The Making of a Black Confederate Soldier

William Mack LeeRecently the Norfolk County Grays Camp No. 1549, Sons of Confederate Veterans installed a military style marker to honor William Mack Lee, who they claim was Robert E. Lee’s “cook and body servant” during the war.” In addition to the headstone, a Cross of Honor reaffirms the belief among the organizers of the event that WML was indeed a soldier.

They are convinced of this fact based largely on a pamphlet published about WML in 1918. But even a quick glance at this pamphlet reveals a number of problems with WML’s claims about his connection to Lee and his role in the war. [click to continue…]

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House Votes to Ban Confederate Battle Flags

Fate_of_the_Rebel_FlagBy now most of you have heard that yesterday the House of Representatives voted to severely restrict the display of Confederate battle flags at VA cemeteries. The Senate still needs to vote, but there is a good chance that they will follow suit.

I shared a few thoughts about the decision at The Daily Beast. Click here for my other essays at TDB.

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“CHEERFUL AMID HARDSHIPS & PRIVATIONS”

54th Mass MemorialThis morning I sat in front of the rear of the Robert Gould Shaw and Fifty-Fourth Regiment Memorial before heading into the Boston Athenaeum for a day of writing. It is certainly not the first time I have read the inscription on the rear of the memorial, which most people miss when they visit. [click to continue…]

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Not So Far Removed from the Lost Cause

tomotley-plantation-oaksMuch of my writing about the Civil War 150th is framed around a sharp contrast with how Americans commemorated the war in the early 1960s, during the Centennial. There can be no doubt that we have witnessed significant shifts in how Americans remember and commemorate the war. The most significant shift has got to be in our willingness to deal directly with the tough questions of slavery and race from the Civil War era. But in going back 50 years I wonder if I have given short thrift to a more recent milestone. [click to continue…]

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One Final Confederate Memorial Day Celebration

Oakwood Cemetery, May 7, 2016

Oakwood Cemetery, May 7, 2016

Update: Apparently, I touched a nerve with the Virginia Flaggers. Susan Hathaway reports that their CMD celebration attracted roughly 200 people. At one point ceremonies honoring the Confederate dead attracted more substantial numbers from local communities. Now, in the former capital of the Confederacy it might attract 200, including the color guard. Thanks for making my point.

The debate over Confederate iconography in public spaces may still be very much alive, but Confederate heritage is dead. The other day I suggested that Confederate heritage organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy ought to confine their activities to specific times and places. Not everyone agreed with the suggestion. Hopefully, it is sufficiently clear that my thoughts on this subject are driven by a firm conviction that interest in commemorative activities is confined to a very small group that will likely continue to decrease. [click to continue…]

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