Following an exhausting seven hour drive from Gettysburg I returned home to find my author copies waiting at the door. I actually saw the book for the first time at CWI, where I was able to sign a number of copies for some of the participants and close friends. It made the entire trip that much more enjoyable. I have so many people to thank, which I do in the Acknowledgments section, but let me include one paragraph that is meant for all of you.
A good deal of the material contained in this book was first introduced on my Weblog, Civil War Memory, which I began in November 2005. The site has given me the opportunity to test new ideas with a core group of loyal readers who bring a wealth of knowledge and perspective to my work. Rarely did a day go by that I did not receive a blog comment or private e-mail that included sound criticism or pointed me in the direction of new sources. My readers not only helped to further my understanding of the Crater, they enriched my understanding of some of the central issues surrounding how Americans have chosen to remember the Civil War. There are too many people to thank by name and the vast majority I have never met in person, but I hope they will embrace this book as a token of my gratitude.
The book should be officially released within the next ten days. Thanks once again to all of you, who have traveled this road with me. Now it is time to celebrate with the most important person in my life.
On Friday I am heading down to Gettysburg to take part in the Civil War Institute’s annual conference at Gettysburg College. Unfortunately, my move to Boston prevented me from taking part in last year’s institute so I am very excited about being able to attend this time around. The theme this year is “The Civil War in 1862” and it will explore, among other things, Civil War tactics in 1862, The war in the West, debating self-emancipation, and the 1862 campaigns of U.S. Grant. Here is the schedule for the panels and tours all of which look to be very interesting. I will be taking part in a panel with Brooks Simpson and Keith Harris on Civil War blogging on Sunday so that should be a lot of fun as well as a roundtable discussion on the final evening. C-SPAN will be there, but whether they will film anything that I am involved with is still unclear.
You might be surprised by the folks who are jumping on the Jim Downs bandwagon. First, we have the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who reprinted the Daily Mail article in its entirety on their blog. They no doubt see this book as supporting the timeless Lost Cause chant that slavery as a system was benign and that slaves would have been much better off in the long term under the care of their masters. And then we have Thomas DiLorenzo at the Lew Rockwell blog, who uses the book to support his view of the Lincoln administration’s ultimate goal of genocide and expansionism on the Plains and imperialism overseas. Finally, we have Richard Williams, who has built his blog around warnings concerning academics like Jim Downs. He, apparently, also likes what he sees.
You will not find any kind of analysis of Downs’s actual argument on any of these sites. In fact, I can guarantee you that neither DiLorenzo, Williams or anyone at the SCV will read it. Why? Because they are not interested in historical interpretation. History is little more than competing narratives that must be attacked or defended. What they are looking for is support/vindication of broader political assumptions and/or sacred narrative truths.
It’s just hard not to crack a smile when that vindication comes from the community that is regularly condemned by these same individuals. With that, do yourself a favor and read the book.
The American Civil War is unique in human history for being the only civil conflict that ended with reunion, respect and brotherhood. The most bloody national conflict in world history is defined, ultimately, not by the conflict itself and that conflict’s destruction, but by the preservation of the values of all Americans.
The twin gifts of patriotic understanding and American freedom not only survived, but have thrived to make this nation a beacon of hope and peace the rest of the world admires to this day and will forever. This production is honored to have developed a connection between this ultimate American sport with the ultimate American story and is proud to announce an association between select NASCAR™ affiliated drivers and roles that best exemplify this tradition of patriotism and competition in our production.
The connection between the Civil War and drivers who race NASCAR™ is simple: those values of the Civil War—the patriotism, the spirit of American competition, the regional and national pride that poured forth from and for its heroes—is best exemplified in the American Values and American Spirit embraced today by the NASCAR™ affiliated drivers and their fans.