Civil War or War Between the States?

RiverS37I recently came across a microfilm reel that included a reprint of a Senate debate from 1907 on just this question. The pamphlet was put together by Edmund S. Meaning of the University of Washington for the purposes of clarifying the official name of the war. Meaning had heard Senator Benjamin Tillman present a speech in which he described the war as “The War Between the States” as the official name adopted by the federal government. Meaning contacted Tillman and asked for documents related to the Senate debate and discovered that in fact the name adopted was “Civil War.” Here is an excerpt from that Senate debate for your consideration. The debate took place on January 11, 1907 and can be found in the Congressional Record of that date, pages 929 to 933.  Continue reading

Civil War Museum in Spotsylvania County Closed

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A few years ago I was approached about getting involved in the founding of a new Civil War museum in Spotsylvania County.  I was appreciative of the offer, but declined owing to some of the unanswered questions that still lingered.  Well, Executive Director Terry Thomann managed to open his museum and even had plans to expand into a 3-story building.  The musuem had an attractive website with a number of exhibits scheduled, but this past weekend Thomann decided to close up shop and move to Fredericksburg.  Thomann is moving to Fredericksburg not to educate, but to entertain by opening a gift shop: “We have a great book section, lots of interesting historical toys and books for children and many historical gifts that both locals and tourists will love.”  Does downtown Fredericksburg really need another gift shop?

Thomann plans on opening a museum in the downtown area, but it is almost impossible to see how he can compete with the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center which is a must see if you are in the area.  Before Thomann can do anything it looks like there remains some outstanding lease issues with Spotsylvania County.  Continue reading

Why Are We Forgetting To Order the Pedestals?

LincolnClassPerhaps I’ve spent too much time studying how Americans have used public spaces to commemorate and remember their past, but I don’t get overly emotional around statues and other such sites.  My first thought is almost always about the people – including the profile of the individual/group – who chose to shape a particular landscape with some kind of commemorative marker and the values that they hoped to impart to the public.  In addition to the intentions of those who established the site there is the history of how the space is interpreted and consumed by subsequent generations.  In all honesty, I rarely think about the object being commemorated.  In short, for me public spaces of historic remembrance are almost always about the living.  In most cases the objects themselves have little to do with shaping public behavior, especially if they sit atop pedestals.  You can have a barbecue, play chess, or engage in polite conversation without ever considering the namesake of the location.  Continue reading

Acquisitions 11/23/09

Abigail Adams CoverI try to keep this running list of new titles confined to this blog’s subject matter.  Professor Holton was one of my professors while in graduate school at the University of Richmond.  I worked with him on an independent study and got a chance to read a section of his Adams biography in manuscript form.  Since then I’ve eagerly awaited its final publication. My relationship with Abigail Adams is very complex.  I’ve always found her history to be intriguing; however, since the HBO series I’ve had a major crush on Laura Linney, though I can’t tell how much of it is directed at Linney as opposed to Adams.  Luckily, I have a very understanding wife who is helping me to work through all of this.  If you thought you knew everything there is to know about Abigail Adams you will want to read this book.

Woody Holton, Abigail Adams (Free Press, 2009).

Michael Perman, Pursuit of Unity: A Political History of the American South (University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Kirk Savage, Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., The National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape (University of California Press, 2009).

William L. Shea, Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign (University of North Carolina Press, 2009).