Robert E. Lee and his Body Servant Sell Washing Machines

Confederate generals such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were used to sell a wide range of consumer goods at the turn of the twentieth century throughout the South and beyond. Interestingly, this G.E. advertisement appeared in the New York Tribune. Let’s hear it for the cultural reach of the Confederate body servant.


Camp Slaves in Print

Just finished writing about this wonderful print published by the New York engraver John Chester Buttre. Many of you are no doubt familiar with Prayer in “Stonewall” Jackson’s Camp (1866). Buttre essentially stole it from an earlier sketch done by Adalbert Johann Volck.

Buttre made a number of changes, including adding Confederate Generals Richard S. Ewell and A.P. Hill. He made it a point, however, to keep Jackson’s camp slave, Jim Lewis, in the scene. I have to believe that Buttre intentionally placed Hill in this disinterested pose given his relationship with Jackson.

The chromiolithograph featured in the headline above was published in London in 1871 and was based on Conrad Wise Chapman’s painting The Fifty-Ninth Virginia Infantry–Wise’s Brigade (1867).

I am on the hunt for other wartime and postwar engravings, lithographs, etc. that include camp slaves. Thanks for your help.


Teaching Reconstruction and “Racial Amnesia”

Earlier today a reader asked how he might utilize this video of Eric Foner exploring the topic of “racial amnesia” throughout American history with his students. What follows are just a couple of quick thoughts about how you might go about this.

One way is to have students view it alongside a particular selection from W.E.B. DuBois’s book, Black Reconstruction in America: 1860-1880 (1935). At the very end, DuBois includes excerpts from history textbooks in use in the 1930s that cover Reconstruction. [click to continue…]


Why the Lost Cause is Not Fake History

I want to try to clarify a point about the Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War that I tried to make in yesterday’s post. My comment came in response to a piece in CNN that suggested a connection between the attempt today to ignore the role of race in the recent presidential election and the turn away from slavery by former Confederates as a primary cause of the Civil War during the postwar period. [click to continue…]


The Lost Cause is Not Fake History

The video below featuring historian Eric Foner accompanied a recent piece on CNN’s website that offered some observations about the attempt to distance race from the 2016 election and the Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War. The article itself is not very helpful. The author attempts to make way too many points across too broad a period of time. None of them is explored in sufficient detail. More below on this. [click to continue…]


New to the Civil War Memory Library, 12/26

Hope all of you are enjoying the Holidays. Here are the final few books to make it into my library this past year. Do yourself a favor and read Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad if you haven’t done so already. It is a remarkable book and a recipient of a National Book Award.

Joseph Beilein, Bushwhackers: Guerrilla Warfare, Manhood, and the Household in Civil War Missouri (Kent State University Press, 2016).

Charles Dew, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War (15th Anniversary edition) (University Press of Virginia, 2015).

Karl Jacoby, The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire (Norton, 2016).

Carl L. Paulus, The Slaveholding Crisis: Fear of Insurrection and the Coming of the Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 2017).

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad: A Novel (Doubleday, 2016).


The Return of Earl Ijames’s “Colored Confederates”

Update: Here is the link to the text that Ijames reads from in the video below.

Those of you who have followed this blog and commentary about the myth of the black Confederate soldier are all too familiar with Earl Ijames, who is a curator at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Ijames claims to be an expert on what he refers to as “Confederates of Color.” It is an incredibly confusing and unhelpful reference.  He is a popular speaker and beloved by Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Abbeville Institute. This past summer Ijames addressed the latter at their annual summer institute. [The video below was uploaded to YouTube on 12/21] I have little doubt that the audience enjoyed his presentation, but it should come as no surprise that it is an absolute mess. [click to continue…]


Your Choice For Best Books of 2016

I recently shared a couple of my favorite Civil War books from this past year. What about you? What did you read this past year that you would like to recommend to others? Of course, I am primarily interested in the Civil War era, but feel free to share whatever you like.

Finally, what future releases are you looking forward to reading?