Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site in Washington, D.C. has decided not to sell the bestselling book, Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. The decision was made following a thorough review of the book by Deputy Superintendent, Rae Emerson. I don’t have any problem with the NPS making such a decision; in fact, I applaud it. The NPS review is included in the Salon article for your consideration. When I posted the article to the Civil War Memory page one of my readers responded that she had canceled her order for it. That got me thinking. Let me be clear, there are plenty of mistakes in this book, but I still wonder whether they render the book unreadable.
It should come as no surprise that the Sons of Confederate Veterans attributes yesterday’s unanimous decision by the Texas DMV as another attack on Confederate symbols and “Southern Heritage” more generally. It may surprise you to learn, however, that the leadership of the SCV at the turn of the twentieth century likely would have viewed yesterday’s decision as a victory.
The plate was rejected unanimously by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Read the story here.
The final volume of the Virginia at War series from the University Press of Kentucky is now available, which includes my essay on the demobilization of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. My essay follows Lee’s men along the roads and paths out of Appomattox and explores, among other things, their encounters with Federal troops, ex-slaves, as well as their response to Lincoln’s assassination. I have said before that we draw much too sharp a line between the Civil War and Reconstruction. It doesn’t take much of an effort to appreciate that some of the fundamental questions surrounding the war had yet to be decided. My narrow time frame also reinforced the importance of contingency when looking at the past. Many of the men were in the dark about what to expect when they arrived home or how they would go about picking up the pieces of a world that had changed so dramatically in four short years. I was struck by the extent to which their accounts, especially those who lived in the paths of the two armies, emphasized the altered landscapes. Lee’s men also learned of Lincoln’s assassination while on the road. Some of the reports indicated that in addition to Lincoln, the vice-president, secretary of state, and even Grant were also dead. For some of these men, there was no government.
Other authors in this volume include Jaime A. Martinez, Ervin Jordan, John M. Mclure, and Chris Calkins. I am thrilled to have an essay in a book edited by James I. Robertson and William C. Davis.
There is an interesting verse in Brad Paisley’s single, “Camoflauge” which references the Confederate flag controversy:
Well the stars and bars offends some folks and I guess I see why nowadays theres still a way to show your southern pride the only thing is patriotic as the old red white and blue is green and gray and black and brown and tan all over too
Let’s ignore for now the fact that Paisley apparently has the wrong flag in mind. We know what he means. I don’t want to make too much of this, but it seems to me the lyric tells us something about diversity in the South as well as the extent to which Country Music has become mainstream. It’s a clear statement on the part of Paisley announcing that he does not want to be stereotyped. It’s unfortunate that at this point much of the nation still needs to be reminded that most white southerners do not identify with the Confederate flag. What do you think?