Thinking About the Civil War 150 Where It Really Matters

On a number of occasions I’ve addressed the question of whether the sesquicentennial has been a success. No doubt, as we move through the first part of 2015 these discussions will increase in frequency. For the most the framing of the question has tended to take both a long and broad view in terms of time and place. One of the things we must not lose sight of, however, is the view from the ground in our local communities. Continue reading

Crater 150 Talk on C-SPAN3 Tonight

Just in case you have absolutely nothing else to do tonight C-SPAN3 will air (10:15pm) the talk I recently delivered in Petersburg as part of the 150th anniversary of the battle of the Crater. In fact, C-SPAN is going to re-run the commemorative ceremony that took place on July 30 as well as Emmanuel Dabney’s CWI talk on the Crater beforehand. Yes, it’s an entire evening devoted to the Crater in history and memory. Continue reading

Coates on Ferguson and Civil War Memory

There is a wall that I always hit when I read commentary by Ta-Nehisi Coates owing to my personal background and race. While I can relate to his preferred interpretation of Civil War memory on an intellectual level I am aware that his understanding comes from a very personal place and a sense of community that will always be foreign to me. The following comes from Coates’s most recent post on the killing of Michael Brown and the overall situation in Ferguson, MO.

Some 600,000 Americans—2.5 percent of the American population—died in the Civil War. What came before this was a long bloody war—enslavement—against black families, black communities and black bodies. What came after was a terrorist regime which ruled an entire swath of this country by fire and rope. That regime was not overthrown until an era well within the living memory of many Americans. Taken all together, the body count that led us to our present tenuous democratic moment does not elevate us above the community of nations, but installs us uncomfortably within its ranks. And that is terrifying because it shows us to be neither providential nor exceptional, and only special in the subjective sense that our families are special—because they are ours.

Read the rest here.

Nature’s Civil War: Lecture by Katherine Shively Meier

My friend, Katy Meier, recently delivered a Banner Lecture at the Virginia Historical Society on her new book, Nature’s Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia. The book recently won The Wiley-Silver Book prize, which is given yearly by The Center for Civil War Research at the University of Mississippi. I highly recommend the book.

[Uploaded to Vimeo on August 15, 2014]

A Fitting Conclusion to the Silas Chandler Story

Andrew and Silas Chandler
Andrew and Silas Chandler

[Hat-tip to Andy Hall]

As many of you know, over the past few years I’ve maintained a sharp interest in the story of Silas Chandler. The famous image of Silas seated next to his owner, Andrew Chandler, remains one of the most iconic images of our Civil War. Around it revolved a divisive and often confused debate about race relations in the Confederacy and the existence of black Confederate soldiers. The original tintype remained in the hands of Andrew Chandler Battaile Jr., a descendant of Andrew’s. While there is no doubt that Mr. Battaile cared deeply about preserving the original artifact there can also be no doubt that he did not fully understand the story represented in the image. Yesterday he donated the tintype to the Library of Congress. Continue reading