Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center to Merge

Rumors of a merger between the two museums have been in the air for the past few months, but today it’s official. The Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center will join forces to create one new museum on the grounds at Tredegar, along the James River. No one who has followed the problems plaguing the MOC over the past few years will be surprised by this decision. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Christy Coleman and Waite Rawls as public historians and as caretakers of Richmond’s rich Civil War past. With the help of individuals like Ed Ayers and others, Richmond is guaranteed a respectable and attractive new addition to its museum landscape. [click to continue…]

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“There Will Be Confederates in Heaven”

Massachusetts Monument at the Crater

Massachusetts Monument at the Crater

One of the individuals that I am looking forward to learning more about for this new article on the Crater is Colonel James Anderson of Springfield, Massachusetts, who was very active during the postwar period in organizing veterans reunions and monument dedications. His collaboration with George Bernard of the A.P. Hill Camp Confederate Veterans resulted in a visit of Confederate veterans of the battle of the Crater to Springfield in 1910. The following year the residents of Petersburg welcomed the veterans from Massachusetts to the Crater to dedicate a new monument.

During their visit Anderson shared the following story:

On a gala night in the Petersburg armory, when veterans were swapping stories above buried hatchets, Colonel James Anderson, chairman of the Massachusetts Commission, told of the many commendatory letters that had come to him after the visit of the Southern soldiers. But, he added, a lady from Paterson, New Jersey, had written chiding him for permitting a “vile band of Rebels” to walk through the streets of a fair Northern city to the tune of that “rebel song, Dixie.” Colonel Anderson returned the letter to its sender with these words appended: ‘There will be Confederates in Heaven. If you don’t want to associate with Confederates, go to Hell.”

Quite the character.

Note: When the Massachusetts monument at the Crater was dedicated in 1911 visitors entered the battlefield from the Jerusalem Plank Road.

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Massachusetts at the Crater

Massachusetts Reunion at Crater

57th Massachusetts at the Crater with William Mahone at center (1887)

One of the things that I regret about my book on the Crater is that I failed to spend sufficient time exploring Union accounts of the battle, both during and, especially, after the war. Given that I wrote the book while living in Virginia I was always primarily interested in Confederate accounts (wartime and postwar) and what they had to say about issues related to slavery and race. [click to continue…]

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Review of Linda Barnickel’s Milliken’s Bend

Milliken's BendThis morning The Civil War Monitor published my review of Linda Barnickel’s new book, Milliken’s Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory.

The past few decades have witnessed an outpouring of Civil War scholarship and more popular studies about slavery, emancipation, and in particular, the history of African American soldiers. As we make our way through the Civil War Sesquicentennial, this scholarship continues to shape and inspire a wide range of commemorative events that highlight the history of these soldiers and the contributions they made to preserving the Union and ending slavery in 1865. Indeed, the history of these men has been front and center during the Civil War 150th, which stands in sharp contrast with the Centennial celebrations of the early 1960s. Much of what we’ve seen over the past few years has been framed around a collective sense that, as a nation, we have a moral responsibility to remember and properly commemorate an aspect of our Civil War history that has been ignored for far too long, minimized, and in some cases, intentionally distorted.

Read the rest of the review.

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Warped Civil War Memory

I came across this editorial during my daily perusal of some of my favorite blogs. It’s from the North South Traders’ Civil War magazine. I don’t know much about the editorial staff, but this brief essay is truly bizarre.

When I was a youngster during the Centennial, much of Kantor’s vision eluded me, but given the sense of nationalism that pervaded in the Centennial era, I recall being somewhat conflicted about his conclusion about a peaceful postwar disunion.  I just couldn’t imagine the North and the South being two separate nations. As one nation, we had saved the world—twice.  We were united by a new highway system that made nationwide travel accessible and appealing.  Television was making us all laugh and cry and applaud the same things from Maine to southern California.  We were about to conquer space.  America ruled the universe and everyone knew it.

Fifty years later I find myself utterly amazed that the cohesiveness and national pride of that era is gone.  A half century of assaults, both within and without, by those seeking a bigger slice of the pie for themselves or someone they believed deserved it has brought us to our knees.

Unlike the schism of 1860, today’s isn’t a geographic separation but wholly ideological ones.  America today seems as divided as it was in 1860—or worse.  At least in 1860, Americans were united by a common sense of national pride, an adherence to traditional values, and a common moral compass.   We were separated primarily by politics and the economies of different geographic areas. Today, it seems we have less in common than we did 150 years ago.  Sure, we’re still separated by politics and economics, but were are also splintered into scores of factions of self-descriptions and self-interest: poor, rich, young, old, gay, straight, pretty, ugly, smart, stupid, fat, anorexic, believers in God, athiests, and those who simply hate everyone.

I guess it’s understandable in this time of apparent political and cultural division to imagine a time in the recent and/or distant past that was defined by a consensus of shared values. Unfortunately, that time never existed. Are we really any more divided today than in the 1790s or 1850s?

What I find truly bizarre, however, is the assertion that we may be more divided as a nation today than in the 1860. The divide in 1860 led to a bloody civil war that left much of this country devastated. This writer seems completely oblivious to the fact that the political and economic differences rested on a regional divide between slaveholding and non-slaveholding.

Do we “have less in common than we did 150 years ago”? How’s this for starters. Americans today no longer believe that other people ought to be treated as property. That’s something we now have in common that Americans in 1860 did not.

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