Open Notes, Open Book

Much of my book on the history and memory of the battle of the Crater was shared in some form on this blog. This site was used regularly to share my thinking about various questions and to solicit responses from readers. It worked out incredibly well. Consider this post from 2009 in which I first proposed thinking about the Crater as a slave rebellion. Reader feedback figured directly into how I thought about this concept, which eventually became the organizing theme of the first chapter of the book.

The other aspect of this sharing that I enjoyed was showcasing what I understand to be the process that goes into a historical study. I thought it would be helpful to give my blog audience and potential future book readers a behind-the-scenes tour of the challenges faced in writing history that leans more toward the analytical as opposed to a straightforward narrative. Continue reading “Open Notes, Open Book”

Unravelling the Confederate Flag

A couple of weeks ago groups from a number of Southern states burned Confederate flags as part of an art project organized by artist John Sims. In my post on the event I stated that I did not think that burning Confederate flags did much of anything beyond provoking the usual suspects. I stand by that assessment.

Today I came across a much more creative and thought provoking project. Sonya Clark, who is unravelling a Confederate flag to mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. The video below is a short interview with Clark. I completely agree with her explanation of why some people go out of their way to distinguish between different types of Confederate flags. What do you think?

[Uploaded to YouTube on June 3, 2015]

Quote of the Day

Ron Sydnor
Ron Sydnor Addressing SCV and UDC

On Tuesday night the local chapters of Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy of Murray, Kentucky came out to commemorate Confederate Memorial Day.  The keynote address was offered by Ron Sydnor, who is the park manager at the Jefferson Davis Historic Site.

He was a man ahead of his time. But because of that one moment in time, his legacy has been tainted. My grandmother used to say, ‘You can have a million ‘atta boys, but just one awe shucks, and that one can ruin them all. None of our history books talk about what he did before the Civil War. What he did helped shape this country. He’s the scapegoat for everything, but he gets no credit for the positive things that he did.

Yes, it is unfortunate that this one moment (which happened to involve leading a rebellion against the United States to ensure the future of slavery and white supremacy) overshadows all of the positive contributions made by Jefferson Davis.

Davis may not be getting the credit he deserves, but I have no doubt that for the amount of time it took Mr. Sydnor to share his views on Tuesday evening all was right with the world for the members of the SCV and UDC.

How Secure Was Slavery in the Union?

In this final installment of the New York Times’s Disunion column, Paul Finkelman surveys some of the significant ways the Civil War changed how Americans interpret the Constitution. Finkelman offers the following observation to illustrate the extent of the constitution’s protection of the institution of slavery.

Finally, it took two-thirds of Congress to send a constitutional amendment to the states, and it took three-fourths of the states to ratify any amendment. Had the 15 slave states all remained in the Union, to this day, in 2015, it would be impossible to end slavery by constitutional amendment, since in a 50-state union, it takes just 13 states to block an amendment.

Keep that in mind next time you are told that slavery would have died a natural death had there not been a civil war.

The Continued Appeal of the Lost Cause

I frequent a number of Facebook pages that attract people who, for one reason or another, cling tightly to the Lost Cause narrative. You will not be surprised to learn that one of my favorites is called, “Black Confederates in the Civil War.” One of the reasons I visit is because members regularly post excerpts from Confederate Veteran and other publications and even primary sources from websites such as Fold3. It’s like having an army of researchers at your disposal. I’ve collected hundreds of such sources for my book project.

These postings are rarely accompanied by any attempt at interpretation. It’s understood by the members of the group that the postings offer undeniable proof of the existence of black Confederate soldiers. One of the more frequent posters in recent months has been Teresa Roane, who at one time worked as an archivist at the Museum of the Confederacy and is now apparently working for the United Daughters of the Confederacy. A few years ago Ms. Roane sent me a package of requested materials related to camp servants and impressed slaves from the MOC.

You may find it interesting that she is African American. Continue reading “The Continued Appeal of the Lost Cause”