It’s time for a little break. I need to see a man about finishing an essay and a book manuscript. Enjoy the Holidays!
[Hat-Tip to Religion in American History]
“In this comedy of political values Honest Abe’s home town puts a teacher on trial for asking ‘Was Lincoln Gay?’ Told in three acts – the audience decided the order – we see the events surrounding the ‘Trial of the Century’ through the eyes of the prosecution, the defense and the big city reporter.”
Check out an interview with playwright, Aaron Loeb. Unfortunately, the play is no longer in production.
The two seem to go perfect together, but why? Well, I guess in Fredericksburg it is the proximity of the famous battle to the holiday season that makes for such an easy connection. Joyce Smith, a parishioner at Cornerstone Baptist Church, has written a Christmas Civil War drama titled “My Friend, the Enemy” which is based on the Mort Kunstler print by the same name.
According to the news story, Smith “studied the picture for months.” I’m not quite sure what there is to study that would keep one occupied for months, but it culminated in a play that essentially reenacts a meeting between four soldiers on Christmas Day 1862. Stories of Civil War soldiers meeting to trade and talk are powerful narrative threads in our continued obsession with the Reconciliationist Narrative of the war. They make the war palatable. I can only imagine the dialog: (1) What the war is about; (2) Why must we be enemies?; (3) Family and Home… The play ends with a meeting between two soldiers on Christmas Day 30 years after the end of the war followed by the singing of Christmas Carols.
Americans need to believe that their civil war was special, that the violence did not overshadow our faith in “Good Will Toward Men.” I tend to think that we emphasize these stories to make ourselves feel better about what happened and why. It give us a reason not to look too closely at ourselves and our collective past. Our civil war needs to fit neatly under the Christmas tree. When we cross the Rapphannock River we want to see two soldiers peacefully engaged rather than thousands of men crossing on the eve of a bloody battle or fugitive slaves crossing to their freedom. So be it. Take the family to see this one and remember to bring plenty of good cheer and egg nog.
Today is the first day of the new trimester and I am once again teaching a course on Civil War Memory. I have two sections with a total of 12 students. Hopefully, the small sections will make for even more interesting discussions. This is a reference sheet that I put together for one of my Teaching American History talks from a few months back. It includes a few of the scholarly materials that I’ve utilized as well as some ideas for the classroom. Let me know if you try out any of my proposed classroom projects and please feel free to share what you do in your own courses. Continue reading
The messages coming from Terry Thomann, the Civil War Life Museum’s director and members of the board of directors have been incredibly confusing over the past week. The sticking point seems to be the significance of Thomann’s recent decision to close his Spotsylvania site in favor of Fredericksburg, which will give him the opportunity to sell all kinds of Civil War souvenirs. Unfortunately, there is still no update on the foundation’s website, which is hard to believe given the importance attached to their $12 million fundraiser to open a state-of-the-art museum in Spotsylvania in time for the Civil War Sesquicentennial. It is unclear as to whether Thomann plans to remain involved in this venture:
Thomann said he is still interested in talking with the county about opening a new museum, but he also hinted several times that it will take monetary support to make it happen. He said the National Civil War Life Foundation, which was established about two years ago to raise $12 million for a new museum, meets later this month. The members could still decide to try to open a museum in Spotsylvania, Thomann said. [my emphasis]
Perhaps additional information will be forthcoming following the next board meeting, but does anyone really believe that if Thomann’s store is successful that he will give it up in favor of a return to Spotsylvania? You are simply not going to sell as many Mort Kunstler prints there.
Let me state for the record that I love the idea for this museum. Its focus is broad and the emphasis seems to be on education and community outreach. My problem is that as important as Spotsylvania is to the history of the Civil War I just don’t see how a major museum project can work financially. This was the main reason why I resisted getting involved early on. There seeem to be no clear indication as to the future of this project, including the involvement of its director. Under these conditions one wonders how they plan on convincing donors to sign on and given the fact that Virginia has already begun commemorating the sesquicentennial.
Update: Please don’t blame me if the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star is doing a better job of updating the public on the future of the Civil War Life Museum than the people who are associated with this project.