Some of you who are interested in the question of how to evaluate the Civil War sesquicentennial may find the following panel discussion worth your time. The panel is from a conference that took place in Virginia over the summer and was filmed by C-SPAN. You will see some familiar faces. It should come as no surprise that the events in Charleston and the subsequent debate about the Confederate flag occupied a good deal of attention and it was interesting to hear how different people are thinking through some of these difficult issues.
My only concern is that at one point mid-way through the discussion, the topic of the vandalism of Civil War monuments appeared to be framed in terms of how whites and blacks think about and remember the Confederacy. The implicit assumption at work seems to be that African Americans are responsible for the defacing of Civil War monuments. I have yet to see any evidence suggesting that African Americans are more likely than whites to vandalize Confederate monuments.
Yes, a number of Confederate monuments have been spray-painted with “Black Lives Matter,” but regardless of what you think about the organization, it could just as likely have been carried out by a white individual. It’s time we move beyond this tired trope.
There are only a handful of images of Confederate soldiers and officers with their slaves or camp servants. The famous tintype of Andrew and Silas Chandler is the most famous, but it is also one of the most unusual images. The photograph of the two was likely taken in August 1861 right around the time Andrew enlisted as a private in the Palo Alto Guards, which became Company F of the 44th Mississippi Infantry, Army of Tennessee.
Most photographs of master and slave show the former sitting with the slave standing behind and just slightly out of focus. Andrew and Silas sit side by side. Both occupy center stage. More importantly, both men are armed. Andrew wears a typical private’s jacket and holds a pinfire pistol while a revolver is nestled in his belt. Tucked into what appears to be Silas’s Short or Shell jacket is a pepperbox, which leaves his large left hand free to grip a rifle across his lap. To complete this unusual scene, both men wield large bowie knives in their right hands.
It is likely that the weapons are studio props. [click to continue…]
It’s been another tough week for Confederate flag advocates. Virginia unveiled the new specialty plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans that does not include the battle flag. Why even bother. Alexandria, Virginia will no longer fly the Confederate flag on Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day. And in Pittsylvania County (again in Virginia) a judge has ordered that a display of Confederate flags and memorabilia must be removed from its county circuit courtroom.
Way out in California, the state senate voted to ban the naming of schools and public buildings after Confederate leaders. A police officer, who was photographed wearing Confederate flag shorts, lost his appeal to be reinstated. [click to continue…]
I didn’t read a book about the American Civil War until I was in my mid-20s and it wasn’t Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote or a used copy of the American Heritage picture book. It was Stephen Sears’s Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. If memory serves me correctly the next few books included David Donald’s biography of Lincoln, Eric Foner’s book about the Republican Party and James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom. I read these books as I was finishing up a master’s thesis in philosophy – specifically philosophy of history. From the very beginning of what would become an entirely new intellectual focus for me I approached these books as analytical arguments that demanded careful thought and a critical eye.
My own Civil War memory is not wrapped up in visits to battlefields at an early age with the family. In fact, I have no memory of learning about the war in grade school or even high school. What prompted my foray into Civil War studies was a chance visit to Antietam in 1994. The visit certainly sparked something in me, but even this visit and subsequent visits in the weeks to follow was decidedly a function of my intellectual curiosity. It was my first visit to a battlefield apart from a family trip that included Yorktown, which I only remember as hot and boring. [click to continue…]
John A. Casey Jr., New Men: Reconstructing the Image of the Veteran in Late-Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture (Fordham University Press, 2015).
Kathleen DuVall, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (Knopf, 2015).
Lisa T. Frank, The Civilian War: Confederate Women and Union Soldiers during Sherman’s March (Louisiana State University Press, 2015).
Tiya Miles, The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story (University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
Andrew Torget, Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850 (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).