“I Tore His Back and Legs All to Pieces”

I have a couple of accounts of the whipping of camp slaves during the war, but nothing that comes close to the brutality illustrated below. Masters punished their camp slaves for any number of reasons, but it almost always came back to trying to maintain a difficult balance between the assertion of authority and slave privilege in an environment that differed dramatically from home. [click to continue…]

Are SCV Members Really “Losers”?

I received a good deal of feedback in response to my latest piece at The Daily Beast. In it I explore the recent announcement by the SCV that they intend to build a new museum in relationship to their growing alienation from the Museum of the Confederacy.

A number of people were upset by the title of the piece. Let me be clear that I have absolutely no control over the titles and tag lines for my essays. Those decisions are made in house at TDB and have everything to do with maximizing hits. That said, I thought it was clever as a play on the ‘Lost Cause.’ And, of course, SCV are losers in the sense that they celebrate the losing side of a losing cause. Enough said.

I also want it to be clear that I understand the status of the museum given the recent merger with the American Civil War Museum. For the purposes of the essay I wanted to treat the MOC as a separate institution as much as possible given the focus of the exhibits in the Richmond branch, which I visited this past summer.

Black Confederates to the Rescue in Lexington, Virginia

In response to the call to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds in Columbia, SC, following the horrific shootings in Charleston back in June 2015, the Sons of Confederate Veterans issued a statement that referenced the black Confederate myth. Their argument is simple: If black men served as soldiers than the battle flag cannot be interpreted as a symbol of racism. [click to continue…]

Teaching the Civil War in4

I really love the Civil War Trust’s in4 video series. They offer concise overviews of a wide range of topics and they are perfect for the classroom. Back in 2014 I filmed a segment on the subject of Civil War memory.

This past August I spent a couple of hours with Douglas Ullman, Jr. on The Boston Common to film two segments, one on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the other on the Lost Cause.

I am certainly not a natural when it comes to working extemporaneously as opposed to with a prepared text, so I appreciate Doug’s ability to edit me down to something that approaches coherence. Hope you find these two new videos to be helpful.

“Yasser Boss”: Old Jeff Mabry Attends a Reunion

Here is some incredible footage of a Confederate veterans reunion in Jacksonville, Florida in May 1914. Like most other reunions it included former camp servants or camp slaves. They were often featured in newspaper coverage, but even those wearing their old uniforms were always distinguished from the white veteran soldiers.

Old Jeff Mabry

At the 1:40 mark in the film a former slave by the name of Jeff Mabry is briefly introduced. Notice the introductory text: “‘Yasser Boss’ – Old Jeff Mabry with Ross Cavalry Brigade.” It doesn’t appear that Mabry is wearing a uniform, but he is donning at least one reunion ribbon, which could indicate that this was not his first.

What is important is that the text does not refer to Mabry in any way as a veteran as it does when appropriate throughout the remainder of the film. Enjoy.

Two Nat Turner Tours

I haven’t had much to say concerning the new movie about Nat Turner called Birth of a Nation. To be completely honest, I almost fell asleep when I saw it on opening day. I don’t want to get into pointing out the numerous problems with its historical foundation as others have already done so. What it comes down to for me is that it just wasn’t a very good movie. It was the same feeling I had when I saw Pearl Harbor. You know how the movie is going to end and you can’t wait for it to arrive. [click to continue…]

Footage of the Civil War Centennial

Some incredible footage of the Civil War Centennial was recently uploaded to YouTube. Featured here is a brief speech by Washington and Lee University President Emeritus Dr. Francis Gaines in which he commemorates Robert E. Lee. Not surprisingly, it is a decidedly reconciliationist speech. The ceremony took place on campus in the Lee Chapel on January 1, 1962. Below you will find links to additional clips.

Enjoy.

Sons of Confederate Veterans to Build a Museum to the Lost Cause

Update: Nice to see that this post inspired one letter to the editor in response to this story. Update #2: Smithsonian has now picked up the story.

Over the weekend the Sons of Confederate Veterans announced that it will build a 17,000 square-foot museum to honor Confederate soldiers and the Confederate cause in Elm Springs, Tennessee, which is also the home of its national headquarters. Their decision to call it a museum, however, needs serious qualification. [click to continue…]