We have heard quite a bit from Sons of Confederate Veterans over the past week in response to the debate over the Confederate flag on the state house grounds in Columbia, South Carolina and beyond. Members claim a direct ancestral connection to Confederate soldiers, which they believe translates into some kind of privileged status regarding all things heritage.
Silent on these issues has been that other venerable Confederate heritage organization, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, founded two years before the SCV in 1894. [The best history of the organization is Karen Cox’s Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture.] Their silence surrounding the Confederate flag debate is curious given their consistent position limiting the display of the battle flag. The UDC’s position was born out of a concern that any use strictly apart from carefully orchestrated ceremonial events in honor of the soldier would distort its meaning. [click to continue…]
It’s been a pretty serious week with a good deal of reflection concerning important issues related to Civil War memory. I thought it was time for a little diversion. First up, a dating service where you can find your very own Confederate Connection.
Next, the Confederacy’s return meets its end at a Georgia intersection.
Update: I totally called it. The Confederate flag was intended to honor the men of the 54th Massachusetts and was not a pro-Confederate statement.
Late last night a Confederate flag was discovered displayed on the Shaw Memorial on Beacon Street across the street from the Massachusetts State House. The flag remained displayed for a couple of hours before police arrived. While it is unknown who placed the flag on the monument or for what purpose it does not appear to be a pro-Confederate flag message. The flag is clearly dangling from Colonel Shaw’s sword. It certainly does make for a powerful image.
Most people know the story of the 54th Massachusetts from the movie “Glory”. The movie’s narrative ends with the regiment’s failed assault at Battery Wagner, outside of Charleston, South Carolina in July 1863. What often goes unnoticed, however, is the crucial role the regiment – along with its sister regiment, the 55th Mass. – played during the immediate postwar period. Both regiments were stationed in South Carolina from April through August 1865. Their responsibilities included managing relationships between former slaves and owners to ensure the arrival of a new crop and safeguarding government buildings and supplies. Most importantly, the two regiments played a vital role in protecting former slaves from their former masters who hoped to rebuild white supremacy on a new foundation. [click to continue…]
Last week I attended the Civil War Institute’s annual conference at Gettysburg College. At the end of the first evening Peter Carmichael sat down for a conversation with James McPherson. Pete chose to open with questions about the recent shooting in Charleston, South Carolina and about its implications for how we think about the Civil War and our nation’s long painful history of race. I don’t know if McPherson was entirely comfortable with the questions and I certainly didn’t anticipate such a move on Pete’s part, but I couldn’t be more pleased that he did. It is one of the things that makes CWI such a unique experience.
Pete understands that historians have an obligation to weigh in during moments of national crisis, especially when those moments are tangled up in our collective past. The conversation served as a reminder that when it comes to our civil war it is often difficult to delineate between the present and the past. And even when we can pinpoint that past, coming to terms with its complexity can be a daunting task. In the wake of the Charleston shootings Americans sought out some of our best historians to help untangle the past from the present and provide some sense of meaning. [click to continue…]
During my recent trip to Gettysburg I made time to visit the Seminary Ridge Museum, which is located on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary. It’s a wonderful museum and I highly recommend a visit given the important role it played during the battle and for what you will see and learn inside.
Following the Charleston shootings the seminary issued a statement banning the display of Confederate flags that features the St. Andrews Cross on the grounds. This directly impacts living history events sponsored by the museum. In fact, it impacts an event that is taking place this weekend. You can read the announcement on their website. [click to continue…]