WHEREAS, the month of April is most closely associated with Virginia’s pivotal role in the American Civil War; it was in April 1861 that Virginia seceded from the Union following a lengthy, contentious and protracted debate within the Commonwealth, and it was in April 1865 that the War was essentially concluded with the South’s surrender at Appomattox. In the four years that fell between those momentous months, Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy, and it was on Virginia soil that the vast majority of the Civil War’s battles were fought, in places like Manassas, Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, New Market, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, locations now forever linked with the indelible history of this perilous period; and
When I made the decision to host advertisements on Civil War Memory I made a commitment to working with companies whose products enrich our understanding of the Civil War. Well, you simply can’t beat the opportunity to work with the University of North Carolina Press. It would be difficult to exaggerate the extent to which I have benefited from reading the books in UNC Press’s “Civil War Campaigns” and “Civil War America” series – both of which are edited by Gary Gallagher. I know that this is true for many of you out there as well.
Over the past few months I’ve done a number of interviews about the Civil War Sesquicentennial. At the end of my latest interview this past Friday the reporter noted that this was not the story that she anticipated writing. What she meant was that she was not going to write up a story around the standard narrative of lingering disagreements and bitterness between North and South and black and white. As I’ve suggested on numerous occasions, that narrative simply does not hold up given the political and demographic shifts that have taken place throughout much of the country over the past few decades.
In addition to my post from this past Thursday both Robert Moore and Andy Hall have noted that Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell has yet to come through with his promise to issue a proclamation setting aside April as “Civil War in Virginia Month”. I hope that this can be explained as an oversight having to do with a busy schedule more important matters, but I am beginning to doubt it.
One of my readers pointed me to an interesting public commemoration of the Civil War that is set to take place in Baltimore, Maryland on the weekend of April 16. If you click on “Civil War Procession Application” [pdf] you will notice something quite interesting. It plainly states that event organizers will only accept the following to take part in the parade: Union Re-enactors, Military Bands, High School/College Marching Bands, Fife & Drum, Equestrian and Honor/Color Guards.
Because I have been unable to locate a website it is impossible for me to draw any conclusions that might help to explain the decision to omit a Confederate representation. Of course, some folks, including the individual who pointed me to this story, will revert to the standard explanation of revisionism, political correctness, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately, that won’t do it. One possibility is that the organizers of this commemoration intend to hold an event that emphasizes good ole fashioned patriotism by remembering the men who helped to preserve the Union. Of course, as we all know, Maryland sent men to both armies. However, our decisions about how to publicly commemorate the past always involve a certain amount of remembering and forgetting. We don’t expect places such as New York City to include an acknowledgment of the large numbers of Loyalists that lived in the city during the Revolution in their Independence Day celebrations.
That is quite a statement on the part of the event organizers if something along these is true and it would be another indication that our collective memory of the war has turned a corner.