Nothing Worth Reading Since Benjamin Quarles?

USCTYesterday I caught a panel discussion on race and the challenges of teaching Civil War history from a recent conference at Wake Forest, which aired on CSPAN. I didn’t find the panel discussion to be particularly interesting, but what struck me was a comment from Hari Jones, who argued that nothing that has been written about black Civil War soldiers since the publication of Benjamin Quarles’s The Negro in the Civil War (1953) is worth reading. Continue reading

Defending Lee-Jackson Day from Me and My Followers

I haven’t linked to my Old Virginia Blog buddy in quite some time, but in recent weeks my site has received a great deal of attention from his little corner of the Shenandoah Valley. With that in mind I thought I would quickly return the favor by pointing out that Richard William completely missed the mark in reference to my recent post on Lee-Jackson Day:

Kevin Levin, who has expressed the view he saw no reason to celebrate Lee-Jackson Day, posed the question noted above. Kevin and many of his followers would like to see the tradition of honoring Lee and Jackson in Virginia (and other places in the South) thrown on the trash heap of history.

This is news to me. I don’t see how any reasonable reading of the post could warrant such a conclusion. While I don’t have much of anything invested in Lee-Jackson Day I have absolutely no problem if others wish to acknowledge it in some shape or form. I attended a couple of Lee-Jackson Day events in Charlottesville, Virginia during my time there and even over the years brought a couple of my classes to view the ceremony. Whether it ought to be acknowledged by the state is something that Virginians themselves must decide and for now I think the holiday is safe. Continue reading

Alvin C. Voris Connects Military Service to Race Relations

Alvin C. VorisAlvin C. Voris rose through the ranks in command of Ohio troops and by the end of the war was brevetted major general. Below are a few excerpts from his letters which were published a few years ago as A Citizen-Soldier’s Civil War: The Letters of Brevet Major General Alvin C. Voris and edited by Jerome Mushkat.

I find the evolution of Voris’s thinking on the conduct and service of black soldiers to be quite interesting and reflective of a broader trend within the Army of the Potomac and Army of the James. By November 10 Lincoln had been reelected and Voris had taken temporary command of a black unit. The Crater represents the nadir of white perceptions of their black comrades in arms. There is no questioning the fact that Ferrero’s Fourth Division was scapegoated by both those who were on the battlefield that day and those who learned later about it later, but a closer look suggests that the condemnations were relatively restrained and short-term.

It’s a more complex story and one that I am currently exploring for an essay that I need to finish in the next few weeks.  Continue reading

What Exactly Are the Virginia Flaggers Protesting?

Update: “I was at the chapel on that Sunday. I was chapel organist for the program presented by Lee-Jackson Camp. The colors were presented by Latane Camp. Tripp is not a member of that camp or its color guard.” — comment from Betty Giragosian.

This video pretty much undercuts the 2-plus years of protesting by the Virginia Flaggers in front of the Confederate chapel in Richmond. Their protest has been centered on the removal of the Confederate flag from the chapel grounds. Flagger Tripp Lewis is clearly miffed over being forced to stand on the sidelines during an event that took place inside the chapel on January 19, but once the ceremony ended inside the chapel a color guard was able to take a few photographs on the grounds without any problem.

Lewis claims in the video that he was supposed to take part in the ceremony, but no one in the group leaving the chapel seems to take an interest in the conflict with the officer.

So much for the forced retreat of Confederate Heritage in Richmond. Nothing ever goes right for the Flaggers.

[Uploaded to YouTube on January 19, 2014]

Longwood University’s 15th Annual Civil War Seminar

There were a few details to work out, but I can now announce that I will definitely be taking part in Longwood University’s annual Civil War Seminar on March 15 in Farmville, Virginia. The theme this year is 1864 and my topic – not surprisingly – will be the battle of the Crater. I am going to talk specifically about how Confederate soldiers assessed the battle. Other presenters include Eric Wittenberg, Gordon Rhea, Stephen Engle, and Brian Steel Wills. That’s a great line-up if you ask me and best of all, IT’S FREE.

This is turning out to be a busy speaking season here in the Boston area, but there is nothing better than heading back to my old home to talk about the Civil War, especially this year. Hope to see some of you in Farmville in March.