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On the Absence of Black Soldiers in the Grand Review

The sesquicentennial anniversary of the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. has given new life to an old myth about the lack of United States Colored Troop presence. This past weekend the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum in D.C. hosted a reenactment of the two-day march that included black reenactors.

For Sarah Anderson the reenactment was meant “to correct a wrong made in 1865, when black soldiers were left out of the Grand Review, the Union Army’s victory parade.” The oversight, as her article suggests, is part of a long history of racial injustice that leads directly to Ferguson and Baltimore. Continue reading “On the Absence of Black Soldiers in the Grand Review”

Silent Sam in History and Memory

The University of North Carolina’s Confederate soldier monument, “Silent Sam,” continues to be a point of contention on campus. Over the past few years students have debated whether the monument ought to be removed or utilized in some other capacity that acknowledges its divisive past.

The video below offers a very concise and thoughtful overview of the monument’s history and interviews with teachers and students. I think Fitzhugh Brundage nails it at the end as to how to move forward. The video is ideal for introducing students to monument interpretation.

I did not know that the sculptor was Canadian, the model used for the soldier was from Massachusetts and the monument itself was forged in Rhode Island.

[Uploaded to Vimeo on May 18, 2015]

Who Will Stand Up For Confederate Heritage in Union Springs?

Last week in Union Springs, Alabama former State Senator and County Commissioner Myron Penn brought his family to a local Confederate cemetery and removed small Confederate flags that decorated individual graves. The African-American politician and lawyer explained his actions this way:

The reason why we picked them up is because the image of the flags in our community, a lot of people feel that they’re a symbol of divisiveness and oppression… I would think that no one in our community would have a problem with… my actions at all.

Well, as you might imagine, there are folks in the community and beyond who have a problem with his actions, but so far no charges have been filed. While steps are being taken to replace the flags – apart from a few death threats – Mr. Penn’s actions appear to have no consequences attached to it. Continue reading “Who Will Stand Up For Confederate Heritage in Union Springs?”

New To the Civil War Memory Library, 05/17

Gallman Defining DutyUpdate: As of today I have 8 copies of my Crater book available at the heavily discounted price of $25 (includes shipping). Click here for more information.

Richard Dunn, A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia (Harvard University Press, 2014).

Lorien Foote and Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai eds., So Conceived and So Dedicated: Intellectual Life in the Civil War Era North (Fordham University Press, 2015).

J. Matthew Gallman, Defining Duty in the Civil War: Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

Earl Hess, The Battle of Ezra Church and the Struggle for Atlanta (Unviersity of North Carolina Press, 2015).

David Larson, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Crown, 2015).

David McCullough, The Wright Brothers (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

When a Reader Contacts My School

This morning I was informed that a reader of this blog had written a letter addressed to the headmaster of of my school. The reader took issue with my decision to strongly discourage students from purchasing Confederate flags at Civil War gift shops during our March trip. The letter correctly notes that I stipulated that “if [students] did buy the flags he would require that they keep them out of sight.” According to this individual, this constitutes nothing less than “censorship.”

Let me say a few words about this so there is no confusion. I have been very clear on this blog over the years that I believe the Confederate flag to be a controversial symbol. Its meaning goes beyond the soldiers who marched with it and the Civil War entirely. I do not use flags on my battlefield walks given my pedagogical goals and I strongly believe that the flag’s presence must have a purpose for fear of it being misinterpreted. Continue reading “When a Reader Contacts My School”