Gary Casteel’s latest creation was recently unveiled in the new extension of the Virginia Capitol. The sculpture is titled, “Brothers”, and depicts a reunion of two brothers following the heat of battle. My problem with this piece is not that it fails to capture documented meetings between brothers and family members on the battlefield, but that it plays on our need to see the war and all of its bloodshed and violence as somehow washed away through reconciliation and reunion. Simply put, it doesn’t push me to reflect about our past and that is what an important piece of public art ought to do.
What do you think?
Looks like I’ve stumbled on my first public history scandal surrounding the Civil War since moving to Boston. Before proceeding I should note that I am only vaguely familiar with the tours that are referenced in the article below. On Wednesday I am off to Nashville to give two talks as part of the Civil War Preservation Trust’s Annual Teachers Institute, but when I return I hope to begin exploring much more of my new home.
The controversy surrounds the release of a new guidebook for Civil War Boston that was published by The Freedom Trail Foundation. The Foundation is best known for its downtown tour of some of the most significant spots of the American Revolution, which may lead some to wonder why the organization decided to publish a short pamphlet on Civil War related sites. Folks associated with the Black Heritage Trail are apparently not pleased with the scope of the pamphlet and its failure to acknowledge a number of important sites associated with the story of African Americans as well as the work of area institutions that are focused on black history.
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I pass by this monument every day on my way to Jamaica Pond for my morning run. It was dedicated on September 14, 1871 and commemorates the 46 men of West Roxbury, “who lost their lives in the service of their country during the Rebellion.” It has quickly become my favorite Civil War soldier monument. I love the simplicity of it, including its smooth surfaces and clean lines. The soldier embodies the virtues of the citizen soldier that northern towns embraced by war’s end. He seems tired, but resolute as well as contemplative and just a bit sad. In short, he did his duty when his nation called.
There are four names around its arches, including that of Lincoln, Farragut, Andrew, and Thomas. The Jamaica Plain Historical Society suggests that the Thomas in question is none other than George H. Thomas of Virginia (the Rock of Chickamauga), who supposedly donated the land for the monument. Perhaps someone can explain to me the connection given that he died in San Francisco and is buried in New York. Now that would be an interesting Virginia – Massachusetts connection.
[Click here for more information about the monument from the Jamaica Plain Historical Society.]
This morning I learned that my co-authored essay on Silas Chandler with Myra Chandler Sampson will be published in the February 2012 issue of Civil War Times magazine. This just so happens to be the magazine’s 50th anniversary issue and I couldn’t be more pleased that we will be part of the celebration.
This little project has been in the works for quite some time, but it is one of the most important to me. The essay grew out of a series of blog posts over the past year that I hoped would begin to correct the historical record as it relates to the subject of black Confederates. Better yet, it led me to Myra Chandler Sampson, who happens to be Silas’s great granddaughter. Myra discovered me through the blog in the course of her own tireless quest to correct the historical record of her ancestor. She placed enough trust in me to send along a wonderful collection of archival sources, which greatly enriched my own understanding of Silas’s life as well as the rest of the family’s history through the 20th century.
Between the upcoming History Detectives episode on Silas and our own article it looks like we are one step closer to Myra’s goal of honoring her ancestor in a way that more closely reflects the available historical record.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women of the National Park Service, who help to preserve and interpret our nation’s historic sites. They include some of the most passionate and talented historians. For those focused on Civil War related sites their jobs come with increased attention and scrutiny by the media as well as various interest groups who have a stake in maintaining or protecting a specific narrative of the war.
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