Why Did the Civil War Happen?

Wide Awake Films collaborated with the Virginia Historical Society to produce a four-minute visual experience of images, maps, footage and 3D animations that, together, convey an answer to the question: “Why Did the Civil War Happen?” This project is one of three pieces produced by Wide Awake Films for Virginia Historical Society’s “An American Turning Point” museum exhibit. The exhibit is currently open and will tour throughout the State of Virginia during the Civil War Sesquicentennial.


Civil War Memory’s Fatal Attraction

The Burial of Latane (1864)

When I was in the sixth grade I sat behind one of the meanest girls in my math class. I tried to be very careful not to upset her and I did my best to be nice to her. Nothing worked. Our desks had racks below the seats for books and other belongings, but one day I placed my feet on hers and inadvertently began to shake it. Before I knew what was happening this girl turned around in her seat and lunged at me with a finely sharpened pencil. I reacted by placing my right hand in the path of the pencil to protect myself. All I remember is jumping up from my seat and running around the class with a pencil stuck in my hand. The school nurse extracted it, but you can still see the lead in my right hand. Eventually we met up again after college and I learned that she had a huge crush on me that year.

With that in mind I give you the latest example of a poll that my biggest fan, Connie Chastain, set up at her blog. [You can find her blog on your own.] Some of you have already voted, which I greatly appreciate. I had trouble narrowing it down so I took the easy way out by voting, “All of the above.” I would prefer a poll without that option only because I am interested to know who I hate the most out of this list.

Who does Kevin Levin love bashing the most?

~Antebellum Southern white slaveowners
~Confederate soldiers
~All whites of the Confederacy
~The SCV
~The UDC
~The Southern Heritage Preservation FB Group
~Dixie Outfitters
~H.K. Edgerton
~Ann DeWitt
~Other (Specify)
~All of the above

Feel free to vote in the comments section.


Fort Monroe Becomes a National Monument

I can’t think of a better example of the dramatic shift that has taken place in recent years in our understanding of slavery’s central place in our collective memory of the Civil War.

Fort Monroe offers the National Park Service a unique opportunity to think carefully about how they are going to establish a relationship with the surrounding communities, including Hampton.  As I learned in my study of the Crater it has not always been easy for the National Park Service to break down barriers, specifically within the black community.  I hope the NPS places this high on its list of priorities when it begins the process of staffing the facility.  The best way to begin this process is to work closely with area public schools as well as Hampton University, which has a rich history of its own going back to the Civil War era.  Get the kids involved from the beginning and give them a stake in how the site is interpreted.


Silas Chandler in Civil War Times

Civil War Times magazine

Yesterday I had a chance to read through the final version of the Silas Chandler article for the 50th anniversary of Civil War Times magazine, which will be published in a few weeks.  Other than a few minor changes we are all set.  The layout looks great, which is a testament to the hard work and talent of the editorial staff.   Some of the detail had to be cut owing to space, but I am confident that readers will appreciate the extent to which it compliments and builds on the recent airing of the History Detectives episode on Silas and Andrew.  Included is a very helpful sidebar by Mike Musick that provides an overview of how to research this subject at the National Archives.

Of all the things that I’ve written and published over the past few years this particular article has given me the most satisfaction.  It’s been a real pleasure meeting and having the opportunity to work with Myra Chandler Sampson.  This article would not have been possible without the hard work she put into collecting material related to her great great grandfather.  Most importantly, we had a chance to correct one of the most popular and misunderstood stories from the Civil War era.  You can’t beat that.  Thanks again to Dana Shoaf and the rest of the staff at CWT for all their support.


Will Dixie Outfitters Pull This Shirt?

Dixie Outfitters t-shirt

Among the images that Civil War Times magazine has chosen to use for my co-authored article with Myra Chandler Sampson about Andrew and Silas Chandler includes the well-known t-shirt by Dixie Outfitters.  We wanted to use something that reflects the story’s popularity as well as the mythology that surrounds the two.  This one has got it all from the claim that Silas was a soldier to the assumption that they remained life long friends.  There is absolutely no evidence for such a claim.  Luckily, I own the shirt after one of my students purchased it for me as a gag gift and was able to make it available to the magazine’s editors.

I must assume that the shirt will be pulled by the company given what we now know about Silas’s legal status during the war as well as crucial elements of the broader story.  Why am I confident that this will be done?  Well, Dixie Outfitters claims on its website to be committed to the “truth of the War for Southern Independence.”  We shall see.

The essay goes to press on Wednesday.


We The 54th Regiment

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park’s Youth Ambassador Program created a song and video about the 54th Regiment.  This is pretty good.

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