I suspect that the reason for this disconnect with historical reality is that: 1) The Fox News Channel is essentially a propaganda arm of the neoconservative political cabal that has captured the Republican Party; 2) One of the cornerstones of neocon ideology is Lincoln idolatry and hatred of the South and Southerners. (Professor Paul Gottfried, for one, has written extensively about this.) 3) Therefore, if Glenn wants to keep his gig at Fox, he must toe the party line on Lincoln. Being otherwise libertarian – while the Democrats are in power – serves the purposes of the neocon cabal nicely.
Whatever the reason, I am very disappointed in Glenn Beck and have lost a degree of confidence in the accuracy and truthfulness of other statements he has made or will make in the future. I hate this because I have had such confidence in his truthfulness and admire his courage in revealing many of his findings about powerful people and potentially explosive situations.
We will have to wait and see whether Beck recants and returns to the embrace of a view that has almost nothing to do with history. As far as I can tell, all three individuals lack a serious understanding of Lincoln and the Civil War, but for some reason I find myself rooting for Beck.
This morning I was interviewed by Mike Zitz of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star concerning the Saturday premiere of “The Angel of Marye’s Heights” – a movie about Richard Kirkland. I made it clear that I could not comment on the movie beyond the few videos previews and other assorted postings that I’ve read on the movie website. We talked for about 30 minutes and I confined most of my thoughts to what this story tells us about how Americans have chosen to remember the Civil War. As far as I am concerned there isn’t much to talk about regarding the factual basis of the story since there are no wartime accounts. If I remember correctly, the earliest account is dated around 1880. I am going to hold off commenting further until the article is published on Thursday.
For now, consider this little video, which touches on some of the same themes in the Kirkland story. In 1913 Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain received a letter from a veteran of the 15th Alabama concerning the fighting at Little Round Top on July 2, 1863.
Here we have another story where in the heat of battle the compassion of a Confederate soldiers saved the life of his enemy. Of course, there is no way to confirm this story. In the end, however, the truth of the matter isn’t as interesting as what this tells us about how Americans chose to remember the war in 1913 – the same year as the 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. Let’s not ask how the soldier in question knew that the man he was writing to in 1913 was the same individual that he remembered in 1863. I’m not even sure we can confirm that the author of the letter was, in fact, a veteran of the 15th Alabama. Like I said, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone decided to write to Chamberlain 50 years after the battle and acknowledge an act of compassion. What matters in reference to the Kirkland story is that someone decided to write a letter that highlighted the compassion of another soldier in the heat of battle.
Thanks to the folks at the Civil War Preservation Trust for putting on a first-rate conference. I had a great experience and I look forward to the opportunity to help out again next year in Franklin, Tennessee. My panel discussion last night was successful. The audience asked some very thoughtful questions about the role and use of technology in the classroom and this was after a long day of walking the Gettysburg battlefield. I can’t say how impressed I am with this organization. Nicole Osier did a great job organizing the conference and it was a pleasure meeting the rest of the staff, including Robert Shenk and Gary Adelman. The CWPT understands that saving battlefields is about educating the general public, especially our students, who will one day be responsible for taking on leadership positions in this good fight. I can think of no better way of showing my support than by joining the CWPT and I encourage you to do so as well.
I especially enjoyed my time at Gettysburg. This was my first trip to the battlefield with a group and it gave me quite a bit to think about. For one thing I can’t tell you how many times I overheard references to the movie, Gettysburg. Workshop presenters referenced the movie as did participants in casual conversations, and it was even mentioned on the tour. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, but I have to wonder whether folks are able to distinguish between a Hollywood interpretation and the history of the actual site. It’s as if people view the battle and its participants through the lens of the movie. Luckily, I didn’t hear any references to Buster Kilrain. Even though the movie was released back in the early 1990s it shows no sign of letting up. The actors remain popular attractions and even Mort Kunstler’s paintings look more like the movie’s actors than the actual historical figures. The strangest and, in my mind, the most disturbing aspect of this phenomena is the bench dedicated to Michael Shaara that was recently placed in Hollywood Cemetery next to the grave of George Pickett. How this was allowed to happen is beyond me, but I encourage you to take photographs of yourself doing something disrespectful on it having some fun with it.
ACTS AND RESOLUTIONS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA 1958
1958 Vol. 1 — Page: 561
Sequential Number: 229
Short Title: USE OF BATTLE FLAG OF THE CONFEDERACY FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES DEPLORED.
Law Number: No. 144
Origin: (House Resolution No. 520).
Type: A Resolution.
Full Title: Relative to the battle flag of the Confederacy; and for other purposes.
Whereas, it has been brought to the attention of the General Assembly that the battle flag of the Confederacy has been and is being used for commercial purposes; and
Whereas, the battle flag of the Confederacy is a symbol of the historic past of this State, and presently forms an integral part of the flag of this State; and
Whereas, it is an insult to the memory of our dead heroes and an affront to the good taste of all true Georgians to permit this historic flag to be used for commercial purposes;
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the General Assembly of Georgia that this body does deplore the present use of replicas of the battle flag of the Confederacy for crass and commercial purposes. Be it further resolved that this body does respectfully request all citizens of this great State to refrain from using this symbol of our past in a manner other than with the utmost respect.
I am having a great time here in Hagerstown at the Civil War Preservation Trust’s annual Teachers Conference. Today was the first day. I had a chance to chat with Bud Robertson at lunch and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. It’s a talk that I’ve heard before, but it is always nice to listen to a man who has dedicated his life to scholarship and education. The organization was sad to learn that this will be his final appearance. It looks like Professor Robertson is going to retire this year.
Robertson spoke on the many legacies of the Civil War, but he was the most eloquent when it came to the importance of Union. According to Robertson, this nation did not have a history until the Civil War. Robertson quoted Lincoln and rammed home his belief that the Civil War was nothing less than a test of whether the work of the Founding Fathers could be preserved. There is nothing surprising about such a view, but I bet some people are taken back by the fact that it is Robertson’s view. After all, Robertson is best known for biographies of Confederate leaders and he is to a certain extent the academic darling of organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Unfortunately, there was no time for questions. I really wanted to ask him how he views the uptick in rhetoric of secession that is coming from both the grass roots level as well as our elected leaders. To what extent should we view this as a legacy of the Civil War? I wanted to know, given his comments about the value of Union, whether we should encourage this rhetoric and whether he believes it ought to be viewed as patriotic. Tonight we will get together for dinner and a talk by Peter Carmichael and tomorrow we are off to Gettysburg.
The 150th anniversary of one of the most fascinating Civil War battles is fast approaching. Learn about what happened on that bloody day and how the battle has been remembered. Get your signed and discounted copy direct from the author.
"Levin is both superb scholar and public historian, showing us a piece of the real war that does now get into the books, as well as into site interpretation.” –David W. Blight, Yale University