the South [I lived in Alabama for two years.] the talk seems to be all about UVA’s prospects and even who will start at the quarterback position.  Apparently, this is a serious matter for many.  I’ve never been a big college football fan and I have even more trouble understanding how it is possible to get so excited about playing William and Mary as a season opener.  Perhaps UVA fans no all too well that the rest of the season is likely to be a real bummer.  For those of you who are college football fans and Civil War enthusiasts I offer you the following for your reading pleasure.  The first is a journal article, titled, “From Lost Cause to Third-and-Long: College Football and the Civil Religion of the South, which appeared in the Journal of Southern Religion.  Additional commentary can be found here and here.  And I almost forgot, GO TERPS!!!

From the Bain-Selbo essay:

A particularly moving moment occurs at the end of a game. In this video, we see such a moment after a hard-fought Mississippi loss to Alabama in the fall of 2005. While some fans leave the stadium, a large portion (particularly the student section near where the band sits) stays for a final playing of the medley. It begins slowly, mournfully (particularly appropriate after a tough loss)—the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Dixie” gently mixing together. One feels a sense of longing— longing for a past more ideal than real. Midway through, the tempo picks up, hands are clapping, and the parts that include the fans singing (particularly the chorus of “Dixie”) are louder and more boisterous. This all culminates with a yell, a hope, a declaration of defiance rising from all—”The South will rise again!”

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Why Men Fought?

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