Here is a wonderful example of how the role of the loyal camp slave during the Civil War served to define and reinforce race relations decades later. In February 1895, Governor William Y. Atkinson appointed Robert Atkinson to the position of janitor at the state capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.
The appointment was an acknowledgment of Robert’s role as the camp slave or “body servant” to the governor’s younger brother. Robert accompanied John P. Atkinson and following his wounding, “carried him off the battlefield, and later brought him home to his father’s hearthstone to die.” Accounts of slaves escorting their dead or wounded masters home litter postwar accounts and provide for white southerners the clearest evidence of faithful service.
The appointment also provided an opportunity for Governor Atkinson to outline the kind of behavior he expected from Georgia’s black population, especially those who expected any kind of support from the state government. It is very likely that Robert’s request was accompanied by a clear demonstration of his continued loyalty to the family and an acknowledgment of his place in the racial hierarchy.
Even the Museum of the Confederacy/American Civil War Museum gets it. The Confederate battle flag is a toxic symbol that ought to be displayed exclusively in a setting where it can be properly interpreted. You will not find battle flags welcoming visitors at its branches in Richmond or at Appomattox. And as far as I have seen, you will not find the battle flag on its logo and other advertisements. [click to continue…]
Announcement: Earlier today I learned that the University Press of Kentucky will bring Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder out in paperback next spring. I’ve been hoping for some time that they would do this and I couldn’t be more excited. I will provide additional information as it becomes available.
Douglas R. Egerton, Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America (Basic Books, 2016). [I just finished reading my advanced copy and can’t recommend it enough.]
Earl J. Hess, Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness (Louisiana State University Press, 2015).
Jill Lepore, Joe Gould’s Teeth (Knopf, 2016).
James Lee McDonough, William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life (W.W. Norton, 2016).
Chandra Manning, Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War (Knopf, 2016).
Brent Tarter, A Saga of the New South: Race, Law, and Public Debt in Virginia (University Press of Virginia, 2016).
Over the weekend I heard a distinguished and recently retired Civil War historian lament the state of history education today. It’s not the first time that I have had to sit through such a doomsday scenario, but I don’t mind admitting that it was just a bit more painful given that it took place in front of a room full of history teachers.
Our students know nothing about American history and our political leaders are not much better. At one point this speaker suggested that our elected leaders ought to take a history test as a prerequisite for political office. The comment received a hearty round of applause from the audience. The situation is apparently so dire that this speaker actually compared our current situation with America in the 1850s. [click to continue…]
Thanks to the Civil War Trust for hosting another incredible teacher institute in Richmond, Virginia. While this is my 5th year with the Trust it’s been a couple of years since my last visit. I especially enjoyed the chance to catch up with old friends and spend time with some of the most passionate teachers you will find in classrooms from across the country.
It was also a chance to return to my former home. I had a chance to do some research at the Virginia Historical Society and Library of Virginia and spend a few hours at the Museum of the Confederacy/American Civil War Museum. [click to continue…]
Update: I cobbled together my thoughts on this topic for The Daily Beast.
They have already been sighted at the Gettysburg National Cemetery, the Flight 93 National Memorial and even the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. No, this is not a new wave of young history buffs, but phone wielding kids (and adults) playing Pokemon Go. Read this before proceeding any further if you have no idea what I am talking about. Don’t worry. I had to look it up as well. [click to continue…]