Thanks once again to Andy Hall at Dead Confederates for once again taking the time to expose the house of cards that is the myth of the black Confederate soldier. This is another example of a website that purports to be educational, but is really nothing more than a list of names by state, most of which are clearly referenced as slaves – both body servants and impressed. There is almost no serious analysis nor is there any indication of the methodology utilized to order, catalog, and interpret the men listed. Somehow the facts are suppose to speak for themselves, whatever that means. The site is called Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education (SHAPE) and is run by George Purvis. You will also find such lists on other websites along with the same shoddy or limited analysis.
One of the things that I am looking forward to with my upcoming move to Boston is the opportunity to meet new people and join new organizations. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of historical institutions in the Boston area as well as the wide range of programs and workshops that are available to the general public. I’ve already joined the Massachusetts Historical Society and I can’t wait to dive into their incredibly rich archival collection and attend some of their programs. Over the past few weeks I’ve been scrambling to read as much Massachusetts history as possible. I am currently reading Richard D. Brown’s, Massachusetts: A Concise History, T.H. Breen’s, American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People, and Michael Rawson’s, Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston.
I am also hoping to set up as many speaking engagements as my calendar will permit, which should also give me the chance to meet some new people. With that in mind I ask that you consider me for a presentation to your Civil War Roundtable, historical society seminar, and especially teaching workshops. I’ve set up a page with additional information. I look forward to hearing from some of you.
I wrote this essay so long ago that I almost forgot about it. The other day I learned that the final volume [link to Amazon] in the Virginia at War series edited by James I. Robertson and William C. Davis is now available for pre-order and is slated for publication in November. I was asked to contribute an essay on the demobilization of the Army of Northern Virginia. That is an incredibly broad topic and with my word limit I had to think carefully about how to narrow my focus. In the end I decided to look at the first few weeks following the surrender at Appomattox and specifically at the experiences of the men as they walked home. The research process was difficult owing to the fact that so few men kept a record of their journeys home. Here is a taste.
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home”: The Demobilization of the Army of Northern Virginia
Lawrence Taliaferro’s civil war should have ended on very familiar ground when he crossed the Rappahannock River by Fredericksburg shortly after the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Instead, Taliaferro was struck by the drastic changes to the landscape. Abandoned and rusting war machinery littered the ground as well as the bones of old mules and horses. The surrounding forests had been leveled to serve the needs of warring armies throughout the conflict. As Taliaferro traversed those final twelve miles to what he hoped would be the comforts of his family’s estate he became disoriented by the numerous paths that obscured a well-known road. Eventually he lost his way and was forced to ask for directions. An elderly black man, who Taliaferro later learned was an ex-slave of the family, escorted the confused and tired young man to his home.
After six long years, I am pleased to announce that the University Press of Kentucky will publish my first book, Remembering War as Murder: The Battle of the Crater. Yesterday I received an email indicating that the manuscript received the unanimous approval and enthusiastic support of the press’s editorial board. The book will appear in their series, New Directions in Southern History, which is edited by Peter Carmichael, Michelle Gillespie, and William Link. If everything goes as planned the book should be available by Spring 2012.
I am looking forward to working with Kentucky during what will no doubt be a hectic next few months, but I am already confident that they are going to do a first-rate job. Back in 2007 I published a chapter in a book of essays on Civil War soldiers edited by Aaron Sheehan-Dean and I have another piece that is slated to appear in the final volume of their Virginia at War series, edited by James I. Robertson and William C. Davis.
I’ve taken a great deal of heat for much of my commentary on how Civil War battlefield preservation is typically framed for public consumption. The most recent example can be found here. This morning I read John Hennessy’s description of a recent NPS event that marked the anniversary of Stonewall Jackson’s wounding at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. Some background for the event:
The program had its genesis in an article that appeared in one of the Civil War magazines (I believe Blue and Gray, but could be wrong). The writer had earlier done celestial calculations showing how and why the tides at Tarawa had been so exceptionally and disastrously difficult during the amphibious landing there in November 1943. His latest calculations showed that the arrangement of celestial bodies on May 2, 1996 would match precisely those of May 2, 1863, the night of Stonewall Jackson’s wounding at Chancellorsville–same moonrise, same moon phase, etc. Though amazed that anyone had the time to figure such a thing out, the park staff–atuned to subtle connections like that–thought it was all pretty cool, and so we decided to do a program at the site of Jackson’s wounding that night, May 2, 1996. We issued the standard press releases about the event and prepared for it like a hundred others.