So, What Should I Call It?

I am finally in the home stretch of finishing the revisions of my Crater manuscript.  For a number of reasons the first chapter proved to be the most difficult to revise, but I finally have it where I am comfortable.  It should take me no more than 2 to 3 more weeks before I send the full manuscript back to the publisher.  One of the things that I am having quite a time with, however, is the title.  Since I am stumped I thought it might be helpful to ask my loyal readers for some assistance.  So, here is the deal.  If I use your title or a substantial portion of it you will receive a free copy of the book – assuming it is published at all. :D  Long time readers will be familiar with the subject of the book, but just in case here is the original proposal/outline.  It should give you some idea of what the book is about.  I have to say that it was painful to look at the time line that I sketched out in the proposal.  Oh well.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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“War So Terrible”

One of the highlights for me during last week’s Petersburg conference was the opportunity to view Pamplin Park’s feature film, “War So Terrible: A Civil War Combat Film.”  Will Greene describes its inception as a response to visitors who reflected on their experience in the park as somehow enjoyable or entertaining.  Greene and the rest of the staff did not want visitors, especially students, finishing their tour with a glorified view of war.  Rather, they wanted to convey the horrors of battle and the changes that soldiers underwent over the course of the war and beyond.  [This is something that I’ve discussed on this blog on a number of occasions.  See here and here.]

There are two versions of the film, the full length running 48 minutes as well as a less graphic version that runs 23 minutes.  The film is framed around a veterans reunion that takes place somewhere in the South.  During the ceremony both Benjamin Franklin Meyers of the Union and Andrew Jackson Stewart of the Confederacy reflect on their experiences during the war from their first battle to the trench warfare of 1864.  The film delves into questions of why men fought and persevered in the ranks without reducing the war to any one explanation.  There are no transcendent figures and no references to Lincoln, Davis, Lee, Grant or anyone to detract from the focus of the film.  Viewers empathize with both individuals and suffer through some very difficult battle footage, which is emotionally draining.  The film succeeds brilliantly in conveying the emotion of battle.  Finally, the reunion scenes steer clear of the mistaken notion that Lee’s surrender at Appomattox or even later events involving Union and Confederate veterans reflected the healing of old wounds and bitterness.  I don’t want to give too much away about this movie.

At the conclusion of the movie our group remained silent for a few moments before discussing it with Greene and I don’t mind admitting that I had a tear in my eye.  I made it a point to purchase a copy before leaving and I plan on showing the full version to my Civil War class this year.  If you are a teacher I encourage you to purchase a copy through Pamplin Park’s online store.  It’s only $9.95 and I guarantee that you won’t be sorry.

Congratulations to Will Greene and the rest of the staff for this fine film.

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Acquisitions, 06/30

I haven’t updated my list of new books in quite some time.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to read, but I highly recommend books by McCurry, Miller, and Noe.  Happy reading.

Daniel Crofts, A Secession Crisis Enigma: William Henry Hurlbert and “The Diary of a Public Man” (LSU Press, 2010).

Stanley Harrold, Border War: Fighting Over Slavery Before the Civil War (UNC Press, 2010).

Graham R.G. Hodges, David Ruggles: A Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City (UNC Press, 2010).

Michael Kammen, Digging Up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Harvard University Press, 2010).

Brian Craig Miller, John Bell Hood and the Fight for Civil War Memory (University of Tennessee Press, 2010).

Kenneth W. Noe, Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates Who Joined the Army After 1861 (UNC Press, 2010).

Michael O’Brien, Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860 (UNC Press, 2010).

Donald Stoker, The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Cynthia Watchell, War No More: The Anti-War Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914 (LSU Press, 2010).

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Update on Vicksburg’s Black Confederates

Update: This is what happens when you try to write a post when you are not feeling well. I called my contact again and now can confirm that the museum is 63 years old, while the exhibit was done within the last few years. Sorry about that.

Yesterday I shared photographs of an exhibit on black Confederates at the Old Courthouse Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Today I had a chance to talk with a curator at the museum about the exhibit. I appreciate his willingness to answer my questions. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to learn much about the exhibit itself given that it has been on display for 63 years. That, of course, explains the emphasis on faithful slaves. Andy Hall correctly surmises that this probably has as much to do with a limited budget as it does with a flawed interpretation of the Confederacy and slavery.

I asked about how it was possible that slaves were enlisted as soldiers given the Confederate government’s position, but all he could say was that these men were loyal to their owners and accepted by their comrades.  For further reading it was suggested that I check out Holt Collier: His Life, His Roosevelt, and the Origin of the Teddy Bear by Minor Ferris Buchanan.  I’ve never heard of this book before, but I will definitely take a look at it at some point.  Given my initial assumption that the exhibit was much more recent, it is interesting to note that many of the most common images and accounts that can be found today Online were being used in the 1940s.  That definitely changes my perspective on the history of when these accounts first surfaced.  I want to know, for example, when the image of the Chandler Boys first came to be used as an example of loyal black Confederate soldiers, etc.

The problem with this exhibit can be reduced to its title.  Calling it “Blacks Who Wore Gray” clouds the distinction between slave and soldier.  Rather, it should be titled, “Slaves Who Wore Gray.”

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The Blue, the Gray, and the Gay

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